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OHIO DEMOCRATIC PARTY +/-
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NEWS FROM THE DNC+/-

04/10/2014
50 years later voting rights still threatened

Nearly 50 years ago, President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, to outlaw discrimination based on race, religion, gender, and more. The law strengthened voting rights and pushed for an end to racial segregation in schools, at the workplace, and in public places. The law passed with bipartisan support -- in fact, Republicans helped lead the charge and break the filibuster.

Unfortunately, today's GOP retreats headlong from the battle towards greater equality. In fact, many Republican are trying to sabotage or undermine crucial protections in the Civil Rights Act.

One of the critical goals of the Civil Rights Act was “to enforce the constitutional right to vote.” But instead of ensuring this right, today’s Republican Party wants to make it more difficult for people to cast their ballots.

Republicans are engaged in an aggressive and sustained campaign to make voting harder for millions of Americans. Across the country, Republican controlled legislatures enact laws that put barriers between voters and the ballot box. Apparently, Republicans have decided that if voters reject their ideas at the polls, they'll just rig the system by decreasing participation and making it more difficult to cast a ballot.

  • In Texas, Alabama, Arizona, and Kansas, they have passed strict photo identification and proof of citizenship laws. The result: voters who change their name because they get married or can't provide an original birth certificate find it more difficult to have their vote counted.
  • In Wisconsin, Ohio, and North Carolina, the GOP is restricting early voting periods.
  • And in Minnesota, Republicans are trying to sue the Secretary of State to stop that state from implementing online voter registration.

Voting restrictions like these impact all Americans, but they disproportionately hurt African Americans, Latinos, working people, seniors, young people, and women – the very groups the Civil Rights Act has been helping for fifty years.

Meanwhile, Democrats are committed to our mission of ensuring that every eligible voter can register, that every registered voter can vote, and that every vote is accurately counted. Because we know that our nation has never moved forward with less participation. So as we mark 50 years since the Civil Rights Act became the law of the land, it is more important than ever that we recommit ourselves to protecting and expanding the franchise for ALL Americans.

And it’s not just on voting rights that the GOP is standing on the wrong side of progress:

  • Republicans made clear this week that they do not support legislation that would move us closer to equal pay for equal work and address the persistent discrimination that millions of American women experience in the workplace.
  • On rights for LGBT Americans, the GOP blocked the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and in many states authored legislation to enshrine discrimination in the legal code.
  • Republicans want to repeal the Affordable Care Act and take us back to the days where insurance companies could deny coverage to those with preexisting conditions, or even for just being a woman.
  • The GOP continues to oppose and obstruct efforts to raise the minimum wage and ensure folks who work full time don’t remain in poverty.
  • Republicans refuse to act on immigration reform, dividing families and leaving millions of people stuck in a broken system.

When it comes to civil rights, equality, and progress, Republicans are not only on the wrong side of the issues, their positions stand in stark contrast to the views of the American people. As Democrats, we will keep fighting to move our country forward, and work to get even closer to the ideals embodied in the Civil Rights Act over the next 50 years.

 

Donna Brazile is the Vice Chair of Voter Registration and Participation at the Democratic National Committee.

 






04/09/2014
DNC Voter Expansion Project Announces Texas and Ohio State Directors; Additional National Staff

WASHINGTON, D.C. —  Today DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz announced the hiring of four additional state and national staff for the Democratic Party’s newly-launched Voter Expansion Project. The new hires are: Sondra Haltom, Texas Voter Expansion Project State Director; Lindsay Langholz, Ohio Voter Expansion Project State Director; Bobby Hoffman, Deputy Director of Voter Expansion and Zara Haq, Director of Knowledge Management for Voter Expansion. Haltom and Langholz will work with both the DNC and their respective state parties.

The hires follow a recent New York Times report detailing the Republican Party’s efforts to limit voting rights and a Monday release of a DNC video featuring Vice President Biden outlining the importance of the Voter Expansion Project.

“The DNC brings unmatched institutional knowledge and experience in voter registration, engagement and protection,” said Wasserman Schultz. “With our state party partners, we have a national infrastructure and team of experts that no other organization can bring to bear. Voting laws are rapidly changing, and our Voter Expansion Project will make sure that Democrats – and all voters – across the country are able to exercise their right to vote and make their voices heard.”

As the DNC and Democrats around the country seek to expand access to voting through the new Voter Expansion Project, Republicans continue their cynical attempt to make it more difficult for people to vote.

“As Republicans continue to impede the right to vote, limit our access to the polls, and make it more difficult to cast a ballot, Democrats are fighting to expand the vote and increase access,” said Pratt Wiley, National Director of Voter Protection at the DNC. “Our team is building a professional and permanent, in-house operation that will remain in place from cycle to cycle for Democratic candidates up and down the ballot.”

The Voter Expansion Project was first announced in a video by former President Bill Clinton to DNC supporters. This project helps ensure the Democratic Party not only protects the right to vote, but also works proactively with states across the country to expand access to the ballot box.


BACKGROUND ON NEW VOTER EXPANSION STAFF:

Sondra Haltom, Texas Voter Expansion Project State Director
Haltom has 15 years of experience working on election issues like ballot access, voter suppression prevention, redistricting and more. In December 2012, she founded Empower The Vote Texas (ETVT), a non-profit organization dedicated to voting rights and election reform issues. Prior to starting ETVT, Haltom served for seven years as the Political Director for the Texas Democratic Party where she built and led the TDP’s Voter Protection Program.

Lindsay Langholz, Ohio Voter Expansion Project State Director
Langholz comes to the Voter Expansion Project with years of experience protecting and expanding the vote in both Ohio and Tennessee.  Langholz will be responsible for educating voters and campaign staff on election law and working with election administrators to ensure they have the resources and training they need.  Langholz is a graduate of Vanderbilt University Law School.

Bobby Hoffman, Deputy Director of Voter Expansion
A veteran of both Obama presidential campaigns, Hoffman joins the DNC after leadership roles in the voter expansion program in Virginia in 2012 and 2013. Hoffman will be responsible for growth and development of the in-state voter expansion programs.  Hoffman is a graduate of Valparaiso University Law School.

Zara Haq, Director of Knowledge Management for Voter Expansion
Haq is a veteran of President Obama’s re-election campaign where she worked in the Chicago headquarters and later in Virginia.  Haq will be responsible for making permanent the DNC’s know-how and tools necessary to build and sustain the DNC’s in-state voter expansion programs.  Haq is a graduate of American University Law School.






04/08/2014
DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s statement on National Equal Pay Day

On National Equal Pay Day, we are reminded of how we impede our own success when we refuse to compensate women equally. Women still make just 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man. Over a lifetime, that adds up to more than $430,000 in lost compensation for her, her family, and our economy. For Hispanic and African American women, the gap is shamefully even greater.

Women now constitute nearly half of the nation’s work force. More women are acting as their family’s primary breadwinner, and many families rely on the paycheck of a wife or mother just to make ends meet. Pay equality is not just a women’s issue – it’s a family issue, and an economic issue.

As the party of inclusion, empowerment, and opportunity, these issues are priorities for Democrats. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was the first bill signed into law by President Obama, and Democrats in Congress continue to fight for passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act. In addition, Democrats support increasing the minimum wage, because no one who works full time should have to live in poverty. We also recognize that real economic equality includes enabling women to decide for themselves when to start a family.

The contrast with Republicans is clear. Republicans stood steadfast against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, oppose increasing the minimum wage, and have repeatedly blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act. They continue to double down on their obsession with repealing the Affordable Care Act, and with it the provision that bars insurance companies from treating being a woman as a pre-existing condition increasing the cost of health care for women and their families. The net effect is that while Republicans are fighting against bigger paychecks for women, they would also subject them to higher health care costs. That is an unsustainable proposition for America’s families.

Equal pay is about more than just women’s rights. It’s about the economic security of our families. It’s about ensuring that our daughters enter a work environment that treats them with fairness and respect. And it’s about growing our economy, because we know that when women succeed, America succeeds. It’s high time Republicans get on board.






04/07/2014
DNC Chair Wasserman Schultz’s Response to Breitbart News’ Offensive Ad

In response to Breitbart News’ offensive characterization of Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz released the following statement:

“To say the least, the Breitbart News ad is foul, offensive, and disrespectful to all women. It is a disgusting new low and would be reprehensible against any woman – regardless of party. It’s no wonder the Republicans are having problems appealing to women. If GOP leaders are serious about their rebrand, then both their elected and Party leadership should condemn this outrageous behavior, call on Breitbart News to immediately remove the ad, and not continue to use this website as a forum for their views.”






04/02/2014
Working families will lose out

http://my.democrats.org/RaiseTheWage






04/01/2014
Thank you, Democrats!






03/27/2014
DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s Statement on 6 Million Americans Enrolling in Health Care

Washington, DC – Today the White House reported that more than 6 million people have signed up for private health plans through the state and federal exchanges. DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz released the following statement:

“Today we reached an important milestone - more than 6 million Americans have enrolled in health care plans since the exchanges opened in October. In just six months we’ve educated millions of Americans about the benefits of signing up for health coverage, and now many who may not have had any health insurance, or were looking for better insurance, have it. 

“Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, more than 100 million Americans with pre-existing conditions have peace of mind that they won’t get dropped from their insurance, and 17 million kids with pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied coverage. Seniors are saving money on their prescription drugs and young people just out of college and looking for a job can stay on their family’s plan until they’re 26.

“It’s time for Republicans to drop their obsession with repeal and admit what we know. This law is working for Americans.

“For anyone who still needs to sign up, you have until March 31st to visit HealthCare.gov or call 1-800-318-2596 / TTY 1-855-889-4325. You can also find help in your community at localhelp.healthcare.gov.”






03/20/2014
DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s Statement Honoring Life of Robert S. Strauss

Washington, DC – Robert S. Strauss, former chair of the Democratic National Committee and former ambassador to the Soviet Union, died Wednesday at the age of 95. In recognition, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz released the following statement:

“I was saddened to hear of the death of Robert Strauss. He was a statesman and public servant in every sense of the word. As a Party leader and DNC Chair, he worked to revitalize the Democratic Party during the 1970's and helped lay the groundwork for Jimmy Carter's election.

"Strauss later went on to serve Presidents from both parties with distinction domestically and abroad. He was a proud Texan and legendary Democrat who always put his country ahead of all else.

"He will be greatly missed. My thoughts are with the Strauss family at this difficult time.”






03/19/2014
Advice to my younger self

When the DNC Women's Caucus met at the DNC Winter Meeting earlier this month, we asked the members to share advice they would give their younger selves. Aside from the fact that we all need a good pair of stretchy pants sometimes, I would advise my younger self to never feel alone because you are standing on some of the strongest shoulders out there – the women who have worked to make this world a place where you can succeed. Here is more advice from some of those women:






03/19/2014
One Year Later, Same Old Party

After the 2012 election, the Republican Party was at a crossroads. They had just lost two presidential elections in a row -- but not only that, they had only won a popular majority in a national election once in the last six presidential races.

Read more.






BARACK OBAMA FEED+/-

04/16/2014
Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Jay Carney en route Pittsburgh, PA, 4/16/2014

Aboard Air Force One
En Route Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

2:14 P.M. EDT

MR. CARNEY:  Welcome aboard Air Force One this morning as we make our way to the great state of Pennsylvania, or Commonwealth, rather.  And, as you know, the President has an event today and he'll be joined by the Vice President to talk about skills development and training.  And I have with me for this briefing, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker.  So what I’d like to do is have Secretary Pritzker talk to you a little bit about what the President will be doing at today’s event and the broader agenda.  Then she can take questions on those subjects, and then I'll stay for questions on other subjects, if you have any.

And with that, I give you Secretary Pritzker.

SECRETARY PRITZKER:  Hi.  How are you?  Let me just give a little bit of background and, first of all, talking about skills and workforce training.  This is a subject that’s very personal to me.  I started working on this in 2009 when Rahm Emanuel was chief of staff, and we started and created something called Skills for America’s Future, which was a White House initiative in partnership with the Aspen Institute.  And then in 2012, we created something called Skills for Chicagoland’s Future, which is a workforce intermediary. 

And the fundamental premise here is that we have to engage with businesses in order to get workers the skills that they need.  And businesses need to define the skillsets that they’re looking for in order to meet their needs.  To do this you have to break silos; we have to break down silos between businesses, between the community colleges and the other workforce training organizations, the universities and local governments in order to deliver these skills.

Today what we're doing is we're announcing incentives that will help -- that will expand upon something that's a fact:  American business today spends $400 billion training their own workers.  What we want to do is incentivize them to take that training and make it available to others in the community through partnerships with community colleges, through increasing the number of workforce intermediaries, through expanding the number of apprenticeship programs, and also through -- to create and emphasize the value of industry-recognized, portable, stackable credentials.  So having industry and industry associations work to create credentials that are recognized across the country and that have real value for a worker who’s getting those credentials. 

And today is all about the scaling what works.  We have two programs that we’re announcing today:  a $500 million tax grant program that will start taking applications today; and those applications will be due July 7th.  And what’s new about this program is it's an incentive to scale, because the applications will have -- each of the applicants have to work with a national industry association.

The second thing is it builds upon something that’s been part of tax grants, which is that the community colleges have to partner with employers when they make their applications. 

The second program is a program focused -- $100 million that will start in the fall, focused on apprenticeships.  The United States is falling behind in the number of apprenticeships that we have compared to our global competitors.  And so the goal is to expand the number of apprenticeship programs and also to award new models of apprenticeships.

So if you think of, historically, apprenticeships have been mostly in the trades.  But we want to do apprenticeships in advanced manufacturing, in IT, in health care in sectors of our economy that are growing.  And what’s really cool is this builds upon work that is being done by the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, which is an effort that’s co-chaired by me and by the head of the NEC, Jeff Zients.  And so simultaneously, today, Dow, Alcoa and Siemens are going to announce two new apprenticeship programs:  One that’s in northern California for welders, and one that’s in southern Texas for maintenance technicians.

And then South Central College in Minneapolis is going to work with the 24 colleges that exist in Minnesota to develop apprenticeships in mechatronics.  And then Harper College, which is based outside of Chicago, another community college, they’re going to create college credit for vets, for our veterans, that also contain apprenticeships attached in advanced manufacturing, including logistics and supply chain management.  And then the AMP leadership is also going to create a how-to manual as to how to then replicate these types of programs.

And, as you know, the President’s budget calls for $2 billion in funding for apprenticeships.  These programs are all ways for us to get started today. 

Q    Is there any way to quantify how many people will be helped by what’s being announced today? 

SECRETARY PRITZKER:  No.  That question was asked yesterday, and the NEC is working with Labor.  We’ll know once the grants are completed; they have to estimate the number of people that they’ll help.

Q    Did you say there’s $2 billion?  Would that be in the budget proposals for apprenticeships?

SECRETARY PRITZKER:  -- in the budget proposal for apprenticeships, yes.   

Q    And a similar question -- did you say that American businesses spend $400 billion --“b”?

SECRETARY PRITZKER:  Billion dollars training their own workers.

Q    The apprenticeships -- like, how many of those will be available?  To anyone at any university, or any level of education?  Or is it only community colleges that people apply  through?

SECRETARY PRITZKER:  The idea is to use these programs and replicate them -- replicate the ones that work.  What we do know is 87 percent of people who go through apprenticeship programs end up with jobs.

Anything else?  All right, I’ll hand you back over.

MR. CARNEY:  Okay.  Any other questions?

Q    What’s the status of your decision on a non-lethal aid package for Ukraine?

MR. CARNEY:  We’re actively considering forms of assistance, the kinds of assistance that we may be able to provide to Ukraine.  We’re reviewing requests from the Ukrainian government.  As I indicated yesterday, we are not considering lethal assistance, but I’m not going to itemize the types of assistance that are under consideration. 

I would note that just the other day Secretary Lew and his Ukrainian counterpart signed an agreement that allows for the provision of up to $1 billion of loan guarantees to Ukraine, and that’s part of our effort to help Ukraine stabilize its economy as it focuses on moving forward towards national elections on May 25. 

Q    Is there any reaction from the White House to NATO’s decision to increase its military footprint there in the eastern part of --

MR. CARNEY:  Well, we’re obviously a significant member of NATO and fully endorse the actions that the Alliance has taken to reassure NATO members and to bolster NATO’s presence in the Baltic nations.

Q    And what about the meeting tomorrow?  What is the United States expecting out of that?  I mean, what are your expectations?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, Secretary Kerry, as you know, is on his way now to Geneva for tomorrow’s meeting with officials from the Ukrainian government, the Russian government and the European Union.  This will be the first opportunity for this contact group to meet.  And we expect the conversation to focus on the need to deescalate, the need for Russia to demobilize its troop presence on the border with Ukraine, the need for armed separatist groups within Ukraine to disband and disarm, and for the Ukrainian government to discuss the measures it intends to take when it comes to constitutional reform and decentralization. 

So it’s an important meeting, but it is also important to note that talk is one thing but action is another.  And we continue to call on Russia to take action that deescalates the situation and the tensions in Ukraine by returning its forces to their pre-crisis positions and numbers; moving its forces from the Ukrainian border as well from Crimea; ceasing its support for armed separatist groups that have seized government buildings, blockaded roads and stockpiled weapons in eastern Ukraine; and engage directly in a dialogue with Ukraine about its concerns when it comes to ethnic Russians in parts of Ukraine.

Q    Jay, has the administration briefed any U.S. companies doing business in Russia on the effect of additional sanctions?

MR. CARNEY:  I don’t have the answer to that question.  You might want to ask the Department of Treasury when it comes to those kinds of discussions.

Q    A quick follow-up.  Has the administration urged any companies to pull back on business that they do with Russia to help magnify the government sanctions?

MR. CARNEY:  We take concrete actions authorized through the executive orders the President has signed.  I think you’ve seen the sanctions that have been imposed, and I can tell you that we are actively reviewing further sanctions at this time. 

Q    Are you prepared to impose these new sanctions based on the results of tomorrow’s meeting?

MR. CARNEY:  We are actively preparing new sanctions.  We are also looking at tomorrow’s meeting for an indication that Russia will, or intends to pursue a path of deescalation rather than escalation.

Q    And does it feel like events in eastern Ukraine are spinning out of control?  We’ve seen separatists take command of some of the armored personnel carriers and waving Russian flags.

MR. CARNEY:  There’s no question that what we’ve seen in terms of the actions by armed separatists in eastern Ukraine has been destabilizing in Ukraine.  And as I noted earlier in the week, these groups have clearly coordinated their actions and received support from the outside.  And in many cases they don’t have the support in any visible way of the populations in the cities or regions where they’re occupying buildings. 

The best way to deescalate the situation in Ukraine is for these armed separatists to disband and disarm.  And we, again, note the fact that the Ukrainian government has approached this serious challenge in a measured and responsible way.  These provocations are clearly designed to destabilize the country, and the Ukrainian government has responded with admirable restraint.  And I say that while also acknowledging that it is certainly appropriate for Ukraine to take action to restore law and order, but we believe that they should continue to do so in a measured and responsible way.

Q    Jay, on another topic, there are reports out of negotiations in Michigan, in Detroit, to move $100 million of federal funds from state to help relieve blight in Detroit, thus I guess alleviating or freeing another $100 million to help the pensions there.  Can you confirm those meetings?  Do you have any comment on them?  And is that counter to the President’s explicit, I guess, words that he would not relieve pensions in flailing cities?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I haven’t seen the reports so I’m afraid I can’t offer any comment on them, but I’ll take the question. 

Q    One more on sanctions, Jay.  The State Department said today that we have additional sanctions prepared.  It sounds like they’re all ready to go. 

MR. CARNEY:  Well, we certainly had the opportunity to review the options available to us when it comes to imposing new sanctions, and that work has been ongoing over the past weeks since the President signed the second of two executive orders.  So it is accurate to say that we have additional sanctions prepared, and we’ll impose them as appropriate.

Q    Do you have updates on the sinking of the South Korean ferry ship?  Any updated information or anything?

MR. CARNEY:  I don’t, Darlene.  Let me just check here.

Q    The President will be there next week.

MR. CARNEY:  Yes, obviously, our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims, and our deepest condolences go out to the loved one of those who lost lives onboard the South Korean ferry.  And the U.S. stands ready to provide any assistance needed.  The 7th Fleet is ready to assist with the search-and-rescue effort, and the USS Bonhomme Richard has moved to the area to assist the Republic of Korea with search-and-rescue operations.

Q    The Bonhomme Richard?

MR. CARNEY:  Yes, here’s the spelling.

Q    It’s French.    

MR. CARNEY:  The French.  Yes, you’re embarrassing me, but yes it looks like we have a ship with a French name.  Bonhomme Richard.

Q    Just on the sanctions, you’re talking about -- you’re not talking about sanctions against the key sectors of the Russian economy, are you?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, again, I’m not going to elaborate until we’re ready to announce new sanctions what the next step in sanctioning will be.  I think it’s important to note that the authorities provided by the executive orders give us a great deal of flexibility when it comes to imposing sanctions on individuals, on entities, and authorizes the Treasury Department to identify sectors of the economy that can be sanctioned.

I think the authorities that we have are flexible because the President wanted to be able to impose costs on Russia commensurate with the action that Russia has taken.  In other words, if and as Russia escalates, the cost will escalate as well.

Q    Talks in Geneva are scheduled for just tomorrow, right?

MR. CARNEY:  That’s my understanding, but the State Department might have more information.  I understand that Secretary Kerry will also meet with Lady Ashton and his Ukrainian counterpart, as well as at least -- probably as well as Foreign Minister Lavrov.

Q    They could be extended if there were to be something --

MR. CARNEY:  Again, I don’t know if that’s the case.  I think, at least as far as I know, the plan is for meetings tomorrow.

Q    Would the sanctions be likely to be imposed before or after the meeting tomorrow?

MR. CARNEY:  I would just say that we’re prepared to impose new sanctions.  We are obviously focused on finding a diplomatic resolution to the crisis in Ukraine, and that is the purpose of the meeting tomorrow.  So we are going to participate in that meeting with an eye towards evaluating whether or not Russia is serious about deescalating, or whether or not Russia will acknowledge that the Ukrainian government has in a very responsible way taken steps to commit itself to constitutional reform and to making changes when it comes to the centralized nature of authority within Ukraine, to decentralize it to the regions.  And that’s what we’re going to be looking for in this meeting.

Q    Thanks.

MR. CARNEY:  Thank you, all.

END
2:34 P.M. EDT






04/16/2014
Statement by the President

One year ago, the Senate introduced comprehensive bipartisan legislation to fix our broken immigration system. Both sides worked together to pass that bill with a strong bipartisan vote. The Senate’s commonsense agreement would grow the economy by $1.4 trillion and shrink the deficit by nearly $850 billion over the next two decades, while providing a tough but fair pathway to earned citizenship to bring 11 million undocumented individuals out of the shadows, modernizing our legal immigration system, continuing to strengthen border security, and holding employers accountable.  Simply put, it would boost our economy, strengthen our security, and live up to our most closely-held values as a society.

Unfortunately, Republicans in the House of Representatives have repeatedly failed to take action, seemingly preferring the status quo of a broken immigration system over meaningful reform. Instead of advancing commonsense reform and working to fix our immigration system, House Republicans have voted in favor of extreme measures like a punitive amendment to strip protections from “Dreamers”. The majority of Americans are ahead of House Republicans on this crucial issue and there is broad support for reform, including among Democrats and Republicans, labor and business, and faith and law enforcement leaders. We have a chance to strengthen our country while upholding our traditions as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants, and I urge House Republicans to listen to the will of the American people and bring immigration reform to the House floor for a vote.






04/16/2014
FACT SHEET - American Job Training Investments: Skills and Jobs to Build a Stronger Middle Class

American Job Training Investments:
Skills and Jobs to Build a Stronger Middle Class

To create new opportunities for all hard-working Americans to get ahead, the President has asked the Vice President to lead an initiative to help individuals get trained with skills businesses need now and then placed in good, middle class jobs. Training America’s workers with the skills they need for a good job can help middle class families feel more secure in their jobs and help American businesses grow our economy. But too many businesses can’t find skilled workers for jobs they want to fill, while too many people looking for a job may be ready to learn new skills but may not be certain that there’s a job waiting for them on the other end. Community colleges are one of the best ways to train workers with the skills they need for a job, and hands-on apprenticeships are one of the clearest paths to a good, secure middle class job. In fact, 87 percent of apprentices are employed after completing their programs and the average starting wage for apprenticeship graduates is over $50,000. 

Today, as part of this effort, the President and Vice President are announcing new federal investments using existing funds to support job-driven training, like apprenticeships, that will expand partnerships with industry, businesses, unions, community colleges, and training organizations to train workers in the skills they need. Employers, unions, and foundations are joining these efforts with new commitments to support job-driven training. These steps are part of President Obama’s commitment to make 2014 a year of action, acting with Congress when possible but also using his pen and his phone – calling on businesses, philanthropy, non-profits, states, and local communities to act. 

American Job Training Executive Actions

Partnering Local Businesses with Community Colleges to Put Americans Back to Work Through a Nearly $500 Million Job Training Competition. Today, the Department of Labor is releasing the application for partnerships of community colleges, employers and industry to develop training programs that are job-driven – that is – designed to respond to the demands of employers so people get placed in jobs. As part of a nearly $500 million competition, all grantees will be required to identify sectors with open jobs to fill, partner with the public workforce system and employers in that sector to address the skills needed for these open jobs, and create pathways from entry level positions to more advanced positions to ensure room for growth for employees with even the lowest starting skills levels. This program is a part of the Trade Adjustment Assistance and Community College and Career Training (TAA-CCCT) competitive grant program that has, over the last three years, supported community colleges preparing dislocated workers and other adults for jobs available in their regional economies. For the first time, this year’s funding will prioritize three key goals by providing larger grants to applicants who propose to address them:

  • Scale In-Demand Job Training Across the Country through National Industry Partnerships. Grants will incentivize partnerships to include national entities - such as industry associations - that commit to help design and implement job training programs based on industry-recognized credentials, and replicate these with other education and training institutions across the country where industry also needs to hire workers with those skills.
  • Advance Education & Training to Ensure a Seamless Progression from One Stepping Stone to Another. In order to make it easier for individuals to progress through their careers and build one degree on top of another, this competition prioritizes applicants that are increasing state-wide alignment of the training investments made by employers, educators and the workforce system. For example, communities will work to ensure accelerated degree paths and credentials that incorporate prior learning, provide credit based on demonstrated skills rather than seat time, and other innovative strategies that will pave the way for making college more affordable for adult workers and all kinds of students.
  • Improve Statewide Employment and Education Data Integration and Use. In order to better assess the effectiveness of education and job training programs over time and continue to improve job placement rates, these grants encourage applications that commit States to further integrate their employment and education data systems. 

Deadline for applications is July 7th, and grants will be awarded to community colleges in every state.

Expanding Apprenticeships for Good Middle Class Jobs. The Department of Labor is making $100 million in existing H-1B funds available for American Apprenticeship Grants to reward partnerships that help more workers participate in apprenticeships. This competition will help more Americans access this proven path to employment and the middle class: 87 percent of apprentices are employed after completing their programs and the average starting wage for apprenticeship graduates is over $50,000.

The new American Apprenticeship Grants competition – which will be launched in the fall – will focus on partnerships between employers, labor organizations, training providers, community colleges, local and state governments, the workforce system, non-profits and faith-based organizations that:

  • Launch apprenticeship models in new, high-growth fields: Many fast-growing occupations and industries with open positions, such as in information technology, high-tech services, healthcare, and advanced manufacturing, have an opportunity to adopt and adapt apprenticeship programs, to meet their skilled workforce needs.
  • Align apprenticeships to pathways for further learning and career advancement: Apprenticeships that embed industry-recognized skills certifications or reward workplace learning with college credit provide an affordable educational pathway for those who need to earn while they learn, and apprenticeships linked to pre-apprenticeship programs can help more Americans access this training and get on an early pathway to a good career.
  • Scale apprenticeship models that work: Across the country, there are pockets of excellence in apprenticeship, but all too often these successful models are unknown in other regions or to other employers. These grants will build from strength and invest in innovations and strategies to scale apprenticeships – including to market the value of apprenticeships, make them more attractive to women and other Americans who have been underrepresented, increase the return on investment for workers and, or build national and regional partnerships to expand apprenticeships.

Making Apprenticeships Work for More Americans. The Departments of Labor, Education, and Veteran Affairs are reforming their programs to enable the use of education benefits for apprenticeships:

  • Streamlining GI Bill benefits for apprentices. Through a new partnership between the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Labor, employers now have a fast-track for their veteran employees to access their GI Bill benefits for registered apprenticeships, helping more than 9,000 veteran apprentices receive the benefits they have earned.
  • Connecting apprentices with college credit. The Registered Apprenticeship College Consortium (RACC), a partnership among community colleges, national accreditors, employers, and major apprenticeship sponsors, will make it possible for apprenticeship graduates to earn credits that will transfer to any community college in the consortium they attend. Founding members include large state systems like Ohio and Wisconsin. Since it was launched last week by the Vice President, 33 more colleges and systems have started the process, including the state system of North Carolina, to join the consortium.

Business and Philanthropic Investments in Job-Driven Training 

Business, Union, and Non-Profit Efforts to Expand Apprenticeships: Today, the President and Vice President will recognize efforts by employers, unions, and training institutions to expand apprenticeships, helping more Americans access this proven path to employment and middle class earnings.

  • The President’s Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP) is developing scalable apprenticeship models in high need advanced manufacturing. Spearheaded by AMP members Dow, Alcoa, and Siemens, a coalition of employers is partnering with community colleges in Northern California and in Southern Texas on apprenticeships in advanced manufacturing occupations – like welders who can fabricate equipment using high-performance alloys and technicians to maintain the complex equipment found in today’s factories. Led by South Central College in southern Minnesota, a coalition of 24 community colleges and employers is pioneering a statewide apprenticeship model in mechatronics. And Harper College, in suburban Chicago, is establishing an apprenticeship program linked to college credit for veterans in advanced manufacturing specialties, including logistics and supply chain management.  To scale these models and meet the demand for a projected 40,000 employees with advanced skills in machining, welding, and industrial maintenance over the next decade, coalition members will release a “How To” manual documenting concrete steps other employers, community colleges, training organizations and states can follow to replicate the model.
  • The United Auto Workers, in partnership with employers such as Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, John Deere and many others, plans to add nearly 2,000 apprentices. The apprentices, who will be added in the next year, represent the largest expansion in the apprenticeship program in more than a decade and an example of employers and workers joining together to strengthen our workforce. Together, the Big Three domestic automakers, John Deere, and suppliers such as American Axle, International Automotive Components, Gerdau Special Steel, and Tower Automotive, among others will employ apprentices with starting annual wages between $40,000 and $60,000, presenting a solid path to the middle class.
  • UPS will add 2,000 new apprentices, including drivers and apprentices in new programs like IT, operations, and automotive repair. Over the next five years, UPS is committed to expanding their existing apprenticeship program for drivers and to expand their apprenticeship programs to include apprentices in other growing fields such as information technology, operations, and automotive repair. This expansion builds on UPS’ longstanding commitment to apprenticeships and its historic partnership with the Teamsters.
  • The SEIU Healthcare Northwest Training Partnership (Training Partnership), in partnership with its employers ResCare, Addus, Chesterfield, the State of Washington, and others, is expanding its novel apprenticeship program for home care aides to train 3,000 apprentices a year. The Training Partnership’s innovative online pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship program for home care aides in Washington state currently trains 300 apprentices a year for jobs as home care aides. The Training Partnership is pleased to announce that it and its employer and labor partners are expanding the program nationwide with a goal of reaching 3,000 apprentices a year within five years for fast-growing jobs in healthcare and, through new online technologies, scaling its other healthcare training programs to reach more than 10x more workers over five years.
  • North America’s Building Trades Unions pledge to add 25,000 new apprentices over the next five years.  In addition to the more than $1 billion the Building Trades Unions invest annually in registered apprenticeship training for their members and employers, over the next five years, through new and emerging industry partnerships, North America’s Building Trades Unions will build on the strengths of their existing programs by adding 25,000 apprentices over the next five years.

Philanthropic and Non-Profit Support to Generate Stronger Community College-Industry Partnerships: Philanthropic and non-profit commitments to provide technical assistance and disseminate best practices for applications for the Job-Driven Training Grants, to support the goal of replicating successful programs across the nation.

  • Philanthropic Support for Potential Applicants and Grantees. Six national foundations will join together to assist grantees to succeed. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Lumina Foundation, ACT Foundation, Joyce Foundation and Wadhwani Foundation will each make investments to develop strong partnerships among community colleges, employers, and industry associations that lead to the creation and adoption of industry-recognized credentials. The goal of technical assistance will focus on training and supporting awardees and their partners to develop strategies to scale their efforts, improve collection and sharing of data, and share proven practices and early successes to strengthen competency-based training and credentialing. Some of the foundations will also support convenings and other outreach to inform potential applicants about the program.
  • Best Practices Website for Community Colleges and Employers to Develop Job-Driven Training Partnerships. Skills for America's Future (SAF) will launch a new website with strategies for community college applicants to develop strong partnerships needed to apply for and implement successful grants. SAF will work to source information from employers and community colleges who have been involved in previous rounds of TAA-CCCT as well as national resource organizations so that the site will stay updated with relevant information going forward.

Continuing to Call on Congress for Further Action

Expanding Apprenticeships and Investing in Community Colleges. Over 4 years, this fund would create competitive grants to partnerships of community colleges, industry and employers, to reform job training curricula and launch new programs to deliver skills for in-demand jobs and careers. This fund will help to spur the development and adoption of common, industry-recognized credentials and skill assessments to allow employers to more easily identify and hire qualified candidates. $2 billion will be set aside for an Apprenticeship Training Fund that would provide grants for comprehensive expansion strategies that can combine small incentives and guidance to employers with a statewide marketing effort to drive apprenticeship adoption as well as innovative regional consortia to create new apprenticeships and increase participation in existing apprenticeship programs. With support for comprehensive state strategies and regional innovations from Congress, we could double the number of U.S. Registered Apprenticeships within five years.






04/16/2014
Remarks by Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa O. Monaco

As Prepared for Delivery
“Countering Violent Extremism and the Power of Community” 

Harvard Kennedy School Forum
Tuesday, April 15, 2014 

Thank you so much, Farah [Pandith], for your kind introduction, and for your service to our country as the first Special Representative to Muslim communities during your time at the State Department, and as a leading advocate for a community of voices to counter extremism. 

I want to thank everyone at the Harvard Kennedy School for doing so much to develop our future public servants and political leaders, and I’m honored to be with you today.  It’s an honor to be part of the great Forum tradition.  I’d like to thank my colleague Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, as well as Jeffery Brown from the Ten Point Coalition and Haris Tarin from the Muslim Public Affairs Council for joining me for what I am sure will be an excellent discussion.         

Of course, we’re here today because of a tragedy.  This morning I joined Vice President Biden at the memorial service marking the anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings – marking one year since we were shocked by those awful images at the finish line; one year since we lost Krystle Campbell, Lingzi Lu, eight-year-old Martin Richard and Officer Sean Collier – all innocent lives and all lost far too soon.  It’s been one year since we saw how Boston responds in the face of terrorism—with resilience and resolve and unbending strength. 

When the bombs went off, I had been President Obama’s chief advisor on homeland security and counterterrorism for just a few weeks.  It was a deeply personal introduction to the demands of this job.  I was raised a few miles from here—in Newton.  I went to high school in the shadow of Fenway Park and then made the long trek down Storrow Drive to come here for college.  Growing up, I spent every Patriot’s Day lining that marathon route – usually at the crest of Heartbreak Hill – cheering on the runners and taking part in a great Boston tradition.  And last year, my twin brother was there in the crowd, alongside thousands of other Bostonians.  It was not only an attack on the homeland; it was an attack on my hometown.   

We’ve faced violent expressions of extremism throughout our history, including 19 years ago this week in Oklahoma City.  And, sadly, we continue to face it, as we saw just two days ago in Overland Park, Kansas, when a gunman—allegedly a white supremacist with a long history of racist and anti-Semitic behavior—opened fire at a Jewish community center and retirement home, killing three.  And, while the American people continue to stand united against hatred and violence, the unfortunate truth is that extremist groups will continue targeting vulnerable populations in an effort to promote their murderous ideology.  

That’s why stemming domestic radicalization to violence has been a key element of our counterterrorism strategy from day one.  President Obama has been laser-focused on making sure we use all the elements of our national power to protect Americans, including developing the  first government-wide strategy to prevent violent extremism in the United States.  At the same time, we recognize that there are limits to what the federal government can do.  So we must rely on the partnership of those who are most familiar with the local risks, those who are in the best position to take action—local communities. 

Local communities are the most powerful asset we have in the struggle against violence and violent extremism.  We’ve crunched the data on this.  In the more than 80 percent of cases involving homegrown violent extremists, people in the community—whether peers or family members or authority figures or even strangers—had observed warning signs a person was becoming radicalized to violence.  But more than half of those community members downplayed or dismissed their observations without intervening.  So it’s not that the clues weren’t there, it’s that they weren’t understood well enough to be seen as the indicators of a serious problem. 

What kinds of behaviors are we talking about?  For the most part, they’re not related directly to plotting attacks.  They’re more subtle.  For instance, parents might see sudden personality changes in their children at home—becoming confrontational.  Religious leaders might notice unexpected clashes over ideological differences.  Teachers might hear a student expressing an interest in traveling to a conflict zone overseas.  Or friends might notice a new interest in watching or sharing violent material. 

The government is rarely in a position to observe these early signals, so we need to do more to help communities understand the warning signs, and then work together to intervene before an incident can occur, while always respecting our core commitment to protecting privacy and civil liberties.  During the past several years, that’s what we’ve attempted to do. 

We’ve built partnerships and expanded our engagement with communities across the nation, especially those that may be targeted by extremist groups.  We are working to improve our understanding of how and why people are drawn to violence.  And we have made it a priority to uphold and defend the qualities from which we draw strength—our openness, our diversity, and our respect for the equal rights of all Americans.

We know all too well that Muslim-American, Sikh-American, Arab-American communities and others, including Jewish-Americans, have been victimized by violence that is rooted in ignorance and prejudice, in suspicion and fear.  American Muslims and Americans of all faiths have enriched our way of life – contributing to our safety and security as patriotic service members, police, firefighters, first responders.  Violent extremism is not unique to any one faith.  And, as Americans, we reject violence regardless of our faith. 

Here in Massachusetts, over the past decade, government and law enforcement officials have built a dialogue to reinforce that shared commitment to non-violence and to build trust with a range of Boston-area communities.  The local U.S. Attorney’s office brings together representatives from federal agencies with community leaders, some of whom I just had the opportunity to meet.   I can tell you, the benefits go both ways.  Law enforcement is better able to understand the specific challenges these communities face, and community participants can bring their concerns directly to the government.  We all care about keeping our families and neighborhoods safe.  

These connections were critical in the chaotic days after the bombing – helping to minimize the potential for backlash against Muslim and Sikh communities.  In Malden, after a local Muslim woman was assaulted, purportedly in retribution for the bombings, the Department of Justice Community Relations Service worked with local officials to request additional security for the local mosque.  The Malden Chief of Police personally stood watch the first night.

Still, despite the broader security improvements we’ve put in place since 9/11, despite our outreach to reduce the risk of radicalization to violence, more work remains.  We need a comprehensive prevention model that allows us to work with communities and intervene with at-risk individuals before violent extremism takes root.  And we need to meet the evolving challenge, including terrorists’ use of the internet to recruit those who are most vulnerable to violent extremist ideologies, whether it be from neo-Nazis or groups like al-Qaeda.

So today, as we honor the memory of all those who were killed and injured one year ago, we recommit ourselves to building greater resilience into our communities to resist the pull of violent extremism.  We will continue to work closely with community leaders, local law enforcement and partners outside government who work with at-risk populations every day.  Faith leaders, school teachers, police chiefs – and especially mothers and fathers and families – will always be the best positioned to identify individuals in a community who might be susceptible to radical messages and violence—and to help them resist hateful ideologies.  So we must do more to connect those leaders to resources they need to be part of a comprehensive approach.  Let me just briefly describe a few of the steps we’re taking along those lines. 

First, the Department of Homeland Security is building partnerships with key cities across the country to establish a locally-based envoy dedicated to coordinating government engagement on the threat of homegrown violent extremism.  Piloted in Los Angeles, this effort has already helped focus our resources and strategic efforts by streamlining federal, state, and local outreach.  And tonight I’m proud to announce that the next such DHS envoy will be based in Boston. 

Second, DHS is also going to make more resources available to officials countering violent extremism in their communities.  Every year, DHS offers hundreds of millions of dollars in grant money to local law enforcement to bolster homeland security at the municipal and county level.  Now, in addition to preparing to respond to an attack once it’s happened, state and local officials can apply for these grants to explicitly develop models for preventing violent extremism in their communities, drawing on the expertise of social service providers, education administrators, mental health professionals, and religious leaders. 

Finally, I want to mention the expertise developing right in your backyard.  With support from the Department of Justice, the Children’s Hospital of Boston is studying why some Somali refugees embrace violent extremism, while others move towards gangs and crime and still others channel their energies into non-violent activism.  The answers to these kinds of questions will be essential to developing more effective models of intervention. 

And here at Harvard, the Berkman Center is establishing a new research network dedicated to understanding and ultimately preventing radicalization to violence on the internet.  Hate speech and extremism take on complex new dimensions and dangers when conducted online, and this will be a valuable asset as we strive to identify more effective ways to intervene and to address violent extremism in the internet age.   

During the past year, Boston has been a crucible for our nation-wide efforts to counter violent extremism and enhance our focus on resilience.  The bombings brought into sharp relief what we have been doing well and where we still need to hone our efforts.  The programs that are operating here set the example for cities across the nations.  And—as a Boston-girl, I say this with absolutely no surprise—the strength of the people of Boston made it wicked clear that this city and this country cannot be intimidated by the ideologies of hatred and violence that poison the hearts of a few disturbed individuals.  We reject that thinking.  And when people gather next Monday—in numbers as great and as proud as ever—to celebrate the running of the 118th Boston Marathon, it will also show that we reject the fear terrorism seeks to breed.  It will show the true depth of what it means to be Boston Strong.  Thank you. 






04/15/2014
Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 4/15/2014

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

12:36 P.M. EDT

MR. CARNEY:  Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  Thank you for coming.  I have no announcements at the top, so we'll go straight to your questions.

Julie.

Q    Thanks, Jay.  I just wanted to start by stating for the record our request that you open up the President’s moment of silence for the Boston bombing to a full pool.  It's clearly a newsworthy anniversary and we think it's appropriate to have independent media coverage of the President marking that anniversary. 

MR. CARNEY:  Well, the President is going to have a moment of silence in the Oval Office.  There will be some senior advisors there.  It's during the course of a meeting.  We certainly think that the moment is important, but it is mostly important in Boston.  And I appreciate the request.  As you know, I think, Julie, and if not I'll tell you now, there has been an occasion in situations like this when we have suggested that a single photographer could come, representing the independent media and pool it, and that has been rejected by your news organization and others because they don't like the competitive disadvantage.  So that goes to one side of the argument, but not the one that has to do with access of the free press.

Q    So there’s two hours left, so I'll still ask that you think about that request.

If I could move on to the situation in Ukraine -- the Ukrainian military appears to have started operations to try to push back pro-Russian forces.  Is the U.S. supportive of the actions the Ukrainian government is taking right now?

MR. CARNEY:  We understand the government of Ukraine is working to try to calm the situation in the east and note the measured approach of the Ukrainian security forces thus far.  As you know, the Ukrainian government has repeatedly sought to negotiate with the armed groups that have seized public buildings and established unauthorized roadblocks in eastern Ukraine in an effort to resolve the situation peacefully through dialogue.  Ukrainian officials have even offered amnesty to those occupying the government buildings.

We appreciate the government’s statements that any actions it undertakes will be gradual and responsible, and we agree that the use of force is not a preferred option.  That said, the Ukrainian government has a responsibility to provide law and order, and these provocations in eastern Ukraine are creating a situation in which the government has to respond.  The best way to deescalate the situation is for the armed militants to leave the buildings they have seized.

I'd also note that we strongly support the government’s efforts to move forward on constitutional reform, on elections, and on decentralization, which can help unify the country and provide a constitutional, legal mechanism for people to make their views known. 

Q    Obviously Brennan and other U.S. officials have been in touch with Ukrainian officials.  Has there been any coordination or assistance or advice to the Ukrainians as they carry out these operations?

MR. CARNEY:  We have been, obviously, in regular consultation with Ukrainian government officials and we have been actively supporting the Ukrainian government in its efforts to right the Ukrainian economy.  We have, just yesterday, moved forward in signing an agreement that would provide a billion dollars in loan guarantees to Ukraine.  And we have counseled restraint in the handling of this crisis by the Ukrainian government, and we have been admiring of the restraint that the Ukrainian government has shown. 

And we urge the Ukrainian government to move forward gradually, responsibly, and with all due caution as it deals with this situation caused by armed militants who have seized government buildings, established roadblocks illegally in parts of the country, in some cases, paramilitary groups, men dressed in ski masks and some of them in armored vests carrying fairly heavy weaponry.  So this is not -- these aren’t peaceful demonstrators we're talking about, unfortunately. 

And yet, Ukraine has proceeded with great caution, has for days now, been offering amnesty, dialogue, has been trying to resolve these conflicts peacefully.  And we continue to counsel restraint but absolutely understand that the dynamic created by these coordinated seizures of buildings in eastern Ukraine has become somewhat untenable for the lawful government of Ukraine.

Q    Finally, in the readout of the President’s phone call with President Putin yesterday, the White House says that Obama  -- that while a diplomatic option is still open, that can’t succeed as long as Russia is engaged in its current behavior.  So why have these talks in Geneva this week if Russia doesn’t change anything over the next couple of days?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, we continue to engage with Russia at the level of the two Presidents, at the Foreign Minister level, and we will participate in the meeting on Thursday between the Russian and Ukrainian governments, the United States and the EU.

Q    But are you essentially acknowledging that those talks are going to fail if --

MR. CARNEY:  We will continue to make the case to Russia that it is important to pursue a path of deescalation rather than support for these separatist groups, both direct and indirect, because it is simply the case that the future of Ukraine must be decided by the Ukrainian people and cannot be negotiated or decided over the heads of the members of the Ukrainian government. 

That’s why it’s important that this meeting include representatives of the Ukrainian government.  One of the key elements of the proposal that we’ve urged upon Russia is that they take the step of engaging in direct dialogue with the Ukrainian government.  So the meeting is an opportunity for that to happen.  Obviously, the United States and the European Union are participating. 

But we think it’s important to make clear again that there is a path that Russia can pursue here that will allow the situation to deescalate, that will allow for the fair evaluation of concerns that Russia says it has about the rights of ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine, and will allow for a process that the Ukrainian government itself has endorsed around decentralization to move forward. 

And I think that, again, the Ukrainian government has demonstrated enormous restraint and reasonableness when it comes to acknowledging that there need to be reforms that allow for those in regions away from the center, away from Kyiv, to feel that they’re being properly represented.  But this all has to happen with the active participation of and consent by the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian government.

Q    The Russian Prime Minister says Ukraine is on the verge of a civil war.  Why is that not a fair assessment?

MR. CARNEY:  There is a crisis in Ukraine and you have armed paramilitary groups seizing buildings, blockading key roads, and that is a dangerous and volatile situation to have.  It is precipitated by obviously Russian separatists, or pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine and supported by, both directly and indirectly, Russia.  And that’s a very dangerous situation.  And that is why we have called upon Russia to cease its support for these actions and to instead engage in a dialogue with the Ukrainian government, to pull back its forces from the border, the presence of which in and of itself is destabilizing, and to allow the Ukrainian government to move forward in the manner that it has said it wants to move forward when it comes to elections and constitutional reform and decentralization.  That's the proper path here.  But there’s no question that this is a dangerous situation and a volatile situation. 

Q    Are you changing your view about military aid to Ukraine?  Are you still opposed to it?  And if so, why?

MR. CARNEY:  With regard to any potential military assistance, Steve, we don't have any announcements to make today. Our main focus continues to be on supporting economic and diplomatic efforts to deescalate the situation.  As the President has said, we do not see a military solution to this crisis. 

This is actually not that complicated to resolve if Russia would agree to engage with the Ukrainian government, would agree to pull back its forces, would stop supporting pro-Russian separatists who have seized buildings by force.  There’s a way forward here that can ensure that the rights of ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine are protected, that the long historical and cultural and economic ties that exist between Russia and Ukraine are maintained appropriately, even as Ukraine and the Ukrainian people decide for themselves what the nature of Ukraine’s relationship with Europe will be and what the nature of Ukraine’s relationship with Russia will be. 

So that's the only resolution to this crisis.  There’s not a military solution -- there certainly should not be one.  And that is why we are urging those armed separatists to vacate the buildings that they’ve occupied and to allow a process to move forward whereby elections can take place, reform can take place, and decentralization can take place.

Peter.

Q    On that point, Wes Clark has done this report apparently on whether or not certain equipment that could be provided the Ukrainians that is not lethal -- like Kevlar vests and aviation fuel and night-vision goggles -- could be provided, but the government apparently is against providing that because it’s considered to be a force multiplier.  Could you talk about why the U.S. government wouldn’t want to provide defensive equipment like that?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I can say that we’re not considering lethal assistance.  We are obviously evaluating requests and looking at ways that we can support the Ukrainian government, but our focus is on continuing to put pressure on Russia so that it understands that the international community is united when it comes to support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and that there is a path for Russia to take that would deescalate the situation, ensure that it doesn't devolve into violence, and that would allow for the rights of ethnic Russians to be protected and evaluated and assessed by international observers.  That's our focus right now. 

I just don't have any new information to provide today about forms of assistance that we’re considering, except to say that we have -- we’re not discussing lethal assistance.

Q    Do you consider body armor and night-vision goggles and stuff like that to be lethal then?  Or is that something that --

MR. CARNEY:  I don't want to parse forms of assistance -- I think that people understand what lethal assistance is.  But I don't want to -- I just don't have anything more to say about what kinds of assistance has been requested or what we’re considering.

We are focused right now on providing the economic assistance that the Congress and the administration have worked together to secure for Ukraine and to provide the diplomatic effort that we’re engaged in, including with the meeting in Thursday.

Michelle.

Q    I’m sorry, did you just say that you’re not considering lethal assistance?

MR. CARNEY:  It’s not currently something that we’re considering, to provide lethal assistance.

Q    Okay.  And when he said night-vision goggles, you’re not specifying what is --

MR. CARNEY:  I’m not going to get into a “what counts” as that.  I think there’s a certain obviousness to what counts at lethal and nonlethal assistance, but I’m not an expert in the field, so I’ll leave that to the experts.

Q    Moving on from there, on the call yesterday, how long did it last?

MR. CARNEY:  I don't have the exact time here I don't think. I know it was fairly long.  Obviously --

Q    Would you say longer than an hour? 

MR. CARNEY:  Again, I don't have -- we’ll get an exact time for you.  It was a fairly lengthy discussion, as has been the case as a rule in conversations between Presidents Obama and Putin.  You have to, of course, be mindful of the fact that translation is involved, so that makes calls longer.

Q    And because it was Russia that reached out to the U.S. in this case, would you say that there was any nugget of progress in this call?  What is the common ground, if any?

MR. CARNEY:  We put out a fairly detailed readout of the call and the topics of conversation and the views that the President expressed.  It is certainly the case that we have not yet seen from Russia a decision to stop supporting separatist pro-Russians in Ukraine, and we have not seen Russia make the decision or act on the decision to remove the extensive number of troops that they’ve placed on the Ukrainian border.

Our views, however, have been expressed very clearly and directly to President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov and others, and those are not our views alone.  We are speaking with one voice on this matter with our European allies and partners, and will continue to do that.  And I think you’ll see that kind of coordination on Thursday at the meeting, the so-called contact group meeting.

What I think is also true is that Russia understands that they have already incurred costs because of their decision to flout international law by occupying and attempting to annex Crimea, and that those costs will grow as Russia continues to engage in provocative actions, and that we are prepared, because of the authorities that we have in the executive orders the President signed, to escalate sanctions and other costs if and when Russia escalates its actions.

Q    Well, I guess progress-wise or any common ground -- the fact that Russia is going to be at the talks and at least gives lip service to a diplomatic window, would you consider that to be legitimate on their part?

MR. CARNEY:  We think it’s important for Russia to engage in a dialogue with Ukraine, for the Russian and Ukrainian governments to work out together some of the issues between them, fundamentally, because it is only for Ukraine and the Ukrainian people to decide their own future. 

No outside country -- not the United States, no other country in Europe, not Russia, certainly -- has the right to or is in a position to dictate to Ukraine what Ukrainian’s political structure ought to look like, how its democracy ought to function.  That is for the Ukrainian people to decide.  So we have insisted all along that these kinds of talks have to include as a primary participant the Ukrainian government.  And that is certainly the case this week.

So we certainly hope that Russia will avail itself of the option to pursue a path of deescalation.  We'll hear from Ukrainian officials the fact that they have pledged to pursue constitutional reform, pledged to pursue decentralization, have already called for and are implementing an election process that will lead to elections on May 25th, which will allow for an opportunity for everyone in Ukraine to vote for their representatives freely.  And that’s how it should be.

Q    The administration supports what they’re doing now, I guess you would call it militarily, moving troops that the administration --

MR. CARNEY:  What I said is that we have urged restraint upon the Ukrainian government and have noted that they clearly do not consider the use of force a preferred option.  They have been placed in a very difficult situation by the seizure of these government buildings and the blockade of roads by armed militants.  But we call on Ukraine to proceed gradually and responsibly, as they have done, in order to limit violence in this situation. 

But let’s be clear that the way to ensure that violence does not occur is for these armed paramilitary groups and these armed so-called pro-Russian separatists to vacate the buildings and to lay down their arms.  The Ukrainian government has moved forward since it came into place to have these irregular militias and other groups, both Ukrainian nationalist groups and pro-Russian groups, to disarm and to cease any kind of activity that is inconsistent with the law.  And that is certainly appropriate in this case.

Q    Can I follow on that, Jay?

MR. CARNEY:  Sure, Scott.

Q    Thanks, Jay.  Again, the idea of no military solution to this situation -- and this is the Ukrainian government’s military response.  You’ve outlined why that’s clearly their right to do.  But I’m wondering, when you say no military solution, do you mean no military solution involving the United States or NATO, or just any military solution at all?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I certainly don’t think -- we don’t think that there’s a military solution to this crisis.  This is a situation that needs to be resolved diplomatically and through dialogue and negotiation.  And that’s true internally within Ukraine and true in terms of Ukrainian-Russian relations.  There’s certainly no appropriate military solution to this conflict.

So the action that Ukraine is taking is one that we hope and at least thus far are seeing is gradual and responsible and limits violence.  It’s one that is not their preferred option.  It’s one that has come after many days of efforts to negotiate a peaceful resolution to these situations.  The offer of amnesty, the request for dialogue, the very, I think, strong statements by Ukrainian government officials in support of decentralization and constitutional reform -- these I think demonstrate and prove the Ukrainian government’s intentions here and their restraint.

So my point is that Ukraine obviously has been put in a situation where they, in order to maintain law and order, have to act, but have to act responsibly and gradually.  But the issues between regions of the country in the center and between ethnic Russians and ethnic Ukrainians need to be resolved through a process of negotiation, dialogue, constitutional reform, governmental reform.  And those are things that the Ukrainian government has pledged itself to pursue.  And that’s very important.  So the answer to that should not and must not be violence.

Q    You’ve used -- this is the position that the administration has also taken with Syria.  And I’m wondering if when you look at Syria and you see one side in that conflict, the government side, clearly seeing a military solution to what is happening in the country, and the other side being supported by the United States and others in a position of not seeing a military solution, the United States not getting more involved in supplying weapons directly, those sorts of things, are there lessons to be learned from that?  And is there a danger that in this case --

MR. CARNEY:  I think these are quite different situations.  I think that the connective tissue that you’ve established has to do with our view that in Syria there’s not a military solution to that conflict.  In other words, it doesn’t get resolved through fighting.  President Assad will never again rule all of Syria; he will never again have the support of all of the Syrian people.  And that situation has to be resolved through a negotiated political settlement, and that’s what we’ve supported.  This is obviously -- it’s certainly true we do not see a military solution to the current crisis in Ukraine, but I think the dynamics are a little different.

Q    I’m more asking about the challenge of one side seeing a military solution perhaps and the other side not, and the result of that being a volatility that increases in violence and increases rather than that then is a solution.  And I know that they’re a bit different, but --

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I suppose that the purpose of diplomacy and the kinds of actions that we and our partners have taken is not to accept the world as it is, but to try to move the world closer to the way it should be, conflict by conflict.  And in this case, absolutely, Russia has not moved its troops away from the border, but it should.  Russia has not chosen the path of deescalation, but it absolutely should.  And we are acting with our partners and allies to make clear to Russia that the cost of their chosen path is isolation and harm to their economy and that those costs will increase as long as Russia pursues that path.  And I think that’s absolutely the right approach to take.

Bill.

Q    There is talk of new sanctions to be announced today.  Will there be? 

MR. CARNEY:  I don’t have an update on any action that we might take in that arena.  We are certainly evaluating potential new actions and when we have an announcement to make we’ll make it.

Q    Could it come as early as today?

MR. CARNEY:  I’m just not going to speculate about what may or may not happen, except to say, as I did yesterday, that we’re actively looking at our options.  And I think it’s important to note that we have the capacity because of the authorities the executive orders established to impose sanctions at a variety of levels with different impacts and scope, and that we will avail ourselves of that ability to escalate in response to escalation. And that’s the kind of -- that’s the view that we’re taking as we evaluate our options both here in the United States and, most importantly, in coordination with our partners.

Q    I would think the curiosity is whether you would wait until there’s actual movement of Russian troops, or whether you would do it in response to the uprising --

MR. CARNEY:  Well, again, I think that that suggests that there’s only one action we can take.  And the fact is the authority that we have under the executive orders allows for a variety of types of sanctions and actions and with greater degrees of scope and impact, depending on what we might be responding to and what action Russia might take. 

I think it’s also fair to say -- you didn’t ask this, but we are watching the situation very closely in Ukraine and we are looking forward to this meeting on Thursday to see whether or not there is the potential anyway for moving forward on a diplomatic resolution and deescalation, which, as you know from our readout of the President’s call with President Putin, is something that we are still pressing upon the Russians.

Q    So you would wait until Thursday?

MR. CARNEY:  Again, I’m not going to speculate about when we may have an announcement on further sanctions.  It is absolutely safe to report that we are evaluating our options and considering quite seriously next steps when it comes to sanctions.  But I don’t have an announcement today.

Q   Just to circle back for a second to military aid, you didn’t seem to rule it out.

MR. CARNEY:  Right, I just don’t have an announcement to make on the kind of assistance that’s been requested or the kinds of things that we might consider.  Our focus is on the kinds of actions we’ve taken both diplomatically and through the leveling of sanctions. 

Q    So, conceivably, you could supply the kind of aid that was just discussed here? 

MR. CARNEY:  Again -- I mean, you could say things are conceivable, but what I have not said in any way, with any detail, what is under consideration beyond the caveat that I offered about lethal assistance.

Jim, and then Kristen.

Q    Since the Russian storyline has been that the CIA has been orchestrating the Ukrainian unrest on the Western side, was it a wise idea to send the CIA Director to Ukraine over the weekend?  Was that wise to do?

MR. CARNEY:  An assertion of fiction doesn’t hold water regardless of who we send or who visits Ukrainian government officials.  The implications that Russians have made associated with that visit is -- how does that make sense when we have meetings and consultations at that level and between the intelligence services of the United States and Russia, as well as many other countries?

So one of the fascinating things to watch, I think for many of us, especially those of us who have some experience with the former Soviet Union and Russia, is the kind of propaganda efforts that have gone into -- have been an aspect of this situation in Ukraine, some of them remarkably heavy-handed.  I mean, we talked about yesterday the paramilitary with their uniforms as they had in Crimea but stripped of insignia, the kind of unbelievable assertions -- unbelievable in the sense that nobody believes them, but they’re made anyway.

I think it’s worth noting that the U.N. released a report today -- and I’d like to draw your attention to it -- and that report notes deep concerns about the human rights situation in the Crimean region of Ukraine, and it also found that ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine have falsely claimed to be under attack in an attempt to justify Russian involvement in Ukraine.  Specifically, the report found that attacks against ethnic Russians “were neither systematic not widespread.”  But that was and has been a pretext for stated Russian concerns, Russia’s support for pro-Russia separatists.  And most of the world is not buying these kinds of propaganda.  But they are what they are.

Q    Certainly for the impartial observer it’s pretty easy to see that Russia is indeed supporting these militias you speak of.  But don’t you add credence to some of their assertions, not about Russian citizens or ethnic Russians being attacked, but about the start of the unrest there when there was an uprising when the Russians have been blaming that uprising all along on the CIA, and then we send the CIA Director there at this particular time?

MR. CARNEY:  But I think -- Jim, I think it’s important for everyone who reports on this to apply their critical faculties to that kind of assertion.  There is no factual basis for those assertions -- zero, none -- because they’re not true.  And what is true is what many of your news organizations have been reporting about what’s been happening on the ground in Ukraine,  the nature and makeup of the paramilitary groups that have taken action in Ukraine, the support that Russia has given indirectly and directly to those efforts, the presence of Russian intelligence agents and others -- military, apparently, according to independent media reports -- in Ukraine, the presence -- undisputed presence -- of tens of thousands of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border.  Those are incontrovertible facts.  And I think it's important to separate them from baseless assertions.

Q    If I could, just on one other subject matter and that is on the immigration meeting, the faith-based meeting that just happened.  At the stakeout just a few moments ago, those leaders said that the President said that he was not on the verge of making any independent executive action.  Is that a change from what he just recently asked the Director of Homeland Security to look at ways that he could make some changes?

MR. CARNEY:  First of all, I’m not going to read out the private conversations of the President.  But the action that the Secretary of Homeland Security is taking at the President’s request is happening and is a review of practices and the implementation of enforcement guidelines.  I think that’s separate from the kind of thing that you’re talking about.  Again, without reading out private conversations that the President has had, I think the President believes that there is an opportunity that still exists for House Republicans to follow the lead of the Senate, including Republicans in the Senate, and take up and pass comprehensive immigration reform. 

And today’s meeting that the President had with faith leaders demonstrates and reinforces the fact that there is a broad -- unusually broad coalition that supports that effort, that supports comprehensive immigration reform, and all the benefits that making reform the law would provide to the country  -- to our security, to our economy, to our businesses.  And that support includes many in the faith community, and it includes those in business, those in law enforcement.  It includes -- the coalition is broad and disparate and it is not the kind of coalition that you see come together very often in Washington.  And I think it highlights the isolation that House Republicans find themselves in when so many not just politicians or advocacy leaders but folks across the country support doing the right thing here. 

And the irony, of course, is that there is a really strong conservative argument to be made on behalf of comprehensive immigration reform.  And there’s also a strong political argument.  It’s not one that I necessarily see as in the interest of the Democratic Party to make, but it is a fact that the Republican Party would benefit from dealing with this challenge. And I’m only quoting numerous Republicans who have said so. 

The President is focused only on doing the right thing for our country, doing the right thing on this very difficult issue, and allowing everybody, but most importantly, the country and the economy to benefit from taking action.

Kristen.

Q    Jay, thanks.  Some lawmakers are arguing that if there were to be new sanctions, that they should include sanctions on Putin’s own financial assets.  Is that under discussion right now?

MR. CARNEY:  Kristen, I am not going to go through a list of the kinds of things that are under consideration with any specificity except to say that we have broad authorities under the executive orders that the President signed to level sanctions.  We are coordinating directly with our European partners and others on these issues.  You’ve seen a great deal of unity in this effort both in the condemnation of Russia’s actions in Ukraine and in the imposition of costs on Russia in response to those actions.

Q    Without getting specific, can you say if that is off the table?

MR. CARNEY:  Without getting specific, could I be specific? No.  I’m not going to get into individual proposed sanctions and whether or not they are actively under consideration except to say that we are actively reviewing potential sanctions.  And we’ll certainly let you know if and when we take action in that arena.

Q    Some lawmakers, some experts in the region say sanctions should go into effect immediately, should have already gone into effect.  What do you say?

MR. CARNEY:  Sanctions have gone into effect.

Q    Well, another round.

MR. CARNEY:  Well, we are coordinating very closely with our European partners and allies.  I think that it is safe to say that we are -- in this matter, the impact of what we do is enhanced when we work in a coordinated way with our partners.  That has been the case thus far.  It was certainly the case coming out of the President’s meeting -- a series of meetings in Europe on his trip there and the run-up to those meetings.  And it has been the case since then.  There are numerous statements that I could point you to from European leaders that emphasize the point that what Russia has done is unacceptable, A; and, B, and that there have be costs for this kind of violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and that those costs will increase if Russia takes further action up to and including obviously sending troops into Ukraine.  And we obviously couldn’t agree more with our partners on this and are coordinating with them closely.

Q    I wanted to go back to Ukraine’s actions and try to follow up there.  To what extent is the President concerned that this anti-terror campaign could actually give Putin the excuse that he’s looking for to invade and to say that he’s doing it under the guise of defending the pro-Russian separatists?

MR. CARNEY:  There’s no question that the playbook that Russia is employing includes that play.  We’ve seen it before.  And some of the provocations and pretexts that we’ve seen come straight out of that playbook.  What we have seen in the Ukrainian government’s response is enormous restraint and recognition of the fact that force is not the preferred option in dealing with this.  That’s why the Ukrainian government has offered amnesty.  That’s why the Ukrainian government has urged dialogue and peaceful resolution to this crisis. 

But it also certainly the case that when you have armed paramilitary groups seizing buildings and blocking roads and they will not vacate those buildings or unblock the roads, that it places the Ukrainian government in a very difficult situation and they, understandably, believe they need to take action.  What we urge is that that action be gradual and responsible and that it limits violence as much as possible.

Q    And just one on Syria.  You said yesterday that the administration is aware of the reports.  Do you have a timeline for when you might be able to confirm one way or another?  Can you update us on that process?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I can tell you that we are still looking into those reports, but we are not able to corroborate them and those claims at this time.  Corroboration depends on many factors, as you know.  And we’ve seen in the past that -- I think the IC, the intelligence community can give you a fuller picture of how that process works, but we don’t have any confirmation today.

Q    You don’t have a timeline for when you might?

MR. CARNEY:  No, I don’t. 

Roger.

Q    Ukraine says that there are elements of Russian special forces identified in the anti-government groups.  Does the U.S. have any evidence of that, or do you know?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, we’ve certainly seen substantial evidence to suggest direct Russian involvement, including media reports, including one I saw this morning where one of the individuals seizing a building identified himself as a lieutenant colonel in the Russian army, and I think the Ukrainian government has noted that they have arrested a number of Russian agents.  But I would refer you to the Ukrainian government for details. 

Q    I want to ask you about -- Mike McFaul this morning on MSNBC was saying that if Ukraine proceeds with its offensive, which it now seems to be, he says it’s going to be “a very, very bloody,” a “dangerous moment that I think could then precipitate Russian involvement later.”  What do you make of those comments?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, that’s basically the same question I got from Kristen and it’s in many ways consistent with some of the questions I’ve gotten already in the briefing.  The answer to that is Ukraine needs to and has been thus far demonstrating restraint and caution and moving forward gradually and in a responsible manner in dealing with a very difficult situation. 

But it is also understandable that in a dynamic like this where you have armed paramilitary groups seizing and occupying government buildings and you have paramilitary groups blockading roads, that at some point the Ukrainian government has to take action to assert law and order and to protect its citizens.  But it has pledged itself to -- and we certainly support the effort  -- to take that action in a responsible and gradual manner. 

Yes, sir.  Oh, and then -- sorry, Carol.

Q    Senator Murphy, a Democrat, as you know, said yesterday in a statement that based on everything that Russia has done up until this point that the United States should be operating under the principle that they’ve decided to invade.  Is that the principle under which you guys are approaching this at this point?  Do you agree with that statement?

MR. CARNEY:  I didn’t see that specific statement.  I think that Russia hasn’t invaded, I can’t speak to their motivations or their plans.  But we are obviously very concerned about the presence of Russian troops in large numbers on the Ukrainian border.  That presence has been there for some time now and has been a concern for some time, and such a move would be a dramatic escalation of this crisis and would be responded to I think quite strongly by the United States and our allies. 

Q    And two other quick things.  Is there any consideration to the President postponing his trip to Asia next week since we’re --

MR. CARNEY:  I don’t have any scheduling changes to make or announce. 

Q    And then to follow on Julie’s question about the moment of silence the President is going to be observing, can you just clarify why you guys did not -- do not want reporters in there to observe the moment of silence?  Because we’ve had access to other moments of silence, particularly on 9/11, since he’s taken office.

MR. CARNEY:  Well, the one on 9/11 was outside -- has been, traditionally, outside.  This is a meeting in --

Q    But you guys can schedule these things wherever you want them to be, in whatever room you want them to be.

MR. CARNEY:  This is in the course of a meeting that he’s having in the Oval Office.

Q    Right, but why was that made -- why was the decision made to have it there, as opposed to having it in a space where we could have access -- where you didn’t then come to us and say, well, it’s in the middle of a meeting?  Because you do that.

MR. CARNEY:  Well, you could say that about any -- why don’t we have Cabinet meetings outside and you guys can attend in full, or national security meetings in the briefing room.

Q    -- we could attend in the Map Room -- because the pool has access to a lot of different rooms.

MR. CARNEY:  But I mean, I guess the point is the President is having a moment of silence; it’s in the Oval Office.  It’s his personal commemoration with a handful of advisors of the tragedy that happened in Boston and the resilience that the people of Boston showed in reaction to it.

Q    And you guys don't want us to see that?  Or I don't -- I’m trying to understand what’s behind this.

MR. CARNEY:  It’s a quiet moment in the Oval Office.  As I noted to Julie, in that setting we have in the past offered to have a single photographer from the news media, much in the way that poolers from the print media pool for the rest of the press -- a single photographer can come in and pool for the rest of the photographic media.  And that offer has been rejected.

Q    Well, with all due respect, Jay, that's a very rare occasion.  And these types of news events are -- you guys have been able to accommodate -- I mean, the pool in general is not a large -- 

MR. CARNEY:  With all due respect, I think the news is in Boston today on this issue.

Yes, sir.

Q    On the Obama-Putin call, it’s described as “frank” in your statement.  And we get the word “frank” with a lot of calls that the President makes with world leaders.  Let me try to dig a little deeper in that -- how firm was it?  Was there a sense of tension in this call?  If you put aside the blasé translations, were there raised voices? 

MR. CARNEY:  I don't think the translations are necessarily blasé.  Look, I think we gave a pretty detailed readout of the call, including the very clear objections that the President expressed about Russian support for the kind of activity we’ve seen in eastern Ukraine involving armed groups seizing buildings, occupying, blockading roads, and making the point again to President Putin that the better path is for Russia to work with the Ukrainian government and the international community to deescalate the situation and to engage on this matter in a way that prevents it from getting worse and getting violent or more violent.  And I think it was -- “frank” is obviously a term of diplomatic art, but I think it represents a very clear enunciation by the President, clear and firm, of our views and our concerns, as well as our belief that there is still a path available to Russia to join with us and the Europeans and the Ukrainians to resolve this peacefully.

Q    Raised voices?

MR. CARNEY:  I think that these leaders speak and air their differences with some frequency so I think “frank and firm” is the best way to describe it.

Yes.

Q    Regarding the commuted sentence that was announced earlier today, is there a flaw with the system if the President has to get involved to fix a typo?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I’m not the proper person to ask about these kinds of things that happen in our judicial system, but in this case, the President did act quickly to commute the sentence of Cesar Cantu because he was mistakenly sentenced to an additional 42 months or three and a half years, in prison based on a typographical error. 

I don’t know all the details of how that came about.  He pled guilty in 2006 to charges related to drug trafficking and money laundering.  There was a typographical error in Mr. Cantu’s pre-sentence report that increased his sentence.  A judge ruled that Mr. Cantu did not discover this error in time to correct it through any judicial means.  As a result, it can now only be rectified through clemency.  The President thought it was the right thing to do to commute his sentence.

Q    Can you tell us how that came to your attention?  Usually when drug sentences are commuted or pardons are granted they’re done in batches at certain times of the year.

MR. CARNEY:  Sure.  I mean, obviously the process works -- even though Presidents, this President and others, tend to act on clemency in batches, but the process continues I think throughout the year.  And given the circumstances of this case and the manifest injustice of keeping a person in federal prison for an extra three and a half years because of a typographical mistake, the President wanted to act as quickly as possible.  This is a matter of basic fairness and it reflects the important role of clemency as a failsafe in our judicial system.

Q    Can you tell us when this came to the White House, how long it has been?

MR. CARNEY:  I don’t have anything more specific on when this arose, but I know that when it got to the level of the President that he, on the recommendation of his counsel, acted quickly.

Q    I wanted to ask, real quick, going back to the conversation you said that Ukraine and Russia need to have with each other to air out their differences -- do those differences include territorial borders of Ukraine and the status of Crimea? Is that the diplomatic solution?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, what I would say to that, Jared, is that any decision about the borders of Ukraine, about the status of regions within Ukraine in relation to the center, the degree of autonomy that any region of Ukraine might have in relation to the center can only be decided and approved by the Ukrainian people through their elected representatives. 

That is what was wrong with what happened in Crimea.  It was an illegal seizure, an occupation of a region of a sovereign nation without the consent of the Ukrainian government, without the consent of the Ukrainian parliament, without the consent of the Ukrainian people.  Any discussion about Ukraine’s territorial political status, the nature of its regions and their relationship with the center, can only be had with Ukrainian government officials and it can only be done and acted on by the Ukrainian people.  That’s up to them to decide.  It is certainly not for an outside nation -- Russia in this case -- to decide on Ukraine’s behalf.

Q    But doesn’t Russia have a role in that discussion then if these are legitimate -- I guess, there is a level of how legitimate the claims that the Russian-speaking populations are, but if there’s a move on these Russian-speaking populations to join Russia, does Russia not then at least have a role to play in having that conversation with the leaders in Kyiv?

MR. CARNEY:  What we have urged all along, and what the Ukrainian government has asked for and urged all along, is dialogue with the Russian government.  The Ukrainian government has not, nor should it, and nor would we ever agree to a situation where Russia got to decide for Ukraine what Ukraine looks like and what its government looks like. 

Kathleen.

Q    On the commutation, it looks like the President just approved one of these petitions in his first term and now this is nine or 10, I think.  Can you explain why he seems to be doing more pardons and commutations in his second term?

MR. CARNEY:  I think I addressed this back when we did a number of commutations a few months ago in terms of how the process works and how he has viewed it.  Again, on this specific one, it has to do with the manifest injustice of having someone serve an additional three and a half years because of a typo.

Q    The timing of these things?

MR. CARNEY:  I’ll have to refer you to what I said and others said back when we had the batch of commutations earlier.

Thanks, everybody.

END
1:28 P.M. EDT






04/15/2014
Readout of the President's Calls with University of Connecticut Basketball Coaches Kevin Ollie and Geno Auriemma

Today, the President called University of Connecticut Men’s Basketball Head Coach Kevin Ollie and University of Connecticut Women’s Basketball Head Coach Geno Auriemma to congratulate both teams on their respective National Championship wins in the Men’s and Women’s NCAA Basketball Tournaments.  The President commended Coach Ollie and his team on their decisive championship victory and noted that he enjoyed watching the team throughout their tournament run.  On the call with Coach Auriemma, the President expressed how impressive it’s been to see the team continue to dominate the field of Women’s NCAA Basketball and commended Coach Auriemma on yet another championship win.  The President told both Coaches that he looks forward to congratulating their teams at the White House in the coming months.






04/15/2014
President Obama to Award Medal of Honor

On May 13, 2014, President Barack Obama will award Kyle J. White, a former active duty Army Sergeant, the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry.  Sergeant White will receive the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions while serving as a Platoon Radio Telephone Operator assigned to C Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, during combat operations against an armed enemy in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan on November 9, 2007.

Sergeant White will be the seventh living recipient to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan.  He and his family will join the President at the White House to commemorate his example of selfless service.

PERSONAL BACKGROUND: 

Former Sergeant Kyle J. White separated from the Army on July 8, 2011.  He currently lives in Charlotte, NC, where he works as an Investment Analyst.

Sergeant White enlisted in the Army in February 2006 as an Infantryman.   After completion of training at Ft Benning, he was assigned to Vicenza, Italy, with 2nd Battalion (Airborne) 503rd Infantry "The Rock" as a grenadier and rifleman which included a combat tour to Afghanistan from May 2007 until August 2008.  Following Italy, Kyle was assigned as an opposing forces Sergeant with the Ranger Training Battalion at Ft Benning. 

Sergeant White deployed in support of the War on Terror with one tour to Afghanistan. 

At the time of the November 9, 2007 combat engagement, then-Specialist White was a Platoon Radio Telephone Operator assigned to C Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade.  His heroic actions were performed during a dismounted movement in mountainous terrain in Aranas, Afghanistan. 

White’s awards and decorations include the Purple Heart, the Army Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster and “V” device, the Army Achievement Medal with one  oak leaf cluster, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with one campaign star, the Global War on Terrorism Medal, the Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon  with numeral “2” device, the NATO Medal, the Combat Infantry Badge, the Parachutists Badge, the Air Assault Badge, the Presidential Unit Citation, and the Valorous Unit Award.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

 

THE MEDAL OF HONOR:

The Medal of Honor is awarded to members of the Armed Forces who distinguish themselves conspicuously by gallantry above and beyond the call of duty while:

  • engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States;
  • engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or
  • serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party. 

The meritorious conduct must involve great personal bravery or self-sacrifice so conspicuous as to clearly distinguish the individual above his or her comrades and must have involved risk of life. There must be incontestable proof of the performance of the meritorious conduct, and each recommendation for the award must be considered on the standard of extraordinary merit.






04/15/2014
Statement by the Press Secretary on the Visit of Djiboutian President Ismail Omar Guelleh

On Monday, May 5, President Obama will host President Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti at the White House.  President Guelleh’s visit underscores the strength of the strategic partnership between the United States and Djibouti, including the important role Djibouti plays in preventing conflict, promoting regional stability, and countering extremism as host to the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa at Camp Lemonnier.  The President looks forward to discussing a range of issues of mutual interest with President Guelleh, including security and counterterrorism, development, trade, and energy cooperation.






04/15/2014
Statement by the Press Secretary on S. 404

On Tuesday, April 15, 2014, the President signed into law:

S. 404, the "Green Mountain Lookout Heritage Protection Act," which clarifies that a specified wilderness area does not preclude the operation and maintenance of the Green Mountain Lookout in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in Washington; and directs the Secretary of the Interior to issue a patent for an Alaska Native Veteran Allotment located in the Yukon-Delta National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.






04/15/2014
Readout of the President’s Meeting with Faith Leaders on Commonsense Immigration Reform

This morning, the President met with faith leaders in the Oval Office to discuss the importance of taking action to pass commonsense immigration reform. The faith leaders shared with the President stories about the impact the failure to fix the immigration system has on families in their congregations and communities. The President expressed deep concern about the pain too many families feel from the separation that comes from our broken immigration system. He emphasized that while his Administration can take steps to better enforce and administer immigration laws, nothing can replace the certainty of legislative reform and this permanent solution can only be achieved by Congress. 

The President and the religious leaders expressed their longstanding commitment to immigration reform as a moral imperative and pledged to continue to urge  Congress to act on reform as soon as possible. The President thanked the faith leaders for their leadership on this issue and their tireless efforts to encourage Congress to finish the job.

List of Participants:

·           Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President
·           Melissa Rogers, Executive Director, White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships
·           Dr. Noel Castellanos, CEO, Christian Community Development Association, Chicago, IL
·           Luis Cortes, President, Esperanza, Philadelphia, PA
·           JoAnne Lyon, General Superintendent, The Wesleyan Church, Indianapolis, IN 
·           Dr. Russell Moore, Southern Baptist Convention, Nashville, TN 
·           Suzii Paynter, Executive Coordinator, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Atlanta, GA
·           Dieter Uchtdorf, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, North Salt Lake City, UT 





THE DAILY KOS +/-

04/16/2014
Cartoon: The joy of retirement


Click to enlarge.






04/16/2014
CEO pay at top companies now 331 times that of average worker, 774 times that of minimum-wage worker
Ratio of CEO pay compared with average worker pay.
Ratio of CEO pay compared with average worker pay.
On Sunday, The New York Times published its 2013 compensation survey of CEOs at the 100 largest publicly traded American companies. No real surprises there, both in terms of the names, in the number of women, in the number of people of color and in the obscene amounts being paid. The Times survey, conducted by Equilar, found that total compensation had risen by nine percent since 2012, to a median of $14 million. The Wall Street Journal called this increase "moderate." Good data to know for tens of millions of American workers the next time they ask for a moderate raise.

The AFL-CIO did its own survey of CEO compensation at 350 companies on the Standard & Poor's 500 Index. It found that in 2013 "the CEO to worker pay ratio was 331:1 and the CEO to minimum wage worker pay ratio was 774:1." On average, the CEOs of these companies received $11.7 million in total compensation:

Today’s ratio of CEO-to-worker pay is simply unconscionable. While CEO pay remains in the stratosphere, production and nonsupervisory workers took home only $35,239 on average in 2013, and a full-time worker making the federal minimum wage earned only $15,080.

Even as companies argue that they can’t afford to raise wages, the nation’s largest companies are earning higher profits per employee than they did five years ago. In 2013, the S&P 500 Index companies earned $41,249 in profits per employee, a 38% increase.

Congress passed a law in 1993 that was supposed to keep executive pay in check with a cap of $1 million. But that exempted performance-based pay. And those who calculate executive compensation have driven a $$$-laden truck through that loophole ever since. Most executive pay isn't in cash, but in equity and options. In the technology sector, for instance, equity and options make up 90 percent of compensation, but the average across all economic sectors hovers between 60 and 70 percent. Options are being used less these days than stock awards.
CEO pay compared with minimum wage
There's more analysis below the fold.





04/16/2014
Republican governors group attacks Democrat for supporting plan supported by Republican governors

This is what happens when outside groups, desperate for simple slogans to use in their attack ads, go off half-cocked:

In the spot above, the Republican Governors Association slams Democrat Mark Schauer, who is running for governor in Michigan, for allegedly supporting "a new fee on nursing home beds" when he served in the legislature. I mean, look at that crazy libruhl—taxing the elderly and infirm just so they can have a place to lay their heads at night! Can you imagine the kind of person who would support such a thing?

Here's one: Republican Gov. Rick Snyder—the very man Schauer is running against. Of course, the law is nothing like the RGA's caricature. Rather, according to a press release Snyder issued when he extended the program in 2011, "the state receives more in federal matching Medicaid funds than what is paid out by nursing homes." Those matching funds are then returned to the nursing homes, who wind up as net beneficiaries.

Indeed, the original legislation passed with broad bipartisan support, and it was signed into law by another Republican governor, John Engler. So a group devoted to electing Republican governors is attacking a program supported by Republican governors—and one that brings in more money for the state, no less. Makes perfect sense to me.






04/16/2014
Christie whitewash firm a big donor to political group headed by Christie
Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) answers a question during a news briefing at the 2013 Republican Governors Association conference in Scottsdale, Arizona November 21, 2013.  REUTERS/Samantha Sais (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS) - RTX15NG2
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at a 2013 meeting of the Republican Governors Association, the organization devoted to electing GOP governors that he now heads
When the law firm hired by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to conduct an internal investigation of the Fort Lee lane closure scandal released its findings, the lead attorney took great pains to defend the investigation's independence, even declaring himself to be a Democrat:
I met Governor Christie for the first time in mid-January the day we were hired. Yes, I was Giuliani’s former deputy mayor and I’m also a former prosecutor and as you two both know, I’m an independent Democrat, life-long.
But what he didn't mention was this:
Nine days before a team of its top lawyers made public a report clearing Governor Christie in the George Washington Bridge scandal, the law firm donated $10,000 to the Republican Governors Association, a group he heads.
As with so many other nuggets of information in the scandal, this doesn't prove what Christie did or didn't know about the lane closure scheme. But it is yet another example of how Christie and his team have a tendency to leave out or misrepresent the facts in order to make him look good, and it provides yet another reason to be skeptical of anything he or his team says.





04/16/2014
Regret, denial, lies: How Republicans deal with the newly insured back home
Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington October 15, 2013. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Pssst.... she's not really a moderate. Pass it along.
Republicans are back home now, trying to keep their constituents whipped up against Obamacare to carry them through November. That's a much bigger problem for them, now that many of their constituents are actually benefiting from the law.

You've got the regrets:

"That's why Sept. 30, Oct. 1 was a critical time," said Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, who led a push for House leadership to defund the law just before sign-ups began last fall. "Now, with some people getting subsidies, it is very difficult to take that away."
Not to say that Meadows wouldn't keep trying to take it away. Then there's the backtracking tack taken by people like the supposedly moderate Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME):
"I've never said the Obamacare law would not have some benefits to some people. […] But I have heard from countless individuals and small businesses who have seen huge premium hikes as a result of the law."
So, you oppose the law why, exactly Sen. Collins? When you knew it would benefit some of your own constituents? And yes, please give us the evidence that disproves the CBO's conclusion that premiums are not experiencing "huge hikes." But all in all, Collins is more truthful than these guys:
"Are they truly benefiting?" asked Rep. John Mica of Florida. "I don't know that."
Is having health insurance really better than not having health insurance? There's just no way to know.
Rep. Doug LaMalfa of California is pushing a different message. His constituents "would benefit from a policy that would focus the efforts on the uninsurable," he said, adding, "We have plans for that."
What's that, Rep. LaMalfa? You have a plan for that? It must be one of those secret plans, because any kind of real Republican plan to help the "uninsurable" sure hasn't seen the light of day.

Support for the law is increasing and opposition shrinking, a trend that's likely to continue up until November. Republicans might be able to keep their hardcore base motivated with their repeal message, but they're sure not going to be able to grow that base. So, yeah, GOP. Keep on running on how awful Obamacare is. Your newly insured constituents will surely appreciate that.






04/16/2014
Midday open thread: NYPD's Muslim spy unit shuttered, porn tweeter keeps job, typo sentence commute
  • Today's comic by Matt Bors is The even hand of the law:
    Teaser for Matt Bors comic 4 16 14.
  • These Daily Kos community posts were the most shared on Facebook April 15:
    Hank Aaron gets a new ton of racist hatemail, proving his point, by MinistryOfTruth

    Too Important for Clever Titles -- Scientific Study Says We Are an Oligarchy, by pajoly

    America Before Pearl Harbor - Early Kodachrome Images, by johnnygunn

  • Obama commutes sentence of inmate whose slam time was extended by typo: Ceasar Cantu was sentenced to 17 1/2 years for drug dealing in 2006, later reduced to 15 years. But he later discovered the court had made a typographical error that translated into an extra three and a half years of slam time. But when this clerical mistake was brought to a judge's attention, he refused to take action, saying that Cantu had waited to long to seek a correction even though obtaining the court report where the mistake had been made was not easy.
    In a rare use of his clemency powers, Mr. Obama commuted Mr. Cantu’s sentence on Tuesday and spared him from being locked up for an additional 42 months. “It’s hard to imagine that someone in the federal criminal justice system could serve an extra three-plus years in prison because of a typographical error,” said Kathryn Ruemmler, the White House counsel.

    The president’s action comes at a time when Mr. Obama and his administration are rethinking sentencing rules and the use of his commutation power.

  • Still employed:
    The most famous social media editor in the world at the moment — the one who sent an irate customer a photo of a woman sticking a model plane in an unholy place yesterday — still has a job. "It was an honest mistake," a U.S. Airways spokesperson told the Daily News, in reference to what is arguably the best and worst tweet of all time.
    The employee had mistakenly passed along the salacious image that was sent to the airline by an internet troll and marked inappropriate.
  • NCAA says okay to unlimited meals for scholarship athletes:
    The NCAA’s legislative council on Tuesday approved a resolution that would allow schools to provide unlimited meals and snacks to college athletes. The change comes just a week after University of Connecticut basketball star Shabazz Napier, the 2014 Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player, told reporters at the Final Four that he sometimes goes to bed hungry because he does not have enough money for food.
    Current NCAA rules only allow for three meals a day to athletes or the appropriate cash stipend.
  • Jimmy Carter says no to Keystone XL pipeline.
  • Rise of the corporate Democrat in California: State Assemblyman Marc Levine sat out a vote on giving the California Coastal Commission the power to levy fines, helping to doom the proposal, voted against a bill requiring more rate-increase transparency from Kaiser-Permanente and abstained from votes to give farm and domestic workers a bill of rights.
    What is baffling is that Levine, who declined to comment for this article, is neither a DINO (a conservative who is a Democrat in name only) nor a farm belt centrist. He remains a committed suburban liberal. One, that is, who happened to attend a local Mitt Romney rally in 2012 and who felt at ease appearing at a Republican Lincoln Dinner last year. Levine is also no aberration. Rather, he is part of a new breed of Democrat, one exceedingly attentive to big business while tone-deaf toward the Democratic Party’s traditional base, which includes union workers, environmentalists and public school advocates.
  • "Latest Publishing Trend: Books That Teach Women to Be Overconfident Blowhards, Just Like Men":
    Why is this genre enjoying such a moment right now? A few years ago, in the wake of the financial crisis, the think piece du jour centered on how overconfident men were a danger to themselves and their country. Now, women are being told to ape these poisonous personality quirks for feminist life lessons. Buy these books, and you, too, can become a successful blowhard.
  • NYPD closes its spy-on-the-Muslims operation:
    The New York Police Department is shuttering a controversial, once-secret unit devoted to surveillance of local Muslim communities.

    “Our administration has promised the people of New York a police force that keeps our city safe, but that is also respectful and fair,” New York City Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “This reform is a critical step forward in easing tensions between the police and the communities they serve, so that our cops and our citizens can help one another go after the real bad guys.”

  • On today's Kagro in the Morning show, Joan McCarter on the Bundy freak-out, ACA news, judicial nominations, Mitt's trip to the Post Office & the Kochs' weird opposition to a local bus line. School bullies caught on tape, victim arrested for wiretapping!






04/16/2014
11 reasons conservatives are winning the culture war? Ha ha ha!
Breaking Bad's Walter White, surrounded by money.
Breaking Bad's mega-rich meth kingpin Walter White, totally conservative.
On Monday I wrote about how liberalism has won the battle of public opinion. Among all the arguments I made, one stands above them all: If conservatives really thought they had public opinion on their side, they wouldn't spend so much time and effort trying to disenfranchise voters and making it harder to vote. If the public was with them, they'd be working to expand the franchise.

As a liberal, I want everyone to vote. Heck, provide voter registration cards when getting a gun license, I don't care! But conservatives know that the more people vote, the poorer they do. Indeed, the only reason they have a good chance of winning November's elections is because off-year turnout is lower than during presidential years. So as far as I'm concerned, case closed. If conservatives want to argue that the American people are behind them, that needs to be accompanied by a genuine effort to expand voter access.

Still, conservatives were OUTRAGED by the notion that they've been ditched by the American people. And none responded more hilariously than Breitbart's John Nolte's "11 reasons the Left has not won the culture wars."

Head below the fold so we can take on the hilarious notion in exquisite detail. I promise, it'll be fun!






04/16/2014
Even after BLM stands down, Hannity pushes talk of violent conflict in cattle grazing fee dispute
Eric Parker from central Idaho aims his weapon from a bridge as protesters gather by the Bureau of Land Management's base camp, where cattle that were seized from rancher Cliven Bundy are being held, near Bunkerville, Nevada April 12, 2014. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management on Saturday said it had called off an effort to round up Bundy's herd of cattle that it had said were being illegally grazed in southern Nevada, citing concerns about safety. The conflict between Bundy and U.S. land managers had brought a team of armed federal rangers to Nevada to seize the 1,000 head of cattle. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart (UNITED STATES - Tags: ANIMALS CIVIL UNREST AGRICULTURE CRIME LAW) - RTR3L0EB
Eric Parker from Idaho aims his weapon from a bridge as protesters gather by BLM's base camp
Over the weekend, the Bureau of Land Management abandoned an operation to round up cattle owned by Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who for 20 years has refused to pay federal grazing fees because he denies the U.S. government has authority over the land it owns. Virtually nobody agrees with Bundy's flagrant disregard for the law—even the Nevada Cattlemen's Association refused to back him, saying Bundy's refusal to play by the same rules as everyone else tarnished the industry's reputation.

Nonetheless, BLM backed off its enforcement action because Bundy managed to attract support from armed militia (aided in part by scenes like this), turning a boring grazing fee dispute into a situation fraught with the potential for violence. These militia members don't appear to have been the brightest individuals, at least based on this:

The militiamen posted a sign: MILITA SIGHN IN (sic).
But while they might not be so good at that whole spelling thing, they did have guns—and as you can see in the picture at the top of this post, they appeared eager to use them. So even though the BLM was unambiguously on the correct side of the law, it decided to return the cattle it had rounded up. Although the BLM has largely remained mum on the situation, the dispute is not over. According to the BLM statement announcing the return of the cattle, the agency will "work to resolve the matter administratively and judicially," a position backed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who said the dispute is "not over."

With BLM having abandoned its cattle roundup, we're pretty much back to a relatively boring grazing dispute between a deadbeat cattle rancher with crackpot political ideas and a federal agency which isn't known for being terribly popular with anybody on the political spectrum. If you're a member of the right-wing media, that's terrible news, however, because boring doesn't sell, so as you'll see below the fold, last night Sean Hannity did what he always tries to do: Create conflict by imagining a set of facts that aren't exactly grounded in reality.






04/16/2014
Gallup: Obamacare working better in states that embraced the law
Cathey Park of Cambridge, Massachusetts shows her cast signed by U.S. President Barack Obama after he spoke about health insurance at Faneuil Hall in Boston October 30, 2013. The writing on the cast reads,
Gallup, which tracks rates of health insurance for its Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, confirms the obvious result of Obamacare implementation in the states:Those that embraced the law and expanded Medicaid have reduced uninsured rates more than those who fought it.
Chart: The uninsured rate, on average, declined 2.5 percentage points in the 21 states (plus the District of Columbia) that have implemented both of these measures, compared with a 0.8-point drop across the 29 states that have taken only one or neither of these actions.
WASHINGTON, D.C.—The uninsured rate among adults aged 18 and older in the states that have chosen to expand Medicaid and set up their own exchanges in the health insurance marketplace has declined significantly more this year than in the remaining states that have not done so. The uninsured rate, on average, declined 2.5 percentage points in the 21 states (plus the District of Columbia) that have implemented both of these measures, compared with a 0.8-point drop across the 29 states that have taken only one or neither of these actions.

As Gallup previously reported, the states that have chosen to expand Medicaid and set up their own healthcare exchanges had a lower average uninsured rate to begin with: 16.1% compared with 18.7% for the remaining states—a difference of 2.6 points. The already notable gap between the two groups of states widened in the first quarter to 4.3 points.

The states that implemented their own exchanges also made a concerted effort into outreach and education to get people to sign up, increasing their success. These are also the states that generally had more generous Medicaid programs even before the Obamacare expansion of the program, which helps explain why they had lower uninsured rates to begin with.

Basically, we've just got even more evidence that the law is working to do what it was supposed to: get insurance to more people. That's true even in the red states that have done everything in their power to sabotage the law. That's not to say the sabotage didn't work—look how much less effective the law has been in those states. But that also gives us the opportunity to point out—again—that success for Republicans equals more people not getting health care.






04/15/2014
Brit Hume says Obama and Holder use race as a 'sword,' is stung by reactions

So Fox News "serious" news person Brit Hume talked this last Sunday on his let's-call-it "news" network that for President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, "race has been a shield and a sword." He said this on a lily-white Fox News panel containing the likes of lily-white George Will and lily-white Chris Wallace, and that Fox News held a conversation between people like Brit Hume and George Will and Chris Wallace to talk about how mean black people were being is pretty much all you need to know about Fox News.

Now Brit Hume has a sad, because some people had a problem with his statement. He took his sad to fellow network white person Bill O'Reilly, the network expert in all things that cause wealthy, prominent news heads to have major episodes of sad, and the two of them lamented how oppressed they were and that people keep being mean to him on Twitter.

After the appearance, he said, people on Twitter accused him of racism and bemoaned the lack of diversity on the panel.

“In other words, in order to discuss this, you have to have an African-American present,” Hume complained to O'Reilly. “But if you’re just white, then discussing this is racist.”

Hmm. I've gotta admit, having an all-white Fox News panel complaining that black people are using their race against good conservative white folks does seem a little kinda bit racist. Especially, and this is key, when your movement has made a habit of saying the same thing about nearly every non-white American with a career in politics that you haven't liked over the last 40 years. The problem wasn't that your point was too daring for America to stomach, the problem was your point was so predictable that folks have the script memorized at this point.
"Look, one of the effects the great success of the Civil Rights movement, which was certainly a just cause, was that overwhelmingly Americans agree that blacks and other minorities should be treated equally in this country, they want to see blacks get ahead, and the effect of that is that being called a racist or labeled a racist, particularly if it's successful, is one of the worst things that can happen to you in America," Hume said.
Oh, I can think of worse things. Maybe not for a lily-white news pundit seeking to say silly things while still keeping his serious person credentials, a fellow who probably will not be shot for carrying Skittles into a middle class neighborhood or getting patted down by the police for buying something a little too expensive in the wrong posh New York storefront, but for much of the rest of non-Fox-News America, I can think of worse things.





THE NEW YORK TIMES +/-

04/16/2014
Washington Retail District’s Future Rides on Streetcars
This summer, after 65 years, streetcars will again travel the former H Street NE shopping district and hopes are high that they will drive development.











04/16/2014
Court Deportations Drop 43 Percent in Past Five Years
The statistics present a different picture of President Obama’s policies from the one painted by many immigrant advocates, who have called him the “deporter in chief.”











04/16/2014
Dee Dee Myers to Join Warner Bros. as Head of Communications
Ms. Myers, a former White House press secretary under Bill Clinton, will become an executive vice president reporting directly to Warner’s chief executive.





04/16/2014
Unfinished Business Complicates Hillary Clinton’s Diplomatic Legacy
Mrs. Clinton may face a dilemma as she recounts her record before a possible White House bid: Much of her work as secretary of state either is unfinished or went awry.











04/16/2014
Michael Bloomberg Discusses Gun Control
Michael R. Bloomberg says to be most effective, it helps to be single-minded. His issue, he says, is guns.











04/16/2014
Sebelius Said to Weigh Run for Kansas Senate Seat
Several Democrats said that Kathleen Sebelius, who resigned as secretary of health and human services, had been mentioned as someone who could wage a serious challenge to Senator Pat Roberts.











04/16/2014
How the President Got to ‘I Do’ on Same-Sex Marriage
The real story of Obama’s tentative, anxious, heavily scripted and occasionally blundering “evolution.”





04/15/2014
National Briefing | Southwest: Arizona: Law Signed to Allow Surprise Inspections at Abortion Clinics
Gov. Jan Brewer on Tuesday signed the bill allowing health inspectors to carry out the inspections without a court-approved warrant.











04/15/2014
General and Former Defense Official Urge Nonlethal Military Aid for Ukraine
Gen. Wesley K. Clark and Philip A. Karber say that equipment like body armor and night goggles could help Ukraine face a Russian attack.











04/15/2014
Texas Twins Campaign, but They Aren’t Sure for What
While Mayor Julián Castro of San Antonio and Representative Joaquin Castro have projected a fresh Latino face for the Democratic Party, some are concerned they are too politically cautious.











THE NEW YORKER - POLITICS+/-

08/04/2013
Hendrik Hertzberg: Anthony Weiner’s all-digital sex scandal.
It’s been another political season of impressively gaudy sex scandals, further confounding America’s hard-won reputation as a nation of censorious puritans. The paradox isn’t so surprising, when you think about it: the broader the range of sex-related activities deemed immoral, unnatural, or . . .




07/28/2013
John Cassidy: Don’t give up on Detroit.
If you were to visit the Detroit Institute of Arts, home to Diego Rivera’s magnificent murals depicting scenes at the Ford Motor Company in the early nineteen-thirties, and then take a stroll through the surrounding streets, you might be surprised at what you would find: coffee shops . . .




07/21/2013
Jelani Cobb: The folly of Stand Your Ground laws.
For some years, the N.R.A.’s approach to gun-rights advocacy has amounted to a variant of the old Maoist dictum, to the effect that democracy flows from the barrel of a gun. In March, the group provided a novel twist on the theme of sidearm liberty when it . . .




07/14/2013
George Packer: Why Egypt is a foreign-policy puzzle.
American foreign aid has always been an awkward exercise in high-minded self-interest—humanitarian goals balanced uneasily with strategic calculations. Whenever these two come into conflict, Presidents inevitably find a way out of their loftier commitments. In 1947, when Secretary of State George C. Marshall proposed a huge . . .




06/30/2013
Jeffrey Toobin: The end of DOMA and the future of gay rights.
The Supreme Court’s embrace of gay rights last week had an almost serene majesty. The obvious correctness of the Court’s judgment, its curt dismissal of a monstrous injustice, had a grandeur that requires little elaboration. Yet the decision had its roots in something prosaic and largely . . .




06/23/2013
Steve Coll: Obama sends weapons to Syria.
The carved minaret above Aleppo’s twelfth-century Umayyad Mosque collapsed in April. The city, which is Syria’s most populous, has endured Hittite, Macedonian, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman rule, little of it benevolent. But this year, forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have delivered a distinctly . . .




06/16/2013
Hendrik Hertzberg: Difficult questions about the N.S.A.
Since the first week of June, when the Washington Post and London’s Guardian, doing the work that journalism is supposed to do, published detailed news of the National Security Agency’s gigantic programs of cell-phone and Internet information-gathering, the world has been riveted. These were . . .




06/02/2013
Steve Coll: Why journalists deserve better protections.
In 1969, when nothing excited the public’s interest like the depredations of drug fiends, the Louisville Courier-Journal sent a reporter named Paul Branzburg to penetrate Kentucky’s marijuana underground. He published eyewitness accounts; a photograph accompanying one of them showed hands hovering over a pile of . . .




05/26/2013
William Finnegan: The struggle for immigration reform.
It was edifying while it lasted. A bipartisan immigration bill, supported by an unusually wide coalition of business, labor, church, and humanitarian groups, made its way through the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, the baying over Benghazi and the Internal Revenue Service was fierce and rising . . .




05/19/2013
Elizabeth Kolbert: What’s at stake in Obama’s Keystone decision.
A lot of what’s known about carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can be traced back to a chemist named Charles David Keeling, who, in 1958, persuaded the U.S. Weather Bureau to install a set of monitoring devices at its Mauna Loa observatory, on the island of Hawaii. By . . .




60 MINUTES +/-

04/13/2014
Pope Francis' first year filled with surprises
In his first year as pontiff, Pope Francis has surprised many by spurning tradition to bring humility and humanity to the papacy





04/10/2014
Hometown favorite aims to win Boston Marathon
Boston-area native Shalane Flanagan took the Boston Marathon bombings personally, giving the runner even more motivation to win the race this year





04/13/2014
Update on "Discovered"
An update on a story Morley Safer reported last week about the discovery of the largest trove of missing art since the end of WWII.





04/11/2014
Pope Francis' first year as pontiff
60 Minutes reports on the first year in the reign of Pope Francis, a new pontiff determined to challenge old traditions





04/10/2014
American runner takes winning Boston Marathon personally
Hometown favorite Shalane Flanagan will not jinx her chances of winning the Boston Marathon by crossing the finish line on practice runs





04/07/2014
60 Minutes/Vanity Fair: Music
In this month's poll, many agree this decade has the worst music in the 45 years since Woodstock





04/06/2014
Billion-dollar art battle steeped in WWII history
Morley Safer reports on the discovery of the largest cache of missing art since WWII -- including some pieces looted by the Nazis -- and the battle over its ownership





04/06/2014
Viewer Letters on "Rigged"
Viewers comment on Steve Kroft's story about author Michael Lewis who says the U.S. stock market is rigged.





04/06/2014
Fukushima: Three years later
Bob Simon reports on the aftermath of the disaster in Fukushima, Japan, and finds toxic ghost towns frozen in time





04/06/2014
Affordable Care for those still uninsured
Nurse practitioners are providing badly needed health care to the uninsured working poor in Appalachia -- medical mercy for those left out of Obamacare and ineligible for Medicaid





04/04/2014
Billion-dollar art battle on 60 Minutes
Morley Safer reports the story of the largest cache of missing art since WWII and the battle over its ownership on Sunday, April 6 at 7 p.m. ET/PT





04/04/2014
60 Minutes returns to the ghost towns of Fukushima
Fukushima survivor's quixotic search for his daughter's body tells the sad story of the radioactive disaster zone three years later





03/30/2014
The Virtuoso: Marcus Roberts
Roberts lost his sight as a child, but gained incredible insight into American music -- inspiring a generation of jazz musicians





03/30/2014
Tesla and SpaceX: Elon Musk's industrial empire
So many children dream of fast cars and rocket ships, but few actually grow up to build them -- and change the world in the process





03/28/2014
Is the U.S. stock market rigged?
Steve Kroft reports on a new book from Michael Lewis that reveals how some high-speed traders work the stock market to their advantage






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