30.9.09

Michelle Obama arrives in Copenhagen


Mrs. Obama arrived with White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett in Copenhagen today in a bid to persuade the IOC members to select Chicago as the destination for the 2016 Olympics.

On Friday, the First Lady will be part of the President's presentation to IOC members.

23.9.09

My piece of Michelle Obama style

I've been after a new pair of Converse for a while now, and when I spied Michelle Obama wearing a purple pair on September 11th, I knew they would be my next purchase.
There's always something about a new pair sneakers- the smell, the feel and the thrill of pulling apart the tissue paper to see them resting in the box. They'll get their first airing tonight!

18.9.09

Kathleen Sebelius gives journalist a lesson on sneezing


Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was outraged when NBC political correspondent Chuck Todd had the temerity to sneeze during her briefing without properly covering his nose with his elbow. The press corps erupted in laughter as Sebelius made funny faces and lectured Todd on controlling the spread of his germs.

C/O The Huffington Post.

Todd smiled sheepishly as Sebelius playfully admonished him: "I mean what is that about? Jeez, who's got some Purell? Give that to Mr. Todd right away. We'll have Elmo give Chuck a special briefing."



Read more at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/09/17/kathleen-sebelius-lecture_n_290782.html

16.9.09

Wilson admonished

The House has voted to admonish Rep. Joe Wilson over his "You lie" outburst to President Barack Obama during the president's health care speech to Congress last week.

The 240-179 vote on the resolution of disapproval reflected the sharp partisan divide over the issue. Democrats insisted that the South Carolina Republican take responsibility for what they said was a serious breach of decorum. Republicans characterized the vote as a political stunt.
Wilson himself would not back down on his position that he owed the House no apology. Surrounded by Republican supporters, Wilson said Obama had "graciously accepted my apology and the issue is over."

Here is the vote tally:
Most Democrats -- 233 -- supported the resolution, while most Republicans -- 167 -- voted against it. Here are the other members of Congress who didn't vote with the bulk of their party (10 additional members did not vote at all):

DEMS WHO VOTED NO
Arcuri
Delahunt
Giffords
Hinchey
Hodes
Kucinich
Maffei
Massa
McDermott
Moore (WI)
Taylor
Teague

REPUBLICANS WHO VOTED YES
Cao
Emerson
Flake
Inglis
Jones
Petri
Rohrabacher

DEMS WHO VOTED 'PRESENT'
Engel
Foster
Frank (MA)
Shea-Porter
Skelton

Majority Leader Hoyer's response:

14.9.09

Please send the letter that you wrote

There was a little surprise this morning when I opened the mailbox. Besides some Toast catalogues and a belt I had ordered, I found an official looking envelope from CBS. A job offer perhaps? Something equally exciting- a little letter from anchor Katie Couric and a signed photo. Turns out Couric had read my journalism letter and offered me a little advice. Many thanks!

11.9.09

Democrats plan to admonish Wilson

WASHINGTON — Democratic leaders are planning to vote early next week to admonish Republican Rep. Joe Wilson if he does not apologize on the House floor for yelling "You lie!" at President Barack Obama.

Brendan Daly, a spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, said party leaders decided at a meeting Thursday that they will likely move forward with a resolution of disapproval against Wilson absent another apology.

Wilson apologized to Obama after the incident on Wednesday, but he has refused requests to apologize to the House. Wilson's office says the congressman considers his initial apology sufficient.

Democrats say the insult clearly violated House rules of decorum.

10.9.09

Tributes to Sen. Ted Kennedy

The White House released Kennedy's letter last night:

May 12, 2009

Dear Mr. President,

I wanted to write a few final words to you to express my gratitude for your repeated personal kindnesses to me - and one last time, to salute your leadership in giving our country back its future and its truth.

On a personal level, you and Michelle reached out to Vicki, to our family and me in so many different ways. You helped to make these difficult months a happy time in my life.

You also made it a time of hope for me and for our country.

When I thought of all the years, all the battles, and all the memories of my long public life, I felt confident in these closing days that while I will not be there when it happens, you will be the President who at long last signs into law the health care reform that is the great unfinished business of our society. For me, this cause stretched across decades; it has been disappointed, but never finally defeated. It was the cause of my life. And in the past year, the prospect of victory sustained me-and the work of achieving it summoned my energy and determination.

There will be struggles - there always have been - and they are already underway again. But as we moved forward in these months, I learned that you will not yield to calls to retreat - that you will stay with the cause until it is won. I saw your conviction that the time is now and witnessed your unwavering commitment and understanding that health care is a decisive issue for our future prosperity. But you have also reminded all of us that it concerns more than material things; that what we face is above all a moral issue; that at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country.

And so because of your vision and resolve, I came to believe that soon, very soon, affordable health coverage will be available to all, in an America where the state of a family's health will never again depend on the amount of a family's wealth. And while I will not see the victory, I was able to look forward and know that we will - yes, we will - fulfill the promise of health care in America as a right and not a privilege.

In closing, let me say again how proud I was to be part of your campaign- and proud as well to play a part in the early months of a new era of high purpose and achievement. I entered public life with a young President who inspired a generation and the world. It gives me great hope that as I leave, another young President inspires another generation and once more on America's behalf inspires the entire world.

So, I wrote this to thank you one last time as a friend- and to stand with you one last time for change and the America we can become.

At the Denver Convention where you were nominated, I said the dream lives on.

And I finished this letter with unshakable faith that the dream will be fulfilled for this generation, and preserved and enlarged for generations to come.

With deep respect and abiding affection,

Ted


Obama's mention of Kennedy's letter in his healthcare address:


Senate Moment of Silence for Ted Kennedy:

8.9.09

Joe Kennedy won't run for Senate

Former Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II, the eldest son of Robert F. Kennedy, announced Monday he would not run for the U.S. Senate seat held for nearly 50 years by his late uncle, Edward M. Kennedy. The decision was certain to widen the race for the Democratic nomination.

In a statement, the former six-term congressman said he cares about those seeking decent housing, fair wages and health care. But he added, "The best way for me to contribute to those causes is by continuing my work at Citizens Energy Corp."

The nonprofit organization provides free heating oil to the poor, but Kennedy likely would have faced campaign questions about fuel it received from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez – a persistent U.S. critic. He also has settled into a comfortable lifestyle since leaving Congress in 1999, taking home a $545,000 salary as Citizens Energy's president as of 2007, and being spared the barbs he has faced from some local columnists recently for his past temper tantrums and high pay.

Yet Kennedy also may have garnered support from the legions of Massachusetts Democrats who long supported his uncle, to whom he paid tribute in a widely applauded memorial service speech last month. He also had name recognition among national followers of his father, who was a U.S. senator from New York when he was assassinated in June 1968 while seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.

"My father called politics an honorable profession, and I have profound respect for those who choose to advance the causes of social and economic justice in elective office," the 56-year-old Kennedy said. Friends said that among those who had been urging him to consider a candidacy were his own sons, 28-year-old twins Matthew and Joseph III.

The decision surrenders a seat the Kennedy family has held for all but two years since 1953, when John F. Kennedy moved from the U.S. House to the Senate, before being elected president in 1960. It became vacant Aug. 25, when Edward Kennedy died of brain cancer at age 77. He was first elected to the Senate in 1962.

It also removes an excuse for three veteran Massachusetts congressmen – Reps. Michael Capuano, Edward J. Markey and John Tierney – who have said they are considering campaigns but would not run against a member of the Kennedy family. The senator's widow, Vicki, had previously ruled out a campaign.

6.9.09

Autumn/Winter LineUp: Two new Meryl Streep films


Fantastic Mr. Fox hits cinemas this Thanksgiving.


It's Complicated hits cinemas Christmas Day.

4.9.09

Chic in 6 Strands

I have concluded that I have one chic aunty. She came to see me about two weeks ago, and was wearing this striking necklace. Made from a selection of beads- some resembling buttons, others small multi-colored I was immediately drawn to this fabulous accessory. She bought it at a high street store for £9 (around $15,) and I am confident that it is a piece which she will be able to wear from season to season.

3.9.09

President Obama to deliver healthcare speech to Congress

US President Barack Obama is to give a major address on healthcare reform to a joint session of Congress on 9 September. President Obama will use the speech to regain the initiative on healthcare, after a summer dominated by opponents.

The House of Representatives looks set to pass a bill, but US senators have yet to agree on the details of reform.

Although Mr Obama has given a number of speeches on healthcare reform at town hall meetings throughout the US, his address to Congress will be his most high-profile intervention in the healthcare debate since he entered the White House.

Mr Obama made a strategic decision to let lawmakers take the lead on drafting a healthcare bill, and urged each house of congress to pass a bill before the beginning of August.

But negotiations in the Senate stalled, and although Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives struck a deal with moderate Democrats, paving the way for passage of a bill, neither chamber managed to come up with a bill before the beginning of the August recess.
During the recess, the airwaves were dominated by angry scenes at healthcare town hall meetings, as opponents of the bill expressed their discontent with some of the proposals for reform.

Lawmakers are set to return to work on 8 September.
Some 46 million people in America currently do not have health insurance, and rising healthcare costs are a major contributing factor to America's spiralling budget deficit.

But there is disagreement about how to go about reforming the system.
The deal the Democrats in the House of Representatives reportedly reached would mandate all Americans to take out health insurance, with subsidies for the less well-off paid for by a tax on families earning more than $350,000 a year.

The House bill would also offer Americans who do not get coverage through their employer the chance to join a publicly-run scheme.

But in the Senate negotiations have stalled, with moderate senators expressing opposition to both the tax and the public plan proposed by the House.
Both chambers need to agree on a bill before it can become law.

C/O: BBC

Kennedy Memoir discusses Chappaquiddick, JFK and other Presidents

In a memoir being published posthumously, Senator Edward M. Kennedy talks remorsefully about the car accident that claimed the life of Mary Jo Kopechne – a turn of events many consider a chief reason that he was never able to mount a successful bid for the presidency.

Writing in his book “True Compass,” which is scheduled to be published on Sept. 14, Mr. Kennedy, who died a week ago, described his actions in the 1969 accident as “inexcusable” and said that at the time he was afraid, overwhelmed “and made terrible decisions.”

Mr. Kennedy said he had to live with the guilt of his actions for four decades but that Ms. Kopechne’s family had to endure worse. “Atonement is a process that never ends,” he writes.
In the 532-page book, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, Mr. Kennedy also said he has always accepted the official findings of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, an event that he said left family members fearing for the emotional health of his brother, Robert F. Kennedy. Mr. Kennedy that he often thought of one brother’s deep grief over the loss of another and said it “veered close to being a tragedy within a tragedy.”

Senator Kennedy said he had a full briefing by Earl Warren, the chief justice, on the commission’s investigation into the Nov. 22, 1963, shooting in Dallas. He pronounced himself convinced that the Warren Commission got it right and said he was “satisfied then, and satisfied now.”
Mr. Kennedy’s book provides unique details about life in America’s famous political family and covers the remarkable career that was celebrated last week in a series of memorials before his burial near his two brothers in Arlington National Cemetery. It provides his personal account of being stricken by the brain cancer that took his life and his decision to battle the disease as aggressively as he could. And he talks openly and regretfully about “self-destructive drinking,” especially after his brother Robert’s death.

The book, published by Twelve, a division of the Hachette book group, was originally scheduled to be published in 2010 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the election of President Kennedy but was moved up due to his illness. Much of the book, written with a collaborator, was based on contemporaneous notes taken by Mr. Kennedy over the years as well as hours of recordings for an oral history project.

In the memoir, Mr. Kennedy also suggests that his brother the president was growing uneasy about events in Vietnam and was increasingly convinced that the conflict could not be resolved militarily. He said his brother’s “antenna” was up and surmises that the president was on his way to finding that way out. “He just never got the chance.”

Mr. Kennedy tells of a secret meeting in the spring of 1967 between President Lyndon B. Johnson and Robert Kennedy, whose increasingly outspoken criticism of the war in Southeast Asia was becoming a political threat to Mr. Johnson. According to the book, Robert Kennedy proposed that Mr. Johnson gave him authority to personally negotiate a peace treaty in Vietnam. This, implicitly, would have kept Mr. Kennedy out of the 1968 race for the Democratic nomination, a prospect that Mr. Johnson had come to worry greatly about.

“If the president had accepted his offer,” the book says, “Bobby certainly would have been too immersed in the peace process to become involved in presidential primary.” Mr. Johnson could not take the offer at face value, concerned that Robert Kennedy had ulterior motives.
In explaining why he decided to run for the presidency in 1980, Mr. Kennedy explained how he was motivated in part because of his differences with then President Jimmy Carter. Among other things, he was frustrated by Mr. Carter’s incremental approach to providing universal health care coverage, saying the president’s go-slow approach was “squandering a real opportunity to get something done.” He described Mr. Carter as a “difficult man to convince – of anything.” He described their relationship as “unhealthy.” And after Mr. Carter’s famous “malaise speech,” the senator wrote, he concluded that Mr. Carter held an “inherently different view of America from mine.”

Mr. Kennedy recounts attending a dinner with Bill Clinton shortly after he was elected president in 1992 at the Washington home of Katharine Graham, the publisher of the Washington Post. According to Mr. Kennedy, Mr. Clinton said at the time that if he did not get national health insurance through Congress, he should not be president.

Mr. Kennedy expressed great disappointment at the ultimate failure of health care to pass during that period, though he did not place the blame for it on Mr. Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton, who oversaw the effort for Mr. Clinton.
Mr. Kennedy said he called Mr. Clinton immediately after he appeared on television to confess his affair with Monica Lewinsky, reassuring Mr. Clinton he would stand by the president during this difficult period.

In the midst of recounting this anecdote, Mr. Kennedy took a break to offer his views on the scrutinizing of the private lives of public officials, something to which he clearly was quite familiar. Mr. Kennedy said he had no quarrel with such inquiries.

“But do I think it tells the whole story of character? No I truly do not,” he wrote.
Mr. Kennedy notes that he had never dwelled on the reversals of his life, legislative defeats or causes unfilled and discusses how he came to endorse Barack Obama during the presidential primaries despite his close relationships with other candidates. He said he was able to persevere through his own personal faith.

“I have fallen short in my life, but my faith has always brought me home,” he said.

2.9.09

Kerry Kennedy: On Losing a Human Rights Icon and a Beloved Uncle

Senator Edward Kennedy served on the Board of Directors of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights from 1968 until his passing last week. Witnessing the outpouring of love for him over the past week has been deeply moving and a source of strength and inspiration.
It was heartrending seeing those crowds lining the streets from Hyannis Port to Boston, from the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help to Hanscom Field, and from Andrews Air Force Base to Arlington Cemetery -- often ten deep. People held placards, waved American flags, and saluted. I shook hands with several thousand of the 50,000 mourners who came to the viewing at the JFK Library, each with her or his own story of being touched by Teddy's vision, spirit, and love. People came because they appreciated his courageous stances on civil rights, health care, minimum wage, his support in multiple forms for the oppressed and dispossessed, and more. But most didn't know his record on these issues. They came because they knew he loved people -- not the people, but actual, living, human beings.

Teddy called every one of my cousins, each of their spouses, and their kids, 119 of us in all, on every birthday and anniversary. He regularly rented a bus and took us on trips to visit battlefields with the greatest historians in the country. He took us skiing, rafting, and sailing. Every time he won a race and received a trophy, he had a replica of the trophy made and sent to every member of his crew.

He made politics come alive, not with esoteric policy discussions, but by telling wonderfully engaging stories about the senators with whom he worked -- their bravery, their foibles, and, to our great delight, always, their accents.

Sailing on the Mya last summer, he talked about his first days as a senator. He watched in awe as an impassioned colleague from Virginia railed against the evils of a particular bill and then saw that very same senator vote yea at roll call. When Teddy expressed his bewilderment, the senator explained "Well son, it's like this, to those who are for the bill, I send my vote, and to those against, I send my speech." Teddy roared with laughter and shook his head.

One of the most memorable trips I took with Teddy was a family visit to Poland in 1986. Lech Walesa had been organizing strikes in the Gdansk shipyards, martial law had been declared, and tension was high. We had gone to Poland to present the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award to Adam Michnik -- known as the intellectual force behind Solidarity -- and Zbigniew Bujak, the leader of the Warsaw underground. The night we arrived, Teddy hosted a dinner, and it was the first time the Solidarity activists were able to communicate openly and in person. That, in and of itself, was a major victory. Formal greetings led to intense discussions, and those in turn gave way to stories, laughter, and a rousing exchange of Polish and Irish folk songs. The next morning came far too early, and I sat in awe at a conference table as Teddy dueled with General Jaruzelski, pressing him on basic rights -- to form a union, free expression, and democratic elections. Watching Teddy assert moral authority with such a depth of emotion and intellectual might was a breathtaking experience. I learned a lot from him on that trip about advancing the cause of human rights and loving democracy.

My work means spending time urging lawmakers to do the right thing on human rights issues. But Teddy is the person I always called not to seek support but to help formulate our political strategy and to find out what he was already doing. He was my "go to" guy. I'm not alone, and it wasn't just about being family.

For 30 years, Senator Kennedy was the human rights movement's strongest ally and its soul on Capitol Hill.

When Haitian refugees were being detained and deported, Ted Kennedy stood with us and with Haitian activists like Ray Joseph to demand an end to arbitrary detentions and sham legal proceedings. Ray, whose life was literally saved by Teddy, is now Haiti's Ambassador to the United States.

When asylum seekers were denied legal standing, Ted Kennedy authored and engineered the passage of the Refugee Act of 1980, helping to create a legal right to asylum.
When the U.S. government turned a blind eye to South Africa's State of Emergency and torture of young children, Ted Kennedy led the fight to pass the Anti-Apartheid Act of 1985, bringing U.S. policy into alignment with our values.

Wherever freedom's sons and daughters have been on the march for liberty -- from the Soviet Gulag to the streets of Central America, from Marcos' Philippines to the killing fields of Cambodia, Uganda, and now Darfur, Senator Ted Kennedy was their drum major for justice.
Here in the United States, he inspired, guided, and most importantly helped us provide protection and relief to some of the most vulnerable people on this planet. There is simply no one else like him.

Throughout my life, strangers have told me how Teddy was there when a child was diagnosed with cancer, when a father lost a job or had a blow to his reputation, when a wedding was to be celebrated. Over the last year, particularly these past few days, everywhere I have gone, people told stories about how Teddy changed their lives.

Heraldo Munoz told me how, as a young dissident in Chile under Pinochet, one night visiting his mother's house he heard sirens.

He looked out the window and saw a military battalion blocking the street. There was no escape. He saw his two best friends having already been captured, in the back of a pick up, blind folded and manacled. He turned to his wife and said, "They are coming to take me. Just be sure to call Ted Kennedy in Washington. He will save my life."

Today, Heraldo Munoz is the Chilean Ambassador to the United Nations.
Last June, I was at a fundraiser at Hickory Hill for major supporters of the Obama campaign. There was a couple with a distinctive accent, and I was not expecting such a dramatic response when I asked what brought them to the event that evening.

They said they'd met in Washington, D.C. as college students at American University. At the time, militants went on a rampage in Ethiopia and slaughtered every member of both of their families.

The I.N.S. denied their asylum claims, saying there was no evidence that this young couple was at risk should they attempt to return home.

Desperate, they went to the Senate, found Teddy's office, told him their story, and he went to work. They received asylum, started a business, and raised a son. Their son became the field organizer for Obama in northern Virginia, and they came that night to Hickory Hill, to express their gratitude to Ted Kennedy.

When Teddy saw an injustice happening in Guantanamo, he demanded an investigation.
In the fall of 2003, James Yee was known as the Muslim chaplain who had betrayed America. Accused of espionage, Army Captain James Yee saw his notoriety bloom overnight. According to USA Today, "He was vilified on the airwaves and on the Internet as an operative in a supposed spy ring that aimed to pass secrets to al-Qaeda from suspected terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where Yee ministered to them. After his arrest, Yee was blindfolded, placed in manacles and taken to a Navy brig, where he spent 76 days in solitary confinement." Meanwhile, his name was released to the press and became synonymous with traitor.

Eight months later, thanks to Teddy's demands for justice, the criminal charges against the 36-year-old West Point graduate melted away. A subsequent reprimand was removed from his record, and he left the military with an honorable discharge in January 2005.
I love Teddy, and I will miss him with all my heart. He was truly great.

1.9.09

Helen Thomas Interview

Watch this great, humorous video with Helen Thomas, the veteran White House reporter who was famously given cupcakes by President Obama on her birthday.


Senate delays climate change bill

The Senate debate on climate change will be delayed until later this fall, given that two key players have said they will not even introduce their bill until late September.

Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) said they would not introduce their legislation next week as they had planned. They attributed the delay to last week’s death of Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and the timing of the health care debate, which continues to rage on.

“The Kerry-Boxer bill is moving along well and we are looking forward to introducing legislation that will create millions of clean energy jobs, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and ensure American leadership in the clean energy economy,” the two wrote in a statement. “Because of Senator Kennedy’s recent passing, Senator Kerry’s August hip surgery, and the intensive work on health care legislation particularly on the Finance Committee where Sen. Kerry serves, Majority Leader Reid has agreed to provide some additional time to work on the final details of our bill, and to reach out to colleagues and important stakeholders. We have told the Majority Leader that our goal is to introduce our bill later in September.”

Jim Manley, spokesman for Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), said Monday that his boss “fully expects the Senate to have ample time to consider this comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation before the end of the year.”

It was not immediately clear whether Reid has given Boxer and Kerry a firm deadline for a climate change bill. Reid originally told the leaders of six Senate panels with jurisdiction over the issue that they had until Sept. 18 to report their bills out of committee. In July, Reid moved that deadline to Sept. 28.

Manley said Reid hopes Boxer and Kerry can complete their work “as soon as possible.”

Still, the Senate is likely to be consumed with the health care debate when Members return from the August recess on Tuesday, a distraction to which Boxer and Kerry alluded. Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has said he will move forward with his long-stalled health care bill by Sept. 15 if the bipartisan negotiations he has been conducting do not produce a deal. President Barack Obama has asked the House and Senate to deliver him a bill by Oct. 15