Posts Tagged ‘afghanistan



09
Jun
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Barack Obama talks with kids from the Children’s Miracle Network in the East Room of the White House, June 9, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

10:50: The President meets with nurses to discuss immigration reform

12:30: Josh Earnest briefs the press

1:45: The President delivers remarks and signs a Presidential Memorandum on reducing the burden of student loan debt, East Room

2:40: Meets with governors of Western States via video teleconference

4:15: Welcomes the UConn men’s and women’s NCAA champion basketball teams

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The Week Ahead

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NYT: Obama Plans Steps To Ease Student Debt

President Obama on Monday will take executive actions to ease the burden of college loan debt for potentially millions of Americans, in a White House event coinciding with Senate Democrats’ plans for legislation to address a concern of many voters in this midterm election year. Mr. Obama’s main action will be to expand on a 2010 law that capped borrowers’ repayments at 10 percent of their monthly income. The intent is to extend such relief to an estimated five million people with older loans who are currently ineligible — those who got loans before October 2007 or stopped borrowing by October 2011.

But the relief would not be available until December 2015, officials said, given the time needed for the Education Department to propose and put new regulations into effect. Also, Mr. Obama will announce that the department will renegotiate contracts with companies that service federal loans to give them additional financial incentives to help borrowers avoid delinquency or default. The Education and Treasury Departments are to work with the nation’s largest tax-preparation firms, H&R Block and Intuit Inc., to ensure that borrowers are aware of repayment options and tax credits for college tuition.

More here

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Josh Hicks: Kerry: Leaving Soldier Behind Would Be ‘Offensive And Incomprehensible’

Secretary of State John F. Kerry in an interview aired Sunday pushed back against criticism of the prisoner swap for U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was captured by the Taliban after he left his post in Afghanistan in 2009. “It would have been offensive and incomprehensible to consciously leave an American behind, no matter what,” Kerry said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Republicans have accused the Obama administration of placing U.S. troops at greater risk by encouraging enemies to take prisoners for leverage, essentially putting a target on the backs of American troops. Responding to those concerns, Kerry said that the U.S. combat role in Afghanistan is over and that “we’re going to have very few people in that kind of position.”

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By the very wonderful @Chanlowe

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Simon Maloy: GOP’s Quiet Obamacare Disaster: How This Week’s Biggest Story Got Overlooked

While everyone obsessed over the Bergdahl flap, the real story was revealed by a nomination hearing and new data

Right around noon on Wednesday, the Senate voted to invoke cloture on Sylvia Mathews Burwell’s nomination to be the next secretary of Health and Human Services. The all-out Obamacare brawl that Republicans had promised when Burwell’s nomination was announced never materialized. Instead, it ended with a quiet, respectful display of bipartisan comity.

Losing the opportunity to grandstand on the Burwell nomination, however, was the least of the Republicans’ troubles this week when it came to the Affordable Care Act. We’re only six days into June, and opponents of the ACA have already had a terrible month.

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Las Vegas Review-Journal: Shooters In Metro Ambush That Left Five Dead Spoke Of White Supremacy And A Desire To Kill Police

Two Las Vegas police officers were killed Sunday in what appears to be a politically motivated ambush in a pizza restaurant that spilled over to a nearby Wal-Mart, where the two shooters committed suicide after killing a woman in the store. Details are sketchy, but Metropolitan Police Department sources close to the investigation say the shooters shouted that “this is the start of a revolution” before opening fire on the officers, and draped their bodies with cloth showing a Revolutionary War-era flag. Investigators have also found paraphernalia associated with white supremacists. The shooters then stripped the officers of their weapons and ammunition and badges, according to a law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation. They then covered the officers with something that featured the Gadsden flag, a yellow banner with a coiled snake above the words, “Don’t tread on Me.”

The flag is named for Christopher Gadsden a Revolutionary War general who designed it. It has recently come back in vogue as an adopted symbol of the American tea party movement. Brandon Monroe, 22, has lived in the complex for about two weeks. He said the man who lived in the apartment that was being searched often rambled about conspiracy theories. He often wore camouflage or dressed as Peter Pan to work as a Fremont Street Experience street performer. A woman lived with him, Monroe said, but he didn’t see her as often. They were weird people, Monroe said, adding that he thought the couple used methamphetamine. “The man told Monroe he had been kicked off Cliven Bundy’s ranch 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas while people from throughout the U.S. gathered there in protest of a Bureau of Land Management roundup of Bundy’s cattle.” Jessica Anderson, 27, said.

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Dan Diamond: Since Obamacare Passed 50 Months Ago, Healthcare Has Gained Almost 1 Million Jobs

Obamacare was once called “The Job-Killing Health Care Law.” But the latest jobs report suggests that the broader economy—and the health care sector, specifically—is adding jobs at a healthy rate. Since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in March 2010, the health care industry has gained nearly 1 million jobs—982,300, to be more precise—according to Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates released on Friday.

Meanwhile, the rest of the economy has added 7.7 million jobs since March 2010, and for the first time, more people are working since the recession began five years ago. Private-sector jobs also grew for the 51st straight month, Justin Wolfers observes at The Upshot, which ties the longest consecutive streak on record and overlaps with the passage of Obamacare 50 months ago. But that streak is piddling compared to health care, which just reported its 131st straight month of job gains.

More here

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Tiffany HSU: Job Recovery In Southern California Is Outpacing U.S. Gains

Southern California fell harder in the recession than the rest of the country and took longer to recover, but now the region’s job gains are outpacing the national employment upswing. Each month since April 2012 except one, Los Angeles County has seen at least 2% year-over-year job growth, compared with a 1.7% average across the country. On Friday, the Labor Department reported that all the jobs lost in the downturn are now back nationwide, with 217,000 net new jobs added in May. The unemployment rate stayed put at 6.3%, the lowest in more than five years. But a steadily growing population means that millions of people are still out of work. In Los Angeles County, only 330,800 jobs have returned, compared with the 435,400 jobs lost from December 2007 to January 2010.

Cheery economic reports showing rising home prices in Southern California, along with steadily recovering personal income, will help boost optimism, Kleinhenz said. But new opportunities will lure more job hunters into the labor force, requiring employers to add more jobs to keep unemployment rates low. But an LAEDC report this week showed promising signs. In April, Los Angeles County employers added 90,800 nonfarm jobs — a 2.6% boost from a year earlier. The area’s jobless rate improved to 9.8% last year from 10.9% a year earlier. LAEDC expects the gauge to fall to 8.7% this year and then continue sliding to 7.8% in 2015.

More here

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Sen. Phillip P. Puckett

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Laura Vozzella: Va. Lawmaker To Resign, Paving Way For Jobs For Self, Daughter, According To Associates

Republicans appear to have outmaneuvered Gov. Terry McAuliffe in a state budget standoff by persuading a Democratic senator to resign his seat, at least temporarily giving the GOP control of the chamber and possibly dooming the governor’s push to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Sen. Phillip P. Puckett (D-Russell) will announce his resignation Monday, effective immediately, paving the way to appoint his daughter to a judgeship and Puckett to the job of deputy director of the state tobacco commission, three people familiar with the plan said Sunday. The news prompted outrage among Democrats — and accusations that Republicans were trying to buy the Senate with job offers in order to thwart McAuliffe’s proposal to expand health coverage to 400,000 low-income Virginians.

In a statement, McAuliffe (D) acknowledged that Puckett’s resignation had created “uncertainty” for his plan to expand the federal-state health program for the poor to 400,000 uninsured Virginians. But he contended that he still had a majority of the Senate on his side. “I am deeply disappointed by this news and the uncertainty it creates at a time when 400,000 Virginians are waiting for access to quality health care, especially those in Southwest Virginia,” McAuliffe said. “This situation is unacceptable, but the bipartisan majority in the Senate and I will continue to work hard to put Virginians first and find compromise on a budget that closes the coverage gap.” Senate Republicans, meanwhile, issued a statement praising Puckett. “Although Senator Puckett has decided to end his tenure in the Senate of Virginia, his legacy there will endure,” said Senate Minority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. (James City). “And, his commitment and service to the people of Southwest, who honored him with their votes in five successive elections, will continue.”

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Reuters: U.S. Deaths In Afghanistan May Have Only Tenuous Link To Bergdahl

The frantic search for Bowe Bergdahl began the moment his comrades discovered he was no longer inside the fragile outpost in a rock-strewn valley in one of the most hostile corners of Afghanistan. Exactly why Bergdahl left is subject to intense scrutiny. But accounts by two Taliban sources as well as several U.S. officials and fellow soldiers raise doubt over media reports that he had sought to join the Taliban, and over suggestions that the deaths later that year of six soldiers in his battalion were related to the search for him.

His dramatic release on May 31 after five years in captivity in return for five Taliban commanders sparked a national controversy over whether President Barack Obama paid too high a price for his freedom. That was fueled by allegations by some in his battalion that he was a deserter, and that soldiers died because they were looking for him after his disappearance in the early hours of June 30, 2009. While many questions remain, a Reuters reconstruction of his disappearance indicates that at the time when Bergdahl’s six comrades in the 1st Battalion of the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment were killed in August and September 2009, his fallen comrades were on other missions like securing the Afghan elections and, according to one U.S. military official, the period of intensive ground searches had already ended.

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Jason Millman: Obamacare Is Adding Insurers Where They’re Most Needed

State health insurance marketplaces that offered consumers very few health plan choices in 2014 are starting to add more insurers — slowly, in most cases. But this is a sign that insurers are feeling confident about the second year of the Affordable Care Act’s coverage expansion. The development is important for a few reasons. For one, recent research suggests that more competition in the exchanges could help temper premium increases. Other new analysis shows that exchange plans, on average, are cheaper than individual plans offered outside the insurance marketplaces. And given the narrow networks in exchange plans, more insurers could mean better access to providers.

In New Hampshire, the exchange’s only insurer last year had excluded 10 of 26 hospitals in the state from its network, meaning the exchange’s customers were limited in their choice of care providers. In 2015, though, New Hampshire will have five insurers selling individual and family health plans on the exchange, state officials announced this week. That also includes the expansion of two non-profit, co-op plans that received start-up funding from the Affordable Care Act. Then there’s West Virginia, a poorer state and one of the least healthy in the country — not exactly an attractive market for insurers. Just one insurer sold 2014 exchange plans, but a second insurer from Kentucky, another co-op, will join in 2015. Kentucky Health Cooperative, which signed up 75 percent of the approximately 82,000 people who selected private plans in Kentucky’s exchange, will sell plans statewide in West Virginia next year.

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EPIC Moment Number One: Audra McDonald wins a historic 6th Tony; beating Angela Lansbury and Julie Harris’s previous records of 5 wins

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EPIC Moment Number Two: Bravo, Quest Love for the beats and arrangements, and bravo to T.I., Hugh Jackman, and LL Cool J

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On This Day

President Obama listens to a point being made in a meeting with senior advisors in the Oval Office, June 9, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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First Lady Michelle Obama greets Debra Ness, president of the national partnership for women and families, before speaking to their 40th anniversary luncheon in Washington, DC, on June 9, 2011

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31
May
14

‘Thank You, Mr President’

President Obama with the parents of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, Jani and Bob, during a news conference about the release of their son, May 31

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30
May
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Barack Obama lays a Presidential challenge coin on a grave in Section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., May 30, 2011. Section 60 is reserved for military personnel who have lost their lives while fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (all times Eastern)

* President Obama appears on Kelly and Michael – check your local listings here

10:15: President Obama meets with Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, Oval Office

11:0: The President meets with the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force

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11:15 EDT: President Obama Makes a Statement

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1:0: Jay Carney briefs the press

2:15: The President attends a hurricane preparedness meeting, FEMA Headquarters

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Fareed Zakaria: Obama’s leadership is right for today

…. Obama is battling a knee-jerk sentiment in Washington in which the only kind of international leadership that means anything is the use of military force. “Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail,” he said in his speech Wednesday at West Point.

A similar sentiment was expressed in the farewell address of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a strong leader who refused to intervene in the Suez crisis, the French collapse in Vietnam, two Taiwan Strait confrontations and the Hungarian uprising of 1956.

At the time, many critics blasted the president for his passivity and wished that he would be more interventionist. A Democratic Advisory Council committee headed by Acheson called Eisenhower’s foreign policy “weak, vacillating, and tardy.” But Eisenhower kept his powder dry, confident that force was not the only way to show strength. “I’ll tell you what leadership is,” he told his speechwriter. “It’s persuasion — and conciliation — and education — and patience . It’s long, slow, tough work. That’s the only kind of leadership I know — or believe in — or will practice.”

Maybe that’s the Obama Doctrine.

Full article here

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Fred Kaplan: Obama Lays Siege to His Critics

President Obama’s speech at West Point on Wednesday morning could be called a tribute to common sense, except that the sense it made is so uncommon. The ensuing cable pundits’ complaints—that it was insufficiently “muscular” or “robust”—only proved how necessary this speech was.

Obama’s point was not (contrary to some commentators’ claims) to draw a “middle-of-the-road” line between isolationism and unilateralism. That’s a line so broad almost anyone could walk it.

The president’s main point was to emphasize that not every problem has a military solution; that the proper measure of strength and leadership is not merely the eagerness to deploy military power; that, in fact, America’s costliest mistakes have stemmed not from restraint but from rushing to armed adventures “without thinking through the consequences, without building international support and legitimacy for our action, without leveling with the American people about the sacrifice required.”

More here

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Graduating cadets listen to President Obama deliver the commencement address at West Point, May 28, 2014 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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NPR: Transcript And Audio: President Obama’s Full NPR Interview

NPR’s Steve Inskeep interviewed President Obama on Wednesday about foreign policy, including his approaches to Syria, Ukraine and China, as well as his remaining White House priorities and his effort to close Guantanamo Bay prison. A full transcript of the interview follows:

STEVE INSKEEP: I want to begin this way. You’re here at this historic place, trying to speak with a sense of history. And I was thinking of past presidents that I know you have studied and commented on. And a couple came to mind who were able to express what they were trying to do in the world in about a sentence. Reagan wanted to roll back communism by whatever means. Lincoln has a famous letter in which he says, I would save the union by the shortest means under the Constitution. As you look at the moment of history that you occupy, do you think you can put into a sentence what you are trying to accomplish in the world?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I’m not sure I can do it in a sentence because we’re fortunate in many ways. We don’t face an existential crisis. We don’t face a civil war. We don’t face a Soviet Union that is trying to rally a bloc of countries and that could threaten our way of life. Instead, what we have is, as I say in the speech, this moment in which we are incredibly fortunate to have a strong economy that is getting stronger, no military peer that threatens us, no nation-state that anytime soon intends to go to war with us. But we have a world order that is changing very rapidly and that can generate diffuse threats, all of which we have to deal with.

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My Brother’s Keeper Task Force Report to the President – PDF

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Greg Sargent: GOP retreat on Obamacare continues apace

A new report this morning confirms that House Republicans are likely to delay plans to offer an alternative to Obamacare until after the elections; that multiple Republican candidates are retreating from repeal; and that they are increasingly mouthing support for the law’s general goals. Once again: There’s no real policy space for a meaningful alternative, but the base still sees repeal as its lodestar, yet everyone else opposes repeal, forcing Republicans to claim they’d scrap it and replace it with something or other doing all the popular things in it, without saying what.

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 Justin Wolfers (NYT): Deceptive Dip in G.D.P. Points to Perils of Election Forecasting

An economic report issued [yesterday] provides a good example of the hazards facing election forecasters. The Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that in the first quarter of this year, Gross Domestic Product, a broad indicator of the health of the economy, shrank at an annual rate of 1 percent. Even worse, an alternative and more accurate measure, called Gross Domestic Income, shrank at an annual rate of 2.3 percent. If that persisted, we’d call it a sharp recession.

But no one is using the R-word. Nor should they. Markets have taken the news in their stride, and few economists have changed their view that the economy is growing and will continue to through 2014. Likewise, consumers remain confident about their economic prospects. Their confidence rests partly on other indicators that suggested far better growth throughout the quarter, such as nonfarm payrolls, which grew by 569,000 over the same period.

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National Journal: Lies, Damn Lies, and Global-Warming Rules

The president is about to take a major step to fight global warming. Here’s what you need to know.

President Obama promised to take action on global warming with or without Congress’s permission. Next week, he’ll tell the world how he plans to do it.

The administration is preparing to release the central pillar of Obama’s climate-change agenda: a proposal for far-reaching rules that will require power companies to cut carbon emissions.

The rules will mark the most significant federal action on climate change since Democrats’ cap-and-trade bill died in the Senate four years ago, and they’re Obama’s best shot at adding broad action on global warming to his legacy.

The rules will also touch off a political war of the first order, offering battleground for environmentalists, industry groups, and politicians to fight over the nation’s energy future.

Here’s what to watch for when the administration pulls back the curtain.

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ThinkProgress: Redskins’ Twitter Campaign To Defend Their Name Goes About As Well As You’d Expect

The Washington Redskins — desperate to defend the name that Native Americans, members of Congress, a majority of the United States Senate, religious leaders, civil rights groups, several current and former NFL players, United Nations Human Rights representatives, and even President Obama have said should be changed because it is a “dictionary-defined” racial slur — started a Twitter campaign to rally support Thursday afternoon.

It started with this tweet asking fans to tell Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has made a habit of chiding the team over its name, how they felt:

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USA Today: Biden to attend U.S. World Cup soccer match

The United States men’s World Cup soccer team will have a particularly vocal fan when it takes on Ghana next month: Joe Biden.

The vice president will attend the U.S.-Ghana match on June 16 in Natal, Brazil, as part of a trip that will also take him to Colombia and the Dominican Republic as well as Brazil.

More here

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I’m not sure whether to love this video, or be freaked out by it:

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 I shouldn’t laugh, but:

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On This Day

Sen Obama attends a rally in Great Falls, Montana, whilst campaining in the race for the White House. May 30, 2008

Sen. Obama addresses a rally at The Four Seasons Arena May 30, 2008 in Great Falls, Montana

Continue reading ‘Rise and Shine’

29
May
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Barack Obama consoles a woman at the Joplin Community Memorial Service at Missouri Southern University in Joplin, Mo., May 29, 2011. The President delivered remarks during the service for those impacted by the deadly tornado that struck Joplin on May 22, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

11:10: President Obama delivers remarks at the White House Healthy Kids & Safe Sports Concussion Summit, East Room

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12:30: Jay Carney briefs the press

2:55: The President participates in a clinic as part of the Concussion Summit, South Lawn

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E.J. Dionne Jr: Obama Outlines A Doctrine Where Restraint Makes Us Stronger

By laying out a long-term foreign policy vision in a speech at West Point on Wednesday, President Obama challenged his critics, at home and abroad, not to speak in vague terms about U.S. “decline” or “weakness” but to answer the question: Exactly what would you do differently? This is as close as we have gotten to an Obama Doctrine, and here it is: The United States “will use military force, unilaterally if necessary, when our core interests demand it — when our people are threatened; when our livelihoods are at stake; when the security of our allies is in danger.”

But in other cases, “when issues of global concern do not pose a direct threat to the United States . . . we should not go it alone.”…. the president’s critics [have] an obligation to answer his challenge. Those who believe that the United States should underwrite a world order friendly to our values and interests need to accept that the promiscuous deployment of U.S. troops abroad is the surest way to undermine support for this mission at home. In calling for restraint and realism — and by insisting on raising the threshold for wars of choice — Obama may yet prove himself to be the best friend American internationalists have.

More article here

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Thomas L. Friedman: Putin Blinked

There was a moment at the height of the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962 when Soviet ships approached to within just a few miles of a U.S. naval blockade and then, at the last minute, turned back — prompting then-Secretary of State Dean Rusk to utter one of the most famous lines from the Cold War: “We’re eyeball to eyeball, and I think the other fellow just blinked.”

The crisis in Ukraine never threatened a Cold War-like nuclear Armageddon, but it may be the first case of post-post-Cold War brinkmanship, pitting the 21st century versus the 19th. It pits a Chinese/Russian worldview that says we can take advantage of 21st-century globalization whenever we want to enrich ourselves, and we can behave like 19th-century powers whenever we want to take a bite out of a neighbor — versus a view that says, no, sorry, the world of the 21st century is not just interconnected but interdependent and either you play by those rules or you pay a huge price. In the end, it was Putinism versus Obamaism, and I’d like to be the first on my block to declare that the “other fellow” — Putin — “just blinked.”

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Hunter Walker: Maya Angelou’s Son Shares The Most Important Lesson His Mother Taught Him

According to writer Guy Johnson, his mother, the late poet and author Dr. Maya Angelou, never gave him advice about his craft. Though Angelou didn’t guide his writing, Johnson said he learned many other lessons from his mother.
Johnson shared some of the most important things Angelou taught him and discussed some of his final memories of her in a conversation with Business Insider hours after her death Wednesday, at age 86. Johnson said the main thing he learned from Angelou is that “life’s complexity cannot be taught in a classroom.”

Angelou’s final conversation with her son took place over the phone Tuesday. Johnson said she was “laughing” and in “good spirits.” Johnson described his mother’s “mission” as focused on spreading “respect” and combatting racism. “It had to do with teaching people that we have to give respect to each other and respect this planet … that we are more alike than we are unalike … and that racism is a foolish and divisive construct,” Johnson said.

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Steve Benen: Turning The Conventional Wisdom On Its Ear

It was just a few months ago that the political world took solace in a few obvious facts. The Affordable Care Act was failing; it stood no chance of meeting its enrollment projections; and Republicans would use “Obamacare” as a cudgel for the rest of the year, beating Democrats who would no doubt try to change the subject.

That was then; this is now. All of a sudden, the ACA looks like a great success; the system has already exceeded its enrollment projections; and Democrats are suddenly willing to take the offensive on the issue they were supposed to avoid…the GOP strategy to date — vow to repeal Obamacare and mumble platitudes about replacing it with something or other that does all the things in it that people like – is a bust…. The repeal crusade is over. The right lost. It’s heartening to see the conventional wisdom start to catch up.

More here

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Simon Maloy: GOP’s New Obamacare Strategy: Why Their “Repeal” Cries Have Suddenly Shifted

As benefits take hold, Republicans’ message falls victim to the inevitable onset of nuance. A moment of silence, if you please, for the Republican “repeal Obamacare” message. It’s not dead yet, but it has fallen victim to a deadly terminal illness: nuance. The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire blog delivered the diagnosis this morning, noting that the Republican candidate field, as it transitions out of primary season, is discovering that simply calling for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act is not the winning strategy that it was once assumed to be.

The millions of people who gained coverage through the ACA, and would stand to lose it were the law to be scuttled, obviously would like to know what comes next. “Republicans won’t back off their push to repeal the law,” Washington Wire notes, “but the message is likely to be more nuanced, said Bill McInturff, a Republican pollster who has long studied the politics of health care.” “Nuance” in this sense means that Republicans are going to start using terms like “fix” and “reform” alongside (or in place of) “repeal.”

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Michael Kelley: Edward Snowden Says The US Stranded Him In Russia – Here Are 4 Problems With That Claim

Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden told “Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams in Moscow that he “never intended to end up in Russia.” The 30-year-old asserts that the U.S. State Department stranded him in Moscow after he arrived from Hong Kong on June 23. There are several issues with the claim that the U.S. stranded Snowden in Russia. Here are the most glaring: 1. Snowden couldn’t have left Russia because he had no valid travel documents when he landed at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport.

The U.S. revoked Snowden’s passport the day before he left. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange then acquired an unsigned Ecuadorian travel document — ostensibly for safe passage to Latin America — that was void when Snowden landed in Moscow. 2. WikiLeaks told him to go to Russia and stay there. Assange told Janet Reitman of Rolling Stone magazine in December that he advised Snowden against going to Latin America because “he would be physically safest in Russia.” WikiLeaks, who advised Snowden in Hong Kong while paying for his lodging and travel, reiterated the statement on May 1.

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Michael Tomasky: Mitch McConnell’s Big Obamacare-Kynect Lie

The Senator’s latest election-trail mistake? Vowing to repeal Obamacare while disingenuously promising to protect his state’s own Obamacare-funded health-care exchange, which serves 413,000 Kentuckians. Here’s why all the super-smart insidery people privately say they think that in the end, Alison Lundergan Grimes will not beat Mitch McConnell in Kentucky. Her strategy, they say, is to keep it close, keep her distance from Obama, hold her own in debates, try to match him attack ad for attack ad, and just hope McConnell makes a mistake.

And the super-smart people agree: You may admire or loathe McConnell, but if he’s proven one thing in umpteen elections, it’s that he doesn’t make mistakes. That’s what the insiders say. There’s just one problem with it. McConnell has made about a mistake a week so far! He’s run an awful campaign. And he’s given anybody no reason at all to think he won’t just keep making them.

More here

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Brett Logiurato: Obama Gives Boehner One Last Deadline For Immigration Reform

President Barack Obama has provided House Speaker John Boehner with a final deadline of sorts for moving immigration reform legislation through the House of Representatives. A White House official confirmed Obama asked Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to delay his completion of a review of U.S. deportation policies until the end of the summer. The White House said this would give Boehner more time to act because Obama believes there is still a “window” of opportunity for immigration reform legislation to pass in the House. Some advocates believe the House could pass immigration reform legislation after the end of Republican primaries, in which immigration has become a thorny issue. “The President’s priority is to enact a permanent solution for people currently living in the shadows and that can only come with immigration reform,” a White House official said in an email.

“Legislation should also continue to strengthen our border security, modernize the legal immigration system, and hold employers accountable. He believes there’s a window for the House to get immigration reform done this summer, and he asked the Secretary to continue working on his review until that window has passed. There’s a bipartisan consensus. It’s time for them to act and the President didn’t want the discussion of the Secretary’s review to interfere with the possibility of action in the House.” In March, Obama directed Johnson to lead an administrative review of whether deportation policies could be made more “humane,” a move aimed at reassuring immigration activists. It is largely expected Obama will take unilateral action to lessen deportations if Congress doesn’t act. Potomac Research analyst Greg Valliere said Obama’s message was clear. “If you fail to act, deportation policy will be liberalized; if you want to negotiate, deportations are on the table — your choice,” Valliere wrote in a research brief this morning.

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Brian Beutler: Mitch McConnell’s Dangerous, Deceptive Retreat From Obamacare Repeal

It took the winding down of GOP primary season for the Republican Party’s increasingly incoherent position on the Affordable Care Act to attract national media attention, and nobody did more to thrust it under the press’ nose than Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — the original gangster of anti-Obamacare absolutism. This will only strike you as ironic if you ignored ACA’s stunning successes in Kentucky, and the uncompromising demands of McConnell’s primary, as they unfolded simultaneously.

Now as a general election candidate, he must square his root-and-branch repeal position with the inescapable fact that full repeal would reverse those successes and leave nearly a half a million newly covered Kentuckians without health insurance. On Friday, McConnell attempted to obscure this obvious conundrum by claiming the fate of Kynect — the state’s popular and prosperous online insurance exchange — is “unconnected” from the fate of the ACA statute itself. I surmised by implication that McConnell was actually playing a far more deceitful game.

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Paul Krugman: Cheap Climate Protection

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce just came out with its preemptive strike against Obama administration regulations on power plants. What the Chamber wanted to do was show that the economic impact of the regulations would be devastating. And I was eager to see how they had fudged the numbers.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the diatribe. The Chamber evidently made a decision that it wanted to preserve credibility, so it outsourced the analysis. And while it tries to spin the results, what it actually found was that dramatic action on greenhouse gases would have surprisingly small economic costs.

More here

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First Lady Michelle Obama: The Campaign for Junk Food

When we began our Let’s Move! initiative four years ago, we set one simple but ambitious goal: to end the epidemic of childhood obesity in a generation so that kids born today will grow up healthy. To achieve this goal, we have adhered to one clear standard: what works. The initiatives we undertake are evidence-based, and we rely on the most current science. Research indicated that kids needed less sugar, salt and fat in their diets, so we revamped school lunch menus accordingly. When data showed that the lack of nearby grocery stores negatively affected people’s eating habits, we worked to get more fresh-food retailers into underserved areas. Studies on habit formation in young children drove our efforts to get healthier food and more physical activity into child care centers.

Today, we are seeing glimmers of progress. Tens of millions of kids are getting better nutrition in school; families are thinking more carefully about food they eat, cook and buy; companies are rushing to create healthier products to meet the growing demand; and the obesity rate is finally beginning to fall from its peak among our youngest children. So we know that when we rely on sound science, we can actually begin to turn the tide on childhood obesity. But unfortunately, we’re now seeing attempts in Congress to undo so much of what we’ve accomplished on behalf of our children.

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Chicago Tribune: First Lady To Appear At Keel-Laying Ceremony For USS Illinois

First Lady Michelle Obama will appear at a ceremony next week that recognizes the start of construction on a submarine named after her home state. At the June 2 keel-laying ceremony, the first lady will deliver remarks and meet the USS Illinois’ crew and their families, according to a release issued today from her office. Obama is also the “official sponsor” of the USS Illinois. She will chalk her initials on a metal plate that will later be mounted on the submarine, the release stated.

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USA Today: White House Designates 12 ‘Manufacturing Communities’

The Obama administration named one dozen new “Manufacturing Communities” on Wednesday that will receive federal help for plans to try and attract global businesses. The Manufacturing Communities Partnership, launched in September, brings federal agencies together with local officials to develop strategies “that strengthen their competitive edge in attracting global manufacturers and their supply chains,” the administration said.

The 12 local communities are:

— Southwest Alabama led by the University of South Alabama

— Southern California led by the University of Southern California Center for Economic Development

— Northwest Georgia led by the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission

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Perfect Snark Of The Day

Andy Borowitz: Obama Defends Controversial Policy Of Not Invading Countries For No Reason

President Obama raised eyebrows with his West Point commencement address Wednesday by offering a defense of his controversial foreign-policy doctrine of not invading countries for no reason. Conservative critics were taken aback by Obama’s speech, which was riddled with incendiary remarks about only using military force for a clearly identified and rational purpose.

Obama did not shy away from employing polarizing rhetoric, often using words such as “responsible” and “sensible” to underscore his message. Harland Dorrinson, a fellow at the conservative think tank the Center for Global Intervention, said that he was “stunned” to see Obama “defend his failure to engage the United States in impulsive and random military adventures.”

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Coral Davenport: President Planning To Be Planning To Use Executive Authority On Carbon Rule

President Obama will use his executive authority to cut carbon emissions from the nation’s coal-fired power plants by up to 20 percent, according to people familiar with his plans, and will force industry to pay for the pollution it creates through cap-and-trade programs across the country. Mr. Obama will unveil his plans in a new regulation, written by the Environmental Protection Agency, at the White House on Monday. It would be the strongest action ever taken by an American president to tackle climate change and could become one of the defining elements of Mr. Obama’s legacy.

Cutting carbon emissions by 20 percent — a substantial amount — would be the most important step in the administration’s pledged goal to reduce pollution over the next six years and could eventually shut down hundreds of coal-fired power plants across the country. The regulation would have far more impact on the environment than the Keystone pipeline, which many administration officials consider a political sideshow, and is certain to be met with opposition from Republicans who say that Mr. Obama will be using his executive authority as a back door to force through an inflammatory cap-and-trade policy he could not get through Congress.

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Greg Sargent: Mitch McConnell Effectively Abandons Obamacare Repeal

Today we have a big break in the Case of the Pathologically Dissembling Senate Minority Leader. As you know, Mitch McConnell has been struggling to articulate his position on the Affordable Care Act, ever since he laughably declared that the fate of Kentucky Kynect — the state exchange that has signed up over 400,000 people for coverage and is more popular than the hated Obamacare — is “unconnected” to his push to repeal the law.

His subsequent clarification only obfuscated matters more. Now, however, the McConnell campaign has issued a new statement to Post fact checker Glenn Kessler that, in effect, abandons his commitment to repeal. In the statement, a McConnell spokesman suggests he might largely retain the Medicaid expansion, which has expanded coverage to hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians.

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On This Day

Sen. Obama speaks at the Medical Education and Biomedical Research Facility at the University of Iowa May 29, 2007 in Iowa City. Obama introduced his plan to reduce health care costs and ensure affordable health care for all Americans.

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NBC video and sound crews capture footage of the “First Dog” in the Rose Garden outside the Oval Office for their prime-time broadcast “Inside the Obama White House,” May 29, 2009 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)

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President Obama takes a walk down the street from his Chicago home accompanied by his daughter Sasha, May 29, 2010

…. accompanied by his mother-in-law Marian Robinson

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The President visited Joplin, Mo., following a devastating tornado. Here he greets Hugh Hills, 85, in front of his home. Hills told the President he hid in a closet during the tornado, which destroyed the second floor and half the first floor of his house. May 29, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama greets residents during a tour of neighborhoods impacted by the deadly tornado in Joplin, Mo., May 29, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama is greeted by Father Justin Monaghan at a memorial service on the campus of Missouri Southern State University during a visit to the community that was devastated by a tornado in Joplin, May 29, 2011

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First Lady Michelle Obama greets Sherri Shepherd of “The View” at the show’s studio in New York, N.Y., May 29, 2012 (Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)

President Obama talks with Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Toni Morrison in the Blue Room of the White House, May 29, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

Novelist Toni Morrison and President Obama share a moment after she was presented with a Presidential Medal of Freedom during an East Room event May 29, 2012 at the White House

Bob Dylan is presented with a Presidential Medal of Freedom

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President Obama talks to the pilots aboard Marine One after landing at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, May 29, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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May
14

News Of The Day

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White House: Statement By The President On The Passing Of Maya Angelou

When her friend Nelson Mandela passed away last year, Maya Angelou wrote that “No sun outlasts its sunset, but will rise again, and bring the dawn.”

Today, Michelle and I join millions around the world in remembering one of the brightest lights of our time – a brilliant writer, a fierce friend, and a truly phenomenal woman. Over the course of her remarkable life, Maya was many things – an author, poet, civil rights activist, playwright, actress, director, composer, singer and dancer. But above all, she was a storyteller – and her greatest stories were true. A childhood of suffering and abuse actually drove her to stop speaking – but the voice she found helped generations of Americans find their rainbow amidst the clouds, and inspired the rest of us to be our best selves. In fact, she inspired my own mother to name my sister Maya.

Like so many others, Michelle and I will always cherish the time we were privileged to spend with Maya. With a kind word and a strong embrace, she had the ability to remind us that we are all God’s children; that we all have something to offer. And while Maya’s day may be done, we take comfort in knowing that her song will continue, “flung up to heaven” – and we celebrate the dawn that Maya Angelou helped bring.

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President Obama greets Buffalo Soldiers Louis Coffield, 96, left, and Sanders Matthews, 93, at Stewart Air Base in Newbrugh, N.Y. today

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Brent Logiurato: In 3 Big Slides Here’s Why Mary Meeker Is Optimistic About The Future Of American Healthcare

Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner Mary Meeker has released her latest annual presentation. In it, she gives a bullish take on the future of the U.S. healthcare system, saying it looks like it may be at an “inflection point.” Some recent reforms perpetrated by the Affordable Care Act, though, give her reason for optimism. More than 8 million people have gained coverage through insurance exchanges established by the law,

and she writes that the law is aiding the “digitization of healthcare — 84% of hospitals and academic or institutional practices are now using a fully functioning electronic health record (EHR) system. Digital health venture investments are up almost 40% year over year. Meeker is also bullish because of the emphasis of moving toward quality care over quantity. By 2015, 60% of employers will offer price-transparency tools in their healthcare plans, she writes.

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NYT: Maya Angelou, Lyrical Witness Of The Jim Crow South, Dies At 86

Maya Angelou, the memoirist and poet whose landmark book of 1969, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” — which describes in lyrical, unsparing prose her childhood in the Jim Crow South — was among the first autobiographies by a 20th-century black woman to reach a wide general readership, died on Wednesday in her home. She was 86 and lived in Winston-Salem, N.C. Long before that day, as she recounted in “Caged Bird” and its five sequels, she had already been a dancer, calypso singer, streetcar conductor, single mother, magazine editor in Cairo, administrative assistant in Ghana, official of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and friend or associate of some of the most eminent black Americans of the mid-20th century, including James Baldwin, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Afterward (her six-volume memoir takes her only to the age of 40), Ms. Angelou (pronounced AHN-zhe-lo) was a Tony-nominated stage actress; college professor (she was for many years the

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(Dr. Maya Angelou reading a poem at the Million Man March in 1995)

Reynolds professor of American studies at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem); ubiquitous presence on the lecture circuit; frequent guest on television shows, from “Oprah” to “Sesame Street”; and subject of a string of scholarly studies. In February 2011, President Obama presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor. Throughout her writing, Ms. Angelou explored the concepts of personal identity and resilience through the multifaceted lens of race, sex, family, community and the collective past. As a whole, her work offered a cleareyed examination of the ways in which the socially marginalizing forces of racism and sexism played out at the level of the individual. “If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat,” Ms. Angelou wrote in “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” Hallmarks of Ms. Angelou’s prose style included a directness of voice that recalls African-American oral tradition and gives her work the quality of testimony. She was also intimately concerned with sensation, describing the world around her — be it Arkansas, San Francisco or the foreign cities in which she lived — with palpable feeling for its sights, sounds and smells.

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Dr Angelou’s Final Tweet:

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Evan McMorris-Santoro: Obama: “American Influence Is Always Stronger When We Lead By Example

President Obama attempted to set a new course for American foreign policy Wednesday, laying out a plan for action on the world stage he said continues the country’s role as global superpower, but does so in a way that looks within before looking out. “I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being,” the president said in a prepared version of the commencement address he delivered at West Point. “But what makes us exceptional is not our ability to flout international norms and the rule of law; it’s our willingness to affirm them through our actions.” The president called on Congress to adopt the Law of The Sea convention, take action on climate change and close GITMO, efforts he said would go a long way to showing the world the United States practices what it preaches. The country’s number one threat “remains terrorism,” Obama said. But the changing nature of that threat means that the tools of the recent past should be scrapped, he added.

“A strategy that involves invading every country that harbors terrorist networks is naïve and unsustainable,” he said. “I believe we must shift our counter-terrorism strategy – drawing on the successes and shortcomings of our experience in Iraq and Afghanistan – to more effectively partner with countries where terrorist networks seek a foothold.” “Here’s my bottom line: America must always lead on the world stage. If we don’t, no one else will. The military that you have joined is, and always will be, the backbone of that leadership,” the president said. “But U.S. military action cannot be the only – or even primary – component of our leadership in every instance. Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail.”

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Greg Sargent: Grimes Hits Back: On Obamcare, Mitch McConnell Is In “Fantasyland”

Ever since Mitch McConnell’s comically absurd evasions on Obamacare began gaining attention from the press, people have wondered whether Alison Lundergan Grimes would make them an issue. McConnell’s refusal to say what should happen to Kentucky Kynect — even as he continues to call for repeal of the ACA – allows Grimes to point out that McConnell’s position would take health coverage away from hundreds of thousands of constituents who are benefitting from it, and he won’t admit it. Now the Grimes campaign is finally hitting McConnell over his gyrations on the issue, accusing him of “voting to destroy Kynect.” From Grimes senior adviser Jonathan Hurst: Mitch McConnell has been in the fantasyland that is Washington for so long that he cannot tell the difference between fact and fiction. McConnell has voted to destroy Kynect — and he has said he will do it again. In the U.S. Senate, Alison Lundergan Grimes will fix the law to ensure it is working for all Kentuckians.

This seems somewhat defensive. It again leans heavily on a vow to “fix” the law, and doesn’t state flatly that Kynect is a policy success. Some Dems, such as Rep. John Yarmuth and pollster Celinda Lake, have suggested Grimes go further. Lake told me the other day that her polling has showed that Kynect polls positively in Kentucky, even as the law known as “Obamacare” or the “Affordable Care Act” remains under water. Lake suggests this to Grimes: “She could say, `In Kentucky, we got it right. I’ll take Kentucky values to Washington.”As Joe Sonka points out in a good piece, McConnell is betting that press coverage won’t clearly explain to voters just how absurd his position really is. But perhaps now that Grimes is engaging on the issue — to some degree, at least — that could serve as a hook for top shelf reporter and commentator types to take a peek at what’s really going on here.

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Herald Leader: Say Again, Senator, ACA Unkynected?

Sen. Mitch McConnell has some explaining to do. What in the world did he mean last week when he told reporters that repeal of the Affordable Care Act — “root and branch,” as he has demanded many times — is “unconnected” to the future of Kynect, Kentucky’s health insurance exchange? Asked specifically if Kynect should be dismantled, McConnell said: “I think that’s unconnected to my comments about the overall question.” Huh? Nothing could be more connected — or should be more important to Kentucky’s senior senator — than the fates of the more than 400,000 Kentuckians who are getting health insurance, many for the first time, and the federal Affordable Care Act, which is making that possible. Repeal the federal law, which McConnell calls “Obamacare,” and the state exchange would collapse. Kynect could not survive without the ACA’s insurance reforms, including no longer allowing insurance companies to cancel policies when people get sick or deny them coverage because of pre-existing conditions,

as well as the provision ending lifetime limits on benefit payments. (Kentucky tried to enact such reforms in the 1990s and found out we were too small a market to do it alone.) Kentucky’s exchange also could not survive without the federal funding and tax credits that are helping 300,000 previously uninsured Kentuckians gain access to regular preventive medicine, including colonoscopies, mammograms and birth control without co-pays. As a result of a law that McConnell wants to repeal, one in 10 of his constituents no longer have to worry that an illness or injury will drive them into personal bankruptcy or a premature grave. Kynect is the Affordable Care Act is Obamacare — even if Kentuckians are confused about which is which. Kentuckians are waiting to learn if their five-term senator understands — or cares — how much is at stake.

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Kimberly Kindy: Father Of Victim In Santa Barbara Shootings To Politicians: ‘I Don’t Care About Your Sympathy.’

Richard Martinez grew up around guns, shooting birds out of the fruit trees on his family’s farm. He later served as a military police officer in the U.S. Army before going on to become a criminal-defense lawyer, at times representing the young and the violent. Now, Martinez is a grieving father. He’s asking members of Congress to stop calling him to offer condolences but nothing more for the death of his only child, Chris­topher Michaels-Martinez, who was killed in the rampage Friday in Santa Barbara, Calif. “I don’t care about your sympathy. I don’t give a s— that you feel sorry for me,” Richard Martinez said during an extensive interview, his face flushed as tears rolled down. “Get to work and do something. I’ll tell the president the same thing if he calls me. Getting a call from a politician doesn’t impress me.”

Saying that “we are all to blame” for the death of his 20-year-old son, Martinez urged the public to join him in demanding “immediate action” from members of Congress and President Obama to curb gun violence by passing stricter gun-

control laws. “Today, I’m going to ask every person I can find to send a postcard to every politician they can think of with three words on it: ‘Not one more,’ ” he said Tuesday. “People are looking for something to do. I’m asking people to stand up for something. Enough is enough.” Martinez is the latest tragic figure to raise the mantle of gun control. Previous massacres and spasms of violence have produced urgent calls for new restrictions.

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Laura Meckler: Some Democrats Talking Up Health Law

Democratic candidates have begun to take a more assertive stance on the Affordable Care Act, highlighting the most popular benefits of the law and attacking Republicans for trying to repeal them. Not long ago, many Democrats were in a defensive crouch when it came to health care, amid public anger about the botched rollout of the federal website to sign up for insurance and stories of people who lost existing coverage because it didn’t meet federal standards. Many focused on fixes they said should be made to the law rather than trying to convince voters of its benefits. Now, in at least half a dozen competitive Senate and gubernatorial races, Democrats and their allies are airing TV commercials that directly support the legislation, focusing on its guaranteed coverage for pre-existing conditions, preventive-care benefits and a ban on charging women more for insurance. In some cases, the ads talk up how the Democrat candidate has worked to guarantee these benefits; in others, they attack a Republican for wanting to take them away.

At a Senate hearing to consider the nomination of a new health secretary this month, Sen. Kay Hagan (D., N.C.), who is in a tough re-election race, hailed the Medicaid expansion available under the act and criticized her state’s leadership for declining the federal money that would allow North Carolina to add a half million people to the program. “These are some of the most vulnerable citizens in our society who will continue to seek care in emergency rooms and then will leave chronic conditions unmanaged,” she said. In Florida, Republican-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist, running for governor, has fully embraced the law. “I don’t shy away from it. I don’t back away from it. I don’t apologize for it. It’s the right thing to do,” he said in April, according to the Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale.

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AP: After Decades, Dirty Power Plant To Get Clean

Three years ago, the operators of one of the nation’s dirtiest coal-fired power plants warned of “immediate and devastating” consequences from the Obama administration’s push to clean up pollution from coal. Faced with cutting sulfur dioxide pollution blowing into downwind states by 80 percent in less than a year, lawyers for EME Homer City Generation L.P. sued the Environmental Protection Agency to block the rule, saying it would cause it grave harm and bring a painful spike in electricity bills. None of those dire predictions came to pass. Instead, the massive western Pennsylvania power plant is expected in a few years to turn from one of the worst polluters in the country to a model for how coal-fired power plants can slash pollution.

The latest regulation, the first proposal to curb earth-warming carbon dioxide from power plants, is due next week. But Homer City also shows how political and economic rhetoric sometimes doesn’t match reality. Despite claims by Republicans and industry critics that the Obama administration’s regulations will shut down coal-fired power plants, Homer City survived. The owners of the massive western Pennsylvania power plant — which releases more sulfur dioxide than any other power plant in the U.S. — have committed to install $750 million worth of pollution control equipment by 2016 that will make deeper cuts in sulfur than the rule it once opposed. Last month, the Supreme Court upheld the EPA’s rule in the case initiated by Homer City Generating Station. GE Energy Financial Services, the plant’s majority owner, now says it can do it — and without electricity bills increasing for the two million households it provides with power.

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Julie Bosman: Chicago Mayor Proposes Restrictions On Gun Sales

Calling gun violence Chicago’s “most urgent problem,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel outlined a proposal on Tuesday that would make it harder to buy firearms in the city. The proposal would restrict gun purchases for individuals to one a month and would mandate that all gun sales be videotaped, an effort to deter buyers from using false identification. Under the proposed ordinance, employees in gun stores would be required to undergo background checks and complete training to help them spot the common signs of gun traffickers. Retailers would be subject to a quarterly audit of inventory in an effort to reduce theft.

In addition, the plan would impose a 72-hour waiting period to buy handguns and a 24-hour waiting period to buy rifles and shotguns. Mr. Emanuel has tried to tamp down violence in Chicago since taking office in 2011, pushing for tougher rules on gun retailers and stronger federal laws on firearms. Chicago’s rate of gun-related violence is three times that of New York. The report blamed states with weaker gun laws for most of the illegal guns in Chicago, saying that from 2009 to 2013, 60 percent of guns used to commit crimes in the city were originally bought out of state, mainly in Indiana, Mississippi and Wisconsin.

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Washington Post: Michigan Hikes Minimum Wage, Led By GOP Governor Seeking Reelection

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) signed legislation Tuesday hiking his state’s minimum wage to $9.25 an hour over four years, dodging what could have been a political hurdle as he seeks re-election this year. Snyder had come under pressure from Democrats, led by his likely general election opponent, former representative Mark Schauer. He signed the wage increase one day before labor groups planned to turn in more than 300,000 signatures to get a minimum wage hike on November’s ballot. At a news conference Tuesday, Snyder sought to take some measure of credit for the increase.

Many Republicans in the legislature opposed the increase. A majority of House Republicans voted against the measure, though House Speaker Jase Bolger (R) helped shepherd it through to protect Snyder. All but two Democrats in each chamber voted for the increase, which also indexes the minimum wage to inflation. Several Republicans said they voted for the legislature’s version of the wage hike to avoid the possibility of a ballot initiative passing; the ballot initiative would have increased the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, for both regular and tipped-wage employees.

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AP: Top US Commander: Obama Ended Afghan Uncertainty

The top U.S. and coalition commander in Afghanistan said Wednesday that President Barack Obama’s decision to keep about 10,000 American troops in the country past 2014 has eliminated any uncertainty Afghans may have had about America’s commitment. Gen. Joseph Dunford told reporters the decision will allow an advisory force of 9,800 troops to remain in the country to finish training and equipping Afghan security forces. “I believe that this decision was good news for the Afghan people,” Dunford said. “It eliminates the uncertainty about the future here in Afghanistan, in the region and within the coalition.” He added that it “also sends a message to those who said that Afghanistan would be abandoned at the end of the year and that simply isn’t true. “

Obama announced plans Tuesday for keeping nearly 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan after this year, then quickly withdrawing nearly all of those forces by the end of 2016. NATO and other U.S. allies also are expected to commit troops, bringing the total to be around 12,000. Some American troops are also expected to play a counterterrorism role, chasing any elements of al-Qaida and other such groups still operating in Afghanistan. The commitment is conditional on Afghanistan’s government signing a stalled bilateral security agreement. While Afghan President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign it, both the candidates running to replace him — former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and ex-Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai — have said they will.

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Tracy Connor: Edward Snowden Tells Brian Williams The U.S. Stranded Him In Russia

Edward Snowden, in an exclusive interview with “Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams, blamed the State Department for stranding him in Russia, saying he “never intended” to wind up there. “I personally am surprised that I ended up here,” Snowden said in the interview, an excerpt of which aired on TODAY on Wednesday morning. “The reality is I never intended to end up in Russia,” he said. “I had a flight booked to Cuba onwards to Latin America and I was stopped because the United States government decided to revoke my passport and trap me in Moscow Airport. “So when people ask why are you in Russia, I say, ‘Please ask the State Department.” Secretary of State John Kerry hit back in a live interview on TODAY. “For a supposedly smart guy, that’s a pretty dumb answer, frankly,” Kerry said. “If Mr. Snowden wants to come back to the United States today, we’ll have him on a flight today.

“We’d be delighted for him to come back. He should come back. That’s what a patriot would do. A patriot would not run away and look for refuge in Russia or Cuba or some other country. A patriot would stand up in the United States and make his case to the American people,” Kerry added. “He can come home but he’s a fugitive from justice which is why he is not being permitted to fly around the world,” he said. Asked whether he had changed his mind about the nature of Snowden’s actions, Kerry said Snowden “stole” information and did “great damage” to the United States. “The fact is if he cares so much about America and he believes in America, he should trust in the American system of justice,” Kerry said. “But to be hiding in Russia, an authoritarian country, and to have just admitted he was really just trying to get to Cuba — what does that tell you?” he added. “I think he’s confused. I think it’s very sad.”

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Maya Angelou in 1991, dancing with another legendary poet Amiri Baraka, who died in January

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May
14

The Commander-In-Chief At West Point

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President Barack Obama arrives to deliver the commencement address to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point’s Class of 2014

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Transcript Of President Obama’s Address At West Point

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PM Carpenter: Obama’s West Point Address, In Two Words

Magnificently sane.

In a few more words, Obama’s address, grounded in a mature appreciation of our limits, called for multilateralism–diplomatically whenever possible, militarily if inescapable; it called, given al Qaeda’s fragmentation and dispersal, for global “partners” to suppress it; and, in a direct shot at his Republican critics, it called for a world-involved America that leads by example at home–not through climate-change denialism, or unratified treaties, or the obscenities of a Gitmo that the propagandists and paranoids won’t close.

Because Obama’s speech was so magnificently sane, let the carping and slander begin.

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Underclassmen listen from the back of the stadium as U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at a commencement ceremony at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York

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Gavin White, a West Point graduate who lost a leg in Afghanistan, is recognized by President Barack Obama during the commencement ceremonies for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point

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CNN: Obama Outlines Foreign Policy Vision Of “Might And Right”

President Barack Obama on Wednesday outlined a foreign policy vision of “might doing right,” arguing that modern pragmatism requires both a strong military and the diplomatic tools of alliances and sanctions to exert influence and provide global leadership. He told graduating cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point that after the nation’s “long season of war and divisions about how to move forward,” they now would represent America with the duty “not only to protect our country, but to do what is right and just.” “I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being,” he said, referring to a tenet of conservative ideology.” But what makes us exceptional is not flouting international norms and the rule of law; it’s our willingness to affirm them through our actions,” Obama said in arguing that true leadership involves not only having the world’s most powerful military, but in doing the right thing.

“America must always lead on the world stage,” Obama said, and the military “always will be the backbone of that leadership,” but U.S. military action “cannot be the only — or even primary — component of our leadership in every instance.” In a sign of the sentiments of the cadets, Obama got big applause when he noted they were the first West Point graduates in more than a decade unlikely to be stationed in a war zone. Overall, Obama said, “America has rarely been stronger relative to the rest of the world,” and he contended that “those who argue otherwise — who suggest that America is in decline, or has seen its global leadership slip away — are either misreading history or engaged in partisan politics.” “The question we face — the question each of you will face — is not whether America will lead, but how we will lead, not just to secure our peace and prosperity, but also extend peace and prosperity around the globe,” Obama told the cadets.

On Wednesday, Obama reiterated his policy that the United States will used military force, “unilaterally if necessary,” when its people are threatened, its livelihood is at stake or allies are in danger, but he said the threshold was higher when global issues “do not pose a direct threat” to the nation. “In such circumstances, we should not go it alone,” he said. “Instead, we must mobilize allies and partners to take collective action. We have to broaden our tools to include diplomacy and development; sanctions, isolation; appeals to international law and — if just, necessary, and effective — multilateral military action.” Such a collective approach “is more likely to succeed, more likely to be sustained, and less likely to lead to costly mistakes,” Obama said.

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President Barack Obama is presented with the Class Battle Ring from Class President Jeffrey Ferebee

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President Barack Obama hands out diplomas to the graduating class of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point

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26
May
14

A President Who Cares

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Pete Souza: A soldier hugs President Barack Obama following his remarks at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, May 25

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President Obama steps off Air Force One after arriving at Bagram Air Field for an unannounced visit

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President Obama greets US Ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham and General Joseph Dunfore, Commander of ISAF and US Forces Afghanistan, after disembarking from Air Force One upon arrival at Bagram Air Field

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President Obama and Brigadier General Erik Kurilla view photos of fallen military personnel at Camp Alpha, Bagram

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‘Our War Dead’ by Jacqueline O’Boomer

We woke up this morning
Each bowing our head
For the wounded, the missing
And “our war dead”

“Our war dead”
Has such a hollow sound
Until we acknowledge it’s flesh and blood
In our sacred ground

We know for the missing souls
Who never came back
The graves on the hill
Are what grieving families lack

Many brave warriors
Left limbs behind
Lucky to come back home
But with mountains to climb

Many came back to loving arms
Waiting at the crowded dock
But they had lost their innocence
To war trauma and shell shock

A moment of remembrance
An image of sorrow
We share in their grief
On each tomorrow …

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President Obama attends a military briefing with General Joseph Dunfore at Bagram Air Field

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President Obama awards medals to U.S. troops

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President Obama does a Hawaiian “shaka” as he greets US troops

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President Obama and General Joseph F. Dunford take the stage to address the U.S. Troops

Continue reading ‘A President Who Cares’

26
May
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama and Vice President Biden escort Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the East Room of the White House where the President will introduce her as his nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court to replace retiring Justice David, May 26, 2009 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

9:15 AM: The President hosts a breakfast in the State Dining Room in honor of Memorial Day. The Vice President and Dr. Biden will also attend

11:0 The President and First Lady travel to Arlington National Cemetery where the President will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

11:20: The President delivers remarks

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The Week Ahead

Tuesday

The President will host the 2014 White House Science Fair and celebrate the student winners of a broad range of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) competitions from across the country. The President will also announce new steps as part of his Educate to Innovate campaign, an all-hands-on-deck effort to get more girls and boys inspired to excel and to provide the support they need to succeed in these vital subjects

Wednesday

The President travels to West Point, New York to deliver the commencement address at the United States Military Academy at West Point

Thursday

The President will host a summit at the White House on youth sports safety and concussions, where he will be joined by stakeholders, including young athletes, parents, coaches, experts, professional athletes, and military service members. At the White House Healthy Kids and Safe Sports Concussion Summit, the President will announce new commitments by both the public and private sectors to raise awareness about how to identify, treat and prevent concussions, and conduct additional research in the field of sports-related concussions that will help us better address these problems

Friday

The President will attend a hurricane preparedness meeting at FEMA Headquarters

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President Barack Obama waves as he returns from a surprise trip to Afghanistan

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Adrianna McIntyre: 21 Things Obamacare Does That You Didn’t Know About

1. Obamacare makes funds available for “training for adulthood.” True story. The law makes funds available for “personal responsibility” programs aimed at preparing young adults for being grown-ups. Per federal law, all of these programs must include efforts to educate young adults prevention of both pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Beyond that, they’re expected to touch on other “adulthood preparation subjects”, including but not limited to: financial literacy, healthy relationships, communication and interpersonal skills, educational and career success, body image, goal-setting, decision making, and stress management. 6. The law authorizes funding for grants that target postpartum depression. The Secretary of HHS is authorized to make grants available for treating individuals who have postpartum depression and psychosis (conditions that occur in women following childbirth). The law also encourages the National Institute of Mental Health to conduct long-term study from 2010-2019 on how pregnancy affects women’s mental health. This piece of the Affordable Care Act is called the Melanie Blocker Stokes CARE Act; it is named for a woman who tragically committed suicide in 2001 after suffering from postpartum depression despite three admissions to Chicago-area hospitals following her delivery.

10. Young adults who age out of the foster system at 18 receive benefits until they’re 26. Before the Affordable Care Act, states had the option — but not the requirement — of extending Medicaid coverage up to age 21 for kids who aged out of the foster system at 18. This is an incredibly vulnerable population that suffers from high rates of homelessness, poverty, and unemployment. Under reform, states have to offer these young adults Medicaid coverage until they turn 26. 13. Employers are required to provide reasonable break time for nursing mothers. Employers must provide a reasonable amount of break time — and a private place that isn’t a bathroom — for an employee to express breast milk for up to one year after giving birth. Breastfeeding the first six months, at a minimum, is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Prior to health reform, there was no federal law that protected nursing mothers; state laws on the issue tended to be very general.

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Bob Small: First Memorial Day Created By Blacks Here In Hampton Park

Memorial Day may signal the beginning of the summer for many. A time for cook-outs and being with friends and family, but few know that the first widely publicized event, then called “Decoration Day”, was held in Charleston to honor the Union dead and was put together by many of the newly freed Black men and women. On May 1, 1865, more than 10,000 black freedmen and women including 3,000 children gathered at the old Race Track now known as Hampton Park track to honor dead Union soldiers who were buried there. They cleaned up the area and placed flowers on the graves of the unknown soldiers. The event was highly publicized and covered by a number of newspapers nationally. To many of the white citizens it was looked upon more as an Emancipation for the newly freed black men and women. Preachers and white northern missionaries gave speeches and thanks to those who had lost their lives in the Civil War. A war that claimed over 600,000 lives on both sides.

Charleston had been a holding place for captured Union Soldiers and at least 257 soldiers died while in the custody of Confederate soldiers. They were buried in hastily dug unmarked graves around the race track as Confederates fled the city from advancing Union troops. Northern missionaries who helped organize the events for Decoration Day participated in songs and speeches. The response by the Black population was tremendous. Freedmen came from all over the state to participate. Many feeling that the Union soldiers had given their lives for their freedom rather than to bring the seceded states back into the Union. They cleaned up the burial grounds and erected an enclosure with an arch that read, “Martyrs of the Race Course.” Many of those in attendance brought flowers to lie on the graves. For the newly freed people it was their way of honoring those who had given their lives for their beliefs and the black population’s newfound freedom.

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Sahil Kapur: What Obama Can – And Cannot Do – On Immigration Reform By Executive Action

Amid fading prospects for immigration reform in Congress, President Barack Obama has signaled he’ll take executive action on enforcement to ease the burden for certain people in the country illegally who don’t have criminal records. On his order, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson is conducting a review of U.S. enforcement policies in order to determine how to implement the law in  the smartest and most humane way. One area where DHS feels confident in its authority to act is the prioritization enforcement resources, sources familiar with the matter say. Under the legal theory of “prosecutorial discretion,” the department could decide, for instance, to prioritize removal of dangerous criminals who pose serious safety threats, such as gang members, drug dealers and repeat offenders. It could in turn de-prioritize action against those who have not committed crimes, (or committed lower-level crimes like DUIs) and steer resources away from those who have family ties in the U.S. and have lived here for a certain period of time. Under this approach, undocumented immigrants would technically remain subject to deportation. They’d simply be less likely to get picked up by the system.

A second category of executive action is more contentious: to formally let certain subsets of immigrants temporarily live in the U.S. without fear of deportation and perhaps apply for employment authorization. This would build upon the Obama administration’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program which granted two-year relief to certain young people brought to the country as children, referred to as DREAMers. The Obama administration feels less comfortable with expanding DACA because the legal issues are trickier. Granting a reprieve to a narrow, specific population arguably falls within the realm of enforcement discretion. But applying it to broader populations becomes problematic and may backfire legally and politically, as some immigration law experts have cautioned. “Republicans may challenge his actions in Court saying that they constitute a violation of the Separation of Powers,” said Eli Kantor, an immigration lawyer based in Beverly Hills, California. The one thing the president certainly cannot do is grant legal status to anyone in the country without proper documentation. “That’s absolutely Congress’s authority,” Chen said. That means any executive action Obama takes would, by definition, be temporary and theoretically reversible by the next president.

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NYT: Insurers Once On the Fence Plan To Join Health Exchanges In ’15

In a sign of the growing potential under the federal health care law, several insurers that have been sitting on the sidelines say they will sell policies on the new exchanges in the coming year, and others plan to expand their offerings to more states. “Insurers continue to see this as a good business opportunity,” said Larry Levitt, a health policy expert at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “They see it as an attractive market, with enrollment expected to ramp up in the second year.” Eight million people have signed up for coverage in 2014, and estimates put next year’s enrollment around 13 million.

In New Hampshire, for example, where Anthem Blue Cross is the only insurer offering individual coverage on the state exchange, two other plans, both from Massachusetts, say they intend to offer policies next year. UnitedHealth Group and Cigna, which were notable in their caution about the exchanges last year, are expected to enter more markets this year. In Washington State, United is among four new insurers that have told state regulators they are interested in offering plans in 2015.

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NYT: After Revival In San Antonio, Washington Comes Calling

When Mayor Julián Castro of San Antonio and local officials traveled to Washington in 2012 to meet President Obama’s housing secretary, Shaun Donovan, the agenda was about housing policy. But for Mr. Castro, it was personal, too. The meeting was about revitalizing the Wheatley Courts public housing project on San Antonio’s impoverished Eastside, once the heart of the city’s black community. But it also hit home for Mr. Castro, who grew up near the low-rent projects in the Mexican-American barrio on the other side of town. His mother worked for the housing authority, and his father lived in the projects on the city’s Westside as a teenager. Two years after that meeting in Washington, the Eastside is now the focus of a public and private revival, fueled in part by a nearly

$30 million grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to demolish and redevelop Wheatley Courts as housing for a broader mix of incomes, including low- and moderate-income families and market-rate households. If he receives Senate confirmation, Mr. Castro, whose twin brother, Joaquin, is a Democratic congressman representing San Antonio, apparently would become the first housing secretary in the 48-year history of the position whose parents lived and worked in public housing projects. “It’s precisely because he’s lived out the American dream that he’ll work his tail off to make sure more people can travel that same path and earn their own dreams as well,” Mr. Obama said as Mr. Castro and Mr. Donovan stood next to him at the White House.

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AP: Far Right, Euroskeptics Make Big Gains In EU Vote

Far-right and Euroskeptic parties made sweeping gains in European Parliament elections Sunday — triggering what one prime minister called a political “earthquake” by those who want to slash the powers of the European Union or abolish it altogether. Voters in 21 of the EU’s 28 nations went to the polls Sunday, choosing lawmakers for the bloc’s 751-seat legislature. The other seven countries in the bloc had already voted in a sprawling exercise of democracy that began Thursday in Britain and the Netherlands. One of the most significant winners was France’s far-right National Front party, which was the outright winner in France with 26 percent support— or 4.1 million votes.

“The sovereign people have spoken … acclaiming they want to take back the reins of their destiny,” party leader Marine Le Pen said in a statement. She called the results “the first step in a long march to liberty.” The National Front like other far-right parties across Europe promote anti-immigrant and often anti-Semitic policies. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, in an impassioned televised speech, called the National Front win “more than a news alert … it is a shock, an earthquake.” French President Francois Hollande’s office announced he would hold urgent talks first thing Monday with top government ministers in what French media called a crisis meeting.

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Austin Frakt: Staying On Parents’ Plan May Lead To Healthier Paychecks

One of the earliest pieces of the health-care law to go into effect — and one of the easiest to understand — was the one that allowed adults under age 26 to remain on their parents’ insurance plan. It has long been clear that the policy has somewhat increased the insurance rate among young adults. Now a new study suggests the effects may be much broader, also leading to increases in educational attainment and the wages of young adults. The findings suggest that the health law has given young adults more flexibility to make decisions they think are best for them financially, rather than making decisions simply to obtain health insurance.

With coverage from their parents’ plans, they can remain in college or graduate school, rather than leaving to take a job that provides health insurance. With coverage in place, once students leave school, they can consider a broader range of jobs, including some that do not offer good health insurance or any health insurance. This finding is consistent with the academic literature on “job lock,” which has consistently shown that people who do not need to take a job with employer-based coverage have more flexibility, resulting in better employment matches with higher wages on average.

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Benjamin Goad: Administration Demands Equal Education For Ilegal Immigrants

Schools cannot require students or their parents to provide Social Security numbers, birth certificates or other documentation showing citizenship status as a condition of enrollment under formal Obama administration guidance issued. The directive to all public school districts, meant to ensure equal access to education for the nation’s illegal immigrants, comes amid reports that some children have wrongfully been denied enrollment. Attorney General Eric Holder said such policies “have a chilling effect on student enrollment, raising barriers for undocumented children and children from immigrant families who seek to receive the public education to which they are entitled.” “Public school districts have an obligation to enroll students regardless of immigration status and without discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin,”

Holder said. “We will vigilantly enforce the law to ensure the schoolhouse door remains open to all.” The new guidance from the departments of Justice and Education is an update of similar guidelines issued three years ago. The mandate to provide equal education to all children stems from the Supreme Court’s 1982 Plyler vs. Doe ruling, which prohibited a school district from charging illegal immigrants extra tuition fees. The new guidance makes clear that schools may request certain documentation showing the age and address of children in order to determine whether they are eligible to enroll. But they may not ask about a child or family’s citizenship status, or deny enrollment on grounds that a student is an illegal immigrant.

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Audrey Dutton: Idaho Medicaid Enrollment Climbs 

The number of people on Medicaid in Idaho rose almost 6 percent since the launch of Idaho’s health-insurance exchange last fall even though Idaho is one of the states that has not expanded Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act. The increase is sharper than usual. That’s partly because more people discovered they qualified for Medicaid during the process of shopping for health insurance to comply with the Affordable Care Act, which requires all Americans to be insured.

It’s also because Idaho is now using federal systems to check information for Medicaid renewals, making the process smoother for people already enrolled in the program, according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. “This is a positive change for Idaho, as it ensures that those who are eligible for Medicaid can maintain coverage without burdensome administrative processes that cause individuals to [lose Medicaid] unnecessarily, causing problems for families and providers,” said Tom Shanahan, spokesman for the department. He said the change also cuts down on administrative costs.

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TPM: Obama Administration Will Let Veterans Seek Care At Private Hospitals

The Obama administration’s decision to allow more veterans to get care at private hospitals could take some pressure off backlogged Veterans Affairs facilities struggling to cope with new patients from the wars on terrorism as well as old soldiers from prior conflicts. Agreeing to recommendations from lawmakers, the administration said Saturday it will allow more veterans to obtain treatment at private hospitals and clinics in an effort to improve care.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki also said VA facilities are enhancing capacity of their clinics so veterans can get care sooner. In cases where officials cannot expand capacity at VA centers, the Department of Veterans Affairs is “increasing the care we acquire in the community through non-VA care,” Shinseki said. Lawmakers from both parties have pressed for this policy change as the VA confronts allegations about treatment delays and falsified records at VA centers nationwide.

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Brian Beutler: Mitch McConnell’s Obamacare Spin Misleads Kentucky’s ACA Beneficiaries

Now that Mitch McConnell’s emancipated himself from the exigencies of the Republican primary process, he’ll need to figure out how to square his primary-friendly view that Obamacare should be wiped off the books with the complicating fact that over 400,000 Kentuckians obtained insurance through the Affordable Care Act over the past several months. He just took a new line of obfuscation for a test drive. Assuming it’s been accurately characterized, it’s incredibly misleading. “McConnell told reporters Friday that the fate of the state exchange is unconnected to the federal health care law,” according to the Associated Press.

“Yet the exchange would not exist, if not for the law that created it.” If McConnell successfully wipes Obamacare off the books next year (which he won’t), Kynect might not go away. But the Medicaid expansion will. And the private insurance subsidies will. And the rules allowing and requiring uninsured people of all health statuses to become customers will, too. Insurance carriers will follow. Or else they’ll replace the plans they currently offer with much less generous ones. And hundreds of thousands of people will lose their coverage anyhow.

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NYT: In Russia, Tune Changes About Leader In Ukraine

Petro O. Poroshenko, the billionaire businessman who won Ukraine’s presidential election on Sunday, was portrayed last month in a bilious campaign profile on Russian television here as money-grubbing, devious, a radical sympathizer — in short, a run-of-the-mill Ukrainian politician to Russian eyes. The program on NTV, a Kremlin ally, said he owned a mansion resembling the White House, clear evidence of dangerous Western sympathies. The report mocked him as “The Chocolate Rabbit,” twisting his usual nickname, “The Chocolate King,” from his confectionary fortune.

A scientist, or at least someone wearing a white coat, materialized on screen to denounce his popular Roshen chocolate brand as riddled with carcinogens. Then as Mr. Poroshenko emerged as the front-runner, a change occurred. The attacks ceased, and his chocolate factory in southern Russia, which government police had shuttered, was allowed to operate again. President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia even mentioned the chocolates in passing on TV as edible, and, in recent days, he has said on various occasions that he would work with whatever new leadership emerges in Kiev.

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Bryce Covert: Workers At This Giant Retail Company Are Really Happy With Their Pay

In an analysis of employee feedback shared on Glassdoor over the past year, just one retailer comes in the top 25 for top marks on pay and benefits: Costco. In fact, the company is ranked at number two on the list, although has the same rating — 4.4 — as the top rated company, Google. It also beats out some big tech companies, which are often thought of as paying well and giving workers good perks, like Facebook, Adobe, and Microsoft. Costco has become known for paying its workers more than is typical in the retail sector, where median pay is $10.29 an hour.

Its starting pay is $11.50 an hour and even the lowest paid positions report on Glassdoor that they make $11.80 on average. Across all positions, its average pay is nearly $22. It also offers benefits, with 88 percent of employees enrolled in company-sponsored health insurance. On top of that, it offers significant room for advancement: 70 percent of its warehouse managers, who can expect to make about $22 an hour on average, started in the company’s lower ranked positions. This engenders high levels of worker loyalty, as its turnover rate is just 5 percent for those who have been there for more than a year.

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Future Obamacrats and proud of it. :)

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On This Day

President Obama meets with Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor, the nominee to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter, and Vice President Biden, prior to an announcement in the East Room, May 26, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama embraces Sen. Harry Reid during a Las Vegas fundraiser for the senator at Caeser’s Palace, May 26, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama arrive at Stansted Airport, May 26, 2011

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The President and members of the White House staff look out the window of Air Force One to view tornado damage over Moore, Oklahoma. May 26, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama greets Gov. Mary Fallin after arriving at Tinker Air Force base in Midwest City, Sunday, May 26, 2013

President Obama tours tornado damage along a block of Eagle Drive in Moore, Okla., May 26, 2013. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, and local officials accompany him (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

 

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25
May
14

The Commander-In-Chief Honors Our Troops

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President Barack Obama waves as he arrives for a troop rally after arriving at Bagram Air Field for an unannounced visit, north of Kabul, Afghanistan.

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Eyder Peralta: On Memorial Day Eve, President Obama Visits Troops In Afghanistan

Under the cover of darkness and on the eve of Memorial Day, President Obama landed at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan for a surprise visit with U.S. troops. After a concert from country music star Brad Paisley, Obama spoke before a rally of 32,000 Americans currently serving in Afghanistan. Obama made a bit of news, saying he was hopeful that a new president in Afghanistan would lead to a signed security agreement that would leave a small number of American troops in the country after 2014. That agreement has been elusive under the government of Hamid Karzai. Obama, however, mostly focused on thanking the troops and reminding them about the beginning of America’s longest-running war.

“To all of you, I’m here on a single mission and that is to thank you for your extraordinary service,” Obama said to resounding applause. Obama got a few laughs with references to sports and his singing, but toward the middle of the address he became serious. He said the U.S. is at a pivotal moment in its mission in Afghanistan. At the moment, U.S. forces are playing a support role to Afghan security forces. By the end of the year, the U.S. combat mission will come to an end. “For many of you, this will be your last tour in Afghanistan,” Obama said, again receiving a raucous applause.

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A U.S. serviceman takes a photo of U.S. President Barack Obama as he speaks to troops deployed in Afghanistan

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President Barack Obama is briefed by Marine General Joseph Dunford, commander of the US-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and US Ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham

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Reuters: Obama, In Afghanistan Says He Will Make Troop Announcement Soon

President Barack Obama, on a visit to Afghanistan, said on Sunday his administration would likely announce soon how many troops the United States will keep in the country, as it winds down its presence after nearly 13 years of war. Speaking at a briefing by military commanders at Bagram Air Base, Obama said one of the reasons for his visit was to discuss the U.S. footprint for the rest of this year – when the bulk of troops are scheduled to be withdrawn – and afterward. “We’ll probably be announcing some decisions fairly shortly,” said Obama, who flew into Bagram for a brief, surprise visit. At Bagram, Obama was briefed by Army General Joseph Dunford, who heads U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, and U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham.

Obama left Washington under cover of darkness on Saturday night and flew for more than 13 hours to arrive at Bagram on Sunday night local time. He brought with him country music star Brad Paisley to provide entertainment for the troops. Obama inherited two wars from his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush, when he took office for his first term in 2009. He ended U.S. involvement in Iraq, a war he opposed, and his visit to Bagram was seen as a final trip to Afghanistan to salute American forces who are to leave soon. In recent months he has recognized the valor of troops who faced combat in both Iraq and Afghanistan and earlier this month he was on hand for the formal dedication of the National September 11 Memorial Museum in New York at the site where the World Trade Center towers were brought down by hijacked-plane attackers in 2001.

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U.S. troops deployed in Afghanistan listen to President Barack Obama speak

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25
May
14

President Obama in Afghanistan

Also at White House Live

25
May
14

He Never Rests

President Obama walks alongside US Ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham after disembarking from Air Force One upon arrival at Bagram Air Field, north of Kabul, in Afghanistan, May 25, 2014, on a surprise trip to visit US troops

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Live: President Obama speaks to U.S. troops in Afghanistan

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06
Apr
14

Rise and Shine

President Obama talks to Coach Mike Krzyzewski, who led Duke to win the NCAA Men’s Division One Basketball Championship, in the Oval Office, April 6, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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The Week Ahead

Today: The President has no public events scheduled.

Monday: The President will travel to Prince George’s County, MD to host an event on the economy. Following this event, he will meet with the Commander-in-Chief and Executive Director of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Tuesday: The President  will host an event on the economy at the White House.

Wednesday: The President and the First Lady will travel to Houston, TX. The President will attend DCCC and DSCC events. More details regarding the President and First Lady’s travel to Houston will be forthcoming.

Thursday: The President and the First Lady will travel to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library in Austin, TX. The President will deliver remarks at a Civil Rights Summit to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act. The President and the First Lady will return to Washington, DC, in the afternoon.

Friday: The President will travel to New York, NY to deliver remarks at the National Action Network’s 16th Annual Convention.

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KEYE Tv: President Obama To Attend Memorial At Ft. Hood

A White House aide says President Barack Obama plans to attend a memorial service Wednesday at Fort Hood — the site of last week’s shooting rampage. A Fort Hood spokesman confirms there will be a remembrance ceremony that day, and presidential adviser Dan Pfeiffer tells CBS’ “Face the Nation” that Obama will be there. Investigators say that an Army truck driver, Ivan Lopez, had an argument before opening fire at the Texas post last Wednesday, killing three soldiers and wounding 16 others before taking his own life.

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White House: Statement By The President On Elections In Afghanistan

On behalf of the American people, I congratulate the millions of Afghans who enthusiastically participated in today’s historic elections, which promise to usher in the first democratic transfer of power in Afghanistan’s history and which represent another important milestone in Afghans taking full responsibility for their country as the United States and our partners draw down our forces.

We commend the Afghan people, security forces, and elections officials on the turnout for today’s vote –- which is in keeping with the spirited and positive debate among candidates and their supporters in the run-up to the election.

These elections are critical to securing Afghanistan’s democratic future, as well as continued international support, and we look to the Afghan electoral bodies to carry out their duties in the coming weeks to adjudicate the results –- knowing that the most critical voices on the outcome are those of Afghans themselves.

Today, we also pay tribute to the many Americans –- military and civilian –- who have sacrificed so much to support the Afghan people as they take responsibility for their own future.

The United States continues to support a sovereign, stable, unified, and democratic Afghanistan, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with the new government chosen by the Afghan people on the basis of mutual respect and mutual accountability.

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Jim Kuhnhenn: Obama To Sign Executive Order With Equal Pay Rules For Federal Contractors

Lacking congressional backing to raise wages or end gender pay disparities, President Barack Obama is imposing his policies directly on federal contractors, following a long-established tradition of presidents exerting their powers on a fraction of the economy directly under their control. This week, the president will sign an executive order that would prohibit federal contractors from retaliating against employees who discuss their pay with each other. The prohibition on the wage “gag rules” is similar to language in a Senate bill aimed at closing a pay gap between men and women. That legislation is scheduled for a vote this week, though it is not likely to pass.

In addition, Obama on Tuesday will direct the Labor Department to adopt regulations requiring federal contractors to provide compensation data based on sex and race. The president will sign the executive order and the presidential memo during an event at the White House where he will be joined Lilly Ledbetter, whose name appears on a pay discrimination law Obama signed in 2009.Separately, on Monday, Obama will also announce the 24 schools that will share in more than $100 million in grants to redesign their schools to better prepare high school students for college or for careers. The awards are part of an executive order Obama signed last year. Money for the program comes from fees that companies pay for visas to hire foreign workers for specialized jobs.

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Michael Hiltzik: A Look At How Many Obamacare Enrollees Were Uninsured: 5.4 Million

As we observed earlier this week, one of the obsessions of opponents of the Affordable Care Act is the question of how many enrollees in Obamacare health plans already had insurance. The goal is to knock down the latest enrollment numbers by suggesting that most of the 7.1 million people enrolled through the individual insurance exchanges just moved from one insurance plan to another in a waste of time and effort. The real figure probably won’t be known for weeks, even months. But researchers at the Urban Institute’s Health Policy Center have weighed in with their own estimate. They’re figuring that the ACA has reduced the number of uninsured Americans by 5.4 million from the first quarter of 2013 through early March this year.

Their estimate is based on data from their March 2014 Health Reform Marketing Survey, which consists of public polling. Their finding is that the uninsurance rate for adults ages 18–64 was 15.2% for the nation in early March, a decline of 2.7 percentage points since September 2013, just before open enrollment on the exchanges began Oct. 1. “This represents a gain in coverage for about 5.4 million adults,” they write. Although the Urban Institute figures aren’t keyed to the enrollment figures, it’s worth observing that if all those newly insureds were among those who signed up on the individual exchanges, that would mean that of the 7.1 million enrollees, 77% were previously uninsured.

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AP: Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Over Drone Strikes

A federal judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit against Obama administration officials for the 2011 drone-strike killings of three U.S. citizens in Yemen, including an al-Qaida cleric. Permitting a lawsuit against individual officials “under the circumstances of this case would impermissibly draw the court into ‘the heart of executive and military planning and deliberation,'” said Collyer. She said the suit would require the court to examine national security policy and the military chain of command as well as operational combat decisions regarding the designation of targets and how best to counter threats to the United States. “Defendants must be trusted and expected to act in accordance with the U.S. Constitution when they intentionally target a U.S. citizen abroad at the direction of the president and with the concurrence of Congress,” said Collyer. “They cannot be held personally responsible in monetary damages for conducting war.” The lawsuit sought unspecified damages.

Anwar al-Awlaki’s classification as a key leader raises fundamental questions regarding the conduct of armed conflict, Collyer’s 41-page opinion stated. The Constitution commits decision-making in this area to the president, as commander in chief, and to Congress, the judge said. U.S.-born al-Qaida leader al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, an al-Qaida propagandist, were killed in a drone strike in September 2011. Al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman, was killed the following month.  Anwar al-Awlaki had been linked to the planning and execution of several attacks targeting U.S. and Western interests, including a 2009 attempt on Christmas Day on a Detroit-bound airliner and a 2010 plot against cargo planes. “The fact is that Anwar al-Awlaki was an active and exceedingly dangerous enemy of the United States, irrespective of his distance, location, and citizenship,” said Collyer. “As evidenced by his participation in the Christmas Day attack, Anwar al-Awlaki was able to persuade, direct, and wage war against the United States from his location in Yemen, without being present on an official battlefield or in a hot war zone.” She said that the U.S. government moved against al-Awlaki as authorized by the defendants and she said the officials acted in accordance with the Authorization for Use of Military Force, which was enacted by Congress after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

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Bruce Japsen: Medicare Seniors Like ObamaCare’s Team Approach

As the U.S. health care system moves away from fee-for-service medicine to more accountable care that uses a teamof health professionals, seniors covered by Medicare say they are okay with these new models that include nurses, social workers and other allied health professionals in the front lines of their treatment, according to a new analysis. Increasingly, the Medicare health insurance program for the elderly as part of the Affordable Care Act is moving to a system that rewards doctors and hospitals for working together to improve care. A new national survey of adults 65 and older from the John A. Hartford Foundation about “team care and the medical home” shows 27 percent say they get this kind of care right now, they like it and it has improved their health.

The openness to new models debunks theories by some in health care who think patients only want to see a doctor for all their health care needs. The bulk of the sample, or 73 percent say they want such care and 61 percent say they believe it would improve their health. Medicare, too, is moving aggressively toward more accountable models with success achieving savings. In the first year of the Medicare Shared Savings Program, almost half of the ACOs that started operations in 2012 had lower medical expenses than projected, exceeding their quality benchmarks, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. There were 29 ACOs that generated shared savings of more than $125 million.

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Bloomberg: Private U.S. Payrolls Top Pre-Recession Peak

Private employers in the world’s largest economy reached an important milestone in March: they have made up all the jobs lost as a result of the recession, and then some. The CHART OF THE DAY shows payrolls excluding government agencies climbed to 116.1 million, surpassing the prior peak of 116 million in January 2008. Winning industries include mining and logging, education and health care, and professional services. Manufacturing and construction have lagged behind.

“Private-sector employment has popped its head out of the hole, and finally replaced the headcount lost due to the recession,” said Ward McCarthy, chief financial economist at Jefferies LLC in New York. “The labor market is the heartbeat of the economy, so when it finally gets to the point where it’s growing again, good things happen.” The recovery in private payrolls signals better times ahead for Americans still looking for work and lays the ground for a gradual pickup in wages and consumer spending, according to McCarthy. Steady progress also will probably prompt Federal Reserve policy makers to continue trimming stimulus while keeping interest rates low.

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Cynthia Tucker: Irrational Hatred Of Obamacare Is Hard To Fathom

My friend Isatou has just received an invoice from Kaiser Permanente, testament to her new coverage through the Affordable Care Act — usually called “Obamacare.” She’s thrilled to finally have health insurance so she can get regular checkups, including dental care. A reasonably healthy middle-aged woman, she knows she needs routine mammograms and screenings for maladies such as hypertension. But before Obamacare, she struggled to pay for those things. She once had to resort to the emergency room, which left her with a bill for nearly $20,000. (She settled the bill for far less, but it still left her deeply in debt.) She is one of more than 7 million people who have signed up for health insurance through the ACA, stark evidence of the overwhelming market demand.

Now, young adults can stay on their parents’ health insurance policies until they are 26 years old — a boon in an economy where many young folks are struggling to find decent jobs. Now, patients with previously diagnosed illnesses (“pre-existing conditions,” in insurance lingo) can’t be denied coverage. Now, the chronically ill don’t have to worry about hitting a lifetime cap that would deny them essential procedures or pharmaceuticals. Now, working folks who don’t get insurance through their employers can purchase affordable policies. The GOP’s relentless opposition has been puzzling. Republicans have resorted to extreme measures to try to derail Obamacare, including an implicit threat to prevent the National Football League from participating in a marketing campaign to encourage people to sign up.It’s strange. Could it be that Republicans are simply furious that millions of Americans like Isatou finally have health insurance?

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Bloomberg: Cement Deals Lay Foundation For Building Boom

For signs that construction is on the mend, look no further than the cement industry. Money being spent to acquire suppliers of building materials worldwide is surging to the highest level since at least May 2008, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. After $22 billion of deals in the past 12 months, Holcim Ltd. (HOLN) and Lafarge SA (LG) — the world’s two biggest cement makers with a combined market value of more than $50 billion — are in advanced merger talks. “What we’re seeing is a recognition by these companies that the bottom is in and that the recovery is happening,” Todd Vencil, a Richmond, Virginia-based analyst at Sterne Agee Group Inc., said in a phone interview.

“Companies are feeling confident enough about that to have the buyers and sellers able to come together now.” In the U.S., construction spending increased 8.7 percent in the 12 months ended in February and 9.4 percent in the period ended in January, the fastest since 2006, data from the Census Bureau compiled by Bloomberg show. U.S. cement consumption will rise 8.1 percent this year to 86 million metric tons and will continue to increase through 2018, according to estimates from the Portland Cement Association.

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Tara McGuiness: While Marketplace Enrollment Ended, Medicaid Enrollment Continues

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has already provided coverage to millions of Americans. More than 7.1 million Americans signed up for coverage through the Marketplaces, 3 million additional young adults were covered under their parents’ insurance and millions more will have access through Medicaid. A new report shows that more people are gaining coverage through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) as a result of the health law. The analysis, produced by the Health and Human Services Department shows enrollment in Medicaid and CHIP in February was at least 3 million people higher than it was, on average, between July and September. That does not include March, which saw an enormous spike in Marketplace enrollment and traffic to HealthCare.gov.

While this is great progress, states where governors or legislatures refuse to implement the Medicaid expansion provisions of the law will leave 5.7 million Americans uninsured. States that have expanded Medicaid, such as Kentucky and New York, have seen particularly dramatic declines in their uninsured populations. Just take Kentucky, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal, Kentucky has seen a 40 percent drop in its rate of uninsured since October 1.While open enrollment for the Marketplaces closed on March 31st, Medicaid coverage enrollment continues year round. That means we are going to continue, working with partners, to sign people up for Medicaid. We have made improvements to our systems and we are ramping up the tactics and tools that are working to reach uninsured Americans. We have learned that Medicaid expansion had a positive impact in getting people covered, as enrollment growth in states that expanded Medicaid was over 5 times higher than in other states (8.3 percent versus 1.6 percent).

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AlJazeera America: Medicaid Boosted By 3 Million, Bringing ‘Obamacare’ Sign-Ups To 10 Million

Three million lower-income Americans have enrolled in the Medicaid program so far during the rollout of U.S. President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform law. That brings to more than 10 million the number of people who have signed up for both public and private health coverage since the Oct. 1 launch of the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. This week, the White House announced there were 7.1 million sign-ups as of March 31 for private health plans through new electronic insurance marketplaces now operating in all 50 states.

The current data includes people who qualify for Medicaid programs that have existed for decades, but it does seem as if the health care law is the reason behind many of the new enrollees: Medicaid enrollment has been brisker in states that are expanding the program – with a rate 8.3 percent higher than before Oct. 1. States that have not expanded Medicaid have seen enrollment rise by only 1.6 percent.

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Joe Conason: On Our Highest Court, A Former Lobbyist Guts Campaign Finance Reform

It was Kennedy who wrote the majority opinion in Citizens United, which dismissed the notion that corruption will arise from unlimited political campaign contributions because they will all be disclosed. “Citizens can see whether elected officials are ‘in the pocket’ of so-called moneyed interests …and disclosure permits citizens and shareholders to react to the speech of corporate entities in a proper way,” he wrote. “This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages.” But if any Supreme Court justice knows how ridiculous that sounds, it must be Kennedy – whose own background as a corporate lobbyist and son of a lobbyist has been forgotten in nearly three decades since his Senate confirmation in 1987. His father, Anthony “Bud” Kennedy, was a backslapping, hard-drinking partner in a powerful lobbying law firm run by one Arthur “Artie” Samish, “the “secret boss of California” who finally went to prison on tax charges in the mid-1950s, while young Tony was studying to enter law school.

Samish liked to brag that he had amassed more power than anyone else in the state, including the governor, that he could buy any legislator with “a baked potato, a bottle, or a broad,” and that he was able to “unelect” any lawmaker who didn’t vote his way. The major clients of Samish and Kennedy were racing, entertainment, and liquor interests, notably including Schenley Industries, then run by J. Edgar Hoover’s mobbed-up pal Lewis Rosenstiel. When Bud Kennedy died suddenly in 1963, young Tony was only two years out of law school. But he went into the family business and inherited his late father’s clientele. While Kennedy always insisted that lobbying was only a “sideline” in his law practice, his billings were substantial – the equivalent of hundreds of thousands or more in today’s dollars. In 1974, he pushed through a bill for Capitol Records that saved the company (and cost the state) millions in sales taxes. How did he do it? The same way that special interests work their will today – by doling out huge wads of cash to lawmakers on behalf of his clients.

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Washington Post: Facing Obamacare Deadline, More Young People Signed Up In March

Five state-based health insurance marketplaces and the District of Columbia’s exchange have so far provided an age breakdown of people who signed up for coverage through March 31, the official end of open enrollment. Compared against numbers reported by the Department of Health and Human Services in January and February, young adults in March signed up at higher rates.These numbers don’t tell the whole story of youth enrollment, though. HHS hasn’t reported March demographic data for the 36 states where it’s operating the marketplaces. Nine other state-based exchanges also haven’t yet provided an age breakdown for March enrollment.

People who struggled to sign up before March 31 can still enroll before April 15 through HealthCare.gov, the federal enrollment portal. HHS said it doesn’t have a reliable estimate of how many are still trying to enroll. State-run exchanges have also allowed some deadline leeway. The numbers also don’t account for young adults who enrolled in coverage outside the exchanges. The online Web broker eHealthInsurance, which sells off-exchange plans nationwide, recently reported that 45 percent of its shoppers since Jan. 1 are between 18 and 34 years old. Insurers must consider exchange customers and non-exchange customers as part of the same risk pool if they’re selling in both markets.

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Jonathan Cohn: Obamacare Is Helping People Via Medicaid – Except In States Where Officials Are Fighting It

Some new Obamacare information: As of the end of February, the number of Americans on Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) was 3 million higher than it was at the beginning of the Affordable Care Act’s open enrollment period. It’s one more sign that the health care law is reducing the number of Americans without insurance significantly—although it doesn’t tell us by how much or whether, at year’s end, the reduction will live up to original projections. It’s also one more window into our growing geopolitical divide—between the part of America where officials are trying aggressively to help poor people get health insurance, and the part where officials are not. taking advantage of flexibility following the 2012 Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare, a large swath of mostly conservative states have opted not to expand eligibility.

As a result, millions of low-income Americans living in these states remain with no viable source of comprehensive coverage. The story is different in states that have expanded Medicaid. That explains the new figures, which the Department of Health and Human Services released on Friday morning. In states expanding Medicaid, enrollment in the two programs rose by more than 8 percent. In states that haven’t expanded Medicaid, enrollment rose by just 1.8 percent. Presumably a lot of these people were already eligible for Medicaid but either didn’t know it or hadn’t decided to do it before they heard about Obamacare. Wonks call this the “woodworking” effect.

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 On This Day:

Sen. Barack Obama, D-IL, talks on his cell phone outside of the Senate chamber during a cloture vote on the immigration reform bill on April 6, 2006, on Capitol Hill in Washington

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President Obama speaks with National Security Advisor Gen. James Jones following a reception with Turkish President Abdullah Gul and heads of state attending the Alliance of Civilizations Dinner April 6, 2009, at Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul, Turkey (Photo by Pete Souza)

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The Mount Ennon Baptist Church Children’s Chorus, from Clinton, Md., perform at an Easter Prayer Breakfast with Christian leaders in the East Room of the White House, April 6, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama walks to an outdoor meeting with, from left, Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor, Dan Pfeiffer, communications director, Jim Messina, deputy chief of staff, and Bob Bauer, counsel to the President, in the Rose Garden of the White House, April 6, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama and Vice President Biden meet with staff in the Oval Office following a late night meeting with House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on the budget, April 6, 2011. Pictured, from left, are: Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew; Rob Nabors, Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs; Senior Advisor David Plouffe; and Director of Communications Dan Pfeiffer (Photo by Pete Souza)

First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, bottom right, meet with Members on Congress to discuss the Joining Forces military families initiative in the Map Room of the White House, April 6, 2011 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Filmmaker Spike Lee uses his iPad to photograph President Obama as he greets guests at the National Action Network’s Keepers of the Dream awards gala in New York, N.Y., April 6, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden greet participants during a roundtable meeting with military spouses, veterans, and volunteers to discuss the Joining Forces military families initiative in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, April 6, 2011 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden talk to AFPS reporter Elaine Sanchez about “Joining Forces,” the new White House initiative to raise awareness about the challenges facing military families, in the Map Room at the White House, April 6, 2011

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President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama host a Passover Seder Dinner for family, staff and friends, in the Old Family Dining Room of the White House, April 6, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama host a Passover Seder Dinner for family, staff and friends, in the Old Family Dining Room of the White House, April 6, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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28
Mar
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama greets U.S. troops at a mess hall at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, March 28, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (all times US Eastern):

5:35 AM: President Obama departs Rome

10:10 AM: Arrives Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

11:00 AM: Meets with Saudi King Abdullah

The President will remain overnight in Saudi Arabia.

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Paul Krugman: Obamacare Fails to Fail

…. Predictably, Republicans are in an uproar over the latest tweak to the Obamcare signups — an extension of the March 31 deadline for people who say that they tried to apply but encountered technical difficulty. As Jonathan Cohn says, the real objection here seems to be not so much that Obama is overstepping his bounds as that this will make it possible for more people to get insurance.

But I also have the sense that people in the GOP are still working with a completely wrong narrative — namely, that Obamacare is failing, and that these are desperate ploys to save a sinking ship. The reality is quite different: enrollments have clearly surged in the final month. Charles Gaba is now projecting 6.4 million through the exchanges, and many more directly purchased from insurers.

…. How will the GOP respond when the numbers come in? … There really isn’t any room in their worldview for the possibility that this thing might work.

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National Journal: Obamacare’s Invisible Victory – Why the total enrollment number is actually bigger than you think.

Obamacare friends and foes alike are eagerly watching the law’s insurance-enrollment tally, ready to trumpet every success or pounce on every failure.

But as the final figures before the end of open enrollment are posted, a significant chunk of people who bought insurance under the law will be missing from the official tally.

That’s because people who bought insurance directly from insurers, and not through the law’s exchanges, will not be included. And just how many people that represents is a figure that will not be available in time for the big enrollment-total reveal — and likely not for a long time after.

Off-exchange enrollment is the forgotten piece of the Affordable Care Act, but it could represent millions of people who are also getting covered as a result of the health care law — many of whom are the young, healthy customers the administration is so aggressively pursuing.

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Brian Beutler: Tragedy for Republicans: More people will be getting health insurance!

Putting it out there now: By May 1, enrollment in ACA-compliant health plans through federally facilitated and state-based exchanges will hit the symbolic 7 million mark, and conservatives will whine that it doesn’t count because something something.

…. My confidence stems from the Obama administration’s decision, announced Wednesday, to create a grace period of sorts for people who have attempted to apply for coverage on healthcare.gov but got sidelined along the way.

This would annoy and delight conservatives under any circumstances, just as every Obamacare delay and exception annoys and delights conservatives. But what genuinely pisses them off in this circumstance is that the administration has set up a system that’s deliberately easy to game, for the purposes of increasing enrollment.

The spirit of the extension is to give people who’ve already begun the process by March 31 a small amount of time to complete their unfinished applications, and to insure against the possibility that the system gets clogged up on the last couple days of the month. Administration officials, via Jonathan Cohn, compare this to making sure that people who are still in line when their polling places close are allowed to vote.

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Steve Benen: ACA enrollment tops 6 million

…. It’s easy to forget, but this seemed like a pipe dream last fall. In October, the first month of the open-enrollment period, just 106,185 consumers signed up for insurance through an exchange – causing Republicans to not only celebrate, but to openly mock the system by noting a variety of sports venues that hold more than 106,185 attendees.

It was obviously proof, we were told at the time, that the Affordable Care Act itself was “hurtling toward failure.”

Oops.

The enrollment totals must seem literally unbelievable to Republicans, who managed to convince one another that the ACA is not only catastrophically flawed, but on an inevitable road towards imploding ….as Paul Krugman noted earlier today, “How will the GOP respond when the numbers come in?”

I don’t know the answer to that question, but I suspect it’ll have something to do with Benghazi.

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ThinkProgress: 12 Times Republicans Claimed Nobody Would Sign Up For Obamacare

President Obama’s announcement on Thursday that six million people signed-up for coverage through the Affordable Care Act — meeting and exceeding the administration’s deadline days before the March 31st enrollment period — undermines critics who seized on the law’s troubled early rollout to predict that measure could never attract enough Americans to succeed. Below are some of the worst predictions after the administration published the first enrollment figures in November of 2013:

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Oh, Chuck Todd. Look at his pathetic response to the mighty Donna:

Hats off to Donna for challenging the worthless toerag low-life shill.

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This, x 1,000,000,000 ->

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SmartyPants: The Obama Doctrine

After the decision was made to intervene militarily in Libya, some pundits made the case that an Obama Doctrine was evident and called it “leading from behind.” I’d suggest that is a small part of an emerging Obama Doctrine – but not the heart of things. As the President openly takes the lead on responding to the situation in the Ukraine, we can see how flawed it was.

Watching President Obama deal with various foreign policy challenges over the last year, a much more comprehensive view of how he approaches these things is evident. His North Star when it comes to evaluating situations and developing a strategy to deal with them is three-fold.

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ThinkProgress: This One Simple Graphic Explains The Difference Between Climate Science And Climate Politics:

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USA Today: Obama to host Olympians at White House

President Obama will host the U.S. Winter Olympics and Paralympics teams next week at the White House.

The event will be Thursday, April 3.

The president and first lady Michelle Obama “will congratulate the Olympians and Paralympians on their performance and thank them for representing the United States during the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia,” says the White House.

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Look away now mother: President Obama leaving Italy this morning.

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On This Day:

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) smiles as he holds a baby following his speech to supporters at Soldiers and Sailors Military Museum and Memorial in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh at the kick off his bus tour of Pennsylvania on March 28, 2008

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) speaks to supporters during a campaign rally at the Fort Worth Convention Center in Fort Worth, Texas February 28, 2008. More than 11,000 people attended the event, his third of the day

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President Obama arrives at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, March 28, 2010, after an all-night secret flight on Air Force One. He was met by U.S. Ambassdor Karl Eikenberry and Gen. Stanley McChrystal, both at left (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama meets with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, March 28, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama waves to U.S. troops at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, March 28, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama greets U.S. troops at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, March 28, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama meets with U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, left, and Gen. Stanley McChrystal at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, March 28, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama speaks at a town hall meeting hosted by Univision at Bell Multicultural High School in Washington, D.C., March 28. 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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A supporter holds a sign in front of the U.S. Supreme Court as the court hears it’s third day of arguments on the constitutionality of President Obama’s health care bill in Washington, D.C. on March 28, 2012

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President Obama hugs a member of a group of mothers who are for tougher gun laws after delivering remarks on gun violence during an event in the East Room at the White House on March 28, 2013

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MoooOOOooorning!

26
Feb
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama walks along along the Colonnade toward the Oval Office, Feb. 26, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today:

11:15 EST: President Obama departs the White House

12:50 CT: Arrives Minnesota

1:15: Tours the Metro Transit Light Rail Operations and Maintenance Facility; St. Paul, Minnesota

2:05 CT: Delivers remarks; Union Depot, St. Paul

3:05 CT: Departs Minnesota

6:25 EST: Arrives White House

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Tami Luhby: I’m Quitting My Job. Thanks Obamacare!

Now that Karen Willmus can get health insurance through Obamacare, she plans to quit teaching 9th grade English at the end of the school year. The 51-year-old found policies on the Colorado state exchange for about $300 a month. That’s less than what she’s paying now for employer-sponsored coverage and less than half what she paid on the individual market in 2007.  Obamacare is allowing them to become entrepreneurs or retire a few years early since they’ll be able to find affordable individual coverage for the first time. Instead of eating bonbons on her couch, Willmus plans to start her own business with her teen daughter publishing materials for non-native English speakers and others looking to improve their literacy. She expects to work even more than she does now and hire two or three people. “I can’t afford to go out and buy insurance while trying to start a business,” said Willmus, of Colorado Springs, Colo. “Obamacare will allow me to be more comfortable at risking what I own.”

For others, Obamacare frees them to leave a job before they qualify for Medicare. Edward Perri’s job as a grocery clerk has caused him constant back and knee pain in recent years, but he continued to work because he needed insurance. Obamacare allowed him to retire in December after 39 years, 4 months and 23 days on the job. His retiring at 57 allowed a more junior employee to move up on the job, said Perri, who is single and lives in Muskegon, Mich. Had Obamacare not existed, he’d either have to try to tough it out until he qualified for Medicare at 65 or pay $500 a month for COBRA coverage.  Instead, he’s paying $50 a month for a policy. And, as he sees it, the $450 that he would have sent to an insurance company is going to buy groceries, fix his car and take a vacation with his girlfriend. “That is money I spend in the local economy, creating and saving jobs,” he said.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates: ‘I Am Still Called By The God I Serve To Walk This Out’ 

I told her that I was stunned by her grace after the verdict. I told her the verdict greatly angered me. I told her that the idea that someone on that jury thought it plausible there was a gun in the car baffled me. I told her it was appalling to consider the upshot of the verdict—had Michael Dunn simply stopped shooting and only fired the shots that killed Jordan Davis, he might be free today. She said, “It baffles our mind too. Don’t think that we aren’t angry. Don’t think that I am not angry. Forgiving Michael Dunn doesn’t negate what I’m feeling and my anger. And I am allowed to feel that way. But more than that I have a responsibility to God to walk the path He’s laid. In spite of my anger, and my fear that we won’t get the verdict that we want, I am still called by the God I serve to walk this out.”

I asked McBath how she felt about her country. She paused, then gave an answer that perfectly summed up the spirit of African-American patriotism. “I still love my country. It’s the only country we have. This is the best that I’ve got,” she said. “And I still believe that there are people here who believe in justness and fairness. And I still believe there are people here who don’t make judgments about people based on the color of the skin. I am a product of that. But I am disheartened that as far as we’ve come it doesn’t matter that we have a black president. It doesn’t matter how educated we’ve become. It doesn’t matter because there still is an issue of race in this country. No, we have not really arrived. If something like this can happen, we have not arrived. And I ask myself, ‘At what point are we going to get there?’ And I have no answer. And I want to be able to answer.”

She wanted you to know that Jordan Davis was an individual black person. That he was an upper-middle-class kid. That his ancestry was diverse. That he had blacks in his family. Mexicans in his family. Panamanians in his family. That his great-grandfather was white. That some of his ancestors had passed.  Now she addressed him, “You exist,” she told him. “You matter. You have value. You have every right to wear your hoodie, to play your music as loud as you want. You have every right to be you. And no one should deter you from being you. You have to be you. And you can never be afraid of being you.” She gave my son a hug and then went upstairs to pack.

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Gene Lyons: Why Republicans Will Never Stop Lying About Obamacare

Politically speaking, here’s the thing about those melodramatic ads attacking the Affordable Care Act currently running on TV: In terms of actual policy, they’re as futile as the 40-odd votes to repeal the law that House Republicans have already cast. GOP hardliners are like a drunk in a bar fight threatening to whip somebody twice his size if only his friends would let go of his arms. It’s all over but the shouting. Like it or not, the ACA is here to stay. Indeed, governors and legislatures in previously recalcitrant states including New Hampshire, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Utah and Virginia are considering Medicaid expansion they’d previously shunned.

Despite early signup problems with the federal HealthCare.gov exchange, signups for individual private policies have increased to where it now appears the ACA will come close to meeting its projected goal of 7 million enrollees by the March 31 deadline. In Arkansas, virtually every news program features a pretty, AFP-sponsored actress plaintively begging viewers to remind Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor that health care is about “people,” and that “the law just doesn’t work.” More in sorrow than anger, it seems, because Pryor remains personally popular. 

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Natelege Whaley: Rally To Remember Trayvon Martin And Jordan Davis To Be Held In NY

A day of outrage and remembrance for Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis will be held in Times Square in New York City on Wednesday, Feb. 26. Several other locations around the country will be holding marches including Los Angeles, Atlanta and Greensboro, North Carolina.

The rally is being organized by the Stop Mass Incarceration Network. The organization is calling for demonstrators to meet at the red bleachers on 47th street between Broadway and 7th Avenue at 6:30 p.m.

Participants are asked to wear a hoodie and to stand in silence holding up signs with targets stating “No More.” The signs can be printed here. The aim of the event is to refuse acceptance of Black and Latino youth as targets of violence in America.

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NYT: Solar Industry Jump-Starts A Revival In California

Back in 2009, when Danny Kennedy was looking for office space for the fast-growing solar services company he had co-founded, his venture capital investors recommended setting up shop in one of the “Twitterville kinds of areas” south of Market Street in San Francisco. There, social media and peer-to-peer pioneers like Foursquare, Yelp, Airbnb and, indeed, Twitter had created a technology zone where innovative ideas could fly free and cross-pollinate among young workers meeting casually over food and drink.

Instead — after looking at buildings he deemed “foggy and frumpy and cold and wet,” not to mention expensive — Mr. Kennedy ended up in an airy loft across the bay here at Jack London Square. In just four years, the company, Sungevity, has grown to 300 employees from 55 in its 11,000-square-foot space overlooking the Oakland Estuary, helping jump-start the area’s stalled revitalization. Taking things a step further, Mr. Kennedy, a former environmental advocate, has developed an incubator-accelerator program, the SfunCube, to attract and nurture other solar start-ups.

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Zero Hedge: Ukraine Calls Russia’s Bluff, Slashes  Nat Gas Imports By 80%

Twice in recent years, Russia has suspended gas supplies, or notably raised prices, as the somewhatwell-known “trump card” of Russia’s oil and gas supply to Ukraine (and Europe for that matter) remains Putin’s easiest option for clenching his iron-first against the divided nation. Following a pre-emptive move in November by Ukraine to diversify its energy supply,  Russia had reduced the price of gas for the highly indebted Ukraine in December (to entice Ukraine under Russia’s wing); but, after recent events, Dmitry Medvedev signaled on Monday that the price could be raised again. However, today we find that Ukraine’s state oil and gas company, Naftogaz, has slashed gas imports from Russia’s Gazprom by  stunning 80% in February as Ukraine tries to show Russia it can’t be pushed around… of course, with limited (and more expensive) alternative supplies, we fear this could well shoot them in the foot.

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NY Mag: Is It Mean To Debunk Lies About Obamacare?

Some eight months before the midterm elections, the airwaves are being flooded with the sad tales of Obamacare victims. The tales all fall into the same predictable rut. First, the poor victim steps forward to share his (or, more frequently, her) tale of deprivation. Then reporters discover the putative victim is either a non-victim, or possibly a beneficiary, of Obamacare. Then conservatives get angry. Finding a person made worse off by a huge, complex social-policy reform still in its first months in a gigantic country ought to be simple, yet the Republican Party has continuously failed to achieve even in the modest task which was its charge.

In her reply to President Obama’s State of the Union address, Cathy McMorris-Rogers held out the plight of “Bette from Spokane,” who is facing an astronomical price increase, which turned out to be highly inaccurate. The victim, Bette Grenier, could have secured a better plan if she had checked on the exchange, but told a reporter following up, “I wouldn’t go on that Obama website at all.” And yes, if the criteria for Obamacare victimhood includes forcing somebody to participate in a law designed by Barack Obama in order to save money, then any Obama-created health-care law is going to produce a lot of victims.

More here

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John Prendergast and George Clooney

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USA Today: Clooney: New Lost Boys Of South Sudan

The only activity in the hospital compound in Bor, South Sudan, these days is the dozens of vultures circling overhead. In mid-January, rebel forces swept into the Bor hospital, killing everyone that could not escape. Underscoring its crime, the group collected and burned the bodies of its victims. All that remains are bloodstained shoes, charred medicine vials, and overturned wheelchairs. Scorched patches of earth show where people were set on fire. When local residents are asked who was responsible, the answer is always the same: child soldiers of a militia called the White Army.

In the 1980s and 1990s, tens of thousands of boys from the southern part of Sudan were driven from their homes and forced to trek hundreds of miles in search of sanctuary. Many were press-ganged into military service. They crossed two international borders, faced surreal life-threatening challenges, and eventually given asylum by the U.S. government, landing them in places like Phoenix, Atlanta, and D.C. They came to be known as the Lost Boys. Today, renewed warfare in South Sudan is creating a new generation of Lost Boys.

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Jonathan Cohn: CBO On House Obamacare Bill: More Uninsured, Higher Deficits

The Congressional Budget Office just taught the Republican Party a lesson. Governing is hard. The CBO on Tuesday issued a formal cost estimate of House Resolution 2575, a bill from Republican Todd Young of Indiana. The bill’s formal title is the “Save American Workers Act.” Its goal is to change Obamacare’s employer mandate—the requirement that medium-sized and large businesses pay a penalty if they do not offer affordable health insurance to all full-time employees. The definition of “full-time” is anybody who works at least 30 hours a week. And, for some time, the media has been full of stories of employers—particularly low-wage employers, governments, and universities—reducing or limiting worker hours, in order to avoid the costs of coverage.

CBO takes a different view. Virtually every respectable economist who has looked at the numbers has determined that there’s been no large-scale shift in hours. It’s not that the anecdotes are fake. As Jed Graham of Investor’s Business Daily has shown, some businesses are clearly limiting the hours of employees. It’s that, ultimately, they don’t add up to that much. The CBO reached the same conclusion—suggesting, in effect, that Young’s bill is solving a problem that may not need solving. But that doesn’t mean Young’s bill would have no effect. On the contrary, CBO found, about one million fewer people would end up with employer health insurance. And while some of them would find other forms of coverage, like Medicaid and insurance from the new exchanges, overall the net bill’s net effect would be to increase the number of people without any insurance by about half a million. And it turns out that moving the full-time threshold from 30 to 40 hours has a substantial effect on revenue, according to CBO: Over the next ten year period, from 2015 to 2024, the federal government would take in $73 billion less. That’s real money.

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On This Day:

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Clinton speaks as Sen. Barack Obama looks on in a debate at Cleveland State University’s Wolstein Center February 26, 2008

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President Obama arrives to discuss his proposed 2010 budget in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building adjacent to the White House in Washington on February 26, 2009

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President Obama signs a wall during a tour of the International Brotherhood of Electricians (IBEW) Local 26 headquarters in Lanham, Md., Feb. 16, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama signs an executive order in the East Room of the White House February 26, 2010 in Washington, DC. Obama delivered remarks and signed an executive order for the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities during the event.

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President Obama greets Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Attorney General Eric Holder after speaking about the details of a $26 billion housing settlement between federal and state officials and mortgage lenders, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC on February 6, 2012

First Lady Michelle Obama listens to President Obama speak in the State Dining Room of the White House, February 26, 2012, during the Governors Dinner.

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President Obama waves to employees during a visit to Newport News Shipbuilding February 26, 2013 in Newport News, Virginia. Obama spoke on the impact from the sequester would be for the defense industry and its workers

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14

News Of The Day

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Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (D-OH) clasp hands as President Barack Obama signs the farm bill into law at Michigan State University in Lansing, Michigan

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NYT: In Signing Farm Bill, Obama Extols Rural Growth

President Obama signed the $956-billion farm bill on Friday at Michigan State University, where he extolled the benefits of a thriving agricultural sector for the nation’s overall economy. In his remarks, Mr. Obama announced a new “Made in Rural America” initiative that he said would help rural businesses market their goods abroad. White House officials also announced five regional forums on rural exports and an “investing in rural America” conference. Mr. Obama directed the White House Rural Council to host sessions in all 50 states to train Department of Agriculture staff members on how to promote rural exports.

The White House released a report Friday from Mr. Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers that said farm income had risen significantly since the president took office in the depths of the recession. The report says that farm income is expected to total $131 billion in 2013, a 46 percent increase since 2008. Most of the increase is attributed to improved productivity, and the report notes that the values of livestock and crops are rising. One of the most contentious elements of the farm bill was the elimination of $5 billion in direct subsidies to farmers for their crops, whether they grew them or not. The subsidies were replaced by an insurance program that will help farmers only when they need it.

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White House: You Can Say This Better Than We Ever Could

JoAnn S., Florida

“I haven’t had insurance in years and my husband had a shared insurance junk-type policy. The day I signed up on Dec 10, I actually cried when the application went through. I got my first premium notice in the mail yesterday and was never so happy to see a bill before.”

Gayla W., New Hampshire

“I lost my job last April. My partner and I both have pre-existing conditions so our only option was to COBRA my employer-provided plan — at a cost of $1,676 a month. It was a good plan, but now we have a comparable plan through the ACA for $87 a month. I can’t describe just how life changing this is for us. We can afford to live again.”

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Fred Kaplan: Barack Obama Isn’t Disengaged: The President’s Foreign Policy Is Just Smarter

There’s a strange notion out there that the dreary outcomes of the two wars this country fought all through the past decade—and the savage sectarian violence erupting across much of the Middle East and surrounding regions today—are due to President Obama’s “disengagement” from the world. It’s a strange notion because the United States is more engaged with the world than at any time in recent memory. There are nuclear talks in Iran (after 34 years of no talking whatsoever), an internationally supervised dismantling of chemical weapons in Syria What many of these critics don’t like about Obama—what they mistakenly, or misleadingly, call “disinterest”—is his disinclination to go to war.

And who can blame him? Obama seems to realize this. He too has an unsentimental outlook on the world. His views have been tempered by Iraq and scorched by Afghanistan. He’s not shy about using military force, but insists, when possible, to grip it tightly. “Escalation” is a suspect term; “uncontrolled escalation,” is an unacceptable one. As evidence, see Libya, Syria, drone strikes, and Stuxnet. One can admire or criticize the actions he’s taken, or not taken, in those crises or with those precision instruments. But they’re all preferable to sending in 100,000 troops in pursuit of a mission that we have no power to accomplish, even with all those men and women in arms. And if going into such conflicts lightly, or not at all, is the emblem of disengagement, let him wear it proudly.

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Tom Joyner: Michelle Obama Discusses Health Care And Black History Month

Michelle Obama just turned 50 and she’s looking great. The First Lady is a prime example of how health can help keep you looking and feeling great. With her Let’s Move campaign, Mrs. Obama wants to help all Americans become more aware of the importance of eating healthy and staying fit. This morning she joined the Tom Joyner Morning Show to talk about the Affordable Care Act, one of the most important pieces of legislation in her husband’s time in the White House. The Affordable Care Act makes it possible for millions of uninsured Americans to have affordable health insurance, but there are still some misconceptions about it. The best way for you to start to get more information about how the ACA can work for you is to head to the website, www.healthcare.gov and check out the options for yourself. Here’s why Mrs. Obama thinks it will be the best move you and your family can make this year.

Michelle Obama: We’re talking about education, because as Barack said in his State of the Union address, you know, what we have to focus on, particularly as we celebrate Black History Month, is not just the progress we’ve made but remember how much more work we have left to do. And we need to focus on increasing opportunity for everybody. And for this administration, it means healthcare through the Affordable Care Act. It means economic mobility. It means helping our young men of color. It means making sure more kids have access to college and it’s affordable. So that’s what we’re going to be focusing on, not just this month, but for the rest of this administration, and making sure that people are signing up for healthcare is critical.

More here (audio at link)

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Derek Thompson: The Spectacular Myth Of Obama’s Part-Time America – In 5 Graphs

If you’ve been paying attention to a certain slice of the financial media—see:ForbesThe Wall Street Journal, CNBC, and Fox News—you know for a fact that Obama and his health care law have tag-teamed with global economic trends to drive America inexorably toward a part-time economy. This is a testable claim. So let’s test it.

The first thing you would expect to see from a Part-Time America is that the number of part-time jobs added would rival the number of full-time jobs added. But in the last year, new full-time jobs outnumbered part-time jobs by 1.8 million to 8,000. For every new part-time job, we’re creating 225 full-time positions.

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Washington Post: Democratic Mayors Who Backed Christie Struggled To Weigh Politics Vs. Local Needs

In September, Adam Schneider, the liberal mayor of the New Jersey shore town of Long Branch, was having trouble with the state utility board. After repeatedly getting the run-around, Schneider decided to instead try his luck with the office of Gov. Chris Christie. “I’m not talking to any more underlings, and I’m not being delegated to,” Schneider said he told Christie’s aides. In the end, he said, it worked. “I got what I needed.”

Schneider’s call came four months after he crossed party lines to endorse the 2013 reelection of Christie (R), whose performance he admired after Hurricane Sandy. Schneider said that the governor never promised him anything but that he believes he has received “enhanced” access to state officials since the endorsement. Schneider’s experience is typical of many Democratic mayors, who made clear that they thought endorsing Christie’s reelection bid likely directly benefited their towns in the pursuit of Sandy recovery aid and other state support.

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Steve Benen: GOP Ignores Bill Signing Invitations

Since early 2011, President Obama hasn’t been able to host many bill-signing ceremonies. After two years in which the White House made arguably historic progress on its agenda in 2009, Congress hasn’t achieved any major legislative accomplishments since Republicans claimed the House majority. But some bills still manage to get through both chambers, and though the farm bill hasn’t always risen to the level of major legislative breakthroughs, Obama and his team nevertheless decided to host a big event in East Lansing, Michigan, today to sign the new $956 billion farm bill into law.

The president won’t be joined today by any Republicans, though it’s not for lack of effort. The White House press secretary, Jay Carney, said that about 50 lawmakers — including many Republicans — had been invited to the bill signing, but that no Republicans had accepted the invitation. […] the fact that every Republican invitee declined the White House’s offer should send a pretty loud signal to those Beltway pundits who still believe Obama would thrive in Washington if only he schmoozed more.

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Dylan Scott: Cruz, Rubio, Other GOPers Urge Court To Stop Obamacare Subsidies

Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, along with other top congressional GOPers, have urged a federal court to block Obamacare subsidies for people who signed up for coverage through HealthCare.gov. The group of eight — which includes Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn, Sens. Orrin Hatch (UT), Mike Lee (UT) and Rob Portman (OH) along with Reps. Dave Camp (MI) and Darrell Issa (CA) —

filed an amicus brief Thursday on behalf of businesses and individuals who sued to stop the subsidies from flowing through the federal website, the Washington Times reported. The case, being heard in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit next month, centers on whether people can receive tax subsidies through the federal website, HealthCare.gov. A federal district judge rejected that argument in January, ruling that subsidies should continue to be delivered through HealthCare.gov, which sent the case to the appeals court.

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Think Progress: Texas Man Pays Off Students’ School Lunch Debts So They Can Keep Eating

After he heard about the children in Utah whose school lunches were thrown out because their parents were behind on payments, Kenny Thompson was worried about the elementary school kids he tutored and mentored in Houston, Texas. So he went in to check whether they were getting the proper nutrition. “I’m like, ‘Wow. I know that’s probably a situation at my school, and the school my son goes to, and the other schools I mentor at.’ So I came in and inquired about it,” Thompson told local station KSDK.

What he found disappointed him: Dozens of students were on “reduced” lunches, receiving cold peanut butter and jelly or cheese sandwiches instead of the full hot meals they used to receive, all because their parents had fallen behind on lunch payments that amounted to mere 40 cents a day. So Thompson took action. He forked over $465 of his own money and zeroed out the balances on over 60 students’ accounts. “These are elementary school kids. They don’t need to be worried about finances. They need to be worried about what grade they got in spelling,” Thompson told station KPRC.

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President Barack Obama signs the farm bill at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich. Watching, from left are, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., Senate Agriculture Committee member Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Senate Agriculture Committee member Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio Rep. Gary Peters, D-Mich. and Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich.

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