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Transcript: Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland on

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Transcript: Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland on


The following is a transcript of an interview with Sen. Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland, that aired on March 17, 2024.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We’re joined now by Maryland Democrat, Senator Chris Van Hollen. Senator, a lot to get to with you but I do know you met with some families of hostage members, this past- family members of hostages, excuse me, this past week. Talks are about to resume. What did the hostage families tell you?

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Well, they- they came and talked about the- the terror every day of not knowing what’s happening to their family members. And they were very clear, we need to focus on getting the hostages back and a ceasefire. And this is why I’m for a ceasefire and the return of the hostages.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And that ceasefire would also allow for aid to move in. That’s what the Biden administration is championing. I want to go to some specific things that I know you’re focusing on. There’s this government funding debate happening in the next few days. Some Republicans want to cut off support for the UN agency, UNRWA, that supports about 6 million Palestinian refugees, Lebanon, Jordan, Gaza Strip, West Bank. You said last week, senators need to read the classified report prepared by the Director of National Intelligence about the Netanyahu government claims about that agency. You seem to be implying that the links to terror groups are unfounded.

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SEN. VAN HOLLEN: Oh, there’s no doubt that the- the claim that Prime Minister Netanyahu and others are making, that somehow UNRWA is a proxy for Hamas, are just flat out lies. That’s a flat out lie. If you look at the person who’s in charge of operations on the ground in Gaza for UNRWA, it’s about a 20 year U.S. Army veteran. You can be sure he is not in cahoots with Hamas. Netanyahu has wanted to get rid of UNRWA since at least 2017. That’s been his goal, not just in Gaza, but also in the other places you talked about. And if you get rid of UNRWA in Gaza today, it is the primary distribution system for food and aid. So if you cut off funding for UNRWA and Gaza entirely, it means more people will starve, more people won’t get the medical assistance they need. And so it would be a huge mistake to cut them off.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Can you explain why you believe that the Prime Minister is trying to dismantle UNRWA, which is the agency that has 13,000 people distributing aid? No one else has that kind of infrastructure in Gaza.

SEN. VAN HOLLEN: Well, that’s exactly right. And there have been allegations made by the Netanyahu government that up to 14 of those 13,000 people were involved in the horrific October 7 attacks. We should investigate it, we should hold all those people accountable. But for goodness sakes, let’s not hold 2 million innocent Palestinian civilians who are dying of starvation, let’s not hold them, essentially, accountable for the bad acts of 14 people. Netanyahu has wanted to get rid of UNRWA because he has seen them as a- a means to continue the hopes of the Palestinian people for a homeland of their own. And he has been opposed to a two state solution. And this has been his primary objective, stopping a two state solution.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Back in February, you pushed the Biden administration to craft what ended up being a National Security Memorandum that requires countries who receive U.S. weapons, all countries, to certify that they are in compliance with U.S. law, and they are not blocking the delivery of humanitarian aid. Israel has until March 24 to turn in a letter, they reportedly did so. Are they in compliance? 

SEN. VAN HOLLEN: No they’re not, not as of today. And you’re right. This is a very important tool that the Biden administration’s put forward, applies to Israel and any other country that receives U.S. military assistance.

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MARGARET BRENNAN: Will President Biden’s administration say that they’re not in compliance? Are you confident?

SEN. VAN HOLLEN: I hope they will, because President Biden himself has repeatedly said that the Netanyahu government is unnecessarily restricting desperately needed humanitarian assistance. I mean, the President has said it a number of times, he’s said no excuses. So it may be that the Minister of Defense in Israel signed this. But I cannot imagine a scenario right now, where Secretary Blinken can find that that promise is credible and reliable when the day it was signed, clearly the Netanyahu government is not in compliance, because we see that they’re continuing to restrict humanitarian assistance.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We’ll watch to see if Secretary Blinken affirms it or denies it. But what’s the consequence here? I know you’ve said you don’t want to cut off all military support for Israel. You’re talking about offensive weapons.

SEN. VAN HOLLEN: Yes, this- this would not apply to the Iron Dome or any defensive systems but it would say, you know, no more bombs for use in Gaza until you come into compliance. So It’s not a total cut off. I mean, the Netanyahu government can open the Erez Crossing to help starving people in northern Gaza. They can stop turning away maternity kits, you know, claiming that somehow they pose a dual use danger that they could be used for military purposes, they could stop turning away water purifiers. Because when they do that they send the whole truck back for four weeks. So they need to allow more assistance in, and they need to really deal with that deconfliction issue. People need to be able to deliver assistance without getting killed.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, and the U.S. Ambassador David Satterfield, who works for the Biden administration, has said that police have been hit while helping UN convoys be delivered. Do you believe that the Israeli government’s deliberately targeting to stop humanitarian aid deliveries? Because the Israeli government denies that.

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SEN. VAN HOLLEN: Well, we know in the case of, I think about six of the so-called blue helmeted, you know, security escorts, that they were targeted, because Israel claimed that they were part of Hamas when they were sort of- so- so we know in that case, that was a deliberate targeting. But you’re right. There have been other cases where Israel has- has, you know, used force, and a convoy, for example, in the north passed the inspection and then was hit by a naval missile. I do want to point out also, Margaret, that Ambassador Satterfield has said very clearly that when it comes to UN provided humanitarian assistance, like humanitarian assistance through UNRWA, there’s been no evidence of diversion to Hamas. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: And that–

SEN. VAN HOLLEN: So he’s said this very, very clearly.

MARGARET BRENNAN: –and all of Congress has received that information?

SEN. VAN HOLLEN: I have tried to tell my colleagues who keep coming back from meeting with Netanyahu government officials spreading this- this lie, this myth about diversion from UNRWA. Now there may be diversion in other places, but not from UNRWA.

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MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator, we’ll watch what happens in the coming days. We’ll be back in a moment.



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Health First names Maryland health care executive Forde as its new president/CEO

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Health First names Maryland health care executive Forde as its new president/CEO


Health First has named Maryland health care company executive Terry Forde as its new president and CEO. Forde will take over in August.

Forde is president and CEO of Adventist HealthCare, headquartered in Gaithersburg, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C. Adventist HealthCare is one of Maryland’s largest employers.

Forde will succeed Steve Johnson, who retired as Health First president and CEO in February 2023. Until Forde arrives in August, Kent Smith, chair of Health First’s board of trustees, will remain as interim CEO of Health First.

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Johnson retires from Health First: Health First CEO Johnson retiring as head of Brevard’s largest health care company

Health First is Brevard County’s largest employer, with a staff of more than 9,500. It operates four hospitals ― Cape Canaveral Hospital in Cocoa Beach, Holmes Regional Medical Center in Melbourne, Palm Bay Hospital and Viera Hospital — as well as health insurance plans, a multispecialty medical group, and outpatient and wellness services.

“In Terry, we found an experienced and sympathetic leader who shares our passion for patient safety, is committed to providing high reliability, has a proven history of success, and tenacity in building strong, lasting culture,” Smith said. “The Space Coast welcomes Terry, and looks forward to his guidance to further Health First’s legacy of providing exceptional quality and compassionate care.”

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In a statement released by the two hospital companies, Forde said: “It has been an honor to work with the dedicated leaders and team members of Adventist HealthCare, especially during the midst of a pandemic and significant change in the health industry. I am so glad to have been part of an organization dedicated to being the best choice for both patients and team members, and look forward to joining Health First to promote vibrant well-being in Florida.”

Health First was founded in 1995 when Cape Canaveral Hospital and Holmes Regional joined together to create a integrated health care delivery network and not-for-profit system.

Health First now is at a crossroads, recovering from financial losses that hit many hospital companies in recent years. It broke ground this year on a new $410 million hospital and medical office complex off State Road 520 on Merritt Island that will replace the current Cape Canaveral Hospital in 2027. And it recently expanded its health insurance coverage territory.

Emmanuel Asiedu, chair of the Adventist HealthCare board of directors, said Forde “has been a tireless advocate for championing our mission, driving improvement and expanding our services in order to provide physical, mental and spiritual healing to every person, every time. We are grateful for his many achievements and for the leadership system he established that will continue to guide our delivery of high-quality, compassionate care to our community.”

Founded in 1907, Adventist HealthCare, is a faith-based, not-for-profit comprehensive health care system consisting of three community hospitals, one managed academic medical center and two specialty hospitals. It has more than 50 facilities across the Greater Washington, D.C., region. It has more than 10,000 employees and a network with more than 2,000 physicians.

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Forde has served in a range of leadership roles over the past 17 years with health care organizations in Kansas, Missouri and Colorado.

From 2007 to 2011, he was chief executive officer for Parker Adventist Hospital in Parker, Colorado. From 2003 to 2007, he was chief financial officer and chief operating officer for Porter Adventist Hospital in Denver. During his tenures, he helped guide the two organizations through renovation and expansion, including two major capital projects totaling $177 million.

Forde received his Bachelor of Science in business administration from Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1993, and his Master of Business Administration from Mid-America Nazarene University in Olathe, Kansas, in 1996.

Adventist HealthCare is not affiliated with Altamonte Springs-based AdventHealth, which owns a 27% stake in Health First as part of a $350 million deal that took effect in January 2020.

Dave Berman is business editor at FLORIDA TODAY. Contact Berman at dberman@floridatoday.com, on X at @bydaveberman and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dave.berman.54

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Rural Maryland Council Announces FY 2025 Grant Information Sessions – Conduit Street

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Rural Maryland Council Announces FY 2025 Grant Information Sessions – Conduit Street


The Rural Maryland Council is excited to host five Fiscal Year 2025 grant information sessions this spring.

These information sessions are important opportunities for participants to meet RMC staff and learn about the Council’s two grant programs – the Rural Maryland Prosperity Investment Fund (RMPIF) and the Maryland Agricultural Education and Rural Development Assistance Fund (MAERDAF). See below for upcoming grant information sessions and visit the website for more details

  • Tuesday, April 23, 2024, 12:00pm to 2:00pm in Northeast Maryland – Register Here
  • Thursday, April 25,2024, 12:00pm to 2:00pm in Southern Maryland – Register Here
  • Tuesday, April 30, 2024, 12:00pm to 2:00pm in Western Maryland – Register Here
  • Thursday, May 2, 2024, 12:00pm to 2:00pm in Eastern Maryland – Register Here





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Patuxent River Sailor Commended for Providing Life-Saving Roadside Assistance After Tragic Crash in Hollywood

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Patuxent River Sailor Commended for Providing Life-Saving Roadside Assistance After Tragic Crash in Hollywood


Photo By Chief Petty Officer Patrick Gordon | PATUXENT RIVER, Maryland (April 19, 2024) – Aviation Ordnanceman 2nd Class Isaiah Mercado of Navy Munitions Command Atlantic Detachment Patuxent River rendered life-saving care to injured motorists following a vehicle collision in Hollywood, Maryland April 7.

Aviation Ordnanceman 2nd Class Isaiah Mercado is no stranger to high-stress scenarios.

As a Navy armament weapons support equipment technician with Navy Munitions Command Atlantic Detachment Patuxent River (NMCLANT DET Pax) his duties include supporting both air- and surface-launched weapons by performing intermediate level maintenance on both peculiar and common ordnance handling and transportation equipment.

Maintaining the equipment that transports explosive ordnance requires a strong nerve, so it is no surprise that he was able to coolly and calmly act when he came across a vehicle collision shortly after 10 a.m. Sunday, April 7.

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Driving with his wife, Mercado saw the scene of the collision involving a motorcycle and a compact SUV at Three Notch Road and Tom Hodges Drive in Hollywood, Maryland. Realizing he was the first on scene he went into action without a second thought.

“It was just a natural instinct to stop,” recounted Mercado. “As soon as I saw the accident my first thought was to get there as fast as I could and help out the victims.”

Telling his wife to call 911, he assessed the scene and began to check all parties for injuries. Finding the driver of the SUV responsive and able to talk, she asked Mercado to check on her child in the backseat.

“The child was in the back unconscious from the collision,” said Mercado, going through the scenario play-by-play. “I started to ask if she can hear me or move at all. I checked for a pulse and told the mother her daughter was still alive and with a pulse. My next step was to check on the motorcyclist and I was asking if he could hear me and then I tapped him a couple times and got no response.”

Mercado was then joined on the scene by an off-duty St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Deputy, who began to assist with the injured as well, freeing Mercado to check back on the unconscious child in the SUV.

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“My wife handed me the phone since I had a better understanding being in the car and getting a triage done on those involved,” said Mercado. “I told the 911 operator my guess on the age of the two unconscious people and told them I checked for a pulse on the little girl. The off-duty sheriff asked me to help stabilize the girls’ neck and he took over the call to the dispatcher.”

Joined by a third passerby, Mercado enlisted her with helping the driver out of the SUV.

“I told her she needs to get the mom and take her out the car because I didn’t want her to see her child like this,” said Mercado. “After that the first responders came and asked us if we needed a collar for the child’s neck, then went off to get one and our next focus was to get her out of the car.”

Mercado’s initial assessment of the scene made it clear that the SUV’s door buckled in the collision with enough force to roll the SUV’s frame onto the child’s booster seat, making it difficult to remove her from that side of the vehicle.

“I told them I can just carry her out from the car,” said Mercado. “I unbuckled her and then cradled her and scooted out of the car then carried her to the gurney. They then asked for her name, so I went to the mother and asked her for it. After I got it, I proceeded back to the area where they were tending to her and called her by her name to get a response.”

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Tragically, despite the efforts of Mercado and first responders who began CPR, the motorcyclist was pronounced dead at the scene. The woman and child were transported by ambulance to St. Mary’s Hospital and flown by Maryland State Police to separate hospitals for further care.

For those who know Mercado, his actions that day speak volumes to his character.

“AO2’s ability to jump into a scene and render aide without a moment’s hesitation is exactly why he’s a trusted leader on our team,” said Senior Chief Aviation Ordnanceman Paul Nelson, Senior Enlisted Advisor for NMCLANT DET Pax. “I have no doubt his speed, cool head, and competent actions prevented further loss of life in a difficult situation, and I am incredibly proud have him as a member of NMCLANT DET Pax.”

NMCLANT DET Pax is responsible for providing Fleet Ordnance Support (FOS) to local customers as well as designated research and development projects in support of test and evaluation of fixed and rotary wing aircraft. DET Patuxent River functions as the principle point of contact for explosive ordnance facility oversight and sustaining stock points assigned; to provide quality and responsive ordnance material handling, technical, material support to the Fleet and other customers in the areas of retail ammunition management; and to manage and operate explosives ordnance facilities at NAS Patuxent River.

Photo By Chief Petty Officer Patrick Gordon | PATUXENT RIVER, Maryland (April 19, 2024) – Aviation Ordnanceman 2nd Class Isaiah Mercado of Navy Munitions Command Atlantic Detachment Patuxent River rendered life-saving care to injured motorists following a vehicle collision in Hollywood, Maryland April 7.

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