Friday, August 28, 2015
When we hit a mile marker like the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, it’s a reminder of how quickly time flies. Seemingly, everyone responds with surprise: “It has been 10 years already?”
In this edition of Beltway Buzz, Jennifer Wishon and John Jessup discuss their reporting in New Orleans and the surrounding area on the tenth anniversary of the most costly natural disaster in U.S. history – along with their impression of the progress that has been made – and how far there's left to go.
Special Report: 10 Years After Katrina: Resurrection Story - What Survivors Want You to Know
Life in the Fishbowl: Is New Orleans Storm Ready?
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
Beltway Buzz is beginning a new video segment. When news breaks or complex issues emerge, we're attempting to flesh them out through interviews and informal discussions. These videos will be short, but we intend them to be meaningful.
As journalists we're deeply affected by the senseless shooting deaths of WDBJ7 reporter Alison Parker and videographer Adam Ward. It's especially personal to Jennifer Wishon who worked at WDBJ7 for many years and still has many friends who work there.
"The ability to report, the ability to cover the stories we do, requires us to imagine or act as if we are not a part of them....are just invisible observers. Today that wall was completely shattered," posted WRVA radio reporter Matt Demlein and he couldn't be more right.
As CBN News video journalist Mark Bautista points out in our first video, in the news business, "We're all Alison's and Adam's."
Monday, August 24, 2015
President Barack Obama is back at work this week after a two-week vacation in Martha's Vineyard, which included a little time on the beach and a lot of time on the links.
His first action back in the saddle is pushing for more alternative horse power for ordinary home and business owners. Basically, if you want to more green energy options for your house, the president wants to make them more available and affordable.
At a clean energy conference in Las Vegas, he announced making $1 billion in additional loan guarantees available from the Department of Energy to encourage innovation designed to give Americans more energy options, like greater access to rooftop solar panels.
He also announced new guidance from the Federal Housing Administration that could expand the use of "Property Assessed Clean Energy," or "PACE," loans that let homeowners install energy improvements and pay back the costs over time.
The president is also approving a transmission line to California's Blythe Mesa plant that's expected to produce enough renewable energy to power more than 145,000 homes.
It's all the next step in the president's clean power plan rules he announced last month that are designed to cut carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants by one third.
The annual energy conference is hosted by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.
Countering Reid's conference, also in Las Vegas, is an "affordable energy summit." The conservative groups running that event contend Obama's policies will only cause electricity prices to skyrocket while providing little to no environmental benefits.
Question: If more alternative energy sources were available for your home or business would you invest in them?
Tuesday, August 04, 2015
Hours after the failed vote to slash $550 million of taxpayer money from the ledger of Planned Parenthood, the group responsible for turning up the heat on the nation's largest abortion provider released its fifth undercover video -- and promised more to come. It shows the drive to deprive Planned Parenthood of federal funding is far from over.
After Monday's unsuccessful vote, 53-45, there are growing calls for a government shutdown to force the issue. And past critics, like Arizona Sen. John McCain, are singing a different tune after a series of videos recently released by the Center for Medical Progress showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of aborted baby body parts.
"I don't like a government shutdown," McCain told NPR. "But this is a clear case of totally improper use of taxpayers' dollars. I have an obligation to the taxpayers of Arizona."
Watch Sen. James Lankford discuss possible next steps to defund Planned Parenthood
The effort to defund Planned Parenthood has ricocheted from the Beltway to the Bayou State, where Gov. Bobby Jindal, a GOP presidential hopeful, announced the cancellation of Louisiana Medicaid contracts with Planned Parenthood. Jindal, following the lead of Florida Gov. Rick Scott, has also ordered an investigation into the abortion provider's activities in Louisiana.
To date, Planned Parenthood unequivocally denies making a profit on the harvesting or transfer of fetal tissue. Its defenders call the undercover investigation a "smear campaign." And Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, a longtime ally, released an eleventh hour campaign video in the run up to the Senate vote saying she was proud to stand with Planned Parenthood against the "full-on assault on women's health."
All of this comes at a time when Americans' perception of institutions is at record lows: 28 percent have a positive view of the Republican party, 38 percent think positively of the Democratic party, while 45 percent have a generally positive view of Planned Parenthood.
That's higher than the public perception of the Supreme Court, which stands at 39 percent, according to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
Here's the problem. Clearly, these videos are damaging and have exposed Planned Parenthood to new, emboldened attacks. Even if you support its defense that the videos are "heavily edited," you have to admit what it does show -- Planned Parenthood officials speaking casually, candidly, and flippantly about the payment of fetal tissue in exchange for a Lamborghini, even if it was said in jest -- sounds callous and heartless and is nothing short of damning.
Planned Parenthood should be in crisis mode. Sure, 45 percent is better than the standing of Republicans or Democrats, but it's still less than half. And the videos aren't helping.
At the very least, it should acknowledge that there's a major perception of wrongdoing based upon the very words and actions of its staff. It should concede that the videos clearly capture failures either in understanding or complying with the letter and spirit of the law. (While it is not illegal to collect reiumbsement fees for expenses in collecting fetal tissue, it is illegal to profit from its sale.)
Watch George Thomas' revealing report and analysis from ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow
(Caution: graphic footage)
If Planned Parenthood has nothing to hide and fully believes that it hasn't engaged in any wrongdoing, then it should offer an open and thorough review of its standards and practices to determine whether these incidents caught on camera are isolated or systemic.
If it's the former, then there's a whole lot less to lose. If it's the latter, then it's a totally different story and one whose wounds may be fatally self inflicted by its own lack of outrage.
Wednesday, July 01, 2015
As you know, much to the dismay and outrage of many Americans, the White House was lit up like a rainbow on the night following the Supreme Court ruling that made gay marriage legal in all 50 states.
As same sex marriage supporters reveled outside the gate, President Barack Obama was looking out from inside.
Here's what he has to say about that night.
"I did not have a chance to comment on how good the White House looked in rainbow colors. That made it a really good week. To see people gathered in an evening outside on a beautiful summer night and to feel whole and to feel accepted and to feel that they had a right to love, that was pretty cool."
Thursday, June 18, 2015
Shock. Horror. Bewilderment.
That's how most Americans reacted to the news that nine people were killed during a mid-week prayer service in Charleston, South Carolina.
For the Charleston community, there's some relief now that the suspect, 21-year-old Dylann Roof, has been arrested. But there are still many unanswered questions and many more sleepless nights ahead as the victims' families grieve and seek healing.
Roof's deadly attack at the historic Mother Emaunuel AME Church is now being investigated as a hate crime. The response it has triggered, however, is an outpouring of love and compassion seen in South Carolina and beyond.
Today in the nation's capital, about 100 lawmakers and their staff met to pray for the victims and their families at the steps of the U.S. Capitol.
Organized by the Senate staff of South Carolina's Tim Scott, the speakers included Senate Chaplain Barry Black; Otis Gordon of Life Changers International Ministry, N.C.; and Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla.
Sen. Lankford, a former youth pastor who was recently honored with the Distinguished Christian Statesman Award, told CBN News that coming together in prayer was a natural response.
"For those of us who are followers of Jesus, it's entirely normal for us to be able to stop and to pray for the hurting of other people and to find a way to be able to engage," he said.
He also expressed concern for how the attack in South Carolina might affect other houses of worship.
"Churches should be safe places," Lankford said. "I can't imagine what it's going to be like in churches all over America next week that when a guest walks in the door and says 'Can I sit and pray with you?' - that should be normal. And now there's going to be suspicion."
Before leading in prayer, Sen. Lankford cited scripture, telling the crowd God is near to the brokenhearted. He also believes this is an opportunity for Christians to demonstrate their faith to a world that is sometimes hostile to Christian beliefs.
"There's a great deal of animosity and hatred," Lankford told CBN News. "So we pray. We respond different. There's a New Testament principle about loving those who hate you even and reaching out to those folks that are opposed to you. It's what we do and how we stand up different."
Friday, May 01, 2015
It's true, the nation's first black president can't win when it comes to speaking out about race relations in America.
Tuesday he offered comprehensive thoughts on the riots we had seen the night before in Baltimore, tensions between some police departments and the communities they serve, and the underlying issues that leave too many minorities feeling frustrated and hopeless.
However, in the midst of his heartfelt remarks, his use of the word "thug" got the most attention.
"My understanding is, is you've got some of the same organizers now going back into these communities to try to clean up in the aftermath of a handful of criminals and thugs who tore up the place," the president said.
By using the word "thug," one Baltimore leader suggested the president might as well have called the young men and women in the streets Monday night a racial slur beginning with the letter "n."
Wednesday the White House defended the president's word choice. Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the president would not revise his remarks.
It's the type of nuance that further complicates an already complicated issue that continues to plague America 50 years after the Civil Rights Movement.
WHAT'S THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION DOING?
Following Ferguson, President Obama put together a task force that's given him recommendations to help prevent situations like we saw in Ferguson and are seeing in Baltimore. The Justice Department will soon offer grants to police departments who want to retrain or better train their officers and to those that are interested in using body cameras.
The White House is also pointing to other programs like the president's My Brother's Keeper initiative, which helps teach boys of color, many of whom are growing up without a father in the home, how to control their emotions and how to be men.
THE SOLUTION AND THE PROBLEM
Here's the problem. Americans have short memories and it doesn't help that soon the 24-hour cable news networks will be moving their satellite trucks out of Baltimore en route to the next big, breaking story. The president acknowledged this in his remarks.
"If we really want to solve the problem, if our society really wanted to solve the problem, we could. It's just it would require everybody saying this is important, this is significant, and that we don't just pay attention to these communities when a CVS burns, and we don't just pay attention when a young man gets shot or has his spine snapped. We're paying attention all the time because we consider those kids our kids, and we think they're important. And they shouldn't be living in poverty and violence," he said.
However, he and his spokesman also blamed Congress, saying life would be better for minorities living in urban areas if the Republican Congress would act on a number of the president's proposals. That may or may not be true, but it's beside the point here.
Even though it's impossible for the president to make everyone happy, especially on this issue, even though he'll get accused of paying too much attention to one part of the population, President Obama has an obligation to keep the issues we see in Baltimore in front of us long after most of the nation forgets, which will likely be in about two weeks.
As his presidency winds down, he has more freedom to speak out on this purely American issue that affects people of all colors. If any one of America's parts are weak, then she can't be strong.
As the biracial leader of the free world, Mr. Obama is uniquely positioned to speak to both black and white Americans about why fixing the racial tensions and racial disparities that plague America are so important. If he works to make people care, then communities will improve and any necessary Congressional action will follow.
Otherwise, the moment will pass and not much will change. If the president doesn't become more vocal on these issues, it's likely that when America pauses to commemorate 100 years since the Civil Rights Movement, Americans will look back and shake their heads at a missed opportunity.
Tuesday, April 28, 2015
This evening President and Mrs. Obama will host Prime Minister of Japan and Mrs. Akie Abe. The event will be the 8th official state dinner of the Obama administration.
The White House will be decorated to celebrate springtime in Washington, D.C., including orchids and cherry blossoms which were established as a gift of friendship from the people of Japan.
The occasion is also being used to unveil the Obama's state china service. The pattern includes a ring of color Mrs. Obama calls "Kailua blue" inspired by the waters off the president's home state of Hawaii. The gold presidential coat of arms appears on the service plate, dessert plate and can cup.
According to the White House, the pattern fulfills Mrs. Obama's goal for a more modern design that can complement other state services from previous administrations. The china was donated by the White House Endowment Trust, which is administered by the White House Historical Association.
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Sen. Marco Rubio's official entrance in the race for the White House leaves up for grabs his U.S. Senate seat, making Florida a toss up contest in an important swing state during a presidential election year.
So far, two-term Florida Congressman Patrick Murphy is the only Democrat to declare his candidacy for the open seat.
Other names include Reps. Alan Grayson, Gwen Graham, and possibly even DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz or the perennial candidate former Gov. Charlie Crist. At the moment, however, Murphy is the only one who's made it official and has a campaign website.
On the Republican side, conservatives appear to be rallying behind Florida Congressman Ron DeSantis, a 36-year-old former Navy JAG, though the GOP field likely will grow more crowded.
But there's also an effort to draft another Republican who's no stranger to a political fight: former U.S. Representative and retired Army Col. Allen West.
The Conservative Action Fund is circulating a petition to draft West to "replace Rubio with a principled conservative" and prevent "Obama-loving liberals [from] tak[ing] this seat right out from under us," according to an email the political action committee is circulating.
In past interviews the tough-talking war veteran has said he'd consider running, but West has yet to make it official.
If he does decide to run, it conceivably paves the way for a rematch between him and the man who un-seated him in what became the most expensive U.S. House race in history.
Of course, there are fundraisers, campaign events, and primaries that come first, but if it is Murphy v. West part two, history won't be repeating itself with only the Bushes and Clintons.
Tuesday, April 07, 2015
President Barack Obama took the occasion of the White House Easter Prayer breakfast to explain what Easter means to him and to tease his critics.
"As it says in the first letter of John, 'Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth,'" he told the crowd of Christian leaders gathered in the East Room.
"On Easter, I do reflect on the fact that as a Christian, I am supposed to love. And I have to say that sometimes when I listen to less than loving expressions by Christians, I get concerned," he continued, smiling as laughter and applause rang out from the crowd.
"But that's a topic for another day... I was about to veer off. I'm pulling it back," he said as the laughter continued.
The White House Easter prayer breakfast, started by President Obama in 2010, has become an annual event. It's an opportunity for the president to talk about his Christian faith that many of his critics continue to doubt.
"For me," he said, "the celebration of Easter puts our earthly concerns into perspective. With humility and with awe we give thanks for the extraordinary sacrifice of Jesus Christ our savior."
He went on to say, "And yet even as we grapple with the sheer enormity of Jesus' sacrifice on Easter we can't lose sight of the fact that the story didn't end on Friday," he said as "amen's" arose from the crowd. "The story keeps on going. On Sunday comes the glorious resurrection of our Savior."
The president thanked the pastors and Christian leaders from different Christian traditions across the nation for their prayers, because he says he needs them, especially now.
"Particularly at a time when my daughters are starting to grow up, starting to go on college visits - I need prayer," he said.
"I start tearing up in the middle of the day and I can't explain it. Why am I so sad?" he said smiling as people laughed. "They're leaving me."
As Christians celebrate the risen Savior, the president said, "I pray that we will live up to his example. I pray that I will live up to his example. I fall short so often… every day I try to do better."
Grammy Award-winning artist Amy Grant followed the president on stage, singing "Thy Word is a Lamp Unto My Feet."
"Jesus be my guide, hold me to your side," she sang, dressed in all white.