What’s Up NEWP: Governor Raimondo Kicks Off ‘Million Women Mentors’ Initiative

What’s Up NEWP: Governor Raimondo Kicks Off ‘Million Women Mentors’ Initiative

By Written by Ted Wells & Kayla Brown (STEMConnector)

Governor Gina M. Raimondo has officially kicked off Rhode Island’s participation in the national Million Women Mentors (MWM) initiative. The initiative seeks to support the engagement of one million Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) mentors (male and female) to increase the interest and confidence of girls and women to persist and succeed in STEM programs and careers.

Raimondo will serve as honorary chair of the MWM-Rhode Island State Leadership Team. “I am honored to serve as Honorary Chairwoman of the State Leadership Team for Million Women Mentors,” said Raimondo. “Students who concentrate on science, technology, engineering and math will be prepared to take their place in the high-growth, well-paying fields that increasingly drive the 21st century economy. It is critical that we provide Rhode Islanders with the skills they need to compete on an equal playing field. Through Million Women Mentors, we will ensure our girls get a fair shot.”

“STEM fields are growing quickly in Rhode Island and beyond, but women remain vastly underrepresented. It’s clear we need to encourage women of all ages to pursue educations and careers in the STEM disciplines – and in art and design where it intersects with STEM,” said Congressman Jim Langevin, who co-chairs the Congressional Career and Technical Education Caucus. “Mentors inspire young people, and I am confident that the Million Women Mentors in Rhode Island will empower a new generation of women in the STEM workforce, which is a win for them and a win for our economy.”

The state’s initiative will be spearheaded by the Rhode Island STEAM Center at Rhode Island College and the MWM-RI State Leadership Team comprised of several organizations and businesses committed to mentoring and STEM careers. “We are so happy to have the support of Governor Raimondo, businesses like Amgen, and organizations like the RI Mentoring Partnership who understand the value of mentoring in addressing the gender gap in STEM,” said Carol Giuriceo, Ph.D., Director of the Rhode Island STEAM Center.

“As a leading biotechnology company, Amgen is committed to making the study of science and technology exciting for young learners who might help us discover the medicines of tomorrow,” said Tia Bush, Vice President, Site Operations, Amgen Rhode Island. “We continually support local community organizations such as RI Mentoring Partnership that have a strong commitment to mentoring and inspiring the next generation of scientists.”
Since 2014, the Amgen Foundation has provided an annual grant to RI Mentoring Partnership to develop high quality trainings for mentor program coordinators to integrate STEM activities into the youth mentoring relationships. Funding from the 2016 grant enabled the creation of a STEM Mentoring toolkit that provides instructions and guides on conducting hands-on activities.

Additionally, Bush was presented with the MWM-RI Stand Up for STEM Award, a special honor given to one company, girl-serving organization, or individual that has had an exceptional impact on girls and women in STEM through mentoring. Bush served on the board of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Ocean State as well as the Amgen Senior Women’s Advisory Council, which provides leadership and mentorship opportunities for women leaders within our organization.
In addition to the kick-off Governor Raimondo signed a proclamation recognizing January as National Mentoring Month in Rhode Island. “Each January we celebrate National Mentoring Month, to raise awareness of the need for mentors in our community, the difference mentors make for young people and how easy it is to volunteer,” said Jo-Ann Schofield, President & CEO of the RI Mentoring Partnership. “We are happy to lend to Million Women Mentors – Rhode Island, our expertise in mentoring and our ability to connect people who want to mentor with the programs that need mentors.”

MWM-RI’s mission is to build a STEM Mentor network that connects education, industry, and government for the purpose of engaging and motivating girls and women to increase their STEM literacy and pursue careers in STEM. Individuals and companies interested in providing STEM mentors or organizations and schools needing STEM mentors should contact ristem(at)ric(dot)edu.

About Million Women Mentors
Million Women Mentors is an initiative of STEMconnector in collaboration with over 60+ partners reaching over 30 million girls and women, 60+ corporate sponsors, 60+ national partners, and 39+ state leadership teams. Through the engagement of one million mentors, our goals are to: 1) Increase the percentage of high school girls planning to pursue STEM careers; 2) Increase the percentage of young women pursuing undergraduate degrees in STEM fields; and 3) Increase the percentage of women staying and advancing in STEM careers through supporting workforce mentoring programs.

About Rhode Island STEAM Center
The Rhode Island STEAM Center serves as a central educational hub and statewide resource focused on building partnerships, advocating for increased STEAM literacy, and nurturing, promoting, and implementing research-based practices. Our mission is to provide leadership and advocacy for increasing science, technology, engineering, arts + design, mathematics (STEAM) literacy in Rhode Island through sustaining partnerships with higher education, K-12, business and industry, afterschool programs, non-profit organizations, community-based groups, and government agencies that are dedicated to building long-term interest and active engagement in STEAM among ALL Rhode Islanders through the continual sharing and exchange of knowledge, ideas and experiences. For more information visit http://www.ristemcenter.net.

About RI Mentoring Partnership
Our mission is to ensure youth have access to the motivational and supportive relationships they need to grow into confident, successful adults. We envision a Rhode Island where all youth are connected to relationships with adults who inspire and support them. All youth will have role models who provide a road map for lifelong success and achievement. RIMP serves as an umbrella organization for dozens of mentoring programs around Rhode Island offering help with recruitment, training, and technical assistance. RIMP is also directly responsible for the coordination of the school-based mentoring programs in Warwick, Woonsocket, Newport, Middletown, & Cranston. For more information visit http://www.MentorRI.org

The Rhode Island Resistance

The Rhode Island Resistance

By John Taraborelli
To call Donald Trump unpredictable or inscrutable would be an understatement. Adding more of a challenge to politicians from a predominantly liberal state are the Republican controlled House and Senate. It all begs the question: how will the members of Rhode Island’s all-Democratic congressional delegation – Senators Reed and Whitehouse, and Representatives Cicilline and Langevin – prepare to reckon with a conservative DC and a president who continues to defy every prediction and expectation?

We caught up with each of them in the weeks leading up to the inauguration to find out their biggest concerns, their thoughts on the president’s appointments, and how will they work with or against the new administration. One thing’s for sure: our men in Washington have their work cut out for them.

Senator Jack Reed
The senior senator’s foremost concern is the battle over the Affordable Care Act, which began almost as soon as the 115th congress convened in January. “That could have devastating effects on not only health care, but the economy – particularly in Rhode Island, where our biggest employer is the health care system,” he says. “It’s one thing to say, ‘Repeal and replace.’ When they start translating campaign slogans into legislation, that’s where reality sets in.”

Several of the president’s cabinet picks also give Reed pause. “Many of them have either a lack of experience or records that indicate they’re not particularly supportive of basic norms established over many administrations. You have a Labor nominee opposed to basic protections for workers. An Education nominee who has a particular animus towards public education.” He does, however, approve of General James Mattis for Defense Secretary.

Reed does identify some potential areas of common ground between Democrats and the new president, including infrastructure spending and paid family leave, but ultimately he expects they will need to leverage the tools at their disposal, including the filibuster, to stop legislation that they find objectionable. He also sees the bully pulpit as the most important check on the president.

“We have been in minority before. We have used our institutional powers along with the ability to speak out. We’re going to have to do it again with renewed energy. Ultimately our strength as a nation is when people stand up, take a position and take it loudly.”

Representative James Langevin
Of the four members of Rhode Island’s delegation, Langevin seems the most optimistic. While he has been critical of Trump – he signed on to a letter urging him to rescind the White House appointment of Steve Bannon and sent another to House Speaker Paul Ryan urging him to appoint a select committee on Russian hacking – he also sees opportunity in what will undoubtedly be an unconventional Republican administration.

He points to partisan gridlock in the House as one example. “This is one of the areas where I’m hopeful because Trump is not beholden to the Republican establishment. Perhaps he has the flexibility to do things that are bipartisan, chart his own course, and break through logjam.”

However, Langevin’s cautious optimism on particular issues should not be interpreted as a sunny outlook overall. He has grave concerns about attempts to repeal Obamacare and gut the social safety net, as well as several cabinet appointments. While he calls Mattis and Homeland Security nominee General John Kelly “quality individuals,” he notes that Trump’s choice of “climate change deniers at both the Department of Energy and the EPA is not a good way to start out.”

Despite his reservations, Langevin says he’s focused on finding a way to make bipartisanship work. “The reality is the election is over and it’s not the outcome we were hoping for. Now we have to find a way to govern. Whenever possible, we’ll find common ground, but we’re not going to compromise on values or principles.”

Representative David Cicilline
As the newly minted co-chair of the House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, Cicilline will be taking an active role in articulating his caucus’ response to the Republican agenda. He acknowledges that this job is hampered by Trump’s unpredictability. “It will be difficult because he doesn’t really have positions. Ultimately the president will have to make a decision, but until that moment we won’t really know where he is on an issue.”

Like his colleagues, Cicilline is willing to give Trump the benefit of the doubt, but has been discouraged by the first test of his decision-making: presidential appointments. He wrote the letter that Langevin and 167 other Democrats signed, objecting to Bannon’s appointment. He also finds conflicting signals in some of the cabinet choices. “Trump said, ‘We’re not going to touch Medicare,’ then appoints someone to Health and Human Services who supports privatizing Social Security.”

While the power of the minority party in the House is limited, Cicilline expects that the more parliamentary nature of the Senate will be an important safeguard against a conservative agenda run amok. “It just won’t work if they pass a bill that only Republicans like.” Meanwhile, he believes that House Democrats need to speak out forcefully and communicate the true impact of Trump’s policies to the American people.

Cicilline remains a true believer in the power of government to improve lives and anticipates that Republican overreach will provide an opportunity to show the American people a better way. “In the end, people vote for someone they think is going to change their lives for the better. They ultimately decided Trump was going to do that, but to the extent that it doesn’t happen, people are going to be looking for an alternative.”

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse
To say that Sheldon Whitehouse is suspicious of Trump’s cabinet appointments would be putting it mildly. “A man who ran for president on a promise to drain the swamp and disrupt the power structure in Washington appears to be filling his civilian agencies with people who represent the most pernicious special interest in that area,” he says. “Far from draining the swamp, he’s put the chief alligators in charge of it.”

He is equally blunt in his assessment of individual appointees. “Scott Pruitt has probably the worst conflicts of interest of any cabinet nominee in modern history. Jeff Sessions has a history of saying and doing things that may sell in Alabama, but scare an awful lot of people in Rhode Island.” And so on.

The EPA nomination touches a particular nerve for Whitehouse, who has been one of the foremost voices on climate change in the senate. He points out that in 2009, a full-page letter ran in The New York Times demanding urgent action on climate change from President Obama and congress; it was signed by dozens of business leaders, including Donald Trump and his three adult children. “At one point he seemed to understand this issue. We have to do what we can to revert him to that understanding.”

Whitehouse sees Senate Democrats as “the last emergency brake on the train,” and believes that if they can force their Republican colleagues to simply adhere to the norms and traditions that govern the upper house, they can operate as an effective check on the executive branch.

He also sees an important role for citizens in demanding accountability from the Trump administration, and urges people to fight on the issues that matter to them. “The hard work of being a citizen just got harder, but there’s no way to assert your values in a democracy if you’re just on the couch as a consumer of other people’s political output.”

Christian Science Monitor: Opinion: Why Washington needs more hackers

Christian Science Monitor: Opinion: Why Washington needs more hackers

By Jim Langevin

A dark room. A hooded figure hunched over a keyboard. Lines of code on a monitor barely illuminate his face. An expression of glee as thousands of dollars are siphoned out of a victim’s bank account, followed by a pained look as a voice calls out, “Son, come take out the trash.” 

The stereotypical image of the teenage hacker in his parents’ basement is everywhere, even in our presidential debates. And yet, it couldn’t be further from reality. Hackers are a diverse bunch: young and old, PhDs and high school dropouts, and, increasingly, women.

But the one thing that unites all of the hackers I have met is intense curiosity. They want to know how things work, and they find out by taking things apart. Unfortunately, this proclivity has led to a number of misconceptions about hackers. Americans celebrate creators, inventors, and entrepreneurs, so the act of deconstructing others’ works is often seen as malicious.

This attitude, while pervasive, is misplaced. There are bad actors out there, who aim to use their skills to steal, extort or corrupt. But the majority of hackers, or cybersecurity researchers as they are sometimes known, are interested in solving the puzzle of how something works, probing its flaws, and then helping to shore up the weaknesses. This last point is very important: not only are most researchers uninterested in nefariously exploiting the vulnerabilities they find, they actively want to help fix them.

That help is sorely needed. Every day, thousands of new software products come on the market, from apps to connected devices. A car, for example, can have over 100 million lines of code powering its systems. These immensely complex systems inevitably contain errors. While most errors are innocuous – a garbled webpage or a crashed app – some can pose major security risks if not patched. The breaches that fill the headlines, from the Democratic National Committee to the Ukrainian power grid, are often a result of these vulnerabilities.

Knowing these risks, companies are increasingly turning to hackers for help. Rather than threatening security researchers with legal action for disclosing code errors, forward-thinking businesses are providing clear avenues for hackers to report their findings.

These vulnerability handling processes respect the time and effort hackers put in to discovering bugs by keeping clear lines of communication open and, often, providing some sort of acknowledgement to the finder. Occasionally, that acknowledgement comes in the form of cash, a “bug bounty” based on the severity of the issue. Vulnerability disclosure policies leverage the power of the crowd to improve security and save companies money.

While vulnerability handling has exploded across industry in the past several years, the federal government has lagged behind. Despite operating tens of thousands of websites and myriad other software products, the government has not provided any clear avenue for patriotic-minded hackers to disclose security issues.

Thankfully, forward-thinking leaders in the government are beginning to change that. Last year, the Department of Defense hosted the first-ever federal bug bounty program, “Hack the Pentagon.” Over four weeks, 1,400 hackers discovered more than 125 security vulnerabilities at a fraction of the cost per bug of existing programs. The Pentagon has since begun an expansion of the program, and the Internal Revenue Service announced that it, too, would begin offering bug bounties on a limited basis.

More importantly, federal agencies are finally beginning to welcome public service-minded hackers with full-fledged vulnerability disclosure policies. The General Services Administration released a draft policy for comment in October, and, in November, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter unveiled a Pentagon-wide policy. I commend outgoing Secretary Carter and the other leaders in these agencies for their efforts to treat hackers not solely as adversaries but as valuable allies as well.

These policies are nascent and will inevitably need some tweaking. They also cover only a fraction of the services provided by the government. But they represent an inflection point in our thinking about the security research community, and I hope the new federal Chief Information Security Officer makes expanding these programs a priority.

Changing the image of hackers is tough. But I am glad the federal government is finally moving beyond stereotypes and embracing the potential for security researchers to improve our nation’s cybersecurity.

Congressman Jim Langevin (D) of Rhode Island is the cofounder and cochair of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus, and a senior member of the House Armed Services and Homeland Security Committees.

ICIT: Congressman Jim Langevin Receives the ICIT Transcend Award

ICIT: Congressman Jim Langevin Receives the ICIT Transcend Award

Washington D.C. January 25, 2017 – The Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology (ICIT), America’s Cybersecurity Think Tank™, presented Congressman Jim Langevin, from Rhode Island’s 2nd congressional district, with its Transcend Award at the Congressman’s office in the Rayburn House Office Building.

The Transcend Award is an honor given each year to a distinguished member of the critical infrastructure community who represents diversity and leadership in cybersecurity.  As one of the most active leaders in cybersecurity on Capitol Hill,  Congressman Langevin serves as the co-chair of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus, the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee Emerging Threats and Capabilities subcommittee, and a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies.

Thanks in part to his leadership and his understanding of the complex threat landscape facing the critical infrastructure sectors of the United States, cybersecurity has become a top priority for the legislative community.

As the recipient of the Transcend award, ICIT Sr. Fellows James Scott and Parham Eftekhari presented Congressman Langevin with an heirloom-quality sterling silver Tiffany’s compass, which symbolizes his contributions in leading the cybersecurity and critical infrastructure community.

ICIT is proud to honor Congressman Langevin for his role in protecting our Nation’s critical infrastructures from cyber adversaries and to recognize him as an ally of the cybersecurity community.  The Institute’s Fellows and other stakeholders including federal agency, legislative and private sector leaders, look forward to working with him to ensure critical infrastructure resiliency and national security.

Reaction: Trump signs executive order on border wall

Reaction: Trump signs executive order on border wall

By Samantha Fenlon

President Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday to build the wall along the Mexican border. It’s a move that sparked immediate outrage from many people including members of Rhode Island’s Congressional Delegation.

“Our President isn’t a King. We have a Congress that is required to both authorize those actions and appropriate money. The President can’t just by executive order spend what some people say will be up to $20 billion dollars,” said Congressman David Cicilline.

Congressman Cicilline firmly voicing his opposition hours after the announcement.

“When your own Secretary of Homeland Security says a wall won’t do the trick, this seems to me to me to be real folly. A lot of theater, a commitment to a campaign promise he made but not in the national security interest of the United States,” said Congressman Cicilline.

Congressman Jim Langevin calls the plan an outdated solution that will not accomplish what it is intended to.

“You’re talking about potentially billions of dollars that will be spent on a wall that is a 19th century solution to a 21st century problem,” said Congressman Langevin.

The Congressman admits the immigration system is broken, but says there are better options.

“What we should do is be using technology more effectively whether it’s drones or sensors to alert border patrols that there might be someone that is trying to enter the country,” said Congressman Langevin.

As the dust settles on President Trump’s announcement, a local advocate for immigrants, Juan Garcia, says the news has created fear among many undocumented citizens here in Rhode Island. He’s now left trying to reassure them.

“I would say to the people don’t be scared. Stay calm,” said Garcia.

Warwick Beacon: Delegation vows fight to save best of Obamacare

Warwick Beacon: Delegation vows fight to save best of Obamacare

By John Howell

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse had people laughing at a rally to save the Affordable Care Act. The Republicans have already taken the first steps to dismantle it in the wake of Donald Trump’s election and their impending control of both the House and Senate.

Whitehouse wasn’t looking to offer comic relief Sunday afternoon as more than 340 people packed the Johnston Senior Center and another 100 were forced to stand outside because the center meeting room was at fire code capacity. The full Rhode Island congressional delegation that sponsored the rally spoke. Joining them to point out what repeal of Obamacare could mean to Rhode Islanders and how that might affect those on Medicare and Medicaid was Gov. Gina Raimondo and those on the frontlines of delivering and receiving health care.

Whitehouse likened what Republicans are doing to pushing someone out of an airplane and telling them as they are plummeting to the ground that somebody is working on building them a parachute.

“They say ‘trust us,’” he said of Republicans. “Well, no thank you.” Whitehouse wants to see a plan before gutting the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

A number of speakers spoke about popular features of the ACA, often called Obamacare, including the inclusion of children up to age 27 in their family health plan, banning insurance companies from placing lifetime and annual limits on health expenses and the denial of coverage on pre-existing conditions.

“Many of you are now coming into the office to seek preventive care and you give us an opportunity to diagnose and treat problems early because of health insurance,” said Dr. Nitin S. Damle, president of the American College of Physicians that represents 145,000 internal medicine physicians nationally and internationally. He said with repeal of the act, 22 million could become uninsured and 52 million people nationwide and 164,000 Rhode Islanders with pre-existing conditions could be denied coverage.

To cheers and applause, he said, “affordable high quality health care should be a fundamental right of every American just as public education.”

Senator Jack Reed and Congressmen James Langevin and David Cicilline echoed that sentiment.

“It’s a right, not a fringe benefit,” said Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena who hosted the rally.

In his remarks Reed said the percentage of uninsured Rhode Islanders has dropped from 12 percent to 4.5 percent under the act. He said under the act, 100,000 Rhode Islanders who previously didn’t have health insurance are now covered and he fears changes in Medicare and Medicaid and that health insurance premiums “will skyrocket.”

Raimondo likewise was concerned for those who might lose coverage without the act. She said the state is “within a whisper” of universal healthcare coverage, adding, “We want it in Rhode Island and we’re not going backwards. If we make enough noise, they will listen.”

Raimondo urged those seeking to save the act to join with the Protect Our Healthcare Coalition and share their story. The email for the newly formed group is ProtectRIHealth@gmail.com. One of the coalition’s organizers, Linda Katz, co-founder and policy director of the Rhode Island Economic Progress Institute, said the group is not only looking to do what it can to save the act on a national level but also the program in the state.

Joanne McGunnagle, executive director of the Comprehensive Community Action Program (CCAP), found it difficult to imagine what might happen if the ACA is dismantled. McGunnagle was one of several community action program directors to attend the rally. CCAP operates four local clinics serving about 15,000 people.

“This is a basic human need,” McGunnagle said of the services provided by CCAP. Medicaid covers much of the cost of services, but McGunnagle is hearing, like others, that changes could be coming to that program as well as Medicare that would limit coverage.

Gina Rombly, a mother and owner of a small design and video company, told how she and her husband believed they had found affordable health care only to have the insurance company fail, leaving them short of their premiums and stuck with medical bills. It was at that point that the ACA was passed and Rombly who had been diagnosed with stage 3 uterine cancer couldn’t be denied coverage. Now considered cured, Rombly said, “we depend on this [health coverage].”

“Take away the bad parts [of the ACA]. But there’s so much good that it’s done…you can’t just take it away and not have something to replace it with.”

Langevin called the actions of the House and Senate Republicans to dismantle the ACA an “incredible low point” in his legislative career. He was critical of Republicans for not working to amend the legislation.

“We all know ACA isn’t perfect,” he said, “there’s so much we can do to make it better.”

Langevin talked about Evan Huddon of Warwick, who is battling spina bifida and hydrocephalus. He said the Huddons would have never been able to afford the $3 million in medical costs to help Evan without health care.

“It shouldn’t be for just those who can afford it,” he said.

Langevin vowed to save the good elements of ACA.

“This fight isn’t over, it’s just beginning,” he said.

WPRI: Hundreds attend rally in Rhode Island to save Obamacare

WPRI: Hundreds attend rally in Rhode Island to save Obamacare

JOHNSTON, R.I. (WPRI) – Hundreds of people joined Rhode Island’s Democratic congressional delegation and other top leaders Sunday to rally in support of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, which President-elect Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress have promised to repeal.

“They had seven years to build an alternative,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said to a crowd of hundreds at the Johnston Senior Center. “And what’ve they got? Nothing.”

Trump and Republican leaders have said they plan to replace the health law with something else, though the alternative proposal has not been publicly disclosed.

“It’s like asking someone to jump out of an airplane with no parachute, and say ‘trust me, we’ll build a parachute for you while you’re falling,’” Whitehouse said.

The Affordable Care Act has been credited with bringing the country’s uninsured rate down to its lowest rate in history. It also prohibits insurance companies from discriminating against customers for pre-existing conditions, allows young people to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26, and expanded Medicaid to more Americans under a certain income level. States had a choice to opt in or out of the Medicaid expansion. But Republicans say the law is too expensive and has not done enough to bring down costs.

“This is a program that is helping millions of people across the country,” Sen. Jack Reed said in an interview with Eyewitness News. “You can’t take it away, particularly without any replacement. That’ll just cause a new hardship and undue economic uncertainty.”

In Rhode Island, about 100,000 people have health insurance as a direct result of Obamacare: 30,000 are insured through HealthSource RI, the state marketplace set up under the law, and 70,000 are insured through the Medicaid expansion.

“If we make enough noise, we can try to prevent this,” Gov. Gina Raimondo told the crowd. “We will prevent this, and we’ll save lives.”

So many people attended the event that the building reached capacity and police had to keep dozens more attendees outside. Similar rallies took place across the country, including one headlined by Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Gina Rombley, a small business owner, told the crowd about her personal experience with Obamacare. She said before the health law was enacted, she tried to get insurance on the private market. When her insurance company didn’t pay her medical providers, she found out they were under investigation for doing the same to other customers. She ended up being on the hook for the bills, and now has insurance through the Affordable Care Act.

“When it came time to enroll, we were probably the first people on that computer,” Rombley said. “I depend on it.”

Both the U.S. House and Senate passed resolutions last week that set the stage for the repeal of Obamacare.

“It was the most reckless, irresponsible decision I’ve seen since I got to Congress,” Congressman David Cicilline said. He said many of his colleagues in Congress tell him they plan to keep the more favorable aspects of Obamacare, but still won’t disclose the details of their replacement law.

“Where’s your plan?” he said. “Let us look at it and understand.”

Cicilline’s House colleague from Rhode Island, Congressman Jim Langevin, said there’s no reason to repeal the law.

“Fix the problems that may exist with it, but don’t repeal it,” Langevin said. “It’s doing too much good.”

Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, however, has said Obamacare is “collapsing,” citing high premiums and costs.

“We have plenty of ideas on how to replace it,” Ryan recently told reporters on Capitol Hill, declining to go into detail. “You’ll see as the weeks and months unfold.”

President-elect Trump has said he wants the replacement plan to pass as soon as possible after the repeal of Obamacare. He has signaled support for keeping some aspects of the law, including allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ plans and the prohibition on discriminating against customers with pre-existing conditions.

Progressive Charlestown: Langevin denounces Republican actions to repeal Obamacare

Progressive Charlestown: Langevin denounces Republican actions to repeal Obamacare

Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) voted in strong opposition to S.Con.Res. 3, the GOP budget proposal that begins the process of dismantling the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the law otherwise known as Obamacare.

The resolution, which passed by a vote of 227 to 198, sets up an expedited process for consideration of a full repeal bill that Republicans plan to introduce later.

“Voting for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was one of my proudest moments in Congress. Before its passage, I heard from countless constituents who were unable to afford health insurance coverage. I met families bankrupted by medical bills in the wake of devastating accidents. I spoke with young people working entry-level jobs while saddled with student loan debt and mounting bills.

“Six years later, 20 million Americans have gained health insurance coverage through this historic and groundbreaking law, bringing the rate of uninsured individuals down to 8.6 percent, the lowest on record.

“Health care costs – though still on the rise – have increased at a slower rate, as the system shifts towards preventative medicine. Doctors are being rewarded for keeping patients healthy, and patients are being encouraged to receive regular medical attention.

“It is not a perfect law, but it has been a lifesaving reform for millions of families, and to throw it out wholesale without any regard for the tens of millions of Americans who stand to lose coverage is not only reckless, it’s unconscionable.

“Throughout President Obama’s Administration, House Republicans voted more than 60 times to repeal or undermine the Affordable Care Act but refused to come to the table to strengthen and improve the law. And despite having had six years to develop an alternative, we voted today without any replacement plans in hand.

“Repealing the Affordable Care Act could have enormous consequences, especially for the people in this country who can least afford health coverage.

“Seniors could lose essential Medicare benefits, people with disabilities and low-income children could lose access to critical coverage, middle-class families could see premiums begin to skyrocket, Rhode Island could lose thousands of jobs, and insurance companies would resume control of Americans’ health care.

“To dismantle the Affordable Care Act is to ignore the needs of our constituents. And to my constituents in Rhode Island who have shared their stories of how health care reform has changed their lives, I say this: we will continue to fight.
“We will fight for the economic security of American families, and we will fight for the health and well-being of the American people.”

Defense News: Trump Benched Mattis Before His House Hearing. What Happened?

Defense News: Trump Benched Mattis Before His House Hearing. What Happened?

By Joe Gould WASHINGTON — Democrats, and some Republicans, are counting on Gen. James Mattis, Donald Trump’s pick for defense secretary, to be a check on the impulsive, inexperienced president-elect.

But the president-elect just checked Mattis.

Trump’s transition team benched the former Marine Corps four-star just as he was to appear before the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday. And in a single stroke, the transition offended HASC Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, complicated Mattis’ confirmation and undercut the central argument in Mattis’ favor with Democrats — that he can stand up to Trump.

Because Mattis retired in 2013, he needs Congress to pass legislation to waive a seven-year cooling-off period for uniformed leaders before he can take the Pentagon’s top civilian job. Until Tuesday night, Mattis was committed — and “eager,” Thornberry said — to testify before the HASC after his Senate confirmation hearing Thursday, as a show of deference to the principle of civilian control of the military. The waiver applies to a 70-year-old law, and it would be the second ever after 1950.

“Where Gen. Mattis was willing to come and testify on this topic before the House Armed Services Committee and the Trump White House said ‘no,’ clearly that concerns me, that they’re not listening to their own secretary of defense,” said HASC Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee ranking member Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I. “On something like this, they could have and should have deferred to his wishes.”

House Democrats also accused their Republican counterparts of ceding the legislature’s power to the incoming president. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., told Defense News that Republicans privately expressed misgivings but were unable to rally for a tough stand.

“Early on, I think, there was some muscle, but I think it just atrophied,” she said, adding: “For eight years there’s been a drumbeat from Republicans about the president rolling over Congress. That’s the very first act, even before [Trump] is president, and they’re whimpering.”

The waiver faces a House floor vote Friday, where it is expected to pass in spite of surging Democratic opposition. The waiver passed the Senate 81-17 on Thursday in a largely bipartisan vote.

HASC Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee Chairman Mike Turner, R-Ohio, voted for the waiver, but said Wednesday of the transition team’s action: “It certainly sets a very bad precedent for a position that requires working very closely with Congress.”

“I’m very disappointed, I believe it’s a mistake. The legislative branch is being asked to deliberate and take an action without [Mattis’] input,” Turner said.

Through the Senate waiver vote, Mattis was the only Cabinet nominee Democrats could have unilaterally blocked. But many Democrats were willing to approve the waiver because of their high regard for Mattis, a former chief of US Central Command with 44 years of military service and a tough but thoughtful reputation.

Yet a day after Thornberry announced Mattis would appear at the HASC, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., broke the news to reporters Wednesday that Trump’s transition team had shut it down. This after Trump’s nominee for attorney general, Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, endured the first day of a lengthy, bruising confirmation hearing.

Trump transition spokeswoman Alleigh Marre, in a statement, said Mattis was instead focusing Thursday on his Senate testimony.

At the Senate Armed Services Committee, Mattis breezed through his three-hour confirmation hearing, in which lawmakers from both parties made clear they expect him to stand up to Trump and his White House national security team.

Mattis obliged with a warmer take than his presumptive boss on the Iran nuclear deal and NATO, and a cooler take on Russia. He also said he would forcefully advocate for his views.

Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., the ranking member on the SASC, told Mattis that “many have supported the waiver legislation in your confirmation because they believe you will be, to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, ‘the saucer that cools the coffee.’ ”

Mattis at turns did side with Trump. In reference to Trump’s Twitter criticisms of the F-35 Lightning II program, which has suffered from major cost-overruns and delays, he said: “The president-elect has talked about the cost of it, but he has in no way shown a lack of support for the program; he just wants the best bang for the buck.”

Still, there is reportedly strife within Trump’s national security team over who will get top jobs in the Defense Department — and who gets to make those decisions. Mattis was rejecting large numbers of candidates offered by the transition team for several top posts, according to The Washington Post.

On Mattis’s nonappearance, HASC member Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif., said the retired general “won’t tolerate for long” being boxed in, adding: “This was a very bad move by the incoming administration, bad for us and bad for them because I don’t think Mattis will put up with being jerked around. Period.”

At Thursday afternoon’s HASC hearing, the no-show fueled a partisan row, but the waiver passed in a symbolic 34-28 vote along party lines. Democrats fumed the transition team had made the committee irrelevant, and while they were confident in Mattis, they said they could not change a 70-year-old law without the chance to question him.

HASC ranking member, Rep. Adam Smith, argued the committee should have held out and refused to vote on the waiver until Trump’s team let Mattis appear.

“In this critically, critically important matter, who is going to be the secretary of defense, and civilian control of the military, the incoming president’s team has decided the House Armed Services Committee is irrelevant,” said Smith, D-Wash. “We are abdicating our authority on this committee, and I think that is an enormous mistake.”

An annoyed Thornberry had explained the transition team informed him Tuesday night Mattis would not appear, adding: “I think that was a mistake.”

“Let me be clear: Gen. Mattis was willing and eager to do so. I talked to him personally. He gladly agreed to answer our questions about the waiver or other topics we might have,” Thornberry said.

“I have complete confidence that Gen. Mattis would have answered our questions in a way that adds confidence to the wisdom of his selection,” Thornberry said. “It would have added strength to his position and gotten the partnership between him and our committee off to a good start. He recognized those advantages immediately. Unfortunately, short-sightedness prevailed.”

Still, Thornberry argued that Democratic claims of a Constitutional crisis were a stretch, noting that Gen. George Marshall did not appear before Congress, when Congress granted him a waiver in 1950.

“Men and women are risking their lives all over the world, they need a secretary of defense,” he said.

NK Standard Times: EB announces more jobs for 2017

NK Standard Times: EB announces more jobs for 2017

By SHAUN KIRBY

WARWICK—After a stop at their Groton, Conn. facility earlier that morning, officials from Electric Boat met with state legislative leaders in Warwick Monday to announce its plans to increase job positions in Quonset. Gov. Gina Raimondo was on hand, along with Senators Jack Reed, Sheldon Whitehouse, and a handful of state leaders. 

“When I took office a couple years ago, I pledged my administration would move decisively to give Rhode Islanders the training they needed to fill jobs at Electric Boat,” said Raimondo in her opening comments at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Warwick.

According to Jeffrey Geiger, President of General Dynamics Electric Boat, the submarine contractor hopes to hire approximately 2,000 new jobs in 2017, 650 of which are expected to be in Quonset. With 11 out of 15 submarines contracted to be built for the U.S. Navy under construction, Geiger expects more jobs to be created by the 2020s.
Geiger added that approximately 80 percent of the U.S. Navy’s submarine work is done by Electric Boat, with another 20 percent at the Newport News Shipbuilding facility in Virginia. He said that EB typically builds two Virginia-class, nuclear-powered submarines a year. With the new Columbia-class submarine in design phases and expected to begin construction in 2018, the Navy is expected to tap even more into EB’s resources and manpower.

“I believe there is a much higher probability for the future to increase beyond what we are currently projecting because of the need and roles these subs play,” said the EB president. “This signals only good things for the communities we operate in.”

Raimondo announced the approval of $3.6 million to hire and train nearly 500 workers at Electric Boat’s Quonset Point facility through the Real Jobs RI program. The initiative, which began in April 2015, currently holds approximately $15 million in federal and state monies to help fund 26 workforce training partnerships across the state, one of which is with Electric Boat.

“These programs are going to make sure Rhode Islanders get these jobs,” said the governor. “I couldn’t be more proud to be the governor of a state that makes the most sophisticated ships in the world.”

Electric Boat also received over $360,000 in grant funds last year for job training initiatives through the Real Jobs RI program. Geiger said on Monday that the Quonset Point facility, which currently has approximately 3,500 workers, expects to employ nearly 5,500 by the 2020s. The submarine contractor and the state are subsequently placing a heavy emphasis on partnerships with local career and technical programs, including those in the Chariho and Coventry school districts.

“We have a lot of programs in process today,” said Geiger. “The initial results are very encouraging and exciting.”

In North Kingstown, Superintendent Philip Auger said that although the district does not currently have a career and technical partnership with EB, it is currently pursuing one.
“[The Rhode Island Dept. of Education] knows we have a big interest in establishing some kind of training program,” he said Tuesday. “In the next week or two, I am looking to be meeting with Electric Boat representatives.”

Michael Healey, spokesperson for the Rhode Island Dept. of Labor and Training (DLT), said on Tuesday that 64 workers currently employed at Electric Boat will receive ‘up-skill’ training at the Community College of Rhode Island and New England Institute of Technology in order to move into different, high-skilled positions within the company.

“They are workers already employed by EB, but have expressed desire in wanting to do something different,” he said. “They don’t have these skills, and that is what the training program is for.”

Raimondo and Geiger praised Rhode Island’s congressional delegation for securing federal monies over the past year to help fund labor training and hiring programs. Reed and U.S. Congressman James Langevin gave praise to Electric Boat and Rhode Island’s legislative leaders, in turn.

“The real credit goes to the men and women at Electric Boat,” said Reed. “They build the best, most sophisticated war craft in the world, ahead of schedule and ahead of budget.”

“We are proud of the workforce and product [Electric Boat] produces,” said Langevin. “At the end of the day, it really is a team effort.”