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    Why the US Needs to Focus on Infrastructure

    Last month, a bridge collapsed in Genoa, Italy, killing over 20 people and injuring dozens more after a violent and sudden storm went through the region. Although this terrible incident happened in Europe, it gives our federal and state governments more reason to examine on our own infrastructure.  And to do something about it rather than continue to stall progress through partisan politics.

    Much of our federal, state, and local taxes go to repairing roads and building new ones, maintaining bridges, highways, streets, and managing tunnels like the Lincoln Tunnel, which in 2013 saw over 50,000 cars traveling through its system per day.

    According to a 2015 article from The Hill, the United States federal government spent $96 billion on infrastructure. On August 13, 2018 USA Today released an article citing states with the worst infrastructure.  Rhode Island is among the worst, with 24.6% of its roads in poor condition and with 23.3% of its bridges deficient.  Almost a quarter of their bridges and roads are crumbling!  Hawaii comes at number one with the worst infrastructure. An incredible 93.2% of their dams at a high hazard risk.

    Federal and state budgets include almost a hundred billion dollars for infrastructure.  Yet our roads are full of potholes, our dams are at risk, and our bridges are crumbling. What will it take for Rhode Island and Hawaii, as well as virtually every other state, to wake up?  Will our politicians wait for people to die before they act?

    Federal and state governments need to stop the political rhetoric and bleeding our tax dollars.  They need to get to work on making sure Americans and their families can travel safely.  Otherwise it won’t be long until we see something catastrophic happen, and our elected officials will have no one to blame but themselves for the inevitable disasters if nothing is done.

    The lack of progress is reprehensible.   Whatever your politics may be, fixing our crumbling infrastructure should be devoid of political debate.   It is a matter of life or death.

    Sources:

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    What Should We Do About Putin and Russia?

    As the world stood by, Russia annexed Crimea from Ukrainian rule. Sanctions failed. Worse, Europe refused to stand firm by our side. So we cannot blame failure solely on the Obama administration—it was the world’s failure.

    We cannot trust Putin.  But everyone knows that.  That’s old news.  He is squarely in control of Russia and one of the longest-sitting heads of state in the free world.  Most other key leaders in Europe are, by comparison, new kids on the block.  And unlike the U.S., Europe not only doesn’t trust him, they’re afraid of him.

    There are many issues separating us from Russia—Crimea, the Middle East, Russia’s aid to ISIS, human rights, gas rationing to Europe, arms control, and meddling in our elections, being just a few. This is complicated by a growing alliance between Russia and China where the two have obvious objectives to harness as much of the world’s energy supply as possible. While that doesn’t pose a direct threat to the U.S., it is a serious problem for Europe because of its dependence on Russian gas supplies and Middle Eastern oil.  Hence their fear.

    So what should we do about Putin and Russia?  With partisan politics poisoning Washington, we can conclude that Congress has no clue.   And with the Justice Department more interested in indicting people who will never see a trial since they’ll never come here nor be extradited, Mr. Mueller and his crew have no idea what to do about the bigger picture.  Meanwhile, President Trump seems to waffle with inconsistencies between his words and his actions only adding to the confusion.  But at least he’s pushing sanctions. Meanwhile, our lack of a united front addressing Russia only plays into Putin’s hands.  Who is the fool in that game?  When will Washington stop the insanity among its partisan politicians and get back to leading this country?

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    A Reminder Regarding Freedom of the Press

    Kaitlan Collins, a CNN White House reporter, was recently informed that she was no longer welcome to participate in the “next event” which took place in the White House Rose Garden.  President Trump was unhappy by her questioning in an earlier press conference.

    Conservatives and the President may not like CNN and Ms. Collins any more than liberals dislike Fox News and its reporters.   But that is no foundation to deny press access to news conferences in or out of the Rose Garden.

    In a rare and refreshing example of solidarity, FOX News President and Executive Editor Jay Wallace said: “We stand in strong solidarity with CNN for the right to full access for our journalists as part of a free and unfettered press.”  Fox News anchor Bret Baier added,“[Collins’] questions were also Fox’s questions, and NBC’s questions, and ABC’s questions. And that’s partly why there’s been an unusual show of solidarity for this.”

    This shouldn’t be hard for the Administration to understand.  The principle has been part of our core beliefs for more than 250 years.  It’s the First Amendment to our Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    While I imagine President Trump would like to distance himself from the Congress referred to in the clause, as our President, the rights guaranteed the press under the First Amendment should not be abrogated because of temper tantrums.  Let Ms. Collins back in.

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    Happy Independence Day!

    Almost 250 years ago, our Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence to establish their voice, freedoms, and rights that they were denied by their monarchy. This week, we celebrate our country’s national holiday by reiterating the beautiful words Thomas Jefferson wrote those many years ago:

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

    Out of these words, the United States of America was born. As we celebrate, let us never forget the unalienable rights of Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. Our country may only be 242 years old, but we have gone further than any country in history those aspirations of freedom. Even though this past year has seen many ups and downs, and partisan politics has been at its worse, Independence Day, and what our country stands for, is something that we should all celebrate together as one nation, under God. Why? Because we undeniably live in the greatest country on this earth.

    “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

    I wish you all a very happy holiday, with the hope that your hearts are filled with love for America and its sacred ideals!

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    “I Really Don’t Care, Do U?”

    We live in an age where it seems that everything a public figure does, says, and wears is immediately posted on the internet and on the news.  We all live with the reality that we must be very careful with what we do, say, and wear in public given the likelihood that there will be a camera or a phone recording us, only to be instantly exploited.

    As a public figure, I know too well what it is like to be dissected.  I served for seven years as a prosecutor; three terms as a Congresswoman; and a full term as Governor for the Commonwealth of Virginia before becoming the Republican nominee for president in 2016.

    I recall every morning reflecting on the message I want to send to the public, my colleagues, those who would vote for or support me, and those who I have to persuade.  But should what I wear matter?  If someone with an unflattering picture of me decides I look disheveled, have a tear in my stocking, or wear a suit jacket that is missing a button, should Americans not to take as a serious candidate?  Should they be persuaded by how I look, or by what I say?

    But I cannot ignore the reality of the social media world and must adjust to it by taking such irrelevant issue off the table.  So I always dress professionally and rarely in a relaxed fashion.  That way, the media has to focus on what I had to say, rather than distract their readers or viewers about whether my pencil skirt was too tight or an ugly shade of blue.  I know all too well that one mishap of my dress and it will be all over the news for the rest of the day, and my words wouldn’t matter.

    I think fashion stylist Rachel Zoe puts it best when she said: “Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak.”

    When the First Lady of the United States wears a jacket that says “I Really Don’t Care, Do U?” on a plane to visit children at our border, what is her style saying about her?

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    Why Not Win with the Truth?

    New Jersey has a controversial Senate election this November. The likely challenger for incumbent Robert Menendez is Republican Bob Hugin, a former pharmaceutical executive. The ads have started. Problem is, they’re devoid of substance and filled with personal attacks.

    In particular, Hugin’s most recent ad is filled with lies. No doubt we’ll eventually see the same from Menendez. Such is the case with political advertising today – lies, misrepresentations, and no substance on the issues. Even when an issue is addressed, it’s in vague terms with no specific plan on how those issues will be resolved. God forbid if a politician actually tells you what they’re going to do. You have a right to know that before you enter the voting booth. And you should not vote for any candidate who is not clear on the specific direction he or she thinks is best for you.

    Unfortunately, today’s politicians think we’re all either right or left, conservative or progressive, or hawks or doves. How about intelligent and reasonable and sick and tired of the partisan politics played in Washington and State capitals while we continue to see no meaningful progress on important issues?

    Hugin, for example, attacks Menendez with accusation, based upon a Senate ethics probe and an indictment against Menendez claiming he used the influence of his office to benefit of a longtime friend and political supporter. In exchange, Menendez allegedly received expensive gifts, lavish vacations and more than $750,000 in campaign contributions. All that is public record so it’s fair game. But Hugin’s ads either state or most definitely imply that Menendez was guilty. That’s a lie. He has never been convicted of any of the allegations. And while I’m certainly not supporter of Menendez, he deserves better and Hugin needs to be more responsible before he will earn my vote and, hopefully, yours.

    Sadly, it will take little time for Menendez to start personal attacks on Hugin. Truth is, Hugin has his seen his share of controversy too. I’ll refrain from listing them. But I have no doubt Menendez will. And he’ll probably be just as misleading as Hugin.

    So it will be politics as usual. Lies, misrepresentations, and no substance. As Hugin says of Menendez, “New Jersey deserves better.” Mr. Hugin needs to know that New Jersey’s voters need better than him, too.

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    MS-13: Yes, They Are Animals

    President Donald Trump recently made a statement about the gang MS-13, calling them “animals.” There was, of course, an uproar about it, with people crying foul claiming the President was calling all illegal immigrants “animals.” But that is not what he said.

    In the typical media frenzy against anything Trump, many in the press misrepresented his statement. Indeed, his comment about MS-13 was not about a particular ethnic population. It was about one of the most vicious gangs this country has ever seen who routinely engage in murder, kidnapping, child prostitution, human smuggling, drug trafficking, and racketing.

    MS-13 is a gang that originated in Los Angeles. While most members are of Central American origin, principally El Salvador, others are from any number of countries and comprised of almost a hundred thousand members it is a worldwide scourge. Thousands of those members are in the United States. Many are illegal immigrants; some are not. Many have been deported time and time again after committing terrible crimes.

    And kudos to White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who added, “Frankly, I think that the term ‘animal’ doesn’t go far enough and I think that the President should continue to use his platform and everything he can do under the law to stop these types of horrible, horrible, disgusting people.”

    Let’s not sway from what the President is trying to do here – ridding this country of gang members, illegal immigrants, or otherwise. President Trump does not, and never has, suggested deporting immigrants who come here legally, pay taxes, and contribute to the community.

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    For Memorial Day: The VA Mission Act is a Step Forward for Our Veterans

    It is vital that Americans—and our government—support our troops and veterans with more than a few remembrance days in May and November. Thanking them for their service is necessary in terms of showing our appreciation, but more must be done to help them.

    The VA Maintaining Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks Act—otherwise known as the VA Mission Act—was passed through the House committee and Veterans Fairs in a show of bipartisanship (it was passed 20-2). This bill would establish the Veterans Community Care Program, to provide care to veterans who are enrolled in the VA healthcare system or are entitled to VA care. The bill would also require Veterans Affairs to develop an education program to inform veterans about their healthcare options. Overall the bill plans to reform the VA’s healthcare infrastructure.

    Overall, the bill plans to reform the VA’s healthcare infrastructure. Military Times writes that it plans “to increase veterans’ access to private-sector doctors, expand caregiver stipends to more former military families and increase medical marijuana research for veterans’ care.”

    Late last year, USA Today ran an article that VA hospitals are ranked on the bottom of the list, for example the Phoenix VA, “where veterans died waiting for care.”

    Let’s make sure this bill is moved forward so that our veterans can receive the tools necessary to get the healthcare they deserve.

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    Should the US Meet with North Korea?

    The return of three detained Americans from North Korea was indeed an opportunity to celebrate. As the countdown begins for a meeting with the U.S. President and Kim Jong Un, this gesture seems like a nod in our favor. But, we need to take care not to get ahead of ourselves.

    The infamous Trojan Horse was a gift filled with soldiers who, once the gate was down, stormed the city. Are the detainees a modern-day version of the same? Or should we look upon the symbolic walk between the South and North Korean borders by the leaders of these countries as the end to the Korean War? Will North Korea cease trying to create and stockpile nuclear weapons?

    These are difficult questions and most government officials must be thinking the same things. In addition, we know that the North Korean people are starving and rumors of crimes against humanity are circling about. Given its history, the United States will have a hard time making a deal with a country that is letting its population suffer in the name of global dominance. As simple as the news media portray this “historic” meeting between two nations, people with experience in government at high levels know there are many layers to the discussion.

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    Thirteen Russians Indicted for Meddling with Election—Now it’s Time to Come Together

    Thirteen Russians were indicted for meddling with the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. Now that we have names and faces where we can place some blame, is it time to stop crying foul and stop the fighting between our parties?

    Wishful thinking.  We all know the infighting will not stop.  The rhetoric over supposed differences between the Adam Schiff (D-California) vs. Devin Nunes (R-California) memos and the purported revelations in a memo published by Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) add more fuel to the fire.  And it doesn’t advance bringing this all to an end when President Trump continues tweet attacks. (I’m sorry, but debates cannot be logically concluded with a 280 character limit.)

    No one denies that Russia has been trying to destabilize our political system by instigating fights among Americans over politics.  No one argues that their meddling has contributed to triggering an irrational political rift in our country.  Nor has it gone unnoticed that we have been giving the Russians exactly what they want by playing into their hands for far too long. Now that we know who has been meddling in the U.S. election, it is time to punish those who are accountable and move on to other issues.

    But will we?

    Not likely. Legal scholars seem to agree that none of the Russian defendants included in the latest indictments will ever enter an American courtroom to be questioned or tried.  So is this latest from Mueller helping find a resolution of the greater issues?  I doubt it.

    Why can’t we end this bickering and get to the point of protecting American voters – Democrats and Republicans alike – from foreign interference with our electoral process?

    Because its politics as usual.

    Will we ever end this unproductive and childish debate over an election that was won by Donald Trump and lost by Hilary Clinton, pure and simple?  Some liked that result; others hated it.  But the election is long over.  Let’s move on.

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