On this segment of Focus Washington, Chuck Conconi interviews President and CEO of Braeburn Pharmaceuticals, Behshad Sheldon, about the New Jersey based company’s intention to proceed with plans to develop a manufacturing and research facility in Durham County, North Carolina, despite the enactment of HB2, the controversial law that overturns local ordinances to prohibit discrimination against the LGBT community.
Sheldon has met with North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, who shares the view that HB2 is unjust and needs to be overturned. However, the Attorney General argued that Braeburn could help more by advocating from within the state than by protesting through dropping plans to open the facility. The company states they have also been encouraged by the Department of Justice lawsuit filed on May 9, 2016 in NC Federal Court seeking a determination that HB2 violates federal non discrimination law, as well as the Obama administration’s guidelines issued to public schools on May 13, 2016.
19 May 2016 (Washington, DC): In this segment of Focus Washington, Chuck Conconi sat with Pierre Ghanem, an Arab journalist covering Washington and the United States, to discuss the Arab world’s reception of presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Just like many here in the US, Donald Trump’s rise has surprised the Arab world, but officials of Arab countries are unlikely to be caught off guard. Ghanem elaborates, “Trump may be different but government officials are professionals, we can make it work.” However, the Arab street may harbor some resentment after Trump’s numerous offensive remarks about Muslims.
Clinton, on the other hand, doesn’t elicit as many negative preconceived notions. As Secretary of State, she has not been associated with the worst aspects of the Obama administration in the eyes of Arabs; She hasn’t been tainted by the perceived pivot to Iran, as Kerry has. She was also one of the first US officials to focus on Palestine and its citizens, saying that they deserved a state. According to Ghanem, whether it’s Hillary or Trump, the new president will be a welcome relief after Obama whose empty promises and poor leadership in Syria disappointed most of the Arab and Muslim world. Continue reading »
Chuck Conconi welcomed Bob Cusack on this week’s episode of Focus Washington. Cusack, Editor-in-Chief of Washington-based publication The Hill, evaluated the irregular political climate of the 2016 presidential election.
According to Cusack, the ascension of Donald Trump has transformed the identity of the Republican Party. By confronting the potential loss of House and Senate seats, “Republicans are coming to grips with reality.” Cusack predicted that Speaker Paul Ryan will endorse Trump by the Republican Convention in July. Despite his limited appeal among Hispanic and women’s groups, Trump surprised pundits by attracting a loyal base of support.
Insecurity among Republicans parallels growing divisions within the Democratic Party. Cusack noted that a contested convention will require critical negotiations between Clinton and Sanders. He predicted that Clinton will triumph over Sanders to receive the Democratic nomination. The Convention will measure Clinton’s success as she attempts to unite her traditional supporters with Sanders voters.
Cusack concluded his remarks by urging caution in predicting Convention results. Thus far, wavering support for Clinton, combined with Trump’s unforeseen political rise, has defied voters’ expectations. This time last year, confidence in particular candidates was unshakeable. To Cusack, a fragmented Republican Party and mounting opposition to Clinton define “the year of the outsider” in which no candidate is guaranteed victory.
Is the country’s budget process broken? Stan Collender sits down with Chuck Conconi on this week’s episode of Focus Washington to discuss the ins and outs of the budget process and prospects for compromise under the next administration.
As general election season approaches and the country hones in on the two likely nominees for the race, the differences between a Trump budget or a Clinton budget merits discussion. Collender points out that, however, that regardless of who will next sit in the Oval Office, the process goes beyond the total authority of the President; Clinton or Trump, the responsibility of passing a budget will still be with a split congress, making the chances of four more years of budget stalemate high.
Although budget jargon and process may be beyond reach for most Americans, Collender explains that the process is, in reality, very simple. Put in place in 1974, there are three steps: The President submits a proposed budget, Congress passes a Budget Resolution in response, and this is followed by Reconciliation with existing legislation. However, due to the inability of Congress to agree on budget priorities and the subsequent failure to pass a Budget Resolution, the process has broken down every step of the way.
Collender recently testified in a Senate Budget Committee hearing on just this subject. As he recounted to Chuck, “I told them this process is broken down and it’s broken down because you have refused to implement it, so the idea you’re holding a hearing now to talk about better ways to implement it is crazy. I called it the fiscal equivalent of chutzpah.”
Of course, compromise has been reached before. Bill Clinton’s administration proved that it can be done. Now, however, a different political climate exists in the country, and Congress effectively holds the budget hostage when it refuses to participate in negotiations. “I’m not optimistic, but it’s not about the budget process. Congress doesn’t need it, they have all the power they need in the constitution, they can do whatever they want–the problem is they can’t agree on what they want to do, and until that happens, you’ll never get a budget process either enacted or actually implemented,” Collender explained.
After all, Congress didn’t even look at the President’s budget request this year. The failure of the budget process reflects the highly partisan nature of politics today. As Stan Collender points out, a lack of coherent priorities or decisions by the legislative branch paralyzes the fiscal policy of the nation – and this is a fact that is not likely to change in the coming four years.
05 May, 2016; Washington, DC: For several months now, Donald Trump has been considered the presumptive nominee for president on the Republican side. On Tuesday, that assumption became a reality.
By winning the Indiana Primary, Trump padded his massive delegate lead and is now closer than ever to securing the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the nomination (Trump is now up to 1,056 delegates with 9 states remaining). He has such a commanding lead that both Ted Cruz and John Kasich have bowed out of the race entirely, leaving Trump without a single Republican competitor moving forward.
Trump is now +220 to win the White House at BetOnline, his best odds overall since we started keeping track back in early 2015. This means that a $100 bet on Trump to win the White House would pay out $220 if he wins the election.
For all intents and purposes, the Republican primary is over. It is no longer a question of “Can Trump win the nomination?” It is now a question of “Who will Trump’s Democratic opponent be in November?”
Things are much more interesting on the Democratic side
Hillary Clinton remains a solid favorite to win the nomination (she is currently -1500 at BetOnline, which means you would have to risk $1500 to win $100). However, while the former Secretary of State has won a majority of states and delegates, Clinton still hasn’t clinched the nomination.
After losing the New York Primary, Bernie Sanders was written off by the political and media establishment. He was counted out and left for dead. News pundits and party elites demanded that he drop out of the race and “unite” the party behind Clinton.
But a funny thing happened after New York.
Earlier this week, Sanders shocked the establishment by winning Indiana with nearly 53% of the vote, proving all the doubters wrong who told him to quit and exit the race.
While his path to victory remains narrow, Sanders is primed for a big 4th quarter comeback. Of the 13 remaining contests (9 states, 3 territories and Washington, DC), many favor Sanders.
According to the latest polling, the Vermont Senator leads Clinton in West Virginia and Oregon. He is gaining in Kentucky and New Mexico. He could sweep Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota as well.
If this happens, it will create a showdown for the ages in California, the largest state in the country (California doesn’t vote until June 7th). Sanders has vowed to run an “unprecedented grassroots campaign” in the Golden State and has already sent dozens of his top staffers to set up the campaign infrastructure.
Sanders currently trails Clinton by about 300 pledged delegates. If he can pull off a string of late victories he will close the gap substantially heading into California, where 475 delegates are up for grabs (more than enough to flip the race in his favor).
If this scenario holds true, neither candidate will have the 2,383 delegates needed to secure the nomination, which means the Democrats are headed for a contested convention in July.
Will There Be A Democratic Contested Convention?
Sanders can take some solace in the fact that the last Democrat to win a contested convention was Franklin Roosevelt in 1932, the godfather of the Democratic Socialist movement that Sanders now champions.
Many have predicted that in the case of a contested convention, Sanders’ army of revolutionaries will flood the city of Philadelphia, exerting massive pressure on super-delegates (party elites who can change their vote) to switch from team Clinton to team Sanders.
Also aiding Sanders is the fact that super-delegates in states that Sanders won big will face enormous backlash if they side with Clinton and go against the will of their constituents. They will also be inundated with polls showing Sanders as the stronger general election candidate (nearly every national poll shows Sanders beating Trump by much larger margins than Clinton).
While Clinton’s unfavorable ratings are only slightly better than Trump, Sanders remains a massively popular figure nationwide. He is the only candidate left in the race with a net-positive favorability rating. He also appeals to a much wider audience than Clinton. Sanders has incredible support among young people and independents, two constituencies that are key to winning the general election in November.
Long story short, if you believe Sanders can shock the world and pull off the upset, you should place your bet on him now, as his numbers are sure to improve with a series of wins down the stretch. Simply put, Sanders’ value will never be higher than it is now.
We are already starting to see this trend take place. After winning Indiana, Sanders’ 2016 odds rose from +2000 to +1400 at BetOnline, while his nomination odds rose from +1400 to +1000. This means that a $100 bet on Sanders to win the nomination would pay out +1000, while a $100 bet on Sanders to win the White House would pay out $1400.
On the flip side, if you view the Sanders comeback as a progressive fantasy that has no shot of actually taking place, you shouldn’t place your bet on Hillary right now, as her odds are sky-high (she is currently -240 to win the White House at BetOnline. This means you would have to risk $240 in order to win $100). More closely, you would be better suited to wait for Sanders to win a few contests, which will deflate Clinton’s odds, giving Hillary backers a better price.
What do you think?
Is Clinton still a shoo-in? Can Trump win in November? Or will Sanders pull off the greatest upset in modern political history?
Josh Appelbaum is the Customer Service Manager, Affiliate Manager and Political Expert for Sports Insights, a sports betting analytics web-site based in Boston, MA. For over a decade, intelligent sports bettors have relied on Sports Insights’ innovative software to make smarter bets. Learn more at www.sportsinsights.com or follow Sports Insights on Twitter: @SportsInsights
Washington, DC; 28 April 2016: Providing aid and bolstering development in a region that has been a perennial conflict zone since 1948 is both demanding and rewarding. United Palestinian Appeal (UPA) has managed to do just that with a small dedicated staff and supporters since their founding in 1978 by a group of successful Palestinian-American professionals in New York. Focus Washington’s Chuck Conconi sat down with UPA’s Executive Director Saleem Zaru to learn more about the organization and its operations.
Zaru discussed the challenges of working under the constant state of emergency, noting that providing relief often consumes a great deal of time and funding, as opposed to being able to focus on development. One of the founding principles of UPA was to contribute to socioeconomic and cultural development in Palestine, but immediate needs to provide food aid, medical care (including psychological care for trauma victims) and basic needs like clothing and hygiene products sometimes take precedence.
In spite of the ongoing violence and emergency situations, UPA has made remarkable inroads in anticipating and instituting programs that help Palestinians become more independent so their situations do not perpetuate reliance on charity. Whether through micro-finance programs that launch small entrepreneurial start-ups, scholarships that advance education to better position Palestinians for employment, or partnerships programs like the Embracing Life campaign which is bringing Cleft Lip and Palate surgical and nursing training to West Bank and Gaza in conjunction with the Craniofacial Center at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
When asked about how programs like UPA can address extremism, Zaru stated that giving someone the opportunity to put food on their table and support their family creates hope, and hope is the best way to fight the lure of extremism.
Zaru’s dream for UPA is that they would go out of business because there is no more need and Palestinians live under normal conditions. Until that time comes, UPA will continue delivering hope to the people in Palestine and the refuge camps.
To learn more about United Palestinian Appeal, visit their website at: http://helpupa.org/
April 5, 2016: In the second race of the season, the German racer Nico Rosberg took a comfortable win in the Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday April 3rd. Meanwhile, his Mercedes team-mate, Lewis Hamilton, climbed to third following a first-lap collision. The event attracted a peak of 3.2 million viewers. Around a hundred of them were watching from the Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain in Washington, DC.
The viewing party drew an eclectic crowd of friends of the embassy, as well as fans of the event. Attendees tended to wear red and/or white – in support of Bahrain – or wore apparel that identified their favorite team. Employees of the embassy mingled and socialized with the rest of the crowd, but were readily identified by their matching red and white Bahrain International Circuit shirts.
The main room functioned as a majlis (a room for gatherings in Arab homes) where people could watch the race and socialize. With large windows that flooded the space with natural light, the space was decorated from flags from all over the world and had multiple large screens to carry the broadcast from Manama. Outside a long buffet had been set up that served American and Arab Barbecue fare — with everything from hot dogs and kofta (similar to grilled “sausage” made from minced lamb and beef with spices) to hummus and pita. Arabic sweets were provided for dessert.
In comparison to the event in Bahrain — which is held as a night race set off by shooting sparks resulting from car modifications that have welded titanium plates to the undercarriage of the low, sleek automotive beasts — the viewing party at the embassy was casual and provided a relaxed atmosphere to enjoy the afternoon. After the excitement of Rosberg crossing the finish line, the embassy raffle brought its own cheers as several winners took home first class tickets to Florida, and others won pearls from Bahrain.
In 2008, when President Barack Obama was elected, progressive liberals looked forward to a leader who could move a progressive agenda along. On this week’s episode of Focus Washington with Chuck Conconi, liberal political commentator Bill Press addresses his disappointment in Obama’s pursuit of progressive legislation and change; Press’s recent book, Buyer’s Remorse: How Obama Let Progressives Down, makes a case for each missed opportunity.
According to Press, who is the former chairman of the Democratic Party in California, Obama fell short of progressive expectations on issues such as gun control, health care and immigration. Nevertheless, Press praises Obama for several accomplishments during his eight years in the White House, “I give him credit for all the good things…brought the economy from the brink of ruin, saved the American auto industry… the [recent] Iran nuclear deal, re-opening relations with Cuba, so long overdue…”
Press criticizes the philosophical underpinnings of Obamacare’s in particular. “[Obama] said single-payer option was not under consideration–mistake number one,” says Press. “Then a public-plan option was offered, giving people the option: instead of buying private insurance they can set up for Medicare, he sold that public plan action, dropped it without a vote or fight.” Current Obamacare requires every single American to buy insurance from a private insurance company… pharmaceutical companies can charge anything they want for prescription drugs.”
Press says that where the President walked away from Congress, he should have stepped forward. Both gun control and immigration reform present similar scenarios: Democrats had the majority in Congress for the first two years, and the Obama administration failed to act decisively.
“Obama should have fought the fight…. there are people that know how to work Congress. President Obama didn’t develop any strong relations when he was there and certainly didn’t as president.”
A progressive will work with Congress, says Press, engage in conservation, and “fight the fight.” To the extent that Obama didn’t use the power of the presidency with Congress, he let down the progressive liberals like Bill Press down.
It’s a fundamental issue addressed in media outlets all over the country: what happened to the conservative party?
Vic Gold states, “The breakdown of the republican party starts with Newt Gingrich and the 104th congress in 1994.” This, according to the long time conservative consultant, writer and journalist is where the polarization begins.
Gold elaborates, “Newt introduced a personal venom; the congress spent time impeaching [Bill Clinton], stopping the government…” (Once in 1994 and 1995 due to budget talks with the Clinton Administration.)
A seasoned politico who has lived through 24 elections, Gold knows that current GOP nominees are not descendants of the Goldwater rebellion; Vic served as the press secretary for Barry Goldwater in the 1964 election and co-wrote George H.W. Bush’s 1987 autobiography. “These people are not conservatives…they are practically anarchists.” Gold agrees with Marco Rubio’s sentiments regarding Donald Trump: he is a third-world dictator.
It’s important to note the distinction between conservatives and anti-liberal in 2016. “[Anti-liberals] hated the Clintons and hate Obama… that’s all that matters.”
A reflection of the republican party’s state is particularly jarring, “Barry Goldwater would not run today, Ronald Reagan would not and could run today, let alone be elected.”
The unraveling is not exclusive to the republican party, it’s the whole political fiber.
“Why is Bernie Sanders the only guy that gets in the race? The political system, the money system we have…it has something to do with it. Joe Biden doesn’t get in the race because he doesn’t have the money. This is what Sanders has…he doesn’t have the money but he gets into it… we used to have that.”
While each party is responsible for its own weakness, it is “a “confluence of things that are working towards [Trump] a psychopathic megalomaniac. The republican party is broken down but the democratic party, which is a great party, how is it after twenty years with all the democrats, we come up with Hillary Clinton and the only other person is [Bernie Sanders]? Where are the democratic leaders today? Why? That’s what I want to know. That concerns me.”
With too few democratic leaders entering the arena and too many anti-liberals campaigning as republicans, the integrity of the republican establishment has disintegrated and held hostage by the likes of Donald Trump and others.