First Take: For Obama, the value of a lightning rod

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Read Time:4 Minute, 53 Second
WASHINGTON — Despite Republican demands for her resignation, Kathleen Sebelius is likely to keep her job as secretary of Health and Human Services and her role as the public face of the Affordable Care Act. After more than three hours of being grilled at a House committee Wednesday, the better question might be why, exactly, does she want it?
 
After apologizing to Americans for this month's troubled rollout of the federal health-exchange website, Sebelius told the Energy and Commerce Committee that she was the one who should be held responsible.
 
"Hold me accountable for the debacle," she said when Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., suggested one of her deputies was to blame. "I'm responsible."
 
Later, Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss., argued that President Obama should bear the ultimate responsibility.
 
"No, sir, we are responsible," Sebelius replied. When he persisted, she finally said with exasperation, "Whatever — yes, he is the president."
 
Whether she is responsible or not, there is little chance Obama would demand or even desire Sebelius' exit from the hot seat. For a president under fire, having an aide who has become a lightning rod during a controversy in fact can be a useful division of duties. Soon after Sebelius finally left the hearing room, Obama was boarding Air Force One to make a speech about his signature health care law before an audience in Boston,
 
During the flight to Boston, the White House affirmed Obama's support of the embattled secretary. "The president has complete confidence in Secretary Sebelius," spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters traveling with the president
 
It is rare for a Cabinet member to be fired, says Paul Light, a political scientist at New York University who studies public administration.
 
"We have no tradition in this country of holding Cabinet members accountable for lower-level or even high-level failures," he says, ticking off examples at the Homeland Security, Energy and Justice departments during the Obama administration. "If (Janet) Napolitano could not be fired over the Christmas Day bombing plot and (Steven) Chu couldn't be fired over Solyndra and (Eric) Holder has survived over several meltdowns at Justice, including Fast and Furious, why would Sebelius be fired for what appears to be a blended failure between the contractors and her department?"
 
Only a handful of officials in the Obama administration have been fired or made a hasty exit in the wake of controversy, none of them top policymakers and most of them for embarrassing public missteps: national security aide Jofi Joseph for posting anonymous, insulting messages on Twitter. Gen. Stanley McChrystal after criticizing the president in an interview with Rolling Stone. White House social secretary Desiree Rogers after party crashers made it into a state dinner.
 
For her part Wednesday, Sebelius kept her temper through the contentious hearing (though John Stanton of Buzzfeed posted a bit of an illustrative video that he said showed her giving "a master class in eye-rolling") and resisted all efforts to force her to make actual news. That represented a win, says former Obama Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller. "Success in hearings = no embarrassing statements/YouTube moments," he tweeted.
 
She sat alone at the long hearing table with aides lined up in chairs behind her. The hotly anticipated hearing had been billed as an investigation into the website's problems. It was actually more like a speech-making opportunity for Democrats defending the law and Republicans criticizing it.
 
In some cases, lawmakers who were initially limited to four minutes each and then to two minutes didn't actually seem to want to devote their limited time to allow Sebelius to answers their questions, interrupting her as she began to speak to pose another.
 
"Thank you for responding when you were given the opportunity to respond," New York Democrat Paul Tonko said when his turn came.
 
At least three Republican senators have asked that Sebelius step down — including Pat Roberts of Kansas, a former supporter and family friend — and 32 Republican House members signed a letter to Obama last week calling for her resignation. When the hearing ended, Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus renewed calls for her ouster: "If she worked for a private company, she would have been weeks ago," he said.
 
Three of those who signed the letter are members of the committee: Phil Gingrey of Georgia, Pete Olson of Texas and Mike Pompeo of Kansas. Pompeo was one of a series of lawmakers who made Wizard of Oz references as they questioned Sebelius, the former two-term governor of Kansas. The iconic movie provided fodder for both sides.
 
"When we pull back the curtain on the Affordable Care Act, I think people are finding it's not exactly what they're going to have worked so hard to find their way to as well," Pompeo said, just like in the movie. "People went to see the Wizard because of the wonderful things he did," Democrat Bruce Braley of Iowa insisted. "The Affordable Care Act is doing some great things in Iowa."
 
"We're not in Kansas anymore," Republican Rep. Joe Barton of Texas told Sebelius, accusing officials of living in a "parallel universe" that didn't acknowledge the problems with Obamacare. "I know we're not in Kansas anymore, but I do increasingly think we're in Oz because of what I see here," Frank Pallone, D-N.J., sarcastically replied.
 
On that, Sebelius just might agree.
 
Follow @susanpage on Twitter
 

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Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Deficit under $1T for first time in five years

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The budget deficit for Fiscal Year 2013 dropped to $680.3 billion, the government reported Wednesday — the first time in five years the shortfall has been below $1 trillion.
 
Both the Obama administrations and congressional Republicans cited their own cost-cutting efforts.
 
The deficit "is now less than half of what it was when the president took office," said Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew in a statement.
 
It remains the fifth-largest deficit in history, but the lowest since a $458.6 billion figure in 2008.
 
Among the reasons: A growing economy, the end of a temporary Social Security tax cut, higher tax rates on wealthy Americans, and the series of across-the-board tax hikes known as sequestration.
 
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., cited the bipartisan Budget Control Act of 2011, which set up the sequester.
 
Since then, "Washington has actually reduced the level of government spending for two years running," McConnell said. "That's the first time this has happened since the Korean War."

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Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Romney rips Obamacare

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President Obama may praise Mitt Romney's health care plan in Massachusetts on Wednesday, but Romney is not returning the favor when it comes to Obamacare nationally.
 
"In the years since the Massachusetts health care law went into effect nothing has changed my view that a plan crafted to fit the unique circumstances of a single state should not be grafted onto the entire country," Romney writes in a Facebook posting.
 
Obama is expected to compare his new health care law favorably to the Massachusetts plan during a speech Wednesday in Boston.
 
Romney, who signed the Massachusetts plan into law when he was governor in 2006, also criticized the rollout of Obama's project.
 
"Had President Obama actually learned the lessons of Massachusetts health care, millions of Americans would not lose the insurance they were promised they could keep, millions more would not see their premiums skyrocket, and the installation of the program would not have been a frustrating embarrassment," writes Romney.
 
Romney, the Republican nominee who lost last year's presidential election to Obama, says health care should be a state issue:
 
"Health reform is best crafted by states with bipartisan support and input from its employers, as we did, without raising taxes, and by carefully phasing it in to avoid the type of disruptions we are seeing nationally."
 
Romney will not be attending Obama's speech in Boston.
 

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Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Report: NSA muscles in on Google, Yahoo data

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Read Time:2 Minute, 42 Second
SAN FRANCISCO — The National Security Agency secretly collects information that flows between the data centers of technology giants Yahoo and Google, the Washington Post reported Wednesday, citing documents from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and interviews with knowledgeable officials.
 
Google's chief legal officer expressed outrage after the news and said the company does not give any government access to its systems.
 
The NSA does this mainly through a project called MUSCULAR, which it operates with the agency's British counterpart, GCHQ. From undisclosed interception points, the agencies copy entire data flows across fiber-optic cables that carry information between the data centers of Yahoo and Google, the newspaper said.
 
The NSA's acquisitions directorate sends millions of records every day from Yahoo and Google internal networks to data warehouses at the agency's Fort Meade headquarters, the Post added, citing a secret accounting report dated Jan. 9, 2013.
 
In the preceding 30 days, the report said, field collectors had processed and sent back 181,280,466 new records, ranging from "metadata," which would indicate who sent or received e-mails and when, to content such as text, audio and video.
 
The NSA already collects data from Google, Yahoo and other tech companies under a separate program known as PRISM, which legally compels them to provide the agency with information that matches court-approved search terms.
 
The large-scale collection of data that is happening through the MUSCULAR program would be illegal in the United States, but the operations take place overseas, where the NSA is allowed to presume that anyone using a foreign data link is a foreigner, the Washington Post explained.
 
"We are outraged at the lengths to which the government seems to have gone to intercept data from our private fiber networks, and it underscores the need for urgent reform," said David Drummond, chief legal officer at Google.
 
"We have long been concerned about the possibility of this kind of snooping, which is why we have continued to extend encryption across more and more Google services and links, especially the links in the slide," he added. "We do not provide any government, including the U.S. government, with access to our systems."
 
Yahoo spokeswoman Sarah Meron said the company has "strict controls" over the security of its data centers and it has not given any governments access to its data centers.
 
The revelations about the NSA's snooping online have promoted a push to change regulations. On Tuesday, a bipartisan reform bill to rein in the NSA's bulk collection, analysis, and storage of Americans' electronic communications was introduced in the Senate and the House of Representatives.
 
"Our system of judicial and congressional oversight of the NSA is fundamentally broken, and dragnet programs like this one are the result," said Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union. "If we want the right to privacy to survive the NSA's assault on it, we need both Congress and the courts once again to play the role the constitution envisioned for them."
 

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Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Three Republicans back Democratic immigration bill in House

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WASHINGTON — A Democratic bill in the House to overhaul the nation's immigration laws is picking up Republican support, though well short of the votes needed to pass the measure.
 
Rep. David Valadao, R-Calif., on Wednesday became the third Republican to co-sponsor the bill, which includes a pathway to citizenship for the nation's 12 million undocumented immigrants.
 
Valadao, the son of Portuguese immigrants whose family runs a dairy farm, said in an interview with USA TODAY that his background, and that of his district, which is 72% Hispanic, was a big factor in his decision.
 
"I grew up in an immigrant family, I grew up in an immigrant community and I work in an immigrant-dependent industry. So it's not like this is a stretch for me," he said.
 
Valadao said the slow pace of immigration legislation in the House also contributed to his decision.
 
"This isn't really a shot at leadership, but more, 'Guys, this is important to me, we have to move and we have to be part of this solution,'" he said. "It doesn't matter how conservative of a district you come from – we have a system that we need to fix."
 
Valado's decision to join Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., and Jeff Denham, R-Calif., in co-sponsoring the bill comes at a critical time for immigration reform in Congress.
 
There are 231 Republicans in the House and the GOP leadership has overseen hearings on separate bills tackling individual immigration issues. It has not favored a single bill to handle all issues.
 
A bill needs 218 votes to pass the House and the Democratic bill has 186 Democratic co-sponsors. Adding three GOP votes still falls well short of a majority for passage.
 
The Senate passed a sweeping overhaul to the nation's immigration laws in June that provides a pathway to citizenship for the country's undocumented immigrants, doubles the size of the Border Patrol and revamps the legal immigration system to bring in more high-tech and low-skilled workers.
 
But even Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., one of the architects of that bill, has questioned whether that bill is the best way forward. Rubio said Rubio's spokesman, Alex Conant, said the "all or nothing" approach they took in the Senate "would result in nothing."
 
Rubio and House Republican leaders say they would rather move forward with the "piecemeal" approach in which Congress considers smaller bills that tackle individual pieces of the nation's immigration laws.
 
House committees have approved a handful of bills that address border security, grant immigration enforcement powers to local and state police officers, increase the number of visas for high-tech workers and require U.S. businesses to check the immigration status of new hires.
 
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has said he is "hopeful" that immigration could be voted on by the full House before the end of the year, but he has given no timetable.
 
"These guys signing on (to the Democratic bill) are kind of like people left standing when the music stops in musical chairs," said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which opposes the Senate immigration bill. "Just as the prospects of a bill passing are declining, these people are signing on."
 
Supporters of the Democratic bill see something else happening.
 
Frank Sharry, executive director of America's Voice, a group that supports the Senate immigration bill, said the increasing support of the Democratic bill puts more pressure on GOP leaders to get moving on immigration.
 
"Does it mean that this bill is going to be brought up sometime soon? Probably not," Sharry said. "But does it ratchet up the pressure on house leadership to get something going? Yeah. It'll make it harder for House leadership to slow-walk this thing to death."
 
The bill, H.R. 15, is sponsored by Rep. Joe Garcia, R-Fla. It is mostly a replica of the Senate's immigration bill, but it eliminates the $46 billion border security plan adopted in the Senate and replaces it with a border security plan authored by Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, and was approved unanimously by the House Homeland Security Committee.
 
Garcia said he was encouraged by the latest addition to his bill, and said he's pushing to bring more on board. He hopes it will reach a point where House leadership is forced to bring it to the floor, where it could pass with most Democrats and a couple-dozen Republicans, similar to the vote that ended the government shutdown.
 
"The same way we found votes on the budget, I think Speaker Boehner will see the votes here," Garcia said.
 

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Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Forbes: Obama only 2nd most powerful (behind Putin)

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President Obama has fallen to second place in Forbes magazine's annual list of the world's most powerful people — trailing Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
 
Forbes began its analysis with the question "who's more powerful: the autocratic leader of a former superpower or the handcuffed commander in chief of the most dominant country in the world?"
 
The magazine went with Putin, who finished second in last year's poll behind Obama.
 
Writes Forbes:
 
"Putin has solidified his control over Russia while Obama's lame duck period has seemingly set in earlier than usual for a two-term president — latest example: the government shutdown mess. Anyone watching this year's chess match over Syria and NSA leaks has a clear idea of the shifting individual power dynamics."
 
It's only the second time in his presidency that Obama has not topped the Forbes power poll.
 
Obama finished second in 2010 to China's then-president Hu Jintao. The current Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, finished third in the latest survey.
 
A newcomer — Pope Francis — finished fourth.
 
In fifth place: German Chancellor Angela Merkel, an outspoken critic of National Security Council surveillance policies in other countries.

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Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Bus driver saves woman from jumping off bridge

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — A bus driver is being hailed as a hero for preventing a woman from jumping off a bridge over a Buffalo highway.
 
About 20 McKinley High School students had just stepped aboard Darnell Barton's Metro bus Oct. 18 when he spotted a woman who had climbed over a guardrail and stood leaning over the afternoon traffic zipping along the Scajaquada Expressway below.
 
With cars and an occasional pedestrian continuing to pass by her, Barton wasn't sure at first that the woman was in distress.
 
He stopped his bus, opened the door and asked if she needed help, at that moment conflicted between the rules of his job, which required him to call his dispatcher, and his training as a former volunteer firefighter and member of the Buffalo Special Police, which told him that if he made contact, he shouldn't break it.
 
"It was an interesting situation, knowing what you know and knowing what you have to do," he said by phone Wednesday. "Dispatch picked up. I remember giving my location and saying, 'Send the authorities, this young lady needs help' and then dashing the phone down."
 
The bus video system captures Barton, 37, leaving the bus and the 20-something woman looking back at him. Her gaze then returns to the traffic below.
 
"That's when I went and put my arms around her," said Barton, a father of two. "I felt like if she looked down at that traffic one more time it might be it."
 
With the woman in a bear hug, Barton asked if she wanted to come back over the rail. She hadn't spoken up to that point but said yes.
 
The video shows Barton tenderly helping her climb back over the guardrail and sit down. Then he sits next to her on the concrete. He asked her name and other questions to distract her, he said, learning she was a student.
 
"Then she said, 'You smell good,'" he said.
 
A corrections officer and a female driver who'd been behind the bus came to help, speaking to the woman until police and an ambulance arrived.
 
"While I was holding her, listening to their questions, I just prayed," the bus driver said. "Whatever was on her mind, it had her. It really, really had her."
 
When the ambulance drove away, Barton got back on his bus — and received a standing ovation from the high school students and other passengers who'd been watching through the windows. He finished his route, wrote up a report and went home.
 
"Being the humble individual that Darnell is, he didn't write it in a way that was going to call attention to himself," said C. Douglas Hartmayer, spokesman for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority. "It was: I did it, got back on my bus and continued. That speaks volumes about his demeanor and character."
 
Barton wishes he could speak with the woman again to make sure she's OK.
 
"Things like this put what's important in perspective," he said. "You hug your kids a little tighter, kiss your wife a little bit longer. You're grateful.
 
"Things may not be perfect," he said, "but as we say, they're a little bit of all right."
 

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Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Monstrous Halloween storm to pelt central U.S.

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Torrential rain, heavy thunderstorms and howling winds are forecast on Halloween all the way from Texas to the Midwest and interior sections of the Northeast, according to AccuWeather meteorologist Andy Mussoline.
 
Almost 42 million people could contend with severe thunderstorms Thursday, the Storm Prediction Center warns, with cities such as Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Louisville, Memphis, Nashville and Houston all at risk.
 
"Damaging winds and some tornadoes will be possible with what should be a complex and potentially messy storm," according to an online forecast from the prediction center.
 
"The best costume in Houston for Halloween probably involves a garbage bag to keep dry," reports WeatherBell meteorologist Ryan Maue, who adds that it could be the wettest Halloween ever in some spots.
 
Because of the threat of bad weather, some towns in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana have moved Halloween events to Friday. Seven Indiana communities are moving trick-or-treating to Friday outright, WTHR-TV reports.
 
In northwest Ohio, the threat of severe weather has already prompted at least six communities to switch their trick-or-treat plans to the weekend.
 
Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh and Burlington, Vt., will also see rain on Thursday, though no severe storms are forecast.
 
The worst of the wind will target areas around Lakes Erie and Ontario, where gusts to 60 mph are possible Thursday night into Friday, AccuWeather reports.
 
Most of the East Coast (from the Mid-Atlantic south) will see a calm and quiet Halloween. Rain should hold off until late evening or the middle of the night in the big cities of the Northeast from Boston to Washington, D.C.
 
The East will be unusually mild, with highs near 70 degrees as far north as New Jersey.
 
The majority of the West will also be dry, though a few showers could dampen spirits in coastal areas of the Pacific Northwest, including in Seattle and Portland.
 
The north-central U.S. will be chilly — with temperatures forecast in the 30s and 40s — but clear for trick-or-treating.
 
While some light snow is possible in the highest elevations of the northern Rockies Thursday, it will be nothing like Halloween of 1993, when snow fell as far south as Atlanta and temperatures bottomed out in the upper 20s in Corpus Christi, Texas.
 
Another infamous snowstorm also hit on Halloween, this one in 1846, when a fierce blizzard dumped as much as five feet of snow in the Sierra Nevada in California. The storm, coupled with several others, stranded more than 80 pioneers in the snow, and eventually forced the starving survivors — the hapless Donner Party — to resort to cannibalism to endure the winter.
 
Contributing: Doug Stanglin, USA TODAY

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U.S. Booker plans hands-on approach as senator

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Read Time:3 Minute, 32 Second
ASBURY PARK, N.J. — As Newark's mayor, Cory Booker became known for a hands-on approach to governing. He invited residents without power after Superstorm Sandy to stay at his home. He responded to a neighbor's house fire and delivered diapers to a snowed-in constituent.
 
Booker says New Jersey voters who sent him to the U.S. Senate in a special election two weeks ago can expect more of the same. He will be sworn in to office Thursday by Vice President Joe Biden at the U.S. Capitol.
 
"I'm going to run around the state like I did running around the city as mayor," Booker said. "I think I'll be running around to all four corners of our state looking to serve people in very practical ways to show them I'm hard working, very involved, and will work above and beyond the call of duty."
 
Booker's hard-fought victory over tea party favorite Steve Lonegan earned a truncated term. Political analysts say Booker will have his work cut out over the next year establishing himself in Washington and preparing for a November 2014 re-election for a full six-year term.
 
The special election was held to fill the final year of the term of Frank Lautenberg, who died in June.
 
"I will take Booker's promise to work hard in the Senate at face value. He will definitely garner a great deal of attention as the Senate's only African-American Democrat," said Jennifer Duffy, who tracks Senate elections for the Cook Political Report. "The leadership wants him to stump and fund-raise for other candidates.''
 
David Redlawsk, a Rutgers University political science professor, said it's difficult to predict how Booker will fit in with his Senate colleagues.
 
"He's certainly not going to avoid cameras, but I don't know if he'll seek them out," Redlawsk said. "There are 99 other senators to compete with, and he may find that being a legislator is lot different than being a mayor."
 
Booker's focus at first may not necessarily be on federal issues. He said he'd like to target crime problems in his home state and advocate for criminal-justice reforms.
 
"Back here in New Jersey, there's a lot of things I want to do right out of the blocks to help folks. We have a strategy to get guns off the streets that actually worked really well in Newark and I've already talked to people in Camden and Trenton about it, and I've talked to the mayor of Jersey City (Steven Fulop) about prisoner re-entry and things we can do to help empower people and reduce crime in that city," Booker said. "The great thing is, now that I'm a statewide elected official, I can go around and be of assistance in ways that make a measurable difference in a very practical way."
 
Redlawsk and Duffy said Booker could be groomed by top Democrats for future possibilities, such as a return to New Jersey to run for governor in 2017, but Booker downplayed what potentially is ahead.
 
"My long-term plan is to be a United States senator for the time that the residents of this state allow me to do that. I think you really weaken your ability to contribute if you begin to think about other offices and not where you are," Booker said.
 
Booker's father, Cary, died a week before the election after a long bout with Parkinson's disease. He was 76. Booker said memories of his father will be strong at the swearing-in ceremony.
 
"I think it will be a wonderful afternoon. As my dad would say if he was here, 'Son, when you put that hand up, as soon as it goes down, you better work hard every single moment,'" he said.
 

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Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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Mexican immigrant fought deportation and won

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Read Time:7 Minute, 7 Second
SMYRNA, Tenn. — Three times, Fani Gonzalez packed a suitcase, clutched her daughters in a tearful goodbye and begged the Virgin of Guadalupe for a miracle — anything, just anything, that could keep her from being deported back to her violent home city in Mexico.
 
And three times, she traveled back from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Nashville to her home in Smyrna, an emotional return to her all-American life as wife, mom and top Mary Kay cosmetics sales director.
 
Gonzalez was coloring signs for a rally to stop her deportation in a room packed with other immigrant women doing the same when her cellphone rang. The call came from ICE headquarters in Washington. Using the director's prosecutorial discretion, the agency would allow her to stay in the country indefinitely.
 
Sometimes, when the Virgin answers a prayer, it's with a flair for the dramatic.
 
Gonzalez's goal was to stay in the United States long enough for immigration reform to catch up with her status. She came here in 2009, slipping across the Rio Grande with no immigration paperwork, determined to improve life for her four children. Now, for the first time in four years, she believes real reform is on the way for the nation's estimated 11.7 million undocumented immigrants — 6 million of those from Mexico, according to the Pew Research Hispanic Trends Project.
 
Last week, President Barack Obama urged the House of Representatives to take up a reform bill that passed the Senate in June. It would strengthen security along the nation's borders while providing a lengthy legal path to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants already here.
 
Both of Tennessee's Republican senators voted in favor of it. Rep. Jim Cooper, a Nashville Democrat, said he will support reform in the House. But it faces a tough road there.
 
The Senate bill goes for it all, said Brookings Institution analyst Jill Wilson. It has suffered by being compared to the Affordable Care Act, which is off to a troubled start and was nearly derailed by the Republicans' tea party wing. The bill is huge, Wilson said, because voices on all sides were heard for the first time.
 
"The number and different types of coalitions that support it this time around is the difference, as well as the lack of strong and numerous voices against it," she said.
 
"It will not go away. Worst-case scenario, immigrants just keep waiting."
 
The push is empowering undocumented immigrants nationwide to announce their status in an effort to draw public support. In the past, even a name was hard to come by — most hid from public view and, if they were caught, slipped out of the country without drawing attention.
 
Gonzalez did just the opposite, bringing fellow immigrant women and sometimes a television camera to her meetings with ICE.
 
But in the quiet hours with family, when her home city of Monterrey is just a setting in the soap opera on the flat screen — "Porque El Amor Manda," Because Love Rules — damage from Gonzalez's yearlong fight is evident on the face of her youngest daughter, Ingrid Aimee, 12.
 
For a split second, it looks like she can answer a question about the constant threat of losing her mother. Instead, she collapses into tears.
 
Stopped for speeding
 
The Gonzalez children are protected under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. A presidential order signed by Obama last year, it allows children who had no say in being brought to the U.S. illegally to stay here.
 
They left Monterrey, Fani Gonzalez says, because it wasn't realistic to believe one could safely raise children there. She'd been in the U.S. before but went home voluntarily to be closer to family.
 
"We drove back in a truck, and when we got there, people told me, 'Don't drive that truck,'" she said. "I was wondering why that would be. They said, 'You don't know what the situation is. How the violence is. They will rob you and kill you.' "
 
Her brother was kidnapped. Gangs robbed busloads of people, then lit the buses on fire. Murders on a corner near her house weren't rare.
 
It became clear to Gonzalez that to make a better life for the kids, they'd have to be in America — in American schools, with American opportunities.
 
Her husband picked Tennessee because jobs seemed plentiful here. And so they settled in Smyrna, but then it all unraveled in a December traffic stop.
 
Driving home one day, Gonzalez was caught speeding. Her Mexican driver's license had expired, said Smyrna Police Chief Kevin Arnold, and she was turned over to the Rutherford County Sheriff's Office.
 
Gonzalez sat for four days in the Rutherford County jail on an immigration hold, frantic about who was caring for her children. She had to wait that long for ICE officials to show up and say what to do with her. When they arrived, it was with a document to sign.
 
"I was thinking I would have to talk to a lawyer and all that, but when the officer told me I was going to be able to see my family, I just had to sign this document," she said. "I thought it was something that said I had been there and I was being released."
 
Instead, they told her she had a month to buy her own bus ticket back to Monterrey. She consulted with the Nashville-based Immigrant Women's Committee at the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, who told her to go back and say she couldn't afford a ticket right now.
 
ICE gave her 30 more days, but instead of bringing a ticket, she came back with a stack of letters of recommendation from people at her church — St. Ignatius of Antioch Catholic Community — and a request for prosecutorial discretion. They gave her 30 more days. She asked for an appeal. They gave her six months.
 
Asking for help
 
The women's group never stopped helping.
 
Forced to keep opinions to herself in her job as a professional interpreter, Mayra Yu, the women's committee's co-founder, was darned if she'd sit by and watch someone get deported if she could do something to stop it. Too many times, she said, she watched friends separated from their children by deportation. Too many times she saw women become victims of domestic violence or sexual harassment, only to be asked by authorities, "What did you do?" Too many times, she wanted to yell, "Don't sign that!" but couldn't.
 
"It's hard when you see how they suffer," Yu said.
 
So she celebrated with Gonzalez when the miracle phone call came from Washington.
 
ICE issued a statement about it last week, couching its reasoning in official language. A thorough review of Gonzalez's case led to the prosecutorial discretion, it said. The agency is most interested in deporting criminals, recent arrivals and those who have final deportation orders but slipped away from authorities.
 
Gonzalez's daughters have a simpler but more heartfelt explanation.
 
"When my mom was gone, I missed her a lot," Jaqueline, 14, said. "I love her a lot. I'm happy they stopped the deportation so she can stay with us."
 
Fani Gonzalez said she told her story to get people to unite behind the cause of immigration reform.
 
"If it's just one person, nobody notices," she said. "If it's 10, a few will notice. If it's a large group, people will notice we are productive members of society. We are working here, united."
 
Ingrid wants toteach math when she grows up. Jaqueline wants to teach English to those who struggle with it. Their mother wants to be here long enough to see a change in the law that would allow the whole family to achieve its American dreams.

About Post Author

Anthony Claret

Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websites. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.
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