Warwick Post: Reed, Langevin, Whitehouse Meet With Kent County Residents at Coventry High

Warwick Post: Reed, Langevin, Whitehouse Meet With Kent County Residents at Coventry High

By Rob Borkowski

COVENTRY, RI — Residents from Kent County, including a few from Warwick, filled Coventry High School’s auditorium Sunday afternoon for a town hall meeting with Sen. Jack Reed,(D-RI), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI), learning a few things about national politics, praising the Congressmen, and venting about healthcare and the investigation of possible collusion with Russian efforts to weaken the United States.
A packed house greeted the delegation, who were joined by State Rep. Jared R. Nunes (D-Dist. 25,Coventry, West Warwick) and Jon-Paul Capece, a member of the Thundermist Health Center Board of Directors.

Capece told the audience of the care he received thanks to the Affordable Care Act, which had just survived Republican-led replacement option, the American Healthcare Act, that would’ve reduced federal deficits by $337 billion over the 2017-2026, according to a report from the Congressional Budget Office.

The GOP legislation would’ve also resulted in about 24 million fewer people receiving health insurance. In 2018, 14 million fewer people were projected to be covered, most of whom were anticipated to discard coverage without the federal mandate to seek coverage under the current Affordable Care Act. Many of the people required to seek coverage under the ACA were part of a plan to increase younger Americans’ participation in the health care system, which they would not use as much, helping to pay for the care of older Americans, who are typically more likely to need medical care.

Capece said that about five years ago, he suffered from an opiate addiction, and was on the edge of suicide, only receiving the treatment necessary to save his life thanks to the ACA, also known as Obamacare. He said the details of his struggle were unimportant.

“What is important is that you all realize that this happened to me, one of your neighbors. A kid with all the potential in the world who was nurtured in the most ideal environment. What is important is that if it happened to me, it could happen to your son, your father or mother, your daughter or sister,” Capece said.

“I am not exaggerating when I tell you that I am alive today because of the care I received through the ACA. In order for me to get healthy, I needed a lot of help. Help that, had I no insurance, my parents could not have paid for.”

Today, he said, he works for a non-profit prisoner-community re-entry program at the ACI called 9 Yards and is an associate adjunct professor at Roger Williams University. “Most importantly, however…” Capece’s speech was interrupted by applause, “Most importantly, however, I am a contributing, tax-paying member of society, who now pays for his insurance.

“So my life has come full circle, from a dead beat drug addict, whose life was turned around, by receiving Medicaid assisted health insurance, to a man who now pays into that same system, so that others may have the opportunity to do what I have done,” Capece said.

That comment earned Capece a much longer round of applause.

Reed credited average Americans, such as the ones in the room Sunday, with defeating the GOP attempt to undo the ACA. “The real thanks go to you. You, embracing fully, not just your right, but your responsibilities as American citizens to come out, let your voices be heard, and not just in Rhode Island, but all across this country,” Reed said.

Reed noted a large part of the GOP healthcare plan savings would’ve been borne on the backs of senior citizens. Under the ACA, insurance companies can only charge a senior three times what they might charge a younger person. “They pushed that to five,” Reed said.

“Guess what the companies were going to do as soon as this became law? They were going to hike the amount paid by seniors,” Reed said.

Langevin noted the defeat of the GOP healthcare plan ought to clear the field for honest attempts to improve the ACA. “I would hope that by now they (Republicans) got the message that if they want to get something accomplished, they have to do it in a bipartisan manner,” Langevin said.

Reed also spoke about the Congressional and FBI investigations into possible collusion between members of President Donald Trump’s campaign and the Russian government during the November 2016 election that placed the real estate businessman in power.

“I think we need to go further. I think we need to have a special prosecutor, ” Reed said.

Special prosecutors are appointed to investigate and prosecute specific legal cases of potential wrongdoing in which a conflict of interest exists for the usual prosecuting authority. The first,Archibald Cox, was appointed by President Nixon in 1973 to investigate the Watergate scandal. Nixon fired him and Leon Jaworski took his place, conducting an inquiry that led to Nixon’s resignation according to a summary of the history on the Center for Legal and Economic Studies’ outline of the process.

The subject of conflicts of interest in the investigation rose last week when Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and the leader of the US House investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with the Russians, communicated information about the investigation with the White House, before sharing that information with his fellow investigators.

Reed noted the investigation shouldn’t just focus on what has happened thus far with the Russians, but also look into ways to prevent such interference in the future. “This is the new normal with the Russians,” Reed said.

Several people lined up to praise and thank the Congressmen for their efforts to preserve the ACA and seek answers on Russian interference with American government, and each of their comments were met enthusiastic applause throughout the meeting. The atmosphere from the comments and supporting cheers and applause was one of relief that the ACA had survived, and rage that the Russians had intruded into American politics, and that their fellow Americans may have aided that effort.

Whitehouse encouraged members of the audience to read “The Kremlin Playbook,” which details Russian strategy in subverting enemy governments. “It’s free, and it reads like a novel. It’s really oppressive. And one of the things that they describe as the constant tool in the Russian election manipulation toolbox, all through the former Soviet states, and now, down into Europe, is that they get people entangled in business arrangements. Really lucrative business arrangements, that look a lot like, maybe even bribes. And then they’ve got the person, because they can do one of two things. They can keep bribing them and keep them more or less on the payroll, or they can blow the whistle on them, and out them as having been basically on the payroll. And that threat allows them to control the politician, who fears that their dealings will be exposed.”

Whitehouse noted the only way to know if that is happening is if an investigator has access to the person’s tax returns. Trump has refused to turn over his tax returns, first during the election itself and then after having won the presidency.

Once man, Scott Malloy of Exeter, retired professor emeritus at URI delivered a stinging condemnation of the situation.

“You know, we live in an era of swirling issues that separate friends and neighbors, and relatives. But one thing stands out above everything else, above healthcare, taxes, nominations, and walls. A subject that actually should unite us, is that Russian espionage has damaged our political system, attacks thousands of emails from one party only, has crossed the borders with thousands of cyber attacks, and bribed influential United States officials. But there is no treason without traitors. And we can go back to Judas, to Benedict Arnold, Vidkun Quisling, who sold Norway out to the Nazis in World War II. And now we have some Americans embracing the Soviet Union, the Soviet Union where dissidents, opponets, even parliamentary representatives, are assassinated, and those culprits are never brought to justice.” A loud round of applause filled the auditorium as Mallow paused.

“Here in America, the Trojan Horse, has breached the boundary and unloaded its cargo, and inside that Trojan Horse were no hispanic immigrants, but agents working against the interests of America. If we’re not careful, every traitorous step will lengthen into a goose-step. And Vladimir Lenin, has become Vladimir Putin, has become Vladimir Trump.

“Let me say, in conclusion, that only we people here, and you legislators and representatives, stand between traditional American liberties and Russian serfdom. Lock them up! Lock them up!

Malloy’s speech received perhaps the greatest number of cheers and applause of the afternoon, lasting for nearly a minute.

“There is no underestimating the severity of what took place in the last election,” Reed said. At the highest levels, there was an order to go in and hack into numerous websites, use that information to undermine Hillary Clinton’s campaign in favor of Trump, he said.

The effort also involved thousands of trolls and bots engaged in spreading disinformation across the internet, turning propaganda into trending stories that seemed credible to many.

“(FBI) Director Comey made it very clear they were investigating some individual associated with the Trump campaign,” Reed said.

Reed called for a joint committee to investigate Russian interference, past and potential. “This is not just about history, this is about the future of our Democracy, Reed said.

WPRI: Health care reform a hot topic at Coventry ‘town hall’

WPRI: Health care reform a hot topic at Coventry ‘town hall’

By Kim Kalunian

COVENTRY, R.I. (WPRI) – Three members of Rhode Island’s congressional delegation hosted a town hall meeting in Coventry Sunday afternoon.

Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, with Rep. Jim Langevin, met with attendees Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Coventry High School Auditorium.

The meeting came on the heels of Friday’s news that House Republicans were withdrawing their proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, commonly called “Obamacare.”

“I believe that Washington heard you loud and clear,” Langevin told the crowd assembled Sunday. “It turned up the heat so much, in a bipartisan way, on members of the House and Senate, particularly on the House side, because the ACA repeal and replace effort, I believe, is dead.”

Many in the crowd expressed relief that the Republicans’ efforts failed on Friday. Senator Reed told Eyewitness News that seemed to be the way the majority of constituents felt.

“Right now, I think a lot of people, even those who have supported Trump’s campaign are saying, ‘This is not going to help me, and why is he doing this?’” he said.

Some at Sunday’s gathering said it was time for the entirely Democratic delegation to push even further and seek to implement a single-payer health care system. Others said the ACA wasn’t as affordable as its name claimed.

“I mean, there’s plenty of room for us to work together, if [the Republicans] would only try,” said Whitehouse when asked about bipartisan efforts on health care moving forward.

In addition to health care, some attendees voiced questions and concerns about President Trump’s proposed budget, as well as the ongoing investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia.

Reed said he favors the appointment of a special prosecutor, something he said he’ll be advocating for upon his return to D.C.

RIPR: RI Congressional Delegation Slams Most Of President Trump’s Budget Proposal

RIPR: RI Congressional Delegation Slams Most Of President Trump’s Budget Proposal

By Ximena Conde

After President Trump released his proposed budget, Rhode Island’s congressional delegation was quick to denounce various cuts that would affect the state.

Congressman David Cicilline called cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget reckless. Cicilline said programs like WIC, which feeds low-income pregnant women and Meals on Wheels were taking huge cuts to fund a border wall.

Congressman Jim Langevin said the proposed budget cuts would bring insecurity to everyday Americans citing plans to pull resources from work training initiatives and affordable housing programs. Langevin expressed support for the president’s plans to boost defense spending but raised concerns over cuts to State Department funding.

In a statement, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse echoed the sentiment that Trump’s budget would hurt the working class.

“This proposal would gut programs that support jobs, education, and public health for all Americans, while handing out favors to the wealthy and big corporations,” said White House.

The senator said the proposal was “chock full of terrible ideas.”

Sen. Jack Reed criticized the president for failing to outline a concrete plan for economic growth.

Reed called out the president for not following through on his promise to invest $1 trillion in the country’s infrastructure.

“In fact, his budget blueprint for the U.S. Department of Transportation is proposing a 13% reduction in discretionary spending from the fiscal year 2016 enacted level,” said Reed in a statement.

Later Thursday afternoon, Reed spoke against proposals that would eliminate funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, and Institute of Museum and Library Services.

PROJO:  Interfaith rally at R.I. Holocaust Memorial condemns anti-Semitic acts

PROJO: Interfaith rally at R.I. Holocaust Memorial condemns anti-Semitic acts

PROVIDENCE — Some 300 people of various faiths and backgrounds gathered in the cold Sunday by the Rhode Island Holocaust Memorial to condemn recent acts of anti-Semitism around the country and share a warm message of unity against hatred.

Imam Mufti Ikram, of the Rhode Island Council for Muslim Advancement, set the tone for the afternoon rally with an opening prayer: “We are here to stand shoulder to shoulder with our Jewish brothers and sisters,” he said. “We ask you to replace the hatred of the few with the mercy and compassion in us all.”
Ehsun Mirza, a critical-care doctor at Kent Hospital who immigrated to the U.S. from Pakistan in 1999, organized Sunday’s rally after news last week of Jewish cemeteries being vandalized in St. Louis and Philadelphia and some 120 bomb threats called in to Jewish schools and community centers, including the Jewish Community Center in Providence.

“I want to make sure that everyone understands that Jews are part of this community and any threat on them is a threat to our community and we will stand beside them,” said Mirza. “We will not give in to this hateful rhetoric. We are stronger together.”

The rally drew a variety of religious representatives and elected officials, including U.S. Sen. Jack Reed and U.S. Representatives James Langevin and David Cicilline. They all delivered a similar message: that persecution of one religious group must be soundly denounced by all.

Cicilline took the theme further politically, saying “every American” has the responsibility to condemn these acts of hate against a religious minority “including the president.”

But President Donald Trump has “suggested that Jews might be responsible” for some of the anti-Semitic acts, Cicilline said, and he criticized the president as well for implementing an “unconstitutional” travel ban “based on religion.”

Gov. Gina Raimondo told the crowd, many of whom had donned yellow ribbons of friendship, that “we are lucky to live in a state founded on religious [freedom] and strong enough to stand here against hate.”
She quoted from a 1790 letter that President George Washington wrote to the Jewish congregation in Newport that had established the nation’s first synagogue: “To bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.”
Members of Rhode Island’s Jewish community thanked the hundreds of people who turned out for their unwavering support.

“This is a beautiful display of love,” said Mitzi Berkelhammer, chairwoman of the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island. “And we are grateful to all of you.”

Rabbi Sarah Mack, president of the Board of Rabbis of Greater Rhode Island, said, “Let the lessons of the past teach us; we will not stand idly by… We will not allow racism and hatred in our beloved Rhode Island.

“This,” she said, referring to the shivering but smiling crowd, “is what ‘Never Again’ looks like.”

Valley Breeze: Ponaganset High students advocate for inclusion in high school setting

Valley Breeze: Ponaganset High students advocate for inclusion in high school setting

GLOCESTER – Two weeks ago, among the pinstripe suits and bureaucrats of Capitol Hill, stood two Ponganset High School students, brushing shoulders with lawmakers and leaders in an effort to promote the integration of students with intellectual disabilities in public institutions. Leeann Phillips and Sarah Charbonneau were the two students asked by Special Olympics of Rhode Island CEO Dennis DeJesus to head to Washington D.C., along with Ponaganset teacher Jennifer Paolantonio, for the Special Olympics 15th annual Capitol Hill Day.

Their goal was to share how inclusion and acceptance could be promoted in the high school atmosphere.

“They felt we embodied that better than any school in the state,” Paolantonio said.

Phillips is a 20-year-old who lives with Down Syndrome and is part of a program at Ponaganset that integrates and assimilates students with special needs with the rest of the student population.

For Phillips, who has been a Special Olympics participant since she was a kid, the Unified sports program at the school has been especially important. The program brings together Special Olympics athletes and classmates in school as teammates on a unified team. It’s one of the main activities that Phillips says helps her make friends and just have fun, like every high school student.
But Phillips has been an advocate for herself long before her trip to Washington.

Two years ago, on National Down Syndrome Awareness Day, she gave a presentation to her school about the genetic condition.

Last year, she helped organize the “Spread the word to end the word” campaign at Ponaganset High School, which asked students to make a pledge of respect, instead of using the offensive and outdated slur for people with Down Syndrome – “retarded.”

Charbonneau is one of the students who took that pledge to spread inclusivity, and she happens to be Phillips’ teammate with Unified sports.

“I wanted to be a part of it from the start,” Charbonneau said of her involvement with Unified.

When the pair went to Washington D.C, they met Congressman David Cicilline, Congressman Jim Langevin, DeJesus, and even Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.

“I cannot believe the kind of commitment and dedication it takes to compete,” DeVos said at a gathering that week.

While Phillips enjoyed the work, when asked which part of the excursion she liked most, she focused on friendship.

“Probably hanging out with Sarah and Ms. Paolantonio,” Phillips said.

Charbonneau will be pursuing a nursing degree in the fall, and continuing her volunteerism.

As for Phillips, she won’t be turning away from the spotlight any time soon.

“My dream is to be famous,” Phillips said.