Towsontowne Rotary offers gift of sight to children of Mumbai

— The Towsontowne Rotary Club recently announced their latest project, which will provide much-needed eye care for over 60,000 children in Mumbai’s poorest districts. The Mumbai grant will fund the planning and implementation of a series of comprehensive eye care diagnostic clinics at local public schools and help to educate teachers, administrators and community volunteers to identify children at risk, all at a cost of only $108,500.00 or $1.80 per child.

Along with participating Rotary organizations in Towson, District 7620 (Capitol Hill), Bombay and Rotary International, Towsontowne is partnering with other major players in eye care and restoration including: The International Federation of Eye & Tissue Banks, Tissue Banks International and United to Restore Sight International— all based in Baltimore; the Khan Bahadur Haji Bachooali Hospital (founded by Mahatma Gandhi) and the Eye Bank Coordination & Research Centre, both in Mumbai.

“As crucially important as it is to save the sight of these children, this project is as much about peace as it is anything else,” says Towsontowne Rotary Club member Mahmood Farazdaghi, president of International Federation of Eye and Tissue Banks and president of United to Restore Sight International. “Already widely known in India, this project says to many that more can be accomplished by working together peacefully than by taking up arms with violence and anger.”

Roughly one-third of Mumbai’s 20,500,000 people live in slums, totaling some 7,000,000 people. Nearly 40 percent of these people are children with

little or no access to even the most rudimentary health care. Few, if any of the children in Mumbai slum areas have ever had an eye examination of any type. Many suffer from trachoma— a condition that blinds children in developing countries who are forced to wash with dirty water. Corneal blindness is the other common vision impairment, which can be corrected with corneal transplants from donated tissue.

“Ten percent of all children suffer from one form of eye ailment or another, says Farazdaghi, “from simple refractive error to the most serious of eye diseases. However, these children may also have nutritional deficiencies, which are easily detected and remedied but local leaders and educators have little ability to deal with eye ailments and no resources to alleviate the condition. That’s why this project is so perfect. Those who have the ability to treat the children, along with the equipment, donated corneas and a mobile clinic are already in place, ready to go. Our grant provides the fuel to make it happen— figuratively and literally.”

The Towsontowne Rotary grant will provide new eyeglasses to correct refractive errors; vitamin A supplements; training for teachers and community volunteers to help with on-going screening; additional equipment to facilitate field screening; and expenses for operating the mobile clinic.

The enormity of such a project with so many active participants spread out over two separate continents demands strong working relationships and a deeply shared belief in the mission. “Working together with all of these wonderful partners to bring aid to the children of Mumbai really emphasizes what can be done when people pull together as a team and embrace the spirit of cooperation and humanitarianism,” says Towsontowne Rotary President, Tanya Sher whose club was founded in 1989. The organization is part of a worldwide network of Rotary Clubs, defined by the ideal of humanitarian service.

“Can you imagine millions of children who won’t ever see a sunrise or sunset because they lacked the proper care?” says Timothy Askew, CEO of Tissue Banks International (TBI). “We are excited to be partnering with so many local and international organizations who take major steps through prevention and paving the way for people to live better lives.”

5 things about the controversy surrounding AG Eric Holder

— Attorney General Eric Holder, a political lightning rod for Republican critics of the Obama administration, is under fire for two cases involving secret subpoenas or searches for phone records and other information of journalists involved in reports about leaked classified information.

  1. What’s the problem?

In the first case, the Justice Department last year obtained two months of phone records for reporters and editors at The Associated Press as part of a probe that the news service said was focused on its account of a foiled plot to bomb a U.S. airliner in May 2012.

The second case involves subpoenas and search warrants in 2010 to obtain phone records, e-mails and security badge tracking of a Fox News correspondent who reported on classified intelligence about North Korea in 2009.

Members of the press and critics led by Republican foes of Holder complained the covert surveillance amounted to targeting journalists as potential criminals, which would chill investigative reporting and potentially violate First Amendment rights of a free press.

In the investigation of leaks to the AP, employees of the news service were never singled out as potential criminals.

However, the affidavit for a search warrant in the Fox case included an FBI agent’s statement that a network reporter — later identified as James Rosen — could potentially be an “aider and abettor and/or co-conspirator” to the crime of disclosing secret information.

In addition, Justice Department officials confirmed that Holder took part in “discussions” about seeking the search warrant.

The Justice Department did not prosecute Rosen, nor did it file charges against him. While he was listed as a “co-conspirator,” that often does not mean he would be considered a target.

Last week, President Barack Obama ordered Holder to review government practices in investigating leaks of secret information.

His administration has been more aggressive in probing classified leaks than those of his predecessors, but Obama said he was “troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable.”

Some Republicans complained that Holder’s involvement meant he would be reviewing himself, due to the affidavit that said he took part in discussions on a search warrant of Rosen’s phone records and emails.

  1. What are the latest developments?

On Wednesday, the GOP leaders of the House Judiciary Committee sent Holder a letter asking for further information about whether he lied to Congress when he said at a May 15 hearing that he never took part in any “potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material.”

“… That is not something that I have ever been involved in, heard or, or would think would be wise policy,” Holder said in response to questioning by Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia on possible use of the Espionage Act to prosecute members of the news media for publishing classified information.

The letter to Holder from committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia and Rep. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin noted that the affidavit for the search warrant for Rosen’s phone, e-mail and security badge information only became public after the May 15 hearing.

They questioned whether Holder’s response to Johnson’s question amounted to lying under oath because of subsequent media reports that the Justice Department confirmed Holder took part in discussions on seeking a search warrant.

“How can you claim to have never even heard of’ the potential prosecution of the press but were, at a minimum, involved in discussions regarding Mr. Rosen?” asked the letter by Goodlatte and Sensenbrenner.

While Holder was asked about the AP case at the May 15 committee hearing, the issue of the Fox reporter never came up.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday that no prosecution ever took place in the Fox case, and therefore it was “self-evident” that any charge Holder lied to the House panel was “inaccurate.”

Implying that Republicans were playing politics, Carney said reporters should “be careful not to conflate facts with statements by members of Congress about what they want to be true.” Pressed further, he added that reporters were “conflating a subpoena with prosecution.”

Asked if Obama still had full confidence in the attorney general, Carney replied: “He absolutely does, yes.”

On Tuesday, Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, said Holder “was forthright and did not mislead the committee” on May 15.

“Certainly, there are policy disagreements as to how the First Amendment should apply to these series of leak investigations being conducted by the Justice Department and that is and should be an area for the committee to consider,” Conyers said in a statement. “However, there is no need to turn a policy disagreement into allegations of misconduct.”

Meanwhile, a Justice Department official said Wednesday that Holder will meet with officials from media organizations this week as part of his review of how the federal government handles leak investigations.

The meetings with chiefs of Washington bureaus will begin Thursday and include representatives from newspapers, wire services, radio and television broadcasters, and online organizations, the official said.

  1. What’s the background?

With an eye toward the 2014 congressional elections and the 2016 presidential campaign, Republicans are trying to depict the Obama administration as rife with scandals.

These include the two cases involving Holder as well as IRS targeting of conservative groups and erroneous talking points about the Benghazi, Libya, terrorist attack.

Like many attorneys general, Holder has been a focus of political attacks throughout Obama’s White House tenure.

In particular, conservative Republicans have taken aim at Holder over efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility, a decision to stop enforcing the Defense of Marriage Act, and the handling of the botched “Fast and Furious” gun-walking program.

At the same time, Holder has been praised by Obama and liberals for taking a lead role on socially progressive issues such as gay marriage and immigration.

Last year, House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa of California led a GOP effort to cite Holder for contempt of Congress in a dispute over documents the panel sought in the “Fast and Furious” investigation.

Issa and other Republicans said Holder refused to turn over requested documents necessary for a full inquiry of the program in which federal agents allowed illegal weapons sales across the border with Mexico, then lost track of the firearms.

Holder maintained the House contempt vote boycotted by most Democrats amounted to political theater, and he recently criticized Issa for what he called a pattern of incomplete or misleading statements.

“It is inappropriate and it is too consistent with the way in which you conduct yourself as a member of Congress,” Holder said at the May 15 hearing of the judiciary panel that includes Issa. “It is unacceptable and it is shameful.”

  1. What does Holder have to say?

At the May 15 hearing, Holder testified under oath that he had recused himself from the AP case because he had previously been questioned regarding who knew what about the classified leak. Therefore, he said, he had no role in last year’s decision by Deputy Attorney General James Cole to seek the secret subpoena of AP phone records.

Holder has yet to comment specifically on Rosen’s case. On Tuesday, he told reporters he was “not satisfied” with some federal guidelines on how prosecutors conduct leak investigations involving reporters.

“We’re going to have a real frank, good conversation about this,” Holder said. “And I think, we’re going to make some changes because I’m not satisfied with where we are.”

  1. What happens now?

There will be more congressional hearings and investigations, more political rancor and the possibility of some fallout if further disclosures reveal Holder knowingly misled Congress or inappropriately concealed information.

His defiance in the face of the House contempt citation indicates Holder won’t voluntarily step down unless pressured to do so by Obama, who has steadfastly maintained confidence in him.

The question will be whether Holder becomes a liability for the president.

If the multiple controversies (IRS targeting, Benghazi, reporters phone records) continue to dominate the political discussion, Obama could decide a drastic gesture is needed to try to move past a climate of crises. However, nothing at this point suggests that is imminent or under consideration.

CNN’s Carol Cratty, Dana Bash, Kevin Liptak, Paul Steinhauser and Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report.


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Mother of Redskin Quarterback RG3 delivers message of hope, inspiration at homeownership workshop

— The mother of Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III urged families attending a homeownership workshop on Saturday, April 13, 2013 to live within their means focus on their dreams and never, ever give up— even when faced with adversity.

“No matter how low you start out in life or how many times you’re knocked down, you can get back up again,” Jacqueline Griffin told a standing-room only audience at HomeFree-USA’s Keys to Success workshop sponsored by Bank America, with support from DHCD. “I know how hard it is when you’re striving, when you have goals, and something happens. It’s not what you go through, but how you go through it.”

Griffin described how she and her husband believe in living frugal, faith-filled lives and raised their family with the same values. When her famous son hurt his knee after a Rookie of the Year season with the Redskins, she said, he turned to his parents and asked “Now what?”

“We told him, ‘now comes the test for something greater,'” she said. “I know not everybody is going to be an RG3,” she said, “But whatever your dreams, you have to nurture them.”

Secretary Skinner joined Mr. and Mrs. Griffin and Capitol Heights Mayor Kito James at the daylong workshop in the Washington suburbs. The Griffins recently moved to the Washington region at their son’s request.

HomeFree, like counseling agencies throughout Maryland, is helping prospective homeowners prepare for a strengthening economy, noted Secretary Skinner. After the collapse of the national housing market in 2007, members of the MD HOPE Counseling Network focused on foreclosure prevention. Today, counselors are helping families repair their credit, organize their finances and put themselves in position to buy the home of their dreams.

Programs such as the Maryland Mortgage Program can help families take that first step to homeownership through competitive rates and significant down payment and settlement cost assistance. Learn more.

“Buying a home may not be as far out of reach as you think,” Secretary Skinner said. “And now is a great time to buy— with interest rates at, or near, historic lows and sales prices may never again be as low as they are now.”

Negro Leagues Museum thrives in Baltimore


— Some of the greatest players to play baseball are mostly unknown. Most of the names evoke few memories among the masses.

Grant “Homerun” Johnson, William “Dizzy” Dismukes, Cool Papa Bell, Buck O’Neill, Fleet Walker, Spot Poles, and even Mamie “Peanut” Johnson, one of the first women to ever hurl professionally are names that most people don’t know.

However, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum of Maryland has been educating Baltimore residents and others about these unsung stars and the hundreds of others who roamed the diamond and became legends to baseball historians and fans.

“It’s just a great honor that there is a place like the museum where a person can go and learn about the Negro Leagues and the players, like myself, who were so honored to play,” said Johnson, who earned the nickname, “Peanut,” because of her petite frame while pitching for the Indianapolis Clowns in the 1950s.

The museum was founded five years ago by the family of Bert Simmons, who played for the Baltimore Elite Giants of the Negro Leagues and whose dream was a museum to honor the league’s players and its history.

“Bert’s dream came true with the opening of the museum,” Audrey Simmons, Bert’s widow, said in a recent interview. “I know he would be very proud of the progress we’ve made over the years and he’d also be proud of where we are going in the future,” Simmons said.

The museum is located at 3800 Patterson Avenue, and each year officials hold several special events, including “Back to the Old Ball Game,” in which it invites Negro League alumni and others to participate in autograph sessions, silent auctions and other functions.

The museum features life-sized displays of prominent Negro League players, uniforms, photos and other memorabilia. Also, the museum functions as a unique educational resource in Baltimore. Officials have collected, preserved and display photos, books, artifacts and other items that vividly tell the story of African Americans in baseball from the early 1800s to the present.

“We are full of history,” Simmons said. “Everybody, adults and children alike, can learn the history of the United States through a focus on the Negro Leagues. There’s knowledge of the discrimination blacks experienced, the segregation. There was Jim Crow. All of that was really a part of the history of the Negro Leagues,” she said.

The popular museum also functions as an educational facility with a goal of developing, maintaining and exhibiting materials and artifacts focused on the history of blacks in baseball.

“Our activities are aimed at every level from school age children to adults and including educators, businesses, and community resource persons,” Simmons said, adding that the mission is to provide opportunities for research, exploration and advocacy and to encourage the efforts of children and adults to work together to create a community resource center in honor of the Negro Leagues.

“What people have to realize is that it was an honor for all of us to have played in the Negro Leagues,” said Johnson, who resides in Washington, D.C. “The history is important for so many reasons including the fact that it shows that our young people can do anything they want if they just put forth the effort.”

Eleven-year-old Krissa Hillman pitches ‘sweet business’ to Warren Buffett

— Not every 11-year-old knows how to make cupcakes, and it’s rare that a pre-teen comes up with such a sweet idea to raise money to help other children learn to read. Krissa Hillman is an exception. The 11-year-old Bollman Bridge Elementary School fifth-grader is working with the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship to market her cupcakes in front of the rich and affluent, who may be able to help launch Krissa’s recipe.

“I’m so excited, that I’m shaking,” said Krissa, who dished out her goodies to a group of entrepreneurs at the Maryland Center on Friday, May 17, 2013.

Now, another opportunity of a lifetime has arrived.

Out of 4,000 children who range in age from seven to 16 who entered Warren Buffett’s Secret Millionaires Club’s, “Learn and Earn, Grow Your Own Business Challenge,” Krissa was selected to tell her story to Buffet on Monday, May 20, 2013 in Omaha, Nebraska. If selected by Buffett, Krissa will win $5,000 to help start her “Cupcakes for Literacy” business.

The Buffett challenge is a national competition seeking to help young entrepreneurs cultivate smart habits financially and it encourages young people to come up with unique new business concepts.

“Not everyone gets a chance to do this,” said Krissa, who will compete with four other students to win Buffett’s challenge. “I was like, it’s a one in a billion chance because there are so many great ideas and the fact that he picked mine really kind of touches my heart,” she said.

Krissa said she created her cupcake business in order to benefit reading programs, libraries and local schools. “Literacy is a big part of life. You have to read everything,” Krissa said. “So, what better way to help people understand that through something everyone likes?”

Entrepreneurs and leaders at the Maryland Center for Entrepreneurship (MCE) in Columbia, Maryland gave vital feedback to Krissa as she prepared to deliver her pitch to Buffett, the famous business magnate, investor and philanthropist who is widely considered the most successful investor of his time.

“Our role is to steer entrepreneurs in the right direction, but also give them what they need to sustain a business,” said Julie Lenzer Kirk, executive director of the MCE. “With Krissa, we want to give her all the support she needs and let her know that we will be there for her every step of the way.

For Krissa, the idea began after her mother purchased a cupcake recipe book for her at a school book sale. “Six years ago, I made a website called Storytime with Krissa to upload videos of her reading aloud,” Krissa’s mother, Sabrina Wilson said. “When she got the cupcake book, we decided to put a new spin on it.”

During a bake sale for a parent-teacher conference, Krissa was able to raise $258 during a six-hour period. She gave the money to the school’s library.

“It all sounds like something only someone high up in the business world would get to do,” Krissa said. “I get to meet Warren Buffett.”

12-year-old golfer racks up titles, awards

— Kendell Abrams may one day be a household name

Kendell Abrams is “swinging” her way to the top. The twelve-year-old won the qualifier for the Callaway Jr. Golf World Championship at Glenn Dale Golf Course in Bowie, Maryland earlier this year. Kendell’s impressive victories also include a first place win in the 2012 Jimmy Flattery Jr. Golf Tournament. The victory marked the third time she has won the competition. She also won the event in 2010 and 2011.

Kendell also won a title at the US Kids Golf Tournament in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, and was also selected as “Player of the Year” for the US Kids Philadelphia North Spring Tour. With Kendell’s long list of impressive victories, it’s hard to believe that the talented golfer has only been playing for three years, and initially wasn’t interested in the sport.

“I thought golf was boring,” said Kendell. “But I saw my brother play and thought I could beat him and started playing golf. I did beat him.”

Kendell is referring to her older brother Khalil, who is also making his own mark in golf. Playing on his high school golf and tennis team, Khalil

recently participated in the Hank Haney International Junior Golf Academy in Hilton Head, SC. He was one of 51 students selected around the country out of 200 First Tee chapters. The First Tee golf program reaches young people ages 5-18 through golf instruction and life skills lessons administered at chapters, military installations, and to students in elementary schools.

In 2010, Kendell and Khalil were selected as Junior Course Reporters for the PGA’s Champions Tour. The selection provided them with the opportunity to interview several distinguished golfers including Fred Couples and Tom Watson and PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem.

Recently, Kendell and Khalil visited Capitol Hill for National Golf Day to discuss what golf means to them.

Kenny and Denise Abrams, are the proud parents of Kendell and Khalil. The couple are the owners of Abrams Insurance Company in Baltimore.

In July, Kendell will travel to San Diego to participate in the San Diego Junior World Golf Championship. The tournament provides an opportunity for junior golfers from all parts of the world to come together to play golf and share in cultural exchange.

Kendell has also been selected by the Tiger Woods Foundation to serve as a standard-bearer at the AT&T National Golf Tournament at the Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, MD this summer. Tiger Woods will be playing in the event.

“I like Tiger Woods a lot,” said Kendell. “When I see him at the tournament, I don’t know what I am going to say to him.”

Kendell attends Southern Middle School in Pennsylvania, and is also a member of First Tee Baltimore and the Clifton Park Junior Golf Program in Baltimore. She also caddies at several local golf courses, plays basketball, and runs cross-country.

“I really enjoy being a golf caddy,” said Kendell. “People get to know me, and it prepares me for tournaments.”

She added, “Golfing is like an adventure. It’s a long journey, but it gets better and better. I like competing because it’s a great way to meet a lot of people and network.”

In addition to golf, Kendell plays the cello, consistently makes the Honor Roll, and was a 2012 Carson Scholar.

“I always find time to get things done and study,” said Kendell. “I usually try to get out on the golf course to practice at least three times a week and I always study. I see myself going pretty far because I am a hard worker. I also don’t mind trying over and over again.”

Kendell shared the advice she often gives to young, aspiring golfers.

“I always tell kids to never give up,” she said. “I also tell them they can’t have a bad attitude, and they have to practice a lot.”

Remember the name Kendell Abrams. At the rate she’s going at such a young age, she could one day become a household name.