Obama unveils program to connect low-income areas with high-speed internet

President Obama remarked on Wednesday: ‘A child’s ability to succeed should not be based on where she lives.’ Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP

President Obama remarked on Wednesday: ‘A child’s ability to succeed should not be based on where she lives.’ Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP

ConnectHome will launch in 27 cities and the Choctaw Nation, from where the president announced the initiative: ‘The internet is not a luxury – it’s a necessity

By Sabrina Siddiqui, The Guardian 

Barack Obama on Wednesday paid a visit to one of the largest Native American tribes in the United States to emphasize the importance of expanding economic opportunity.

The president chose the Choctaw Nation area, an Indian reservation that spans roughly 11,000 miles across south-eastern Oklahoma, to launch an initiative that would increase access to high-speed internet in low-income households.

“The internet is not a luxury – it’s a necessity,” Obama said. “You cannot connect to today’s economy without having access to the internet.”

The pilot program, called ConnectHome, will serve as part of the Obama administration’s efforts to bridge the gap that leaves many communities – especially in low-income and rural areas – without broadband access.

The plan will launch in 27 cities, in addition to the Choctaw Nation, and will initially provide internet access to 275,000 low-income households and nearly 200,000 children, the White House said.

Citing an achievement gap, Obama said there were many consequences to not having internet access. It might begin with something as basic as young people not being able to complete their homework, the president said, and translate to a math and science gap and later an economic gap.

“In an increasingly competitive global economy, our whole country will fall behind,” Obama said.

The trip marks the second time Obama has directed attention at the Choctaw Nation, the third-largest Native American tribe in the United States. Last year, he included the Choctaw Nation among five so-called Promise Zones – an initiative directed at impoverished areas under which the federal government would partner with businesses and local governments to offer tax incentives and grants as part of a broader effort to reduce poverty.

Following its Promise Zone designation, the Choctaw Nation has received $58m in federal aid that has been used to expand educational opportunities and access to healthcare facilities.

Approximately 23% of individuals residing in the Choctaw Nation live below the poverty line – in some of its communities, the poverty rate is nearly 50%. The national poverty rate was 14.5% in 2013, according to the US census bureau.

“We’ve got a special obligation to make sure that tribal youth have every opportunity to reach their full potential,” Obama said in his remarks on Wednesday. “A child’s ability to succeed should not be based on where she lives, how much money her parents make. That’s not who we are as a country.”

Before his speech, Obama met with youth from the Choctaw Nation, Cherokee Nation, Muscogee (Creek) Nation and Chickasaw Nation.

Obama has stressed the need to improve the conditions of Native Americansbefore, particularly with respect to jobs and education.

“Native Americans face poverty rates far higher than the national average – nearly 60% in some places. And the dropout rate of Native American students is nearly twice the national rate,” he wrote in an op-ed last year. “These numbers are a moral call to action.”

Obama penned that op-ed ahead of a visit last June to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, located in both North and South Dakota. The president characterized the visit as an emotional one that he said left him and first lady Michelle Obama “shaken, because some of these kids were carrying burdens no young person should ever have to carry”.

“It was heartbreaking,” Obama added at the time.

According to a fact sheet released by the administration, the Obama administration is on track to meet its promise that 99% of K-12 students can use the internet in their classrooms and libraries by 2017.

“There are places where internet access can be a game-changer, but where service has not kept up,” Jeff Zients, director at the White House National Economic Council, told reporters ahead of Obama’s trip. “That’s especially true in schools … Students in every community need fast and reliable internet to get ahead and learn.”

According to an analysis by the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, released on Wednesday, nearly two-thirds of households among the lowest-income quintile of Americans owns a computer, but less than half have a subscription with an internet service provider.

The report further found a “strong positive association” between median income and use of the web. Minorities were disproportionately affected, according to data compiled in 2013: black and Hispanic households lagged 16 and 11 points behind white households in having internet access, while Native American households were 19 points behind white households.

Citing ‘racist views,’ tribe cancels Nugent show

By Associated Press

WORLEY, Idaho (AP) — A Native American tribe has canceled an Aug. 4 concert by Ted Nugent at its casino.

The Coeur d’Alene Tribe on Monday said that the cancellation of the concert at the casino in the northwest Idaho city of Worley was because of the rocker’s “racist and hate-filled remarks.”

The tribe says it booked Nugent without realizing he espoused “racist attitudes and views.” The tribe did not detail which of Nugent’s specific views it opposes.

Officials for Nugent’s music management company were out of the office on Monday and not available for comment.

Nugent in the past has referred to President Barack Obama as a “subhuman mongrel.” Nugent later apologized “for using the street fight terminology of subhuman mongrel.” But he maintained that Obama was a “liar” violating the Constitution.

VAWA advocate closes operation after DOJ questions funding

Diane Millich, Southern Ute, shared her story of surviving domestic violence, at the signing of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act on March 7, 2013. Photo from National Congress of American Indians

Diane Millich, Southern Ute, shared her story of surviving domestic violence, at the signing of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act on March 7, 2013. Photo from National Congress of American Indians

By indianz.com
A survivor of domestic violence has shut down her operation due to a loss of federal funds from the Department of Justice.

Diane Millich, a member of the Southern Ute Tribe of of Colorado, made national news a year ago at the signing of S.47, a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act that recognizes tribal jurisdiction over non-Indian offenders. She shared her story of surviving abuse and a near-fatal shooting at the hands of her non-Indian former husband.

“Today is about women like Diane. I’m so grateful Diane shared her story. That takes great courage,” President Barack Obama said at the signing ceremony.

Millich created a non-profit called Our Sister’s Keeper Coalition to help other survivors. But DOJ’s Office on Violence Against Women cut off all federal funds in 2012 and the group shut its doors in September, The Durango Herald reports.

“We were serving a lot of women,” Dedra White, the group’s former director and Millich’s sister, told the paper. “A lot.”

According to DOJ’s Office of Inspector General, Our Sister’s Keeper Coalition received $570,000 in federal funds between 2007 and 2011. Of that amount, auditors found problems with about $200,000 in spending that were considered “unsupported” and “unallowable.”

“We found that, OSKC did not comply with essential grant conditions in the areas of internal controls, grant drawdowns, grant expenditures, budget management and control, grant reporting, and grant goals and accomplishments,” the March 5 report stated. “Most significantly, OSKC commingled the OVW grant funds with funding from other sources, did not consistently identify funding sources for expenditures, made drawdowns in excess of grant expenditures, charged unallowable and unsupported costs to the grant, did not submit accurate or timely grant reports, and did not meet grant goals and objectives.”

Millich did not talk to the paper about the audit.

Get the Story:
Sister’s Keeper under criticism for funds use (The Durango Herald 3/12) DOJ Office of Inspector General Report:
udit of the Office on Violence Against Women Grants Awarded to Our Sister’s Keeper Coalition, Durango, Colorado (Redacted Version), Audit Report GR-60-14-004 (March 5, 2014)