Archive for December 8th, 2013

08
Dec
13

The Kennedy Center

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Carlos Santana and fellow 2013 Kennedy Center Honors recipient Shirley MacLaine

Herbie Hancock

Person (unidentified) at the Kennedy Center Honors reception at the White House

?, Herbie Hancock and Martina Arroyo

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Chat away!

08
Dec
13

Oh Heavens

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama arrive at the Kennedy Center Honors reception at the White House, Dec 8

08
Dec
13

The Kennedy Center Honors

5:20: President Obama delivers remarks at the Kennedy Center Honors Reception, East Room

Also at White House Live

Later:

7:30: The President and First Lady attend the Kennedy Center Honors, Kennedy Center

Don’t think this will shown tonight – will be aired on CBenghaziS on December 29… presumably Billy Joel will be ‘singing’ (sic) :???:

08
Dec
13

What Has ObamaCare Done?

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Amir Salehzadeh: Eric Kingsbury, 25, Has Insurance Thanks To Obamacare

Eric Kingsbury, 25, finally has health insurance via the Silver plan through Covered California (the state-run Affordable Care Act exchange), after living without health insurance for nearly a year. Kingsbury is glad he’s covered now, though because he was, “extremely nervous about going uninsured for a year, but I figured I was young and healthy and wouldn’t need to see a doctor.” Many Millennial Americans share the same perspective on health care under the premise that they are young and will continue to remain healthy.

However, Kingsbury says when a friend of his had a major health scare that required her to “have an MRI and a battery of tests” he realized what a gamble it is to go without health insurance and the price tag associated with those bills. “I decided it wasn’t worth the risk,” Kingsbury said. “You never really know when unusual, and perhaps even, expensive circumstances arise. Better to be safe than sorry.” Although he did not qualify for a government subsidy, and pays $297 per month, he says the benefits offered via his new plan are more generous.

More here

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Think Progress: The Best Obamacare News That Nobody Is Talking About

Applications for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) spiked throughout the nation during Obamacare’s first month of open enrollment, and skyrocketed in the states participating in the health law’s Medicaid expansion, according to preliminary monthly data released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on Tuesday. Nearly 1.5 million low-income Americans now have access to public health insurance.

According to the CMS data, Colorado, New Jersey, and Hawaii are among the states that saw the biggest spikes in Medicaid applications as news about Obamacare’s open enrollment period dominated headlines in October. Another encouraging takeaway from the report is the increase in Medicaid applications even in states that refused Obamacare’s expansion of the program. Wisconsin, Virginia, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Georgia were the five non-expansion states to see the biggest spikes in Medicaid applications in October.

More here

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Rhonda Brown: Leslie Foster, 29, Has Obamacare That Costs Only $62 Per Month

There were no glitches when Leslie Foster, 29, enrolled online for a health care plan that provides him with more extensive coverage than his previous plan. The best part? He pays only $62 a month for it. Health Net insurance, his final decision, is considered a silver premium of the ACA and has a monthly premium set at $213.68 per month. However, after applying subsidies he can receive based on his income of about $20,000 a year, his total monthly payments came to $62 per month.

Even without those subsidies, Forbes provides an analysis that indicates Foster’s plan still remains lower than the national average of $328 per month for mid-tier premiums based on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) calculations. Foster describes his initial reaction as an overwhelming experience. “I hadn’t had health care since college, and it blows my mind to have an extensive amount of coverage,” Foster said.

More here

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Get Covered America: For Joe, Coverage Saved His Life

As a self-employed painter, Joe Lucas says he has always tried his best to make ends meet. Sometimes, that meant going without. While he was able to secure health insurance through an employer for a time years ago, increasing premiums forced him to give it up. Things went from bad to worse when he suffered an aortic aneurism while uninsured.

Joe knew he needed to do something to cover his health costs going forward. With his pre-existing condition, shopping for health insurance meant monthly premiums of $1,000 or more. Fortunately when the health care law was passed, Pennsylvania began a program allowing individuals with pre-existing conditions to get covered until the new Health Insurance Marketplace opened. Joe says the law helped save his life twice now.

More here

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William Tomasko: Mark Got Covered Under The ACA

Meet Mark Sullivan, a 31-year-old software developer from Texas. Signing up for affordable health insurance has given Mark the freedom to pursue his dream of starting a business. “It’s hard to express how much that means to me,” he said. After working for two years in Austin’s tech sector, Mark has been eager to start his own business. However, the risk of high health care costs if he left his job made him hesitate— that’s why he was eagerly anticipating open enrollment.

After comparing plans, Mark settled on a bronze option and added dental insurance. He will receive $82 per month in financial help, which will halve the monthly premium he will pay down to $78. Even without the tax credit, his total premium is still much more affordable than the private plans he had been able to find on the individual market.

More here

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Get Covered America: Covered Together At Last

Rita Rizzo and Lou Vincent, from Akron, Ohio, have built a comfortable life together paycheck by paycheck despite one missing piece – affordable health care. That’s because they’ve been denied health insurance for a decade due to pre-existing conditions. Years ago, Rita had surgery for a hip replacement for which she no longer needs treatment. Lou has diabetes and also takes medicine for high blood pressure.

Rita was recently able to find insurance, but at a steep premium of $400 per month, and an even steeper $6,000 deductible. Meanwhile, Lou hasn’t had any coverage. He pays $170 each month for his blood pressure medicine alone. But when the Health Insurance Marketplace opened, their pre-existing conditions were no longer a barrier. The couple qualified for a subsidy that dropped their monthly premium down to just $184. That’s only a bit more than what they currently pay each month just for Lou’s medicine.

More here

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Name: Carol T Williams

Occupation: Self-employed, hairdresser

Why is having health care important to you?

I’m 52 years old, and as I’m getting older, I realize that health care is a necessity. I have a history of diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure in my family, so it’s important I see the doctor. I’ve been self-employed for thirty years, and whenever I could afford insurance, I would get it. There were many years that I went without it, though.

How did it feel to learn about the new health care options available to you?

I’m super happy. With my old insurance plan, I was paying $443 a month for my son and myself, with a $7,5000 deductible. It didn’t even feel like I had insurance. Now, because of subsidies, I’ll pay $165 a month with a very low deductible, and my son will purchase his own insurance through the Marketplace. I used to put off going to the doctor when I needed to because of my high deductible, and now I don’t have to do that anymore.

Getting covered means: a relief. I feel like I don’t have to be scared anymore.

More here

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08
Dec
13

Rise and Shine

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, along with Vice President Biden and Dr. Jill Biden, descend the Grand Staircase before delivering remarks at a Hanukkah reception in the Grand Foyer of the White House, Dec. 8, 2011 ( Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern):

5:15: President Obama delivers remarks at the Kennedy Center Honors Reception, East Room

7:30: The President and First Lady attend the Kennedy Center Honors, Kennedy Center

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National Memo: With Unemployment At A 5-Year Low, Will Ted Cruz Finally Stop Using This Lie?

“The single biggest job killer is Obamacare,” Senator Ted Cruz told ALEC on Thursday …. The crowd leapt to its feet.

Cruz was speaking just hours after a new unemployment claims report showed layoffs falling below 300,000 in the last week, only the second time since May of 2007. The next morning, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the unemployment rate fell to a five-year low …

For 45 straight months the private sector has been growing, creating 8 million jobs. Essentially, when it comes to the employment market, things have not been this good since before the Great Recession. With more than two million jobs already created, 2013 will be the best year for payroll gains since 2005.

…. The Republican base loves to be lied to about Obamacare — as Ted Cruz has discovered and perfected. So don’t expect him to ever stop doing it.

More here

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In case you missed it yesterday:

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Michael Hiltzik: Fiscal Idiocy: What States Refusing Medicaid Will Cost Their Citizens

Sherry Glied and Stephanie Ma of the Commonwealth Fund have done the math to show how this calculation is affected by the refusal of 25 states to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. (Thanks to Brad DeLong at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth for the tip.) The bottom line is that as a pure fiscal and budgetary matter, refusing the Medicaid expansion is insane. The cost is $57 billion a year. The Act provides for federal funding to expand the state-federal healthcare program to residents earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level. The federal share will be 100% of the expansion cost through 2016, and stay at 90% or above through 2020.

The Supreme Court made the Medicaid expansion optional, and 25 states have turned down the deal. This is entirely the handiwork of Republican governors or legislatures determined to take a dramatic stand against Obamacare. Of the 25 refusenik states, six have governors who support the expansion over the legislature’s objection; four are Democrats, including the governor-elect of Virginia, and two are Republicans. It’s already been established that the failure to expand Medicaid will deprive 5 million residents in those states of the improved access to health coverage provided by the Affordable Care Act.

More here

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LA Times: U.S. Unemployment Rate Drops To 7%, Lowest Since 2008

A surprisingly robust gain in new jobs last month helped drop the unemployment rate to a five-year low, fueling optimism about the nation’s economic recovery and raising the prospect that the government may finally start to ease a key stimulus effort this month. In its report Friday, the Labor Department said that the nation’s employers added 203,000 non-farm jobs in November and that a large part of them were higher-paying positions. The unemployment rate fell to 7%, the lowest since November 2008.

“It’s not just the quantity of the jobs but the quality,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial. “These are higher-wage jobs, and a shift from a reliance on leisure and hospitality and retail gains we had seen in recent months.” The economy has averaged more than 200,000 net new jobs a month for the last four months. That’s the sustained level that central bank officials have said they wanted to see before starting to reduce the monthly bond purchases, part of their effort to spur the recovery from the Great Recession.

More here

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Jelani Cobb: Mandela And The Politics Of Forgiveness

In 1966, Senator Robert F. Kennedy delivered a speech at the University of Cape Town. He began by stating that he was there to talk about a country settled by the Dutch, which fought a bloody war of independence, and had then become an international pariah for its treatment of black people. He allowed a tense moment to pass and then added, “I’m here tonight to talk about the United States of America.”

To an extent greater than most Americans recognize, but which Nelson Mandela understood implicitly, the United States and South Africa are products of kindred histories: both founded by settlers, both emerged from wars to overthrow British colonialism, both forged national identities on their respective frontiers. Before the election of Barack Obama allowed this country, albeit briefly, to indulge the idea of postracialism, Mandela was revered here as a proxy for the American past. His capacity to emerge from twenty-seven years in prison without bitterness broadcast the hope that this country’s own racial trespasses might be forgiven.

More here

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Haaretz: Did Obama Best Bibi’s Own Red Line?

Amidst the weeping and gnashing of teeth from the Prime Minister’s office after the interim agreement on Iran reached in Geneva, it is appropriate to pause to ask how President Obama’s interim agreement actually measures up on Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s chosen yardstick. Who can forget Netanyahu’s UN presentation last year where he made his best case to the world about the threat Iran’s nuclear program poses to international security. To vivify this danger, Bibi unveiled a graphic sketch of a bomb on which he demonstrably drew a red line.

Especially in Israel, the Prime Minister’s speech drew withering fire. Many criticized his drawing a red line in this way as a fool’s errand. Obama’s black line bests Bibi’s red line. It pushes Iran back from the line Netanyahu drew, where Iran stood on the threshold of completion of stage 2, 90% of the way to the UEU core of a bomb, to Netanyahu’s stage 1. As a result, on the path the Prime Minister identified as Iran’s fastest track to a nuclear bomb, the Geneva agreement has extended the dash time – the period between any decision by Iran to rush to a bomb and the goal line. Thus, when judged by this bottom line, Obama’s interim agreement leaves Israel and the world safer than we would otherwise be.

More here

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Jerusalem Post: Peres Says He’s Willing To Meet Rouhani: “Iran Is Not Our Enemy”

President Shimon Peres on Sunday said that he would have no problem meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. “Why not?” he said in an interview with CNN’s Richard Quest at the Globes Israel Business Conference in Tel Aviv. Israel and Iran are not enemies, he said. Peres also said he believed relations with the United States had not been harmed over the Iran issue, and that US President Barack Obama remained a solid friend to Israel. He stressed the importance of using the next six months to sign a final deal that would ensure Iran would not obtain a nuclear weapon. Asked his stance on gay marriage in Israel, Peres responded that everybody was born equal and had a right to love who they wanted to love.

More here

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NYT: Thousands Demand Resignation Of Ukraine Leader

Enraged by a violent crackdown by security forces, Ukrainians took to the streets with new, revolutionary urgency on Sunday, with hundreds of thousands of protesters demanding the resignation of President Viktor F. Yanukovich and a realignment of the country away from Russia toward Europe. “I want the authorities to know that this is not a protest; this is a revolution!” Yuri V. Lutsenko, a former interior minister and an organizer of the Orange Revolution nine years ago, told a vast crowd here in Independence Square that many observers said outstripped even the biggest gatherings in 2004. “Revolution!” the crowd roared back. “Revolution!”

Eleven days of intensifying protests over Mr. Yanukovich’s refusal to sign political and free trade accords with the European Union have now directly shaken the president’s prospects of remaining in power. Cracks have begun to emerge in his political base: His chief of administration was reported to have resigned, and a few members of Parliament quit his party and decried the police violence. Many Ukrainians see the agreements with Europe as crucial steps toward a brighter economic and political future, and as a way to break free from the grip of Russia and from Ukraine’s Soviet past. Now, the outcry over Mr. Yanukovich’s abandonment of the accords is pushing Russia into a corner.

More here

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Think Progress: What Americans Can Learn From The Constitution Nelson Mandela Signed

In 2012, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made the impolitic suggestion that “I would not look to the U.S. Constitution, if I were drafting a Constitution in the year 2012,” instead pointing foreign constitution drafters to the constitution the late South African leader Nelson Mandela signed in 1996. Her statement received the predictable response from many conservative voices. One publication called for her to resign. The truth, however, is that the United States could learn a great deal from South Africa’s constitution.

As Ginsburg noted, that constitution was drafted much more recently than America’s 226 year-old founding text. Accordingly, its drafters benefited from more than two centuries of human experience that our founding fathers did not have. Ginsburg in no way impugned the genius of George Washington, James Madison or Alexander Hamilton when she suggested that these men could not possibility have known the things that we know today — and that nations drafting new constitutions should benefit from the full range of human experience.

More here

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Scott Keyes: Pope Francis Sneaks Out Of The Vatican At Night To Serve The Homeless

The leader of the Catholic Church has been quietly sneaking out of the Vatican at night to minister to homeless residents, according to a new report. “Swiss guards confirmed that the pope has ventured out at night, dressed as a regular priest, to meet with homeless men and women,” writes The Huffington Post. The report hinted that Pope Francis had sneaked out of the enclave with Archbishop Konrad Krajewski. As Almoner of His Holiness, Krajewski is the Vatican’s point person on giving charity to the poor and visits the destitute nightly.

This isn’t the first time Pope Francis has earned attention and praise for his predilection to serve the needy. Just months after assuming the papacy, he invited nearly 200 homeless people to join him for dinner at the Vatican. He also deplored the plight of homeless people in the first apostolic exhortation of his papacy last week: “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”

More here

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UPI: Colin Powell: Everyone Should Have Access To Quality Healthcare

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell told a Seattle audience universal healthcare would show the world the United States takes care of “all of our citizens.” Speaking Thursday at a fundraiser sponsored by the University of Washington School of Medicine and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Powell said he doesn’t see why the United States “can’t do what Europe is doing, what Canada is doing, what Korea is doing, what all these other places are doing.” “I am not an expert in healthcare, or Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act, or however you choose to describe it,” he said, “but I do know this — I have benefited from that kind of universal healthcare in my 55 years of public life.”

More here

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On This Day:

Senator Obama and Michelle Obama with Oprah Winfrey at a rally in Des Moines, December 8, 2007

First Lady Michelle Obama meets with Emine Erdoğan, wife of the Prime Minister of Turkey, in the Yellow Oval Room of the White House, Dec. 8, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

08
Dec
13

Early Bird Chat

On This Day: President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama arrive at a Hanukkah reception at the White House, Dec 8, 2011

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MoooOOOooorning Early Birds!




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