Posts Tagged ‘contraception

01
Apr
14

Rise and Shine

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are welcomed by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to Buckingham Palace in London, England, April 1, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today:

11:35: President Obama honors the 2013 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox

12:15: Lunch with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi

3:15: Meets with Secretary of Commerce Pritzker

4:15: President Obama announces ObamaCare numbers

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Wednesday: Travels to Ann Arbor, Michigan for an event on his proposal to raise the national minimum wage. Following this event, he will travel to Chicago, Illinois to attend DNC events

Thursday: The President and First Lady will host members of the United States teams and delegations from the 2014 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games at the White House.

Friday: The President will host Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa of Tunisia at the White House.

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Brian Beutler: It’s All Over, Obamacare Haters! Why They’ve Officially Lost The Battle

By 11:59:59 p.m. Monday night — the last moment of the Affordable Care Act’s first open enrollment period — sign-ups on Healthcare.gov and 14 state-based exchanges had cleared the symbolic 7 million threshold, according to both administration officials and data experts, and will continue to climb above it over the next few weeks as HHS processes applications from people who were mid-queue when the clock struck midnight. Throw in new Medicaid enrollments, off-exchange enrollments into Qualified Health Plans, young invincibles on their parents’ plans, and the beneficiary total far exceeds 10 million. On net, millions more people — perhaps about 10 million — are now (or will soon be) insured because of Obamacare than were covered beforehand.

That net number will probably be less than initially forecast, but when you account for the fact that almost half of all states didn’t expand Medicaid, and Healthcare.gov effectively experienced a two-month outage last year, you have to be a fanatical Obamacare hater not to call it a comeback. Now that it’s all over but the shouting, conservatives are watching the mechanisms they’ve employed to discredit enrollment numbers shrink away from them. They are left to think wishfully that the new enrollees will not pay their premiums in overwhelming numbers, or deny that they exist altogether. The universe of Obamacare “success stories” is larger than the universe of Obamacare “horror stories” and many of said horror stories fall apart or are revealed to be ambiguous upon mild scrutiny.

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April Ryan: Champagne Celebration As 7 Million Signups Achieved

At 12:01 AM, White House Chief Technology Officer Todd Park acknowledged to QSSI, the Columbia, Maryland firm tasked with fixing Healthcare.gov that the ACA enrollments have surpassed the 7 million mark.  Park and QSSI employees celebrated with champagne after the early morning announcement in the lobby of the building as they are not allowed to drink alcohol in the offices at QSSI.

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TPM: BREAKING: Obamacare Sign-Ups On Track To Hit 7 Million On Final Day

Beating expectations, President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul was on track to sign up more than 7 million Americans for health insurance on deadline day Monday, government officials told The Associated Press. Two government officials confirmed the milestone, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter ahead of an official announcement. Seven million was the original target set by the Congressional Budget Office for enrollment in taxpayer-subsidized private health insurance through new online markets created under Obama’s signature legislation. At St. Francis Hospital in Wilmington, Del., enrollment counselor Hubert Worthen plunged into a long day. “I got my energy drink,” he said. “This is epic, man.”

At a Houston community center, there were immigrants from Ethiopia, Nepal, Eritrea, Somalia, Iraq, Iran and other conflict-torn areas, many of them trying anew after failing to complete applications previously. In addition to needing help with the actual enrollment, they needed to wait for interpreters. Many had taken a day off from work, hoping to meet the deadline. The White House and other supporters of the law were hoping for an enrollment surge that would confound skeptics. The insurance markets — or exchanges — offer subsidized private health insurance to people who don’t have access to coverage through their jobs. The federal government is taking the lead in 36 states, while 14 other states plus Washington, D.C., are running their own enrollment websites. New York, running its own site, reported more than 812,000 had signed up by Sunday morning, nearly 100,000 of them last week.

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Michael Hiltzik: Obamacare Numbers Surging: Here’s A Guide To GOP Excuse-Making

Against all odds and expectations, enrollments in health plans qualified under the Affordable Care Act are surging Monday toward – and maybe beyond — the 7-million figure projected by the Congressional Budget Office before Oct. 1, when the open-enrollment period began. The deadline for starting enrollment applications for 2014 plans is midnight Monday. The surge is creating a big problem for the “train wreck” narrative of Republican opponents of the ACA, who have been holding out hope for Obamacare’s utter failure. So the excuse-making has begun.

Before we examine those excuses: You will recall that the budget office reduced its projection of enrollments on individual insurance exchanges to 6 million earlier this year to account for the botched launch of healthcare.gov, the federal enrollment website. Enrollments blew past that mark days ago. If exchange enrollments meet or exceed the original projection of 7 million despite the loss of some six weeks in website functionality in October and November, that would be a testament to the public’s latent desire for effective healthcare coverage.

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Damon Tucker: U.S. Secretary Of Education Arne Duncan Praises Hawaii’s Education Leadership

Hawaii’s public schools can be a model for the nation, according to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who visited two schools today before returning to Washington, D.C. Secretary Duncan, Governor Neil Abercrombie and Schools Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi spoke with media in reflecting on the progress made during the last three years based on the Race to the Top (RTTT) federal education reform grant.“When we first did the RTTT grant, there was a huge amount of skepticism in the outside world, and frankly, internally,” stated Secretary Duncan. “Hawaii initially had its challenges; they’ve shown amazing leadership, courage and vision. I can’t overstate how important the Governor’s leadership has been…the leadership of the State Superintendent…they are a profile in courage. The only way you get better is to challenge the status quo. The only way to accelerate the rate of change is to do something different. The progress has been extraordinary.

Hawaii by any objective measure – is one of the fastest improving states in the nation – top five states, that’s top 10 percent in the nation.” Waipahu High is the second-largest high school in Hawaii with 2,450 students. About 70 percent of its students are of Filipino ancestry, while nearly 6 out of 10 students come from economically disadvantage backgrounds. Waipahu High Principal Keith Hayashi, who was appointed in 2009, has led a tremendous academic turnaround at the school. Reading proficiency among 10th graders rose to 69 percent in 2013 from 58 percent in 2011, while math proficiency jumped to 47 percent from 26 percent. College-going rate increased to 58 percent from 49 percent during the same period.

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Examiner: New Poll: More Americans Now Support ‘Obamcare’ Than Oppose It

As the Affordable Care Act open enrollment comes to a close, more people now support President Obama’s health care reform than those who oppose it. Though by a slim margin, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, 49 percent of Americans now support “Obamacare,” compared to 48 percent who oppose the law. President Obama has made a strong push over the last few months to encourage those who need insurance, to do so through the open enrollment period than ran through March 31.

When the same poll was taken in November of 2013, only 40 percent of Americans supported the law, while 57 percent opposed it.Two key voting blocks have also been tilting in the direction of Democrats and the Affordable Care Act. The WaPo/ABC poll notes that 57 percent of Hispanics support the law in addition to 52 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 29.

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Molly Redden: Hobby Lobby’s Hypocrisy: The Company’s Retirement Plan Invests In Contraception Manufacturers

When Obamacare compelled businesses to include emergency contraception in employee health care plans, Hobby Lobby, a national chain of craft stores, fought the law all the way to the Supreme Court. The Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, the company’s owners argued, forced them to violate their religious beliefs. But while it was suing the government, Hobby Lobby spent millions of dollars on an employee retirement plan that invested in the manufacturers of the same contraceptive products the firm’s owners cite in their lawsuit. Documents filed with the Department of Labor and dated December 2012—three months after the company’s owners filed their lawsuit—

show that the Hobby Lobby 401(k) employee retirement plan held more than $73 million in mutual funds with investments in companies that produce emergency contraceptive pills, intrauterine devices, and drugs commonly used in abortions. Hobby Lobby makes large matching contributions to this company-sponsored 401(k). Several of the mutual funds in Hobby Lobby’s retirement plan have holdings in companies that manufacture the specific drugs and devices that the Green family, which owns Hobby Lobby, is fighting to keep out of Hobby Lobby’s health care policies: the emergency contraceptive pills Plan B and Ella, and copper and hormonal intrauterine devices.

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Hayes Brown: Zero U.S. Troops Died In Combat In March, The First Time In More Than A Decade

March 2014 marked the first time in more than a decade that there were zero U.S. fatalities among American troops engaging in combat, according to numbers from the Department of Defense. After a decade at war in the post-9/11 environment, with major wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and smaller conflicts in the various other countries where the U.S. uses more covert methods to fight against terrorism, the lack of combat deaths in March 2014 marks a milestone.

In Iraq, the death toll reached 4,474 before the last soldier fell in November 2011. For years after the war’s launch in 2003, no months passed where at least one American didn’t die in battle and then only towards the end of the conflict did the numbers taper off enough to have a month where the only fatalities were non-combat related.

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Ellie Hall: Obama Told Military Leaders: Accept Gays In Military Or Step Down, Admiral Says

In a meeting with the heads of the five service branches in 2010, President Obama offered the leaders a choice: Support my efforts to end the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, or resign, the Commandant of the Coast Guard said. In a video obtained by BuzzFeed via a Freedom of Information Act request, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Robert Papp revealed that Obama was unwilling to compromise with service leaders over DADT during a meeting in 2010. “We were called into the Oval Office and

President Obama looked all five service chiefs in the eye and said, ‘This is what I want to do.’ I cannot divulge everything he said to us, that’s private communications within the Oval Office, but if we didn’t agree with it — if any of us didn’t agree with it — we all had the opportunity to resign our commissions and go do other things,” he said.The admiral, who will be retiring from active duty on May 30, added that he thought the U.S. military made the right decision by abolishing DADT.

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USA Today: He’s All Ivy — Accepted To All 8 Ivy League Colleges

In the next month, Kwasi Enin must make a tough decision: Which of the eight Ivy League universities should he attend this fall? A first-generation American from Shirley, N.Y., the 17-year-old violist and aspiring physician applied to all eight, from Brown to Yale. The responses began rolling in over the past few months, and by late last week when he opened an e-mail from Harvard, he found he’d been accepted to every one.

School district officials provided scanned copies of acceptance letters from all eight on Monday. Yale confirmed that it was holding a spot for Enin. The feat is extremely rare, say college counselors — few students even apply to all eight, because each seeks different qualities in their freshman class. Almost none are invited to attend them all. The Ivy League colleges are among the nation’s most elite.

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Brian Beutler: GOP’s Self-Defeating Myopia: Why Its Obamacare Mania Is Now A Gift To Democrats

Here’s a riddle for anyone who thinks the politics of Obamacare are straightforward, and toxic for Democrats. How is it possible, in defiance of public rebuke, widespread misinformation and other headwinds, that insurance enrollment is surging in just about every state in the country? I suppose it’s possible that these millions of new beneficiaries were all supporters of the law to begin with and the surge doesn’t hint at a more complex public opinion. But I don’t think that’s right. Over the past several days we’ve been presented with a wealth of evidence that the conventional theory of the Affordable Care Act and the coming midterm elections is flawed.

Going back to last year, before they knew how poor the rollout of the law would be, administration officials knew they’d have to circumvent traditional media to encourage enrollment. But perhaps because the rollout was so bad, the press has been less helpful to the cause of the ACA than the administration expected. Not that it’s the press’s job to encourage enrollment, exactly, but a profusion of glitches and delays has given reporters a lot to write about aside from subsidies and other ACA benefits. Yet despite all that, the enrollment rate is way up over the past several weeks, due almost entirely to external messaging, organizing and advertising on the part of the administration and its allies. And apparently it’s been pretty successful.

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Steve Benen: As ACA Climbs Higher, GOP Denial Digs Deeper

There is not yet an official announcement about exactly how many Affordable Care Act enrollments there were during the open-enrollment period. The Associated Press and others are reporting that the Obama administration believes it’s “on track” to sign up more than 7 million Americans for health insurance, but there’s been no official confirmation.As a practical matter, it really doesn’t much matter whether the total is 6.9 million or 7.1 million – it’s almost a matter of bragging rights at this point, but it doesn’t really affect the structural integrity of the system –

and it’s also worth noting that yesterday wasn’t necessarily the inflexible deadline anyway. Coverage through Medicaid expansion will continue, and those who began the process before the deadline will still be allowed to finish.But the larger takeaway remains the same. First, “Obamacare” is succeeding in ways no one was predicting a few months ago. Second, Republicans are in deep denial over facts that contradict everything they’ve chosen to believe about reality.

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Judy Lin: Deadline Brings High Interest For Health Insurance

A blizzard, jammed phone lines and unreliable websites failed to stop throngs of procrastinating Americans from trying to sign up for health coverage by the midnight Monday deadline for President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy initiative. In Louisiana, wait times for callers lasted up to two hours. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee received nearly 1,900 calls by midday compared with about 800 the previous Monday. And in California, where enrollments surged toward the Obama administration’s original projection of 1.3 million, the deadline day volume forced the state exchange to switch off a key function on its website and encourage people to finish their applications in the days ahead. Across the nation, the interest in getting health insurance and avoiding a federal tax penalty was made clear in interviews with enrollment counselors and consumers.

“I have not had a physical in over 15 years,” said Dionne Gilbert, a 51-year-old uninsured woman from Denver who waited in a 90-minute line to get enrollment assistance. “I told myself, ‘You need to do this. Your daughter loves you and needs you.’” The last-minute rush was expected to significantly boost the number of Americans gaining coverage under the new law, and government officials told The Associated Press late Monday that they were on track to sign up more than 7 million Americans for health insurance by the deadline. But the months ahead will show whether the Affordable Care Act will meet its mandate to provide affordable health care coverage or whether high deductibles, paperwork snags and narrow physician networks make it a bust.

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Bob Cesca: Please Republicans, Run Against Obamacare This Year And We’ll See You In November

Anyone who tells you the GOP is a lock for holding onto the House of Representatives while taking back the Senate in the midterms doesn’t know what the hell they’re talking about. Why? Because it’s April. The election isn’t for another seven months. That’s a huge block of time, especially knowing how the speed of online media has accelerated news cycles and shortened voter attention spans. Again, if the Democrats can appeal to voters based on each of the very popular line items in the law, they might even be able to swing a few moderate, open-minded Republicans (yes, they exist), and especially those Republicans who happen to have ACA coverage (yes, they exist, too). At the same time, there’s seven months to carpet bomb swing districts with all of the Obamacare success stories such as, you know, my success story.

That’s more than enough time, and there’s more than enough material. This is all to suggest that the Democrats can absolutely meet the Republicans eye-to-eye on Obamacare rather than spinelessly running away from the law. There’s plenty of ammunition, 9.5 million Americans with new policies, along with strengthening poll numbers from which to draw support. If Mr. Priebus wants to make Obamacare The Issue for 2014, bring it on. The Democrats should absolutely stick it to him and make the GOP sorry it bothered. Who knows whether this will change the make-up of Congress or how the numbers will stack up. It’s still way too early to tell. But it’s a good bet the Republicans are making a classic strategic blunder — basing their fortunes upon the diminishing returns of the same old Obamacare myths and demagoguery.

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Media Matters: From “Doomed” To Boom: How The Press Missed The Obamacare Comeback Story

Just three weeks ago the Associated Press reported the Obama administration needed “something close to a miracle” in order to “meet its goal” of enrolling six million people into private health care plans via the Affordable Care Act before the looming April 1 deadline arrived. The article’s premise was telling in that it focused on what the political fallout would be if Obamacare sign-ups fell short. Noticeably absent was any analysis of what an Obamacare deadline success would look like or what the political implications would be. The scenario of success simply wasn’t considered plausible or worth addressing.

Of course, we now know that as many as seven million people enrolled for private coverage through the exchanges established by Obama’s health care law. Thanks to an amazing consumer surge in the month of March, the seven million mark, routinely thought of last year as completely unattainable, and often dismissed this year as not possible, was met. And because of a provision of the Obamacare law, approximately three million young people have been added to their parents’ private insurance plans. Meaning, more than 10 million people have used Obamacare to secure health coverage. The new law, noted the Los Angeles Times, “has spurred the largest expansion in health coverage in America in half a century.” The paper reported, “At least 9.5 million previously uninsured people have gotten health insurance since Obamacare started.”

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Aaron Blake: Sebelius: 80-90 Percent Of Obamacare Enrollees Have Paid A Premium

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Monday that insurance companies estimate between 80 and 90 percent of the 6 million people who have signed up for Obamacare have actually paid a premium. “What we know from insurance companies … tell(s) us that, for their initial customers, it’s somewhere between 80, 85, some say as high as 90 percent, have paid so far,” Sebelius said on KWTV-TV. “Lots of companies have different timetables for when their new customers have to send their first payment.”

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ABC: Behind The Scenes With Rosie The Riveters At The White House

Phyllis Gould waited 12 years for the moment when she, one of the six original “Rosie the Riveters,” made it to the White House.
Gould, 92, and her five fellow “Rosie the Riveters,” who worked in a shipyard during World War II, were invited by Vice President Joe Biden Monday after a decades-long letter campaign by Gould that began when Bill Clinton was in office. “I thought we are not going to be here that much longer and we need to get this out,” Gould said of why she asked for a White House invitation. “Because no one else can do it for us.” “Truthfully, I always thought I would drift through my life invisible to anybody,” she said. Instead, Gould’s letter to Biden, in which she said her dream was to take a picture with the president and the vice president in the Oval Office, resulted in an invitation for Gould and her fellow “Rosies” to a week-long visit to Washington, D.C.

 “This was the start of the first women’s liberation movement,” Biden told ABC News’ Lara Spencer as he greeted the Rosie’s. “You see these women working in a factory doing anything any man can do. It began to change everything.” With their motto, “We can do it,” and their famous red bandanas, Gould and the 20 million other American women who went to work during World War II turned gender stereotypes on their heads. The riveters worked as welders, electricians and draftsman at the Kaiser Shipyard in Richmond, Calif., as the men fought in the war. During the women’s visit to the White House, Gould not only got the hug from Biden that she asked for in her letter, they all also got a surprise visit from President Obama.

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@VP: One of the Rosies at [yesterday’s] meeting requested a “Big Biden Hug”. Catch the whole story on [today’s] @GMA.

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On This Day:

Sarah Brown, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, President Obama and Michelle Obama on the steps of No.10 Downing St on the eve of the G20 summit in London, April 1, 2009

President Obama is welcomed to 10 Downing Street in London by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, April 1, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

First Lady Michelle Obama talks alone with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton prior to President Obama’s Meeting with President Hu of China. Winfield House in London, April 1, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev meet for the first time to issue a joint statement announcing their pursuit of a new START treaty, at Winfield House in London, April 1, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama smiles during a meeting with his Russian counterpart Medvedev at Winfield House in London, April 1, 2009

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 President Obama waves to crowd gathered for his arrival in Framingham, Mass., April 1, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama talks Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, center, at the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency in Framingham, Mass., April 1, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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The North Portico of the White House is seen through the fog, April 1, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama welcomes Robby Novak, known as “Kid President,” to the Oval Office, April 1, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama reacts to a missed shot on the White House Basketball Court, April 1, 2013. The President participated in a clinic with kids and professional basketball players as part of the 2013 White House Easter Egg Roll (Photo by Pete Souza)

 

 

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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