Posts Tagged ‘abortion

09
May
14

Rise and Shine

Pete Souza: “To appreciate this photograph, one must know the iconic photograph by Stanley Tretick of John Kennedy Jr. crawling out from the trap door of this same desk while his father, President Kennedy, worked at the desk. Caroline Kennedy had stopped by to see President Obama, and when she mentioned that he was using the same desk as her father, the President immediately remembered the Tretick picture and tried to open the trap door. It was locked and no one had a key.” March 9, 2009

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Today (All Times Eastern)

12:45 PM EDT: The President delivers remarks on energy, Walmart, Mountain View, California

1:45 PM EDT: Departs California

6:35 PM EDT: Arrives White House

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Taegan Goddard: ObamaCare Is Working – And The GOP Is Shifting Its Attack

After pounding Democrats on ObamaCare for the last several years, Republicans have a big problem. The law is working and their message is falling flat. This was confirmed again by testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee yesterday in which health care industry executives surprised Republican lawmakers. They said the law has not led to a government takeover of the industry, that most enrollees are paying their premiums as required, and that premiums are not certain to go up next year as Republicans claim. With more than 8 million people enrolled in health plans through the ObamaCare exchanges, many Republicans know it’s much harder to repeal the law now than it might have been several years ago. And they tried more than 50 times already without success.

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David Jackson: Obama Touts Energy Plans, Trumpets W. House Solar Panels

President Obama will announce new plans Friday designed to boost solar power and promote energy efficiency, including the completed installation of solar panels on the White House roof. The solar panels on the president’s residence are “part of an energy retrofit that will improve the overall energy efficiency of the building,” said White House spokesman Matt Lehrich. During a visit to Wal-Mart in Mountain View, Calif., near San Jose, Obama will also outline what aides call some 300 “private and public sector commitments” designed to create jobs and reduce carbon pollution.

The speech comes three days after the administration issued a report saying that climate change caused by pollution is already damaging the environment and triggering extreme weather conditions. The initiatives Obama will announce Friday include programs aimed at financing for new solar business ventures, training and developing a solar workforce, and enforcing new building codes to promote efficiency. Private companies, including Wal-Mart, will commit to similar projects, the White House said. The plans are projected to create enough new solar energy to power more than 130,000 homes, and energy savings that are the equivalent of taking 80 million cars off the road for one year, the White House said.

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One of the best stigma reducing pieces and videos I’ve seen on abortion. She uses facts to combat the rightwing extremism and lies. Bravo, Cosmopolitan for featuring this article.

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Emily Letts: Why I Filmed My Abortion

When Emily Letts got pregnant, she knew she would get an abortion. Then she decided to film it. Letts, 25, is an abortion counselor at Cherry Hill Women’s Center in New Jersey, which is where she had her abortion. The non-graphic video focuses on her face and shows her breathing and humming through the procedure. The doctor on the other side of the sheet is out of view. When she entered the Abortion Care Network’s Stigma Busting video competition and won, the video went viral. Here, she explains why she decided to share her experience so publicly. I searched the Internet, and I couldn’t find a video of an actual surgical procedure in the clinic that focused on the woman’s experience. We talk about abortion so much and yet no one really knows what it actually looks like. A first trimester abortion takes three to five minutes. It is safer than giving birth. There is no cutting, and risk of infertility is less than 1 percent. Yet women come into the clinic all the time terrified that they are going to be cut open, convinced that they won’t be able to have kids after the abortion. The misinformation is amazing, but think about it: They are still willing to sacrifice these things because they know that they can’t carry the child at this moment.

There are three options for a first-trimester abortion: medical abortion, which is the pill; a surgical abortion with IV sedation, where you’re asleep through the whole thing; and a surgical abortion with local anesthesia during which you’re awake. The first night I posted the video to my Facebook page, I couldn’t sleep. Then I looked at my Facebook wall. I was expecting this tsunami of hateful, scary things, but everyone was so breathtakingly supportive. People who I have never talked to started writing their own abortion stories. I had one woman who messaged me saying she’d had an abortion that week and she was plagued with guilt. Her boyfriend called her a killer, but she said she was recovering well and appreciated the video. Another woman told me she’d had a miscarriage and that because of my video she felt like she could talk to me about it. Just all of these things started pouring out of women.

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Derek Willis: The Most Republican Company?: The Makers Of Wonder Bread

The most Republican-leaning company in the country, based on political donations, isn’t Koch Industries. It’s the company that makes Wonder Bread. The political action committee of Flowers Foods, a Georgia company that produces the pillowy sandwich bread, Tastykakes and Nature’s Own baked goods, has given more than 99 percent of its political contributions since 1979 to Republicans. Only three Democratic congressional candidates have gotten money from its PAC since 1984, and not one in the past 20 years. Most corporations involved in national politics don’t operate this way. Despite its largess, Flowers keeps a low profile that masks the motives for its one-sided giving. It’s based in Thomasville, a southwestern Georgia city just over the Florida border best known for an annual rose festival and grand antebellum homes.

There are other companies that lean heavily toward Republicans: The Cracker Barrel Old Country Store PAC routinely gives them more than 80 percent of its contributions. The PAC of Phillips International, a financial information publisher, gave a combined $1,100 to just two Democrats between 1994 and 2006, compared with more than $545,000 to Republicans. The California-based radio and publishing company Salem Communications, which like Phillips has openly embraced a conservative message, also gives almost nothing to Democrats. Some trade associations, like the Associated Builders and Contractors, have long been exclusive donors to Republicans, much the way many labor unions have given almost all of their contributions to Democrats. But none of those companies have given as much money as Flowers has, and over as long a period of time.

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NBC News: The Newest Benghazi Controversy: Political Fundraising

House Speaker John Boehner would not say Thursday if the House GOP’s campaign arm should stop including the Benghazi attacks in fundraising appeals. Asked three times whether the National Republican Congressional Committee should be fundraising based on what they call Democratic obstruction of the Benghazi investigation, Boehner answered only: “Our focus is on getting the answers to those families who lost their loved ones. Period.”  An NRCC email sent Wednesday morning included a link to “become a Benghazi watchdog” – which led to a page where supporters can donate cash. A separate website called “BenghaziWatchdogs.com” still contains a link encouraging visitors to “help fight liberals by donating today.”

Democrats say that’s inappropriate and calls attention to the political nature of the GOP focus on Benghazi. In a statement sent minutes before Boehner’s weekly press conference began, Rep. Steve Israel, who chairs the Democratic counterpart to the NRCC, called the Republican cash appeal “callous.” “Fundraising off the Benghazi tragedy is despicable and insulting and has no place in the national conversation,” he said. “Speaker Boehner and Chairman Walden should immediately take down their BenghaziWatchdogs.com website and stop insulting the memory of the brave Americans who were lost there.”

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Eleanor Kennedy: HCA, Community Health Systems And LifePoint Starting To See Benefits From The Affordable Care Act

One quarter in, Nashville’s publicly traded hospital operators seem optimistic about the effects of the Affordable Care Act on their bottom lines. Community Health Systems CFO Larry Cash told investors and analysts during the company’s first-quarter earnings call Wednesday that the ACA should decrease self-pay admissions from about 8 percent to about 4 percent over a three-year period. The company has seen some early moderate impacts, especially in Medicaid expansion states where self-pay admissions have already begun to drop, Cash said. “We believe we have recognized, although on a roughly calculated basis, at least $10 million from the ‘woodwork effect’ [in which people currently eligible for Medicaid but who had yet to sign up will now do so because of the ACA] and the Affordable Care Act for additional Medicaid business,” Cash said.

Brentwood-based LifePoint was also high on the ACA’s impacts during its first-quarter earnings call last week, with company leadership emphasizing Medicaid expansion’s effects in many of the states where it operates hospitals. “So far and as expected, the new health care law has been a net positive for LifePoint with respect to Medicaid expansion,” CEO Bill Carpenter said during the call. “In the seven states where we operate that have expanded coverage, we saw increasing Medicaid and decreasing self-pay volumes. Increases in Medicaid membership and health insurance exchange participation contributed measurably to our results in the quarter.

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Elise Vebeck: Obama’s HHS Nominee Breezes Through Senate Confirmation Hearing

Senate Republicans mounted little resistance Thursday to Sylvia Burwell, President Obama’s nominee to replace Kathleen Sebelius as head of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). While several of the senators played up their opposition to ObamaCare, most Republicans called Burwell a qualified pick, and several went out of their way to praise the former Clinton administration official as uniquely suited to lead HHS. GOP lawmakers solicited Burwell’s views on major policy debates, such as how ObamaCare will affect the economy, the deficit and federal healthcare costs. Not surprisingly, Burwell sided with the administration on every point. “The Affordable Care Act is strengthening the economy … reducing the deficit and providing great savings,” she said.

At the same time, Burwell played up her desire to be flexible on certain issues, like states’ desire to expand Medicaid in alternative ways. She also sought to quiet debate on the cost-cutting Independent Payment Advisory Board and other controversial topics. “IPAB never needs to be used,” Burwell said, noting that the panel is only triggered when the rate of healthcare spending rises above a certain level. “In the current window that we’re looking at, it is our estimate that it would never be activated,” she said. The path to confirmation for Burwell would look very different had Senate Democrats not used the “nuclear option” last year. The procedural maneuver gave Democrats the power to confirm nominees like Burwell with a simple majority vote, which means they can approve Obama’s choices without any Republican support. Last April, she was confirmed to head the Office of Management and Budget by a vote of 96-0.

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Scott Keyes: Before Obamacare, GOP Candidate Was Denied Health Coverage For Adopting A Child

In a parallel universe, Matt Bevin might not be an anti-Obamacare crusader, but instead a poster child for the issues with the old health insurance industry and the ways in which the Affordable Care Act now prevents insurers from taking advantage of consumers. That’s because Bevin, a Republican Senate candidate trying to unseat Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), himself was once the victim of an unfair insurance industry practice: Denying coverage to consumers because of a pre-existing condition. During a campaign stop in western Kentucky on Monday, Bevin told the crowd that after leaving a job, “My wife and I literally didn’t have health care for about a year because of a pre-existing condition.”

Was it cancer? Heart disease? Pancreatitis? No. It wasn’t a health condition at all. “I was rather shocked… What it was is that we were adopting. That’s considered a pre-existing condition,” Bevin said. He and his wife have four adopted children from Ethiopia in total. As a result, Bevin noted, “For over a year or so, I had no coverage for my entire family. That’s a little bit unnerving for people.” Bevin’s experience is exactly the type of ordeal that families no longer have to go through now that Obamacare is the law of the land. Despite unwittingly making a succinct case in favor of health reform, Bevin’s takeaway from his own insurance debacle was that we need to repeal Obamacare and instead “let states come up with solutions.”

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Eugene Robinson: Obama’s Transformational Presidency

Is it safe to say that Barack Obama’s presidency will be remembered as the most consequential since Ronald Reagan’s — a presidency that “changed the trajectory of America” and “put us on a fundamentally different path”? In both the domestic and foreign spheres, Obama has had transformational impact. And there is more to come. Reagan’s great achievement at home was to shift the political spectrum to the right. People tend to forget how radical his ideas once seemed. His biggest legislative accomplishment, the Affordable Care Act, is a landmark because it establishes the principle that health care should be considered a right, not a privilege. Democrats such as Harry Truman — and Republicans such as Richard Nixon — sought for decades to move the nation toward universal care. The fact that Obama succeeded where others failed is, in itself, a huge achievement.

Health care is part of a larger suite of issues on which Obama has swung the pendulum back to the left. He made the case, for example, that more regulation of the financial sector was needed. Republicans were forced to give way. The president has been hammering away in speeches about the need for an increase in the minimum wage. Republicans haven’t caved on this yet, but in the end they almost surely will because of widespread public support for it. Whether Democrats lose the Senate or not, Obama will have a tough time getting significant legislation passed in his final two years. Please don’t tell me he simply needs to be a better politician, like Bill Clinton. Obama ran rings around both Clintons in 2008. A black man with the middle name Hussein who gets elected president twice should be in the all-time-all-world Politics Hall of Fame.

Obama is not the first president to endorse multilateralism, but he may be the first to mean it. He agreed to use force in Libya only after France and Britain nominally took the lead. He has kept the NATO allies together in cautiously dealing with the Ukraine crisis. He has refused to be drawn into Syria because he is unsure whether intervention would make the situation better or worse. The president realizes that even the most powerful nation on earth cannot mediate every dispute, take sides in all wars, alleviate all suffering. He acknowledges our limitations and more narrowly defines our national interest. The public approves, even if some foreign policy sages are apoplectic.

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Boss Move Of The Day

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On This Day

President Obama watches the action during a break from playing basketball at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, May 9, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama stops to talk with families after playing basketball at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, May 9, 2009. (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama reacts to a comment made at the White House Correspondents Awards Dinner in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, May 9, 2009 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

President Obama “meets” with speechwriter Cody Keenan, who dressed as a pirate for an Oval Office photo taken for use in the President’s humorous speech to the White House Correspondents Association dinner May 9, 2009. “But as I said during the campaign, we can’t just talk to our friends. As hard as it is, we also have to talk to our enemies, and I’ve begun to do exactly that,” the President said in his speech. (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama talks on the phone to Solicitor General Elena Kagan from the Treaty Room in the White House residence, Sunday night, May 9, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama talks on the phone with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss the economic situation in Europe, prior to the Hampton University commencement in Hampton, Va., Sunday, May 9, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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First Lady Michelle Obama participates in the “Pit Crew Challenge” during an event with the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition on the South Lawn of the White House, May 9, 2011. The First Lady visited seven activity stations during the event, which helped promote both the Let’s Move! and Joining Forces initiatives. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

President Obama walks through the Rose Garden of the White House for an outdoor meeting with senior staff, May 9, 2011. Walking with the President, from left, are: Senior Advisor David Plouffe, Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, Counselor to the President Pete Rouse, and Counsel to the President Bob Bauer (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama meets with senior staff in the Rose Garden of the White House, May 9, 2011. Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett is seen at right (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama participates in an interview with Robin Roberts of ABC’s Good Morning America, in the Cabinet Room of the White House, May 9, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama watches a demonstration by Oscar Perez and Bobford Do as he tours a classroom at Manor New Technology High School in Manor, Texas, May 9, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

First Lady Michelle Obama, Prince Harry of Wales, and Dr. Jill Biden help military children create Mother’s Day cards and other crafts in the State Dining Room of the White House, May 9, 2013. The children presented the gifts to their moms during the Joining Forces Military Mother’s Day Tea in the East Room. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

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27
Apr
14

News Of The Day

On This Day: President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama visit Fort Stewart, Georgia, April 27, 2012

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The Philippines is 12 hours ahead of EDT

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Monday, April 28

The President travels to Manila, Philippines, and participates in an arrival ceremony at Malacanang Palace

Later that afternoon, President Obama meets with President Benigno S. Aquino III of the Philippines

President Obama participates in a joint press conference with President Aquino

The President greets members of the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines

Later that evening, the President attends a State Dinner with President Aquino at Malacanang Palace

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Tuesday, April 29

In the morning, President Obama delivers remarks at Fort Bonafacio

Later that morning, the President participates in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Manila American Cemetery

The President travels back to Washington, D.C.

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Text of the President’s remarks on Donald Sterling

With respect to the statements by the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers — for our Malaysian audience, this is a sports team, basketball team in the United States.  The owner is reported to have said some incredibly offensive racist statements that were published.  I don’t think I have to interpret those statements for you; they kind of speak for themselves.  When people — when ignorant folks want to advertise their ignorance you don’t really have to do anything, you just let them talk.  And that’s what happened here.

I am confident that the NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, a good man, will address this.  Obviously, the NBA is a league that is beloved by fans all across the country.  It’s got an awful lot of African American players.  It’s steeped in African American culture.  And I suspect that the NBA is going to be deeply concerned in resolving this.

I will make just one larger comment about this.  The United States continues to wrestle with a legacy of race and slavery and segregation that’s still there — the vestiges of discrimination. We’ve made enormous strides, but you’re going to continue to see this percolate up every so often.  And I think that we just have to be clear and steady in denouncing it, teaching our children differently, but also remaining hopeful that part of why some statements like this stand out so much is because there had been — there has been this shift in how we view ourselves.

And like Malaysia, we constantly have to be on guard against racial attitudes that divide us rather than embracing our diversity as a strength.  And I know that the people of Malaysia are committed to wrestling with those issues as well.  We have to make sure that we stay on top of it — and we will.

Full transcript of press conference here

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Dylan Scott: NYT Poll Blows Up GOP’s Obamacare Narrative

A poll released Wednesday offers yet another data point showing the politics of Obamacare aren’t as set in stone as the conventional wisdom would have you believe. Embracing Obamacare isn’t necessarily a political loser, and obstructing it isn’t necessarily a winner. The New York Times/Kaiser Family Foundation poll surveyed four Southern states that will help determine control of the Senate this fall. It earned headlines for finding the Democrats in better shape in the Senate races than most would have expected. But it also assessed the popularity of four governors who have taken vastly different approaches to Obamacare — and the findings are a direct contradiction of the narrative that the law is a loser, plain and simple, especially in states like these.

The poll showed Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe (D) and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D), who expanded Medicaid under the law, are hugely popular. Their approval ratings are more than 20 points higher than their disapproval ratings; Beebe holds 68 percent approval, and Beshear is at 56 percent. But Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) and North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) are at best treading water with their constituents after they declined to expand the program to cover low-income residents.

More here

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NYT: Slavery Nostalgia Is Real, And It’s Dangerous

Northerners may be a little shocked that anyone could feel a bit nostalgic for slavery, in the manner of the government-hating Nevada rancher, Cliven Bundy. But in the South, such sentiments are hardly unheard of, even if they are usually muttered in private over a few bourbons rather than spoken at a news conference. Occasionally, in fact, they are expressed or embraced by public figures. A particularly relevant case started about 14 years ago, when Maurice Bessinger, owner of a chain of South Carolina barbecue restaurants called Maurice’s Piggie Park, began distributing pro-slavery tracts in his stores. One of the tracts, called the “Biblical View of Slavery,” said the practice wasn’t really so bad, because it was permitted in the Bible. It argued that many black slaves in the South “blessed the Lord” for their condition, because it was better than their life in Africa.

When the tract was discovered, Mr. Bessinger was denounced and his restaurants boycotted. Many retail stores pulled his distinctive (to be kind) yellow mustardy barbecue sauce from their shelves. But one prominent South Carolinian decided to stand up for Mr. Bessinger. Glenn McConnell, then a state senator from Charleston, stocked the sauce in his Confederate “art gallery,” which was loaded with secessionist flags and uniforms, as well as toilet paper bearing the image of Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman. When a local power utility banned its trucks from the parking lots of Piggie Park, Mr. McConnell threatened a legislative vendetta against the company. Mr. Bessinger died in February. Mr. McConnell is now the lieutenant governor of South Carolina.

More here

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President Obama’s Townhall At Malaya University

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Jackie Calmes: In Poorest States, Political Stigma Is Depressing Participation In Health Law

Inside the sleek hillside headquarters of Valley Health Systems, built with a grant from the health care law, two employees played an advertisement they had helped produce to promote the law’s insurance coverage for young, working-class West Virginians. The ads ran just over 100 times during the recent six-month enrollment period. But three conservative groups ran 12 times as many, to oppose the law and the local Democratic congressman who voted for it. This is a disparity with consequences. Health professionals, state officials, social workers, insurance agents and others trying to make the law work for uninsured Americans say the partisan divisions and attack ads have depressed participation in some places.

They say the law has been stigmatized for many who could benefit from it, especially in conservative states like West Virginia that have the poorest, most medically underserved populations but where President Obama and his signature initiative are hugely unpopular. Steven L. Shattls, chief executive of Valley Health, a network of 28 health centers, said his organization would like to rerun its ad before November, when enrollment resumes. But he also conceded, “We have limited resources.” Republican candidates and the so-called super PACs supporting them have made assailing the Affordable Care Act their No. 1 issue for the midterm elections

More here

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Koritha Mitchell: Supreme Court Agrees With Michigan Voters: Affirmative Action Must Remain For Whites Only

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Michigan’s voter-approved ban on affirmative action in admissions to the state’s public universities reinforces an ugly reality: that most Americans support affirmative action only when it is for whites and no one else. Nearly every time American rhetoric privileges states’ rights, it leaves marginalized groups open to even bolder discrimination than they already encounter. Michigan is simply reminding us that the South has never been the only place where Americans believe that whites are the only ones who should enjoy equal protection. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s 58-page dissent is a painfully necessary document that asks the nation to live up to its creed, but we desperately need to take this conversation in another direction. Rather than focus on the disadvantages of groups hurt by this decision, Americans must confront the unearned advantage of whiteness that inspired Michigan’s Proposal 2 in the first place. In short, Proposal 2 — and every instance of the sort of rhetoric that aligns with it — amounts to a declaration that setting a quota for whites of at least 75 percent is the American way.

The nation’s most effective, and palatable, affirmation action has always been for whites. In the early days of the republic, how else could land have been distributed to whites and not to Native Americans? The requirement for land was being white; the government set it aside for whites. How else could whites have secured the vast majority of land in the South (where blacks often outnumbered them) after Emancipation? The Homestead Act of 1863 and other government programs ensured that land was set aside for whites. How else did 98 percent of Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans granted between 1932 and 1962 go to whites? Numerous historians have shown that the federal government sanctioned discriminatory practices that ensured that access to home ownership was set aside for whites. And those homes not only enabled whites to build wealth; they also provided access to public schools that prepared their children for college. The same principles shaped the years after World War II. Thus, while G.I. Bill benefits yielded college degrees and small businesses for whites, black and brown veterans more often returned home to collect insult and injury.

More here

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Jonathan Cohn: Obamacare Cancelled Policies: Study Says Impact Was Actually Small

“Five million people lost their coverage around the country.” That quote comes from John Barrasso, chairman of the Senate Republican Party Committee. But if you’ve heard Republicans and their allies make the case against Obamacare, then you’ve inevitably heard some version of this. In some tellings, the number is 6 million. Sometimes conservatives cite this figure as proof that, on net, the number of Americans with insurance will decline because of the Affordable Care Act. That’s almost certainly not true, as a recent series of surveys have shown. The study, which appears online at the journal Health Affairs, is by Benjamin Sommers, an assistant professor at the Harvard School of Public Health. Using data from the Census Brueau’s Survey of Income Program and Participation, or SIPP, Sommers found that, historically, the non-group insurance has tended to have lots of churn.

In English, that means few people hold onto non-group policies for very long—typically, it’s just a transitional phase, while they are between jobs that provide insurance directly. In the sample that Sommers examined, the number of people who still had the same policy after just four months was already less than than two-thirds; after one year, it was down to 42 percent; after two years, it was down to 27 percent. So what does that tell us about Obamacare? According to Sommers, it suggests that most of the people who got those cancellation notices probably would have dropped existing coverage within a short time anyway. Sommers says that 65 percent of the people in his study had incomes below 400 percent of the poverty line, which means they’d be eligible for tax credits that make non-group insurance less expensive than the sticker price. That makes him skeptical about the extent of “rate shock”

More here

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Michael Tomasky: Republicans Are Racists? No, It’s Just All A Big Coincidence

Come on, fellow liberals. Calm down. I guess maybe it’s fair to call Cliven Bundy a racist. That “picking cotton” business put it over the top, and wondering whether they were better off under slavery. Even Sean Hannity, Bundy’s greatest media champion, threw in the towel last night: He wanted it to be “abundantly clear,” Hannity said at the top of his show, that he found the remarks “downright racist,” “repugnant,” “beyond disturbing,” and so on. OK, so Bundy’s a racist. It’s fine to point that out. But point up the fact that he’s a registered Republican? That’s where I draw the line, friends. I mean, come on. That’s just a coincidence. Total cosmic coincidence.

Just like it’s a coincidence that one federal judge who sent an email around to friends saying that Obama’s father was a dog happened to be a Republican. Complete and utter accident of fate, the puny matter of his voter enrollment. Those rancidly racist T-shirts and posters one sometimes sees at Tea Party rallies? They’re just a coincidence, too. I mean, Tea Party people might not be Republican, strictly speaking, and it’s totally unfair to assume that! OK, Tea Party candidates run in Republican primaries, not Democratic ones, and the Tea Party caucus in the House doesn’t include one Democrat. But still. Guilt by association!

More here

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Irin Carmon: Texas Women Are Running Out Of Options

There is no more birth control at the flea market. And if there ever were abortion pills, they’re long gone, too. At the Rio Grande Valley’s biggest outdoor market, known as la pulga, locals can buy car parts and fertilizer, watermelons out of a pickup, a parakeet, an iPhone case or stickers from their favorite Mexican fútbol team. But since this flea market was among several raided last August over suspicion it was selling abortion pills, if you even ask for birth control you’ll hear voices lower to a fearful whisper. You’ll be sent to the vendor who sells nuts, or the women selling jewelry. On a recent afternoon, all those destinations were a dead end. “Not anymore,” a woman whose table bore aspirin and homeopathic remedies said in Spanish. She shrugged. “Obama wants us to have more babies.” In fact, it wasn’t the federal government that raided four flea markets’ thriving illegal pharmaceutical trade, making undocumented residents that much more terrified to shop in them. The Sheriff of Hidalgo County, who took the lead, didn’t find any abortion pills, but he did charge nine people with selling prescription-drug contraband like diet pills and Viagra from Mexico.

The arrests came a month to the day after a front page New York Times story about how the state’s new omnibus law restricting abortion – the one Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis famously tried to block – was expected to close the Rio Grande Valley’s two abortion clinics.The combined crackdown by state and local authorities in Texas has done more than make it harder for the women of the Valley to get an abortion. They’re now having trouble getting any reproductive health care at all, since the same state legislature that shuttered the abortion clinics also slashed family planning funds and closed family planning providers. And Texas’ refusal to expand Medicaid means its distinction as the uninsured capital of the United States isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, making the state’s broader health care crisis even worse.

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Ian Millhiser: Court Declares Arkansas Voter Suppression Law Unconstitutional

Voter ID laws, which require voters to show a photo ID at the polls, reduce voter turn out among young voters, low-income voters and people of color — all of whom are groups that tend to prefer Democrats to Republicans. Arkansas’ voter ID law is also unconstitutional, according to a state trial court’s decision handed down on Thursday. As Judge Timothy Davis Fox lays out the controlling law in this case, the constitutionality of Arkansas’ voter ID law isn’t even a particular difficult question. The Arkansas Constitution provides that “[n]o power, civil or military, shall ever interfere to prevent the free exercise of the right of suffrage; nor shall any law be enacted whereby such right shall be impaired or forfeited, except for the commission of a felony, upon lawful conviction thereof.” This law impairs the free exercise of the right of suffrage.

More here

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LEO Weekly: Mitch McConnell Enters A High-Risk Pool On Kynect Opposition

Gov. Steve Beshear announced the almost-final enrollment numbers for Kentuckians gaining access to health care coverage under Kynect before the spring deadline, in which a staggering 413,410 people — 9.6 percent of all Kentuckians — now have health insurance. Roughly 300,000 of these people previously did not have health insurance, and 52 percent of Kynect enrollees are under the age of 35. Sen. Mitch McConnell is beating the drum of repealing Obamacare “root and branch,” though he occasionally slips up and talks about a “fix.” Where this stance becomes dicey for him is when he’s asked what he would do for those 413,000 Kentuckians who have health insurance through Kynect, 300,000 of which were previously uninsured, if he succeeds in repealing the ACA. When cornered with this question, McConnell usually goes into talking points mode to avoid specifics, but last week His Swaggerness got McConnell to bite. Asked what he would do for terminally ill Kentuckians who would lose their new insurance if the ACA is repealed, McConnell actually presented what appears to be a specific answer

McConnell is referring to here is Kentucky Access, the state’s former high-risk pool that helped provide insurance on the private market for Kentuckians who were otherwise turned down by insurance companies due to their pre-existing condition. The program operated from 2001 until the end of last year, when it was rendered moot by the ACA. However, Kentucky Access was not very popular, as it was still too expensive for people to buy insurance. In 2013, only 3,988 Kentuckians gained coverage through the program — which did not provide the same consumer protections under the ACA — with the average basic premium for an individual being $680 a month, and the most popular plan with a pharmacy rider having a monthly premium of $1,118 for a male aged 64.

On the other hand, these same people — and hundreds of thousands more — can now gain coverage through Kynect, along with a subsidy to reduce their premium cost and new consumer protections that make their insurance more valuable if they have a medical emergency and cover the costs of basic check ups and screenings. What McConnell is essentially saying is that we should just go back to the way it was before, with vulnerable Kentuckians having to rely on expensive insurance through an unpopular program that did not provide the same protections they have now. Kynect? 413,000 Kentuckians signing up for insurance in the exchange shows you what a popular insurance pool looks like. And yes, 413,000 is greater than 4,000.

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On This Day

President Obama poses for a photo with a patron at Jerry’s Family Restaurant, a diner in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, April 27, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama tours MogoOrganic farm with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, right, and Morgan Hoenig, left, in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, April 27, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama visits with patrons who were playing bridge in a backroom at Jerry’s Family Restaurant in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, April 27, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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First Lady Michelle Obama hugs children of Executive Office employees at the White House’s annual “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work” day, April 27, 2011

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama walk across the South Lawn of the White House as they depart for Chicago to film a segment on the Oprah Winfrey Show, April 27, 2011

President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Marian Robinson walk with Chicago Mayor Richard Daley from Air Force One to Marine One at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, Ill., April 27, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama chat with Oprah Winfrey during a taping of the Oprah Winfrey show, April 27, 2011, at Harpo Studios in Chicago

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President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama walk across the South Lawn before boarding Marine One at the White House April 27, 2012

President Obama and wife Michelle share a moment while meeting with military families at the headquarters for the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division in Fort Stewart, Georgia to sign changes in the GI Bill, April 27, 2012

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President Obama at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in Washington, DC on April 27, 2013

Conan O’Brien and First Lady Michelle Obama

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23
Apr
14

Rise and Shine

President Obama views the scene of the mudslide in Oso, Wash., from Marine One, April 22 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today

Japan Standard Time is 13 hours ahead of US Eastern, so while we’re up and about, the President will, presumably, be sleeping.

Will post his Thursday schedule asap.

First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr Jill Biden will speak today to soldiers at Fort Campbell, Ky. – need to get a time for the event.

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Crowds wait for the arrival of President Obama at Ginza shopping district in Tokyo

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BBC: Obama pledges Japan islands support as Asian tour begins

US President Barack Obama has assured Japan that islands at the centre of its territorial dispute with China are covered by a bilateral defence treaty.

In an interview ahead of his Asian tour, Mr Obama said the US would oppose any attempt to undermine Japan’s control over the islands.

US officials have made such comments in the past, but this is the first time Mr Obama has given such explicit support.

He arrived in Japan on Wednesday ahead of stops in three other Asian nations.

…. Mr Obama is not going to Beijing, but relations with China are expected to dominate his meetings with regional leaders.

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President Obama is welcomed to Sukiyabashi Jiro restaurant by Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe before dinner in Tokyo

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Steve Benen: Supreme Court upholds Michigan’s affirmative action ban

The ruling on affirmative action in Michigan did not come as too great a surprise, but it’s nevertheless one of the year’s big cases at the U.S. Supreme Court.

…. The ruling will be especially relevant in states that have chosen to ban affirmative action – the policies have been curtailed in Arizona, California, Florida, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, and the state of Washington – while also signaling to other states that they can now do the same without fear of judicial intervention.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a stinging dissent.

The entirety of the ruling is online here (pdf), but this excerpt helps capture the extent to which she disagreed with the majority.

….. “Today’s decision eviscerates an important strand of our equal protection jurisprudence. For members of historically marginalized groups, which rely on the federal courts to protect their constitutional rights, the decision can hardly bolster hope for a vision of democracy that preserves for all the right to participate meaningfully and equally in self-government.”

Full post here

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Charles Pierce: The Wonderful World Where Justices Dwell

The Day of Jubilee, declared by Chief Justice John Roberts in his decision gutting the Voting Rights Act, and celebrated in another venue with the McCutcheon decision, in which we learned that the only real form of political corruption is a direct quid pro quo, and that influence peddled is not influence at all, goes on and on at the Supreme Court, where today yet another decision was handed down that was not About Race, because nothing is ever About Race.

…. The decision was written by Anthony Kennedy, who lives in that wonderful world where the law is a pure crystal stream running through green meadows, unsullied by the grit and silt that piles up in the actual lives of actual human beings. It must be a wonderful world in which Anthony Kennedy lives.

…. This is pure majoritarianism – grotesquely so, if you consider the ongoing shenanigans at the state level regarding ballot access and voter suppression. There will be a real impact on real people – just as there will be with the gutting of the Voting Rights Act and with the cascade of money that this Court has unleashed on the political system….

From the bench, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who grew up in the real world and apparently still lives there, was having none of Kennedy’s rainbows and unicorns.

Full post here

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Steve Benen: Dems Doing The Unexpected: Embracing The ACA

At a press conference last week, a reporter asked President Obama whether “it’s time for Democrats to start campaigning loudly and positively on the benefits” of the Affordable Care Act. The president suggested the larger political discussion should start to include other issues, but he nevertheless gave Dems some direction. “I think that Democrats should forcefully defend and be proud” of the Americans benefiting from the ACA, he said, “I don’t think we should apologize for it, and I don’t think we should be defensive about it. I think there is a strong, good, right story to tell.” And with increasing frequency, Democrats have become eager to tell this strong, good, right story.

In Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial race, Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D) launched this new spot today. We talked two weeks ago, for example, about a very impressive independent-expenditure ad in Alaska, touting Sen. Mark Begich’s (D) support for the health care reform law. In Louisiana, meanwhile, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) is touting the importance of Medicaid expansion and pushing to allow voters to decide its fate in November. And in states like Michigan, North Carolina, and Arkansas, groups aligned with Democrats are airing pretty hard-hitting ads criticizing Republicans who don’t support health care reform.

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Times Record: Arkansas DHS: 155,000 Applications Approved For Private Option

More than 155,000 Arkansas have applied and been found eligible for the so-called private option, or about 70 percent of the 225,000 Arkansans estimated to qualify for the program, the state Department of Human Services said Monday. The agency also estimated that 82 percent of those Arkansans had incomes too low to qualify for federal subsidies to buy insurance through the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace. The subsidies are available to families with incomes between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level. “We now know that an overwhelming majority of Arkansans in the program would have likely gone without health insurance had the Legislature not passed the private option,”

DHS Director John Selig stated in a news release. “Clearly there was a real need in a lot of these families.” The private option, signed into law last April, allows the state to use federal Medicaid money to pay the private health insurance premiums for people earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $16,105 for a household of one. Statewide, 61 percent of Arkansans in the program are women and 64 percent are ages 19-44, a somewhat younger population than those getting coverage through the federal insurance marketplaces, said Arkansas Medicaid Director Andy Allison.

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Maggie Fox: Most Support Birth Control Mandate, Survey Shows

Most Americans — 69 percent — support the requirement that health insurance plans pay for birth control, a new survey shows. The 2010 Affordable Care Act requires health insurers to pay for contraception as part of 10 essential benefits, including vaccines and cancer screenings. It’s the most controversial requirement, with religious groups,

some conservative commentators and some employers objecting. The Supreme Court is expected to rule by June on one appeal by two employers who say paying for certain forms of birth control interferes with their religious beliefs. Free coverage of contraception for most health plans started in 2012.

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Dylan Scott: Red States Hatch Plans To Block Obamacare Even If Dems Take Over

Republicans are taking no chances when it comes to Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. They’re closing every possible door. Under bills passed in Georgia and Kansas recently, even if a Democratic candidate were to pull off an upset and take the governor’s seat, they would not be able to expand the program without the consent of the state legislature — which will almost certainly remain Republican. In other words, GOP lawmakers have taken steps to guarantee that many of their poorest residents will remain uninsured under the health care reform law, no matter what happens in the gubernatorial election.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) and Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) both oppose Medicaid expansion. They both look likely — if not quite certain — to win re-election in November. That should make the bills passed by their respective state lawmakers unnecessary, but they seem intent on guarding against even the remote possibility of a Democratic governor. Georgia and Kansas have left a combined 487,000 residents uncovered under Obamacare because they refused to expand Medicaid. And, though the law remains unpopular, a recent poll found that majorities of Georgians (54 percent) and Kansans (55 percent) support Medicaid expansion.

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Adam Beam: Beshear: 413,000 People Signed Up For Health Care In KY

Beth Moore left her job – and her health insurance – to start her own company in January. In March, while visiting Texas, she had an emergency appendectomy followed by a nasty bout with pneumonia that added up to more than $30,000 in medical bills. But Moore was one of 413,410 Kentuckians who signed up for free or subsidized health insurance through kynect, Kentucky’s state-run health insurance marketplace made possible by the federal Affordable Care Act. So far, the most she has paid for her treatment is $150. “If I had not had insurance (it) would have been catastrophic for me,” Moore said. “I’m very grateful that I am a resident of Kentucky and that this was an option for me.”

Moore told her story alongside Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear and other state officials Tuesday who were celebrating the end of the open-enrollment period of Kentucky’s health insurance marketplace. While signups on the federal website were delayed by numerous technical glitches, Kentucky’s system worked smoothly. At its peak, Beshear said, the state’s website processed more than 7,000 applications per day. The final number is likely to grow because workers are still processing paper applications. Kynect’s next open enrollment period begins Nov. 15. “We’re going to keep enrolling people until everybody in Kentucky who needs health coverage has it,” Beshear said.

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NYT: Oklahoma Limits Abortion Drug Use

Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill on Tuesday to further restrict the use of abortion-inducing drugs in Oklahoma, despite objections from opponents who say it will force more women to have surgical abortions. The bill was written in response to a recent Oklahoma Supreme Court decision that ruled a similar bill signed by Ms. Fallin in 2011 was unconstitutional.

The measure would prohibit off-label uses of certain abortion-inducing drugs by requiring that doctors administer them only in accordance with Food and Drug Administration protocol. That protocol calls for the drugs to be given in higher doses than is customary today, and only in the first seven weeks of pregnancy. It takes effect on Nov. 1.

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NYT: The American Middle Class Is No Longer The World’s Richest

The American middle class, long the most affluent in the world, has lost that distinction. While the wealthiest Americans are outpacing many of their global peers, a New York Times analysis shows that across the lower- and middle-income tiers, citizens of other advanced countries have received considerably larger raises over the last three decades. After-tax middle-class incomes in Canada — substantially behind in 2000 — now appear to be higher than in the United States. The poor in much of Europe earn more than poor Americans. The numbers, based on surveys conducted over the past 35 years, offer some of the most detailed publicly available comparisons for different income groups in different countries over time.

They suggest that most American families are paying a steep price for high and rising income inequality. Although economic growth in the United States continues to be as strong as in many other countries, or stronger, a small percentage of American households is fully benefiting from it. Median income in Canada pulled into a tie with median United States income in 2010 and has most likely surpassed it since then. Median incomes in Western European countries still trail those in the United States, but the gap in several — including Britain, the Netherlands and Sweden — is much smaller than it was a decade ago.

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CNN Money: Rebirth of America’s dead factories

Defunct factories around the country are in high demand as U.S. production once again revs up.

The past two decades have been brutal for American manufacturing as companies shifted production overseas and introduced high-tech systems that eliminated jobs.

Many of these once-thriving hubs have been idle for years, but that’s starting to change.

“Demand for closed factories has picked up since the recession,” said Stuart Lichter, president of Industrial Realty Group, which works with defunct commercial property.

This resurgence is largely triggered by U.S. companies bringing production back home. There has also been a boom in international firms, especially from China, shifting production to the U.S. as a way to grow their business and cut costs.

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AP: First Lady announcing one-stop job site for vets

Aiming to streamline employment resources for people leaving the military, the government is creating an integrated website that can help job-seekers create resumes, connect with employers and become part of a database of veterans and their spouses for companies to mine for skills and talents.

First lady Michelle Obama was announcing the launch of the new Veterans Employment Center on Wednesday at Fort Campbell, Ky., during a special veterans’ jobs summit organized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, the Pentagon and the departments of Veterans Affairs and Labor.

“Our service members haven’t always had the time or information they needed to prepare their resumes, to plot their career goals, to meet with employers and get the jobs they deserve,” the first lady said in her prepared remarks. Mrs. Obama and Vice President Joe Biden’s wife, Jill, have long been focused on the needs of veterans.

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Fernando Espuelas: Republicans Break Up With Hispanics

Breakups are rough — regrets, pain and bitter memories. As Republicans in the House block immigration reform time after time, American Latinos get the message: It’s over, don’t call me. Have a good life. What remains are the weekly flip-flops by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), the yelps of “amnesty” coming from a seemingly frightened Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the tiny fig leaf provided by Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s (R-Va.) seven bills he’s been talking about for a year and the shameful action to deport all Dreamers through the recently unanimous vote of the House Republican caucus’s fantasy bill, the Enforce Act. On my radio show every day, and on social media 24/7, I am part of a conversation where responsibility for both the failure of comprehensive reform, and the acrid discourse surrounding it, is laid at the feet of Republicans exclusively.

New to American politics, organic groups of American Latinos have formed online with the express purpose of increasing Latino turnout in November and dealing the GOP a blow. No longer tied to the traditional activist organizations, still espousing 1960s tactics and attitudes, these new groups are savvy Facebookers and Tweeters that can spread a political message across the country with the click of the mouse – reaching tens of thousands of people in an instant, hundreds of thousands per day. This political battle is now personal. Just like the Tea Party fervor of 2010, driven by a single-minded focus to oppose President Obama, these online Latino groups share a similar obsession with throwing Republicans out of office. Come this November 4, Republicans may just wake up to the ugly reality that breaking up with American Latinos over immigration was an easily avoidable and ultimately very costly divorce.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

In the afternoon, President Obama arrives in Tokyo, Japan

Later, the President joins Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan for a private dinner

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

In the morning, President Obama meets with Emperor Akihito of Japan at the Imperial Palace

The President meets with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan at Akasaka Palace

In the afternoon, the President participates in a joint press conference with Prime Minister Abe

Later, President Obama delivers remarks at a youth and science event with students at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation

The President visits Meiji Shrine

President Obama attends the Japan State Dinner and delivers remarks

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Friday, April 25, 2014

In the morning, President Obama greets members of the U.S. Embassy in Japan

Later that morning, the President bids farewell to the Emperor Akihito of Japan

In the afternoon, President Obama travels to Seoul, Republic of Korea

The President visits the National War Memorial and participates in a wreath-laying ceremony

Later, the President visits Gyengbok Palace

President Obama meets with President Park at the Blue House

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Saturday, April 26, 2014

In the morning, President Obama participates in a roundtable meeting with business leaders to discuss trade policy

Later, the President participates in a Combined Forces Command Briefing at Yongsan Garrison and delivers remarks

In the afternoon, the President travels to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

President Obama participates in an arrival ceremony in Parliament Square

Later that evening, the President attends a State Dinner and delivers remarks at Istana Negara

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Sunday, April 27, 2014

In the morning, President Obama greets members of the U.S. Embassy in Malaysia

Later, the President visits the National Mosque of Malaysia

President Obama meets with Prime Minister Najib Razak at Perdana Putra

In the afternoon, President Obama attends a working lunch with Prime Minister Najib Razak

The President delivers remarks at the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Center

Later, the President participates in the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative Town Hall at the University of Malaysia

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Monday, April 28, 2014

The President travels to Manila, Philippines, and participates in an arrival ceremony at Malacanang Palace

Later that afternoon, President Obama meets with President Benigno S. Aquino III of the Philippines

President Obama participates in a joint press conference with President Aquino

The President greets members of the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines

Later that evening, the President attends a State Dinner with President Aquino at Malacanang Palace

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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

In the morning, President Obama delivers remarks at Fort Bonafacio

Later that morning, the President participates in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Manila American Cemetery

The President travels back to Washington, D.C.

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On This Day

The folded hands of President Obama are seen, second from left, at the U.S. Capitol Holocaust Memorial event April 23, 2009, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Pete Souza)

The President throws a football to one of his aides before a meeting in the Oval Office. April 23, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama talks with Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel in the Outer Oval Office, April 23, 2010. Brian Mosteller, left, and Terry Szuplat work nearby (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama watches as active duty service members take the United States Oath of Allegiance during a naturalization ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House, April 23, 2010.(Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

President Obama salutes an active duty service member following a naturalization ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House, April 23, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama talk with patrons at 12 Bones restaurant in Asheville, N.C., April 23, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have a chance encounter with other hikers while walking along a trail off the Blue Ridge Parkway outside of Asheville, N.C., April 23, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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On this Day: President Obama strikes the Heisman pose after accepting a football from quarterback Tim Jefferson, left, during the Commander-in-Chief Trophy presentation to the United States Air Force Academy football team in the East Room of the White House, April 23, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama tours the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., with Sara Bloomfield, museum director, and Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Holocaust survivor, April 23, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama tours the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., with Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Holocaust survivor, and Sara Bloomfield, museum director, April 23, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

… with Elie Wiesel

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 First Lady Michelle Obama poses with a “Flat Stanley” cutout as Kelly McMahon takes her picture backstage at the Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C., April 23, 2013. Watching nearby, from left, are: Danielle Gray, Cabinet Secretary; Tina Tchen, the First Lady’s Chief of Staff; Kristen Jarvis, Deputy Director of Advance & Traveling Aide for the First Lady; and Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

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MoooOOOooorning everyone! A gazillion thanks to Nerdy for adding a bunch of great news stories to the post while I was snoring last night – Legend.

22
Apr
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama greets members of the audience following his remarks at an Earth Day reception in the Rose Garden of the White House, April 22, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern):

10:05 AM EDT: President Obama departs White House

3:30 EDT: Arrives Paine Field, Washington State

6:50 EDT: Delivers remarks, Oso Firehouse, Oso, Washington

8:0 PDT: Departs Washington for Tokyo, Japan

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Spandan Chakrabarti: The Real Story Of #8Million

Actually, it’s a story of nearly 20 million, if you count everyone who has health insurance directly thanks to the Affordable Care Act. And it could be the story of nearly 6 million more, who are being denied health insurance by Republicans refusing to fully federally funded Medicaid in states they control. It’s a story of tens of millions more, and millions of seniors who now have better coverage and no yearly limits on coverage. But last week’s big number was 8 million. The President announced that 8 million American have enrolled in private health insurance coverage through the exchanges, and in addition, 3 million more are covered under the Medicaid expansion, 3 million young adults can stay on their parents’ plans, and 5 million who bought ACA compliant plans outside the exchanges. I got an email with links to people telling their stories about finally being able to afford health insurance.

The story of these millions, though, is more encompassing than those who gained coverage. The story of the single dad who can no longer be denied health care because of a pre-existing condition, the story of a small business owner who can no longer be charged more just because she’s a woman, the story of a cancer survivor who no longer has to fret that in the third month of the year, she will have reached her annual limit from her insurer – all these stories are possible because of a story that is told far too rarely in the American discourse. That story begins with a young, charismatic newly elected president of the United States for whom health care reform wasn’t just a campaign promise but a deeply rooted cause from which he wouldn’t waver even when his political advisers wanted him to retreat. It begins with the overwhelming election of a president who, in his own words, was willing to become a one-term president to make sure that never again does a mother have to think twice about taking her sick child to the doctor. It’s a story of courage, of overcoming an unprecedented campaign of obstruction, of decoupling progress from ideological checklists.

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Vice President Joe Biden talks with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk during a meeting in Kiev, Ukraine

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Boston Globe: Russia Must ‘Stop Talking And Start Acting,’ Biden Says

US Vice President Joe Biden warned Russia on Tuesday that ‘‘it’s time to stop talking and start acting’’ to reduce tension in Ukraine. Standing alongside acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Biden called on Moscow to encourage pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine to vacate government buildings and checkpoints, accept amnesty and ‘‘address their grievances politically.’’ Biden said Russia needs to act ‘‘without delay,’’ adding, ‘‘We will not allow this to become an open-ended process.’’ The vice president also announced the United States will provide an additional $50 million to help Ukraine’s beleaguered government with political and economic reforms.

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Vice President Joe Biden is greeted by Oleksandr Turchynov, the acting Ukrainian president

The money includes $11 million to help conduct the May 25 presidential election, including voter education, administration and oversight. It also will help fund expert teams from US government agencies to help Ukraine to reduce its reliance on energy supplies from Russia. Other technical advisers will help fight corruption. The White House also announced $8 million in nonlethal military assistance for the Ukrainian armed forces, including bomb-disposal equipment, communications gear and vehicles. In the most high-level visit of a US official since crisis erupted in Ukraine, Biden met privately with Yatsenyuk and acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov.

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Vice President Joe Biden addresses members of the Ukrainian parliament during a meeting

Biden said they have an historic chance now that former President Viktor Yanukovych has fled the country. ‘‘This is a second opportunity to make good on the original promise made by the Orange Revolution,’’ Biden said in a reference to 2004 protests that overturned a widely criticized election that had given Yanukovych the presidency. Yanukovych later took office but left the country after violent protests in February. Biden added, ‘‘To be very blunt about it, and this is a delicate thing to say to a group of leaders in their house of parliament, but you have to fight the cancer of corruption that is endemic in your system right now.’’ He mentioned reforming the courts and finding the right balance of power between the president and Rada.

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CBS: DHS May Limit Deportations Of Illegal Immigrants

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson is considering limiting deportations of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally but without serious criminal records, according to the Associated Press. On President Obama’s orders, Johnson is conducting a politically charged review of U.S. deportation policy. The potential change could shield tens of thousands of immigrants now removed each year solely because of repeated immigration violations, such as re-entering the country after being deported. The possible move was confirmed by two people with knowledge of Johnson’s review: John Sandweg, formerly acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and an immigration advocate who has discussed the review with administration officials but spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions were confidential.

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Department Of Justice: Department Of Justice Announces University Tour By Administration Officials To Raise Awareness Of Campus Sexual Assault

In recognition of the 20th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the Department of Justice today announced a nationwide university tour by top administration officials to raise awareness of campus sexual assault. From April 23-May 1, senior officials from the Departments of Justice and Education will visit campuses across the country, including public and private universities, community colleges, historically black colleges and faith-based and tribal-affiliated institutions around the nation. Officials will speak with campus administrators, local law enforcement, community partners, local service providers and students about how best practices and lessons learned are playing out in areas such as prevention, public awareness and peer support. Visits will also highlight the role that federal, state and local government, working with university administrators, faculty and students, should play.

Each campus on the tour is a recipient of the department’s Office on Violence Against Women’s “Grants to Reduce Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence and Stalking on Campus Program.” The Campus Program funds institutions of higher education to adopt comprehensive responses to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking, creating partnerships among campus entities and with community-based victim services organizations and criminal and civil justice agencies. Campus Program grantees must provide prevention programs for all incoming students; train campus law enforcement or security staff; educate campus judicial or disciplinary boards on the unique dynamics of these crimes; and create a coordinated community response to enhance victim assistance and safety while holding offenders accountable.

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NYT: Obama Names White House Counsel

President Obama announced Monday that he was naming W. Neil Eggleston, a veteran lawyer with extensive experience representing government officials in congressional and criminal investigations, as his next White House counsel. In choosing a veteran of Washington’s recurring oversight wars, the White House may be signaling that it expects the final two years of Mr. Obama’s presidency to be defined by politically charged hearings, demands for information by Republicans in Congress and legal battles over the scope and limits of executive authority.

Mr. Eggleston, 60, a partner at Kirkland & Ellis, one of the nation’s biggest corporate law firms, will succeed Kathryn Ruemmler, who is stepping down after nearly three years. Mr. Eggleston will start the second week of May. “Neil brings extraordinary expertise, credentials and experience to our team,” Mr. Obama said in a statement. “He has a passion for public service, is renowned for his conscientiousness and foresight, and I look forward to working closely with him in the coming years.”

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Your LOL tweet of the morning. This is how the GOP “rebrands”

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Washington Post: Iran Vice President Says Row Over Nuclear Reactor Resolved

Iran will redesign its Arak heavy water reactor to greatly limit the amount of plutonium it can make, the country’s vice president said Saturday, marking a major concession from the Islamic Republic in negotiations with world powers over its contested nuclear program. The comments by Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi come as the talks face an informal July 20 deadline to hammer out a final deal to limit Iran’s ability to build nuclear arms in exchange for ending the crippling economic sanctions it faces.

Iranian state television quoted Salehi, who heads the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, as saying that Iran has proposed to redesign Arak to produce one-fifth of the plutonium initially planned for it. He said that will eliminate concerns the West has that Iran could use the plutonium produced at Arak to build a nuclear weapon. There was no immediate comment from world powers, which include China, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the U.S. and Russia. However, what to do with Arak, a still under-construction 40-megawatt heavy water plant in central Iran, is a key factor in negotiations.

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Lauren Rankin: Blackburn Hasn’t Been Right About The GOP And Women Since The 1970s

After appearing on CBS’ Face the Nation on Sunday, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) made headlines and spurred double-takes with her claim that it is the Republican party — not the Democratic party — that is fighting for women’s rights. If we’re going back through history as Blackburn implores us to do, she’s right. Historically, the Republican party was the stronghold for women’s activists in the early 20th century. But as the two parties essentially switched ideological places from 1970-1973, feminists lost favor with the Republican party. It’s been downhill ever since. So what happened? Well, simply put, the New Right happened. Though initially the New Right was split on women’s issues (some even favored abortion rights and the ERA), they quickly realized the political power of social conservatives who had abandoned the Democratic party as it moved towards racial and gender justice. In order to appeal to disenchanted conservative Democrats, the Republican party trapped itself in a self-imposed ideological jail of religious fundamentalism and extreme conservatism, one from which today’s GOP cannot seem to escape.

Today’s Republican party is basically the embarrassing fanatic uncle of the Republican party of the early 20th century. They have become overtaken by a rabid, radical fringe, one that opposes every single aspect of women’s equality, from abortion and contraception access to equal pay, from access to affordable healthcare to a living wage. What Rep. Marsha Blackburn and other Republicans are banking on by peddling the Republican past as indicative of their present is that no one bothers to pay any attention to the absolutely atrocious record of the Republican party on women’s issues in recent memory, particularly in the last decade. Rather than attempting to beat back the Democratic claims of a “War on Women” by citing history, the Republican party would do well to actually enact some of the current policies they deceptively claim to champion. There isn’t a single women’s rights issue that serves as a bragging right for today’s GOP.

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Greg Sargent: No, Dems Are Not Uniformly Running Away From Obamacare

Mary Landrieu is one of the most vulnerable Senate Democratic incumbents, and her difficult reelection challenges — like those of other endangered Dems – are said to be all about Obamacare. So it’s curious that Senator Landrieu is aggressively campaigning for a major piece of the law that’s dragging her down: the Medicaid expansion currently being debated in her state. Dems there hope to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to get around Governor Bobby Jindal’s opposition that would ask Louisiana voters if they want billions in Medicaid expansion money to cover hundreds of thousands. Getting it on the ballot is a long shot — it would require two thirds of both houses of the legislature — but the fact is that Landrieu held a conference call last week with local media to push the idea. She has met with state editorial boards to advocate for the expansion, winning a positive editorial in the Times-Picayune. She’s going out with an email to her campaign list urging the constitutional amendment and slamming the “Jindal gap,” i.e., the Medicaid gap. She’ll hit opponent Bill Cassidy over the issue.

Landrieu greeted the recent news of high signups by saying that the ACA “holds great promise and is getting stronger every day.” All of this is not to say that Dems are running aggressively on Obamacare. They aren’t. But the widespread claim that they are uniformly running away from it is too simplistic. It’s more complicated than that. In North Carolina, Kay Hagan is airing a radio ad that hits likely GOP foe Thom Tillis over his equivocations on repeal, and she will hit his opposition to the state exchange and Medicaid expansion to build the case that he is anti-middle class. In Alaska, Dems have run an ad for Mark Begich that features a woman discussing how she benefitted from the law in unusually personal terms. Dem Super PACs have run ads in North Carolina and Michigan dramatizing how the GOP repeal stance would take the law’s benefits away.

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Steve Benen: Stuck In The First Stage Of Grief

At a press conference last week, President Obama announced a figure that was hard to even imagine a month ago: 8 million consumers signed up for private insurance through exchange marketplaces during the Affordable Care Act’s open-enrollment period. Obama also took a moment to chide Republicans for having been wrong about practically every aspect of the debate. “I recognize that their party is going through the stages of grief,” he said, “and we’re not at acceptance yet. ”That sounds about right, though I’m not sure the GOP is “going through the stages of grief” so much as it’s stuck on the first one. If the process is believed to have five stages – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance – we have quite a ways to go before “acceptance” is even on the horizon.

Denial still dominates. Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) said Monday he believes the uninsured rate in his state has increased since implementation of the 2010 health care reform law. There are a wide variety of counts when it comes to determining just how many uninsured Americans have been able to get coverage, but all of the reports have something important in common: they all show the rate of the uninsured going down, not up. But to argue that the number of uninsured people is climbing is comparable to arguing that the federal budget deficit is getting larger; the planet is experiencing global cooling; and Obama has pushed use of executive orders to new heights. Oh wait, conservative Republicans often believe all of those bogus claims, too.

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Sahil Kapur: Supreme Court To Hear Case Challenging Ban On Campaign Lies

The Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments Tuesday in an important case about the validity of an Ohio state law banning false statements about political candidates in campaigns. The challenge was brought by the Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion group, which wants to invalidate the Ohio law. In 2010, it sought to put up a billboard claiming Rep. Steve Driehaus (D) supported taxpayer funding of abortion. The advertising company, under pressure from Driehaus who appealed to the Ohio Elections Commission to block the billboard under the statute, refused to put it up. (Driehaus lost reelection anyway.)

A lower court found that the SBA List lacked standing to sue. The 6th Circuit and 8th Circuit courts of appeals have issued split rulings on whether state laws banning false statements are permissible under the First Amendment. There’s a real chance the Supreme Court won’t weigh in on the merits of this case. If the justices conclude that the SBA List has standing, they’re expected to send it back to the lower courts to consider the merits first.

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WTSP: FL Same-Sex Lawsuit Couple Attends W.H. Easter Egg Roll

A Florida couple suing the for marriage equality joined the first family Monday for the Annual White House Easter Egg Roll. The Aleniers were one of six couples that joined Equality Florida Institute to file the lawsuit in pursuit of marriage protections for their family. They, along with their son Ethan, were among the 30,000 people crowded on the South Lawn

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Reuters: U.S. Secretary Of State Urges Russia To Help Implement Ukraine Agreement

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged Russia on Monday to meet Ukraine halfway in trying to implement an agreement to defuse the crisis in the former Soviet republic. Kerry spoke with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov by telephone on Monday morning, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. Russia, Ukraine, the European Union and the United States on Thursday agreed on ways to ease tensions in the worst confrontation between Russia and the West since the Cold War.

“The secretary urged Russia to take concrete steps to help implement the Geneva agreement, including publicly calling on separatists to vacate illegal buildings and checkpoints, accept amnesty and address their grievances politically,” Psaki said at a news briefing. With pro-Moscow separatists showing no sign of surrendering government buildings they have seized in eastern Ukraine, Washington pegged a threat of new sanctions on Russia to how hard Moscow tries to make the Geneva agreement work. “If progress is not made in coming days, we will impose further costs,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

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Reuters: Conservative Koch-Backed Group Uses Soft Touch In Recruiting U.S. Hispanics

The conservative advocacy groups backed by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch are known mostly for spending millions of dollars to pelt Democratic candidates with negative television ads. But this year, one Koch-backed group is using a softer touch to try to win over part of the nation’s booming Hispanic population, which has overwhelmingly backed Democrats in recent elections. The group, known as The Libre Initiative, is sponsoring English classes, driver’s license workshops and other social programs to try to build relationships with Hispanic voters in cities from Arizona to Florida – even as the group targets Democratic lawmakers with hard-edged TV ads. “If they trust us, they may seek our opinion on something else,” said Michael Barrera, a former Bush administration official who now works for Libre, which says it has built a mailing list of 90,000 people during the past three years.

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Libre’s task is complicated by Republican lawmakers’ reluctance to act on a proposed overhaul of the United States’ immigration laws and the harsh rhetoric used by some Republicans that many Americans have seen as anti-Hispanic or anti-immigrant, pollsters say. And even as Libre launches an ad campaign that paints President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act as an expensive failure, Obamacare remains more popular among Hispanics than it is in the overall population. At a recent Hispanic business fair in Orlando, Libre set up panel discussions on family-owned businesses and the shortcomings of Obamacare. Neither event drew much of an audience, but by the end of the day Libre had added 150 names to its mailing list. Several of those who signed up said they were drawn in by the chance to win a tablet computer that was raffled off by Libre, rather than any enthusiasm for conservative ideas. None said they were aware of Libre’s conservative agenda. Libre’s only public filing shows that it took in $2.15 million in revenue during the 12 months that ended June 30, 2012. The report does not say where the money came from, but separate filings show two Koch-backed groups, Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce Inc. and TC4 Trust, gave at least $3.8 million to Libre during an 18-month period that includes the time covered by Libre’s report.

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Brian Beutler: Obamacare’s Success Is Destroying The GOP’s Midterm Strategy

If you’re a decent person, or someone who hasn’t contracted a political bug, the most satisfying thing about the Affordable Care Act’s enrollment total is the knowledge that it’s improved many people’s lives, and contributed to a sizable reduction in the uninsured population. But if you have a lot invested in the law’s success, you’re also relieved to have an answer to everyone trying to create the impression that Obamacare is a slow-rolling fiasco. Republicans won’t stop saying these things, but there’s an amusing tension between calling something a “slow-rolling fiasco” in one breath and then positing that perhaps 10 percent of the millions of new beneficiaries won’t pay their premiums in the next. Or pointing out that the respectable under-35 enrollment rate also includes children. Why nitpick a fiasco?

Taken together, eight million enrollees, lower-than-expected premium increases, and smaller fiscal costs together leave a great void in the political landscape that pathetic enrollment, large premium spikes, and runaway spending were supposed to occupy. In a recent article, conservative political analyst Sean Trende examined how an election that looks so ripe for Republicans could go sour. “The way this could occur is fairly straightforward: The Affordable Care Act improves; there’s no massive rate shock for premiums in September or October; and the economy slowly gains ground. This should propel President Obama’s job approval upward, lifting the collective Democratic boat.” As Danny Vinik has noted, none of this is remotely implausible. And if something along these lines begins taking shape, Republicans would have to revisit the idea that they can just block Democratic legislation, scream “Obummercare!” and let a friendly electoral map do all the work.

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Photos by Pete Souza

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On This Day

Senator Obama holds 10-month-old Claire Von Bergen of Iowa City while shaking hands with supporters after speaking on the Pentacrest at the University of Iowa April 22, 2007

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Senator Obama gets a hug from his wife Michelle Obama after he spoke at the Roberts Stadium, April 22, 2008 in Evansville Indiana

Sen. Barack Obama shakes hands outside of the P&G Pamela’s Diner in the Strip District section of Pittsburgh on the morning of the Pennsylvania Primary election, April 22, 2008

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President Obama and White House staff members prepare to leave Des Moines Airport April 22, 2009, following a visit to Newton, Iowa (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama greets actress Sigourney Weaver after he spoke at an Earth Day reception in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington on April 22, 2010

President Obama waves as he boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, April 22, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama boards Air Force One at Los Angeles International Airport, April 22, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama observes a moment of silence in honor of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings, in the Oval Office, April 22, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama looks at a piece of a wood-alternative fuel made from biomass waste while touring projects presented at the White House Science Fair in the East Garden of the White House, April 22, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

Trying out a bike that powers a water-filtration system built by young student inventors, April 22, 2013

President Obama greets New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz during the White House Science Fair, April 22, 2013

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Rise and Shine

President Obama enters the South Portico of the White House following his arrival aboard Marine One on the South Lawn, March 30, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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The Week Ahead:

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Addicting Info: Ted Cruz Tries To Use Facebook To Prove No One Likes Obamacare And It Blows Up In His Face

The Tea Party crusade against the Affordable Care Act (ACA) hit a huge snag this week. On March 24, 2014, Texas Tea Party Senator, Ted Cruz, decided to put up a ‘quick poll,’ about the ACA on his facebook page. Problem? The Koch brothers don’t control the conversation on social media, the people do.

Ask a question, get an answer. The question Rafael ‘Ted’ Cruz asked on facebook was simple. Are you better off now than you were before the ACA, also called Obamacare, was signed into law, four years ago? Nearly 40,000 comments later, the resounding answer from people all across the country was YES.

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NYT: New G.O.P. Bid To Limit Voting In Swing States

Pivotal swing states under Republican control are embracing significant new electoral restrictions on registering and voting that go beyond the voter identification requirements that have caused fierce partisan brawls. The bills, laws and administrative rules — some of them tried before — shake up fundamental components of state election systems, including the days and times polls are open and the locations where people vote. Republicans in Ohio and Wisconsin this winter pushed through measures limiting the time polls are open, in particular cutting into weekend voting favored by low-income voters and blacks, who sometimes caravan from churches to polls on the Sunday before election.

Democrats in North Carolina are scrambling to fight back against the nation’s most restrictive voting laws, passed by Republicans there last year. The measures, taken together, sharply reduce the number of early voting days and establish rules that make it more difficult for people to register to vote, cast provisional ballots or, in a few cases, vote absentee.In all, nine states have passed measures making it harder to vote since the beginning of 2013. Most have to do with voter ID laws. Other states are considering mandating proof of citizenship, like a birth certificate or a passport, after a federal court judge recently upheld such laws passed in Arizona and Kansas. Because many poor people do not have either and because documents can take time and money to obtain, Democrats say the ruling makes it far more difficult for people to register.

Last year, the Supreme Court struck down a central provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The decision allowed a number of mostly Southern states to alter their election laws without the prior approval once required from the Justice Department. A few weeks later, free of the mandate and emboldened by a Republican supermajority, North Carolina passed the country’s most sweeping restrictions on voting.

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Tara Culp-Ressler: Survivors Of Domestic Violence Now Have Better Access To Obamacare Benefits

Survivors of domestic violence who are living separately from an abusive spouse will now be able to claim tax credits to help them afford an Obamacare plan, thanks to new rules being developed by the federal government. Before the change, these individuals were locked out of federal assistance for health care unless they filed joint taxes with their abuser. Obamacare’s tax credits are intended to ensure that insurance plans on the new marketplaces are affordable for the Americans who may otherwise struggle to pay for health care. But in order for married people to qualify, the health law requires them to file their taxes jointly. If they file separately, they lose out on the federal assistance altogether. Domestic violence prevention advocates argue that policy ends up harming victims of abuse —

particularly because domestic violence is more concentrated among low-income households, and the victims who are financially dependent on their abusers are less likely to be able to extricate themselves from the relationship.  Last week, a group of 79 lawmakers, led by Reps. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), urged the Treasury Department to change this policy and safeguard victims of domestic violence. It only took a few days for Treasury officials to agree. “For victims of domestic abuse, contacting a spouse for purposes of filing a joint return may pose a risk of injury or trauma or, if the spouse is subject to a restraining order, may be legally prohibited. Your concerns are consistent to those expressed to us by numerous others in public comments and meetings,” the Treasury Department acknowledged on Wednesday in a written response to Slaughter and Doggett, explaining that the administration will work on finalizing a new rule on this issue.

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Pete Souza: Pres Obama talks on phone to Pres Putin from Saudi Arabia Friday night

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Fareed Zakaria: Obama Pursues The Right Response To Russia’s 19th-Century Behavior

This is not an academic debate. The best way to deal with Russia’s aggression in Crimea is not to present it as routine and national interest-based foreign policy that will be countered by Washington in a contest between two great powers. It is to point out, as Obama did eloquently this week in Brussels, that Russia is grossly endangering a global order that has benefited the entire world. Compare what the Obama administration has managed to organize in the wake of this latest Russian aggression to the Bush administration’s response to Putin’s actions in Georgia in 2008. That was a blatant invasion. Moscow sent in tanks and heavy artillery; hundreds were killed, nearly 200,000 displaced.

Yet the response was essentially nothing. This time, it has been much more serious. Some of this difference is in the nature of the stakes, but it might also have to do with the fact that the Obama administration has taken pains to present Russia’s actions in a broader context and get other countries to see them as such. You can see a similar pattern with Iran. The Bush administration largely pressured that country bilaterally. The Obama administration was able to get much more effective pressure because it presented Iran’s nuclear program as a threat to global norms of nonproliferation, persuaded the other major powers to support sanctions, enacted them through the United Nations and thus ensured that they were comprehensive and tight. This is what leadership looks like in the 21st century.

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Guardian: Kerry To Meet Russia’s Lavrov For Ukraine Talks In Paris On Sunday

Halfway home from Saudi Arabia, US secretary of state John Kerry has abruptly changed course. He will now stay in Europe for talks on Ukraine. The news followed reports from Russia that Kerry had spoken to the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, by phone, a day after President Vladimir Putin called President Barack Obama. The Russian foreign ministry said Washington had initiated the call between Kerry and Lavrov, adding that they discussed Ukraine and plans for further contact.

Flying from Riyadh to Ireland for a refuelling stop, Kerry decided to turn around after speaking to Lavrov from the plane. State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki confirmed on Saturday that Kerry had arrived in Paris and that the meeting would be held on Sunday.

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Kate Nocera: Univision Works Overtime To Get Latinos Enrolled In Obamacare

The Obama administration has been working overtime in recent months to enroll uninsured Latinos — one of the groups most likely to be uninsured — but it’s not just the White House making a concerted effort. For more than a year, the Spanish-language television network Univision has embarked on their own company-wide effort to get Latinos signed up on the exchanges, working through newscasts, special programming, advertising partnerships, and a dedicated health care website. Univision has not only been providing information to their viewers as to how to sign up but openly encouraging them to do so.

The network’s “empowerment initiatives” team — which focuses primarily on health and educational programming — began looking for partners to help their audience find coverage last year. Univision ultimately went with the California Endowment and the Ford Foundation, launching in earnest last April. The company makes no bones about what they were trying to do. Empowerment Initiatives Director Stephen Keppel told BuzzFeed that the company thinks “it’s better to have health insurance than not to have it” and because of the high number of uninsured Latinos, it was an important initiative for them to take on.

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BBC: Vladmir Putin: The Rebuilding Of ‘Soviet’ Russia

On 16 August 1999, the members of Russia’s parliament – the State Duma – met to approve the candidacy of a prime minister. They heard the candidate’s speech, they asked him a few questions, and they dutifully confirmed him in the position. This was President Boris Yeltsin’s fifth premier in 16 months, and one confused party leader got the name wrong. He said he would support the candidacy of Stepashin – the surname of the recently sacked prime minister – rather than that of his little-known successor, before making an embarrassing correction.

If even leading Duma deputies couldn’t remember the new prime minister’s name, you couldn’t blame the rest of the world if it didn’t pay much attention to his speech. He was unlikely to head the Russian government for more than a couple of months anyway, so why bother? That man was a former KGB officer, Vladimir Putin, and he has been in charge of the world’s largest country, as president or prime minister, ever since. Few realised it at the time, because few were listening, but that speech provided a blueprint for pretty much everything he has done, for how he would re-shape a country that was perilously close to total collapse.

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Scott Keyes: It Saves Millions To Simply Give Homeless People A Place To Live

It is cheaper to give homeless people a home than it is to leave them on the streets. That’s not just the opinion of advocates working to end homelessness, nor is it the opinion of homeless people themselves. It is a fact that has been borne out by studies across the country, from Florida to Colorado and beyond. The latest analysis to back up this fact comes out of Charlotte, where researchers from the University of North Carolina Charlotte examined a recently constructed apartment complex that was oriented towards homeless people.

Moore Place opened in 2012 with 85 units. Each resident is required to contribute 30 percent of his or her income, which includes any benefits like disability, veterans, or Social Security, toward rent. The rest of the housing costs, which total approximately $14,000 per person annually, are covered by a mix of local and federal government grants, as well as private donors. In the first year alone, researchers found that Moore Place saved taxpayers $1.8 million. These savings comes from improvements in two primary areas: health care and incarceration.

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Sara Fischer: Biden: Undocumented Immigrants ‘Already American Citizens’

Vice President Joe Biden echoed the West Wing’s “we can’t wait” mantra Thursday, telling a crowd at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Summit that “undocumented aliens” are already American citizens. “You know, 11 million people that are living in the shadows. I believe they’re already Americans citizens,” Biden said. “These people are just waiting, waiting for a chance to be able to contribute fully. And by that standard, 11 million undocumented aliens are already Americans in my view.”

Citing the contribution Hispanics have made to the American economy, Biden stressed the importance of passing immigration reform sooner rather than later, arguing, “It’s the single most significant thing we can do. It’s a game-changer financially for the country.”“Just this one act alone, if we pass the Senate bill, can extend Social Security solvency by two years.” Biden said. “Even Republicans think we should pass the Senate bill,” he later added.

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Chris Geidner: Federal Appeals Court Rejects Challenge To Texas Abortion Restrictions

A federal appeals court rejected Planned Parenthood’s challenge to Texas’ restrictive abortion law passed last summer, save for one small exception. Thursday’s unanimous decision of a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a trial court decision from October finding two provisions in the law unconstitutional.

Planned Parenthood challenged two provisions: One required physicians performing abortions to have admitting privileges “at a hospital no more than thirty miles from the location where the abortion is provided.” The second provision limited medication abortions by requiring that, with few exceptions, abortion-inducing drugs only be used when they “comply with the protocol authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).”

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Michael Cohen: Obama’s Not-Another-Cold-War-Vision: Don’t Hate The Players – Play The Game

From the day Barack Obama took office, his approach to American foreign policy has vacillated between a seemingly irreconcilable set of impulses. There’s been the sentimentalist agitating for reductions in nuclear weapons, calling for a more modest approach – and the commander-in-chief ramping up the US drone war, surging in Afghanistan, going far beyond his mandate to affect regime change in Libya. There was the lawyer and internationalist drawing a redline on Syria’s use of chemical weapons – and the hard-headed realist who, to date, has assiduously avoided any policy that would risk miring the US in that country’s bloody civil war. Yesterday in Brussels, as Obama spoke about the proper response to Russia’s seizure of Crimea, those contending instincts were once again on stark display.

Yet rarely has Obama so effectively navigated the middle ground between them – or quite so lovingly embraced Europe as he cast a distinctly icy glare at Vladimir Putin. In the process, the American president offered perhaps the clearest sense of his own vision on international relations: one that upholds the international system for its role in creating a world of greater peace and security – and explaining why, in an era of retrenchment, that system matters more than ever.In Obama’s formulation, peace is a product of universalist ideals, yes. But it is sustained and reinforced by an international system of laws and norms.

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Betsy Phillips: Creationism Is Not Being Ignored On ‘Cosmos’ — It’s The Focus

Danny Faulkner, a “scientist” working for the same group that runs Kentucky’s creation museum was complaining last week that Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey doesn’t address creationism.Actually, Tyson is deliberately and straightforwardly giving a whole lot of time to creationism. Why did we have to sit through the history of the eyeball? Creationists love to argue that the complexity of the eyeball disproves evolution. Note how he talked specifically about how the eyeball isn’t actually this perfect mechanism, but something that works well enough for what we need it for, but not as well as it does in fish — the whole idea that the eyeball is a perfect, too-complex thing is a creationist argument.

 Another example: Why did Tyson spend so much time explaining the similarities and differences in how polar bears have evolved through natural selection vs. how dogs have changed in the time we’ve been breeding them for certain traits? Because creationists acknowledge that changes within species happen. They just like to pretend like one kind of organism couldn’t really have brought forth another kind of organism. Tyson isn’t ignoring creationism. Creationists wish Tyson were ignoring creationism. Tyson is instead standing on creationism’s home turf and playing by their rules.Tyson is taking creationists’ claims deadly seriously, and showing all the ways they’re wrong.

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Jon Emont: Can Israeli Business Leaders Push Netanyahu Toward A Palestinian Peace Deal?

In late January, the face of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began to appear on scores of billboards in Tel Aviv. The caption read: “A strong state signs the deal. Bibi only you can do it!” The message—to work out a peace agreement with the Palestinians—was idealistic. But the money was all business. The 1 million shekel (around $300,000) advertising campaign was paid for by the Israeli wing of Breaking the Impasse, an alliance of more than 150 Israeli corporate executives. The campaign comes at a crucial time. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is one month away from his April 29 deadline to release a framework agreement that will establish the U.S. government’s principles for a final deal.

After nine months of discussion there is widespread worry that the framework agreement will be dead on arrival. Kerry’s demands from the Palestinians might cause Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, to withdraw from talks or lose his authority to negotiate. At the same time, Kerry’s demands for Israeli concessions over settlements or East Jerusalem might lead the Israeli right to pressure Netanyahu to withdraw from the talks. Israelis are pessimistic about the peace process, and Netanyahu has little domestic incentive to make concessions to spur negotiations. This worries Israeli business executives. They’re concerned that Israel will face increasing international isolation, including an expanded boycott campaign, if the talks founder. BTI represents these business people. It’s planning a well-funded public campaign to pressure Netanyahu to make concessions and sign a deal.

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Katie Zezima: Just How Popular Was Michelle Obama’s Visit To China?

According to a tally by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, photos, videos and stories about Michelle Obama’s visit to China garnered more than 1 billion page views. Yes, that’s billion with a B.It’s probably not too far-fetched of a notion, according to Cheng Li, director of the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution. “This is really Michelle fever in China,” he said.Cheng said Obama and her family –

her mother, Marian Robinson, and daughters, Malia and Sasha, traveled with her — showed respect for Chinese traditions and deftly weaved in diplomacy with lighter moments in a way that made the Chinese want to see what she was doing and where she was going. “Chinese do not only see this leader to leader. They see it family to family and in a broader context the respect of the two great countries,” he said. “This is why people got so excited.”

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Get Covered Illinois: #GCISuccess Stories

Rebecca S.: Rebecca, a 27 year-old Chicago resident, was denied coverage in 2012 because of her pre-existing condition. Upon being rejected in the private market, Rebecca enrolled in a plan for high-risk individuals that was beyond her price range and didn’t cover many of her health care needs. Now, Rebecca is enrolled in a Silver plan that saves her $1,600 per year compared to her previous coverage and covers the majority of her needs. Rebecca sees her new health insurance as more than just comprehensive coverage at a fair price. She believes enrolling in affordable health care is her chance at the American dream to be young and hardworking without the fear that an accident or illness will derail her dreams.

Joe Z.: Joe, a 55 year-old self-employed realtor from Chicago, previously had a COBRA plan that ended in 2013. Preparing for the New Year, Joe enrolled in a Silver plan with Blue Cross Blue Shield through the Marketplace. He was amazed to learn that his premium would be reduced by over 50% and that his new plan offered more extensive coverage. Joe is thankful that he was able to find affordable coverage on the Marketplace, especially with his pre-existing condition. In 2005, Joe underwent open heart surgery and said it was nearly impossible to find reasonable coverage with his medical history until the Affordable Care Act. Since enrolling, he has already used his insurance at his annual checkup with his cardiologist. Joe can rest easy now knowing his medical history will never dictate the type of coverage he can get again.

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On This Day

 Standing on the Colonnade with Phil Schiliro, assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs, prior to the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act Bil signing ceremony in the Red Room of the White House, March 30, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

 President Obama walks to a podium in the Cross Hall, Grand Foyer of the White House, before making a statement regarding the American auto industry, March 30, 2009 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)

President Obama walks away from the podium after delivering a statement regarding the American auto industry in the Cross Hall, Grand Foyer of the White House, March 30, 2009 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

 President Obama and Staff Secretary Lisa Brown on the Colonnade prior to the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act Bill signing ceremony, March 30, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

 

 President Obama conducts interviews in the Map Room of the White House, March 30, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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 President Obama walks towards the Oval Office, after returning to the White House from Northern Virginia Community College in Alexandria, Va., March 30, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and Vice President Biden meet with advisors for a health care implementation meeting in the Oval Office, March 30, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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First Lady Michelle Obama greets actress Hilary Swank and other guest mentors in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House during an event celebrating Women’s History Month, March 30, 2011 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

President Obama shakes hands with members of the audience following his speech on energy security at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., March 30, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

 President Obama greets James Brady in Press Secretary Jay Carney’s West Wing office at the White House, March 30, 2011. Brady, former President Ronald Reagan’s press secretary, was wounded during the assassination attempt on President Reagan 30 years ago. Brady’s wife Sarah, right, and son Scott, center, joined him for the meeting (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama talks with White House correspondents Bill Plante, CBS News, and Savannah Guthrie, NBC News, in the Upper Press Office of the White House, March 30, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama looks out the window of Marine One as he departs the White House South Lawn en route to Joint Base Andrews, Md., for a trip to Vermont, March 30, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama talks with Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Marcelle Leahy aboard Air Force One en route to Burlington, Vt., March 30, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama is reflected in sunglasses as he greets people on the tarmac following his arrival at Portland International Jetport in Portland, Maine, March 30, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

 

16
Mar
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama talks on the phone with Prime Minister Naoto Kan of Japan from the Treaty Room office in the White House Residence, Wednesday night, March 16, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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HHS.Gov: Making Health Care Coverage More Accessible And Equitable For Same-Sex Couples

Today, we are clarifying that, starting next year, if an insurance company offers coverage to opposite-sex spouses, it cannot choose to deny that coverage to same-sex spouses. In other words, insurance companies will not be permitted to discriminate against married same-sex couples when offering coverage. This will further enhance access to health care for all Americans, including those with same-sex spouses.

You can learn just how affordable coverage can be. Across the country, 6 out of 10 uninsured Americans can get covered for $100 per month or even less – some for a lot less.  And legally married same-sex couples are treated equally for purposes of financial assistance when purchasing coverage in the Marketplace, regardless of where they live.

Security and peace-of-mind are just a click or call away.  You can sign up 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at HealthCare.gov or 1-800-318-2596.  You can even get in-person help in your own community (just visit localhelp.healthcare.gov and punch in your zip code).

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Joshua Green: The Jeep Plant Mitt Romney Said Was Moving To China Is Hiring 1,000 Workers In Ohio

Remember the closing days of the 2012 presidential campaign when Mitt Romney ran that explosive ad suggesting Chrysler was going to stop building Jeeps in Ohio and move production to China? The one that got “Four Pinocchios” from the fact-checker at the Washington Post? Anyway, that Jeep plant? It didn’t move to China. And it’s actually doing quite well. No, scratch that: It’s going gangbusters. Demand for Jeeps is so high that Chrysler workers are clocking 60 hours a week and still can’t keep up. So according to the Toledo Blade, the company is planning on hiring up to 1,000 part-time workers—American workers, in Ohio—so they can crank out enough Jeeps to meet the demand.

These workers are even going to get health insurance. In case you’re wondering, hiring temp workers isn’t a maneuver to deny regular workers their hours. “You’ve gotta remember, these people [the regular workers] are working 10 hours a day, six days a week,” a UAW boss who helped negotiate the deal told the Blade. “It’s very important to have the day off you want with your family.” The Blade further reports that Chrysler has already hired 380 of these temp employees and converted 50 of them to full-time jobs.

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NYT: Under Watch Of Russian Troops, Crimea Votes On Secession

With thousands of heavily-armed Russian troops occupying this perenially embattled peninsula, the voters of Crimea went to the polls on Sunday to vote on secession from Ukraine in a public referendum that Western leaders have declared illegal and vowed to punish with economic sanctions. With the outcome of the vote virtually a foregone conclusion in a region that shares a language and centuries of history with Russia, the greater suspense lay in how swiftly and forcefully the United States and its European allies would levy threatened sanctions against allies of President Vladimir V. Putin, including senior Russian officials and business leaders. The answers were likely to depend to some degree on whether Mr. Putin showed any signs of acting quickly to annex Crimea or order further military incursion beyond Crimea’s borders, perhaps to seize vital infrastructure including water and energy supplies. “Our people must be united in Russia,” Yelena Parkholenko, 27, a manicurist with violet hair, said matter-of-factly after casting her vote at School No. 21 here in Simferopol, the Crimean capital.

It was a sentiment repeated over and over again at polling stations as citizens with misgivings about joining Mr. Putin’s Russian Federation, particularly Crimean Tatars, a Muslim Turkic people with a history of persecution by Russia, generally opted to stay home rather than participate in what they called a rigged vote. The referendum offered no option that would maintain Crimea’s current status of limited autonomy from the Ukrainian government in Kiev. The referendum asked voters: “Are you in favor of the reunification of Crimea with Russia as part of the Russian Federation?” or “Are you in favor of restoring the 1992 Constitution and the status of Crimea as a part of Ukraine?” The second choice would effectively grant Crimea independence without immediately breaking from Kiev, but such a break would be inevitable and the Ukrainian government, like the West, has rejected the vote as illegal.

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Timothy Egan: Paul Ryan’s Irish Amnesia

IN advance of St. Patrick’s Day, I went time traveling, back to the 1840s and Ireland’s great famine. On one side of the Irish Sea was Victorian England, flush with the pomp and prosperity of the world’s mightiest empire. On the other side were skeletal people, dying en masse, the hollow-bellied children scrounging for nettles and blackberries. A great debate raged in London: Would it be wrong to feed the starving Irish with free food, thereby setting up a “culture of dependency”? Certainly England’s man in charge of easing the famine, Sir Charles Trevelyan, thought so. “Dependence on charity,” he declared, “is not to be made an agreeable mode of life.”

And there I ran into Paul Ryan. His great-great-grandfather had fled to America. But the Republican congressman was very much in evidence, wagging his finger at the famished. His oft-stated “culture of dependency” is a safety net that becomes a lazy-day hammock. But it was also England’s excuse for lethal negligence. Ryan boasts of the Gaelic half of his ancestry, on his father’s side. “I come from Irish peasants who came over during the potato famine,” he said last year during a forum on immigration. BUT with a head still stuffed with college-boy mush from Ayn Rand, he apparently never did any reading about the times that prompted his ancestors to sail away from the suffering sod.

You can’t make these kinds of heartless remarks unless you think the poor deserve their fate — that they have a character flaw, born of public assistance. And there hovers another awful haunt of Irish history. In 2012, Ryan said that the network of programs for the American poor made people not want to work. On Wednesday, he went further, using the language of racial coding. You never hear Ryan make character judgments about generations of wealthy who live off their inheritance, or farmers who get paid not to grow anything. Nor, for that matter, does he target plutocrats like Romney who might be lulled into not taking risks because they pay an absurdly low tax rate simply by moving money around. Dependency is all one-way.

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Igor Volsky: Federal Judge Recognizes Marriages Of 3 Same-Sex Couples In Tennessee

A federal judge recognized the marriages of three same-sex Tennessee couples on Friday, issuing a preliminary injunction against the state’s same-sex marriage ban. “At this point, all signs indicate that, in the eyes of the United States Constitution, the plaintiffs’ marriages will be placed on an equal footing with those of heterosexual couples and that proscriptions against same-sex marriage will soon become a footnote in the annals of American history,”

Judge Aleta Trauger wrote in the order. The ruling only applies to the three couples who filed the lawsuit last year asking the state to recognize their marriages, which had been performed in New York or California. Tennessee outlawed same-sex marriage in 1998 and passed a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman in 2008.

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Think Progress: Federal Judge Strikes Down One Of The Strictest Abortion Laws In The Nation

A federal judge struck down on of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation on Friday, ruling that that a measure in Arkansas restricting abortions starting at 12 weeks of pregnancy “impermissibly infringes a woman’s Fourteenth Amendment right to elect to terminate a pregnancy before viability” of the fetus.

The law cut off women’s access to legal abortion services well before the point of viability, which is typically around 24 weeks. However, U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright’s ruling “let stand the law’s requirement that a woman seeking an abortion first undergo an ultrasound to determine whether a fetal heartbeat is present.” The legislature overrode Gov. Mike Beebe’s (D) veto and enacted the law in March 2013, which had initially sought to ban abortions after just six weeks.

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Jonathan Cohn: Begala To Dems: Come Out Swinging On Obamacare

And with Republicans making Obamacare the focus of their midterm strategy, many Democrats have been responding with a mixed message: Acknowledge the Affordable Care Act has flaws, but vow to fix them rather than repeal them. That seems to be roughly consistent with polls, which suggest the majority of Americans don’t like the health care law but the majority also don’t want to get rid of it. But nuanced messages have problems, even if the nuances reflect public sentiments. A politician who starts with backpedaling (“Yes, the law has problems, but…”) is bound to sound weak. And weak politicians don’t generally make attractive candidates. But it appears at least one prominent Democratic strategist is thinking along the same lines.

The strategist is Paul Begala. In an interview with the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent, who has become the go-to source for insights into liberal political strategy, Begala gives Democrats some blunt advice: “We should flip the wording of how we talk about Obamacare. Open on offense, instead of defense.” That would mean starting the conversation by reminding voters what Republicans propose to take away—like guaranteed insurance, even for people with pre-existing conditions, and extra assistance on Medicare prescription drugs. One reason to think the argument might work is that it worked once before. In 2012, President Obama used a very similar set of arguments—and adopted a very similar posture—in his campaign against Mitt Romney. He attacked Romney and the Republicans relentlessly—pointing out that, if successful, repeal would mean more exposure to insurance company abuses and fewer people with insurance.

But the benefits of Obamacare are also a lot less hypothetical than they were when Obama was talking about them on the stump. People who could never get insurance have it for the first time. People who could barely afford premiums are getting financial help. People who had weak coverage, with major gaps, finally have comprehensive insurance. These are real constituencies, with stories that can resonate just as much as the ones on Fox News.

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On This Day:

Earl M. Bourdon Center, Claremont, NH, March 16, 2007

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President Obama has lunch with Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine in the Oval Office Private Dining Room, March 16, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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First Lady Michelle Obama hugs a young girl after she and local students planted in the White House Kitchen Garden on the South Lawn of the White House, March 16, 2011

March 16, 2011: The President meets with national security aides John Brennan, foreground, and Denis McDonough after talking on the phone with Prime Minister Naoto Kan of Japan a few days after the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The call was made near midnight from the Treaty Room office in the White House Residence. Most nights after dinner and time with his family, the President retreats to this office where he catches up on paperwork and reads his briefing material for the next day.” Photo by Pete Souza.

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First Lady Michelle Obama at the Air National Guard base in St. Paul, Minn. on March 16, 2012 for a roundtable discussion with military and other local community leaders dedicated to supporting military families

Neighbors and supporters wave to President Obama upon his arrival in an Atlanta, Ga., neighborhood for an event, March 16, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama greets neighbors and supporters upon his arrival to an Atlanta, Ga., neighborhood for an event, March 16, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

Audience members listen as President Obama delivers remarks at a reception in Atlanta, Ga., March 16, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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14
Mar
14

Rise and Shine

President Obama listens as Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom offers a toast during the State Dinner on the South Lawn of the White House, March 14, 2012. Samantha Cameron is seated at right (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

10:30: President Obama meets with Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny of Ireland

1:30: Jay Carney briefs the press

12:0: President Obama attends a St Patrick’s Day lunch at the U.S Capitol with PM Kenny. The Vice President also attends.

5:10: The President and First Lady host a St Patrick’s Day reception, East Room

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Examiner: Affordable Care Act Recovers Record Amount From Healthcare Fraud

In a report released on Wednesday in Washington, D.C. by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the agencies announced that in the 2013 fiscal year the Affordable Care Act, also known as ‘Obamacare,’ was in part responsible for the record-breaking $4.3 billion recovery of funds lost due to Medicare and Medicaid fraud.

Over the past four years approximately $16.61 billion has been recovered from such fraud, a 219% increase over the previous four- year period’s recovery of $7.57 billion. The savings is a return of $8.10 for every dollar used to fight Medicare and Medicaid fraud.

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Elias Isquith: Canadian Doctor Makes Anti-Obamacare Senator Look Like A Buffoon

Speaking before a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday, Dr. Danielle Martin, vice president at the Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, masterfully showed how to smack down a disingenuous politician’s misleading and misinformed questions with courtesy, intelligence and, well, facts. In this instance, the role of disingenuous and ill-informed politician was played by North Carolina’s GOP Sen. Richard Burr, who decided to use his question time to imply that the Canadian healthcare system was bad because it led to Canadian doctors moving to America and rich people going to the U.S. to get complicated and expensive surgery. These were both good points — except for the fact that they were, as Martin made clear, completely wrong.

“Dr. Martin, in your testimony, you note that Canadian doctors exiting the public system for the private sector has had the effect of increasing waiting lists for patients seeking public health care,” Burr began. “Why are doctors exiting the public system in Canada?” “Thank you for your question, Senator,” Martin responded. “If I didn’t express myself in a way that made myself understood, I apologize. There are no doctors exiting the public system in Canada; and in fact we see a net influx of physicians from the United States into the Canadian system over the last number of years.”

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AP: Obama Orders Review Of US Deportation Practices

Seeking to pacify frustrated immigration advocates, President Barack Obama is directing the government to find more humane ways to handle deportation for immigrants in the U.S. illegally, the White House said Thursday. With prospects for an immigration overhaul in Congress appearing ever dimmer, immigration advocates have been ramping up pressure on Obama to halt all deportations — a step Obama has insisted he can’t take by himself. By announcing he’s open to changing how the U.S. enforces its current laws, Obama is signaling he may be growing more inclined to test the limits of his authority in the face of congressional inaction.

Obama’s announcement came Thursday in a meeting with Latino lawmakers who are seeking ways to resuscitate an immigration overhaul despite resistance from Republicans and election-year politics that have confounded their efforts. The White House said Obama told the lawmakers — all Democrats — that he’s deeply concerned about the pain that families suffer when they are separated due to a broken immigration system. “He told the members that he has asked Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson to do an inventory of the Department’s current practices to see how it can conduct enforcement more humanely within the confines of the law,” the White House said in a statement.

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Olexiy Haran: Don’t Believe The Russian Propaganda About Ukraine’s ‘Fascist’ Protesters

The Kremlin uses many kinds of falsifications to justify its aggression against Ukraine and plans to annex Crimean peninsula. One of which is that the mass protests of Ukrainians against the corrupt and bloody regime of Viktor Yanukovych, called the Euromaidan, was a gathering of far-right extremists intent on imposing nationalist rule over all other ethnic groups in Ukraine. But the Euromaidan was anything but this.

Although many Ukrainian nationalists passionately joined in the protests in central Kiev against Yanukovych’s plans to get Ukraine into a Moscow-led customs union instead of signing a forward-looking association agreement with the EU, the maidan was a place of multi-ethnic national solidarity in the face of repression. One shouldn’t forget that Sergey Nigoyan, the first victim of police ruthlessness in the Maidan, was an ethnic Armenian who came to support the protest from the Russian-speaking Dnipropetrovsk region in eastern Ukraine. Jews actively joined the ranks of protesters and a religious Jew headed one of the maidan self-defence units, passing command status to his Ukrainian deputy every Friday after the beginning of sabbath.

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Jamelle Bouie: What Paul Ryan Gets Wrong About ‘Inner-City’ Poverty

Ryan’s target isn’t “the poor”—a broad category that includes a large swath of Americans—as much as it’s the “inner city poor,” which for most people, translates to the black poor. Inner-city poverty didn’t just happen, it was built. It’s the job of a policymaker to understand the full scope of what that means, from the blueprints of past policies, to their implementation, to the forces that drove the issues to begin with. And in the case of urban poverty, the issue was racism. If the industrial cities of the Midwest and Northeast are heavily segregated—places like Milwaukee, Chicago, Cleveland, and Philadelphia—

it’s because they were made that way, through law, policy, and violence. Starved of public and private investment—from schools and libraries to home loans and business development—they collapsed into the same dysfunction we see whenever we isolate a community from general prosperity, and punish its members for trying to escape. And if Ryan would look closer at the communities he’s trying to reach, he’d see countless people participating in the “culture of work.” He doesn’t have to look far, either. In Washington D.C., he could ride an 80 bus to the Capitol, early on a weekday morning. There, he’d be packed next to men and women coming from the other side of the city to work crappy jobs at long hours for the sake of their families. They don’t need lectures about the “value of work”; they need material support for their livelihoods.

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Tara Culp-Ressler: 3 States Trying To Follow In Texas’ Footsteps And Shut Down Abortion Clinics

Texas isn’t the first state to shut down abortion clinics, and it won’t be the last. A stringent new law in the Lone Star State requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges with a local hospital, a medically unnecessary requirement that’s often impossible for doctors to comply with. Since hospitals are often wary to make partnerships with abortion providers, these state laws are effective tools to drive clinics out of business. Texas’ law has forced dozens of clinics to close, particularly in rural and underserved areas.

After the most recent round of closures, the second-largest state in the country now has a 400-mile swath without a single reproductive health facility that performs abortion services. This past summer, the fight over Texas’ law captured national headlines — and inspired anti-choice lawmakers in other states to adopt the same strategy. Here are the other places that are currently advancing Texas-style restrictions to shutter abortion clinics:

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Danny Vinik: The Senate Has A Deal On Unemployment Benefits. Here’s What You Need To Know

We have a deal. Five Senate Democrats and five Senate Republicans have agreed upon legislation to extend emergency unemployment insurance for five months, retroactive to December 28. Here’s everything you need to know: Pension smoothing? It’s an accounting technique that allows companies to backload their pension contributions. This increases their profits in the near-term and increases revenues the government collects from them. But over the long-term, companies have to contribute the full amount to employee pensions. And that means less revenue for the government later on. So it’s a trick designed to pay for something today by running up higher bills in the future.

OK. That’s the back story. What happened today?

Today, a bipartisan group of senators (five Democrats, five Republicans) agreed to a five-month extension of unemployment insurance, retroactive to its expiration on December 28. To pay for it, the senators included the “pension smoothing” gimmick and extended customs fees through 2024. The legislation also includes reforms, from Senators Tom Coburn and Jon Tester, that prevent people who earned more than $1 million in the previous year from collecting unemployment benefits.

In English, what does that really mean?

It means people who have been out of work more than 26 weeks and less than 73 would receive a big check from the government for unemployment benefits they would’ve been collecting over the past 10 weeks. If you were out of work 70 weeks as of December 28, you’d receive three weeks of unemployment insurance. If you were unemployed 50 weeks as of then, you’d receive 10 weeks of benefits now and continue receiving them until the five month extension expires. Oh, that’s assuming you didn’t make more than a million dollars last year. If you did, then you wouldn’t get anything.

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Gabriel Arana: Ezra Klein’s Queer New Hire

On Tuesday, former Washington Post pundit (and Prospect alum) Ezra Klein sent a shock wave through the gay community by announcing he had hired gay anti-gay apologist Brandon Ambrosino to join him at Vox Media, the much-hyped digital venture that’s aiming to remake journalism for the Internet age. Liberal watchdog group Media Matters was the first to sound the alarm, but within a day, gay-rights supporters—from Mark Stern at Slate to John Aravosis at AmericaBlog—had joined the chorus of voices asking Klein: What were you thinking?

In an interview on Wednesday evening, Klein told me he hadn’t read the pieces that had kicked up so much dust before bringing Ambrosino on but did so once he began facing criticism for the hire. “I don’t want to pretend that I have the context and the background to perfectly or authoritatively judge this debate,” Klein said. “But when I read his pieces, I didn’t come away with the impression that he holds an iota of homophobia.” Klein has come under fire for the lack of racial and gender diversity among Vox’s announced hires, and his decision to hire Ambrosino shows how much he has to learn about genuine diversity. While he has a number of female hires in the pipeline, Klein said he is struggling to find racial minorities for the venture, adding: “I also want to say, other kinds of diversity are important—ideological diversity.”

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Bloomberg: Americans Stick With Obamacare As Opposition Burns Bright

President Barack Obama’s health-care law is becoming more entrenched, with 64 percent of Americans now supporting it outright or backing small changes. “Things definitely seem to be getting better,” said Paul Attard, 50, a political independent in Evergreen, Colorado and a program manager for a cell-phone company who wants the law modified rather than repealed. “It seems like they are getting a lot more people to join. It’s a sign that the system is working.”

Through March 1, 4.2 million Americans had enrolled in health plans via the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges, the government said this week. The deadline for enrollment is March 31, and the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that 6 million people will sign up this year for private plans.

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The Morning Call: Millennials Are More Liberal Than Other Generations

Members of the huge millennial generation are less religious, less likely to call themselves “patriotic” and significantly more‎ liberal than older generations, new research shows. Although adults aged 18-33 are more likely to call themselves political independents than their elders are, they are also more likely to vote Democratic. Their views favoring activist government, as well as their stands on social issues such as gay rights, reinforce that voting behavior, an extensive study by the Pew Research Center shows.

The youngest generation of adults, born after 1980, has the most optimism about the country. That comes despite the economic difficulties that a large share of them have experienced since entering the workforce. And it stands in contrast with some previous generations: Baby boomers, for example, born between 1946 and 1964, were less optimistic than their elders at this stage of their lives. The millennials are also the only generation of adults with more people who identify themselves as liberals than as conservatives. Just less than one-third of millennials call themselves liberals while about one-quarter identify as conservative.

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Ambrose Evans-Pritchard: Russia Counts Cost As West Tightens Sanctions

Russia risks a wave of capital flight and a shattering economic crisis as the West prepares a package of sanctions over the seizure of Crimea. German Chancellor Angela Merkel spelled out the danger for Russia in a speech that silenced pro-Kremlin voices in her own coalition and left no doubt that Europe is now fully behind the US on punitive measures. Russia has threatened to retaliate with “symmetrical sanctions” but Tim Ash, from Standard Bank, said it is a one-sided contest that Moscow cannot win. “Russia is facing the entire West. Its economy is already very weak and this could end up being as bad as 2008-2009, when GDP contracted by 9pc,” he said.

Russia cannot suspend oil and gas exports without cutting off its own source of foreign revenue. Any such move would destroy its credibility as a supplier of energy, accelerating Europe’s long-term switch to other sources. Standard Bank said Washington is determined to make Russia pay for tearing up the post-Cold War settlement and undermining the architecture of nuclear non-proliferation. It is drawing up stealth sanctions to freeze Russia out of global finance. These will be spearheaded by the US Securities and Exchange Commission, which will enforce compliance of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The next step is to place Russia on the “grey list” for money laundering. “This would prevent global banks from dealing with Russian counterparts. Washington is tightening the noose. No bank is going to mess with the SEC,” said Mr Ash.

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Alec Macgillis: Florida Special Election Result Shows Democrats Need More Obamacare

So how to get more Democratic voters out? Well, this is where the more Obamacarecomes in. To the extent that the new law has not created a groundswell of enthusiasm for Democratic candidates among the law’s intended beneficiaries it is surely in part because…so many of the law’s intended beneficiaries are not being helped by the law. Fully one half of the expansion of health coverage under the law was supposed to occur through the expansion of Medicaid, to cover all people under 138 percent of the poverty line. And in Florida and nearly two dozen other states, that expansion is not happening, thanks to the Supreme Court ruling that made the expansion optional and the opposition of Republican governors and state legislators.

So what are Democratic candidates to do? Well, for one, argue for the Medicaid expansion. Make sure lower-income voters understand what’s at stake and why they have so far been denied any of the law’s benefits. No, not every voter who gets covered by the Medicaid expansion is going to vote for the Democrats as a result—stories from states that have expanded Medicaid, such as Kentucky and West Virginia, are replete with anecdotes of voters who are grateful for their new coverage without necessarily making the connection to Obamacare and Barack Obama. But enough lower-income voters will make the connection that it could help Democratic candidates like Allison Lundergan Grimes, Mitch McConnell’s Senate challenger, who is making a strong push for downscale, Democratic-leaning voters by stressing her support for raising the minimum wage.

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Jason Millman: Understanding The Latest Fight Over The Individual Mandate

In the latest war over Obamacare, the GOP is essentially trying to encourage Americans everywhere to seek out an exemption from the individual mandate, the health law provision that requires everyone to get insurance by March 31 or face a penalty. The Obama administration says exemptions to the mandate are much more limited than the GOP and opponents of the law would have you believe.

Separately, Republicans controlling the House vote today on a bill that would delay the individual mandate until 2018. The impact of this legislation would mean 13 million fewer people would have insurance in 2018 than if the mandate were kept in place, the Congressional Budget Office said this week. Behind these renewed attacks are the GOP’s hatred of the mandate.

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Your Laugh Of The Day

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On This Day:

President Obam, First Lady Michelle Obama, PM David Cameron and his wife Samantha Cameron greet the crowd on the White House South Lawn after a formal arrival ceremony for the British prime minister, March 14, 2012

President Obama and PM Cameron walk together as they begin a press conference in the Rose Garden of the White House, March 14, 2012

President Obama walks PM Cameron to his motorcade following their meetings at the White House, March 14, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

PM David Cameron and Samantha Cameron arrive at the White House for a State Dinner in their honor, March 14, 2012

The White House is seen through the window of a tent on the South Lawn during the State Dinner in honor of PM David Cameron and Samantha Cameron, March 14, 2012. The interior of the tent is reflected in the window (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, along with PM Cameron and Samantha Cameron, talk with guests during the State Dinner on the South Lawn of the White House, March 14, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama visit with PM Cameron and Samantha Cameron during a State Dinner reception on the Truman Balcony of the White House, March 14, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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07
Mar
14

Rise and Shine

President Barack Obama and National Security Advisor Tom Donilon walk along the Colonnade of the White House, March 7, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern):

11:05: The President and First Lady depart the White House en route Joint Base Andrews

11:20: Depart Joint Base Andrews

1:40: Arrive Homestead, Florida

2:25: The President and First Lady visit a Coral Reef High School classroom

2:40: The President delivers remarks

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Bruce Japsen: Employer Health Cost Increases At 15-Year Low As ObamaCare Comes Into View

U.S. employers this year face their “smallest increases in health care costs in 15 years,” according to a new survey showing the latest evidence of health inflation slowing. The trend comes as employers move to higher deductible health care plans that make workers think twice about choosing expensive tests and procedures, forcing employees to become better health care shoppers. Employers are also installing additional new strategies to encourage wellness activities such as financial incentives to stop smoking.

Most respondents to the survey are “recalibrating their health strategy” with 18 percent having either adopted a new strategy or updated an existing one, the Towers Watson executive summary of the report said. Another 57 percent of respondents are “in process,” the summary added. Two in five respondents cite the Affordable Care Act as the primary driver of their health care strategy.

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TPM: U.S. Employers Add 175K Jobs Despite Harsh Weather

 U.S. hiring improved in February from the previous two months despite a blast of wintry weather, likely renewing hopes that growth will accelerate this year. The Labor Department said Friday that employers added 175,000 jobs last month, up from just 129,000 in January, which was revised up from 113,000. December’s gain was also revised higher. The unemployment rate rose to 6.7 percent from a five-year low 6.6 percent. More Americans started looking for work but didn’t find jobs. That’s still an encouraging sign because more job hunters suggest that people were more optimistic about their prospects.

Some recent reports hint that the economy will accelerate as the weather warms. The number of people who applied for unemployment benefits fell last week and is at about the same level as before the Great Recession. Applications essentially reflect layoffs. The decline suggests that companies are confident about future growth, because layoffs would rise if employers expected business to weaken. Instead, businesses advertised more jobsonline last month, according to the Conference Board. Online job ads rose 268,100 in February to 5.19 million.

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AP: Cummings Says Issa Apologized And He Accepts

Rep. Elijah Cummings said Thursday night that California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa called him and apologized for refusing to let Cummings speak during an IRS hearing. The Maryland Democrat said he accepted the apology. Issa abruptly adjourned a hearing of the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday. He instructed committee staff to turn off the microphone of the committee’s top Democrat, Cummings.

“This evening, Chairman Issa telephoned me and apologized for his conduct, and I accepted his apology,” Cummings said in a statement. “My sincere hope is that as we move forward, we will respect the opinions of all members of the committee, we will proceed in a deliberate and considered manner to obtain the facts, we will refrain from making accusations that have no basis in fact, and we will seek resolution rather than unnecessary conflict.”

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Washington Post: Community Lenders’ Network Commits To Lend $1 Billion In Support Of ‘My Brother’s Keeper’

A network of community lenders is committing to lend $1 billion in support of President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative that aims to boost the life chances of young African and Hispanic men. The Opportunity Finance Network, which represents more than 225 community development financial institutions, will pledge Thursday it will expand financing for organizations and initiatives working to help young minority men.

Obama launched the initiative to help young minority men last week, saying this group of Americans are disadvantaged in today’s economy and deserve the nation’s attention. Obama’s solicited $200 million in financial commitments from foundations and companies to introduce programs aimed at keeping young men of color in the classroom and out of the criminal justice system. Mark Pinsky, chief executive of the Opportunity Finance Network, said his group was inspired by Obama’s commitment and decided to make their own.

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Igor Bobic: Sen. Harkin: Senate Would Have Confirmed Obama’s Top Civil Rights Nominee If He Was White

The U.S. Senate would have confirmed President Obama’s top civil rights nominee if he was white, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) suggested on Wednesday. “Here’s the message we sent today,” Harkin said. “You young people listen up. If you are a young white person and you go to work for a law firm … and that law firm assigns you to a pro bono case to defend someone who killed eight people in cold blood … my advice from this, what happened today, is you should do that … Because if you do that, who knows? You might wind up to be the chief justice of the United States Supreme Court.

“However, if you are a young black person and you go to work for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund … and you’re asked to sign an appeal for someone convicted of murder, what the message said today is, ‘Don’t do it! Don’t do it.’ Because you know what? If you do that, in keeping with your legal obligations and your profession, you will be denied by the U.S. Senate from being an attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice,” Harkin said.

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NBC News: White House Blocks Visas For Some Tied To Ukraine Crisis

The White House, toughening its response to the crisis in Crimea, said Thursday that it has revoked the U.S. visas of Russians and Ukrainians responsible for “threatening the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”

It also threatened financial sanctions against people or companies that the United States determines are responsible for undermining the Ukrainian government. A senior administration official said that the number or names of revoked visas would not be made public. The official also said that no people or companies have yet been sanctioned.

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David Edwards: Paul Ryan At CPAC: Free School Lunches Means Poor Parents Don’t Care About Kids

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) asserted on Thursday that liberals did not understand that kids who got free lunches at school did not have parents who cared about them at home. Speaking to the Conservative Political Action Conference, the former Republican vice presidential nominee argued that conservatives should let Democrats be the “party of personality,” while “we will be the party of ideas.”

“I’m optimistic about our chances because the left, the left just isn’t out of ideas, they’re out of touch,” he explained. “Take Obamacare — not literally, but figuratively here, okay? We now know that this law will discourage millions of people from working. The left thinks this is a good thing.” Ryan insisted that liberals were only offering people “a full stomach and an empty soul.”

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Boston Globe: US Hiring Improved In February

US hiring improved in February from the previous two months despite a blast of wintry weather, likely renewing hopes that growth will accelerate this year. The Labor Department says employers added 175,000 jobs last month, up from just 129,000 in January, which was revised up from 113,000.

The unemployment rate rose to 6.7 percent from a five-year low 6.6 percent. More Americans started looking for work, but didn’t find jobs. That’s still an encouraging sign because more job hunters suggest that people were more optimistic about their prospects.

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Think Progress: Three More Abortion Clinics Forced To Close In Texas: ‘This Is A State Of Emergency’

Three more reproductive health care facilities in Texas have been forced to permanently close in the wake of a new state law that imposes stringent restrictions on abortion providers. The clinics are located in communities with high rates of poverty and uninsurance, leaving many vulnerable Texas women with no ready access to reproductive services. Two of the shuttered clinics are operated by Whole Woman’s Health, the largest independent abortion provider in Texas. That group used to operate five clinics in the state — but now, that number is shrinking to three. With the closure of another independently owned clinic in Harlingen, the Lone Star State is down to just 19 abortion clinics in the entire state. That’s a dramatic difference from where the reproductive health landscape stood just a few years ago. Back in 2011, there were 44 facilities in Texas that offered abortion care.

New restrictions on abortion providers went into effect at the beginning of November. Now, abortion doctors are required to obtain admitting privileges from a local hospital within 30 miles of their clinic, a medically unnecessary requirement that’s often impossible for doctors to meet. Nonetheless, the doctors who continue to practice without admitting privileges are at risk of getting their medical license suspended. So dozens of clinics — including Whole Women’s Health facility in McAllen — were forced to halt their abortion services in the fall. But that’s not the only burdensome restriction in Texas’ new law. Starting this September, abortion clinics will be required to bring their facilities in line with ambulatory surgical centers — which typically involves making expensive and unnecessary renovations, like widening hallways and installing water fountains.

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Washington Post: Crimea Sets Referendum On Joining Russia

Pro-Russian lawmakers in the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea sparked a showdown reminiscent of the Cold War on Thursday, accelerating their bid to leave Ukraine and join Russia in a move that President Obama, the new government in Kiev and European leaders described as provocative and illegal. Lawmakers in the autonomous region voted Thursday to join the Russian Federation and hold a referendum March 16 to validate the decision. The regional parliament, now led by Sergei Aksyonov — a businessman and politician known around Kiev as the “Goblin”

because of his alleged ties to organized crime, said it would nationalize Ukrainian state industries and begin setting up government ministries separate from Ukraine, which Crimea joined in 1954 when the nation was still a satellite of the Soviet Union. In Washington, Obama said the world was “well beyond the days when borders can be redrawn over the heads of democratic leaders,” as his administration imposed sanctions on Russians and Ukrainians involved in Russia’s military intervention in Crimea. European leaders also sounded alarms, denouncing the referendum plans as unacceptable.

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Damian Paletta: Unemployed Workers Stage Craigslist Fire Sale

Craigslist.org has always represented something of a virtual yard sale, but for many unemployed Americans it’s become something of a fire sale. You name it, they are selling it. Someone in Springfield, Ore., is selling a men’s watch for $100. “Unemployment is running out need money will sell for $100.00. Call before 8pm and after 8amplease be respectful. We can meet anywhere in public.”

And they are asking for it. Another worker in Kissimmee, Fla., whose post says lost benefits when Congress didn’t extend jobless payments Dec. 28, is asking for dog and cat food. “My dogs & cats are not picky,” the person wrote. Washington is wrangling with whether to extend long-term unemployment benefits, which ran out in North Carolina in July and in the other 49 states in late December as discussed in Monday’s Outlook column. But the financial pressures facing many Americans are much more complex than the Washington debate.

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White House: Readout of President Obama’s call with President Putin of Russia

President Obama spoke for an hour this afternoon with President Putin of Russia. President Obama emphasized that Russia’s actions are in violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, which has led us to take several steps in response, in coordination with our European partners. President Obama indicated that there is a way to resolve the situation diplomatically, which addresses the interests of Russia, the people of Ukraine, and the international community. As a part of that resolution, the governments of Ukraine and Russia would hold direct talks, facilitated by the international community; international monitors could ensure that the rights of all Ukrainians are protected, including ethnic Russians; Russian forces would return to their bases; and the international community would work together to support the Ukrainian people as they prepare for elections in May. President Obama indicated that Secretary Kerry would continue discussions with Foreign Minister Lavrov, the government of  Ukraine, and other international partners in the days to come to advance those objectives.

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James West: What The Ukraine Crisis Means For The Energy Industry

1. The United States is rushing to push more gas onto the market to undercut Putin’s power. Russia’s presence in Ukraine is prompting calls, especially among congressional Republicans, to loosen export restrictions on US natural gas in the hopes of diminishing Russia’s ability to use gas as a diplomatic weapon, like it did in 2006 and 2009. With America’s newfound dominance in gas production (in 2013, the United States surpassed Russia to become the biggest producer of oil and gas, thanks in part to fracking) comes greater power in energy diplomacy.

2. Russia isn’t as powerful as you might think. But for all the Russian posturing, and the canceled energy deal, Ukraine—and Europe more broadly—does have some leverage over Russia to prevent the situation from deteriorating further, says Edward Chow, an energy and security analyst at Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). “Interestingly, the gas pipelines, as well as critically important gas storage facilities, all go through Western Ukraine,” he says. “Until Russians build additional bypass pipelines…they are still highly dependent on Ukraine to transit gas exports to Europe.”

The United States and European Union are making energy reform central to their aid packages. Bill Gibbons, a spokesman for the US Energy Department, said on Tuesday that the Obama administration is directing part of the $1 billion loan guarantee that John Kerry delivered to Kiev this week to “energy security, energy efficiency and energy sector reform.” The European Union’s $15 billion package is also aimed, in part, at modernizing Ukraine’s gas transit system. With patrons of this much-needed aid linking their help to energy reform, there might well be a bigger chance of success, says Chow. “If you don’t do it now, when are you going to do it?” he asks. “Because Russia is not going to be interested in helping individuals from the new [Ukrainian] government extract rent like the previous government unless they can cooperate on other fronts. So this is quite a good opportunity to clean things up.”

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Market Watch: Why Job Hunters Should Cheer The End Of The Winter

The bad weather has done more than give people a case of cabin fever — it’s kept them out of work, which means there’s another reason to cheer for warmer days ahead. While some economists argue that consumer spending and hiring are down for reasons beyond Mother Nature’s control, it’s clear the below-average temperatures have had an impact. For instance, there were 142,000 jobs added to private payrolls in January, about 46,000 jobs short of the four-month average, says Michael Montgomery, a U.S. economist for IHS Global Insight. Some of those jobs were likely held back because of the weather, says Montgomery, adding they may push that hiring to the coming months as the weather gets back to normal.

“Because February stunk too, the makeup is deferred until March or later,” he says. Hiring also tends to pick up in the spring and summer anyway because more people are likely to shop, go out to eat and travel more often when the weather is nice, says Mark Hamrick, the Washington bureau chief for Bankrate.com. Those habits lead to higher demand for workers in the retail and tourism industries, he says. More homeowners also look for help with landscaping and painting the house after the weather warms up, adds Montgomery.

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On This Day:

Sen. Barack Obama at a campaign rally Friday March 7, 2008 in Laramie, Wyoming (Photo by Ken Driese)

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President Obama, Prime Minister Julia Gillard of Australia, and members of the Australian and American delegations look up at the presidential seal in the Oval Office ceiling following their bilateral meeting, March 7, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama practices passing a football with Prime Minister Julia Gillard of Australia in the Oval Office, March 7, 2011. Under Australian Football League rules, a player must hold the ball in front of them and punch it with a clenched fist in order to conduct a legal pass to another player (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama greets Davis Marsico, 6, and other supporters upon his arrival at Charlotte Douglas International airport, March 7, 2012

People line the motorcade route as President Obama makes his way to the Mount Holly Truck Manufacturing Plant in Charlotte, N.C, March 7, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Barack Obama gives a thumbs up after signing the Violence Against Women Act as he is joined by Vice President Joe Biden and members of women’s organizations, law enforcement officials, tribal leaders, survivors, advocates and members of Congress, at the Interior Department on March 7, 2013. The law strengthens the criminal justice system’s response to crimes against women, including domestic violence, sexual assault and trafficking

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Rise and Shine

First Lady Michelle Obama at Parklawn Elementary School in Alexandria, Va., Jan. 25, 2012 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

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The President has no public events scheduled for this weekend

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Reuters: Obamacare Coverage Enrollment Hits Three Million

The number of people enrolled in private health insurance under Obamacare has soared by more than one-third in recent weeks to around 3 million, according to government data released on Friday.  It also shows that officials might still reach their initial goal of signing up 7 million people for private coverage by the time enrollment ends on March 31.

Analysts say Obama could highlight the 3 million number as a sign of progress when he addresses the topic of healthcare reform in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday. Earlier this week, the administration also announced that the number of people eligible for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) rose to 6.3 million this month as a result of the enrollment effort.

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Alex Wigglesworth: Vice President Joe Biden Donates $50K To Pennsylvania’s Women’s Abuse Advocacy Groups

Vice President Joe Biden donated $50,000 to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Philadelphia-based Women Against Abuse Tuesday, a month after winning the money at Pennsylvania’s biggest annual political gathering. The Pennsylvania Society during its 115th annual black-tie dinner last month presented Biden with the Gold Medal for Distinguished Achievement. The award, which recognizes the leadership and philanthropic accomplishments of prominent figures with Pennsylvania ties, comes with a $50,000 contribution to be directed to charities of the recipient’s choice.

The two selected nonprofits will use the money to increase advocacy and awareness efforts and support intervention for victims of domestic violence, which they described as a public health epidemic that affects one in three women and one in seven men worldwide. As Vice President, Biden appointed the White House’s first Advisor on Violence Against Women and launched the “1is2many” initiative. an outreach campaign that uses technology to reduce date rape and domestic violence among teens and college students. Biden was the first sitting vice president chosen to receive the Pennsylvania Society’s Gold Medal for Distinguished Achievement. Past recipients have included Andrew Carnegie, Dwight Eisenhower and Bill Cosby.

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TPM: 60% Of KY GOPers Buck McConnell, Support Medicaid Expansion

A solid majority of Kentucky Republicans support the state’s decision to expand Medicaid under Obamacare, according to a new poll, standing in stark contrast to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s opposition to the provision. The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky poll, reported by NPR-affiliated WFPL, found that 60 percent of self-identified Republicans said they support expansion.

In total, 79 percent of Kentuckians agree with Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear’s decision to expand coverage to low-income people under the health care reform law. More than 120,000 Kentuckians have enrolled in Medicaid through the state’s Obamacare website since it launched in October

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Rachel Huggins: Obama Takes Action To End Sexual Assault

President Obama announced a new task force that will combat sexual assault,  particularly on college campuses, he said in his weekly address. The White House Task Force on Protecting Students from Sexual Assault “will help schools do a better job of preventing and responding to sexual assault,” he declared, adding that the crime affects one in five women on college campuses. “That’s totally unacceptable,” he added.

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BBC: Syria Foes Briefly Meet In Same Room At Geneva II Talks

Syria’s opposition and government have met briefly face to face in what is being hailed a small but significant step in talks aimed at “saving Syria”. The initial gathering in Geneva lasted half an hour mediated by the UN’s Lakhdar Brahimi. Delegates in Geneva are aiming at small concessions, not a full peace deal. “Ending terrorism and violence” is the top priority, Syrian officials say. They insist it is too early to discuss President Bashar al-Assad’s position. The BBC’s Bridget Kendall, in Geneva, says another meeting at 15:00 GMT will follow same carefully choreographed format as the first.

The two delegations filed in through separate doors into one room in the UN Geneva Headquarters, and sat down at the same U-shaped table, but said nothing to each other. Mr Brahimi spoke for half an hour. Then they all filed out again. Ahead of the next face-to-face meeting, Mr Brahimi will shuttle between the delegations, trying to build confidence with small achievements like localised ceasefires, release of detainees and the opening of humanitarian corridors. This is cumbersome, slow diplomacy, our correspondent adds. But as one diplomat put it, small steps are better than no steps.

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Nation Of Change: Utah Is Ending Homelessness By Giving People Homes

City council members in Columbia, South Carolina, concerned that the city was becoming a “magnet for homeless people,” passed an ordinance giving the homeless the option to either relocate or get arrested. The council later rescinded the ordinance, after backlash from police officers, city workers, and advocates. Philadelphia took a somewhat different approach, with a law banning the feeding of homeless people on city parkland. Religious groups objected to the ban, and announced that they would not obey it. Raleigh, North Carolina took the step of asking religious groups to stop their longstanding practice of feeding the homeless in a downtown park on weekends. Religious leaders announced that they would risk arrest rather than stop.

In eight years, Utah has quietly reduced homelessness by 78 percent, and is on track to end homelessness by 2015. Utah solved homelessness by giving people homes. In 2005, Utah figured out that the annual cost of E.R. visits and jail stays for homeless people was about $16,670 per person, compared to $11,000 to provide each homeless person with an apartment and a social worker. So, the state began giving away apartments, with no strings attached. Each participant in Utah’s Housing First program also gets a caseworker to help them become self-sufficient, but they keep the apartment even if they fail. The program has been so successful that other states are hoping to achieve similar results with programs modeled on Utah’s.

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Eric Lach: Port Authority Refuses To Pay Christie Pal’s Legal Bills

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey will not pay the legal bills for the former agency executive at the center of the George Washington Bridge lane closings scandal, The Bergen Record reported on Friday. The notification to Wildstein reportedly said his request to have his legal bill picked up “would not be warranted” under the agency’s bylaws. Those bylaws state that current and former employees will be provided with legal representation if the action in question fell within their job duties, but not if there was fraud, malice, misconduct, or intentional wrongdoing.

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Paul Waldman: Why Republicans Keep Calling Women Sluts

The simple answer is that they can’t help themselves, but more specifically, it’s a combination of ignorance, contempt, and Puritan morality that inevitably leads to these eruptions. And it’s going to keep happening. Let’s look at the particulars: Ignorance: These kinds of statements tend to come from older conservative men who have no idea how ladyparts work, and really don’t want to know. That extends to contraception, which as far as they’re concerned is something that is women’s responsibility and therefore there’s no need to understand it.

Beliefs about sin: The conception of sex as inherently sinful drives pretty much every conservative policy position that touches on sex, perhaps most notably the support for abstinence-only sex education. The fact that abstinence-only sex education has been shown over and over to fail is of only passing concern to them, because what they want out of sex education isn’t so much practical things like a reduction in teen pregnancy and the spread of STDs, but a moral statement: sex is bad.

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Jon Hurdle: Nonprofit Clinic Offers ‘Bridges of Health’ To Philadelphia’s Illegal Immigrants

Like many other immigrants, Mery Martinez has no legal status in the United States, no health insurance and no money. But she does have leukemia, and has been struggling to find treatment for the disease, first in New York and more recently in Philadelphia. Here, a hospital emergency room rejected her on New Year’s Day because she had not yet qualified for the state assistance that could have paid for the medical attention she needed. With rising anxiety, and a rash that she attributed to her illness, Ms. Martinez walked into a clinic last week run by Puentes de Salud, a nonprofit group of doctors, nurses and medical students that provides primary care to Philadelphia’s undocumented, uninsured and impoverished Latino immigrants.

Puentes de Salud, which in English means “bridges of health,” was founded to provide low-cost but quality health care and social services to the growing Latino population in South Philadelphia and began treating patients in 2006.  Daphne Owen, 26, a third-year medical student at the University of Pennsylvania and a clinic volunteer, sees the low-cost, holistic approach practiced by Puentes as a model, not just for underserved community medicine but for the country’s health system over all. “Here, I’m learning things that we don’t learn in medical school,” Ms. Owen said. “The way we provide care has to change. By the time I’m done in medical school, there is no way the system is still going to work the way it does.”

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Gloria Goodale: California Drought: Scientists Puzzled By Persistence Of Blocking ‘Ridge’

While much of the United States has experienced a weather year with fewer extremes and an easing drought, the record-breaking California drought – the worst since 1895 – is not leaving the region anytime soon, according to climatologists. The unseasonal balmy but dry weather is the result of an equally unprecedented high pressure ridge lurking offshore and blocking the typical winter storms needed to drop precipitation all along the West Coast.

This ridge has persisted for 13 months and the longer it lingers, the less likely it is to leave, points out climatologist Brian Fuchs, from the National Drought Mitigation Center in Lincoln, Nebraska. This high pressure ridge system is feeding on itself, “creating a sort of perfect environment for perpetuating the dry conditions” it creates, he says. On Friday, California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency, calling for a 20-percent voluntary conservation effort state-wide.

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On This Day:

President Obama hugs retiring White House butler James Ramsey, as First Lady Michelle Obama looks on, in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, Jan. 25, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama listens during a meeting with senior advisors in the Oval Office, Jan. 25, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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First Lady Michelle Obama hugs Roxanna Green as she enters the House Chamber prior the State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Jan. 25, 2011. John and Roxanna Green are the parents of eleven-year-old Dallas and the late Christina Taylor, the nine-year-old girl killed when a gunman opened fire on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson earlier this month. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

President Obama stands with Members of Congress in House Speaker John Boehner’s ceremonial office as Bill Livingood, House Sergeant at Arms, left, and Terrance Gainer, Senate Sergeant at Arms, right, prepare to escort them onto the floor of the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol, Jan. 25, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama greets Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., as he enters the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., for the State of the Union address, Jan. 25, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet the Green family after the State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Jan. 25, 2011. John and Roxanna Green are the parents of eleven-year-old Dallas and the late Christina Taylor, the nine-year-old girl killed when a gunman opened fire on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson earlier this month (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama holds two-month-old Emme Bernstein, of Scottsdale, after arriving on Air Force One at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport in Mesa, Ariz, Jan. 25, 2012

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President Obama runs along the Colonnade of the White House with Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough’s children, Jan. 25, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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