Posts Tagged ‘birth control

27
Mar
14

Rise and Shine

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President Barack Obama and Pope Francis laugh while exchanging gifts after their meeting at the Vatican

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President Barack Obama shakes hands with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano at Quirinal Palace in Rome

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USA Today: Obama’s Gift To Pope Francis: A Seed Chest

President Obama presented Pope Francis with a custom-made seed chest on Thursday, containing fruit and vegetable seeds used in the White House Garden. The gift was inspired by the pope’s decision to grant public access to the gardens of the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo, the pope’s summer residence, according to a White House statement. Obama and Pope Francis met for 52 minutes at Vatican City.

Pope Francis, meanwhile, presented the president with a plaque of some kind, and an encyclical. “I will treasure this,” Obama said. “I actually will probably read this (encyclical) in the Oval Office when I’m deeply frustrated. I’m sure it will give me strength and calm me down.” The seed chest from Obama is made from American leather and wood reclaimed from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, one of the oldest Catholic cathedrals built in the United States.

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Jason Millman: Young Adults Signing Up At Higher Rates Off Obamacare Exchanges

A higher rate of young adults and uninsured people are signing up for coverage through a private insurance website as next week’s enrollment deadline approaches, according to information released by the company Tuesday. The enrollment data, issued by eHealthInsurance, provides a snapshot of how some customers are shopping for insurance away from Obamacare exchanges during the law’s first enrollment period. EHealth, a national online insurance broker predating the health care law, operates similar to the Obamacare exchanges, offering customers a selection of health plans from competing insurers.

However, shoppers on eHealth’s website can’t access federal subsidies to help purchase insurance, though the company says it has helped people enroll in subsidy-eligible plans by telephone. Since Jan. 1, about 45 percent of those picking new health plans through eHealth were between 18 and 34 years old, the company says. By comparison, the all-important demographic accounted for 27 percent of signups on Obamacare exchanges the past couple of months. EHealth says its rate of youth enrollment has increased from 39 percent of signups between October and December.The rate of eHealth customers who identified themselves as previously uninsured has also increased since the first three months of the enrollment, the company says. Since January, 51 percent of the website’s shoppers say they were previously uninsured, up from 34 percent between October and December.

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America Blog: They Stole Her Photo, Then Claimed She Hated Obamacare. She Doesn’t

Helene isn’t having the best week. The Texas blogger was visiting Las Vegas for a bachelorette party this past weekend, and woke up on Saturday to find that she’d become the latest anti-Obamacare poster child. The thing is, Helene never signed up for the job. In fact, she told me yesterday that she’s quite happy with the Affordable Care Act (ACA),

and with the “affordable” health care it helped her find. “Not only do I not agree with what the image is portraying,” Helene wrote me, “I actually have Affordable Healthcare!” So, if anything, Helene is an Obamacare success story. But that didn’t stop over 17,000 people on Facebook from sharing an image of her face, posted just days ago, with a caption complaining about Obamacare. To add insult to injury, the people who stole her image couldn’t even spell “conspiracy” right.

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SmartyPants: President Obama’s Speech In Brussels – One Of The Most Important Of His Presidency

One of the things we know from reading about President Obama’s life story is that while he was practicing law in Chicago, he taught classes on the topic of “power.” I’ve always wished that either he or someone who attended one would outline the content of what he taught. Perhaps the President will do that once his second term is over.

He doesn’t tend to speak directly about the topic, but from listening to him refer to it in other contexts, what I’ve deduced is that he embraces the power of partnership as the alternative to our more traditional concept of the power of domination. Today the President began his speech in Brussels with a history lesson on the power of partnership vs the power of domination.

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Paul Krugman: Data As Slogan. Data As Substance

Noah Smith has the definitive piece on what’s wrong, so far, with the new FiveThirtyEight. For all the big talk about data-driven analysis,what it actually delivers is sloppy and casual opining with a bit of data used, as the old saying goes, the way a drunkard uses a lamppost — for support, not illumination.So what would real data-driven reporting look like (beyond what goes on at the sites Noah mentions, and also at the Times)? Well, here’s an example: Charles Gaba’s ACASignups.net.

Gaba, a website developer, realized that nobody was systematically keeping track of enrollment data for Obamacare, and has turned himself into one-stop shopping on the law’s progress. And he really fills a need: when you read news reports on Obamacare, you can tell right away which reporters have been reading Gaba and know what’s happening and which reporters are relying solely on official announcements — or, worse, dueling political spin.

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NYT: Obama Juggles Itinerary In Bid To Ease Tensions Between Two Allies

When President Obama brings together the estranged leaders of Japan and South Korea for a peacemaking session in The Hague on Tuesday evening, it will be the culmination of three months of intense behind-the-scenes American diplomacy. The unusual effort included a phone call from Mr. Obama to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan; a follow-up lunch that the American ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy, had with Mr. Abe; a decision to put both Tokyo and Seoul on Mr. Obama’s itinerary when he visits Asia next month; and a plan to resolve this neighborhood quarrel on the ultimate neutral ground: a stately Dutch city accustomed to litigating international disputes.

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In this case, Mr. Abe and President Park Geun-hye of South Korea have barely been on speaking terms since coming to power just over a year ago. Their antagonism is complex and deeply personal, rooted in World War II history as well as their own conservative and nationalist political leanings, which make old animosities even harder to overcome. Convinced the two were not going to mend relations on their own, the White House proposed a “trilateral” meeting with Mr. Obama at the nuclear security summit in the Netherlands. The European locale and nonproliferation theme made sense. “It’s a multilateral meeting not in Asia,” said a senior administration official, “and a multilateral meeting about the one thing Japan and South Korea are in agreement on.” Mr. Obama’s participation was critical: In a call on March 6, the president told Mr. Abe he wanted to bring his two allies together. At a lunch that day, Ambassador Kennedy fleshed out the idea.

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Sy Mukherjee: Anti-Obamacare Governor Now Encouraging Residents To Enroll Under Health Law

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), an ardent Affordable Care Act critic, is now encouraging residents to transition into new health plans under the very reform law that he once refused to help implement. Walker told the Washington Examiner’s Philip A. Klein that he has instructed state agencies to work with individuals who are transitioning into plans offered on Wisconsin’s Obamacare marketplace. That includes both the previously uninsured and poor residents just above the poverty level who are being siphoned out of the state’s Medicaid program, BadgerCare,

and into private ACA plans under Walker’s conservative alternative to Obamacare’s optional Medicaid expansion.  Just two years ago, Walker was singing a very different tune. He had refused to create a statewide ACA marketplace — thereby also forgoing significant federal funding for Obamacare outreach efforts — and said he wouldn’t lift a finger to help implement the law until the Supreme Court decided the law’s fate. In fact, Wisconsin’s spending on ACA outreach is the lowest in the nation at just 46 cents per capita.

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Bloomberg: WTO Panel Sides With U.S. In Dispute Over China Minerals

The World Trade Organization backed the U.S. in a dispute with China, agreeing that limits on exports of rare-earth elements used in hybrid-car batteries and wind turbines violate trade rules. A Chinese industry group said it regrets the ruling against China. A dispute-settlement panel at the Geneva-based trade arbiter yesterday determined that China, the world’s largest producer of the minerals, didn’t adequately justify imposing export duties and quotas on the goods, as well as the elements tungsten and molybdenum. China’s export limits “have been putting American manufacturers at a disadvantage and preventing full and fair competition,” U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman told reporters yesterday on a conference call.

The WTO decision follows a 2011 ruling in which the trade arbiter sided with the U.S. in determining that China’s export limits on raw materials for steel and chemical production, such as bauxite, magnesium and zinc, broke trade law. The U.S., the 28-nation EU and Japan in 2012 filed complaints with the WTO, saying that China’s restrictions on exports of rare-earth minerals — a group of 17 chemically similar elements used in electronics, autos, helicopter blades and other goods — disrupted trade flows and caused global prices to jump, in some cases as much as three times as much as what Chinese companies pay.

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Tara Culp-Ressler: Hobby Lobby Inspired New York Lawmakers To Fight To Protect Birth Control In Their State

If the craft chain Hobby Lobby and the furniture company Conestoga Wood Specialties successfully win their Supreme Court challenges, it could open the door to allow businesses across the country to compromise their workers’ access to reproductive health care. In response to that potential future, New York lawmakers are taking the opportunity to reaffirm their state’s commitment to providing insurance coverage for essential preventative health services like birth control.

Earlier this month, New York Sen. Liz Krueger (D) and Assemblymember Ellen Jaffee (D) introduced the so-called “Boss Bill,” which would close a loophole in the state’s existing workplace anti-discrimination laws to protect women’s access to birth control. Under the legislation — which was written in direct response to the multiple lawsuits against the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive provision — New York’s labor law would be amended to prevent employers from discriminating against workers on the basis of their reproductive health care decisions, even if those employers are trying to cite their religious beliefs.

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Owen Matthews: Sanctions Will Work, All Right. Just Ask The Oligarchs

President Barack Obama, who has supposedly taken the toughest line in condemning Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “aggression,” has merely declared banking sanctions on a dozen Russian businessmen personally close to Putin. But in truth, there’s some deep thinking behind Washington’s sanctions regime, and they could ultimately prove deadly to Putin’s future. The key to the sanctions strategy is to drive a wedge between Putin’s shrinking inner circle and the wider Russian elite. “People aren’t ready to sacrifice their holidays in the Alps and in Antalya for the sake of an idea of a Great State,” says Nina Khrushcheva, a historian at New York City’s New School and a granddaughter of Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet leader who ceded Crimea to Ukraine in 1954. “That was fine in Stalin’s time, but it’s not fine in Putin’s time.”

In other words, the sanctions are smart because they so precisely target Kremlin insiders and personal friends of Putin—men such as such as billionaire Gennady Timchenko, whose Gunvor company trades most of Russia’s oil and who has major interests in gas pipe-building companies, and Arkady Rotenberg, Putin’s former judo partner, whose construction company hugely benefited from the $50 billion Sochi Olympics. The share prices of companies associated with the sanctioned billionaires have been badly hit, and Visa and Mastercard suspended operations with two banks linked to those on Washington’s list. In other words, Putin has become a liability for Russia’s rich—and they’re getting nervous.It’s easy to see why Putin’s moves worry them. Even without direct personal sanctions, all of Russia’s businesspeople will pay a price for the Crimea annexation in the form of steeply higher borrowing costs. Most international ratings agencies have downgraded Russia’s outlook from stable to negative. The ruble has slid further; capital is fleeing Russia fast.

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Brian Beutler: Republicans Losing It Over New Obamacare Data: Why Their Position Is Collapsing

It’s a complete accident of legislative and administrative history that the fourth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act should fall the week before the end of the law’s first ever, six-month-long open-enrollment period. But it’s a great coincidence for those of us in the business of cutting through all the hyperbole that accompanies each ACA anniversary, because, for the first time since the law passed, there are real data, and real beneficiaries, to hold up against the spin.

And as I’ve been arguing for months now, the GOP’s position on the law can’t actually withstand on-the-ground realities. Case in point: Terri Lynn Land — Michigan’s one-time Republican secretary of state, turned Senate candidate — held a first-ever conference call with reporters to trash the ACA on its fourth birthday. But confronted with the question of what happens to people with preexisting medical conditions if the GOP repeals the law (and thus eliminates the individual mandate) — Land’s press aide, Heather Swift, commandeered the call, and tried to take the whole thing off the record.

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Coral Davenport: Obama Turns To Web To Illustrate The Effects Of A Changing Climate

President Obama wants Americans to see how climate change could deluge or destroy their own backyards — and to make it as easy as opening a web-based app. As part of an effort to make the public see global warming as a tangible and immediate problem, the White House on Wednesday inaugurated a website, climate.data.gov, aimed at turning scientific data about projected droughts and wildfires and the rise in sea levels into eye-catching digital presentations that can be mapped using simple software apps. The project is the brainchild of Mr. Obama’s counselor, John D. Podesta, and the White House science adviser, John P. Holdren.

The effort comes as Mr. Obama prepares to announce a set of aggressive climate change regulations aimed at limiting emissions from coal-fired plants.“Localizing this information gives a sense of how this affects people and spurs action,” Mr. Podesta told a small group of reporters at the White House on Wednesday. “If you’re thinking about this from the perspective of how your local community will be affected, it’s likely to change that question of salience.”

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Sahil Kapur: Kagan Throws Scalia’s Own Religious Liberty Arguments Back In His Face

During oral arguments Tuesday about the validity of Obamacare’s birth control mandate, Justice Elena Kagan cleverly echoed Justice Antonin Scalia’s past warning that religious-based exceptions to neutral laws could lead to “anarchy.” “Your understanding of this law, your interpretation of it, would essentially subject the entire U.S. Code to the highest test in constitutional law, to a compelling interest standard,” she told Paul Clement, the lawyer arguing against the mandate for Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood. “So another employer comes in and that employer says, I have a religious objection to sex discrimination laws;

and then another employer comes in, I have a religious objection to minimum wage laws; and then another, family leave; and then another, child labor laws. And all of that is subject to the exact same test which you say is this unbelievably high test, the compelling interest standard with the least restrictive alternative.” Kagan’s remarks might sound familiar to the legally-trained ear. In a 1990 majority opinion in Employment Division v. Smith, Scalia alluded to the same examples of what might happen if religious entities are permitted to claim exemptions from generally applicable laws. He warned that “[a]ny society adopting such a system would be courting anarchy.”

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The Bump: A Message From Michelle Obama For The Bump Moms (Really!)

Back when Barack and I were expecting our first daughter, we were overwhelmed with so many emotions: excitement, wonder, hope… and occasional moments of panic at the prospect of bringing this little person into the world. We had all the usual first-time parent worries: How would we balance the needs of our growing family with the demands of our jobs? How would the stresses of caring for a new baby affect our marriage? Would our little girl be able to tell that we had no idea what we were doing? But there was one thing we never worried about: ensuring that I would have a healthy pregnancy and delivery. That’s because, while we were still struggling to pay off our student loans and pay down our mortgage, we both had jobs that provided health insurance.

So while our finances weren’t perfect, we had the security of knowing that I could get the maternity care I needed. Every mother and every father in this country deserves this kind of peace of mind – and that’s what the Affordable Care Act is all about.Every plan on HealthCare.gov covers maternity care, pediatrician’s visits, preventive care (things like flu shots, mammograms and vaccines for kids), birth control and more. And these plans are affordable – the majority of people without insurance today will be able to get covered for $100 a month or less, and many young adults will be able to get covered for as little as $50 a month. Also, if you’re pregnant now, and you get signed up by March 31st, when your baby is born, you’ll both be covered.

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Greg Sargent: Is Obamacare Repeal Fatigue Setting In?

Views of the ACA remain unfavorable, but the gap is narrowing. The new poll finds that in March, 38 percent viewed the law favorably, versus 46 percent who saw it unfavorably. That’s a substantial narrowing from the 34-50 spread during the dark days of January, and a return almost to where opinion was in September (39-43), before the rollout disaster began. – Support for repeal continues to shrink. Only 18 percent want to repeal the law and not replace it, while all of 11 percent want to repeal and replace it with a GOP alternative — a grand total of 29 percent. Meanwhile, 49 percent want to keep the law and improve it, and another 10 percent want to keep it as is — a total of 59 percent.

Among indys, that keep/improve versus repeal/replace spread is 52-31. Republicans are all alone here, with their spread at 31-58. That overall keep-versus-repeal spread has improved for the law since February (when it was 56-31), and even more so since December and October, suggesting a clear trend. – Crucially, a majority, 53 percent, say they are tired about hearing about the law and want to move on to other issues. Only 42 percent think the Obamacare debate should continue. A majority of independents has had enough (51-45). Even 47 percent of Republicans are done with it. – Most of the ACA’s individual provisions are wildly popular. Virtually every one of them — the Medicaid expansion; the preexisting conditions piece; subsidies for low income people’s coverage – has overwhelming majority support, and all of those are even backed by a majority of Republicans.

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Pope Francis takes a picture with President Barack Obama and his delegation after his meeting at the Vatican with the President

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Jonathan Cohn: John Bohener’s Hypocritical Griping About The Obamacare Deadline Delay. Conservatives’ Real Beef: That People Want To Sign Up

The Obama Administration has made another adjustment to the Affordable Care Act and the critics are making another fuss. The adjustment, first reported (I think) by Amy Lotven for Inside Health Policy, is an extension of the open enrollment period for buying private insurance through the new Obamacare marketplaces. Officially, most people have until March 31 to sign up for a plan. (The exception are people who lose a job or have some other, similar life-altering experience. They can sign up throughout the year.) But on Wednesday, the administration announced that it will be offering some extra time to consumers who don’t finish their applications in time. They’ll be able to use the websites, just like they can now, only they’ll have to check a box attesting to the fact that they started the application process before April 1.

“What the hell is this? A joke?” House Speaker John Boehner said at a press conference. “Another deadline made meaningless. If he hasn’t put enough loopholes in the law already, the administration is now resorting to an honor system to enforce it.”For each one of these extensions or delays, the ultimate question is whether they change the law’s ability to realize its basic goals—which, in this case, means encouraging people to buy new private health plans while maintaining a stable insurance market. Giving people a little extra time to enroll wouldn’t seem to impede this kind of progress. If anything, it would seem to enhance it. And maybe that’s what really bothers some of the law’s fiercer critics.

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Market Watch: Jobless Claims Fall To 4-Month Low Of 311,000

The number of people who applied for U.S. unemployment benefits fell by 10,000 to 311,000 last week to mark the lowest level in four months, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch expected claims to total 320,000 on a seasonally adjusted basis in the week ended March 22. The average of new claims over the past month declined by 9,500 to 317,750. That was the lowest level since last September, when claims fell sharply because of a major errors related to a computer upgrade in California’s system for processing claims. The four-week average is the lowest since 2007 if the reports distorted by California’s computer problems are excluded. The monthly figure smooths out the jumpiness in the weekly report and offers a better look at the underlying trend.

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On This Day:

Presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-IL, listens to testimony before the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs about the health care needs of returning service members on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 27, 2007

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President Obama makes a point during an interview in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, March 27, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

 President Obama preps with staff in the Cabinet Room of the White House before interviews, March 27, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama laughs as U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder jokes about his basketball skills during his ceremonial installation at George Washington University on March 27, 2009

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President Obama travels aboard Air Force One en route to Afghanistan, March 27, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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 First Lady Michelle Obama helps to plant a cherry blossom tree during an event celebrating the centennial anniversary of the 1912 gifts of cherry blossom trees to the United States from Japan, in Washington, D.C. on March 27, 2012

President Obama participates in a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani of Pakistan during the Nuclear Security Summit at the Coex Center in Seoul, Republic of Korea, March 27, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

 President Obama talks with National Security Advisor Tom Donilon during a break in the Nuclear Security Summit at the Coex Center in Seoul, Republic of Korea, March 27, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama talks with President Viktor Yanukovych of Ukraine during a pull aside at the Nuclear Security Summit at the Coex Center in Seoul, Republic of Korea, March 27, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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 President Obama watches as Vice President Biden administers the oath of office to Julia Pierson, as she is sworn-in as the new director of the U.S. Secret Service, March. 27, 2013, in the Oval Office

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02
Feb
14

Rise and Shine

Feb. 2, 2009 – Pete Souza: “The light was streaming through the windows behind his Oval Office desk as the President talked with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.”

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Washington Post: Life After Jan. 1: Kentucky Clinic Offers Early Glimpse At Realities Of Health-Care Law

The envelopes began arriving in December across eastern Kentucky, one of the sickest and poorest corners of the country. “Dear member . . . We want you to be healthy . . .” read the letter to Mary Combs, and with it came a plastic card representing the first insurance she ever had: a Medicaid plan made possible by the nation’s new health-care law, effective Jan. 1. Nine days into the new year, the 41-year-old call-center worker headed to the health clinic on Highway 15. She saw a doctor about her chronic stomach ulcers, had her blood drawn for tests and collected referrals for all the specialists she had been told she needed but could never afford. The next week, she saw a neurologist, who found lesions on her brain and prescribed medicine for the cluster headaches, which are also called “suicide headaches” for pain that is far more intense than a migraine and which Combs had been treating with an alcohol-soaked cloth wrapped around her head.

“That’s the big question — does getting insurance bend the cost curve or the health outcomes curve?” said Karen Ditsch, the executive director of Juniper Health, which runs the nonprofit Breathitt clinic. Life since Jan. 1: The number of uninsured has dropped by 520 people, which represents about 21 percent of the those without coverage. Of that 520, 472 qualified under the health-care law’s expanded income parameters for Medicaid, which is aimed at the working poor. Here and there, for-profit clinics that never accepted the uninsured have hung “Welcome new patients!” signs on doors. A new blue billboard hovering above the Hardee’s advertises surgery to treat acid reflux.

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Michael Hiltzik: What’s Behind Anthem’s Huge Premium Increase? Not Obamacare

Insurance companies, bless their hearts, seem determined to remind us why we need the Affordable Care Act. The latest example comes from Anthem Blue Cross, which has just hit 306,000 customers in California with premium increases of up to 25%. As reported by my colleague Chad Terhune, the increases average 16% and are scheduled to kick in April 1, unless the state Department of Insurance jawbones Anthem into backing down.

Here’s the kicker: No one can blame these increases on the mandates of the Affordable Care Act, a popular argument among critics of the act. That’s because the increases are for grandfathered policies exempt from the act.

“It’s a rich irony,” says Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access, a leading California consumer advocacy group. “The insurers can’t have it both ways — they can’t blame the increases on the ACA while increasing rates on their non-ACA-compliant plans as well.” Luckily, Anthem customers have a choice this time around. They can check the state’s insurance exchange at coveredca.com to see if they can replace their old plan with a new one that might well be better, at lower cost.

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Sandra Fluke: What Mike Huckabee Wants To Take Away From Women

Memo to former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and the bosses at for-profit corporations who think they belong in every doctor’s office and that they should be able to decide whether their employees have access to birth control: Women who use birth control do not have an “overactive libido.” We are not looking for a handout from “Uncle Sugar” to score a contraceptive fix. We are not sluts. This is not the reality for women — it never has been and never will be.

In fact, women who use birth control are your mother, partner, sister, and daughter. Ninety-nine percent of sexually active American women have used birth control at some point in their lives. We are just regular people trying to take care of ourselves medically and financially. That’s why seven in ten Americans believe that health insurance companies should be required to cover the full cost of birth control, just as they do for other preventive services.

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Jonathan Cohn: Farewell To Henry Waxman, A Liberal Hero

One of America’s most accomplished lawmakers—a crusader responsible for cleaner air, safer food, and healthier kids—is calling it a career. On Thursday, Congressman Henry Waxman announced that he would retire at the end of this term, 40 years after he first came to Congress. The list of laws for which he deserves substantial credit is simply staggering—not only for its length, but also for its breadth. Waxman was behind the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, the Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments, plus laws regulating lead, greenhouse gas emissions, and formaldehyde. That arguably makes him his generation’s most influential lawmaker on environmental issues.

He was also behind a series of Medicaid expansions, the Ryan White Care Act, the Orphan Drug Act, the Waxman-Hatch Generic Drug Act, and, of course, the Affordable Care Act. That almost certainly makes him the most influential living lawmaker on health care issues. Other major accomplishments include the Food Quality Protection Act and the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act—and, somewhere along the way, he found time to modernize the postal service. How has Waxman done it? For one thing, Waxman recognizes that lawmaking requires patience and persistence—that you have to build the case for legislation, through investigations and stagecraft, even if that takes years or even decades.

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Hannah Allam: Kerry’s First Year As Top U.S. Diplomat Yields Breakthroughs On Thorny Issues

A year ago, John Kerry succeeded Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, joking on one of his first days at work that he had “big heels to fill.” Now a year into his role as America’s top diplomat, Kerry has proven that any trepidation about following such a high-profile figure was misplaced. Kerry’s anniversary this week – he assumed office on Feb. 1, 2013 – finds him, in the opinion of foreign policy analysts, with more significant, concrete breakthroughs than Clinton had in her entire four-year term. As showpieces they hold up the nuclear deal with Iran and the chemical weapons pact with Syria.

A year into Kerry’s tenure, Ross said, the picture from Asia is brighter. Ross, who’s in Beijing for six months, said U.S. diplomacy has brought about improved cooperation with China on North Korea, including landmark banking and other sanctions. And while there are still no U.S.-Chinese military agreements, he said, there are deeper military contacts so that American officials can “pick up the phone and call them if there’s an escalation.” “Secretary Kerry speaks with a quieter voice and made real policy adjustments,” Ross said. “The quiet approach has been more useful than his predecessor’s.”

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Robert McCoppin and Lolly Bowean: Low Wage Workers Struggle To Get By

In the bitter cold, dark hours of the night, as many others are sleeping, Rocio Caravantes begins her hourlong journey on public transportation from her home in Logan Square to one of her two jobs downtown. Once she arrives at work, Caravantes spends hours vacuuming and scrubbing floors, polishing sinks and toilets, cleaning the bar areas and event spaces and tidying up the rugs in an upscale luxury hotel where she can’t afford to spend a night. Panic at times grips her as she thinks about how she will pay all her bills, she said.

“It is impossible to live on $8.25 an hour,” Caravantes said in Spanish, through an interpreter. “Not even three jobs are enough. I earn $495 biweekly. The first check goes to rent — it’s $500 a month. The second is for transportation, food, (phone) and education.” Caravantes, 40, is one example of the minimum wage workers who have become the focus of a national conversation about salaries for the working poor. It’s a political debate in the Illinois governor’s race, and Gov. Pat Quinn used his State of the State address last week to renew his push for an increase in the state minimum wage. President Barack Obama weighed in on the issue too when he asked Congress to increase the federal wage to $10.10.

But the Economic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan research organization in Washington, D.C., paints a broader portrait of low-wage workers. “People tend to think of low-wage workers as teenagers who are working on the weekends for extra spending money,” said David Cooper, an analyst with the institute. “While that is a portion of these workers, the vast majority don’t fit that stereotype.” According to the institute’s research, more than half of low-wage workers are older than 30.

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Jacob J. Lew: MyRA: A Start To A Secure Retirement

As President Barack Obama made clear in his State of the Union address, it is time to focus on restoring opportunity for all. That means helping to make sure more Americans can take part in our growing economy and build some economic security for the long term. To get that done, we are putting forward real, concrete solutions to our most pressing problems – from college affordability and job training to fair wages and a stable retirement.  This program, which will begin later this year, is called myRA or My Retirement Account. This account is designed to help low- and middle-income workers, who are too often overlooked or ignored, begin saving for retirement. We are talking about the waitress who is holding down two part-time jobs to support her kids; the recent graduate who landed a job but is grappling with student loans; the janitor who has never been given the chance to invest in a retirement account.

Here is how myRA, which is simple, safe and affordable, will work. You will be able to start saving with an initial deposit of as little as $25 and contribute as little as $5 each payday. If an employer chooses to participate, contributions are made through automatic payroll deductions, making them hassle-free. There are no fees – 100 percent of any contribution goes into the account and is invested in a Treasury security. That means it will be backed by the full faith and credit of the United States, will earn the same interest rate that is available to federal employees for their retirement savings, and the balance will never go down. Finally, myRA is not tied to any one employer – it belongs to the worker, not the workplace. In other words, the account is portable and can be easily rolled into a Roth IRA. And if myRA savers ever need to, they can withdraw their contributions tax-free, at any time.

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Brian Murphy: Well, That Escalated Quickly

It is utterly irrelevant if Chris Christie ‘wins the day’ or the weekend or the next 5 minutes or the next week. Irrelevant. The bottom line is that he is in serious trouble, politically and legally. On the legal front, the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey is probing allegations by the mayor of Hoboken that a member of Christie’s cabinet and the lieutenant governor linked federal Hurricane Sandy relief funds to the the mayor’s support for a redevelopment project in Hoboken that would exclusively benefit one of Christie’s closest allies – whom he appointed to chair the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

This morning on his MSNBC show Steve Kornacki discussed reporting he and I (and producer Jack Bohrer) did showing that those federal Hurricane Sandy funds have not been monitored by the Christie Administration as required by a law that Christie himself signed last March. Furthermore, relief funds have been extremely hard to account for because Christie vetoed a bill that would have created a single website to track Sandy funding and contract information. Based on the reactions of two congressmen who watched the report with me, officials in Washington will be loath to trust Christie with the next round of federal funds and we should not be surprised if an investigation is on the horizon.

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Chicago Tribune: Push To Bring Obama Library To Chicago Begins

The push to build Barack Obama’s presidential library officially got underway Friday with the establishment of a foundation managed by three of his longtime supporters. “The president’s future library will one day serve as an important part of our nation’s historical record, and our mission is to build a library that tells President Obama’s remarkable story in an interactive way that will inspire future generations to become involved in public service,” Nesbitt said.

The foundation is responsible for developing a library that reflects Obama’s values and priorities, according to Nesbitt. He said it will focus on economic opportunity, inspiring an ethic of American citizenship and promoting peace, justice and dignity around the world, among other things.

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Happy Super Bowl Sunday!

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On This Day:

St Louis, Feb. 2, 2008

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Pete Souza: “White House valets had moved the sofas in the Oval Office to accommodate the large number of press photographers that were covering the President’s meeting with Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas. When the photo-op ended, the President said to Gov. Douglas, ‘let’s move the sofas back in place.’ Gov. Douglas didn’t quite know what to do as the President did the heavy lifting. The valets now good-naturedly cringe when they look at this picture because it was their responsibility to move the sofas back in place.” Feb. 2, 2009

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President Obama walks to the Oval Office after returning to the White House following a trip to Nashua, N.H., Feb. 2, 2010 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

First Lady Michelle Obama speaking alongside Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Democratic Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, on childhood obesity during a meeting with Cabinet and Congressional members in the Old Family Dining Room of the White House, February 2, 2010

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Vice President Joe Biden talks with Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., after President Barack Obama signed the New START Treaty in the Oval Office, Feb. 2, 2011. Behind them, the President talks with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama is updated on the severe winter storm currently moving across the country during a phone call with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate in the Oval Office, Feb. 2, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Vice President Joe Biden snaps a photo of President Barack Obama and keynote speaker Eric Metaxas during the National Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C., Feb. 2, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

25
Jan
14

Rise and Shine

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

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The President has no public events scheduled for this weekend

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Reuters: Obamacare Coverage Enrollment Hits Three Million

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rachel Huggins: Obama Takes Action To End Sexual Assault

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Paul Waldman: Why Republicans Keep Calling Women Sluts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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On This Day:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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24
Jan
14

Rise and Shine

President Obama hugs Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., on the floor of the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., before delivering the State of the Union address, Jan. 24, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today:

The President has no public events scheduled for today

12:45: Press Briefing by Jay Carney

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Greg Sargent: More cracks in GOP resistance to Obamacare

There are increasing signs that the GOP’s total war opposition to Obamacare is becoming tougher to sustain. The basic organizing principle – that only maximum resistance is acceptable in the face of such an existential threat to American freedom – is still widely dominant. But there are scattered indications it’s giving way to an implicit acknowledgment that the law’s fundamental goal — expanding health coverage and security to those who lack it, through more federal oversight and spending – has some moral validity.

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ThinkProgress: Pennsylvania Man Confronts His Governor For Refusing To Expand Medicaid: ‘How Many People Have To Die?’

This week, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) had a run-in with one of his constituents as he was leaving a fundraising event. Scot Rosenzweig — who identified himself as a fellow Republican — showed Corbett a large photograph of his fiancee, Dina Nelson, who died at the age of 41 because she was uninsured and couldn’t afford a liver transplant. “I think maybe we should consider accepting the Medicaid expansion,” Rosenzweig told his governor, explaining that people like Nelson need access to lifesaving health treatment.

“I can’t do that,” Corbett responded.

Corbett is one of 25 governors who have declined to accept Obamacare’s optional Medicaid expansion, a move that is preventing an estimated 700,000 low-income Pennsylvanians from accessing public health insurance…..

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Michael Tomasky: Why Women Do Not ♥ Huckabee

What galaxy do Republican men live in? Apparently one where ladies who use contraception are ‘helpless’ and this potential 2016 contender could have been the fifth Beatle.

A few weeks ago, right after the dark clouds gathered over Chris Christie’s presidential prospects, some friends and I were having the usual Washington conversation of discussing the rest of the field. After we agreed that it was an awfully B-list bench, someone piped up: Hey, don’t forget Mike Huckabee! He’s losing all the weight!

Clearly, some of that vaporized body mass came out of his brain matter, based on his unhinged comments Wednesday at the Republican Party’s winter meeting. Discussing the GOP’s need to get more of the women’s vote, he said the Democratic Party tells women “they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of government.”

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TPM: 2014 Could Be A Bad Year For Tea Party Senate Candidates

One of the craziest potential match-ups in the Republican Senate primaries this year promised to be Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) against incumbent Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) — but early momentum for Stockman quickly fizzled.

Stockman, whose tea party bona fides include threatening to impeach President Barack Obama over new gun control restrictions and comparing Obamacare to sexually transmitted diseases, doesn’t seem to be making much of a dent in the poll numbers after his last-minute entry into the Senate primary. Stockman couldn’t even emerge victorious in a local Texas tea party straw poll and has even recently been missing from congressional votes. And though it’s still early in the 2014 cycle, Stockman’s lackluster campaign might be indicative of how insurgent tea partiers challengers are faring against establishment Republicans. So far, it’s looking increasingly like the so-called tea party wave, which peaked in 2010, might be headed toward a valley this time around.

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Ooops:

Wisconsin State Journal: Scott Walker upset sex offender allowed on stage with him

Gov. Scott Walker said Thursday he was frustrated that a registered sex offender and felon was allowed to stand alongside him during his State of the State speech.

Christopher Barber, a 32-year-old welder, was one of 13 newly hired workers Walker brought out to stand behind him during the opening minutes of his Wednesday speech as examples of how an improved economy is leading to more people finding work.

Barber wore his welding helmet and work gloves on stage. He waved to the audience in the Assembly chamber as he left the podium and Walker turned around and applauded …. Walker didn’t know that Barber, of Two Rivers, is a registered sex offender with two felonies and three drunken driving offenses.

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On This Day:

Senator Barack Obama alongside Republican Senator Richard Lugar at the start of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee business meeting on Iraq resolution, on Capitol Hill in Washington, January 24, 2007

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President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama tour the White House South Grounds with Curator William Allman, left and Chief Usher Admiral Stephen Rochon, Jan. 24, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama works on his State of the Union address with Director of Speechwriting Jon Favreau in the Oval Office, Jan. 24, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama greets Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg before his State of the Union address, January 24, 2012

President Obama hugs Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., on the floor of the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., before delivering the State of the Union address, Jan. 24, 2012

Guests applaud First Lady Michelle Obama during President Obama’s State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012

In a phone call from the U.S. Capitol immediately after the State of the Union Address, President Obama informs John Buchanan that his daughter Jessica was rescued by U.S. Special Operations Forces in Somalia, Jan. 24, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama and Vice President Biden hold a meeting in the Situation Room of the White House, Jan. 24, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

Bo, the Obama family dog, plays in the snow in the Rose Garden of the White House, Jan. 24, 2013 (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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MoooOOOooorning – Happy Friday! And welcome back Nathkatun!

17
Dec
13

Rise and Shine

First Lady Michelle Obama talks with a young patient during a visit to the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, December 16. The First Lady read the book “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” before greeting the children along with Santa Claus and presidential dogs Sunny and Bo

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Today (All Times Eastern):

10:45: President Obama and VP Biden meet with executives from leading technology companies like Google and Apple to discuss ways to improve the functioning of HealthCare.gov

12:30: Jay Carney briefs the press

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BET: Obamacare And Me

McMillian, 54, is also one of millions of Americans who will benefit from the Affordable Care Actwhen it goes into full effect on Jan. 1. And she cannot wait to get some Obamacare. “Having the opportunity to get affordable health care is so important to me and others, who have long awaited this kind of break,” she said. The Bellflower, California, resident owns and operates Kiddie Depot, a home-based family childcare business. Her son, now 18, was covered by the state-sponsored Healthy Families program. “I couldn’t afford it. I have a pre-existing condition, which forces me to end up dropping my coverage each time I’ve purchased it, so I’ve been paying out of pocket,” As soon as she was able to, McMillian visited Covered California to get information about the state’s insurance exchange.

“I put in my information and my son’s and I was just floored because the amount to cover us both was in the range of $183 per month,” she said. “That is extremely affordable for me.” Seeing how strongly opposed to the law congressional Republicans are, going so far as to shut down the government, makes her mad. “They have excellent health care and could care less about me and aren’t going to pay my bills,” she said. “They’re trying to do everything they can to hurt the president, but they’re not hurting him — they’re hurting people like me.” It also has charged her up even more to help spread the word. “At a community event I said do not let the Obamacare discussion stop inside your houses. Tell somebody. Think of five people you know and tell them about the [law] and then ask them to tell five more people,” she said.

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Elias Isquith: Paul Krugman: Inequality Is “The Defining Challenge Of Our Time”

Paul Krugman’s latest column for the New York Times is a defense of prioritizing inequality as the top issue in American politics today. To begin his column, Krugman writes that while inequality is nothing new — it’s been a topic of conversation in pop culture ever since Oliver Stone’s 1987 film, “Wall Street,” he notes — the willingness to address it being shown by some major politicians (including the president) is. In fact, according to Krugman, concern over inequality has become so widespread that it’s produced “a backlash from pundits arguing that inequality isn’t that big a deal.”

But the truth, according to Krugman, is that inequality is a big deal — both economically and politically. Regarding inequality’s economic impact, Krugman writes, “inequality is rising so fast that over the past six years it has been as big a drag on ordinary American incomes as poor economic performance, even though those years include the worst economic slump since the 1930s.” He also argues that inequality’s influence is partially to blame for the weak post-recession economy, because having so much wealth tied up with so few people reduces consumer demand in the economy as a whole.

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County Times: Connecticut Readies for Health Care, Application Rate Soars as Deadline Approaches

Dan Beecher and his wife, Louise Coogan Beecher, unemployed since they lost their jobs in the 2008 housing crash, couldn’t find any affordable health insurance. As a couple older than 50, they were offered premiums of $700 per month, which was too much for them to afford. After being uninsured for five years, the couple recently was insured under the Affordable Health Act. They signed up during an enrollment fair for the Affordable Care Act in Cornwall last Saturday and found they were eligible for a government subsidy. Now they qualify for a free health plan.“We can finally see doctors,” Mrs. Beecher said, wiping her tears.

Mike Sweeney, an ethnographic researcher, paid more than $800 a month for his healthcare premium because of his pre-existing condition. He said the coverage was adequate but not great. After enrolling in the Affordable Care Act, starting in January he will pay $400 a month for better coverage. “It hurt every month to write that $800-plus check,” Mr. Sweeney said, “I was nervous about [Obamacare], because I’ve heard many complaints … but I was blown away when I went from such a high premium a month to half that.”

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ThinkProgress: Church Leaders Shame Catholic University For Accepting Koch Dollars

A group of 50 Catholic leaders are criticizing the president of the Catholic University of America (CUA) for accepting a $1 million donation from a foundation controlled by Charles Koch, arguing that his ideological agenda is not in line with Catholic theology.

…. Charles, along with his brother David, run Koch Industries and fund a wide array of front-groups and lobbying efforts to expand their anti-tax, anti-regulatory agenda.

“The Koch brothers are billionaire industrialists who fund organizations that advance public policies that directly contradict Catholic teaching on a range of moral issues from economic justice to environmental stewardship,” the group of priests, social justice advocates, theologians and other academics write. They point to Pope Francis’ strong condemnation of trickle-down economics and the importance of business serving the common good…

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NYT: Pope Replaces Conservative U.S. Cardinal On Influential Vatican Committee

Pope Francis moved on Monday against a conservative American cardinal who has been an outspoken critic of abortion and same-sex marriage, by replacing him on a powerful Vatican committee with another American who is less identified with the culture wars within the Roman Catholic Church. The pope’s decision to remove Cardinal Raymond L. Burke from the Congregation for Bishops was taken by church experts to be a signal that Francis is willing to disrupt the Vatican establishment in order to be more inclusive.

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CBS Sacramento: Covered California

Victor Kaslye. 19, is talking about the need get to health insurance. This comes as a big blow to most people when they turn 18, and cut off from mom and dads. “I know a lot of young people are thinking about it and talking about it,” said Victor. “Even though at that age we think were indestructible we don’t have health probs if something comes along that is serious you want health coverage,” said Roger.

Nearly 120,000 people enrolled in Covered California in November, way up from the nearly 31,000 in October. California is ahead of the game compared to other states. Victor’s just glad he can now get a checkup. “If this wasn’t available. I probably wouldn’t be doing anything about health insurance,” said Victor.

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Get Covered America: What #GotCovered Means For Brian And Dianna: “Relief.”

When Dianna Burke lost her job, she and her husband Brian also lost their health insurance. Although Dianna found new work, it didn’t come with benefits. Since losing their insurance plan, the couple has only been able to obtain coverage through COBRA for the hefty price of more than $1,000 per month — and even that insurance expires at the end of this year. Brian and Dianna were thrilled when they found out how much they would save when they shopped for a plan through their state Marketplace, Covered California. After looking at their options, they chose a health insurance plan that would cost just $127 per month.

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Reuters: Obamacare Enrollment In California Surges

California’s Obamacare insurance marketplace experienced a surge in enrollment last week, officials said on Thursday, offering welcome news for President Barack Obama’s sweeping healthcare law from a state crucial to its success. Some 144,146 applications were completed and 49,708 people selected commercial plans in the first week of December, compared to 403,323 completed applications and 109,296 enrollments in the previous two months since the Covered California marketplace opened, officials said.

At that rate, California would meet its 2013 enrollment target. “This is a good day for Californians,” Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, the state’s Obamacare marketplace, told reporters. “We are seeing real momentum.” California is arguably the most crucial state for Obamacare. It has more uninsured people than any other state (7.4 million in 2011), and the law’s supporters are counting on Californians to make up a good fraction of the 7 million people the White House hopes to enroll in health insurance through the law during this first open enrollment period, which runs through March 31.

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Anna Nemtsova: Heroes Of The Maidan

In the past few weeks, massive protests have transformed Kiev’s central square, the Maidan, into a military fortress guarded by disciplined volunteers-turned-soldiers. People from all over Ukraine came to the square for political reasons, yes, but they also came to support one other and bask in the protest’s strong feeling of community. Every day, thousands of people camped out in tents, braving the bitter cold, or joined the protests after work to chant: “Glory to Ukraine! Glory to its heroes!” For every Ukrainian, these words held deep meaning. In defending the square, people defended their rights, their dreams for the future. A new Ukraine of pure values was born on the Maidan.

As the weeks passed by, the Maidan took on a life of its own, as the activists added more and more issues to the Euromaidan agenda. The protesters — who were mostly from Kiev or the western and central parts of Ukraine — complained about economic issues, unemployment, injustice, and corruption. In the headquarters of the Maidan’s military section, Lieutenant Alexander Baranovsky criticized the “shameful pennies” officers received for their military service: just $400 a month. And an engineer from Lviv region, Alexander Grishko, complained about the massive unemployment in western Ukraine. “These people on the square are my family,” he said. “As long as we are here, we feel there is hope for a better future for our country.”

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Adrian Karatnycky: Ukraine’s Massed Protesters Have Pushed Their Country To A Tipping Point

For twenty-six days Ukrainians have stood in protest demanding that their president, Viktor Yanukovych, reject the blandishments of autocratic Russia. Instead, they insist that he sign a free trade agreement with – and embrace the democratic standards of – the European Union. The crowds in Kyiv’s Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) have ebbed and surged from thousands to as many as half a million, defying bracing winter temperatures to stand up for their country’s European future.

With a population of 45 million on the border of the European Union, Ukraine’s sovereignty and its ability to withstand Moscow’s pressures to amalgamate into its military-political space is crucial to ensuring that an authoritarian Russia never reemerges as a world power. The stakes in Kyiv are therefore crucial to securing the future of a peaceful democratic Europe.

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Jackie Calmes: An Indispensable Player On Obama’s Team Takes His Leave, At Last

Pete Rouse, President Obama’s “indispensable man” with a low profile and big footprint, is the quirky insider who built the Obama organization, hired nearly everyone from the White House chief of staff on down, plotted strategy and regularly said he was about to leave.  Mr. Rouse, 67, swears he finally is leaving at year’s end, nine years after agreeing only to help Mr. Obama, the newly elected senator from Illinois, set up his office. For once, people are starting to believe him — including his boss. “It will be a tough loss,” Mr. Obama said in a brief interview on Wednesday, acknowledging Mr. Rouse’s departure plans. Then he added, “But it may be a situation where he feels more comfortable with some discreet assignments here and there, and certainly I will continue to rely on him for the good counsel and advice that I really can’t get from any other people in this town.”

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He has been as crucial to Mr. Obama as any presidential adviser in history. “I trust him completely,” Mr. Obama said in the interview. “He is a model of discretion and he has no ego, and he’s as wise as they come. So I think it’s fair to say that for the remainder of my term in office he will continue to be somebody who I talk to a lot and rely on heavily.” This year, Mr. Rouse internally announced his exit every season, but then always found reasons to stay — to vet second-term personnel, smooth summertime conflicts with senators over Syria policy and a new Federal Reserve chairman, and help with strategy during the fall budget showdowns with Republicans. “I can’t just walk out of here now,” he told a reporter in late summer, explaining another postponement.

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Soon after Mr. Obama’s re-election, Mr. Rouse said, he told the president that he would help with second-term staffing issues and then depart. “Four months?” Mr. Obama asked him. Sure, Mr. Rouse replied, he would stay four months. Weeks later, Mr. Obama told advisers in a January meeting that Mr. Rouse had committed to stay the year. As surprised colleagues looked at Mr. Rouse, he objected, “Excuse me, but I thought we said four months.” “Whatever,” Mr. Obama replied.

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On This Day:

President Obama meets with, from left, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Special Assistant to the President Gary Samore, Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind., and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., regarding arms control and non-proliferation, in the Situation Room of the White House, Dec. 17, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama signs the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the White House, Dec. 17, 2010 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

First Lady Michelle Obama participates in a “Toys for Tots” service project at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, D.C., Dec. 17, 2010 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)

Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling December 17, 2010




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