Ellen Ochoa to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

Ellen Ochoa has earned a special presidential honor…

The 65-year-old Mexican American engineer, former NASA astronaut and former director of the Johnson Space Center is among the recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Ellen Ochoa,The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the nation’s highest civilian honor. The White House last held a ceremony in July 2022.

In 1993, Ochoa became the first Hispanic woman to go to space when she served on a nine-day mission aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery.

Ochoa became director of the center upon the retirement of the previous director, Michael Coats, on December 31, 2012. She was the first Hispanic director and the second female director of Johnson Space Center.

But Ochoa isn’t the only Hispanic person recognized this year.

Teresa Romero is also being honored.

The Mexican immigrant and activist is the president of the United Farm Workers and the first Latina to become president of a national union in the United States.

She has secured key victories to improve the lives of the workers who feed and fuel our nation.

Other honorees include Phil Donahue, Michelle Yeoh, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), former Vice President Al Gore, former Secretary of State John Kerry and former senator Elizabeth Dole. Jesuit priest Gregory Boyle, the founder of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, also will be honored.

Others on the list include Clarence B. Jones, the civil rights activist and lawyer who helped draft Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech; swimmer Kathleen Genevieve Ledecky; educator and activist Opal Lee; astronomer Jane Rigby; and LGBT activist Judy Shepard.

Being honored posthumously will be Medgar Evers, former senator Frank Lautenberg and multi-sports legend Jim Thorpe.

Aloe Blacc Helps White House Unveil Its National Suicide Prevention Strategy

Aloe Blacc is helping prevent suicide…

The 45-year-old Panamanian American, who has been touched by the suicide of a loved one, White House on Tuesday (April 23) to help the White House unveil its new national strategy to prevent suicide.

Aloe Blacc, White House, Suicide Prevention“As we all know, suicide affects everyone, it doesn’t matter your age, race, gender or where you live, it impacts all of us and sadly suicide and suicidal thoughts and actions have really increased over the past several years,” said Vice President Kamala Harris’ husband, Doug Emhoff, who hosted the event.

Emhoff began his remarks by acknowledging Ashley Judd, whose mother country star Naomi Judd died almost two years ago by suicide and Blacc, whose close friend and collaborator EDM star Tim Bergling (aka Avicii) died by suicide in 2018.

Emhoff noted that 132 people die by suicide every day and that “we’re here today because we know that we can and will change this. Suicide is preventable and the president and vice president have been hard at work taking action, action to mitigate and prevent suicide.”

Among the actions Emhoff said the administration is taking is mobile crisis response teams, more youth suicide prevention activities, as well as increased suicide prevention efforts in schools.

Judd honored her beloved mother and described The Judds singer’s battle with mental illness, which she said was “lying to her and with great terror convinced her that it would never get better” during the discussion moderated by Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy that also featured Shelby Rowe, executive director of the Suicide Prevention Research Center. Judd spoke lovingly of her mother’s sense of humor and discovery of music as a child, but also noted that Naomi, 76, was a survivor of childhood and adult sexual violence who became a nurse and then a Grammy-winning country icon.

“She also lived most of her life with an untreated and undiagnosed mental illness that lied to her and stole from her and it stole from our family and she deserved better,” said Judd, who noted that she suffered from childhood depression and suicidal ideation after being molested when she was seven-years-old. “But I had a different experience because I went to treatment in 2006 for unresolved childhood grief and sexual trauma and I’ve been in good recovery for 18 years and I’ve had a different outcome than my mother.”

What Judd said she carries with her now is a message of hope and recovery.

Blacc said he was on the dais because he has a strong belief in the “tremendous power of music to amplify these important messages” and because he’s learned to stand up for friends who self-harmed and lived as well as those who’ve not survived. “It’s important for all of us to recognize the power that we have,” he said. “So in knowing someone who may be going through a traumatic time and just being a stand for them could make the big difference.”

He encouraged everyone in the room and watching to recognize the positive role we can play in other people’s lives. “The more we can recognize and see and offer our friends and our family members that moment to say, ‘I need your help’ and you know it makes me think about those moments where you get the phone call and a friend of yours has committed self-harm and you think, ‘when was the last time I called? When was the last time I texted?’”

The singer urged everyone to search for a “moment of joy” when they reach out to friends in crisis, including memories that spark laughter or a song, as well as to remind people that they are “the light.” Blacc said, “there’s no such thing as too much love. Let’s give as much as we can,” he added, leading the assembled guests in the chorus from “This Little Light of Mine.”

The administration’s new 2024 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention — accompanied by the first-ever federal action plan — identifies 200 different actions that will be implemented and evaluated over the next three years. Among those actions are: identifying ways to address substance use and suicide risk together in the clinical setting, funding a mobile crisis locator for use by 988 crisis centers, increasing support for survivors of suicide loss and others whose lives have been impacted by suicide, and evaluating promising community-based suicide prevention strategies.

If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis call or text 988 or chat at 988lifeline.org.

Fat Joe Joins Kamala Harris for White House Discussion on Easing Marijuana Penalties

Fat Joe is fighting to ease marijuana penalties…

The 53-year-old Puerto Rican and Cuban American rapper joined Vice President Kamala Harris to lead a White House discussion on Friday, March 15, on easing marijuana penalties, with Harris saying it’s “absurd” that the federal government classifies marijuana as more dangerous than fentanyl, the synthetic opioid blamed for tens of thousands of deaths annually the United States.

Fat JoeHarris, a former state prosecutor in California, also criticized the federal classification of cannabis as “patently unfair.” The government currently is reviewing how it classifies marijuana, and Harris urged that the process be wrapped up as quickly as possible. 

Fat Joe, a Grammy-nominated artist and philanthropist whose real name is Joseph Cartagena, moderated a subsequent closed-door discussion that included Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear and individuals who received pardons for prior marijuana convictions.

President Joe Biden has issued pardons to thousands of people for federal marijuana possession and commuted long sentences handed down for nonviolent drug offenses. In 2022, he urged governors to pardon state offenses. Beshear then invited people convicted of simple marijuana possession to apply for pardons in Kentucky. Biden launched the process to review how marijuana is classified in 2022.

A full seven in 10 U.S. adults favor legalizing marijuana, according to Gallup polling. Support for legalization is closer to eight in 10 among 18- to 34-year-olds, a demographic whose support for Biden, who is seeking reelection, has softened since he took office.

“I cannot emphasize enough that they need to get to it as quickly as possible and we need to have a resolution based on their findings and their assessment,” Harris said of the Departments of Health and Human Services and Justice, which are handling the review.

“But this issue is stark when one considers the fact that on the schedule currently marijuana is considered as dangerous as heroin,” she said during the public portion of the meeting. “Marijuana is considered as dangerous as heroin and more dangerous than fentanyl, which is absurd. Not to mention patently unfair.”

“So I’m sure DEA is working as quickly as possible and will continue to do so and we look forward to the product of their work,” the vice president said, referring to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid blamed for tens of thousands of deaths annually in America.

U.S. regulators are studying reclassifying marijuana shifting it from a drug that has “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse,” known as “Schedule I,” to the less tightly regulated “Schedule III.”

Biden mentioned the marijuana classification review during his State of the Union address earlier this month. He said during a campaign appearance in Milwaukee this week that “no one should be jailed for marijuana.”

“If you’re just using, you should have that wiped off your record,” Biden said.

Cartagena opened the roundtable by saying he’s hot on the issue of price transparency in health care “but, today, when the vice president calls me, I stop everything.”

He got a little ahead of himself when he proceeded to dismiss journalists so the closed-door discussion could begin, prompting Harris to tell him to “hold on” because she had a statement to make, too.

Fat Joe Partnering with Power to the Patients to Advocate for Price Transparency in Healthcare

Fat Joe is advocating for more transparency in healthcare…

53-year-old Puerto Rican and Cuban American rapper is teaming up with Jelly Roll, Wyclef Jean and Power to the Patients for an event in Washington, D.C. to advocate for a more affordable and equitable healthcare system through price transparency.

Fat JoeTaking place on Wedenesday, January 10 at Hamilton Live and with congressional leaders and government officials in attendance, the event see the artists “shed light on the injustices created by a healthcare system that hides its prices, stifling competition and evading accountability for overcharges and price gouging,” according to the announcement.

As part of the event, Fat Joe will serve as emcee while Jelly Roll and Wyclef Jean will perform.

“The U.S. healthcare system is America’s sickness,” said Fat Joe. “Healthcare price transparency isn’t a partisan or complicated issue. It’s common sense. The only people opposed to it are healthcare industry interests profiting by keeping patients in the dark. Price transparency can protect patients, families, employers, workers, even our own government from healthcare overcharging and pricing fraud as it does everywhere else in the economy. Clear prices allow consumers to choose affordable treatments without worrying that routine care will result in overcharges and even bankruptcy. Price transparency holds hospitals and insurance companies accountable, forcing them to compete and lowering costs, improving healthcare access, quality, and outcomes.”

Power to the Patients has played a key role in raising awareness on Capitol Hill about the urgent need to pass comprehensive healthcare price transparency legislation.

Last April, Fat Joe met with congressional leaders and the White House to advocate for the enforcement of price transparency rules that most hospitals around the country are disregarding.

And last September, he tapped Rick Ross, Busta Rhymes, French Montana, Method Man and Chuck D to unveil a public service announcement with Power the Patients, demanding elected officials commit to price transparency to allow for more honest, affordable, and equitable healthcare across the country.

The musicians called out hospitals and insurance companies that continue to hide prices by posting “estimates” or “average prices” instead of dollars and cents and noted the deception leads to the “stifling of competition, overcharges, fear, debt, and devastation all over the country.”

As a result of the continued awareness campaign, momentum for healthcare price transparency legislation has accelerated with both chambers of Congress taking action to advance legislation.

Fat Joe will join Power to the Patients, affiliated organization Patient Rights Advocate, and employers from across the country in meetings with Congressional leaders urging them to seize the momentum and get healthcare price transparency legislation passed and sent to President Joe Biden’s desk.

Mariah Carey Makes Special Visit to the White House

Mariah Carey is in the (White) House

The 54-year-old half-Venezuelan American Grammy-winning superstar made a special visit to see the president and vice president of the United States.

Mariah Carey, White HouseAs shared on Instagram this Wednesday (December 20), the vocalist recently swung by the White House in Washington, D.C., to meet with President Joe Biden and his second in command, Vice President Kamala Harris.

Carey’s 12-year-old twins Moroccan and Monroe, whom she shares with ex Nick Cannon, also got to visit the Oval Office and chat with the leaders of the nation.

While there, Carey posed for photos with both Biden and Harris, as well as with her kids in front of the White House’s impressive Christmas decorations.

“Last week I had the pleasure of meeting President Biden & Vice President Harris at the White House to ring in the holiday season!” the singer captioned the pictures, which the White House also shared on its official account. “While there, we got to see all the festive decor and spread some cheer! 🎄❄️☃️”

And what does an international superstar wear to greet the POTUS and VP? A sequined tweed suit jacket and dress, complete with pink trimming and matching heels.

Later, Carey and the president jointly posted a video of their first meeting, both of them professing “I’m a fan” to the other while shaking hands.

The hitmaker is fresh off the finale of her Merry Christmas One and All! Tour, which wrapped with a special show at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Jennifer Hudson and Ariana Grande joined Carey onstage to perform “Oh Santa!,” marking the trio’s first time performing the remix live since releasing it in 2020.

Carey also just claimed her 13th week atop the Billboard Hot 100 with her evergreen holiday smash “All I Want for Christmas Is You.”

The track also scored a record-breaking 16th week atop the Billboard Global 200 earlier this week.

A24 Releases First Trailer for Wagner Moura’s Action Epic “Civil War”

It’s War time for Wagner Moura.

A24 has released the first trailer for he action epic Civil War, starring the 47-year-old Brazilian actor, director and filmmaker.

Wagner MouraHailing from Alex Garland, the film will be released in theaters (including on IMAX screens) on April 26, 2024.

While the film’s plot has been kept under wraps, it’s now described as chronicling a race to the White House in a near-future America balanced on the razor’s edge.

Moura, Kirsten Dunst and Cailee Spaeny appear to play journalists at a time when the United States has become a literal battleground, with 19 states seceding from the Union.

While not previously announced as part of the cast, Nick Offerman is introduced in the trailer as playing a fascist U.S. President, who’s at war with the so-called “Western Forces” of Texas and California. Also making an appearance as a threatening figure along our central trio’s path to D.C. is Dunst’s husband, Oscar nominee Jesse Plemons. Rounding out the cast are Stephen McKinley Henderson and Sonoya Mizuno.

Garland directed Civil War from his own script. In addition to serving as distributor, A24 produced the film alongside Andrew Macdonald and Allon Reich of DNA and Gregory Goodman.

Moura’s previous credits include the films The Gray Man, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish,and Wasp Network, as well as the television series Narcos.

Gloria Estefan to Host This Year’s Kennedy Center Honors Ceremony

Gloria Estefan is preparing to take Center stage.

The 66-year-old Cuban Grammy-winning singer-songwriter and entrepreneur will return as host of this year’s Kennedy Center Honors, which will air on CBS on Wednesday, December 27.

Gloria EstefanBilly Crystal, Renée Fleming, Barry Gibb, Queen Latifah and Dionne Warwick are this year’s recipients.

The ceremony will air from 9:00 – 11:00 pm ET/PT and stream on Paramount+.

The actual ceremony, one of the biggest entertainment events of the year for D.C. politicos and media, will take place on December 3. This year’s event also will honor the 50th anniversary of hip-hop.

Done+Dusted is returning as producer in association with ROK Productions. Elizabeth Kelly is executive producer along with David Jammy, and Alex Rudzinski is the director.

Estefan received a Kennedy Center Honor in 2017.

The ceremony traditionally has been preceded the night before by a dinner hosted by the U.S. Secretary of State. Just before the event, the president hosts a reception at the White House for the honorees. President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden have attended the ceremonies the past two years.

NBC News Names Gabe Gutierrez Its Senior White House Correspondent

Gabe Gutierrez is working on his White House credentials…

NBC News has named the Latino news correspondent to its White Housesenior White House correspondent.team as Its senior White House correspondent.

Gabe GutierrezGutierrez, who joined the network in 2012, had been working as an NBC News correspondent based in New York.

“Gabe’s arrival following his accomplishments as one of the most collaborative and hardest working journalists will enable us to build upon our leadership position at the White House,” says Ken Strickland, Washington bureau chief and senior vice president for NBC News. “He joins an All-Star Team led by Chief White House Correspondent Peter Alexander and Kelly O’Donnell, Senior White House Correspondent and the new President of the White House Correspondents’ Association.”

Strickland’s memo reads: As an NBC News National Correspondent based in New York, Gabe has been at the forefront of the biggest stories in recent memory, including the coronavirus pandemic, immigration issues at the southern border, the death of George Floyd, and the 2022 midterm elections. Internationally, Gabe has reported from Ukraine and this year’s deadly earthquakes in Turkey. Most recently, he has been traveling the country covering the Republican presidential field as it continues to take shape.

Gutierrez is expected to start next month as Kristen Welker, who has been a White House correspondent, becomes the moderator of Meet the Press.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez Files Paperwork to Run for President

Francis Suarez appears to be making a major political move…

The 45-year-old Cuban American lawyer and politician, currently serving as the mayor of Miami, has filed paperwork to run for president, according to new FEC filings, in what’s considered a long-shot campaign.

Francis Suarez

Suarez is scheduled to speak on Thursday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.

During an appearance on Fox News over the weekend, the mayor said he would make a “major announcement” in the coming weeks and pointed to his remarks at the Reagan Library as “one that Americans should tune in to.”

Suarez is currently in his second term as mayor of Miami, Florida’s second-most populous city. Until recently, he also served as the president of the bipartisan US Conference of Mayors.

Ahead of his filing, a super PAC supporting Suarez on Wednesday released a two-minute video touting his leadership of the Florida city as he teased a long-shot bid for the White House.

“Conservative mayor Francis Suarez chose a better path for Miami,” the video’s narrator says, highlighting his approach to crime and support for law enforcement.

The first major Hispanic candidate to enter the Republican race, Suarez starts off as a decided underdog in the primary, with former President Donald Trump, a resident of nearby Palm Beach, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis towering over the field in polling. The primary also includes former Vice President Mike Pence, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Trump’s recent federal indictment over his alleged mishandling of classified documents after leaving office has also roiled the Republican contest. The former president remains popular with the party base, and candidates have been split in their reactions to the indictment.

Suarez, who has previously been critical of Trump, told Fox News on Sunday that the news of the former president’s first federal indictment felt “un-American” and “wrong at some level.”

In an interview with CBS News last month, Suarez said deciding on a presidential bid was a “soul-searching process.” He also nodded to his lack of national name recognition, saying, “I’m someone who needs to be better known by this country.”

Suarez’s late entry into the GOP primary, relative to other rivals, could affect his chances of qualifying for the first Republican primary debate, scheduled to take place in Milwaukee on August 23.

The Republican National Committee has laid out strict polling and donor thresholds that candidates must meet to make the stage.

President Joe Biden Nominates Anna Gomez to Serve on Federal Communications Commission

Anna Gomez is President Joe Biden’s communications commission choice…

The Latina telecom lawyer  has been nominated by Biden to serve on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), a five-member regulatory body stuck in a 2-2 deadlock.

Anna GomezIn addition to the nomination for Gomez, Biden announced the re-nomination of commissioners Geoffrey Starks and Brendan Carr to serve additional 5-year terms.

Gomez, a former FCC and U.S. Senate staffer, is serving as a telecom policy adviser in the U.S. State Department. She also served as deputy administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, a key agency within the Commerce Department involved in improving internet accessibility.

For more than two years, the FCC has been in a stalemate, which has significantly limited its ability to weigh in on all but the most anodyne topics. Commissioners are nominated by the president, meaning the regulatory body should be in Democratic control with Biden in the White House.

Gigi Sohn, a longtime Washington presence and veteran regulator, withdrew her nomination earlier this year after intense opposition from Republican activists and industry lobbyists. Sohn had been part of an effort led by President Barack Obama to achieve net neutrality, a policy opposed by major broadband providers and telecom firms. During confirmation hearings, Senate Republicans said Sohn would shift the FCC too far to the left.

In a statement, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel congratulated Gomez, Starks and Carr. Gomez, she said, “brings with her a wealth of telecommunications experience, a substantial record of public service, and a history of working to ensure the U.S. stays on the cutting edge of keeping us all connected.” She added, “I look forward to working with a full complement of FCC Commissioners to advance our mission to connect everyone, everywhere.”