President Barack Obama signs H.R. 240, the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2015. The president signed a law funding the Homeland Security Department through the end of the budget year.
Keystone oil pipeline veto override fails in the Senate 62-37. 👏👏👏👏 #NoKXL
President Barack Obama signs the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act while flanked by First Lady Michelle Obama, Clay Hunt’s family and friends, and members of Congress. Clay Hunt, a U.S. Marine veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, battled with post-traumatic stress disorder and took his own life at the age of 28.
President Obama presents the First Lady with a Valentine’s Day card on the State Floor of the White House before he departed on a five-day trip to California
President Barack Obama hugs Susan Selke, mother of Clay Hunt
President Barack Obama thanks former U.S. Marine Jake Wood for his introductory remarks at a signing ceremony for the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act
President Barack Obama shares a laugh with Ashton Carter, his nominee for defense secretary, during the announcement in the Roosevelt Room of the White House
President Barack Obama greets former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft
President Barack Obama meets with King Abdullah II of Jordan in the Oval Office at the White House. President Obama and King Abdullah II discussed regional issues and the ongoing fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)
President Barack Obama delivers brief remarks to reporters before meeting with a group of newly elected governors in the Oval Office at the White House and said the group would talk about issues where the states and the White House have common ground.
(L-R): Governor-elect Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Governor-elect Bruce Rauner of Illinois, Governor-elect Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania, Governor-elect Greg Abbott of Texas, Governor-elect Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island, Governor-elect Larry Hogan of Maryland and Gov. Bill Walker
President Barack Obama signs into law the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014, a bill providing the Department of Veterans Affairs the resources to improve access and quality of care for veterans
President Barack Obama speaks about the economy at the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center in McLean, Virginia. President Barack Obama envisions a time when cars will be able to talk with other cars or with America’s roads. He says such technology could prevent crashes, cut down on traffic and save gasoline.
President Barack Obama is given a tour of vehicles equipted with V2I technology by Joe Peters while at the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center in McLean, Virginia
President Barack Obama looks over his shoulder while driving a simulator
President Obama waits for a heavy rain to pass before crossing West Executive Avenue from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building to the West Wing of the White House, March 12, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Today (all times Eastern):
1:0: Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney
2:45: The President holds a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk; the Vice President also attends
4:0: First Lady Michelle Obama Speaks at a Special Screening of Disney’s Muppets Most Wanted
4:15: The President drops-by meeting with women Members of Congress, The Roosevelt Room
The percentage of uninsured Americans is falling sharply, reaching 15.9% as of the end of February, according to Gallup. That’s the lowest rate the survey firm has measured since 2008. The greatest gains in insured status were shown by people earning less than $36,000 — a prime target for the act — and black Americans. Hispanics still lag. — The cost of health insurance and medical care came sharply down in January, according to number-crunchers at Goldman Sachs and the Commerce Department. Goldman Sachs attributed the slide to cuts in the reimbursement formulas for Medicare services, which are written into the law. The ACA is effectively putting more money in people’s pockets —
the Commerce Department estimated that the expansion of Medicaid benefits under the ACA amounted to $19.2 billion in January. — The grand total of Obamacare enrollees — including insurance exchanges, Medicaid members, and young persons kept on their parents plans — can be estimated as high as 13 million, according to independent statistician Charles Gaba, whose conclusions and methodology can be found here. The ACA is making increasingly deep inroads into the population of uninsured persons, not merely those who had insurance previously and have just switched over to exchange plans or Medicaid.
We’ve remarked before on the tendency of businesses and others to use the Affordable Care Act as a scapegoat for changes in their healthcare benefits or in the healthcare landscape that have other causes — such as their own greed or long-term trends. Galen Benshoof, a guest contributor at theincidentaleconomist.com, identifies a good case of what we might call Obamacare derangement syndrome — the conviction that everything that happens in healthcare today must have been caused by the ACA. Benshoof’s example involves rising deductibles. His jumping-off point is a recent review of a book by Ezekiel Emanuel, one of the ACA’s architects, by David Goldhill in the Wall Street Journal.
Goldhill is a businessman who, judging from his earlier writings, is predisposed to expect the ACA to fail — in fact, prefers catastrophic coverage to almost all other forms of health insurance. In his review, Goldhill cites “the rapid spread of high-deductible insurance among employers and on the exchanges” as “one of the immediate unanticipated consequences of the ACA.” Benshoof calls him on this misstatement. The truth is that the rapid spread of “high-deductible” health plans (based on IRS regulations, that’s technically any plan with a deductible of $1,250 per person and $2,500 per family, or above) is very much an artifact of the pre-ACA healthcare landscape. Indeed, one of the goals of the ACA is to relieve the economic pressures that prompted employers to jack up deductibles on their employees toward this level every year.
NYT: Titans In Russia Fear New Front In Ukraine Crisis
When Vladimir V. Putin returned to the Russian presidency in 2012, one of the first messages he sent to his political elite, many of them heads of banks and large corporations, was that the times had changed: Owning assets outside Russia makes you too vulnerable to moves by foreign governments, he told them. It is time to bring your wealth home. Nearly two years later, those words seem almost prophetic. After a week of escalating tensions between Russia and the United States, it has become clear that the conflict over Ukraine will move to the battlefield of finance. Those same business titans are now contemplating the damage that the crisis could inflict on Russia’s economy.
Financial sanctions, which the United States and the European Union have suggested they will impose if the conflict escalates, are intended to test the cohesion of the political system. Still, the prospect of losing access to Western finance is a frightening thought for Russian business leaders, whose voice in foreign policy decision-making is muted compared with the tight circle of Mr. Putin’s former K.G.B. colleagues, for whom economic factors may be secondary. Anxiety over possible economic fallout has begun to radiate from business circles, and some wondered whether Mr. Putin had been warned clearly about the magnitude of the possible damage to the economy. One analyst described their mind-set as one of “cognitive dissonance.”
BBC: US Man Walks Free After 25 Years On Death Row
A man who spent more than 25 years on death row in the US state of Louisiana has walked free from prison after his murder conviction for the 1983 killing of a jeweller was overturned. Glenn Ford, 64, had been on death row since August 1988. He had been found guilty of killing 56-year-old Isadore Rozeman, a jeweller for whom Mr Ford occasionally worked. US media reports say that he is one of the longest-serving death row inmates in modern US history to be exonerated. Mr Ford had always denied killing Mr Rozeman. Asked by a reporter how he was feeling as he left the high security prison in Angola, Louisiana, Mr Ford said: “My mind is going in all kinds of directions but it feels good.”
He said that he did harbour some resentment because he had been locked up for almost 30 years “for something I didn’t do” and had lost years of his life. “Thirty years, 30 years of my life if not all of it. I can’t go back and do anything that I should’ve been doing when I was 35, 38 and 40 – stuff like that. My son when I left was a baby, now they’re grown men with babies.” The many flaws in the case against Mr Ford have been listed by the US press: No murder weapon was ever found and there were no eyewitnesses to the crime Mr Ford was initially implicated in the killing by a woman who later testified she had lied Mr Ford’s original court-appointed lawyers had never tried a murder case. Mr Ford, a black man, was convicted by an all-white jury who recommended the death sentence
NYT: Obama Will Seek Broad Expansion Of Overtime Pay
President Obama this week will seek to force American businesses to pay more overtime to millions of workers, the latest move by his administration to confront corporations that have had soaring profits even as wages have stagnated. On Thursday, the president will direct the Labor Department to revamp its regulations to require overtime pay for several million additional fast-food managers, loan officers, computer technicians and others whom many businesses currently classify as “executive or professional” employees to avoid paying them overtime, according to White House officials briefed on the announcement. Under current federal regulations, workers who are deemed executive, administrative or professional employees can be denied overtime pay under a so-called white-collar exemption.
Under the new rules that Mr. Obama is seeking, fewer salaried employees could be blocked from receiving overtime, a move that would potentially shift billions of dollars’ worth of corporate income into the pockets of workers. Currently, employers are prohibited from denying time-and-a-half overtime pay to any salaried worker who makes less than $455 per week. Mr. Obama’s directive would significantly increase that salary level. In addition, Mr. Obama will try to change rules that allow employers to define which workers are exempt from receiving overtime based on the kind of work they perform. Under current rules, if an employer declares that an employee’s primary responsibility is executive, such as overseeing a cleanup crew, then that worker can be exempted from overtime.
Yahoo: Ukraine Won’t Intervene In Crimea, President Says
Ukraine’s acting president said the country would not use its army to stop Crimea from seceding, the latest sign that a Russian annexation of the strategic peninsula may be imminent. Oleksandr Turchynov’s comments came after the Crimean parliament voted for independence ahead of a Sunday referendum on joining Russia, while Washington and Moscow locked horns in one of their fiercest clashes since the Cold War. The interim leader said intervening on the southeastern Black Sea peninsula, where Kremlin-backed forces have seized de facto control, would leave Ukraine exposed on its eastern border, close to Russia.
“We cannot launch a military operation in Crimea, as we would expose the eastern border and Ukraine would not be protected,” Turchynov told AFP. Describing the secession vote as a “sham”, he said: “What they call the referendum will not happen in Crimea but in the offices of the Kremlin.” The latest escalation in the crisis also saw Moscow lash out at Washington for promising “illegal” financial assistance to Kiev’s new leaders, who rose to power on the back of three months of deadly protests that toppled a Russia-friendly regime. Undeterred, the European Union announced trade breaks worth 500 million euros ($690 million) Tuesday that could ease Ukraine’s burden from restrictions that Russia has threatened in response to Kiev’s tilt toward the West.
LA Times: Funny Thing Is, Barack Obama’s ‘Between Two Ferns’ Segment Works
Something historic happened in the early hours of Tuesday, March 11, 2014. The President of the United States was a guest on “Between Two Ferns With Zach Galifianakis,” a highly occasional semi-fake talk show that lives on the website Funny or Die. Obama went to the Web to promote the Affordable Care Act to the people — the young people — who hang out there. The choice of “Between Two Ferns,” with its cable-access vibe, eight-bit graphics, halting pace and awkward, unprepared, inappropriate and antagonistic host seems an odd one, certainly, an unwelcoming or unseemly platform either for the president or his pitch. But that is part of what makes it funny. And being funny is what makes it good.
Randy Ludlow: ‘Voters Bill Of Rights’ Gets One Step Closer To Ohio Ballot
Supporters of an effort to add an “Ohio Voters Bill of Rights” to the Ohio Constitution soon could begin collecting signatures in their bid to place the measure on the statewide ballot. The office of Attorney General Mike DeWine yesterday certified language for the petitions as acceptable after rejecting previous wording on Feb. 13. Black legislative leaders, clergy members and civil-rights advocates are behind the initiative, which would require gathering 385,247 valid petition signatures of registered voters by July 2 to make the Nov. 4 ballot.
The leaders of the G-7 countries issues a stern admonition Wednesday to Russia for its aggression in Ukraine, warning that it would not recognize the outcome of a referendum in Crimea and would take collective action if Russia moved to annex the region. Russia’s annexation of Crimea would be a violation of the United Nations charter, said the G-7 in a statement, as well as several treaties Russia is party to. Crimea’s referendum would be a “deeply flawed process” held under the intimidating presence of Russian troops, it said.
“In addition to its impact on the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, the annexation of Crimea could have grave implications for the legal order that protects the unity and sovereignty of all states,” said the G-7. “Should the Russian Federation take such a step, we will take further action, individually and collectively.”
Fuel Fix: Judge Rejects BP Bid To Halt Gulf Spill Payments
BP’s bid to temporarily halt payments under its $9.2 billion oil-spill settlement so that heightened accounting and fraud safeguards can be established was rejected by a federal judge in New Orleans.
U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, in a three-sentence ruling Tuesday, denied BP’s request without an explanation. BP has said widespread fraud and a faulty interpretation of settlement terms have caused the claims administrator to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in unwarranted claims for damage from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the worst U.S. offshore spill.
Vanity Fair: The Game Of Thrones TV-Show Creator Already Know What Happens At The End Of The Book Series
Benioff and co-creator D. B. Weiss tell Windolf that the show has a lifespan, and they would like to wrap it up after seven or eight seasons. “It doesn’t just keep on going because it can,” Weiss says. “I think the desire to milk more out of it is what would eventually kill it, if we gave in to that.”
Windolf also asks Benioff and Weiss about the recent rumors that President Obama receives screeners of the show to watch before the general public. In an e-mail, they jointly reply, “One perk of being the most powerful man in the world: yes, you get to see episodes early.”
Sen. Barack Obama speaks during a news conference in Chicago on March 12, 2008
President Obama looks through the Oval Office door peephole as his personal secretary Katie Johnson watches, March 12, 2009 (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
First Lady Michelle Obama speaks to soldiers and family members during a visit to the Iron Mike Dining Facility at Fort Bragg, N.C., March 12, 2009
President Obama arrives for the dedication of the Abraham Lincoln Hall at the National Defense University at Ft. McNair in Washington on March 12, 2009. Applauding are Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen
President Obama has lunch with, from left: Lt. Gen. Doug Lute, Senior Director for Afghanistan and Pakistan; General John Allen, Commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan; National Security Advisor Tom Donilon; and Ryan Crocker, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, in the Oval Office Private Dining Room, March 12, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama talks with the 2011-2012 White House Fellows in the Oval Office, March 12, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama arrives at the U.S. Capitol to meet with members of the Senate Democratic Caucus, March 12, 2013
Feb. 13, 2012 – Pete Souza: “From early spring to late fall, the light in the Oval Office is fairly consistent with the sun high above the horizon during the day. But during the winter months, the sun is lower and splashes through the back window in the early morning and late afternoon. Here, in the midst of the morning light, the President talks on the phone with British Prime Minister David Cameron.”
Lots Of Good News for Obamacare — Enrollment Beats Expectations, Millenial Increase, Decrease In Uninsured s.shr.lc/1g147lB#aca#p2
The President has no public events scheduled – due to bad weather, the White House has postponed the President’s announcement about a new project designed to help young African-American and Hispanic men find jobs and get a good start in life. “We will reschedule the event,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney.
@petesouza: Overhead angle of Presidents Obama and Hollande before last night’s state dinner
(The last five minutes of the interview)
ThinkProgress: Uninsurance Rate Falls To Five-Year Low As 3.3 Million Enroll In Obamacare
The Obama administration on Wednesday released its monthly update on health insurance enrollment under the Affordable Care Act. Nearly 3.3 million Americans enrolled in private health plans through Obamacare’s state and federal marketplaces from October through February 1, with 1.1 million signing up in January alone. The data comes on the same day that a Gallup survey found that the U.S. uninsurance rate has hit a five-year low.
“We’re seeing a healthy growth in enrollment,” said Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a conference call with reporters. According to Sebelius, an additional 6.6 million Americans have been deemed eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP) during the first four months of the open enrollment period.
With two months left to go, Obamacare enrollment is on track to hand the White House a significant win over the law’s critics.
About 3.3 million people had signed up for private insurance plans through the end of January, according to new data the Health and Human Services Department released Wednesday. January itself was a little better than expected, and the growth put the administration within reach of a strong total when open enrollment ends in March.
There are significant gaps in the data that could affect assessment of the law’s ultimate success, but barring any wild surprises, things are looking good for the White House.
Here’s what you need to know from the latest data….
SmartyPants: President Obama’s Faith: “Maintaining Your Moral Compass”
As someone who is dedicated to trying to understand President Obama, it is always interesting to come across a speech or an interview with him from the past that I haven’t seen before. And so I was delighted to find this interview from March 2004 that he did with Cathleen Falsani about his religious faith. If you are interested, I suggest that you go read the whole thing. But I’m going to excerpt a few things he said that stood out to me. First of all, he recounts a history that we have all become familiar with by now. I am a Christian. So, I have a deep faith. So, I draw from the Christian faith. On the other hand, I was born in Hawaii where obviously there are a lot of Eastern influences. I lived in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world, between the ages of six and 10. My father was from Kenya, and although he was probably most accurately labeled an agnostic, his father was Muslim.
And I’d say, probably, intellectually I’ve drawn as much from Judaism as any other faith… So, I’m rooted in the Christian tradition. I believe that there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power, a belief that we are connected as a people. That there are values that transcend race or culture, that move us forward, and there’s an obligation for all of us individually as well as collectively to take responsibility to make those values lived.
I’m a big believer in tolerance. I think that religion at it’s best comes with a big dose of doubt. I’m suspicious of too much certainty in the pursuit of understanding just because I think people are limited in their understanding. And so, the biggest challenge, I think, is always maintaining your moral compass. Those are the conversations I’m having internally. I’m measuring my actions against that inner voice that for me at least is audible, is active, it tells me where I think I’m on track and where I think I’m off track. When I tuck in my daughters at night and I feel like I’ve been a good father to them, and I see in them that I am transferring values that I got from my mother and that they’re kind people and that they’re honest people, and they’re curious people, that’s a little piece of heaven.
WBIR: Healthcare.gov Enrollments In Tennessee Higher Than National Average
Tennessee’s enrollment rate in the federal health exchange was higher than the national enrollment growth rate in January, according to new federal statistics released Wednesday.
In Tennessee, the federal government reported that 59,705 people had enrolled in Marketplace plans as of February 1. As of the last report, which covered through December 28, there were about 36,250 enrollees in Tennessee. That’s a growth rate of about 65 percent.
However, enrollment in the federal exchange grew by 50 percent nationally in January. As of February 1, there are 3.3 million enrollees nationally.
Miami Herald: After Website Woes Decrease, Obamacare Enrollment Surges In Florida, Nation
Nearly 300,000 Floridians have signed up for Affordable Care Act plans, an 88 percent increase in a month, reflecting an enrollment surge that coincides with the end of Obamacare’s major website woes.
Florida’s number of enrollees, the second-highest in the nation behind California, accounts for almost 9 percent of the nation’s 3.3 million total enrollees, according to figures released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Adam Serwer: North Carolina Voting Law Hits Black Voters: Study
North Carolina’s recent voting law changes will disproportionately affect black voters in the state, according to a study published Wednesday by Dartmouth University.
“The study provides powerful ammunition for the pending legal challenges,” says Brenda Wright, a voting rights expert with the liberal think tank Demos. “It shows that virtually every key feature of North Carolina’s election legislation will disproportionately cut back on registration and voting by African Americans in North Carolina as compared to whites.”
North Carolina was once covered by the Voting Rights Act’s requirement that states and other jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination in voting submit their voting law changes to the Justice Department for approval. After the Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional last year the formula for determining which jurisdictions were covered by that requirement, North Carolina’s Republican-dominated legislature passed a package of voting law restrictions. Among the changes were shortening the time for early voting, instituting a photo ID requirement, eliminating same-day voter registration and limiting pre-registration for teenagers to those who will be of voting age on Election Day. According to the study, all of those changes “will have a disparate effect on black voters in North Carolina.”
Sara Kliff: Obamacare Beat A January Enrollment Projection
The Obama administration has beaten a monthly health insurance enrollment target for the first time, according to data released Wednesday showing that more than 1.14 million people signed up for health plans in January in the new insurance marketplace.
The latest enrollment data from the Obama administration show that 3.3 million people have signed up for private health insurance through federal and state insurance exchanges created under the Affordable Care Act. This figure represents all enrollment from Oct. 1 through Feb. 1. It includes both people who have and have not paid their first month’s premium. Of those people, 1,146,100 selected their health insurance plans in January, meaning there was a 53 percent increase enrollment last month alone.
Reuters: In First NYC Budget, de Blasio Pushes Pre-K, Retiree Healthcare
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio included a tax on the wealthy to pay for universal pre-kindergarten in his first budget and proposed restoring $1 billion to a retiree healthcare fund that his predecessor’s plan would have drained. The proposal marks the first time in 20 years that a Democrat has drafted a spending plan for the biggest city in the United States. The Democrat-led City Council must approve a budget by the start of the fiscal year on July 1.
TPM: Rand Paul Accused Of Plagiarizing His Big Obama Lawsuit
Did Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) plagiarize the lawsuit he filed Wednesday against President Barack Obama and the National Security Agency? The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank reported that Paul originally drafted the class action suit he filed under former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s (R) name with the help of Bruce Fein, who recently served as an attorney for former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s father.
Fein’s ex-wife and spokeswoman, Mattie Fein, told Milbank that Cuccinelli stole “the work product, intellectual property and legal genius of Bruce Fein” without payment. She added that Paul, who “already has one plagiarism issue, now has a lawyer who just takes another lawyer’s work product.”
Jenna Levy: U.S. Uninsured Rate Drops So Far In First Quarter Of 2014
The percentage of uninsured Americans fell to 16.0% so far in the first quarter of 2014 from 17.1% in the fourth quarter of 2013. These data are based on more than 19,000 interviews with Americans from Jan. 2-Feb. 10, 2014, as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. While more than a month remains in the first quarter, these preliminary data show the uninsured rate appears to be on track to drop to the lowest quarterly level measured since 2008.
if the uninsured rate continues to fall over the next several months, it may suggest that the Affordable Care Act’s requirement for most Americans to have health insurance, which took effect on Jan. 1, is responsible for the decline. The percentage of uninsured 26- to 34-year-olds, which has been dropping since the third quarter of 2013, is now 25.7%. Americans in this age group have had the highest uninsured rate since 2011. The uninsured rate among 26- to 34-year-olds has been declining faster than it has among any other age group.