Posts by Jim Avila, Richard Coolidge and Jordyn Phelps

  • What Obama’s bro hugs and parade visits in India mean for the U.S.

    Jim Avila, Richard Coolidge and Jordyn Phelps at Power Players 3 mths ago

    Power Players

    During his landmark visit to India this week, President Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi swapped hugs, sat side-by-side at India’s Republic Day Parade, and declared an era of “new trust” between the two nations.

    But for all the colorful festivities and declarations of good will, what did the visit actually accomplish?

    “Power Players” posed the question to the highest ranking U.S. diplomat to India, Ambassador Richard Verma, who explained why he believes the visit had “historic” implications.

    “We talk about transformational moments, and transformational visits, I think this was one of them,” Verma said.

    Obama’s visit to India -- his second as president -- came just four months after he welcomed Modi to the White House as India’s new prime minister.

    “He was the first president to be here for India's Republic Day; he was the first sitting president to visit India twice; and although these are symbolic gestures, they're really indicative of where I think he wants to see the relationship go,” Verma said. “It's very rare for two heads of state to come together, shake hands, [and] outline a very ambitious agenda.”

  • Cuba Libre: Rum, cigars and a trip to Havana

    Jim Avila, Richard Coolidge and Jordyn Phelps at Power Players 4 mths ago

    Power Players

    Nearly three weeks after President Obama announced that the U.S. will begin to thaw a half-century-long freeze in diplomatic relations with Cuba, what stands to change?

    Peter Kornbluh, the co-author of “Back Channel to Cuba” and the director of the Cuba Documentation Project at the National Security Archive in Washington, D.C., spoke to “Power Players” during a recent trip to Havana and said that tourism will be the most immediate and obvious change.

    “The first change you're going to see is U.S. citizens who come to Cuba going back with a couple of bottles of rum and a box of cigars that they haven't been able to do for years now,” Kornbluh said.

    Kornbluh said the United States’ long-standing embargo with Cuba has not only cut off the flow of goods, capital, and tourism between the two nations. It has also cut Americans off from an opportunity for cultural exchange.

    Kornbluh also cited an eventual extension of credit from multilateral institutions and a planned U.S. State Department delegation visit to Cuba as major changes to come.

    ABC News’ Serena Marshall, Ali Dukakis, and Tom Thornton, contributed to this episode.


  • Beneath the trenches: The secret world of the Great War revealed

    Jim Avila, Richard Coolidge and Jordyn Phelps at Power Players 6 mths ago

    Power Players

    Beneath the long-abandoned battlefields of World War I, in the idyllic French countryside, lies a hidden underground world where soldiers sought nighttime refuge from long days spent in the trenches above.

    These subterranean cities, a secret to the world until now, have been captured in stunning detail by American photographer Jeffrey Gusky, who was granted near-exclusive access to photograph the hidden spaces by the French locals who have protected them for generations.

    On this Veteran’s Day, Gusky told “Power Players” about the remnants of tragedy and treasure he found inside the cavernous dwellings.

    “Modern underground cities beneath the trenches, loaded with art, loaded with the infrastructure of modern cities, tens of thousands of men occupying these places at any given time throughout the war,” Gusky told “Power Players.”

    “Very often stairways went directly to the trenches, and then they would descend back into safety,” Gusky said. “And there was one place where Americans were where [it] actually wasn't a stairway, it was a slide, and you'd come in and you see not ‘Welcome In,’ but ‘Hell, Come In.’”

  • Patrolling the Rio Grande: On the front lines with a U.S. border patrol agent

    Jim Avila, Richard Coolidge and Jordyn Phelps at Power Players 8 mths ago

    Power Players

    Illegal immigration may be a hot-button political issue in Washington, D.C., but for U.S. Border Patrol agent Luis Rodriguez, who works on the front lines of the battle to curb illegal crossings along the U.S.-Mexico border, it is much more than a philosophical debate: It is a daily reality.

    In this episode of “Power Players,” Rodriguez takes us along for a patrol on the Rio Grande, along one of the most heavily used routes by which migrants cross illegally into the United States.

    “This is a spot that is well known for rocking incidents, especially once it starts getting dark,” Rodriguez warns as the boat speeds through a narrow area of the river. “They throw rocks in front of the boat going 30 mph in one direction.”

    While some of the rocks are thrown by mischievous kids, Rodriguez blames some of the incidents on illegal smugglers.

    “We are interrupting their business, so they want to take some kind of revenge on us,” he said.

    At one point, he pulls the boat over along the U.S. shore to inspect a landing point with a deflated raft, a life vest, and some clothes scattered along the clearing.

    Israel Cardoza and Kaye Charles Cruz assisted in field production.

  • The Coyotaje Express: One El Salvadorian teen tells his story of coming to the US illegally

    Jim Avila, Richard Coolidge and Jordyn Phelps at Power Players 9 mths ago

    Power Players

    When 15-year-old William risked his life at the hands of illegal traffickers to make a harrowing journey from his home in El Salvador to the United States eight months ago, he did so because he believed the danger of staying in Central America outweighed the risk of the journey.

    “You risk your life,” William said about the situation in El Salvador in a recent interview with “Power Players.” “Because of the gangs, you can't live in peace. They want money or they will endanger your family,” he said through his translator.

    And now, William, who asked that his last name not be used, said he is sharing his story with the hope that Americans will understand the situation facing the tens of thousands of Central American minors, who like himself, have flooded across the border into the United States in recent months to escape poverty and violence.

    Though President Obama has warned unaccompanied minors from coming to the United States illegally, saying they will be sent back to their country of origin, William said returning could cost him his life.

  • Meet the new White House Press Sec: Josh Earnest’s guide to softening “hard-bitten” reporters

    Jim Avila, Richard Coolidge and Jordyn Phelps at Power Players 10 mths ago

    Power Players

    Josh Earnest stepped up to the podium as the new White House press secretary just weeks ago, but already he’s figured out a few ways to butter up “hard-bitten” White House reporters.

    Principle among his methods, the father-to-be revealed to “Power Players,” is to discuss parenthood.

    “It’s something that so many people can relate to and hearing the experience of even some hard-bitten White House reporters … talking to them about the birth of their first child, they routinely describe it as the greatest day of their life,” said Earnest, whose wife is due later this summer.

    “I think, like all parents who are about to have their first child, we are feeling a lot of trepidation about this experience that we're preparing for, but also incredibly excited,” he said.

    The trepidations of first-time parenthood aside, Earnest admits he’s still getting settled into his new job as press secretary – a role he assumed following Jay Carney’s departure last month.

    Though he now has the challenging task of going head-to-head with reporters on a daily basis, there are some definite perks to the new job. For one, Earnest has an unusual level of access to President Obama.

  • Rahm Emanuel votes Hillary over Biden for 2016

    Jim Avila, Richard Coolidge and Jordyn Phelps at Power Players 1 yr ago

    Power Players

    As a former White House insider in both the Clinton and Obama administrations, Rahm Emanuel has worked closely with Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden. But when it comes to who would be the better Democratic presidential candidate come 2016, his mind is made up.

    Emanuel votes Hillary.

    “If she chooses to run, I've already said I'm going to support her,” the mayor of Chicago told “Power Players.”

    "Joe's a good friend, personally,” said Emanuel. “He's obviously worthy of being considered because he's a great vice president, a great senator, has something to offer … In this case, so does the former secretary of state, senator, and first lady.”

    Though Emanuel said he is confident that Clinton would win a hypothetical presidential matchup if she chooses to run, he added that Clinton is weighing the prospects of a presidential bid against other personal life factors.

    “She's about to be a grandmother,” he said. “And she cares about that, and making sure she has the time. Being a congressman, being a mayor, being a president, being a candidate for president, time is not one of the commodities you have a lot of.”

  • The real legend behind "Anchorman": The movie satirizes discrimination in the 1970s newsroom

    Jim Avila, Richard Coolidge and Jordyn Phelps at Power Players 1 yr ago

    Power Players

    “Anchorman 2” hits theaters Wednesday, and the highly anticipated movie sequel that satirizes television news in the 1970s will be ripe with comedy. But underneath the laughter is the reality of discrimination that female and minority television reporters confronted during that era.

    At the Newseum in Washington, D.C., where a new “Anchorman” exhibit celebrates the movie series, the museum’s director of collections told “Power Players” that Will Ferrell and his creative team took inspiration for the comedy from the true story of pioneering television reporter Jessica Savitch.

    “They were watching an actual documentary about Jessica Savitch and were struck by not just her story but by the overt and over-the-top sexism that her male co-anchors, counterparts were willingly discussing,” curator Carrie Christofferson said. “And they thought, ‘You know, we can have a little fun with this and poke some holes through some of the ideas.’”

    The Newseum’s exhibit combines real props from the “Anchorman” movie with real stories of the challenges that women and minority television reporters faced in the 1970s.

  • The drums of war: A genre of Latin music glorifies the Mexican-U.S. drug war

    Jim Avila, Richard Coolidge and Jordyn Phelps at Power Players 1 yr ago

    Power Players

    Much like rap music in the 90’s served to glorify the gangster life, a similar phenomenon has occurred with an increasingly popular genre of Latin music, known as narcocorridos, that celebrates drug traffickers.

    A new documentary “Narco Cultura” captures the narcocorridos music scene and juxtaposes it with the grim realities of the raging drug war along the U.S.-Mexican border.

    “What has happened in narcocorridos, particularly north of the border, is a huge increase in popularity as well as a trend of the songs getting way more violent and more graphic and usually choosing sides, meaning taking on a cartel,” filmmaker Shaul Schwarz told “Power Players.”

    The film follows some of the most popular narcocorridos artists as they tour clubs in the U.S. and pack in audiences who sing along with the ballads that brag about killing and kidnapping.

    “There are literally hundreds if not thousands of clubs throughout the country that celebrate this kind of scene during the weekend,” Schwarz said.

    On the Mexican side of the border, the film follows the story of a Mexican CSI worker, who is known in his job as “the bullet collector.”

  • Immigrationomics: Why the CEO of the U.S.’s largest Hispanic company wants reform

    Jim Avila, Richard Coolidge and Jordyn Phelps at Power Players 1 yr ago

    Power Players

    When Jose Mas’ father emigrated from Cuba to the United States in 1959, he got his start working odd end jobs before opening a construction company that has grown to be the largest Hispanic-owned business in the United States.

    But the opportunity to live out the American dream as his father did, Mas told “Power Players,” is being denied to the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the United States without legal documentation.

    “When you look at some of the things that people do to cross the borders … they're risking their lives day in and day out not for a handout but for an opportunity to build a life that's better than what they can achieve where they are,” Mas said.

    Mas, who is a U.S. citizen by birth, is a member of the Republican Party. But he disagrees with the GOP’s broad opposition to immigration reform.

    “I'm fiscally conservative,” Mas said. “But when it comes to a lot of the social justice issues as a party, immigration is one of many things … that I think is negatively affecting the Republican Party not just here but everywhere.”

    ABC News’ Serena Marshall, Alexandra Dukakis, Tom Thornton, Dale West and Joe Biscotti contributed to this episode.