Beltway Insider: President Urges Congress to Hike Minimum Wage; Syrian Conflict Escalates; Net Neutrality; Sochi Gold

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President Barack Obama used the week of the Olympics to again champion the rights of Americans as he signed into law a second executive order geared toward alleviating the lengthy delay business owners face when dealing in the import-export market.


According to Gallup, President Obama's job approval, over the past week rose four percentage points to 45% of those polled who approve of his effectiveness as President and those who disapprove of his effectiveness as President dropped three percentage points to 50%.

President Urges Congress to Raise Minimum Wage

President Obama continues to implement his "Action Year Plan" as he urges congress, calling on both parties, to stand with the American people and raise the federal minimum wage for all workers.

"There's a bill before Congress that would boost America's minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.  That bill would lift wages for more than 16 million Americans without requiring a single dollar in new taxes or spending," the President said in his weekly address.

Six states have independently passed legislation to raise the minimum wage in their states, the President Obama signed an executive order that guarantees federally contracted workers the same wage hike and most recently, the nationwide retailer The Gap, agreed to raise its wages, to the suggested minimum, effective immediately.

"Even though a majority of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans across the country support raising the minimum wage, Republicans in Congress don't want to give it a vote, "the President said.

President Obama has stated that whenever he can move his "Action Year Plan" forward, independently he will. His agenda again crystallized this week as he signed an executive order "streamlining the export-import process for America's businesses."

"Specifically the executive order cuts processing and approval times from days to minutes for small businesses that export American-made goods and services by completing the International Trade Data System by December 2016," Carney said.

President Obama has set an ambitious plan for himself on behalf of the American people to move those who are feeling the continued squeeze of the residual economic recession including concentrated effort on job creation, livable wage increases and alleviating the lag time in business processes, and putting the long term unemployed back to work through subsidized efforts and partnerships with American's strongest employers.

It has been one year since President Obama initially asked Congress to raise the minimum wage and still Senate republicans refuse to give the legislation a vote.

Syrian Conflict Escalates

The Syrian Conflict, which has sent millions of refugees fleeing their homeland, has again escalated to the global stage as the Geneva Peace talks have broken down with no plans to resume.

President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have maintained the singular Syrian position which calls for the removal of Bashar al-Assad allowing the people to vote in democratic elections for a new president and includes, in place, a transitional government.

"It is still our view, absolutely, that there is not a military solution to this conflict and that a negotiated political settlement is the only path forward for Syria, and the Geneva process is the process by which that is pursuable and achievable at this time," said Jay Carney White House Press Secretary. 

Although United States policy has not changed, the Syrian climate and the presence of the international partners under the protocol of the United Nation and Geneva Convention have allowed for reviewing of what were once considered absolutes.

Now ending the lengthy civil war, easing the burden on neighboring countries and reunification of families and homeland is taking precedence.

The White House agrees the responsibility is "to work together to push the process forward, to make the diplomatic channel and the negotiation channel more productive, so that progress can be made towards a solution that allows Syria to move forward, allows for an end to the military violent conflict, so that there's a transition in Syria away from civil war," Carney said.

Images of chemical weapons use in the summer of 2013 also escaped the war torn country and brought immediate and harsh response from every nation.

The United States led aggressive action to have Assad sanctioned for violations of the Geneva Protocol, the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological Weapons Convention which bans all use of the chemical weapons.

He was eventually sanctioned by the United Nations and Russia's President Vladimir Putin stepped in and negotiated the transfer and disposal of Syria chemical weapons arsenal averting a military strike.

 "The opposition attended the Geneva talks and conducted themselves appropriately.  The regime, however, has made clear that it's throwing up obstacles to moving forward and making progress. It should not be forgotten that the obstacle to progress here has been the regime," Carney said.

Pressure to end the Syrian conflict has intensified as an image, of a toddler, taken by an UNHCR worker, crossing the desert fleeing the tyrannical Assad regime dragging his worldly possessions in a plastic bag was picked up by every news agency and went viral.       

The neighboring five counties, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq and Israel have bore the burden of mass exodus of refugees escaping the civil war, with Jordan accepting the majority of the disenfranchised people and carrying the heaviest burden.

The need for humanitarian assistance to the people of Syria and the neighboring countries is great. 

The United States and other international partners have been working with the United Nations Security Council that would advance the disbursement of Humanitarian assistance and in breaking news the United Nations has demanded that humanitarian aid be allowed to all parts and people of Syria.

Russia's apparent gilded proclamation of concern for the people of Syria has been questioned as they have blocked resolutions that would advance the disbursement of aid.

 "It is notable that if you're going to proclaim your concern about the fate of the Syrian people, one way to act on that concern is to not block progress in the United Nations Security Council on a resolution that would provide humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people who so desperately need it," Carney said.

Net Neutrality

President Obama a long defender, even back to his days as a United States Senator, of Net Neutrality has once again taken the issue of keeping the information super highway a toll free access road.

A petition recently presented to the president asked that he "direct the FCC to reclassify Internet service providers as "common carriers" which, if upheld, would give the FCC a distinct set of regulatory tools to promote net neutrality. The FCC is an independent agency. Chairman Wheeler has publicly pledged to use the full authority granted by Congress to maintain a robust, free and open Internet -- a principle that this White House vigorously supports."

Maintaining a free internet allows the global population to forge a path for themselves, allows for viral images, news, entrepreneurs, basement businesses to move the economy, a free internet, with no additional pay wall outside of carrier usage requirements, keeps a people free and frees people.

Sochi Earns Gold

The Sochi Olympics, Russian President Vladimir Putin's masterfully orchestrated world stage after a few initial highly publicized stumbles, earns a gold medal in presentation, excitement and overall performance.

The XXII Winter Olympiad began slowly as state warnings threatened attendance. Initially overshadowed by the threat of terrorism, Olympic dignitaries implored those who would use the games to further extremist agendas and fanatical pursuits not to use the backs of these athletes.

The majestic splendor of the opening ceremonies, attended by 44 heads of state, received, globally, very high marks for the staging, production, pageantry and colorful display of Russian history and the hope, all perfectly choreographed, for the future.  

Watching Sochi cautiously as the competitions began and the world's best athletes got past the initials criticisms of the host, its inadequacy, the course difficulties, the accommodations, the lack of civilization and modernization and got down to business.  And the audiences joined them.

The Olympic flame burned brightly over this barren stretch of land, a winter oasis on the coast of the Black Sea where memories and treasured moments for the 88 countries that sent 2,871 of the best athletes will live forever.

The XXII Winter Olympics ended in a joyous celebration, in the spirit of games past and already looking ahead to the 2018 winter games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.  In a rare moment the usually reserved and conservative Soviet Union joined the athletes to celebrate and live this moment.

The Games provided a few controversial moments none more so than the Women's Figure Skating. Home court advantage has long been known to propel a mediocre team to victory over the highly favored. Taking nothing from the beautiful and artistic performances of all the skaters, who we hope will thrill audiences in 2018, the women were stunning and captivating.

Although two of the judges through personal connection are considered bias, Adelina Sotnikova, the lovely 17 year old Russian, was flawless in her performance upsetting defending  gold medalist South Korea's Yuna Kim who took silver and Italy's Carolina Kostner earned a bronze, the first ever medal for her country. The United States Skaters Gracie Gold, Ashley Wagner and Paulina Edmonds, finished fourth, seventh and ninth.

Overall the athletes of the United States brought home 28 medals, 9 Gold, 7 Silver and 12 Bronze.

With that we, collectively, breathe a sigh of relief as the XXII Sochi Winter Olympics ended in the same manner in which they began: In celebration of past, present and future.



For more information on President Obama:  

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