Press Releases

Congressman Adam Smith joined the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) today to announce that NFB-NEWSLINE, the pioneering service that allows blind people to “read” daily newspapers using a touch-tone telephone, is now available in Washington.  The new toll-free number is 1-888-882-1629.   
The newspaper service for the blind and visually impaired uses synthesized speech to deliver an audio version of the newspaper text for dozens and eventually hundreds of daily newspapers to blind and visually impaired persons nationwide.  

“Using the NFB’s NEWSLINE, a blind person can now listen to the daily newspaper from his or her own community at the same time the printed edition of that same newspaper is being delivered to sighted customers,” said Congressman Adam Smith. “For blind people or even seniors who can no longer read small newsprint, this means more than being able to enjoy a morning ritual observed by millions of Americans – reading the daily newspaper. It also means being connected to the social and political life of the community in which you live and work.”  

Congress established the national “Books for the Blind” program in 1931 to pay for the production of Braille and audio versions of popular books and magazines and distribute them through state and local libraries. NFB President Marc Maurer notes, however, that until now, “the lack of affordable and suitable technology has not allowed newspapers to be included in this service. 

With funds appropriated by Congress to support NFB-NEWSLINE, NFB has been able to develop the technology that allows newspapers to be distributed rapidly in a format that is usable by the blind.  Participating newspapers provide digital text of articles directly to NFB-NEWSLINE where, using innovative technologies, the newspaper text is converted automatically into synthesized speech and made immediately available to all subscribers, allowing them to access all newspapers participating in the program. 

The synthetic speech allows NFB-NEWSLINE to offer users a wide range of features, including the ability to advance or go back to another article or even another sentence, to speed up or slow down the synthetic voice or change its tone, to spell a word or phrase, or to search for a specific word.  

NFB-NEWSLINE allows for reader registration on the Internet, making it possible for eligible blind and disabled persons to register for the service at state and local libraries.  There is no charge to subscribe to NFB-NEWSLINE. 

To request an application or receive for more information about NFB-NEWSLINE, contact the National Federation of the Blind at (410) 659-9314 or online at www.nfb.org

The National Federation of the Blind is a consumer-based organization of more than 50,000 blind people throughout the U.S. whose primary purpose is to promote security, opportunity, and equality for those who are blind or visually impaired. 

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The following is a statement from Congressman Adam Smith (D-Tacoma):

“At a time when our nation is focused so clearly on ensuring that our soldiers are the most highly skilled, intelligent fighting force in the world, the United States Military Academies are more important than ever.  The academies work to sharpen minds and develop character and leadership skills.  If you are currently looking for ways to contribute to our nation, these academies can provide you with a unique way to serve.  

“The U.S. Military Academy (West Point, NY), the U.S. Naval Academy (Annapolis, MD), the U.S. Air Force Academy (Colorado Springs, CO) and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy (New London, CT) are filled with some of the best and brightest youths in the nation — high achieving men and women with leadership potential.

“Tuition, books, board, medical and dental care are all fully paid for all four years — and you get paid a monthly stipend as well. Upon graduation, you will receive a Bachelor of Science degree and a leadership job as a junior officer in the Military — Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps or Coast Guard. The service obligation is a minimum of five years, but most academy graduates choose to make the military their career. 

“Applying for a nomination through your Congressional office is an important step in the process of attending some of the most prestigious schools in the country; receiving a nomination is a special honor.  If you are nominated, not only will you represent the 9th Congressional District, but you will also represent your school, community, state, and the nation.

“If you are interested in applying for an academy nomination or would like more information, please contact Lori Wemmer in my office at (253) 593-6600 or by email at lori.wemmer@mail.house.gov.”

Congressman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) introduced two bills at the end of last week to improve the quality of life for the U.S. military through increased access to education.  

Congressman Smith’s “Expanding Education for Military Families Act” would allow for full portability of Montgomery G.I. Bill (MGIB) benefits to the family members of enrollees in the MGIB program.  His second bill, the “Military Education Extension Act,” would extend the time limit for use of MGIB benefits to 15 years for both active duty servicemembers and reservists.   

“I am absolutely committed to ensuring that our Armed Forces are the most highly skilled, intelligent fighting force in the world.  At a time when recruitment and retention are more important than ever, we must work to make military service an attractive career option,” said Smith. “We have to do a better job of providing better and more competitive educational benefits for all enlisted military members and these bills are a good first step.”

The Expanding Education for Military Families Act

Currently, the MGIB contains a portability provision for those with “critical military skills.”  In exchange for the transfer of some of their MGIB benefits to a spouse, a child or some combination of the two, MGIB enrollees, who have served at least six years in the Armed Forces, agree to serve an additional four years.  While this is an improvement from the original bill, the recent modification adversely affected morale among those not included under the provision.  In many cases, this portability option makes the difference in whether or not a servicemember can pay for a child’s college education. Congressman Smith’s “Expanding Education for Military Families Act” would offer this portability option to all members of the Armed Forces.

The Military Education Extension Act 

Under current law, when MGIB active duty enrollees separate from the service or retire, they have ten years to use their benefits – after that time, any unused portions are lost.  For reservists, the ten-year clock starts ticking down from the date of their enrollment in the program, which is usually when they are processed at their first duty station.  With the “Military Education Extension Act,” Congressman Smith proposes lengthening the clock to 15 years for both active duty enlistees and reservists.  

Before introducing his legislation, Smith met with the Puget Sound Chapter of the Air Force Sergeants Association (AFSA) to unveil his plan and solicit feedback.  With over 3,100 members, the Puget Sound group is AFSA’s largest chapter.  The active duty servicemembers, reservists, veterans and spouses at the meeting were very interested in Smith’s efforts and engaged the Congressman in a robust debate over the future of the Montgomery G.I. Bill and some of their other concerns such as concurrent receipt, the military pay raise and the modernization and transformation of the military.

AFSA has endorsed both bills wholeheartedly, and in a meeting with Smith, AFSA Executive Director James D. Staton had this to say: “Educational benefits are critical to enlisted members.  Montgomery G.I. Bill benefits improve the futures of the men and women who put their lives on the line for this nation,” said AFSA Executive Director James D. Staton.  “Whether they are active duty or reserve component members, our servicemembers deserve a world-class education program.  These bills are a big part of moving us closer to that final goal.” 

Both H.R.4213, the “Expanding Education for Military Families Act,” and H.R.4214, the “Military Education Extension Act,” have been referred to the House Veterans’ Affairs and Armed Services Committees.

Today, Congressman Adam Smith announced his schedule for this spring’s Town Hall meetings.  Interested district residents are invited join him for an open dialogue on important community issues — including energy, tax cuts, education and health care.

The schedule for the spring’s meetings is: 

Saturday, April 20th — Yelm 
10:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.
Yelm Senior Center
201 Yelm Avenue, Yelm

Saturday, May 11th — Puyallup 
10:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.
Puyallup Public Library
324 South Meridian, Puyallup

Saturday, June 22nd — Auburn
10:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.
Auburn Public Library
1102 Auburn Way South, Auburn

Staff from Congressman Adam Smith’s District Office will be on hand to help with any specific problems related to the federal government. Any questions about the Town Hall Meetings should be directed to the Congressman’s District office in Tacoma at (253) 593-6600.

The Secretary of the Air Force announced today that the United States Air Force will begin negotiations with the Boeing Corporation for the lease of 100 Boeing 767s which will be converted into aerial refueling tankers to replace the Air Force’s oldest KC-135 tankers.  Earlier, the Air Force had considered the European Airbus consortium’s Airbus 330 as well.

“I’m very pleased by the Air Force’s selection of Boeing to provide these tankers,” Congressman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said.  “The economic impact for Washington state is tremendous.  After the House Armed Services committee hearing, we pointed out to the Air Force that Boeing was clearly the only technically acceptable tanker available and that it was the only American tanker option.  Their selection means concrete investment in American communities and American jobs.”

The decision was made after the Air Force’s Air Refueling Tanker Request For Information demonstrated that only Boeing’s 767 technology could meet their air refueling requirements.  The competing Airbus 330 lacked tanker and air refueling experience, making their initial approach to the task a significant risk increase for the Air Force that had to be weighed against Boeing’s experience.  The Air Force also discovered that the footprint of the Airbus 330 is 81 percent larger than that of the current refueling tankers (KC-135) and that the increase in size did not yield sufficient increases in air refueling efficiency.

Congressman Adam Smith noted that the contract award not only underscores Boeing’s role as the world's largest military aircraft manufacturer, but also recognizes the company’s commitment to innovation and transformation.