President Barack Obama makes his annual remarks at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner on Saturday.
Archives for April 2013
By: April Ryan, aprildryan.com
Originally posted 4/8/2013
In a matter of weeks the remainder of the Obama Cabinet vacancies will be filled and there is expectation a black person will be nominated to head the Department of Transportation. A name being floated for that post is Charlotte, North Carolina Mayor Anthony Foxx. Congressman Mel Watt’s name is also being floated for a powerful post, not a cabinet position, but as Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. There are strong discussions that abound over an African American to be nominated in the second term of President Barack Obama’s administration. Chief of Staff Dennis McDonough and Senior Adviser to the President Valerie Jarrett are conducting the process.
Experts familiar to the process say it takes “at least 6 to 8 weeks to fully and or adequately vet a potential cabinet nominee.” Many black groups have petitioned Jarrett over the years and especially now for a black nomination after women and Latinos made their voices heard when the President was nominating “white men” during the beginning of his second term. Many vocal Obama supporters feel all the president needs to do is nominate a credible person to run an agency no matter their skin color. Then there is a vocal ground swell as well that is calling for the President to nominate an African American.Groups like the NAACP and the Congressional Black Caucus have discussed with the White House the importance of the nominations and even provided names for Obama officials to choose from. CBC Chairwoman, Marcia Fudge says she has “presented about 10 viable black candidates for cabinet positions to the White House.”
Mary Francis Berry, former head of the United States Commission on Civil Rights makes the point the President sets the tone stating, “It is probably still important because out in the private sector a lot of us have discovered that people who are dragging their feet on hiring and diversity point to the President and say ‘well if the President can’t find anybody qualified to fill his positions why are they pushing us so hard on us being able to find people.’ .. I think it sets a bad example.”
Bob Johnson, founder of BET says, “I am sure there will be! To me that’s an easy one. I would not fret over that that is an easy one.”
But there are organizations both political and “A” political inside the Washington Beltway pushing the highest levels of the White House for the President to nominate an African American this term.
The NAACP held “general and specific” conversations with White House officials on the matter of black appointments. Hillary Shelton of the NAACP says, “It is important we have to think about that decision making table…we also have a number of very important positions that are just below the cabinet.”
During the vetting process, there are several scenarios: either those picked for a cabinet post have declined because they do not want to leave their posts and salaries for government work. Other scenarios, they do not want to go through the confirmation process that could be intrusive for themselves and their families. And according to Berry there are always those who don’t make it through the process.
“There are always people who fall along the way side in the vetting process,” Berry recalls, during the Clinton years the President wanted to have the first woman Attorney General. Berry remembers, “He had to go through about three or four people who were all over the media before he finally was able to appoint Janet Reno.” Berry believes, “It would have been very interesting for him to name someone to a position that African Americans have not held before like Secretary of Defense for example and Secretary of Treasury. There are many people who could fill that role.”
Sources close to the White House process contend, Ken Chenault of American Express turned down the White House to head the Department of Treasury.
Berry says there are “a few little things [vacant cabinet posts] left.” The bottom line according to Berry, it is both “symbolism and power” for black Cabinet appointments.
Jay Carney White House Press Secretary said recently of the Cabinet nomination issue, “The President is deeply committed to diversity in his Cabinet and ensuring his Administration reflects the breadth of our country. He believes that the best decisions are made when he is surrounded by people who share different perspectives as we work toward improving our economy and building a strong middle class – together.”
Note: In a matter of weeks, AprilDRyan.com will begin to profile the black senior and mid-level staffers at the White house who support the President in his efforts to guide the country. The profiles will showcase the Administration’s diversity at various levels at the Execute Mansion.
White House correspondent April Ryan talks with Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Chair, about the CBC’s fight over lack of diversity in the immigration bill and how the Boston Bombing is framing the issue.
FACT SHEET: A 21st Century Drug Policy
“…this Administration remains committed to a balanced public health and public safety approach to drug policy. This approach is based on science, not ideology—and scientific research suggests that we have made real progress.”
– President Barack Obama
President Obama believes in the pursuit of an America built to last – a Nation with an educated, skilled workforce with the knowledge, energy, and expertise to succeed in a highly competitive global marketplace. Yet, for too many Americans, this future is limited by drug use, which inhibits the ability of our citizens to remain healthy, safe, and achieve their full potential.
Today, the Obama Administration is releasing a science-based plan that works to reduce drug use and its consequences while pursuing drug policy reform. The 2013 National Drug Control Strategy represents a 21st century approach to drug policy that outlines innovative policies and programs and recognizes that substance use disorders are not just a criminal justice issue, but also a major public health concern.
The Strategy is informed by Science, Research, and Evidence
Groundbreaking discoveries in neuroscience have revealed that addiction is a chronic disease of the brain that can be prevented and successfully treated. This scientific understanding serves as the foundation for the Obama Administration’s drug policy and guides the Administration’s decision-making on public health and safety.
The Strategy Emphasizes Prevention over Incarceration
Preventing drug use before it begins – particularly among young people – is the most cost-effective way to reduce drug use and its consequences in America. Recent research has concluded that every dollar invested in school-based substance use prevention programs has the potential to save up to $18 in costs related to substance use disorders.[i]
In support of efforts to prevent drug use, the President’s plan:
- · Promotes national and community-based programs – including the Drug-Free Communities Support Program – that are evidence-based and work to prevent substance use in schools, on college campuses, and in the workplace;
- · Provides information on effective prevention strategies to law enforcement agencies, communities, and parents nationwide; and
- · Spreads prevention to the workplace through programs that ensure the safety and wellness of employees and their families.
The Strategy Empowers Health Care Professionals to Intervene Early, Before a Condition Becomes Chronic
Early detection and treatment of a substance abuse problem by a health care professional is more effective and less costly than dealing with a chronic substance use disorder. To bolster early intervention efforts, the President’s Strategy:
- · Works to expand programs like Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT), which can help reduce adverse health and safety consequences from substance use;
- · Supports education and legislation aimed at providing health care professionals with continuing education and training on addiction and safe prescribing practices for painkillers; and
- · Seeks to reduce opioid overdose deaths by expanding comprehensive overdose prevention measures, including the use of naloxone by first responders.
The Strategy Makes Access to Treatment a Reality for Millions of Americans
Of the 21.6 million Americans aged 12 or older who needed treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol use problem in 2011, only 2.3 million (10.8 percent) received it.[ii] Treatment should be made more available. To expand access to treatment, the Strategy:
- · Details actions to implement the Affordable Care Act, which – for the first time in history – ends discrimination against people with substance use disorders by requiring insurance companies to cover treatment for substance use disorders as they would for any other chronic disease;
- · Works to expand treatment and reentry services for those incarcerated; and
- · Targets expansion of care for populations with an unmet need for substance abuse treatment, including veterans, college and university students, and Native Americans.
The Strategy Gives a Voice to Americans in Recovery
Today, millions of Americans are successfully in recovery from substance use disorders and are healthy, responsible, and engaged members of their communities. The Obama Administration’s Strategy supports their lifelong process of recovery by:
- · Working to lift the stigma associated with addiction by partnering with the recovery community to speak out about their successes and encourage others to seek treatment; and
- · Reviewing and reforming laws and regulations that unfairly target those with substance use disorders and impede recovery from addiction, including those laws and regulations that restrict access to housing, employment, and attaining a driver’s license or student loan.
The Strategy Takes a “Smart on Crime” Approach to Drug Enforcement
Domestic and international law enforcement efforts will always play a vital role in protecting communities from drug-related crime, but the President’sStrategy acknowledges that the United States cannot arrest or incarcerate its way out of the drug problem. As a result, the Strategy:
- · Works to implement innovative criminal justice reforms, including specialized Drug Courts, to break the cycle of drug use, crime, arrest, and incarceration by diverting non-violent drug offenders into treatment instead of prison;
- · Supports innovative diversion programs that identify offenders with a substance use disorder and refer them to community services while focusing limited law enforcement resources on more serious offenders; and
- · Examines innovations, such as Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE) and the Drug Market Intervention program, that show promise in reducing rates of incarceration while protecting public safet
The Strategy Addresses a Global Problem in the Spirit of Shared Responsibility
Drug issues are a truly global challenge requiring shared solutions. Previous distinctions between “producer” and “consumer” countries are falling away. Today, all countries must view drug policy as a public health and public safety issue that requires a modern, evidence-based response. The President’sStrateg
- · Expands global drug prevention and treatment initiatives both bilaterally and through cooperation with multilateral organizations;
- · Promotes alternative livelihoods for farmers in regions of the world susceptible to drug production and trafficking; and
- · Promotes collaboration with international partners to expand and modernize law enforcement and criminal justice institutions.
For more information on Obama Administration efforts to reduce drug use and its consequences while implementing effective drug policy reform, visitwww.wh.gov/drugpolicyreform
By: John Boyd, Jr. NBFA
The disastrous fertilizer plant explosion in Texas this week should be a wake-up call for Americans. With anestimated 15 dead and more than 160 reported injured, this incident shows just how dangerous a retail fertilizer facility can be. And the Texas tragedy was made even more stunning against the backdrop of the Boston Marathon bombings and subsequent violence. The explosion at the West Chemical and Fertilizer Company near Waco, Texas, was felt for miles around and registered up to 45 miles away as a minor earthquake. It should create an echoing alarm in the fertilizer industry to demand stepped-up safety precautions.
As a fourth-generation farmer, growing corn, wheat and soybeans across three counties in Southside Virginia, I cannot be oblivious to the news of death and destruction our essential business can experience. Every farmer in mass production agriculture uses either liquid nitrogen-based fertilizer or ammonia-based fertilizer, either applied by the fertilizer dealer or purchased in 50-pound bags by the farmer.
The essential question is how to make the retail fertilizer plants safer.
Over the past century, American industry has overcome the patterns of manufacturing disasters that caused widespread suffering and death for decades after the Industrial Revolution. Improvements brought by government controls and self-regulation make the lingering exceptions ever more stark and troubling. We still shudder at examples such as the Three Mile Island nuclear meltdown in 1979, the Texas City refinery explosion of 2005 and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that resulted in a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
Because farming has become such big business the fertilizer industry is here to stay, with growing corn acreage consuming the lion’s share of its products. Few people have a real understanding of just how big the fertilizer industry really is. It is a $10 billion industry. Fertilizer has become a way of life in big production agriculture.
According to the independent research website bigpictureagriculture.com, the year 2012 saw massive expansion of nitrogen fertilizer production in the U.S. with prices for the product similarly expanding exponentially by 8 percent to $887 per ton, a large potential margin for profit. The largest nitrogen complex in North America, at Donaldsonville, La., has a capacity of five million tons a year.
The Fertilizer Institute reports there are 44 production plants in the United States, and some 6,000 retail facilities. In my hometown there is one large fertilizer and seed facility that serves roughly a 60-mile radius. I believe in competition. There should be more fertilizer facilities, each serving a smaller area. This would require a smaller amount of fertilizer in any single facility, thus making safety much more feasible and manageable.
Monsanto and other massive companies want nothing to do with either smaller quantities or competition, I am sure. As late as the 1980s, you could find a fertilizer and seed facility in just about every town in rural America. That has changed so that today many small farmers have turned to using their own organic fertilizer. Most farmers use a nitrogen-based fertilizer much like that produced in the Texas facility.
Rapidly rising profits historically have led to riskier practices in manufacturing, with government oversight straining to catch up. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fined the West Chemical and Fertilizer Company in 2006 for lacking a risk management plan. We need more research on how to find a more safety-friendly way to fertilize our crops.
In order to create a real fix to the ammonia nitrite issue we must initiate collaboration between the Environmental Protection Agency, United States Department of Agriculture, research-based colleges and universities and America’s farmers, both large and small. We cannot afford not to do so.