Clip Highlights

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.


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.


Poor communities surrounding Baltimore Casino getting less revenue than anticipated


By Annika McGinnis, Capital News Service (Feb. 11, 2015)

ANNAPOLIS — Maryland’s fifth casino, Horseshoe, debuted in Baltimore in August under a flurry of bells, whistles, and high expectations that it would create jobs, raise education funds and revitalize the state’s struggling economy.

But as initial revenues on the low end of projections are spurring debate about the casino’s financial potential, disputes are also brewing in impoverished Baltimore neighborhoods over who should pay for the infrastructure improvements and police and fire needs that have spiked with the casino’s opening.

The casino, plopped right in the middle of impoverished South Baltimore, was supposed to inject new life into “historically ignored” communities mired with high crime and unemployment rates, poor health and lackluster housing.

The 5.5 percent of casino slots funds designated for “local impact” were expected to go toward boosting lagging communities — building local businesses and career centers, empowering youth, beautifying parks and bringing in healthy, fresh food to areas overrun with corner stores.

But 78 percent of this year’s “impact” funding from Horseshoe — $5.5 million out of $7 million — will most likely go to mitigating casino needs, including increased police and emergency medical services, traffic enforcement, sanitation, security cameras and road work, according to the mayor’s proposed budget.


Maryland school systems grapple with influx of Central American minors 



By Annika McGinnis, Capital News Service (Feb. 26, 2015)

ANNAPOLIS — In July, she came on foot and by bus, traversing thousands of miles on a harrowing month-long journey through Mexico to the United States.

She had hoped to come legally — but, threatened by gangs in El Salvador, 18-year-old Yanci said she was forced to flee.

Now a student at Northwestern High School in Hyattsville, Yanci is one of thousands of Central American “unaccompanied minors” finding a new home in Maryland’s Prince George’s and Montgomery counties. Since August, most of the minors who came to Maryland over the summer — often to escape gang violence in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — moved into the two jurisdictions.

As alarm over the influx quieted in September when numbers slowed, school systems took up the challenge of educating the non-English-speaking, often-traumatized youth.


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.


For Ecuadorian village, a struggle to adapt to changing climate

Andes Mountains, Ecuador. (Annika McGinnis/MCT/Getty Images).
Andes Mountains, Ecuador. (Annika McGinnis/MCT/Getty Images).

By Annika McGinnis, McClatchy Newspapers (July 18, 2012)

— Frosts aren’t on time for the 960 people living in this tiny, remote village, hidden on a chilly, windswept mountain ridge in South America.

A minor problem? Maybe for some. But in the Andean community, 8,800 feet above sea level, frosts – and their impact on crop cycles – are kind of a big deal.

In this agricultural community, crops are planted during the full moon, a tradition meant to help ensure a full harvest. But these days, the harvests aren’t as full.

Village residents say it’s the mark of climate change descending upon the Ayaloman people.


Growing minority populations ‘diluted’ in new General Assembly districts, lawmakers say


By Annika McGinnis, Capital News Service (Oct. 15, 2014)

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – More signs are in Spanish than English on a stretch of Wheaton’s Georgia Avenue, a road lined with “lavanderias,” Latin American grocery stores and the Guatemalan fast food chain Pollo Campero.

Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez, D-Montgomery County, registering new voters at Montgomery County's Wheaton Library
Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez, D-Montgomery County, left, is registering voters Oct. 4 at Montgomery County’s Wheaton Library. Montgomery’s Hispanic Democratic Club sponsored the event, seeking to register new voters in a county that has become majority-minority. Capital News Service photo by Annika McGinnis.


Down the road, at noon on Oct. 4 in the Wheaton Regional Library, “Inscribase para voter” – register to vote – was written on a poster on Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez’s table. By 12:30 p.m., the Montgomery County Democrat, 11-year delegate and first Latina member of the state legislature had enrolled five new voters, including several new citizens.

Though small, the grassroots push showed the slow but steady increase in minority political participation across Maryland. It parallels the state’s Hispanic and African-American populations’ increase over the past decade.

Despite an increase in minority candidates running for seats in the state legislature, diversity in the General Assembly will still likely not keep pace with these changing demographics – due partly to map redistricting that some minority lawmakers and political groups said clumps together or slices across minority populations to keep Democratic incumbents in power.


Euthanizing pets increasing as vet costs rise

By Annika McGinnis and Alicia McElhaney, USA TODAY (June 7, 2014)

Dogs may be “man’s best friend,” but in a still-struggling economy with rising veterinary costs, more Americans are choosing to put their ailing pets to sleep rather than pay for expensive treatments, experts say.

At Montgomery County Animal Resource Center in Dayton, Ohio, the rate of people seeking to euthanize their pets because they can’t afford treatment is rising between 10% and 12% a year, says Director Mark Kumpf. And at The Pet Fund, which raises money for people who can’t afford pet care, calls requesting financial support have doubled, says Executive Director Karen Leslie.


SHOP for health care is help for small business

By Annika McGinnis, USA TODAY (Dec. 11, 2013)

Just five people work at Michael Cadigan’s law firm, but thanks to his state’s new marketplace for small business health insurance, he’s saving $1,000 a month paying for 100% of their medical coverage.

In the past, “numerous” insurers canceled his employees’ insurance because they didn’t want to deal with a small group, including one person with a rare genetic disorder, said Cadigan, of Albuquerque

Now, he says he can offer the same benefits to the Cadigan Law Firm’s workers as a large business — and for less than he was paying. It took him just 15 minutes to sign up.

Cadigan’s experience illustrates some benefits of the new Small Business Health Options Program, or SHOP, created by the Affordable Care Act. Businesses with 50 or fewer workers don’t have to offer employees health insurance plans, but SHOP tries to make it easier and more affordable for them to do so.


Target preps for Black Friday with multimedia deals

By Annika McGinnis, USA TODAY (Nov. 27, 2013)

Less than a week before Black Friday, it was already Christmas morning at a Target store in Washington, D.C.

At 9 a.m. Friday, Target employees at the retailer’s Columbia Heights location gathered in their daily morning “huddle.” Holiday music played, and their boss exuded Christmas spirit: Sporting a Santa hat, merchandising senior executive team leader Matt Roy gave out tastes of Target-brand Christmas products, including pumpkin cheesecake cookies and chocolate mint milk.

“I marked the official start of the fourth quarter this morning by doing the eggnog in my car,” Roy joked.


Big insurers avoid many state health exchanges

By Jayne O’Donnell and Annika McGinnis, USA TODAY (Oct. 21, 2013)

So few insurers offer plans on some of the new government health insurance exchanges that consumers in those states may pay too much or face large rate increases later, insurance experts say.

An average of eight insurers compete for business in 36 states that had exchanges run or supported by the federal government last month, the Department of Health and Human Services says. (Idaho has since started its own exchange.) But just because an insurer sells in a state, it doesn’t mean it sells in every area of a state so many residents have far fewer options.


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.


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.


County liquor board investigations into fake IDs result in violations, fines

By Annika McGinnis, The Diamondback (April 19, 2013)

EDITOR’S NOTE: A student’s name was withheld because she discusses underage drinking. A worker’s name was withheld to protect his job.

They’d sneak in with friends, pay a few extra dollars or flash an ID depicting a person obviously several years older. Somehow, underage drinkers always found a way to get into the College Park bars, a former R.J. Bentley’s employee said.

But in December, everything began to change. The county liquor board started conducting more undercover investigations at the bars and fining those where they found violations, board chairman Franklin Jackson said. And the bars have responded, implementing stricter policies such as ID scanners and wristbands for minors to cut back on underage drinking incidents, the former employee said.


College Park’s age demographics trend toward age 20, affecting life for all

By Annika McGinnis, The Diamondback (May 10, 2013)

For Jissella Urquilla, Berwyn Road’s tree-lined row of brick houses and hole-in-the-wall shops is home.

She’s grown up surrounded by college students for 16 years, accustomed to ever-changing fast-food restaurants on Route 1, loud parties and not knowing many of her neighbors.

“It used to be more families, but now almost every house around is college students,” Urquilla said. “Nobody’s really outside anymore.”

Between 2000 and 2010, the proportion of College Park residents aged 15 to 25 increased from 53 percent to 62 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. City officials and long-term residents attributed the increase to housing developments, expensive rental houses and the university’s rising prestige, which draws in non-local students. With more students coming from farther away, said District 3 councilwoman Stephanie Stullich, more seek housing near the campus.


Survivor of years of assault uses story to help others

By Annika McGinnis, The Diamondback (Jan. 29, 2013)

EDITOR’S NOTE: The last name of an individual in this story was withheld to protect her privacy.

One night when senior Bailey Lamson was 8, she ran into her mother’s and stepfather’s bedroom to escape a nightmare — unaware that she was jumping into another one, worse than anything imaginable.

That night, Lamson’s stepfather began sexually assaulting her, something he would continue for the next six years.

“I was like, ‘Oh, maybe he thinks I’m my mom,’” said the 20-year-old criminology and criminal justice and sociology major. “But it just didn’t stop.”


College Park student volunteer firefighters ‘love’ hectic, strenuous schedule

By Annika McGinnis, The Diamondback (April 9, 2013)

Nick Wilbur doesn’t often get a good night’s sleep.

Earsplitting sirens jolt the 22-year-old awake almost every day in the early hours of the morning. And he’s up, throwing off the covers, sprinting out of his room and flying down two flights of stairs. Within 30 seconds, he’s out the door and on the road, the sound of sirens fading away into the distance.

For Wilbur, a student at Prince George’s Community College and University of Maryland University College, this early morning chaos is part of his daily routine as a volunteer firefighter at the College Park Volunteer Fire Department.


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.


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