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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Daily Political Wire

George Wenschhof

Obama Reflects on South Africa's Past and Mandela's Legacy - On a stage at a university in Soweto, Obama recalled the anti-apartheid student protests in the township three decades earlier, when a black youth was killed by police. Then the president hailed the lessons of Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid icon who lay seriously ill in a hospital.

“As you go forward, I want you to think about the man in our prayers today,” Obama said. “Think of the 27 years in prison, the hardship and struggles. . . . In your lives, there are times that will test your faith. Don’t lose those qualities of your youth: your imagination, your optimism, your idealism.”  The Washington Post has more here.


RNC Chairman Says GOP has done a "Lousy" Job at Reaching Out to Latinos -The chairman of the Republican National Committee told a gathering of the nation’s Latino public officials Saturday that the GOP has done a “lousy” job reaching out to their community, but pledged that a new outreach campaign shows “we want to earn your trust, and your vote.”
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus also reiterated his belief in the need for “comprehensive” immigration reform but acknowledged he’s not a policy maker who can shape a plan for Republicans who control the House.

Priebus’ appearance before the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, holding its 30th annual convention at a downtown Chicago hotel, marked another step in the GOP’s outreach efforts following an intensive study in the aftermath of the 2012 elections.  The Chicago Tribune has more here.


Kerry Continues To Press for Israel-Palestine Talks - Secretary of State John F. Kerry prepared to leave the Middle East on Sunday afternoon without achieving an Israeli-Palestinian agreement to return to the negotiating table.

“We have made real progress, but we have a few things we need to work out,” Kerry said as he left a final round of talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, his third in as many days, in Ramallah, the seat of Palestinian government on the West Bank.

His three days of intensive, non-stop meetings with Netanyahu, in Jerusalem, and Abbas, first in Amman, Jordan and Sunday in Ramallah, were clearly the centerpiece of the trip. “We have had very positive discussions, very important discussions, for the last few days,” Kerry said as he stood with Abbas outside the Palestinian leader’s residence. “We both feel good about the direction.”  You can read more here.


NSA Bugged European Union Offices - The U.S. bugged European Union embassies and hacked into internal computer networks, according to a report in a German magazine on Saturday, the latest disclosure from National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.

Der Spiegel said it had been shown a September 2010 classified document from Snowden detailing the NSA’s surveillance of EU offices in Washington, D.C. and at the United Nations.

The document referred to the EU as a “target” and the report suggests that the surveillance included documents and emails. The report also claims NSA surveillance extended to Justus Lipsius building in Brussels, the office for the European Council. has more here.


Protests Continue in Egypt - Egyptians and their security forces prepared for demonstrations on Sunday that may determine their future, two years after people power toppled a dictator and ushered in a democracy crippled by bitter divisions.

"The longest day," headlined government newspaper Al-Gomhuriya above pictures of two rival camps in Cairo. One was of Islamist supporters of President Mohamed Mursi, the other of protesters in Tahrir Square who said they wanted him out by day's end or they would sit there until he goes, like Hosni Mubarak in 2011. has more here.


Biden Calls Ecaudor About Snowden Asylum Request - President Rafael Correa of Ecuador said Saturday that Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. had asked him in a telephone call not to grant asylum to Edward J. Snowden, the fugitive former security contractor wanted in the United States.

Mr. Correa, speaking on his weekly television broadcast, said that the two had a “cordial” conversation on Friday initiated by Mr. Biden, but said he could not decide on Mr. Snowden’s request until he entered Ecuador. 

The fallout from Mr. Snowden’s disclosures widened Saturday, as the German magazine Der Spiegel reported that the United States had eavesdropped on European Union offices in Washington, Brussels and at the United Nations in New York. The NY Times has more here.


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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Sunday Morning "Talking Heads" Cheat Sheet

George Wenschhof

A busy Sunday morning is shaping up with plenty of topics to discuss.

The Supreme court rulings on same sex marriage and the the Votering Rights Act will receive much of the focus of discussion on Sunday. 

The Senate passed Immigration reform this week and the bill now heads to the House where it is unlikely to pass.  House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calf.) appears on NBC "Meet the Press", where she will discuss this as well as the action by the Supreme Court in regard to the Voting Rights Act.

Also, be sure to watch wikileaks founder Julian Assange who will appear on ABC "This Week".  He is currently living in Ecuador to avoid extradition is rumored to be helping NSA snooping whistleblower Eric Snowden find refuge. 

Texas state Senator Wendy Davis, who became an instant nationwide hero with the "right-to-choose" supporters with her heroic filibuster to stop the Texas state legislature from imposing bans on late term abortions will appear on CBS "Face The Nation and ABC "This Week".

The scheduled guests follow below.

NBC "Meet The Press" - House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calf.) and Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS)

Roundtable discussion with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow; chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, Ralph Reed; author and professor at Georgetown University, Michael Eric Dyson; President of the Heritage Foundation, Fmr. Sen. Jim DeMint; and NBC’s Pete Williams.


CBS "Face The Nation" - Ted Olson, Texas state senator Wendy Davis (D), Retired Gen. Michael Hayden, former CIA and NSA director, and Tony Perkins

Roundtable discussion with The Washington Post's Michael Gerson, NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Jealous, Lehigh University's James Peterson, Univision's Fernando Espuelas and CBS News Chief Legal Correspondent Jan Crawford


ABC "This Week" - Julian Assange, Texas state senator Wendy Davis (D),  Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin and National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown

Roundtable discussion with ABC News Political Analyst and Special Correspondent Matthew Dowd; ABC News Anchor and Chief Foreign Correspondent Terry Moran, who covers the Supreme Court for ABC News; Rep. Donna F. Edwards, D-Md.; and Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan.


CNN "State of The Union" - David Boise, co-counsel in the Supreme Court case against Proposition 8, House Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ Immigration Task Force Luis Gutierrez (D-IL).

Roundtable discussion with New York Times Magazine Chief Political Correspondent Matt Bai:, The Root Contributing Editor Corey Dade; Fmr. Sen. George Allen (R-VA) and democratic strategist Hilary Rosen.


Fox News Sunday - Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Rep. Mario Siaz-Balart (R-Fla.), and Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.)

Roundtable discussion with Kimberely Strassell, Jennifer Rubin, Juan Williams, and Mara Liasson


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Obama Weekly Address

George Wenschhof

President Obama on Saturday urged voters to demand a commitment to action on climate change from political candidates.

“Remind everyone who represents you, at every level of government, that there is no contradiction between a sound environment and a strong economy – and that sheltering future generations against the ravages of climate change is a prerequisite for your vote,” Obama said in his weekly address.


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Republican Weekly Address

George Wenschhof

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) warned of a coming "train wreck" when enrollment begins in ObamaCare insurance exchanges this fall in the Republican weekly address.

Roberts, an outspoken opponent of President Obama’s healthcare reforms, said that important questions remain before the exchanges, part of what he called a "massive federal government takeover," go into effect in October.


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Two More File for Alderman as City of Frederick Candidate Deadline Nears

George Wenschhof

Alan Imhoff
With The City of Frederick candidate July 2 filing deadline only days away, two more filed for the board of alderman.

Former, one term alderman, Republican Alan Imhoff and Democrat Kevin Greene made their entry into the race official on Friday.

Imhoff’s entry makes it six Republican candidates, ensuring a contested primary for Republican voters, who will choose five to move on to the General election.

Greene is the eighth Democratic candidate to file for alderman.  At the time of publication, Geene had not responded to my inquiry as to why he was running for office.

I asked Alan Imhoff, in an email exchange for publication, why he was running and “Do you feel your votes on the acquisition of the Hargett farm or the city buy-out will impact voters in this election?”

Imhoff responded with “Yes decided to run again to hopefully be a catalyst in moving a number of projects along that were started a long time ago, i.e. completion of the multi-use path system as outlined 8 years ago. Also to provide my knowledge and continuing work on long-range planning from a regional perspective both from Washington Area Council of Governments and the Western Maryland Local Government Exchange. Add to that my involvement for over 9 years on the county’s Workforce Develop Board which will tie into my main focus for the next years – jobs.

As to the Hargett Farm and buy-out impact on voters, it is too early for me to gauge what the average voter is currently thinking. Until I get out and talk with our residents I do not think it is high on their list of concerns as other issues, but with some folks it will always be.

Personally, as a long-range planner I do not view the purchase of the Hargett Farm as being a bad one for the City. For me it was purchased to provide sufficient green space for the future, an opportunity to develop better recreational facilities and to minimize increased housing in an area where the road system is not designed to handle that increased housing. I believe that given a 10 to 20 year time frame the City can realize those most of those expectations. Baker Park as we know it today did not appear over night.”

Incumbent Republican alderman Shelley Aloi, has been rumored as running for mayor, reelection as an alderman and also for state delegate next year.

Responding to my inquiry as to what she intended to do, Aloi informed me in an email “I will be making an announcement at City Hall, Tuesday 3 pm.”

The City of Frederick primary election will be held on September 10 and the general election follows on November 5.  Voters will elect the mayor and a five member board of aldermen.

Stay Tuned.
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Friday, June 28, 2013

Daily Political Wire

George Wenschhof

Immigration Bill Moves To House Where Passage is Doubtful - On Thursday, by 68-32, a bipartisan coalition of senators passed a historic immigration reform bill. Fourteen Republicans joined all Democrats in passing the legislation.
The coalition, and thus the legislation, is held together less by a meeting in the middle than by marrying elements of conservative and liberal reform visions, and business and labor interests.

Its key tradeoff is a plan to send thousands of agents to the U.S.-Mexico border while simultaneously placing millions of current immigrants on a pathway to citizenship. But it also creates a highly regulated guest worker program, and a high-skilled worker visa program, and strict rules governing how immigrants already in the country can turn the promise of citizenship into reality.

But the House isn’t poised to pass anything similar, let alone adopt the Senate bill full stop. On Thursday, Boehner reiterated, and expanded, a standard for passing immigration reform legislation that will result in either a narrower, more conservative bill, or no bill at all. has more here.

Obama Calls on House To Pass Immigration Bill - President Obama on Thursday called for the House to pass immigration reform after the Senate approved its bill.
“Today, the Senate did its job,” Obama said in a statement released minutes after the Senate’s 68-32 vote. “It’s now up to the House to do the same.”

Obama said the Senate vote brought the nation “a critical step closer” to fixing a broken system “once and for all.”

As this process moves forward, I urge everyone who cares about this issue to keep a watchful eye,” Obama added. “Now is the time when opponents will try their hardest to pull this bipartisan effort apart so they can stop common-sense reform from becoming a reality. We cannot let that happen.” has more here.


Retired General Under Investigation for Leaking Classified Information - A retired four-star Marine Corps general who served as the nation’s second-ranking military officer is a target of a Justice Department investigation into a leak of information about a covert U.S.-Israeli cyberattack on Iran’s nuclear program, a senior Obama administration official said.

Retired Gen. James E. “Hoss” Cartwright served as deputy chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and was part of President Obama’s inner circle on a range of critical national security issues before he retired in 2011.

The administration official said that Cartwright is suspected of revealing information about a highly classified effort to use a computer virus later dubbed Stuxnet to sabotage equipment in Iranian nuclear enrichment plants.  The Washington Post has more here.

Egypt Clerics Warn of Civil War, Urge Calm - Egypt's leading religious authority warned of "civil war" on Friday and called for calm after a member of the ruling Muslim Brotherhood was killed ahead of mass rallies aimed at forcing the president to quit.

"Vigilance is required to ensure we do not slide into civil war," the Al-Azhar clerical institution said in a statement reported by state media. It blamed "criminal gangs" who attacked mosques for street violence. Clashes linked to the political tensions have killed five and wounded scores in recent days. has more here.


Texas Legislature Special Session To Pass Ban on Late Term Abortions - Texas Gov. Rick Perry has a message for those hailing new liberal icon Wendy Davis for bringing down a restrictive state abortion measure: Enjoy it while it lasts.

Come Monday, the Texas Legislature will reconvene in special session, and enacting far-reaching abortion limits is a top Perry priority.

“This is simply too important a cause to allow unruly actions of a few to stand in its way,” the Republican governor told the National Right to Life Convention in Dallas Tuesday. “And that is the reason I’ve announced that I’m bringing lawmakers back to Austin, Texas, to finish their business.” That includes banning most abortions after 20 weeks and approving related measures that could lead to the closure of most abortion clinics in Texas. has more here.

Student Loan Rates Set To Double - The Senate is unlikely to strike a deal to prevent student loan rates from rising on July 1.

On Thursday, two groups of senators -- one a bipartisan group that includes Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Tom Coburn (R-OK), the other of just Democrats -- planned to release proposals to prevent rates from doubling from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent while Congress is taking a vacation for the July 4 holiday.

A group of Democrats -- Sens. Jack Reed (D-RI), Kay Hagan (D-NC), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Al Franken (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) -- planned a press conference for Thursday afternoon to announce a plan for another one-year extension of current rates.

But neither is likely to come up for a vote on the floor before senators depart for that holiday. NBC News has more here.


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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Holtzinger Files for Mayor

George Wenschhof

Jeff Holtzinger
The long anticipated entry into the City of Frederick mayoral race by Jeff Holtzinger is now official with his filing for the office at city hall.

The former one term mayor will face incumbent Randy McClement in the Republican primary.

The race for mayor promises to be the one to watch in the city election where voters will elect a mayor and a five member board of aldermen.

Already in the race for mayor, are Delegate Galen Clagett and alderwoman Karen Young who will face each other in the Democratic primary.

Rounding out the familiar faces is former Democrat Jennifer Dougherty, another one term mayor, who on her fifth run for the office, has filed as an unaffiliated candidate.

The Republican and Democratic primaries will be held on September 10 and Dougherty, who will not have a primary, receives a free pass to the General Election to be held on November 5.

In an email exchange with Holtzinger, I asked him, for publication; “what are the main reasons you are challenging the incumbent Republican mayor?”

He responded with “I have nothing against Randy personally and know he is viewed as nice guy, which is a good thing. However, I think he has been very ineffective as Mayor.

My observation is that he appears to have difficulty making decisions and has not taken charge as, in my opinion, the Mayor should be doing. This does not mean you need to act like a dictator but you need to be willing to take the lead and make decisions.

As a consequence, very little has been accomplished other than projects that were started and/or initiated prior to this Administration taking office. The City has tremendous in house resources (employees) and I think these resources could have been utilized to get needed public works projects designed, permitted and ready to move toward construction as funding becomes available.

I also am of the opinion that the current BOCC is a very pro municipality Board and that more could have been done jointly with this BOCC to further City interests. My background and experience both inside and outside local government matches well with the major issues that face the Mayor of the City of Frederick.”

I added “Also, sure to come up, will be questions pertaining to your city residency. The city website has your address as 232 Dill Ave.

How long have you lived there?”

Holtzinger responded with “Yes, I am sure. I established residency well before November 2012. I am a renter and yes I am aware that how I established residency may/will be problematic for some voters.

I followed up with the question “In regard to your establishing residency, do you actually live at 232 Dill Ave.?”
Holtzinger responded with “Yes I stay there, but I do run back and forth alot.”

When I asked Jennifer Dougherty in an email if she had a quotable comment on Holtzinger’s entry into the mayoral race she responded with “it does give an opportunity for the issues to include Hargett Farm and the Early Retirement Buy-Out - both still costing the City taxpayers. So I guess Randy, and perhaps Shelley (alderwoman Shelley Aloi-R), can talk about those issues in their Primary.”
Mayor Randy McClement was attending the Maryland Municipal League convention and was unavailable for comment.

The deadline for candidates to file for office in the city election is July 2.
Stay Tuned…


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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Daily Political Wire

George Wenschhof

Markey Wins in Massachusetts - Ed Markey has won the Massachusetts special Senate election, keeping both Bay State Senate seats in Democratic hands and denying Republican Gabriel Gomez’s bid to repeat Scott Brown’s stunning upset of 2010.
Markey led by 10 percentage points, 55 percent to 45 percent, with 99 percent of precincts reporting. has more here.

Watch Gallery Fibuster Supporting Texas state Senate Wendy Davis - There was an extraordinary scene overnight in the Texas state senate as a packed gallery of pro choice protesters showed their support for state Sen. Wendy Davis (D), who led a filibuster aimed at derailing what would have been the toughest abortion measure in the country.
Although the bill ultimately died anyway, Davis' filibuster fell three hours short after the chairman ruled that she had veered off topic. The ruling prompted the protesters to stage their own "gallery filibuster," cheering and chanting for more than ten minutes. has more here.


Strong Support Among Democrats for Obama Drops - Obama’s favorability stands at 53 percent, compared to 44 percent of Americans who view him unfavorably. While 85 percent of Democrats regard Obama favorably, the number of those who are strongly supportive of him has dropped since the start of the year. Just 58 percent of Democrats describe themselves as having a “strongly favorable” view of Obama, down from 72 percent who said the same in January. Obama’s numbers among liberal as well as moderate/conservative Democrats are also at their lowest levels in Post-ABC polling since prior to the Democratic National Convention in the summer of 2012.  The Washington Post has more here.


Weiner Leads in Race for New York Mayor - Former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner leads City Council Speaker Christine Quinn in the race for New York City’s Democratic mayoral nomination for the first time, snatching the frontrunner mantle as the contest heads into the final months before the primary, the latest survey from The Wall Street Journal-NBC New York-Marist showed.

Among registered Democrats, Mr. Weiner had 25% of the vote, compared with Ms. Quinn, who had 20%, marking her lowest level of support since polling of the race began. Trailing them were former Comptroller Bill Thompson, at 13%, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, 10% and city Comptroller John Liu, 8%. Fewer than one in five Democrats say they are undecided. The Wall Street Journal has more here.


New Jersey Senate Candidate Corey Booker Releases First Campaign Ad - "I spent my career not running from challenges but toward them," Booker said in the ad titled "Run."

"Washington ducks our problems, I won't."


Ted Olson and David Boise
Rulings on Same-Sex Marriage Expected from Supreme Court Today - The Supreme Court is expected to rule Wednesday in a pair of historic cases on same-sex marriage.

The court is set to rule in two cases on same-sex marriage. The first challenges the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) — the federal law, enacted in 1996, that prohibits same-sex couples from receiving federal benefits, even if they live in a state where same-sex marriage is legal.

Most observers expect the court to strike down DOMA, but as an encroachment on the rights of states rather than those of same-sex couples.

The second and more complicated case is a challenge to California's Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in the state. has more here.


Mursi to Address Egyptian People as Unrest Grows - President Mohamed Mursi will speak to the Egyptian people on Wednesday in a televised address that could determine his political survival as millions prepare to rally to demand his removal this weekend.

Fears of a showdown in the streets between Mursi's Islamist supporters and a broad coalition of the disaffected have led people to stock up on food and buy up fuel supplies.

The army and police are preparing to contain any trouble, adding men and barriers around important public buildings. has more here.


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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Daily Political Wire

George Wenschhof

Kerry Appeals To Russia to uphold "The Rule of Law" - Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday urged Russia to "uphold rule of law" and aid the U.S. in its mission to apprehend Edward Snowden, the former defense contractor wanted on espionage charges.


Obama To Outline 3 Objectives in Climate Change Speech - When President Barack Obama details his national strategy to combat climate change in a major speech Tuesday at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., he will outline a plan comprised of "three main objectives," a White House official said.
The official said that the objectives of Obama's plan are "to prevent the worst effects of climate change by reducing our carbon pollution," "to prepare this country for the impacts of climate change we can’t avoid" and "to lead the rest of the world around combating changing climate." has more here.


Senate Immigration Bill Going Nowhere in House - House Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) had told his Republican colleagues that no immigration legislation would be brought the floor if a majority of the GOP majority didn’t support it. And, anyone who has spent any time around the current Republican majority in the House — or watched as the farm bill failed last week – recognizes that the Senate immigration bill (and, perhaps, any bipartisan immigration bill) isn’t going to be backed by a majority of the Republican majority in that chamber.
How the Senate voted on Monday also affirms that the immigration legislation could well be dead on arrival in the House. Not a single member of the Senate GOP leadership voted for cloture. The Washington Post has more here.


Supreme Court Punts on Affirmative Action - The court voted 7 to 1 to send the University of Texas’s race-conscious admissions plan back for further judicial view and told the lower court to apply the kind of rigorous evaluation that must accompany any government action that considers race.

But the ruling, one of the most anticipated of the term, was notable for what it did not do. It did not forbid the consideration of race, significantly alter the court’s prescription of how such programs should operate or even pass judgment on the UT program at issue.


Issa Subpoenas State Department Officials in Benghazi Probe - House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) on Tuesday subpoenaed four State Department officials as part of his investigation into the administration's response to the Benghazi mission attack.

The newly deposed individuals are Eric Boswell, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security's former assistant secretary and its former principal deputy assistant secretary; Scott Bultrowicz, the director of the Diplomatic Security Service; and Elizabeth Dibble and Elizabeth Jones, the former principal deputy assistant secretary and the acting assistant secretary at the Bureau Near Eastern Affairs, respectively. has more here.


Massachusetts Voters To Choose Kerry Replacement Today - Massachusetts voters go to the polls on Tuesday to choose between a Republican newcomer and a veteran Democratic Congressman hoping to preserve the majority his party holds in the U.S. Senate.

Representative Edward Markey has enjoyed a strong lead in polls since launching his campaign six months ago to succeed fellow Democrat John Kerry, now U.S. Secretary of State. Markey's opponent is private equity executive and former Navy SEAL Gabriel Gomez, whose solid support among Republicans looks to be not enough to prevail in the liberal-leaning state. has more here.


Race for Majority in Senate Promises to be Intense in 2014 - There are 21 Democratic seats up, but only 14 GOP seats in 2014 (two of those seats, South Carolina and Hawaii, are special elections).

Republicans seem almost guaranteed to net additional Senate seats in the 2014 midterms. With two highly vulnerable Democratic open Senate seats already on the books (West Virginia and South Dakota) and at least five other Democratic seats at greater risk than even the most vulnerable GOP seat, Democratic Senate losses are virtually assured.

But, of course, there is a big difference between a Republican gain of two Senate seats, versus netting six or seven seats. has more here.


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Monday, June 24, 2013

Daily Political Wire

George Wenschhof

Obama To Unveil Plans for Climate Change - President Barack Obama will unveil his plan to combat climate change in a speech Tuesday, detailing what's expected to be a proposal relying on executive actions, including the regulation of carbon emissions from existing power plants.
In a web video released by the White House on Saturday, Obama says he will use the speech to "lay out my vision for where I believe we need to go – a national plan to reduce carbon pollution, prepare our country for the impacts of climate change, and lead global efforts to fight it." It's scheduled for 1:35 p.m. Tuesday on the campus of Georgetown University in Washington.

The president doesn't get into specifics in his video, though he's expected to propose a series of executive actions that environmental groups have long called for, most of which would come out of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Energy Department. has more here.


Where is Snowden? - Aeroflot says a Cuba-bound flight for which National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden was registered has departed from Moscow, but he has not been seen on board.
An airline representative told The Associated Press that the Havana-bound flight has left Moscow. The representative, who wouldn’t give her name as she wasn’t authorized to speak to the media, said Snowden wasn’t on the flight.

AP reporters on the flight couldn’t see Snowden in the seat he booked or anywhere else on the plane.

The airline said earlier Snowden registered for the flight using his U.S. passport, which American officials say has been annulled.

Snowden arrived in Moscow on Sunday from Hong Kong, where he had been hiding for several weeks to evade U.S. justice. Ecuador is considering Snowden’s asylum application. has more here.


Mandela in Critical Condition - Nelson Mandela’s condition has deteriorated to “critical,” the South African government said Sunday night, nearly three weeks after the former South African leader and anti-apartheid icon was hospitalized with a recurring lung infection.

The office of South African President Jacob Zuma said that he and ruling African National Congress deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa visited Mandela, 94, on Sunday evening and that doctors informed them that Mandela’s condition had turned critical in the past 24 hours. The Washington Post has more here.


70 Votes in Senate Possible for Immigration Bill - Immigration reform has gotten a new burst of life as a growing number of Senate Republicans have embraced the 1,000-page-plus legislation, setting up President Obama for a big victory this week.

The sudden surge in Republican support has been a pleasant surprise for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who urged the bill’s authors to focus on winning 60 votes — the minimum for passing it.

The House is the X factor. The lower chamber is expected to pass narrow immigration bills that do not include a path to citizenship, which is a staple of the Senate legislation. Conservatives in the House, including Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), strongly oppose the Senate bill. has more here.


50% Want Publicly Funded Campaigns - The Gallup poll shows half of Americans say they would personally vote for a law that establishes government funding of federal campaigns, while 44% would vote against it.

Americans are much more likely to support limiting the amount of money that U.S. House and Senate candidates can raise and spend for their campaigns. Nearly eight in 10 say they would vote for such a limit, whereas 19% would oppose it. has more here. 


Israel Launches Airstrikes Against Gaza - The fragile six-month cease-fire between Israel and Gaza was shaken overnight Monday as militants from the Palestinian coastal enclave fired at least six rockets against southern Israel and the Israeli military responded with airstrikes against what it said were weapons storage facilities and a rocket launch site in the southern Gaza Strip. The NY Times has more here.


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Sunday, June 23, 2013

When Ideology Trumps Reasonable Representation, Bad Things Happen….

George Wenschhof

The proposed sale of the Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Care facilities, illustrates the latest example of Frederick County government behaving badly.

Immediately following the 2010 election, new board of county commissioners’ president Blaine Young (R) proclaimed Frederick County “Open for Business”.

Joining Young as newly elected Republicans on the five member board were Kirby Delauter, Billy Shreve and Paul Smith, who I quickly dubbed with the moniker; “Blaine and Company”. The moniker resulting from their like ideology and the carte blanche votes Delauter, Shreve and Smith gave to Young on anything Young would propose.

Fueled by the “tea party” fervor, prevalent across the nation, that promoted less government and less spending, Blaine and Company wasted no time in promoting these ideals, a disturbing pattern of governing that clearly illustrates how following ideology often trumps reasonable representation.

The result, was whether it was the spending of $25,000 of taxpayers’ money for a poorly and hastily prepared privatization report, actions taken to reverse county property zoning, drastically reducing or eliminating funding for community nonprofits at a time when their services are most needed, an ill conceived $100 rebate to property owners, establishing a nonreversible 20 year county-developer agreement, to the latest effort to sell quickly, without due diligence, the Citizens/Montevue facilities, Blaine and Company are angering voters and invoking calls for change in next year’s election.

As more details emerge surrounding the proposed sale of the Citizens/Montevue facilities, voters are asking; “why”?

The rush to privatize has once again exceeded common sense, with board president Young denigrating along the way, those who question his move to sell these facilities.

Young defends the sale of the newly constructed facilities, pointing to deficit spending by the county to fund the facilities and poor management, citing in particular, the failure to properly collect account receivables from Medicaid and Medicare.

To make the $30 million contract offer work, Young has said the county would make up the difference in the $38 million owed by the county for the construction by throwing in $5.8 million in taxpayer funds from a county reserve fund and adding $1.9 million in account receivables.

One source close to the negotiations, who asked not to be named, informed me the account receivables Young is throwing in at $1.9 million are actually valued closer to $4.7 million. To sweeten the pot, the 7.5 acres the facilities sit on has been subdivided and thrown in the deal for free by Young. A local real estate Broker informed me the land would have a value of at least $3 million.

Interestingly, it was an action taken by the current board, following their election that added to the deficit funding the facilities have experienced.

It seems the previous licensed county administrator, upon returning from maternity leave was terminated and replaced, through a sole source (preferred vendor) process, with a private firm, who has since reportedly cycled through five managers.

The revolving door of managers only served to exacerbate, a difficult and cumbersome Medicare and Medicaid account/receivable system, adding to the deficit spending Blaine and Company are using as the reason to sell the facilities.

In addition to the many questions surrounding the financial aspects of the deal is perhaps, most important, the question; “Can the land and facilities be sold”?

Local historian and former mayor Paul Gordon in a column published in The Gazette writes, in part, “The unique 1828 Montevue deed is so detailed, it lists responsibilities and names, and furthermore binds their successors to “forever warrant” and “forever defend” the covenants.

It is “for the Benefit of the Poor of Frederick County and no other use, intent, purpose whatsoever forever.”

The Citizens/Monevue facilities board of trustees, seeking legal guidance, has written a detailed letter expressing their questions pertaining to the sale of the facilities. This was forwarded to the state attorney general office by Delegate Galen Clagett (D-district 3-a).

Further prickly questions include whether the state board of public works would have to approve the contract as there is a $250,000 state grant that needs to be reimbursed and whether donations that were received from the public would also need to be paid back.

Local attorney Leslie Powell, who is already appealing the subdivision of the property, informed me she has been retained by interested parties and intends to pursue legal recourse should the board of county commissioners ratify the contract.

Details surrounding the contract purchaser that add further doubt to ratifying the proposed contract offer were revealed in a recent article by Bethany Rodgers of The Frederick News Post entitled "Inspections detail deficiences at Aurora nursing homes".

Taking a sound approach to examining the privatization of some government services may be helpful. However, government is not, and will never be a business.

Government exists to help level the playing field, to serve as the referee, ensuring all are treated in an equal and fair manner. It should never be operated with a profit motive in mind, but rather to provide needed services for the benefit of all citizens. 

Time is needed to conduct further analysis, receive answers to many questions and to allow the board of trustees to hire a new experienced administrator to replace the poor management provided by the current sole source contractor. This would aid in improving the bottom line while also fulfilling the intent of the deed.

The rush to sell the brand new Citizens/Montevue homes by Blaine and Company demonstrates their continued reckless attempts to pursue a dubious privatization ideology, fraught with problems and the lack of sound judgment.

One more reason to vote for change in 2014.

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Saturday, June 22, 2013

Sunday Morning "Talking Heads" Cheat Sheet

George Wenschhof

Expect lots of discussion on the senate Immigration Reform bill following the announcement of a breakthrough on border security.  The senate is expected to vote on the bill this week.

More on the snooping by the NSA when NSA director General Keith Alexander appears on ABC "This Week".

As, one would expect, with one week to go to the election, Fox News Sunday will have on Gabriel Gomez, the Republican candidate, who is trailing Democrat Bob Markey in the Massachusetts race for the vacant John Kerry seat.

The scheduled guests follow below.

NBC "Meet The Press" - Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Tom Coburn (R-OK.), Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Loretta Sanchez (D-Calf.)

Roundtable with NBC News Political Contributor Robert Gibbs; Republican Strategist Mike Murphy; Democratic Mayor of Atlanta Kasim Reed; Fmr. Chair and CEO of Hewlett Packard, Carly Fiorina; and NBC News Political Director and Chief White House Correspondent Chuck Todd.

CBS "Face The Nation" - Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calf.), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL.)

Roundtable discussion on Syria and Afghanistan with Clarissa Ward, John Dickerson of CBS News, Gerald Seib of the Wall Street Journal, Susan Page of USA Today and Bobby Ghosh of Time Magazine.

ABC "This Week" - NSA Director General Keith Alexander

A foreign policy roundtable debates the latest on the NSA surveillance programs and the conflicts in Syria and Afghanistan, with ABC News Global Affairs Anchor Christiane Amanpour, Council on Foreign Relations president Richard Haass, and co-founder of the Foreign Policy Initiative Dan Senor.

And the powerhouse roundtable debates all the week’s politics, including the battle over immigration reform and the state of the economy, with Rep. Joaquín Castro, D-Texas; Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Penn., ABC News Chief Business and Economics Correspondent Rebecca Jarvis; former Lead Auto Adviser and Counselor to the Treasury Secretary Steven Rattner, now chair of Willett Advisors; and Amity Shlaes, director of The 4% Growth Project at The George W. Bush Institute.

CNN "State of The Union" - Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Rand Paul (R-KY)

Roundtable with Dan Balz of The Washington Post, Dana Bash, Chief Congressional Correspondent for CNN, and CNN contributors Stephanie Cutter and Kevin Madden.

Fox News Sunday - Gabriel Gomez, Republican candidate for John Kerry's vacant Senate seat.

Roundtable with Bill Kristol, Brit Hume, Bob Woodward and Julie Pace


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Obama Weekly Address

George Wenschhof

President Obama in his weekly address called for the public to encourage Congress to pass immigration reform.

President Obama on Saturday called for the public to encourage Congress to pass immigration reform as the Senate is poised to hold a key vote on the Gang of Eight bill this week.


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