U.S. nutrition program for mothers, infants sees falling demand

By Annika McGinnis

WASHINGTON, Sept. 19 (Reuters) – A government nutrition program for pregnant mothers and small children has not kept pace with technology and U.S. poverty experts say its paper voucher system is driving low-income women away from the program when they need it most.

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, known as WIC, has seen a sharp drop in participation since 2010, unlike food stamps and other anti-poverty programs that ballooned during the 2007-9 recession and the economic recovery that followed, government figures show.


Republican efforts to rein in Washington on pot, guns draw protests

By Annika McGinnis

WASHINGTON, Aug. 21 – (Reuters) – Efforts by congressional Republicans to block new laws in Washington, D.C., decriminalizing marijuana possession and tightening restrictions on guns have provoked a summer tempest between residents of the capital and U.S. lawmakers.

The District of Columbia’s non-voting representative in the House, Eleanor Holmes Norton and its residents are taking on Maryland Representative Andrew Harris, who is attempting to overturn a law that took effect last month making possession of small amounts of marijuana a civil, rather than criminal, offense. They also are focusing on Kentucky Representative Thomas Massie, who wants to cut off funding to enforce a ban on assault weapons in the city.


Trading power lunches for canned tuna in U.S. minimum wage bid

By Annika McGinnis

WASHINGTON, July 25 – (Reuters) – It was 4:25 p.m. and all Representative Tim Ryan had eaten so far were the few peanuts he foraged in a U.S. Capitol cloakroom.

His congressional salary is $174,000. But on Thursday, the six-term Ohio Democrat couldn’t afford lunch.

In a Congress thick with millionaires, Ryan and three other Democratic representatives are trying to live on the budget of a minimum wage worker this week in an effort to stir up attention to raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.


U.S. House panel votes to authorize lawsuit against Obama

(Reuters) – Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday took another step toward authorizing a lawsuit against President Barack Obama, claiming he has overstepped his executive powers in carrying out his landmark healthcare reform law.

In a partisan vote of 7-4, the House Rules Committee approved the legislation, likely setting it up for consideration by the full House next week. The Republican initiative already has spawned a bitter debate with Democrats less than four months before mid-term elections that will determine the political control of Congress next year.


U.S. Senate Democrats’ Hobby Lobby bill fails to move forward

By Annika McGinnis and Emily Stephenson

WASHINGTON, July 16 – (Reuters) – An attempt by U.S. Senate Democrats to override the Supreme Court’s controversial birth control ruling failed to muster enough votes to move forward on Wednesday, but lawmakers vowed to keep pressing the issue heading into the midterm elections.

Senators, including three Republicans, voted 56-43 for the bill, which would bar employers from discriminating against female employees in coverage of preventive health services, including contraception.


Hope fades in Congress for drama-free funding of U.S. agencies

By Annika McGinnis and David Lawder

WASHINGTON, July 16 – (Reuters) – This year was supposed to be different for Congress.

U.S. lawmakers expected that a promising budget deal reached after a government shutdown last year would herald a new normal for passing annual spending bills, moving Congress away from the crisis-driven approach and resulting economic jitters of recent years.

But the spending bills have been derailed in the Senate by election-year politics and a war over Republican amendments that range from thwarting curbs on power-plant carbon emissions to restoring potatoes to a government nutrition assistance program.


Obama encouraged by Egypt ceasefire proposal for Mideast

By Annika McGinnis

WASHINGTON, July 14 – (Reuters) – President Barack Obama said on Monday he was encouraged by Egypt’s proposal for a ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians and sided with Israel against what he called “inexcusable attacks.”

Obama’s comments came as he presided over an annual Iftar dinner at the White House in celebration of the holy month of Ramadan.


U.S. first lady Michelle Obama calls Laura Bush a role model, friend

By Annika McGinnis

WASHINGTON, Aug. 6 – (Reuters) – U.S. first lady Michelle Obama said she considered her predecessor Laura Bush a “role model and a friend,” as the two took the stage together on Wednesday at an event on empowering women in Africa.

Despite their husbands’ political differences, Obama said that Bush had “long been an inspiration.”


Obama commemorates Special Olympics anniversary at star-studded White House event

By Annika McGinnis

WASHINGTON, Aug. 1 – (Reuters) – Katy Perry, Jason Derulo and Stevie Wonder were all there – but the only guest who got to give President Barack Obama a hug during his speech was restaurant owner Tim Harris.

Harris has Down syndrome, but he owns his own restaurant and is a Special Olympics star in year-round sports.

And the focus was more on the star athletes than on the pop stars at a White House event on Thursday to commemorate the anniversary of the Special Olympics organization.


Tobacco tax law cost U.S. billions in revenue -report

By Annika McGinnis

WASHINGTON, July 29 – (Reuters) – A 2009 law that raised federal taxes to discourage smoking cost the U.S. government billions of dollars in lost revenue as manufacturers relabeled products and consumers shifted to cheaper pipe tobacco and large cigars, the U.S. Government Accountability Office said in a report released on Tuesday.

The GAO estimated $2.6 billion to $3.7 billion in lost revenue from April 2009 to February 2014 as manufacturers exploited loopholes in the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act which raised taxes for smoking-tobacco products.


Michelle Obama says the ‘blood of Africa’ runs through her veins

By Annika McGinnis

WASHINGTON, July 30 – (Reuters) – First lady Michelle Obama embraced her family’s African roots in a speech on Wednesday, telling a group of young Africans that the “blood of Africa” runs through her veins as she urged changing traditional beliefs on the worth of educating women.

Her husband had shied away from discussing his African heritage in his own remarks to the 500 Africans finishing a six-week Washington leadership fellowship on Monday, referencing his Kenyan father only once and in the question-and-answer session. But Michelle Obama said as an African American woman, her discussion with the African youth was “deeply personal.”


Obama discusses Iraq threats with Saudi Arabian King Abdullah

By Annika McGinnis

WASHINGTON, July 2 – (Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama discussed Iraq and the violent rise of a Sunni insurgent group there in a telephone call on Wednesday with Saudi Arabian King Abdullah, the White House said.

Obama thanked the Saudi king for his $500 million pledge to help Iraqis displaced by an upsurge in violence as militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant seized provinces in the north and west of Iraq, it said in a statement.


U.S. investigators propose review of flight controls after Asiana crash

By Alwyn Scott and Annika McGinnis

WASHINGTON, June 24 – (Reuters) – U.S. investigators on Tuesday said Boeing Co should consider modifying flight controls on the 777 jetliner in response to an Asiana Airlines crash in San Francisco last July that killed three people and injured more than 180.

The National Transportation Safety Board accepted 30 findings following an 11-month investigation into the July 6, 2013 crash, and made more than two dozen recommendations to the Federal Aviation Administration, the Seoul-based airline, Boeing, firefighters and San Francisco city and county.


Michelle Obama says will not go into politics after White House

By Annika McGinnis

WASHINGTON, June 23 – (Reuters) – U.S. first lady Michelle Obama will not go into politics after leaving the White House, she said on Monday, dismissing rumors she might follow in the footsteps of predecessor Hillary Clinton and run for the Senate after her husband leaves office.

At an event to promote family-friendly workplace policies, the wife of President Barack Obama was asked whether her next move would be political.

“No, it will not be political. It definitely will not be. It will be mission-based, service-focused,” Mrs. Obama told ABC newscaster Robin Roberts.


Obama pushes for family-friendly workplaces at campaign-like ‘summit’

By Annika McGinnis and Mark Felsenthal

WASHINGTON, June 23 – (Reuters) – President Barack Obama on Monday directed the federal government to give workers more leeway in determining their schedules, part of his goal to make U.S. workplaces more family-friendly – and a broad pitch to Democratic voters ahead of November elections.

Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and other top administration officials took turns telling their personal stories about the struggle to balance work and family at a campaign-style “summit” stacked with cheering Democratic supporters at a posh Washington hotel.


Family friendly workplaces would boost economy -White House

By Annika McGinnis

WASHINGTON, June 20 – (Reuters) – The United States could boost its sagging labor force participation rate and get more people back to work – if more businesses had family friendly policies such as paid maternity and paternity leave, the White House said in a report on Friday.

“Trying to balance breadwinning and caregiving responsibilities without the support of work-family policies designed to help families navigate these complexities is leaving too many families stressed, exhausted, and burdened by work-family conflict,” the White House said.


Hundreds of same-sex marriage opponents rally in Washington

By Annika McGinnis

WASHINGTON, June 19 – (Reuters) – Several hundred opponents of same-sex marriage marched to the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday after former Republican presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee urged them to keep fighting to have marriage defined as being strictly between a man and a woman.

Coming after a flurry of federal court rulings striking down same-sex marriage bans in a number of states, including Wisconsin on June 6, the speakers at the second annual “March for Marriage,” sought to make it clear their movement was not losing steam.


Former congresswoman Giffords seeks to rally women on gun push

By Annika McGinnis

WASHINGTON, June 18 – (Reuters) – Shooting victim and former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords sought on Wednesday to rally women behind her push for stricter U.S. gun laws.

Giffords spoke of the risks that women face from domestic violence and stalkers as she called for increased background checks for gun owners.


U.S. senators, safety groups fight over truck driver rest mandates

By Annika McGinnis

WASHINGTON, June 19 – (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate wrestled on Thursday over whether to repeal federal regulations that require truck drivers to take nighttime rest breaks, with some lawmakers arguing the rules have led to more daytime accidents while others saying they are critical to relieving fatigue.

The perils of driver fatigue gained national attention earlier this month after a truck crashed into a limousine van carrying comedian Tracy Morgan on the New Jersey Turnpike, critically injuring Morgan and killing another passenger, comedian James “Jimmy Mack” McNair. The truck driver, Walmart employee Kevin Roper, had not slept for more than 24 hours, according to a criminal complaint filed in Middlesex County Court in New Jersey.


Michelle Obama expands push to get Americans to drink more water

By Annika McGinnis

WASHINGTON, July 23 – (Reuters) – First lady Michelle Obama took to the White House lawn on Tuesday along with children from a local YMCA and summer camp to expand the country’s “Drink Up” campaign aimed at getting Americans to drink more water.

In the face of criticism that the 2013 campaign encouraged children to drink more bottled water rather than cheaper tap water, Obama announced new partnerships on Tuesday with water filtration, drinking fountain and water bottle companies to emphasize increased access to water rather than bottled water consumption.


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