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Archive for March, 2013

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Supreme Court Prepares for Landmark Gay Marriage Case  /

Timeline on Gay Marriage 

From Mom to Mayor

It has been a couple of years now since we first started beating the drum to get more women to run for public office. The initial thinking was that they’re better at compromise. Now, we see two local women here in eastern Missouri lining up to lead two very different cities that border one another. What ModerateMoms wonders motivates these women? And how do they expect to govern differently from their male counterparts? 

Nancy Spewak of Ladue has spent her whole life in this suburb that feels a lot like ,”Mayberry.” Its small town facade is a little deceiving in that its strength lies not in the scope of its size but in its tradition and character. Spewak has served for almost 8 years on the City Council where she represents Ward 3. She  is now running unopposed to fill a vacancy created by the current Mayor’s resignation.  

I really love the story of Spewak’s initial entrance into civic service which began when she was asked to be on the committee that organizes Ladue’s Dogwood Parade. The Dogwood is the state tree in Missouri. This unique neighborhood parade was an annual tradition that brought families together from the public and private schools, from different subdivisions and from different walks of life. Kids and their familes walked, rode bikes or in one family’s case, rode on the antique fire engine that had been passed down over the years.  

Spewak has four sons who have been educated in the public schools. She is a successful businesswoman who started a staging business just as the real estate boom was starting.  A key connection with an established, prominent realtor led to repeat referrals and soon enough, Property Enhancements was off and running. Interestingly enough, Spewak says she first learned of Michelle Harris, who is running for Mayor of Clayton, when Harris’s husband hired Spewak’s firm to stage his father-in-law’s home. 

Now she’s getting ready to replace, not one, but both of the fire stations without any additional taxes. She also has plans to reach out to new homeowners and residents to make sure they feel as at home here as the many Ladue residents who were born here. If you haven’t met Nancy Spewak, be sure to. She has a definite ‘can-do’ attitude and her enthusiasm for this town is infectious. 

Right next door, Alderwoman Michelle Harris is in a relatively tight three way race for Mayor of Clayton. Clayton is an interesting place in that its base population of 15,000 residents swells dramatically each day as employees who live across the region come to work in Clayton.  Her 20 years working for Fortune 500 companies, while raising two children, did not dissuade Michelle Harris from serving when asked. Whether it was the Cub Scout den she organized and led for five years or the boys lacrosse program that she co-founded, Michelle Harris can’t help but bubble to the top it seems in every task she takes on. She has served on many boards and commissions and helped raise 2 million dollars for public/private investment in Clayton through the Clayton Century Foundation. 

Interestingly, both of these Moms for Mayor share a similar vision. Each said separately that they are focussed on collaboration within each of their municipalities but also with surrounding areas and institutions, each of them defies the concept that women do not understand business or finance as well as men and both Spewak and Harris are interested in boosting their local economies by encouraging residents to buy local.  

So, where does the confidence come from to make that transition to public service? And more than confidence, where do these Moms hone their leadership skills once they have decided to run for political office? Harris says she got her training from the Sue Shear Institute for Women in Public Life. A non-partisan institute, Sue Shear has classes that teach women the ins and outs of transitioning to life in the public eye.  I talked to Dayna M. Stock, who is a manager at the Institute about what kinds of training is available to these women. She said, “One thing that I learned in all of my years here is that women feel like, if they take on a challenge like  this, they want to take a class. They want to make sure they’re really prepared. One course offered at Sue Shear is “Pipeline to Local Office,” which is most relevant to women Mayors; the other is a course for women seeking higher office. It’s a course where they can learn the basics of how to put together a campaign for public office, meet role models, hear stories about what worked and what didn’t. We give them a blue print but also the confidence that they now know what they need to do and they can go out and do it.  We also have programs for women considering a run for State Representative or other higher office.”

“One thing that I would stress,” Stock went on to say, “is that we don’t talk at all about issues or each candidate’s individual positions or how to frame your message to appeal to certain groups. We focus on the skill set required. It’s anybody’s guess what another attendee’s political leanings are. Sometimes people reveal why they’re there but others do not. And very rarely, we have two women coming at the same time who are running for the same office. We once had two women running for at-large seats in Webster Groves. In that case, there were three candidates for two seats and both of the women who attended our program won. In some of Missouri’s bigger cities, like St. Louis and Kansas City, you might declare your party but with most municiple elections, Boards of Alderman, School Boards, Fire Districts and City Council, you typically have non-partisan races.”

We talked very briefly about the suspicion inherent in the general population right now when it comes to politics, party and principle. And the perception that you have to take a side. Or the ‘If you’re not with us, you’re against us’ mentality. Stock says it’s been a challenge for the Institute, too. “Our goal is to get more women involved in the political process,” she said, “They can be Republican, Democrat, Green or Independent. We just know how important it is for women to say that they’re not comfortable with the direction things are going in.” We just know how important it is for women to have a voice.”

Michelle Harris, who took two courses, says the Sue Shear Institute for Women in Public Life provided her with “a great foundation upon which to run a campaign.” 

The Third Way on Medicaid Expansion

As Republican led states pushed back on Medicaid expansion, the perception was the poor and uninsured would get the shaft, because nobody cared about them. But compromise (we love that word!) is in the air as Arkansas and Missouri both consider creative ways to provide access while involving private healthcare insurers. Here in Missouri, it’s called market based Medicaid. They’re talking about giving cash to patients who hold down their healthcare costs. And/or awarding health care contracts to private insurers. 

Here’s the full article: 

GOP’s ‘No’ on Medicaid Becomes “Let’s Make a Deal’


 Given the choice of whether to expand Medicaid under President Barack Obama’s health care law, many Republican governors and lawmakers initially responded with an emphatic “no.”

Now they are increasingly hedging their objections.

A new “no, but …” approach is spreading among GOP states in which officials are still publicly condemning the Democratic president’s Medicaid expansion yet floating alternatives that could provide health coverage to millions of low-income adults while potentially tapping into billions of federal dollars that are to start flowing in 2014.

The Medicaid health care program for poor, which is jointly funded by the federal and state governments, already covers about one in five people in the U.S. Expanding it was the way Obama envisioned covering many more low-income workers who don’t have insurance. The new Republican alternatives being proposed in states generally would go part of the way, but cover fewer people than Obama’s plan, guarantee less financial help or rely more on private insurers.

But so far, many of the Republican ideas are still more wistful than substantive. It’s uncertain whether they will actually pass. And even if they do, there’s no guarantee Obama’s administration will allow states to deviate too greatly from the parameters of the Affordable Care Act while still reaping its lucrative funding. Yet a recent signal from federal officials that Arkansas might be able to use Medicaid money to buy private insurance policies has encouraged Republicans to try alternatives.

The GOP proposals could lead to another health care showdown between the White House and states, leaving millions of Americans who lack insurance waiting longer for resolution. Officials in about 30 states that are home to more than 25 million uninsured residents remain either defiant or undecided about implementing Obama’s Medicaid expansion, according to an Associated Press survey.

Supporters of the Medicaid expansion have built coalitions of hospitals, businesses groups, religious leaders and advocates for the poor to try to persuade reluctant Republicans of the economic and moral merits of Obama’s health care plan. But some Republicans believe the pressure ultimately will fall on Obama to accept their alternatives if he wants to avoid a patchwork system for his signature accomplishment.

“If the Obama administration is serious about innovative ways to bring down the cost of health care, it’s going to cooperate with conservative ideas rather than continue down its one-size-fits-all, far-left-wing ideological path,” said Missouri Rep. Jay Barnes, a Republican from Jefferson City.

A House committee led by Barnes already has defeated Obama’s version of Medicaid expansion. It is to hear public testimony Monday on his “market-based Medicaid” alternative that would award health care contracts to competing private insurers and provide cash incentives to patients who hold down their health-care costs. His proposal would contain costs by covering fewer children than Medicaid now does and adding fewer adults than Obama’s plan envisions.

Committees in Florida’s Republican-led Legislature also have rejected a Medicaid expansion for roughly 1 million of the state’s poorest residents, even though it is backed by GOP Gov. Rick Scott. Now Republican Sen. Joe Negron is pursuing an alternative that would use federal funds to provide vouchers for low-income residents to buy private policies. Negron said he still doesn’t believe expanding Medicaid is the right decision, but he wants to help Florida residents get health coverage.

“We don’t want to do it the Washington way. We want to do it the Florida way,” Negron said.

Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich also has been in discussions with the Obama administration about providing subsidized insurance instead of full Medicaid coverage for more adults. Republican governors in Texas, Nebraska and Indiana want the federal government to award Medicaid money as block grants to states.

“It’s a two-step for many of these Republican governors. When they look at the numbers they want to do it, but they want to distance themselves from Obamacare at the same time,” said Drew Altman, president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit that analyzes health care policies.

That might be fine with the Obama administration.

“There actually is quite a bit of flexibility on how they can approach this, and the federal government has indicated they want to get to ‘yes’ ” said Joan Alker, co-executive director of Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families in Washington, D.C.

As originally enacted, the Affordable Care Act required states to expand Medicaid to adults earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, about $32,500 annually for a family of four. A Supreme Court decision last summer made the expansion optional for states but kept in place a powerful financial incentive. The federal government will fully fund the expansion for the first three years, with the states’ share gradually increasing to 10 percent by 2020.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in December that getting full funding will still require a full expansion. Yet some Republicans in Missouri, South Dakota and elsewhere claim to see room for compromise.

LaTonya Jenkins, a 51-year-old laid off teacher’s aide who lives in temporary housing for the homeless in Kansas City, recently enrolled in Medicaid but could lose coverage if her part-time job pushes her income over Missouri’s strict eligibility limits. She recently traveled to Missouri Capitol to urge lawmakers to expand Medicaid.

“If they don’t, and they cut it out, then what are we to do? We’ll be lost,” said a tearful Jenkins, who has diabetes and cares for her grandson. “I’ll be sicker than ever and back in the hospital.”


Associated Press writer Kelli Kennedy contributed to this report from Miami.


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Single ticket holder wins 338 million lottery in New Jersey 

Kathleen Parker: Hilary’s time? 

Civics for Kids

From ABC News: 

This morning the White House released handwritten letters to the President from some of the children who will be at the White House when President Obama unveils his plan to prevent gun violence.  The kids offer their own ideas on gun control — ideas that go significantly further than the President’s plan.

Related: Read More About the President’s Plan

Eight-year-old Grant from Maryland, writes the President, “there should be some changes in the law with guns.  It’s a free country, but I recommend there needs be [sic] a limit with guns.”

ht 2 grant dm 130116 vblog Kids Write Letters to Obama on Gun Control

Grant’s ideas:  ”Please don’t let people own machine guns or other powerful guns like that. I think there should be a good reason to get a gun. There should be a limit about [sic] how many guns a person can own.”

“Even though I am not scared for my own safety, I am scared for others,” writes Eleven-year-old Julia from Washington, DC.  ”My opinion is it should be very hard for people to buy guns.”

Julia continues:  ”I beg you to work very hard to make guns not allowed, not just for me, but for the whole United States.”

ht julia 2 dm 130116 vblog Kids Write Letters to Obama on Gun Control

Ten year-old Taejah is less specific. “I am very sad about the children who lost their lives in Conn.,” he writes. “So I thought I would write to you to STOP gun violence. Thank you, Mr. President.”

ht 2 taejah dm 130116 vblog Kids Write Letters to Obama on Gun Control

Watch my Good Morning America report on the president’s proposals and pushback from the NRA:




Risotto with Porcini Mushrooms and Mascarpone


  • 2 cups boiling water 
  • 1 cup dried porcini mushrooms (about 1 ounce)
  • 1 (14-ounce) can less-sodium beef broth
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 cup uncooked Arborio rice or other short-grain rice
  • 3/4 cup chopped shallots
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine $
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) mascarpone cheese
  • Fresh thyme leaves (optional)


  1. 1. Combine 2 cups boiling water and mushrooms; let stand 30 minutes or until soft. Drain through a colander over a bowl. Reserve 1 1/2 cups soaking liquid; chop mushrooms.
  2. 2. Bring soaking liquid and broth to a simmer in a small saucepan (do not boil). Keep broth mixture warm over low heat.
  3. 3. Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add rice, shallots, and garlic; sauté 5 minutes. Add wine, and cook until liquid evaporates (about 2 minutes).
  4. 4. Add 1 cup broth mixture to rice mixture; cook over medium heat 5 minutes or until the liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Add remaining broth mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently until each portion of broth mixture is absorbed before adding the next (about 25 minutes total). Add mushrooms, Parmigiano-Reggiano, chopped thyme, salt, and pepper; stir gently just until the cheese melts. Spoon 1 cup risotto into each of 4 bowls. Top each serving with 1 tablespoon mascarpone and thyme leaves, if desired.

This recipe originally ran in Cooking Light December, 2005 and was updated for the November, 2012 25th anniversary issue.

Kathleen Kanen, Cooking Light 

3 Signs you have a Longevity Personality

By Stephanie Eckelkamp  

Having certain traits or even tweaking your behavior to fake these traits could add years to your life, says Patrick Hill, PhD, psychology researcher at the University of Illinois.

Here are three characteristics that may boost life expectancy:

Your glass is half full.

A study that analyzed 243 elderly people (average age: 97.6) found that most were more optimistic and easygoing than the general population. If your outlook could be sunnier, write down a few things you’re grateful for daily.

You’re everyone’s pal.
Having strong social relationships can raise survival odds by 50%, found researchers from Brigham Young University. Not a social butterfly? Start small: Invite some pals to lunch, or consider starting a book club.

You’re never late.
Conscientiousness (being detail oriented and responsible and always wanting to do a good job) is consistently associated with longevity, says Dr. Hill. Raise your conscientiousness by making (and using) to-do lists.

More from Prevention: Surprising Signs You’ll Live To Be 100


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Why Moderate Moms like Mike (Bloomberg bankrolling gun control ads) 

Debbie Baldwin / The Mom Vivant

Posted: Thursday, March 14, 2013 12:00 pm | Updated: 8:58 am, Mon Mar 18, 2013.

By Debbie Baldwin

Last week, my husband and I attended a seminar on alcohol and drug prevention at Whiny’s school for eighth-graders and their parents. We were split up, and tables of nine were composed of four kids, four parents and a faculty facilitator. There were various speakers: a doctor who explained the effects of alcohol on the teenage brain, two seniors who had elected not to drink during their high school years, and the head of school who encouraged open and honest dialogue about the subject.

Throughout the night, the conversation occasionally turned to the individual tables. The facilitator would pose a question and encourage the table to discuss—a conversation ideally driven by the kids. What would you do if…? or, Do you have a trusted adult to call ifI sat at my table, uncharacteristically quiet, and listened to the girls answer one question in particular: What do you expect/ do you think is fair for your parents to know when you go out on a weekend?

Now, because I have Cranky, a ninth-grader, and have clutched and clawed my way through this issue, I was acutely aware that the obvious answer “everything” is not correct. I was a kid once, too. One girl said she thought it was fair for her parents to know where she was going. Yes…that…seems…fair. Another girl chimed in that it was fair that her parents knew there was going to be an adult present. Suddenly, I started questioning my tuition payment—do these girls know what the word ‘fair’ means?

After several minutes, the table agreed on what was fair: where your child is going; who, if not you, the parent, is driving them; ensuring there is an adult present; and notifying the parent if locations change. It all sounded very sane and agreeable—and that’s when the fun started.

Next topic: What sort of parental behavior is not fair? The girls at the table were unequivocal and spoke like union reps at a strike arbitration. It is unacceptable for a parent to call the designated home to confirm first-hand that a parent will be there. It is not OK to walk your child out of your house at pick up and talk to the driver. And at the top of the list—the cardinal sin—you, as a parent, may not get out of your car, walk up to the house, ring the bell and introduce yourself to the host parent. No, because that would be rude. You simply toss your child out of the car like the morning paper—sort of a parental Racer X helping out with the driving when needed, then disappearing anonymously into the night.

I looked to my right as the father of an eighth grade girl stared slack-jawed at the children. He shook his head with a chuckle, Sorry girls, but I am ringing that doorbell and introducing myself; and frankly, I would be insulted if another parent didn’t do the same. What happened to common courtesy? I tried to hide behind my ‘the more you know’ brochure, blanching at how many times I had dumped Cranky off at what I assumed was a friend’s house but could have just as easily been a rave or some weird suburban slave-trade auction house. The one time I did try and check, Cranky hissed at me like a wet cat and said her friends were calling her the ‘party killer.’

We have many roles as parents: protector, cheerleader, friend, disciplinarian, and guess what? I discovered the worst role is ‘the embarrassment.’ I always thought I’d be that cool mom who didn’t count the beers in the fridge or care if my kids threw the wild parties. Turns out I’m not. I’m the doorbell ringer. I’m the phone caller. I’m the embarrassment…and I’m OK with that. That’s fair, right?



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Terrorist’s lawyer wife to sue Iran over “Argo.”