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    Many female candidates running in the midterm Congressional elections say the first Women's March in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 21, 2017, inspired them to run for office

    By Celia Raney

    WASHINGTON — Last year they marched on Washington. Now they are running for office.

    After the first female presidential nominee by a major party, Hillary Clinton, lost in 2016 to President Donald Trump, pink-hat-clad women rushed down march routes and through side-streets across the world. One year and two marches later, the riverbed is ready for women to flood into power.

    “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself,” Tabitha Isner told TMN.

    After she took her mother to the Women’s March in January 2017, the 36-year-old Democrat put those words into action and launched a congressional campaign in Republican-heavy Alabama.

    “I have thought throughout my life that maybe someday I’ll be a public servant in that way,” Isner said, “but we as women tend to wait, tend to think that we should be more qualified than we are, that maybe in ten years we’ll have the qualifications, the resume that we think we need to do the work.”

    Isner is running for Alabama’s second district seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. In the June 5 primary, she will face off against another Democratic female candidate, Audri Scott Williams.

    “The women’s march was a time when a lot of us said, “Screw that, we can’t wait, justice can’t wait, the right thing can’t wait until we feel ready and qualified,’ ” Isner said. “It needs to happen now.”

    As of April 25, 471 women are running for one of the 435 seats up for election in the U.S. House of Representatives and 57 women are vying for one of the 35 seats up for grabs in the U.S. Senate, up by 252 and 32 respectively from this point in 2016. Women currently hold 84 seats in the House and 22 seats in the Senate.

    Out of the 7,383 state legislature positions, 1,997 are held by women today, an 11.8 percent increase from 1,659 women in 2015. The progress is slow moving  if the trend continues at the current rate of change women will not achieve equal representation in Congress until 2117  but the 104 total seats that women hold in Congress today represent an all-time high, and the midterms could bring in a slew of female-held seats.

    “This year is going to make a real difference because we have an unprecedented number of women running and I know in my state they are very well qualified, and I think that will make a big difference,” Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) told TMN.

    But do the numbers need to be 50/50 in order to achieve equal representation?

    When Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) took office in 1996, she was only of only nine women in the Senate. Now there are 22.

    “I don’t think we have to have a quota system here where it is 50/50,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) told TMN. “Women are represented on every committee, which is great progress  but obviously I’d like to see more women, particularly on the Republican side.”

    When Collins took office in 1996, she was one of only nine women in the Senate.

    “More and more women are having the confidence to run for federal office,” she said, going on to echo the same concerns that Isner said many women have when thinking about running for office.

    “I’ve found over the years that oftentimes women think they’re not quite ready, when in fact they’re just as qualified as the men who are running and sometimes more qualified, so I think that’s exciting,” she said.

    Back to school: campaign school trains female candidates

    More women than ever are running for state positions, too. Only 39 women have served as governors in U.S. history, but 77 women are running in 2018  blowing the previous record of 34 women in gubernatorial races in 1994 out of the water.

    “Women are energizing, motivating and excited, and really wanna get out there and really wanna get ready to run,” Patricia Russo, executive director of the Women’s Campaign School at Yale, told TMN.

    The political training school offers two programs to prepare women at different stages of campaign readiness. The school’s five-day intensive program trains women to run for office or lead campaigns. A one-day intensive started last year helps women become more civically minded and can be used as a jump-starter for the five-day session.

    Male candidates for Congress outnumber women by nearly 3 to 1.

    Since Trump’s campaign began, the school has seen a major influx in the number of women interested in running for public office. The trend has continued through the beginning of his tenure, Russo said, and she has seen an increase in the number of women with in interest in becoming politically involved “like never before.

    “We’ve definitely seen a major surge in the number of women interested in running or in leading a more civically engaged life since the 2016 election,” she said. “We started seeing it there and then we really saw a significant increase right after the first global Women’s March a year ago January, and the trend continues, which is really exciting.”

    The president owes a hefty sum of votes to women  53 percent of college-educated white women and 62 percent of women without a college education cast ballots in his favor  but many women jumped to the phones after the 2017 State of the Union address and called the campaign school at 11 p.m., something Russo has never seen in the school’s entire 24 years.

    Most women on the other end of the line wanted to “do something,” to run for office, work on a political campaign or learn how to become more civically engaged in their communities, she said.

    Numbers of Independent and unaffiliated campaign students grows

    These women are ready now, but where were they in 2016?

    Two-thirds of the women contacting the school had not cast a ballot in the 2016 election and one-third were not registered to vote and were ineligible for the five-day intensive.

    “While they were mad, and they marched, they weren’t ready to run,” Russo said.

    Many of the more than 1,500 women helped by the school’s two programs since 2005 are Democrats, but the school is seeing a growing population of Independent and unaffiliated women  some of whom Russo guesses are Republicans struggling to stay aligned with the party.

    Tabitha Isner is running against another woman in the Democratic primary for Alabama’s second district seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. (www.ballotpedia.org)

    This could be an opportunity for the Democratic party to pull voters from the right and swing political control of the House and Senate, but only if they stay policy-focused, Isner said.

    “Democrats have to do a better job of appealing to white women in particular,” Isner said. “I don’t think we have explained ourselves well, have made it clear why the Democratic party is the way to go.”

    Isner said many white women stay out of politics because they see how crazy and larger-than-life it can become. (White women in all elective offices across the nation still vastly outnumber women of color, according to the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University.) Focusing on policy and progress draws attention away from that and makes politics about representing the people, instead of pointing fingers, she said.

    “It is so important that we stay policy-focused and not get focused on the one man in the White House. As frustrating as his actions sometimes are, it’s not ultimately about him  it’s about the direction the country is heading, the way we speak to our neighbors,” she said.

    It isn’t all about the march

    Not every woman running for elected office in 2018 was inspired by the Women’s March.

    Cristina Osmeña, 49, is running as a Republican for California’s 14th district seat in the House, challenging the incumbent, Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier. Osmeña told TMN that even without the marches, women still would be running in large numbers.

    Cristina Osmeña, a Republican who comes from a political dynasty in the Philippines, is challenging incumbent  Rep. Jackie Speier, a Democrat in California’s 14th district. (www.osmenaforcongress.com)

    Osmeña is a Filipina who has politics in her blood. Her great-grandfather Sergio Osmeña was president of the Philippines from 1944-1946. Her father, Sergio Osmeña III, is a former senator who escaped political prison in the Philippines in 1997. She said her heritage and status as a minority are more empowering than her gender.

    “Being a minority, being Filipina, has much more of an influence than being a woman,” she said.

    Osmeña said she was responding to a push from a mentor who had passed away and the aftermath of Barack Obama’s presidency when she decided to start her congressional campaign.

    “I’m an immigrant so I was responding to the archetypes that were going around about immigrants and I thought it was wrong and I thought I could step up to the plate,” she said.

    Osmeña did admit that if she were not a minority, she would have been more empowered simply because of her gender. She said she would not be surprised if women voted along gender lines in November, adding, “I get tempted to vote along gender, too.”

    But Amy Kremer disagrees with that premise. 

    “Women running is a great thing but that doesn’t mean that women are going to get votes just because they’re women,” Kremer said.

    The 47-year-old co-founder of Women Vote Trump, a super political action committee supporting the 45th president, said she is not confident the Women’s March is going to influence long-term change.

    “You don’t know if this is a moment or a movement until Election Day comes and goes; that’s going to be the real test, on Election Day,” she said.

    In her eyes, the march was more of a coincidence than action-planning.

    “The Women’s March came together because I think they had bought tickets for Hillary Clinton’s inauguration and then she wasn’t inaugurated, so they were all there and they came together,” she said.

    Last year Kremer unsuccessfully ran for the House of Representatives in a special election in Georgia’s 6th congressional district.

    Kremer said anyone voting this year is going to make their decision based on policies  specifically those affecting their children, their families and their wallets  not on who is in office and what behavior they showcase.

    Tea Party Express founder Amy Kremer co-founded the Women Vote Trump super PAC. (Gage Skidmore via Flickr/Wikimedia Commons)

    She expects the left will show up and “turn out” just as the Tea Party movement did when Obama proposed a new health care plan. But Kremer said that because Trump has followed through on campaign promises regarding national security, creating jobs and boosting the economy, the Republican party still has female support.

    Osmeña said she too wants to remain focused on policy over propaganda, and that “we already knew what [Trump] was” when we elected him.

    “I wouldn’t date him,” she said, but “we knew that he was like this and he was elected fair and square, and unless something happens to disprove that, there was a portion of the population that elected him and what is implied in his rhetoric towards women is a small matter given the fact that he was fairly [elected].”

    Gender-unique challenge remain

    The campaign school may help women prepare to run, but the candidates still face gender-unique challenges.

    “With women in politics, it is much more likely that a woman will be attacked on her gender basis rather than on her ideology, her platform or other things,” Gabrielle Bardall, senior gender specialist of the Arlington, Va.-based International Foundation for Electoral Systems, told TMN.

    Women are still expected to bear the burden of household and child-care duties, especially outside the U.S., which deters some from running at all and makes a campaign more difficult for those who do.

    So-called “electoral violence” can deter some women from running, said Gabrielle Bardall, a gender specialist at the International Foundation for Electoral Systems. (Courtesy: IFES)

    Women with family and domestic responsibilities who do choose to run are often attacked for their character, Bardall said, which affects women differently than men.

    “It attacks their credibility and their identity as any kind of political attack would do but it also attacks women as part of society and women as part of the political sphere, and it has the added impact of having very disproportionate effects on the woman and her private life,” Bardall said.

    Harassment and other forms of what Bardall calls “electoral violence”  a catch-all word used to describe the political struggles women face — take on different manifestations around the world.

    “Harassment and violence is also a major consideration around the world. It’s something that takes on different shapes and forms, according to countries but according to our work it exists everywhere in some shape or form,” she said.

    Women are more likely to perceive the electoral environment as highly competitive and biased against female candidates, less likely than men to think they are qualified for office, are less competitive, confident and more risk-adverse than men, according to Bardall.

    Isner is a mother, and the time she spends on the campaign trial and not at home with her child has come into the political spotlight.

    She said that when people raise questions of whether she should be campaigning or at home, or talk about her appearance, she tries to embrace them, because these things make her feminine.

    “I try and make those strengths, embrace that rather than respond in a defensive way,” she said. “When someone comments on my appearance, I say: Yeah, well if I’m a good-looking woman hopefully that will help me get elected.’ We need people running for office who appeal to a broad variety of people and it’s a shame that appearances are such a big part of that, but if that’s where we are, that’s where we are and we have to get women in office before we can change that.”

    Osmeña had not witnessed political violence or sexism in her campaign until she saw a lewd online comment on an article written about her.

    “I don’t read the comments anymore,” she said.

    One woman’s big change

    “Last year I marched. Then I ran. Then I won,” Del. Kelly Convirs-Fowler, a Democrat representing Virginia’s 21st district, said in a speech to the crowd gathered for the second annual Women’s March in January. The former real estate agent took her 8-year-old daughter to the first Women’s March last year for her birthday.

    After attending the first Women’s March last year, Kelly Convirs-Fowler decided to run for office  and won. She represents the 21st district in Virginia’s House of Delegates. (VirginiaGeneralAssembly.gov

    “It was really hard to tell her she wouldn’t get a first woman president on her eighth birthday, so I brought her to the march,” Convirs-Fowler said. “I didn’t realize at the time that it was not just for her that I came, it was for me and to lift my spirits and to get me to my place that I needed to be to take my seat at the table.”

    One day after Trump’s inauguration and 104 years after the first Woman Suffrage Procession in Washington, D.C. in 1913, Convirs-Fowler realized she could do more for herself, her daughter and women across the country.

    She won her seat last November.

    “We are changing the world every day, every woman, when we march, when we run for office, when we volunteer, when we vote, when we speak out, so let’s continue doing that.”

    By Celia Raney

    WASHINGTON – Nearly 100 people in 22 states have been confirmed with a strain of E. coli contracted from romaine lettuce that was grown in the Yuma, Arizona farming region, the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a joint briefing on Friday.

    At least 98 people across 22 states have contracted the bacteria from romaine lettuce as of Thursday, the agencies said in a teleconference call. Fourteen of those victims and three of those states were added to the tallies since the last update on the outbreak was given on Wednesday.

    The specific strain of E. coli, Shiga-toxin type two or STX2, has historically resulted in a higher number of hospitalized victims. The CDC said 46 out of 87 infected people with available information have been reported hospitalized. Ten of those hospitalized have reported a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome.

    The CDC says no deaths attributed to the outbreak have been reported.

    CDC officials are planning a trip to Harrison Farms in Yuma, where eight of the whole-heart lettuce outbreak cases are linked, the agency said.

    The CDC also is investigating more than two dozen other farms.

    Matthew Wise, the CDC’s deputy branch chief for outbreak response, said no one should buy or eat any type of romaine – whether it is whole heads, hearts, leaves, chopped or mixed  unless the consumer can guarantee the lettuce is not from the Yuma region.

    CDC.gov

    Erring on the side of caution, Wise said: “People should not be eating any type of romaine lettuce. Restaurants should not be serving any type of romaine lettuce.”

    The FDA said the growing period has ended in the region but cannot confirm that romaine lettuce from the area is no longer being distributed.

    Stic Harris, director of the FDA’s Coordinated Outbreak Response and Evaluation Network, said his agency is working with the the CDC to identify the channels that enabled the outbreak. At this time, the FDA does not know how the bacteria ended up on Harrison Farms nor do officials know at what point in the growing, harvesting, packaging and distribution process the romaine became contaminated.

    Harris said there is “no evidence that other lettuce or lettuce outside the region are contaminated.”

    _________

    Click here for information from the CDC about the outbreak, including consumer advice.

    By Celia Raney

    WASHINGTON – The city of Albuquerque is mourning the loss of Jennifer Riordan, a New Mexico banking executive, and showing their love for her after she died in a Southwest Airlines incident Tuesday.

    When debris from the failed left engine of Southwest Airlines flight 1380 tore through a window in the aircraft’s cabin, Riordan’s upper body was sucked out the window, passengers on the flight said. Several of them held her lower half in the cabin. She was taken to a hospital in Philadelphia, where the plane had made an emergency landing, and was pronounced dead. She was 43.

    Riordan is survived by her 46-year-old husband, Michael Riordan, and two children, ages 10 and 12. Her friends took to social media to spread their love and send their condolences to the family. Her death was the only fatality in the incident. Seven others suffered injuries, officials said.

    “She is the bedrock of our family,” the Riordan family said in a statement Tuesday. “She and Mike wrote a love story unlike any other. Her beauty and love is evident through her children. We are so appreciative of the outpouring of support from family, friends and our community.”

    Trey Smith, executive director of the East Mountain High School Foundation, posted a photo on Twitter of a gift Riordan had given him. It was a stuffed horse named Shamrock. Riordan gave the gift along with a donation to the East Mountain High School speech and debate team.

    Smith told TMN it had been a long while since he had spoken to Riordan, but “her work in the community just touched so many lives that it’s difficult to find someone in Albuquerque who wasn’t impacted by her work.”

    Riordan had been a vice president of community relations at Wells Fargo in Albuquerque since 2008.

    “The Wells Fargo family is saddened to learn of the death of our friend and colleague Jennifer Riordan. She was a well-known leader who was loved and respected,” Wells Fargo said in a statement Tuesday.

    Riordan graduated from the University of New Mexico in 1999 and worked as a media relations officer at UNM Hospital from 2002 to 2005 and New Mexico Citigroup’s vice president of community and public relations from 2005 to 2008.

    Riordan’s work with the community was noticed by politicians, too, who offered condolences to her friends and family.

    Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.) told TMN that Riordan was an incredible leader and advocate in the community.

    “My heart is saddened by such a tragic loss of someone who has made a big impact in New Mexico. Jennifer brought so much life to our community through her work at Wells Fargo and her philanthropic efforts across the city. On top of that, she always had a smile on her face and a positive attitude. We will all mourn the loss of Jennifer’s passion and love for life. New Mexico and the Albuquerque community are a better place because of Jennifer,” Grisham said.

    Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) tweeted condolences from him and his wife.

    “Jill and I were deeply saddened to learn of the loss of Albuquerque’s Jennifer Riordan today,” Udall said. “Her charity and kindness touched so many lives in the community and our thoughts are with her family and friends at this difficult time.”

    Riordan’s was the first death by U.S. airline incident since 2009 and the first in Southwest Airlines’ history.

    “We are deeply saddened to confirm that there is one fatality resulting from this accident,” the airline said in a statement released Tuesday. “The entire Southwest Airlines Family is devastated and extends its deepest heartfelt sympathy to the customers, employees, family members, and loved ones affected by this tragic event.”

    The incident was preliminarily determined as engine failure.

    “Our specialists immediately focused on a missing fan blade,” National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt said at a news conference on Tuesday. “The No. 13 fan blade was separated and missing, and it was separated at the point where it would come into the hub.”

    The NTSB, the Federal Aviation Administration and the FBI are investigating the incident and asking anyone with video evidence to contact witness@ntsb.gov. Any debris found across Berks County, Pa. should be reported to the FBI Allentown office at 610-433-6488.

    Several passengers on the flight credited pilot Tammie Jo Shults for safely landing the plane. Shults is a Navy veteran who was among the U.S. military’s first female fighter pilots, Navy officials confirmed to Military Times on Wednesday. Shults, a graduate of MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe, Kansas, was commissioned in 1985 and completed flight training in Pensacola, Fla. Shults left active-duty service in 1993, and the reserves in 2001, the Navy said.

    National Transportation Safety Board investigators examine the damaged left engine of Southwest Airlines Flight 1330 Tuesday at Philadelphia International Airport. The Boeing 737-700 had to make an emergency landing there after the engine failed about 20 minutes after departing New York’s LaGuardia Airport Tuesday morning, according to NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt. He said a fan blade broke off the engine’s hub. (NTSB_Newsroom/Twitter)

     

    Lead NTSB investigator Bill English, center, receives the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder from the Southwest Airlines plane Tuesday at Philadelphia International Airport. Both recorders were flown to NTSB headquarters in Washington, D.C. for download. (NTSB_Newsfeed/Twitter)

    By Celia Raney

    WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats on Wednesday are calling for embattled Environmental Protection Agency Chief Scott Pruitt to step down  or be forced out.

    “Mr. Pruitt has been even worse than I expected, Sen. Tom Udall (D–N.M.) said at a news conference Wednesday. “The list of abuses just keeps getting longer.”

    Udall is the leading sponsor on a formal resolution calling for Pruitt’s termination or resignation, which the senator announced while ticking off a list of “perks” Pruitt has received during his tenure.

    Constituents standing behind the senator as he spoke nodded in agreement as he went down the list, citing the rent agreement between Pruitt and the wife of a lobbyist linked to the Keystone Pipeline in Alaska.

    The examples of ethical malfeasance included “lavish first-class flights around the world; swanky hotel stays; taxpayers footing the bill for personal trips to Oklahoma; a $43,000 sound booth in his office; taking 30 EPA enforcement officers away from investigating polluters to serve as his round-the-clock personal security details.”

    The senator said he plans to reveal the resolution next week and said the House will introduce an identical resolution.

    Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.) said he is sponsoring the resolution in an effort to restore government standards.

    “Trump and these Republicans are dramatically lowering the bar for government ethics, government accountability and government service,” Schumer said.

    The party leader also pointed a finger at President Donald Trump, referencing one of his campaign promises to “drain the swamp” of imperial politicians.

    “[Pruitt] is the swamp, he has created a new definition of the swamp. If there are any horrible swamp-like characteristics that a cabinet secretary could have, Pruitt’s got them,” Schumer said, adding that the words that come to mind when thinking of Pruitt’s administration include “elitism, corruption, entitlement, and hypocrisy.”

    Citing an incompetent and corrupt administration, Schumer said, “President Trump ought to fire administrator Pruitt or accept his resignation before he can further pollute the swamp or the environment.”

    The EPA did not respond to a call or email from TMN for comment.

    By Celia Raney

    WASHINGTON ­­— Some Facebook users are deleting their accounts after it was recently revealed that a British political consulting firm for President Donald Trump, Cambridge Analytica, harvested data from personal accounts in an alleged effort to sway the 2016 presidential election.

    Cambridge Analytica pulled Facebook user’s personal information to target ads based on their likes, friends, comments and other data collected by Facebook, the New York Times and the Observer revealed on March 17. Many Facebook users consider the practice an invasion of privacy.

    “I don’t know who has my data and what purpose they are going to be using it for, and it’s a very scary thought,” Viktoria Altman told TMN.

    Altman, 38, is a travel writer and photographer who uses Facebook personally and for business. She has used Facebook to advertise for small businesses she owned.

    “I am not really in the position to delete Facebook like so many others, but I have backed away from using my personal Facebook,” Altman said. “I don’t post on there anymore, I try not to like anyone’s content, I try not to talk to my friends over Facebook messenger because now I understand that all this data is being tracked.”

    Most of Altman’s professional contacts are linked to her personal Facebook profile, and she does not want to lose them by deleting her account.

    In an effort to protect her information, Altman uses her Facebook accounts only for professional purposes now, and has moved her personal information to Vero, a social media platform that claims to make social media “personal” again.

    Vero was initially supposed to be free to the first 1 million users and after hitting that mark would become a subscription-based service. However, nearly 3 million people have signed up and the company extended the free subscription to all users until further notice. Vero’s manifesto states under “Information Sharing and Disclosure” that Vero will only share user’s personal information in “limited” circumstances and “if you tell us you are happy for us to do so.”

    The third reason Vero will share your information is similar to the ways in which Facebook shares data.

    “We may share information with our employees and authorized third-party providers for them to administer your account and any services provided to you through Vero,” the manifesto states.

    The information collected from all users by Facebook is used by advertising specialists and marketing experts that help advertisers target their material at certain demographics, but Facebook is not supposed to actually share that data.

    “I have an assigned marketing expert at Facebook that assists me if I have any questions about the data they have or about how to better target people,” 21-year-old Nick Solheim told TMN.

    As CEO of Solheim PR and Marketing, Solheim said most of his income comes directly from Facebook advertisements. Facebook advertising managers assist advertisers with tasks such as billing and audience sourcing.

    “When you manage a certain number of Facebook pages or ad accounts, this little thing will pop up like when you log into Facebook and it’ll say ‘hey, we noticed you manage a lot of ad accounts, this is your assigned ad account expert, if you’re having any problems with things like billing or how to build your ads better, or with your results, feel free to reach out to this person,’” Solheim said.

    Facebook has never shared user data with him, but Solheim said data-sharing has been happening for a long time and Facebook knew about it.

    “The whole notion that they didn’t know this was going on and are all of a sudden dismayed about it, is a complete sham; I do not believe it one bit,” he said.

    Only Facebook knows how many users have deleted their accounts since the scandal broke and they have not released the number, but Solheim does not think the movement will be too significant.

    “If you really don’t want all your data and all your contact information to be constantly quantified, your best bet is to move out to Idaho, throw away your phone and never get connected to the internet again,” he said, adding that Facebook is not the only platform using personal information to target users. He said other social media sites as well as some search engines use the same practices.

    “Everyone is doing it and all of a sudden there’s this huge hubbub about it and people are freaking out and I’m like, guys, this has been going on for years and Facebook is just the tip of the iceberg,” Solheim said.

    Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been invited to testify before several congressional committees, and so far has reportedly agreed to appear before the House Energy and Commerce committee.

    Facebook did not respond to multiple attempts by TMN to contact the company before the publication of this article.

    By Celia Raney

    WASHINGTON — Hundreds of thousands of people pulsed through the District Saturday morning as part of a student-organized protest on guns, flooding the streets with shouts and signs asking for more gun control and to “protect our people first.”

    Virgina Jeppi, 23, of Towson University, said at the march, “It would be devastating [to survive a school shooting]; you’d never be able to go to class and not think about it every day and not be able to look at the door and think that someone could walk in and kill everyone that you know.”

    The “March for Our Lives” was organized largely by students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who survived a school shooting that killed 17 of their classmates last month.

    The tragedy at the Parkland, Fla. high school was only one of 306 shootings to take place on school property in the United States since 2013. The sharp and pointed voices of the survivors have drawn attention to lawmakers and the National Rifle Association of America, which donates to many political campaigns.

    “I care about this, I care about children and safety,” Jeppi said, “and I hope [Congress] makes some gun laws finally. I think it is terrible that money is controlling the safety of the children, it’s not what people want, it’s just money.”

    When she was in high school, Jeppi did not often think about school shootings or the possibility that she could be in one. Bullets in schools have changed that.

    “I see the signs for like lockdown drills, like what you’re supposed to do but I try not to think about it. I’m trying to be able to learn, you know,” she said.

    Many students held signs at the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C. on Saturday reminding politicians that the students are future voters. (Celia Raney/TMN)

    The March For Our Lives is one of the largest youth-organized events in U.S. history. The National Park Service approved a permit for the Washington march that estimated 500,000 people could attend. The march closed down nine city blocks and surrounding streets along Pennsylvania Avenue. At least 800 other marches were held in worldwide, with counter-protests in some cities.

    In D.C., the message from students was clear:  Get the guns out.

    Seren Sarkozy, 14, said that if politicians do not start listening to the people and restricting guns, they will lose their jobs.

    “This is not OK,” Sarkozy told TMN. She and Jason Plank, 15, are students at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Md., where the doors now lock at 8:30 a.m., shutting 3,000 students — and anyone else who could get in — inside.

    “We had a lockdown drill after the shooting at [Stoneman] Douglas,” Plank said, “but we don’t have more drills. The doors lock at 8:30 but before that there are 3,000 students coming in and anyone could get in.”

    Sarkozy and Plank said they are often scared something could happen at their school  similar to the incident that occurred in a Southern Maryland high school on Tuesday that left a 16-year-old girl and the shooter  her ex-boyfriend  dead.

    “There are strange people and sketchy people and it is scary to walk by them in the halls,” Sarkozy said, in the chances they could have a weapon.

    Plank said that he feels prepared for drills and knows how to follow the rules for one, but that he is not prepared for a real-life shooting. A gun in his teacher’s desk, he said, would not make him feel safer.

    After President Donald Trump announced just one week after the shooting at Stoneman Douglas that he supports the Idea of arming teachers, the nation spat back with snappy signs and pleas to “arm teachers with books, not bullets,” and “fund our futures, not our burials.”

    A young man holds a sign that reads “I can’t believe we have to fight for safe schools,” at the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C. on Saturday. (Celia Raney/TMN)

    Sheryl Freedman, a 38-year-old teacher from D.C., brought her two children 5 and 3, to the march. Freedman is “wholeheartedly” opposed to arming teachers.

    “I think it is a terrible idea,” she said, “I’m an educator. I’m not a security worker, I’m not a police officer, and students don’t learn in an environment where there is a threat to their safety.”

    Freedman, who teaches high school at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Md., hoped that lawmakers would listen to everyone marching and pass a gun reform bill for the people.

    “I hope that [lawmakers] will ban assault rifles, I hope that they will extend regulations on people who should not own guns and I hope they will listen to all the students and children and adults and teachers and everyone who is here to let their voice be heard,” she said, adding that she wanted to see politicians protect the people, not their pockets.

    A protester holds a sign that reads “Give teachers raises (not guns).” (Photo ©2018 Doug Christian/TMN)

    Many marchers pumped signs in the air with slogans directed at the NRA, including Sean Heffernan, 26, from Alexandria, Va.

    “It’s sickening,” Heffernan told TMN, “[the NRA] is honestly a disgusting organization and that’s the real fight here, to get those folks out of power is the number one thing we can do here.  Otherwise the money is going to keep flowing and bad things are going to keep happening.”

    After lawmakers on both sides of the aisle authored several bills that would change gun control laws, Trump signed a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill Friday that will incentivize more and stricter background checks for those purchasing guns and allow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct more research on gun violence.

    Protesters stay behind barricades put up along Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest. Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. (Photo ©2018 Doug Christian/TMN)

    By Celia Raney

    WASHINGTON — The new Republican-proposed Farm Bill, which was revealed at a Washington Examiner event Thursday morning, could unearth heavy reforms to the nation’s food stamp program.

    “I think our message should be fostering the dignity of a job, not dependency upon the federal government,” said Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) Thursday, referring to a policy in the current farm act that she said allows able-bodied adults to reap benefits from the federal program.

    The bill now allows anyone over the age of 18 and under the age of retirement to apply for food benefits, and does not require beneficiaries to hold a job. If the new Republican bill is approved, the top-out age will be lower than the retirement age and in order to qualify, applicants who are able-bodied must commit to some form of work —  a permanent position, workforce training or volunteering.

    Sen. Joni Ernst R-Iowa)

    “We’re not talking about pulling needy families away from SNAP,” Ernst said, “but we do have certain situations where we do have able-bodied adults that are not disabled, they are of a working age, they are able to work… and making sure they are engaged in their communities is something that we feel is important.”

    “We have a little more work to do,” Ernst said, hinting that a bill could arise in the Senate.

    Democrats halted discussion on the bill in mid-March when rumors and press reports described new cuts to SNAP that some people feared would take program benefits away from needy families.

    Rep. Collin Peterson, ranking Democrat on the committee, said he has heeded his colleagues’ request and will not resume negotiations until they see text from the bill, according to Roll Call.

    Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas)

    Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas), chairman of the agriculture committee, is the author of the Farm Bill in the House. He said that until discussions were halted, he was under the impression he was working “in good faith,” and that the current standstill is “disappointing.”

    “The program that we are going to put forward I think is rational, it’s not partisan in the least, it’s intended to move the ball and if the Dems wanna come back we will welcome them with open arms,” he said.

    The bill also will address agriculture product production and rural development. Conaway is still working on the text of the bill, which he hopes will be available by a baseline deadline of April 9. He hopes to get the bill heard on the House floor before a busy slate in May.

    By Celia Raney

    WASHINGTON – Democratic lawmakers met with teachers and education professionals in a crowded briefing room in Washington, D.C. Tuesday afternoon to discuss the next steps to making our schools safer. Everyone agreed that guns are not the answer.

    “Personally, I would never want to be armed,” said panelist Stacey Lippel, an English teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and a survivor of the Feb. 14 mass shooting at the school.

    Lippel said she was in the building with accused gunman Nickolas Cruz and after rushing to protect her students saw the bodies of two of them and a colleague in the hallway when a SWAT team escorted her outside.

    “When you are put in a situation like that, you know you’re just really trying to secure your students,” Lippel said, adding that she would feel comfortable with a well-trained armed officer on school grounds to protect students and faculty, but not armed teachers.

    Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.)

    “We need proactive, not reactive, approaches to discipline,” said Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), ranking member on the Committee on Education and the Workforce, which hosted the forum. He added that stopping school violence shouldn’t start with expulsions and suspensions.

    The panel urged lawmakers to focus on allotting funds to hire more social workers and counselors to help students who are struggling or to simply “talk to them.”

    “We must invest in hiring more school counselors, psychologists and social workers,” Scott said, to help children feel safe and welcome in schools and prevent students from reaching the point when they feel the need to harm others.

    Panelist Dianna Wentzell, Connecticut’s commissioner of education, said it is time to invest in school-based health centers.

    “As a lifelong educator, I know that arming teachers is not the answer,” Wentzell said. “It is dangerous, it is bad for the education climate in our schools and it could have a profoundly negative outcome in our schools.”

    Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was invited to be a panelist, a statement from Scott said, but she declined the invitation to participate in the forum as did Republicans on the Education and Workforce committee.

    Hours before the panel discussion began, shots rang out at yet another deadly school shooting. Police in Maryland said a 17-year-old male student shot a female schoolmate and a 14-year-old male schoolmate at Great Mills High School. An armed school resource officer engaged the alleged shooter, Austin Wyatt Rollins, who died later at a hospital. The 16-year-old female student was in critical condition with life-threatening injuries Tuesday evening, while the 14-year-old male student was hospitalized in good condition. It is unclear if Rollins shot himself or was shot by the officer, police said. The investigation was ongoing.

    By Celia Raney

    WASHINGTON – When Democrats unveiled a new infrastructure plan Wednesday morning, the discussion in a crowded briefing room quickly devolved into more finger-pointing at Republicans for failing to pass bipartisan legislation in January.

    “Robbing Peter to pay Paul a pittance won’t do nearly enough to rebuild our infrastructure,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said.

    Schumer called the competing Republican proposal “another poorly thought-out plan from this administration,” adding that his party’s proposal would roll back the Republican tax “giveaways” to big corporations and the wealthy, and will instead invest money in job-creating infrastructure.

    The Democrats claim their plan, backed so far by nine ranking Senate members, would create about $1 trillion in spending for infrastructure for middle-class jobs, and in turn, create more than 10 million jobs.

    The plan would “first create many more jobs than the Trump plan, second, build many more projects than the Trump plan, and third, build the infrastructure America actually needs  not just what Republican donors and private investors can profit from,” Schumer said.

    President Donald Trump last month proposed an infrastructure plan that would establish interstate tolls to help fund the rebuilding of many roads and bridges across the country.

    Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) called out Republicans for their “flim-flam” plan, arguing that tolls are not a reliable way to fund the rebuilding of American roads and bridges.

    “They are out scrounging around looking under the sofas, trying to find spare change in order to pay for our infrastructure,” Wyden said. “They have come up with budgetary flim-flam.”

    Wyden boasted that Democrats sat down and “crunched the numbers” when Republicans would not take the time.

    “[Democrats] sat down with the congressional scorekeepers and we spent the time crunching the numbers, actually going through the nuts and bolts so that we can save the American people,” he said. “We’re the ones being fiscally responsible because we said we’re not gonna be part of this budgetary flim-flam and pretend you can pay for roads and bridges just out of thin air.”

    According to the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association, which represents toll facility owners and operators, Connecticut, Michigan, Wyoming and other states are considering opening new toll roads, and some states already have tolls opening this year.

    Texas, Colorado, Florida, North Carolina and Virginia are all scheduled to open new toll roads this year.

    “We’re going to get the roads in great shape,” he said.

    The split between the parties has Democrats offering a proposal that is “real” and Republicans firm on their need for tolls to develop and rebuild the country’s infrastructure. Though neither side has been able to reach a compromise, both parties claim their proposals reflect America’s priorities.

     

    By Celia Raney

    WASHINGTON Members of the House of Representatives from New York and supporters of 9/11 victims are calling on Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney to “leave the 9/11 health care program alone,” demanding he remove it from the 2019 proposed budget.

    “Contained in [President Donald Trump’s] proposed budget for 2019 is a horribly-thought out and dangerous proposal, and a change to the management and administration to the World Trade Center Health Program,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said at a news conference Monday.

    The proposal would separate the WTCHP from the direction of the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIASH).

    The change, believed by lawmakers to be Mulvaney’s idea, would cause the program to lose the “expertise of NIASH management and the knowledge base the institute has gained for more than a decade of experience running the program,” Maloney said, adding there was no information on how the proposed move would take place.

    The program was first enacted in 2010 and reauthorized in 2015. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) argued at the same news conference that the program has been “100 percent effective” in its five years of practice.

    “Since I’ve been in Congress… there’s probably never been a federal program, a program enacted at the federal level, that has gone through with no complaints, no criticism, no allegations of mismanagement, no allegations of scandal, no allegations of being ineffective,” King said.

    The proposal is said to have no input from victims of 9/11, the organizations involved or congressional representatives from New York.

    Comedian and political commentator Jon Stewart, a frequent advocate for 9/11 victims, also appeared at the news conference and blasted the proposal. “It is a special kind of incompetence that takes a program that was fought for for 15 years by firefighters, police officers, first responders, veterans and survivors that has finally come to fruition and is finally working well; it’s a special kind of incompetence to want to turn that upside down,” he said.

    New York representatives wrote a letter to the OMB last month and have reached out to mutual friends of Mulvaney in an effort to schedule a meeting with him but have not received a response, Maloney said.

    Maloney said she hopes he will “listen and respond appropriately and put the program back where it belongs.”