The Hill: Democrats plot protest for Trump’s speech to Congress

The Hill: Democrats plot protest for Trump’s speech to Congress

By Mike Lillis and Rafael Bernal

House Democrats are rallying behind a plan to make President Trump’s first speech to Congress as uncomfortable as possible by inviting guests they say will suffer under new White House policies. 

The strategy means Trump will likely face a crowd including ethnic minorities, LGBT people, undocumented immigrants, the disabled and others when he addresses a joint session on Feb. 28.

It’s a shift in tactics for Democrats, some of whom skipped Trump’s inauguration last month in protest.Democrats say there are no plans to stage a similar boycott of Trump’s speech, but they want to put him face-to-face with people who feel alienated and targeted by his controversial executive orders.

In a letter circulating on Capitol Hill, a group of liberals is urging fellow Democrats to bring guests who have made “a positive impact” on the community “despite discrimination or marginalization.”

“It is our hope that their presence in the House Gallery will remind President Trump that he is not the arbiter of patriotism,” reads the letter. “This country belongs to all of us, and his rhetoric of intolerance will not stand.”

The authors of the letter are as diverse as the crowd they’re seeking to assemble.

They include Reps. Jim Langevin (R.I.), who was shot accidentally as a teen and became the first quadriplegic to serve in Congress; Michelle Lujan Grisham (N.M.), head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus; Cedric Richmond (La.), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus; Judy Chu (Calif.), head of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus; and David Cicilline (R.I.) and Jared Polis (Colo.), the co-chairman of the LGBT Equality Caucus.

“We want to send a strong message to the [president] that he cannot push these communities aside, and he cannot change the fabric of this country,” they wrote.

Some liberals are also eyeing another form of protest during the speech: When Trump walks down the center aisle of the House chamber on the way to the dais, they’re hoping no Democrats scramble to get in the picture for the traditional handshake.

“We have to have a higher standard,” Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) said.

“For sure I will not be nearby,” Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Texas) echoed.

Trump’s campaign rhetoric was combative from the very start, and he’s brought that approach with him to the White House.

Most recently, he temporarily banned all refugees from entering the U.S. — and Syrian refugees idefinitely — as well as immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries. The move sparked an outcry from Democrats and human rights groups, and drew thousands of protestors to airports and streets across the country.

It’s that spirit of protest the Democrats are hoping to sustain as Trump prepares for his speech to Congress.

“Instead of celebrating the very diversity that makes our country a beacon of inclusion and equality, he has chosen to vilify, bully and alienate women, immigrants, people of color, people with disabilities, and people of differing faiths,” the Democrats wrote in their letter.

“His rhetoric emboldens those who seek a scapegoat for the challenges this country faces.”

Influencers: US should hit Russia harder for political hacks

Influencers: US should hit Russia harder for political hacks

By Jack Detsch

Earlier this month, the US intelligence community released a report that blamed President Vladimir Putin for ordering a campaign of cyberattacks, propaganda, and fake news to undermine public confidence in the democratic process and discredit Hillary Clinton’s campaign. 

In light of this, Passcode’s group of digital security and privacy experts said President Trump should roundly condemn the hacks – and impose serious consequences.

“If the Russians had physically sent agents into the offices of the Democratic National Committee to steal files or into polling stations to stuff ballot boxes, they would have done so certain of consequences if those agents were caught: they’d be imprisoned and probably tried,” said Nate Fick, chief executive officer of Endgame, a cybersecurity company. “Until the US government makes explicitly clear that the full weight of American power is available to respond to hostile cyber adventurism, we can expect the assaults on our institutions to continue.”

The Obama administration’s response included economic sanctions, the expulsion of 35 diplomats, the designation of voting systems as critical infrastructure, and strong hints of covert retaliation. Yet some members of Congress criticized Mr. Obama’s response to the hacks – coming six months after suspected Russian breaches into the Democratic National Committee were detected – as too slow.

It’s not yet clear how Mr. Trump plans to deal with the issue.

The new commander-in-chief has said he agrees with the intelligence community’s united assessment that Moscow was behind the suspected digital attacks and leaking of confidential emails to the antisecrecy site WikiLeaks, but has so far declined to publicly condemn Russia for its actions. Some Trump advisers have suggested the post-hack sanctions may even have gone too far – though some of Trump’s cabinet choices, such as CIA Director Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis, have taken a harder line.

Some Influencers are worried that Trump might not act – and are calling on Congress to step in. “Congress should pass bipartisan sanctions against Russia to inflict additional costs and prevent those costs from being easily reversed by the Trump administration,” said Chris Finan, chief executive officer of Manifold Technology.

Peter Singer, a senior fellow at New America think tank, sees the next phase as a test for the Republican-controlled government. “The Obama administration’s recent moves to sanction Russia for targeting US democracy were a good start, albeit too little and too late — criticism that the Republican congressional leadership was quick, and right, to make,” Mr. Singer says. “A test of its sincerity will be whether Congress backs its words with action, by turning the sanctions into law and strengthening them further.”
For his part, Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus cochair Rep. Jim Langevin (D) of Rhode Island says he supported the Obama administration’s actions – but will advocate in the legislative branch for more action. “I do believe that the actions made public to date are not commensurate with the enormity of the attack on the fundamental underpinnings of our democracy,” Mr. Langevin said. “I will continue to support efforts by the Congress and the new Administration to ensure that Russia does not again threaten our electoral systems.”

The US has a variety of tools besides sanctions at its disposal. One Influencer is calling for a “tit-for-tat” response. “There should be a price for their actions, and it should involve doxing powerful Russians connected to the Kremlin so they get the point,” said the expert, calling for a kind of cyberattack ultimately aimed at exposing sensitive information. (Passcode’s Influencers can choose to keep their responses anonymous to preserve their candor.)

A lack of a strong public response will only encourage “bolder behavior” from Russia, added Eric Burger, a computer science professor and director of the Center for Secure Communications at Georgetown University. The US arsenal ranges “from hacking back and exposing Botox use all the way through kinetic warfare, with things like sanctions, public shaming, and the like in between,” he adds.

The probe into suspected Russian digital interference into US elections isn’t over yet: The House and Senate Intelligence committees are investigating the hack.

Even so, Passcode’s experts largely believe that by taking a strong stand now, the US can play an important role in creating rules of the road for cyberspace – or internationally accepted norms of behavior. That process has moved slowly in international bodies such as the United Nations, but experts say a public response to the high-profile hacks could spur some momentum.

“Let’s call it what it is: a digital attack on one a foundational element of societal confidence,” said Steve Weber, a professor at the School of Information at the University of California at Berkeley of this summer’s cyberattacks against the DNC and other Democratic political organizations.

“Now is the time to set some norms about how states use the internet to create corrosion in the social contract of other states. We shouldn’t wait for norms to ‘evolve’ – we should state clearly what we consider out-of-bounds behaviors, not engage in them ourselves, and punish those who do with serious costs and pain.”

However, some experts insist it’s too early to begin talking about further penalties for the suspected Russian digital attacks. A small but vocal 24 percent minority of Influencers said it wasn’t the right time to respond, given a lack of what they said was compelling evidence.

“Until we actually see the evidence of Russian political hacking, this entire episode remains unverified.” says Sascha Meinrath, who heads up X-Lab, a Washington-based venture focused on technology policy and innovation. “Anyone promoting retaliation is doing so in ignorance.” While the intelligence community’s declassified report on Russian hacks featured some technical indicators, such as internet protocol addresses, the public evidence did little to satisfy some security researchers.

Some of Passcode’s experts think that by retaliating more strongly – or mounting a digital counterattack against Russia – the US could make itself vulnerable by exposing its own digital espionage operations to potential criticism.
“Offensive operations are a critical part of nation-state intelligence,” says Nick Selby, from US cybersecurity firm Secure Ideas. “Feigning outrage at operations results in embarrassing propaganda campaigns in which we must ‘demonstrate’ how awful it all is.”

The US intelligence community in its report found that Russian digital interference in global politics could be the “new normal.” With suspected Russian cyberattack campaigns potentially targeting elections in Germany, France, and the Netherlands this year, some Influencers say it’s time to buckle in for the long haul – and focus on defense.

“It was inevitable that traditional espionage would evolve to utilize the Internet,” says Scott Montgomery, vice president and chief technical strategist at Intel Security. “The energy spent on ‘retaliation’ would be better served improving defensive posture and training personnel.”

Cranston Herald: Trump travel ban gets mixed reviews

Cranston Herald: Trump travel ban gets mixed reviews

By Jacob Marrocco and John Howell
Mayor Allan Fung expressed his “concern” about President Donald Trump’s latest executive order on Sunday night, releasing a statement that said the ban could have “unintended consequences.”
Meanwhile, differing points of view on the executive order have come from a cross section of the community with some religious as well as political leaders defending the president.
President Trump signed into effect on Saturday a ban that barred the entry of people from seven countries – Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen – for at least the next 90 days. No one from those seven countries has committed a deadly terrorist attack in the United States since 9/11, according to Politifact.
The order immediately drew the ire of thousands across the country, ranging from Dallas to Boston to Boise, as they took to the airports to protest those being held by border patrol.
Despite Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s assertion that only 109 people were stopped for “additional screening,” the Washington Post offered otherwise. Only a few hundred have been detained, but the Post’s Glenn Kessler wrote Monday that more than 90,000 people overall were affected by the ban.
“It appears as though this executive order was rolled out quickly, far too quickly in opinion, and did not go through the proper vetting,” Fung said in his statement. “While I wholeheartedly support sensible reforms, and think we need to strengthen our borders greatly, immigration and national security are complex problems that should not be rushed.”
That sentiment is felt to a much stronger degree by some protestors around the city. Nancy Rafi, organizer for the Rhode Island branch of the Women’s March on Washington, was struck nearly speechless when asked Monday night about the ban.
“I can’t even go there,” said Rafi, who was protesting against Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions outside of Sen. Jack Reed’s office in Cranston, said. “The thing is, I think people are shocked. You have choices when you’re shocked: You either sit at home and stare out into the abyss and say I have no idea what to do, or you get your feet on the ground and you go out and join others to get their voices heard. Now is the time to act.”
Father Robert Marciano, pastor of St. Kevin Church in Warwick and not surprisingly former Warwick Representative Joseph Trillo, who headed the Rhode Island Trump campaign, offered differing views.
Father Marciano, who as a National Guard chaplain, responded to the Pentagon immediately following the 9-11 attacks where he saw the carnage and assisted with the recovery of bodies, said, “They’re making such a big deal over this and I read they only detained 100 people.”
“He [Trump] means business about protecting Americans first,” said Father Marciano. Father Marciano said the American way of open doors and unrestricted freedoms changed with 9/11.
“There are those who do not agree with our way of life,” he said. Father Marciano defends our freedoms, but observed they also make the country “vulnerable.”
While Father Marciano is surprised by reports that President Trump did not consult with some of his key advisors prior to his executive order, he does not see it coming as a surprise.
“He said he was going to do this.”
Trillo offers the same reasoning. He sees the order as a message to the world, and especially to ISIS that this country is not going to tolerate terrorists. He called it a “shock wave” that makes the American position clear.
As for the dismissal of acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who questioned the legality of Trump’s refugee and immigration ban, Trillo said, “Trump had no choice.”
“You always have to look between the lines in politics,” said Trillo. In this case, Trillo reasons, Yates knew she would not be staying with the administration.
“It was her way of making a statement on her way out the door.”
In a statement, Congressman James Langevin applauded Yates for “upholding the ‘solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right.”
“I am vehemently opposed to this Executive Order, and especially so because once again President Trump has taken unilateral action without seeking input from the experienced, expert advisers he now has at his disposal,” Langevin said.
Mayor Scott Avedisian, a Republican who did not support Trump in the party primary took issue with the President’s use of an executive order.
“I have never favored using executive orders as a way to legislate issues.  I have used them for general housekeeping issues, lowering flags, imposing states of emergency, etc.  But more substantive issues should be dealt with through legislation,” he said.
Trillo thinks it important people recognize that President Trump uses hyperbole to make his point and that they often fail to understand where he is coming from.
“If you take him literally,” he said, “he’s going to really mess with your head. There’s a meaning with everything he says.”
Trillo likewise observed that about 100 people were detained under the executive order.
Referring to Trump’s brief tenure in office, Trillo said, “I’m very impressed by what he’s been able to do…the game of Washington, D.C. politics is over.”
“Give him a chance. No one gives him a chance, especially the left hand liberals.”
Rev. Chris Abhulime, pastor of the King’s Tabernacle in Johnston said he recognizes the president has powers to restrict entry into the country, adding, “But I also feel that it should be done in a manner that respects religious values, that is not targeting religion instead of people.”
“We want to keep people safe, we want to keep the country safe and we want to do it in an orderly fashion where it doesn’t create chaos,” he said.
However, Pastor Abhulime has concerns with what is being seen as a ban on Muslims.
“There’s a perception that the Muslim community is targeted with this immigration rollout. For me, because I’ve experienced it, and I feel so terrible that our Muslim brothers and sisters have to go through the type of pain that we had to go through. Nobody should ever have to go through that, even the perception of it. I think the government should understand that they are not just the government for some of the people, they’re government for all of the people regardless of nationality, creed, religion or where you’re from or how you look like. We should be treated equal.”
In an email Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea asked her supporters to stay engaged.
“All our voices need to be heard,” she wrote. She ended the email by saying Republicans were gearing up to challenge her re-election next year and asked for donations to “help me fight for our values and prepare for the challenge ahead.”
Governor Gina Raimondo, who has been consistently trying to convey that Rhode Island is inclusive.
In comments made Sunday at a protest rally at the State House she said, “President Trump, we’re not going to back down. President Trump, we will not be quiet. And President Trump, the people of Rhode Island stand strong against your religious test and against your Muslim ban.”
“We will unite against this because it is wrong, and we will stand for human rights, together. People of Rhode Island, we are counting on one another. Dig deep, and know that I’m standing with you.”
(With reports from Tim Forsberg and Tessa Roy)

ABC6: President nominates Judge Neil Gorsuch for Supreme Court

ABC6: President nominates Judge Neil Gorsuch for Supreme Court

By Samantha Fenlon

President Trump nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch as his pick for the Supreme Court in a prime-time address Tuesday night.

“The qualifications of Judge Gorsuch are beyond dispute,” said President Trump.

If confirmed, Gorsuch would replace the seat left vacant last year after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

The 49-year-old is currently a judge on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

“I pledge that if I am confirmed I will do all my powers permit to be a faithful servant of the constitution of the United States,” said Judge Gorsuch.

Following the announcement Tuesday night, Rhode Island’s top were quick to voice concern.

“The most important question President Trump’s nominee will face is where he will stand on the special interest politics that has stricken the Court,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse in a statement. “Often, the Gang of 5 ignored conservative judicial doctrine to achieve political outcomes benefiting a ‘usual suspects’ list of special interests active before the Court.  This has to stop, and Judge Gorsuch must pledge to stop it.”

Senator Whitehouse is on the Senate Judiciary Committee that will be tasked with questioning the newly appointed Supreme Court Justice.

Fellow Senator Jack Reed is also expressing concern. Issuing a statement reading in part; “Judge Gorsuch’s record in the lower court suggests he could impose significant new constraints on civil liberties, women’s rights and workers’ rights, and roll back consumer protections and clean air laws.  I am concerned that Judge Gorsuch has a tendency to favor the interests of big corporations and special interests over every day Americans.”

Congressman Jim Langevin posing quite a few questions Tuesday night. He issued a statement as well. Below is an excerpt:
“In announcing the pick, President Trump said he chose a jurist in the mold of the late Antonin Scalia. But while I respected Justice Scalia as a jurist, I also profoundly disagreed with his views on the Constitution. I do not agree that corporations have a right to speak on our elections. I do not agree that love between members of the same sex should have attached to it any ‘moral opprobrium.’ And I certainly do not agree that the Affordable Care Act, which has given millions of Americans health care, is unconstitutional. If Judge Gorsuch shares these extreme views, I would be seriously concerned about his ability to impartially interpret the law, free from the tinge of politics.”.

GoLocalProv: Langevin Says Yates Made “Right Decision” to go Against Trump’s Executive Order on Immigration

GoLocalProv: Langevin Says Yates Made “Right Decision” to go Against Trump’s Executive Order on Immigration

By GoLocalProv Team

Congressman Jim Langevin says that he believes Acting Attorney General Sally Yates made the right decision in going against President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration.  

Langevin released the following statement:

“As Sally Yates said in her statement, the Attorney General is charged with upholding the ‘solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right.’ That is exactly what she did, and I applaud her for it.

I am vehemently opposed to this Executive Order, and especially so because once again President Trump has taken unilateral action without seeking input from the experienced, expert advisers he now has at his disposal. Sally Yates is not the only legal expert to question the constitutionality of this order, and I believe she made the right decision for the Justice Department and for our country.”

See the Rhode Island Protests Against Trump’s executive order in the slideshow below

The Independent: South Kingstown Broad Rock Middle School highlights benefits of nonviolence education

For many students, Broad Rock Middle School in South Kingstown is a fun and inclusive place. They owe that environment in part to the nonviolence education they receive, one based on the principles and lessons of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“I love coming to school,” student Carlie Robinson said in front of her classroom Jan. 18, two days after Martin Luther King Jr. Day, as U.S. Rep. James Langevin made a visit to the school.

Robinson said after some difficult times in elementary school, “I feel so much more comfortable” this year at Broad Rock Middle School.

“Everyone is kind,” she said.

The Kingian nonviolence work was first brought to the South Kingstown School District by Robin Wildman, a fifth-grade teacher, in 2001. At the time, the practice was never used in a teaching curriculum, but after working with Bernard Lafayette Jr., a civil rights activist who worked alongside King, Wildman thought it would be useful to children. Years later, she said, the results have been impressive.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is special at Broad Rock Middle School. Last week marked the third consecutive year the school has been practicing the six principles of nonviolence that follow peacefulness, kindness and justice. The school dedicates each month to one of the principles so that all students are aware of the teachings.

The majority of the school’s teachers have received the 20-hour nonviolence training from Wildman.

“We take these steps and principles to solve conflict very seriously here at Broad Rock because we have an alternative to lashing out in anger, which I think is very unusual in a school,” Wildman said. “We are able to teach nonviolence education but connect it to our curriculum.”

Wildman said she and the other teachers have learned to incorporate the major principles into their lessons. With nonviolence teachings and strategies permeating through the middle school halls, Principal Kathy Egan said students have begun to “speak the same language” when it comes to recognizing bullying or unacceptable behavior.

“The decline in bullying incidents has been dramatic,” said Jennifer Enck, assistant principal.

Through Kingian nonviolence, students communicate to teachers and have learned to better arrive at conflict resolution, the administrators said. They have also seen a decline in in-school suspensions.

On Jan. 18, students sat in a large circle at the front of Wildman’s fifth-grade classroom and talked about the need for peace and love.

“We want to show that nonviolence is the way of life,” said Kaitlyn Swint, one of Wildman’s students.

Students said they understand conflicts are natural and healthy, but must remain at a normal level and not escalate.

“Our goal is to have a peaceful community, not just here but all over the nation and maybe all over the world,” student Merit Zinn said.

Wildman said her students celebrate differences.

“We’re all different in our own ways and we should celebrate that,” Langevin said.

As the morning continued, about half of the students took off for lunch while the other half stayed back to ask Langevin questions and to continue to tell him more about their nonviolence education.

Langevin was asked by one of the fifth-grade students if he ever finds himself in arguments at work. The congressman said he and his colleagues prefer to call them debates, although he acknowledged they sometimes escalate.

“We try to keep it healthy and civilized,” he said. “It can be very frustrating sometimes, especially when you’re fighting for something you really believe in and a problem you really want to solve. How do we resolve it? I try to always take the high road – like [former First Lady] Michelle Obama said, ‘When they go low, we go high.’

“I believe that over time, the right thing always happens,” Langevin continued.

After 16 years of using nonviolence methods and principles in her teaching, Wildman said the model has helped with absenteeism and has improved the environment in the school.

“I have seen a change in how I teach,” she said. “Spending the beginning part of the year teaching the nonviolence elements helps later in the year with not having to spend so much time penalizing students for misbehaving. It makes teacher’s lives easier.”

Egan said it has also helped the administrators with how they deal with discipline and how they communicate with each other.

To continue the work, the school has begun parent workshops on nonviolence to try and grow the program. Egan said parents hear their students speak about the program at home and it would help its effectiveness if parents were aware of the principles and teachings behind it.

PROJO: R.I. delegation: Trump’s order extinguishes U.S. ‘beacon of hope’

PROJO: R.I. delegation: Trump’s order extinguishes U.S. ‘beacon of hope’

By Donita Naylor

Rhode Island’s congressional delegation condemned President Trump’s executive order on immigration, saying it amounts to a religious test for entering the country and will harm innocent people and U.S. interests.

“I believe Americans are wiser, braver and more generous than this President,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse tweeted. He also issued a statement that said:
“The last time ‘America First’ folks closed our borders, it was to European Jews fleeing the Third Reich…. The blunt signal this makes to the Arab world will help Russia and hurt us.”

Trump’s order suspends entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days, blocks Syrian refugees indefinitely, and closes the door into the United States for 90 days for citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

It makes no allowances for women and children or for people targeted for death because they supported or worked for U.S. troops. Whitehouse added: “None of the 9/11 terrorists came from these countries.”

Sen. Jack Reed called Trump’s “intolerant and misguided” order “a new religious test” that was unconstitutional “and will do nothing to keep us safe,” He said the United States needs cooperation from the Muslim world to defeat terrorism.

Also, he said, “The people targeted by this unnecessary action are fleeing the same violent extremists who would seek to disrupt our way of life. These are people who look to the United States to offer a safe harbor…. Turning our backs on those in need is not the American way.”

He called on Republicans to “keep faith with the Constitution and reject this religious ban before it spreads.”‎‎‎

Rep. David Cicilline said the executive order was “an outright betrayal of the values that define our nation.” In a statement from Pawtucket, he said “we are allowing fear and hysteria to prevail over facts and reason.”

The process of checking refugee backgrounds takes from 18 to 24 months, he said, and is so thorough that “not a single Syrian refugee has been convicted of a terrorism-related offense in the United States.”

The executive order will not make the nation safer or prevent future attacks, Cicilline said. “In fact, the only thing that will happen as a result is that more innocent men, women, and children will die.”

Rep. James Langevin’s statement from Warwick said: “America has always stood as a beacon of hope … and it is shameful that President Trump is extinguishing that light.”

Syrian families are desperately seeking safety from the ravages of civil war, Langevin said, and denying them entry “goes against who we are as Americans, as does favoring one religion over another. There has never been and never should be a religious litmus test to enter the United States. Refugees from Syria and other Muslim-majority countries – many of them women and children – are facing unspeakable violence and destruction. … To turn our backs to their suffering is contrary to the very core principles of our democracy.”

Progressive Charlestown: Langevin doesn’t like Amtrak Bypass either

At a meeting Thursday afternoon, Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) provided Charlestown Town Council President Virginia Lee and Westerly Town Council President James Silvestri with a letter he sent today to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), opposing the current proposal for realigning tracks in Washington County, as part of the Northeast Corridor Future “NEC Future” Tier 1 plan.

As currently laid out in the plan, the new rails would cut across nature preserves, family farms, and sacred tribal lands, and their siting has been vehemently opposed by town officials and residents throughout South County.

“I have personally heard from hundreds of constituents who oppose the proposed realignment in Washington County, and I want them to know that I have heard their concerns and I support their community,” said Langevin.

“I am a strong proponent of high-speed rail, but I believe there must be a solution that modernizes intercity passenger rail in Rhode Island without disturbing ecosystems, impinging on property rights, and threatening the natural beauty of Charlestown and surrounding areas.”

In his letter to the FRA, Langevin underscored his support for upgrades to passenger rail infrastructure, and said he is hopeful that an alternative solution can be developed.

The FRA continues to accept comments on the regional plan, and is expected to finalize this framework after March 1, 2017.

The FRA will then continue to study local impacts in more depth (Tier 2). Langevin called on the FRA to include additional public hearings in Rhode Island during these future comment periods.

 

“I am encouraged that the FRA has demonstrated a willingness to listen to Rhode Islanders during this process, and I am confident that we can move forward to find a mutually-beneficial solution that creates a globally competitive, resilient passenger rail service in the region,” Langevin said.

RIFuture: Earned Income Tax Credits benefit working families, if they ask…

By Steve Ahlquist

Rhode Island residents who make $54,000 a year or less may be entitled to an earned income tax credit as well as free tax preparation.

The Rhode Island Community Action Association (RICAA), Providence VITA Coalition, Citizens Bank, and the United Way of Rhode Island are partnering to launched a public awareness campaign  at the Rhode Island State House this morning to announce the campaign promoting free tax preparation.

The campaign will educate Rhode Islanders of the IRS’ Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) program and its benefits to individuals and married couples who are hard-working Rhode Islanders receiving tax credits for wages earned both at the federal and state levels.

Rachel Flum, executive director of the Economic Progress Institute spoke representing a coalition of 30 groups dedicated to increasing the state EITC to 20 percent, of the federal rate, up from its current 15 percent. Bills introduced by Rep Scott Slater in the House and Senator Gayle Goldin in the Senate aim to do just that. The rate is 27.5 percent in Connecticut and 23 percent in Massachusetts, “so we know that there is room to move,” said Flum. Combined with an increase in the minimum wage “this could really be a catalyst helping our lower income families.”

R.I. Sen. Reed calls Trump speech ‘harsh, belligerent, hyperbolic’

R.I. Sen. Reed calls Trump speech ‘harsh, belligerent, hyperbolic’

By Katherine Gregg,

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Most of the inaugural speeches that U.S. Sen. Jack Reed recalls hearing in the past were “conscious efforts to bring the country together and celebrate Democracy” after more-or-less bruising elections.

Not so on this Inauguration Day, according to Democrat Reed of Rhode Island who was there.

Reed said the campaign-like speech that new President Donald J. Trump gave after taking the oath of office lacked the “usual modesty and humility” of past speeches by newly inaugurated presidents facing “the incredible responsibilities of the office, and asking for the help of all Americans.”

He said it was, to his ears, “harsh in its terms…strident…belligerent…hyperbolic…[and] egocentric.”

As an example, Reed cited Trump’s “hyperbolic” statement: “This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.”

“Rather extreme,” said Reed. “We have serious challenges…but we are coming off of over 70 months of strong job growth. We are beginning to see wage growth. There is a lot more to be done, but I think that was a little more hyperbole than was in order.”

Reed said he was also struck by Trump’s “two simple rules: buy American and hire American.”

“His investment career suggests that he didn’t do those things. He used foreign material to build casinos, and there’s I think verified reports of using people from overseas to do work. So, again, it seemed to be: do what I say not what I’ve done.”

Reed said Trump must also know that his repetition of the phrase “America First” – and the echoes it evokes of aviator Charles Lindbergh and U.S. isolationism – may be “interpreted by our allies as a departure from a policy that has given us a great deal of … leverage in the world…”

That phrase, he said complicates “our ability to help allies [and] deter as well as help defeat threats to the United States.”

U.S. Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., said: “Sadly, I think President Trump squandered an opportunity to reach out to the majority of Americans who didn’t vote for him last November with a strong message that would have helped to unite our country.
“Instead, he doubled down on divisive rhetoric, false bravado, and gaudy promises that have no basis in reality. The President painted an unnecessarily dark and negative picture of America.”

“I will continue working with members of both parties to deliver results for Rhode Island. I hope President Trump will do the same,” Cicilline said. But if he “continue(s) down the path he started today, dividing Americans and offering empty promises instead of real solutions, then I will continue to fight him every step of the way.”
U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse added:
“As we observe the peaceful transfer of power, I’m grateful today to President Obama for his service to our country, and for the unfailing dignity and grace he and his family brought to the White House.”
“Leader Schumer today shared with our nation the noble words of Smithfield-born Sullivan Ballou, Major of the Second Rhode Island Volunteer Infantry, made famous in Ken Burns’ PBS series, “The Civil War.” Major Ballou, who was killed in action shortly after writing that beautiful letter, described a love of country so strong that it justified great sacrifice to heal its deep divisions.”
“Our new President’s dark inaugural speech did little to inspire hope that he is ready to bring our nation together. I will work to find areas of common ground with the President where they serve the interests of Rhode Islanders, but I plan to hold him to his election night promise to be a “president for all Americans.”
“I will stand up at every turn for the freedoms and values secured by Americans like Sullivan Ballou. Those shared values are what have for centuries made our nation a beacon in the world.”

But Reed said he planned to vote, later Friday, in the U.S. Senate for two of Trump’s nominees who he views as good choices: retired General James N. Mattis as the next U.S. Secretary of Defense and retired Marine Gen. John Kelly as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

U.S. Rep. James Langevin, meanwhile, chose to focus on Trump’s comments about “investments in infrastructure and the American workforce…I am hopeful that these are examples of issues on which we can find bipartisan cooperation. The devil is in the details, though, so it remains to be seen where we may find common ground.”

“The most important takeaway, for me, today, is that it’s time to get back to work. The promise of this nation is that all people are created and treated equally, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or identity, or disability. Ensuring equal opportunity for all is essential to our democracy, and I look forward to tomorrow’s Women’s March in Providence to hear from my constituents about their ideas for how best to preserve that promise.”