Posts Tagged ‘education



18
Jun
14

A Nation Of Makers

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President Barack Obama meets with Lindsay Lawlor, of San Diego, Calif., and his creation, a 17-foot-tall, 2,200-lb robotic giraffe that “walks” on wheels and is powered by a 12-horsepower hybrid fuel-engine motor, during his tour on the South Lawn of the White House to meet with students, entrepreneurs and inventors, during the first ever White House “Maker Faire.” President Obama is highlighting new tools and techniques that promote fledgling businesses create and market their products in an effort to focus attention on US manufacturing need for science and math education

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President Barack Obama holds up cell phone that is plugged into a “soofa” a solar powered bench, that Sandra Richter of Cambridge, Massachusetts, helped designed with allows people to charge their phones

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President Barack Obama reaches out to pet a 17-foot-tall, 2,200-lb robotic giraffe that “walks” on wheels and is powered by a 12-horsepower hybrid fuel-engine motor

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White House: Fact Sheet: President Obama To Host First-Ever White House Maker Faire

As part of his year of action and this week’s focus on efforts that will expand opportunity by spurring manufacturing, innovation and entrepreneurship, the President will also announce new steps the Administration and its partners are taking to increase the ability of more Americans, young and old, to have access to these tools and techniques and to bring their ideas to life. Among the efforts being launched by the President at the White House Maker Faire: Helping Makers launch new businesses and create jobs, with more than 13 federal agencies and companies including Etsy, Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and Local Motors offering Makers a suite of support services including expanded access to start-up grants, strong relationships with American manufacturers and major retailers, and business mentoring and training. Dramatically expanding the number of students that have the opportunity to become Makers, with the Department of Education and five other agencies;

over 150 colleges and universities; more than 130 libraries; and major companies ranging including Intel, Autodesk, Disney, Lego, 3D Systems, and MAKE committing to create more Makerspaces, enlist more educators in teaching Making, and launch other programs that allow students access to the tools and mentors that will bring their ideas to life.  Challenging Makers to tackle our most pressing problems, from Maker Nurses prototyping new tools that will aid in patient care, to Makers expanding our frontiers in space, to Makers here and abroad developing low-cost technologies that can improve the livelihoods of the world’s most vulnerable people. America has always been a nation of tinkerers, inventors, and entrepreneurs. In recent years, a growing number of Americans have gained access to technologies such as 3D printers, laser cutters, easy-to-use design software, and desktop machine tools, with even more being created by the day. These tools are enabling more Americans to design and build almost anything.

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President Obama Hosts Maker Faire At White House

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Stacy Anderson: Maker Faire Makes White House Debut; Obama Tours Exhibits

If President Barack Obama is mingling with inventors, sooner or later there has to be a robot. On Wednesday, it was Russell, the 17-foot electric giraffe towering in the South Lawn of the White House, a symbol of the quirky and clever creations Obama wanted to showcase on a day devoted to innovation. “New tools and technologies are making the building of things easier than ever,” Obama told entrepreneurs and students who gathered at the White House at its first Maker Faire. “There is a democratization of manufacturing that is potentially available because of technology.” As part of a weeks-long emphasis on the economy, Obama was promoting the use of new tools and techniques to start up new businesses, to boost manufacturing and to strengthen science and math education.

“We’ve got to make sure that more Americans have the skills and opportunities to land a job in a growing industry or to create entire new industries,” he said. “That’s why I’m declaring today a national day of making.” Among the South Bay inventions spotlighted at the event was a $5 chemistry set by Stanford professor Manu Prakash and a 3-D printer from Mountain View-based Made in Space. Besides the giant giraffe, a huge red weather balloon hovered over the Rose Garden and a menacing dinosaur head rested in a hallway. A Philadelphia non-profit group demonstrated a fuel-efficient car. Another showed off a solar energy unit. “What on earth have you done to my house?” Obama joked. Obama always seems engrossed by technological innovations, though he joked about the name Maker Faire as a gathering for new and creative products. “Why is there an ‘E’ at the end of ‘faire’?” he said. “Is there jousting? Do we all have to get dressed up, or what?….This is America. We don’t have ‘E’s’ at the end of ‘fair.'”

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16
Jun
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day – Pete Souza: “The President shows off his dance moves as he and the First Lady waited backstage during an intermission of daughter Sasha’s dance recital at Strathmore Arts Center in North Bethesda, Maryland.” June 16, 2013

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Today

10:0 am PT: President Obama departs Palm Springs

5:30 pm ET: Arrives White House

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The Week Ahead

Tuesday: President Obama will travel to TechShop Pittsburgh to deliver remarks on the economy. Following this, he will travel to New York City to attend the DNC LGBT Gala and take part in another DNC Event.

Wednesday: The President will host the first ever White House Maker Faire and meet with students, entrepreneurs and everyday citizens who are using new tools and techniques to launch new businesses, learn vital skills in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), and fuel the renaissance in American manufacturing.

Thursday: The President will award Corporal William “Kyle” Carpenter, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.), the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry.

Friday: The President will meet with Prime Minister John Key of New Zealand.

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Paul Krugman: Yes He Could – Health Care And Climate: President Obama’s Big Deals

You should judge leaders by their achievements, not their press, and in terms of policy substance Mr. Obama is having a seriously good year. In fact, there’s a very good chance that 2014 will go down in the record books as one of those years when America took a major turn in the right direction. First, health reform is now a reality — and despite a shambolic start, it’s looking like a big success story. Remember how nobody was going to sign up? First-year enrollments came in above projections. Remember how people who signed up weren’t actually going to pay their premiums? The vast majority have.

Then there’s climate policy. The Obama administration’s new rules on power plants won’t be enough in themselves to save the planet, but they’re a real start — and are by far the most important environmental initiative since the Clean Air Act….Put it all together, and Mr. Obama is looking like a very consequential president indeed.

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Colin H. Kahl: No, Obama Didn’t Lose Iraq: What The President’s Critics Get Wrong

As the senior Pentagon official responsible for Iraq policy during the first three years of the Obama administration, I had a front-row seat for the internal deliberations over how to end the war. Through the first half of 2011, there was a vigorous debate within the administration about whether U.S. forces should remain in Iraq beyond December, and if so, in what numbers and with what missions. Ultimately, at great political risk, President Obama approved negotiations with the Iraqi government to allow a force of around 5,000 American troops to stay in Iraq to provide counterterrorism support and air cover and to train the Iraqi army. But, as commander in chief, he was unwilling to strand U.S. forces in a hostile, anti-American environment without the legal protections and immunities required to ensure soldiers didn’t end up in Iraqi jails. These protections, which are common in nearly every country where U.S. forces operate, were guaranteed under the 2008 status of forces agreement negotiated by the Bush administration; Obama simply demanded that they continue under any follow-on accord. Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, told

U.S. negotiators that he was willing to sign an executive memorandum of understanding that included these legal protections. But for any agreement to be binding under the Iraqi constitution, it had to be approved by the Iraqi parliament. This was the judgment of every senior administration lawyer and Maliki’s own legal adviser, and no senior U.S. military commander made the case that we should leave forces behind without these protections. Even Sen. John McCain, perhaps the administration’s harshest Iraq critic, admitted in a December 2011 speech discussing the withdrawal that the president’s demand for binding legal immunities “was a matter of vital importance.” Moreover, because the 2008 security agreement had been approved by the Iraqi parliament, it seemed both unrealistic and politically unsustainable to apply a lower standard this time around. Unfortunately, Iraqi domestic politics made it impossible to reach a deal. Iraqi public opinion surveys consistently showed that the U.S. military presence was deeply unpopular

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Matthew Lee: Kerry: US Open To Cooperation With Iran On Chaos In Iraq

Secretary of State John Kerry says the Obama administration is willing to talk with Iran over deteriorating security conditions in Iraq and is not ruling out potential U.S.-Iranian military cooperation in stemming the advance of Sunni extremists. Kerry also says U.S. drone strikes “may well” be an option.

In a Monday interview with Yahoo! News, Kerry said Washington is “open to discussions” with Tehran if the Iranians can help end the violence and restore confidence in the Iraqi government. Asked about possible military cooperation with Iran, Kerry said he would “not rule out anything that would be constructive.” However, he stressed that any contacts with Iran would move “step-by-step.”

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Soumya Karlamangla: Uninsured Students Drop By 60% At Cal State Campuses

New data show the number of students without health insurance on California State University campuses dropped by 60% after health insurance enrollment, defying concerns that not enough young people would sign up for health insurance. According to a poll released Thursday, at the 15 largest CSU campuses, between 25% and 30% of students were uninsured before enrollment began, and 10% were uninsured after. The drop accounts for 60,000 students who became insured, and illustrates the late surge of young people who signed up for policies. “These students proved that the folks we’re calling young invincibles do want health insurance,” said William Covino, president of Cal State Los Angeles. Walter Zelman, chair of the Cal State L.A. Public Health Department and director of the project, said that he believes the 10% uninsured rate among the students is “virtually unheard of in California.”

He pointed out that the 60% drop in the number of uninsured CSU students is vastly higher than the 26% reduction in the number of uninsured nationwide that was reported by a Gallup poll this month. CSU students were perhaps more likely to sign-up for insurance than expected because many are low-income and therefore qualify for Medi-Cal, the state’s low-income health program that was expanded under the federal health care law. Natasha Buranasombati, 23, signed up for an insurance plan through Covered California. A recent Cal State L.A. grad, she’d been off her parents’ insurance for a few years, and couldn’t afford a plan on the individual market. She now pays $117 a month for her new plan. “The issue is not invincibility, it’s affordability,” Zelman said.

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Bloomberg: Taliban Fighters Warn Foreign Investors To Leave Pakistan

Pakistan’s military began a full-scale operation in the Taliban stronghold of North Waziristan, prompting insurgents to warn foreign investors, airlines and multinational companies to leave the country. “We’re in a state of war,” Shahidullah Shahid, a spokesman for the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, said in a statement today. “Foreign investors, airlines, and multinational companies should cut off business with Pakistan immediately and leave the country or else they will be responsible for their damage themselves.”

The army said yesterday it would target local and foreign terrorists in North Waziristan, a tribal region near the Afghan border the U.S. has called the “epicenter” of terrorism. The operation, long sought by the U.S., comes a week after militants attacked the country’s biggest international airport. As Islamic militants capture cities in Iraq and the U.S. draws up plans to withdraw from Afghanistan, public opinion in Pakistan is shifting in favor of stronger action against fighters who were previously seen locally as more of a threat to America’s interests. The Taliban wants to impose its version of Islamic Shariah law in Pakistan, which includes a ban on music and stricter rules for women.

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LA Times: Actors, Musicians Are Big Beneficiaries Of Obamacare

In 2011, actress Lynda Berg didn’t make enough money to qualify for health insurance through her union. And, on her own, she had trouble finding a plan she could afford because she’s a survivor of breast cancer, considered a preexisting condition. The uncertainty of not having a health plan was stressful and at times expensive, she recalls. A few years ago she fell and broke her hand and elbow and ended up paying $4,000 for her medical care. But all that has changed for Berg, 59. In March, she went online, signed up for a policy through Covered California, the state’s new health insurance marketplace set up under the Affordable Care Act, and now is getting medical care. More than most people, workers in the area’s vast entertainment industry are poised to benefit from the federal health law.

“When people think Hollywood, they think George Clooney and Meryl Streep, but that’s not the average person in this town,” said Dan Kitowski, director of health services for the western region of the Actors Fund, a national nonprofit that does Affordable Care Act outreach. Actress Berg, who lives in Beverlywood, now pays a premium of $145 a month for her Blue Shield of California plan. She’s using her coverage to get prescriptions for $5 a month that she was paying more than $100 to fill before. She plans to head to the doctor’s office soon for a checkup she’s been putting off. “It’s a tremendous blessing to actors and anyone who doesn’t have insurance,” she said. “Even if you get a plan with a large deductible, at least you have that safety net … and you’re not in debt for the next seven years.”

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Native News Online.Net: $70 Million Available To Improve Indian Housing

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced Friday $70 million in funding available during Fiscal Year 2014 to tribal communities across the nation to improve Indian housing conditions and stimulate community development for low and moderate income families. The grants are available through HUD’s Indian Community Development Block Grant (ICDBG) Program for a wide variety of community development and affordable housing activities. Read HUD’s ICDBG Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA). The purpose of the ICDBG program is to develop viable Indian and Alaska Native communities, including decent housing, suitable living environments, and economic opportunities. Recipients can use the funding to support rehabbing or building new housing or to buy land for housing. They can use it toward infrastructure such as roads, water and sewer facilities. Recipients can also spur economic development including commercial and industrial projects.

This has included community and health centers, energy conservation projects, or new businesses such as shopping centers, manufacturing plants, restaurants, convenience stores and gas stations. “Housing and infrastructure needs in Indian Country are severe and widespread, and far exceed what has been provided to tribes and their designated housing entities. This funding will go directly to the Native American and Alaska Native communities that are working hard every day to improve housing for the families who need it most,” said Rodger Boyd, HUD Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Native American Programs. “HUD invests in people and neighborhoods across the country that promote development at the local level by those local leaders who know their communities best. This year we are committed to not only expanding housing opportunities but also helping to ensure healthier environments for those affected by mold.”

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Eliza Griswold: Can General Linder’s Special Operations Forces Stop the Next Terrorist Threat?

On a searing morning this spring, Brig. Gen. James B. Linder leaned against the red-webbing seats of a C-130 as it flew over the Sahara. On his camouflaged knee, he balanced two dog-eared Moleskine notebooks and a map of Africa. Linder, who is in his early 50s, commands the United States Special Operations forces in Africa. He was on his way to visit a detachment of 12 Army Green Berets training with African troops to fight Al Qaeda and its affiliates in Niger. Through the plane’s scratched plexiglass portholes, dunes crested like waves in an ocean of sand, and hot blasts of wind buffeted the fuselage.

An hour’s flight to the south, his team of Special Forces was deployed along the Nigerian border, where the militant group Boko Haram was targeting children in its bid to establish an Islamic state. “My job is to look at Africa and see where the threat to the United States is,” Linder said as he unfolded his map and traced circles around the territories where he knew extremist groups were operating. “I see Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the Libyan problem set, Al Shabab in Somalia, Boko Haram in Nigeria, Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia, Benghazi and Darna.”

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NYT: Starbucks To Provide Free College Education To Thousands of Workers

Starbucks will provide a free online college education to thousands of its workers, without requiring that they remain with the company, through an unusual arrangement with Arizona State University, the company and the university will announce on Monday. The program is open to any of the company’s 135,000 United States employees, provided they work at least 20 hours a week and have the grades and test scores to gain admission to Arizona State. For a barista with at least two years of college credit, the company will pay full tuition; for those with fewer credits it will pay part of the cost, but even for many of them, courses will be free, with government and university aid. Starbucks is, in effect, inviting its workers, from the day they join the company, to study whatever they like, and then leave whenever they like — knowing that many of them, degrees in hand, will leave for better-paying jobs.

In a low-wage service industry, Starbucks has for decades been unusual, doing things such as providing health insurance, even for part-timers, and giving its employees stock options. (Like other food and drink chains, it has also been accused of using improper tactics in fighting unionization drives.) Whether in spite of those perks or because of them, the company has been highly successful; its stock, which closed Friday at $74.69, has grown in value more than a hundredfold since it went public in 1992. The president of Arizona State, Michael M. Crow, something of an evangelist for online education, was scheduled to join Mr. Schultz and Arne Duncan, the education secretary, to announce the program on Monday in Manhattan. Arizona State has one of the largest online degree programs in the United States, with 11,000 students and 40 undergraduate majors, and one of the most highly regarded.

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Stephen Michaelson: Robert Reich’s Facebook Post: 100 Years Old, And Spot-On About Obama

I’m here in Florida visiting my father, Ed Reich, who, at the young age of 100 and a half, just came up with one of the most incisive assessments I’ve heard of what’s happened in Iraq: “George W. Bush and the crooks he hired are responsible for this. If they hadn’t lied to the American people about weapons of mass destruction we wouldn’t have lost nearly 5,000 American lives and god knows how many Iraqi lives, and stirred up this hornet’s nest. Obama has spent his entire administration cleaning up Bush’s shit, like someone with a giant pooper scooper.” Dad has lived during the administrations of 17 presidents. “Bush was the worst,” he says. “Reagan the second worst.”

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TPM: SCOTUS Rules On ‘Straw Purchaser’ Gun Law

The Supreme Court says federal law does not allow a “straw” purchaser to buy a gun for someone else, even if both are legally eligible to own firearms. The justices ruled Monday that the federal background check law applied to Bruce James Abramski, Jr. when he bought a Glock 19 handgun in Collinsville, Virginia, in 2009 and later transferred it to his uncle in Easton, Pennsylvania. Federal officials brought charges against Abramski because he assured the Virginia dealer he was the actual buyer of the weapon, even though he had already agreed to buy the gun for his uncle.

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Smile Of The Day: A dad twerking because he’s cancer free

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On This Day

Sen. Barack Obama greets supporters a campaign rally at Kettering High School June 16, 2008 in Flint, Michigan

Sen. Barack Obama, former U.S. vice president Al Gore and Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm appear on stage together after Gore spoke endorsing him at a rally at Joe Louis Arena June 16, 2008 in Detroit, Michigan

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President Obama picks up a fly he swatted during an interview with CNBC’s John Harwood in the East Room of the White House, June 16, 2009 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

President Obama gives a fist-bump to personal aide Reggie Love in the Oval Office of the White House on June 16, 2009. Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is at left (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama arrives to speak the American Nurses Association House of Delegates June 16, 2010 in Washington, DC.

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President Obama walks with his daughter Malia as they follow First Lady Michelle Obama into the Strathmore Music Center June 16, 2013 in Bethesda, Maryland. The Obama’s were attending a dance performance with where their daughter Sasha was performing.

09
Jun
14

President Obama Reduces The Burden Of Student Loan Debt

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President Barack Obama applauds during an event in the East Room of the White House, where he signed a Presidential Memorandum on reducing the burden of student loan debt. The president said the rising costs of college have left America’s middle class feeling trapped. He says no hard-working young person in America should be priced out of a higher education. President Obama signed a presidential memorandum he says could help an additional 5 million borrowers

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Text of the President’s remarks here

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President Barack Obama signs a Presidential Memorandum on reducing the burden of student loan debt

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Chicago Tribune: Obama Moves To Ease Student Loan Burdens, Urges Congress To Act

President Barack Obama on Monday signed an executive order making it easier for up to 5 million people to pay off college tuition debt, and scolded congressional Republicans for opposing legislation that would lower student-loan borrowing costs. Obama signed an executive order allowing more people to limit repayments of federal student loans to 10 percent of their monthly incomes. The action will not take effect until December 2015. The administration will also try to lower student costs by renegotiating government contracts with companies like Sallie Mae that service student loans, he said.

The president said Congress should also take steps to ease debt burdens on students, 71 percent of whom earn bachelor’s degrees with debt, which averages $29,400. Senate Democrats have proposed legislation that would allow millions of Americans to refinance both federal and private undergraduate student loans at lower interest rates. The bill is unlikely to overcome the opposition of Republicans. “If you’re a Big Oil company, they’ll go to bat for you,” he said. “If you’re a student, good luck.”

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And later….

26
May
14

Rise and Shine

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

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Today (All Times Eastern)

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

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

11:20: The President delivers remarks

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The Week Ahead

Tuesday

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

Wednesday

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

Thursday

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

Friday

The President will attend a hurricane preparedness meeting at FEMA Headquarters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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NYT: After Revival In San Antonio, Washington Comes Calling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Benjamin Goad: Administration Demands Equal Education For Ilegal Immigrants

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

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

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Audrey Dutton: Idaho Medicaid Enrollment Climbs 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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NYT: In Russia, Tune Changes About Leader In Ukraine

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

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

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

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

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

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On This Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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17
May
14

Equality: The Bedrock Of A Nation

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White House: Presidential Proclamation — 60th Anniversary Of Brown v. Board Of Education

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BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

May 17, 1954, marked a turning point in America’s journey toward a more perfect Union. On that day, the Supreme Court handed down a unanimous decision in Brown v. Board of Education, outlawing racial segregation in our Nation’s schools. Brown overturned the doctrine of “separate but equal,” which the Court had established in the 1896 case of Plessy v. Ferguson. For more than half a century, Plessy gave constitutional backing to discrimination, and civil rights organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People faced an uphill battle as they sought equality, opportunity, and justice under the law.

Brown v. Board of Education shifted the legal and moral compass of our Nation. It declared that education “must be made available to all on equal terms” and demanded that America’s promise exclude no one. Yet the Supreme Court alone could not destroy segregation. Brown had unlocked the schoolhouse doors, but even years later, African-American children braved mobs as they walked to school, while U.S. Marshals kept the peace. From lunch counters and city streets to buses and ballot boxes, American citizens struggled to realize their basic rights. A decade after the Court’s ruling, Brown’s moral guidance was translated into the enforcement measures of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act.

Thanks to the men and women who fought for equality in the courtroom, the legislature, and the hearts and minds of the American people, we have confined legalized segregation to the dustbin of history. Yet today, the hope and promise of Brown remains unfulfilled. In the years to come, we must continue striving toward equal opportunities for all our children, from access to advanced classes to participation in the same extracurricular activities. Because when children learn and play together, they grow, build, and thrive together.

On the 60th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, let us heed the words of Justice Thurgood Marshall, who so ably argued the case against segregation, “None of us got where we are solely by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. We got here because somebody…bent down and helped us pick up our boots.” Let us march together, meet our obligations to one another, and remember that progress has never come easily — but even in the face of impossible odds, those who love their country can change it.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 17, 2014, as the 60th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education. I call upon all Americans to observe this day with programs, ceremonies, and activities that celebrate this landmark decision and advance the causes of equality and opportunity for all.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fifteenth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand fourteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.

BARACK OBAMA

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Attorneys George E.C. Hayes, Thurgood Marshall, and James Nabrit Jr. celebrate their victory in the Brown case on May 17, 1954.

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White House: Commemorating the 60th Anniversary Of The Brown v. Board Of Education And Continuing The March Toward Justice

Decades ago, nearly 200 plaintiffs from across the country joined together in a class-action lawsuit to challenge the doctrine of “separate but equal,” striving to bring the issue of racial segregation before the highest court in the land. Their dangerous, long, and grueling march culminated exactly 60 years ago tomorrow – on May 17, 1954 – at the United States Supreme Court. On that extraordinary day, a unanimous Court, led by Chief Justice Earl Warren, declared that separate was inherently unequal, effectively outlawing racial segregation in schools and other public accommodations throughout America.

This marked a major victory for the cause of equal justice under law, an inflection point in American history, and a spark that in many ways ignited the modern Civil Rights Movement. Yet our nation did not automatically translate the words of Brown into substantive change. The integration of our schools was a process that was halting, confrontational, and at times even bloody. And, for all the progress our nation has seen over the last six decades, this is a process that continues, and a promise that has yet to be fully realized, even today.

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02
May
14

The First Lady Encourages Students To #ReachHigher

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Jennifer R. Lloyd: First Lady Michelle Obama Speaks At UTSA Today

San Antonio’s college-going efforts got a palpable push from first lady Michelle Obama, who spoke Friday at College Signing Day at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Clad in a the t-shirt of her Princeton University alma mater, the first lady told a rowdy crowd of about 2,100 seniors from 37 area high schools at UTSA’s convocation center to look ahead to finishing the college journey they’re embarking upon. “I also want to talk to you about another big day that is on the horizon for you and that is the day you graduate from college,” Obama said. “Reaching a milestone like this means you’ve just raised the bar for yourself.” “Just getting into college isn’t the ultimate goal,” she continued. “You have got to stay focused once you get there and you’ve got to get that degree or that certificate.”

The visit by Obama took its place among her national efforts to promoting the Reach Higher Initiative, which includes helping students understand their college and career options and their financial aid legibility. The effort feeds into the president’s 2020 goal of landing the United States on top of the list of nations with the highest proportion of college graduates. Friday’s event came toward the end of the city’s fourth annual Destination College week, which culminates Saturday with a summit at San Antonio College for high school students to learn about college and scholarship applications and career pathways.

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First Lady Michelle Obama speaks to high school students at the University of Texas San Antonio (UTSA), during College Signing Day, an annual celebration of San Antonio high school seniors committing themselves to higher education, in San Antonio, Texas

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San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro and First Lady Michelle Obama greet high school students during College Signing Day

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First Lady Michelle Obama leads high school students in a pledge for higher education during College Signing Day

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KSAT: Michelle Obama Challenges San Antonio Students

First Lady Michelle Obama on Friday joined a growing annual celebration of San Antonio high school seniors who are committing themselves to higher education. Obama was the star attraction as some 2,100 students from 38 high schools around the area participated in “College Signing Day,” part of Mayor Julian Castro’s long-term initiative to improve the area’s high school graduation rates and increase the number of residents with college degrees. She talked about the importance of pursuing and completing some form of higher education.

“While we adults have to do our part, really at the end of the day, the most important person is you,” Obama said. Obama urged students to complete their education beyond high school. “While it’s good news that high school graduation levels are high, we know that in today’s world, it’s simply not enough,” she said. The first lady said she knows the challenges facing today’s higher education students, recalling her days at Princeton, where she attended college. “I learned that the same things that got me through high school would get me through Princeton and law school,” she said. “Those moments when you feel anxious, or insecure, those are the moments when you shape into who you want to be.”

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02
May
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama listens during a briefing on the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, aboard Air Force One en route to New Orleans, La., Sunday, May 2, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

9:55 AM: President Obama holds a bilateral meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel

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11:40: Holds a joint press conference with Chancellor Merkel, Rose Garden

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12:15: The First Lady Speaks at College Signing Day at the University of Texas at San Antonio

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12:45: The President holds a working lunch with Chancellor Merkel

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3:50: Meets with Asian American Business and Faith Leaders to discuss common sense Immigration Reform, Roosevelt Room

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AP: Health Law: 8 Million Chose New Plan Under Law

Blue or red, a majority of states have exceeded their health care sign-up targets under President Barack Obama’s law. strong state-by-state performance indicates that the health care law is making inroads around the country, even as Republicans insist repealing “Obamacare” will be a winning issue in the fall congressional elections. An Associated Press analysis of the government numbers found that 31 states met or exceeded enrollment targets set by the administration before the insurance exchanges opened. Twenty of those are led by Republican governors, many of whom were hostile to the program. The Health and Human Services Department said 8 million Americans chose a health plan through the new insurance markets in the first year of the historic health care overhaul. Some 4.8 million more gained coverage through Medicaid and children’s insurance programs.

A surge in enrollments since March 1 doubled sign-ups in some states, including Texas, Georgia and Florida. Blacks and Asians signed up at higher-than-expected rates. Blacks make up 13.3 percent of those eligible for marketplace coverage, but represented 16.7 percent of those who chose a health plan and disclosed their race. Asians make up 3.3 percent of the eligible pool, but were 7.9 percent of enrollees who volunteered racial information. -Nearly a third of people who chose a health plan on the federal exchanges didn’t report their race or ethnicity, or chose “Other.” The next enrollment period for private health insurance coverage for 2015 under the health law is scheduled to run Nov. 15 through Feb. 15.

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Steve Benen: Where Are The Jobs? They’re Right Here

The new report from Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the U.S. economy added 288,000 jobs in April, well ahead of expectations, and one of the highest totals of any month in several years. The overall unemployment rate, meanwhile, dropped to 6.3% – its lowest point since September 2008, nearly six years ago. For the third consecutive month, public-sector layoffs did not drag down the overall employment figures. Though jobs reports over the last few years have shown monthly government job losses, in April, the private sector added 273,000 while the public sector added 15,000.

The latter may not sound like much, but when you get used to that total being negative, it’s a breath of fresh air. Better yet, the job totals for both February and March were both revised up, pointing to an additional 36,000 jobs that had been previously unreported. All told, over the last 12 months, the U.S. economy has added over 2.36 million jobs overall and 2.37 million in the private sector. What’s more, April was the 50th consecutive month in which we’ve seen private-sector job growth.

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Reuters: U.S. Says 13 Million Enrolled In Private/Public Health Plans

Nearly 13 million people signed up for public and private health coverage during Obamacare’s open enrollment period. The total includes 8 million people who selected private plans through state and federal insurance marketplaces and another 4.8 million who enrolled in the Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program, two government programs that serve lower income Americans.

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Ari Berman: ACLU Lawsuit: Ohio Early Voting Cuts Violate Voting Rights Act

Voting rights advocates, after successfully challenging Wisconsin’s voter ID law this week, filed suit today challenging early voting restrictions in Ohio. The GOP-controlled Ohio legislature, after repeatedly attempting to cut early voting in 2012, earlier this year eliminated the state’s first week of early voting—the “Golden Week” when voters could also register at the polls. In addition, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted issued a directive abolishing the last two days of early voting before Election Day and eliminating early voting hours on weeknights and Sundays, when African-American churches traditionally organize “Souls to the Polls” drives. In 2012, 157,000 Ohioans cast ballots during early voting hours eliminated by the Ohio GOP, according to a lawsuit filed by the ACLU on behalf of groups including the Ohio NAACP and the League of Women Voters.

As in Wisconsin, the lawsuit contends that such cuts violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) by disproportionately burdening black voters. Blacks in Ohio were far more likely than whites to vote early in 2008 and 2012. “In the November 2008 election in [Cleveland’s] Cuyahoga County, African Americans voted early in person at a rate over twenty times greater than white voters,” according to the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights. In cities like Cincinnati, Columbus and Dayton blacks voted early in numbers far exceeding their percentage of the population. In the 2004 election, before Ohio adopted early voting, there were extremely long lines in large urban counties and African-American voters waited nearly three times as long as white voters to vote. One survey estimated that 130,000 Ohioans left the polls without casting a ballot. George W. Bush won the state by only 119,000 votes.

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Alan Pyke: Seattle Announces $15 Minimum Wage, Highest In The U.S.

Seattle will raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour over the coming years under a deal brokered by Mayor Ed Murray and blessed by labor and business groups alike, city leaders announced Thursday afternoon. The new pay floor will phase in at different speeds for businesses of different sizes, but all employers will have to meet the $15 minimum wage by the end of the decade. Businesses with more than 500 employees nationwide will have a three-year phase-in period, while smaller employers get five years to ratchet up their pay scales. After reaching $15 an hour, the city’s minimum wage will automatically climb by 2.4 percent each year regardless of the rate of inflation. Even among states with relatively strong minimum wage laws, automatic increases are uncommon. Thursday’s deal will make Seattle the national leader on municipal minimum wage laws.

Washington currently has the highest pay floor of any state at $9.32 per hour. The deal was a long time coming, with Murray first indicating he wanted to establish a $15 floor back in September during the mayoral campaign. Murray created the 24-member advisory group that crafted the compromise package back in December, and the group of local business owners, restaurateurs, and labor leaders has been grinding toward an agreement for the past four months. Approval from restaurant owners is especially noteworthy given the deal’s provisions for tipped workers. Tips can only be counted toward worker minimum pay for the next five years. After that, the separate minimum hourly pay rates for tipped and non-tipped workers will disappear, and all employees citywide will have to be paid $15 hourly or more.

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MarketWatch: Shifting Employees To Exchanges Could Save Firms $3 Trillion

Obamacare presents an opportunity for businesses to cut more than $3 trillion in costs over the next decade by shifting more health-care responsibility over to employees, according to a report issued Thursday from S&P Capital IQ. The financial information provider says in its findings that as much as $3.25 trillion could be saved by companies with 50 or more employees through 2025 as a result of costs shifting to the government under the Affordable Care Act, or ACA. S&P 500 companies could save $700 billion in that same time frame, the report says.

The ACA requires companies with 50 employees or more to offer coverage or pay a tax — with the option that they can shift administration of plans over to the exchanges. It stands to reason that many companies would want to move their employees to exchanges — either private or public — that could save them the cost of maintaining insurance coverage for employees. Employees would then be more involved in the administration of their health program. “Over the long run, the ACA may eventually come to be historically recognized as the starting point of the reconstruction of the U.S. health care benefit industry and a catalyst for how companies provide health care insurance for their employees,” the report said.

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BBC: Ukraine Reinstates Conscription As Crisis Deepens

Ukraine’s acting President Olexander Turchynov has reinstated military conscription to deal with deteriorating security in the east of the country. The move, announced in a decree, came as pro-Russia militants seized the regional prosecutor’s office in the eastern city of Donetsk. Ukraine blames Russia for organising the seizures of a number of offices in the east, a claim Moscow denies. Some 40,000 Russian troops are stationed near the Ukrainian border. Mr Turchynov admitted on Wednesday that his forces were “helpless” to quell the unrest in some parts of the east, saying the goal was now to prevent it from spreading. He also said Ukraine was on “full combat alert”, amid fears that Russian troops could invade.

On Thursday, his office said in a statement that conscription was being introduced “given the deteriorating situation in the east and the south… the rising force of armed pro-Russian units and the taking of public administration buildings… which threaten territorial integrity”. BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus says Kiev’s decision is, in the short-term at least, a symbolic step as the Ukrainian military has been starved of cash for years and is no match for what Russia has on its borders. The real battle for control of Ukrainian territory is already under way and Kiev is losing ground, he adds. Analysts say Ukraine has 130,000 personnel in its armed forces that could be boosted to about one million with reservists. Kiev scrapped compulsory military service for young men in late 2013 under a law introduced by then President Viktor Yanukovych.

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Esther Yu-Hsi Lee: Florida Senate OKs In-State Tuition For Undocumented Immigrants

A bevy of undocumented immigrants and advocates dressed in caps and gowns burst into loud applause and cheers in the gallery of the Florida State Senate when 26 state senators out of 39 members moved to pass a bill Thursday evening that would give undocumented immigrants a chance to pay in-state tuition at state colleges. The bill, which just last week seemed certain to die in the Republican-controlled Senate Appropriations Committee, will now move on to the state House and later to Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) desk, where he has already promised to sign into law.

Florida will likely become the 21st state to pass an immigration-related tuition bill that allows undocumented immigrants a chance to further their educations and contribute more to the state economy. Like many other state-level DREAM Act bills, this Florida tuition equity bill would allow undocumented immigrants, who attended high school for three years and graduated or are already in college, to qualify for in-state tuition at public colleges.

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Josh Israel: Kentucky Store Refuses To Print LGBT Content After State Passes ‘License To Discriminate’ Law

In March, Kentucky’s state legislature overrode Gov. Steve Beshear’s (D) veto and enacted an Arizona SB 1062-style bill to protect the rights of those with “sincerely held religious beliefs” to ignore non-discrimination laws unless there was a “compelling governmental interest.” Now, an Oak Grove embroidery company has posted a notice that it will not print messages that contradict their consciences — including anything promoting “homosexuality, freemasonry, the use of foul language,” or “immodesty.” The Advocate reported Wednesday that, after “public confusion” about a sign on the door of Herald Embroidery featuring a crossed-out rainbow flag in a red circle and a citation of a Bible verse in a green circle,

the business has replaced it with a new sign explicitly explaining the company’s discriminatory policies. It reads: “While we will serve all customers who treat our place of business with respect, we reserve the right to refuse to produce promotional products that promote ideas that are not in keeping with our consciences. This includes, but is not limited to content promoting HOMOSEXUALITY, FREEMASONRY, the use of FOUL LANGUAGE, and imagery which promotes IMMODESTY.”

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ABC News: WellPoint Helps Investors Breathe Easy On Overhaul

Investors pushed WellPoint shares closer to their all-time high price on Wednesday after the company raised its 2014 forecast again and became the latest health insurer to ease some worry about a key health care overhaul coverage expansion. The Blue Cross Blue Shield insurer estimates that it will add more than 600,000 customers through state-based public insurance exchanges that started accepting enrollment last fall, and it said it still expects to make money from that business. The federal overhaul set up these exchanges to help millions of people buy coverage, many with help from income-based tax credits. WellPoint officials said Wednesday they saw a “substantial” surge in applications toward the end of the open enrollment period for these exchanges that lowered the average age of the applicants. “Applications especially near the end of the quarter were robust,”

WellPoint CEO Joseph Swedish told analysts during a Wednesday morning conference call. Swedish also told analysts that about 90 percent of the people who signed up for coverage through the exchanges paid their first month’s premium. That provides another bit of reassurance to investors, who are wondering whether overhaul enrollment totals were inflated by people who never wound up paying. Last week, Hartford, Conn.-based Aetna Inc., the nation’s third-largest insurer, said about 80 percent of its exchange customers followed through with a premium payment. It expects to add about 450,000 paying customers through the exchanges, and company officials said the risk of that business appeared manageable so far.

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Bloomberg: Medicare May Raise Pay To Health Clinics By $1.3 Billion

The U.S. Medicare program said it would increase payments to nonprofit community health clinics by as much as $1.3 billion over the next five years under a new reimbursement system ordered by Obamacare. About 3,830 of the clinics stand to benefit from the change, which may raise their payments from Medicare by about a third, according to a rule published today by the government. The clinics serve mostly low-income patients in communities with few other options for health care and are supported by about $3.6 billion in federal grants.

Elderly and disabled Medicare patients — who generally can go to any doctor they choose — were the fastest growing segment of the clinics’ business in 2008, according to the National Association of Community Health Centers, even though they comprise less than 10 percent of patients nationally. The association lobbied the government for increased Medicare reimbursement, arguing the clinics lost at least $51 million a year because of limits on their payments from the program. The clinics “are essential to countless patients in local communities who depend on them for getting their primary and preventive care,” Marilyn Tavenner, the administrator of the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said in a statement.

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Rob Wile: Nonfarm Payrolls Report, April 2014

The jobs report crushed expectations, coming in at 288,000. Expectations were for 218,000. Last month’s figure was revised upward to 203,000 from 192,000. More: Private payrolls hit 273,000, also well above the 215,000 estimate and up from the revised 202,000. There were gains in most major industries. The unemployment rate fell to 6.3%, the lowest print in more than five years. The labor force participation rate fell to 62.8% from 63.2%. The number of long-term unemployed dropped by 287,000 to 3.5 million. Average hourly earnings growth fell 10 bps to 0% from the prior month. Weekly hours were unchanged at 34.5. On the plus side, we’re quite close to recovering all the jobs we lost in the recession. It probably took too long though.

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Bloomberg: Payrolls In U.S. Rise Most Since 2012, Unemployment At 6.3%

Employers boosted payrolls in April by the most in two years and the jobless rate plunged to 6.3 percent as companies grew confident the U.S. economy was emerging from a first-quarter slowdown. The 288,000 gain in employment was the biggest since January 2012 and followed a revised 203,000 increase the prior month, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for a 218,000 advance. Unemployment dropped to the lowest level since September 2008. Households spent more freely as the first quarter drew to a close and manufacturing accelerated, helping explain why companies such as Ford Motor Co. are taking on more workers. The figures corroborate the Federal Reserve’s view that the expansion is perking up after stagnating last quarter, indicating it will keep trimming stimulus.

“The economy is gathering momentum after the bad winter,” said Michael Gapen, senior U.S. economist at Barclays Plc in New York, whose firm’s projection was among the closest in the Bloomberg survey. “The unemployment rate will stay in its downward trend, which means tapering will continue.” The increase in employment was broad-based, with construction companies adding the most workers in three months and retailers taking on the most this year. Manufacturing, temporary help services and health care were among other industries boosting payrolls. Private payrolls, which don’t include government agencies, increased 273,000 in April after a 202,000 gain. Last month, hiring by companies surpassed the pre-recession peak for the first time. Americans are the most upbeat about finding a “quality job” than at any time since January 2008, according to Gallup data released April 25.

Such optimism extends to Ford. Boosted by record profits in North America, the second-largest automaker said it will probably hire more than the 12,000 new workers it promised in its 2011 contract with the United Auto Workers. “The business has grown faster than we predicted it would in 2011,” Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of the Americas, said in an interview on April 30. The company said it hired 2,000 new workers at its factory in Claycomo, Missouri, and that it’s completed about 75 percent of its commitment to hire 12,000 workers by 2015.

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NPR: Unemployment Drops To 6.3 Percent, Lowest In 5 Years

The nation’s economy added a robust 288,000 jobs in April, far more than forecast, and the unemployment rate fell to 6.3 percent, its lowest level in five years, according to the Labor Department. The rate, which is the lowest since September 2008, was down from 6.7 percent in March. Economists had forecast just 210,000 new jobs for the month, citing severe winter weather for the sluggish growth. April represents the largest burst of hiring in months. Figures for February and March were revised upward, giving an average for each of the 3 months of 238,000. “We may be seeing an acceleration in job growth,” Gus Faucher, senior economist with PNC Financial Services, Pittsburgh, was quoted by Reuters as saying. “It’s sustainable to have a 200,000-plus job growth over the next 6 to 9 months,” he says.

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MarketWatch: U.S. Adds 288,000 Jobs In April; Unemployment 6.3%

The U.S. generated 288,000 jobs in April – the biggest increase in more than two years – and the unemployment rate fell to 6.3%, a strong performance that suggests the economy is accelerating after tepid first-quarter growth. The unemployment rate is the lowest since September 2008. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had expected an increase of 215,000 nonfarm jobs. Employment gains for March and February were also revised up by a combined 36,000, the Labor Department said Friday. The job growth in April was broad based. Professional jobs surged by 75,000 and retail, bars and restaurants and construction all posted big gains.

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Yahoo: U.S. Payrolls Surge, Jobless Rate Hits 5-1/2 Year Low

U.S. job growth increased at its fastest pace in more than two years in April, suggesting a sharp rebound in economic activity early in the second quarter. Nonfarm payrolls surged 288,000 last month, the Labor Department said on Friday. That was the largest gain since January 2012 and beat Wall Street’s expectations for only a 210,000 increase. March and February’s data was revised to show 36,000 more jobs than previously reported. While the unemployment rate dived 0.4 percentage point to a 5-1/2 year low of 6.3 percent. The unemployment rate was last at this level in September 2008. “The economy really has strong underlying fundamentals supporting its growth. Temporary headwinds such as the bad weather can be certainly managed,” said Russell Price, senior economist at Ameriprise Financial in Troy, Michigan.

U.S. Treasury debt yields soared after the report, while the dollar jumped to session highs against the euro and the yen. U.S. stock index futures turned higher. The employment report joins other upbeat data such as consumer spending and industrial production in suggesting the first quarter’s 0.1 percent annual growth pace was an aberration and is not a reflection of the economy’s otherwise sound fundamentals. Employment gains in April were broad based, with the private sector adding 273,000 jobs and government payrolls rising 15,000. Manufacturing employment increased 12,000 after rising by 7,000 in March. Construction payrolls gained 32,000. That followed an increase of 17,000 jobs in March.

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Justin Sink: Celebs Celebrate O-Care Enrollment

Celebrities, athletes, healthcare advocates, and liberal activists gathered Thursday night at the White House to celebrate the release of final data from the first ObamaCare open enrollment period. According to data released by the administration, a surge of 3.8 million consumers in the final weeks helped push the total enrollment numbers past 8 million — above initial projections for the law. Nashville star Connie Britton and actor and former White House official Kal Penn. University of North Carolina men’s basketball coach Roy Williams, former NFL player Eddie George, and University of Connecticut women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma also enjoyed the champagne-fueled party.

Celebrities and athletes were a key part of the final push for ObamaCare. According to the White House, celebrity advocates conducted interviews reaching roughly 400 radio stations nationwide in the final month of enrollment. Celebrity tweets reached nearly 350 million followers, and stars including Zach Braff, Donald Faison, Eva Longoria, Zach Galifinakis, Olivia Wilde, Jennifer Hudson, Adam Scott, and Elizabeth Banks created YouTube videos to promote enrollment.

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TIME: Obama Hosts Obamacare Enrollment Party

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama feted about 300 people at the White House on Thursday to celebrate the close of the Affordable Care Act’s maiden enrollment period. According to attendees, the President highlighted the success of the initial enrollment period, but said more work needed to be done — both when enrollment reopens later this year and in states that have not accepted federal dollars to expand Medicaid.

Obama gave a special shout-out to the “tech team,” which fixed the troubled HealthCare.gov website that threatened to derail the enrollment process. He was followed by the First Lady, who expressed how proud she was of her husband for pushing the health care law through even when it was politically inexpedient. Attendees said Obama got “pretty emotional” as his wife retold stories of those who have been helped by the law.

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On This Day

Pete Souza: “Washington had its first big snowstorm and I knew the girls were home from school. I suspected the girls might try to sled or make a snowman, so I asked the Usher’s Office to call me if the girls headed outside. I got there just in time to catch the First Lady helping the girls sled down a hill on the South Lawn. This picture now hangs on the wall of the President’s study.” March 2, 2009

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President Obama talks with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal after arriving at Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans, La., Sunday, May 2, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama talks with U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen, who is serving as the National Incident Commander, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, aboard Marine One as they fly along the coastline from Venice to New Orleans, La., May 2, 2010. John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, is in the background (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama listens during a briefing about the situation along the Gulf Coast following the BP oil spill, at the Coast Guard Venice Center, in Venice, La., Sunday, May 2, 2010. Pictured, from left, are U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen, John Brennan, assistant to the President for homeland security and counterterrorism, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson (Photo by Pete Souza)

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First Lady Michelle Obama welcomes young runners participating in LIVE with Regis and Kelly’s Run Across America with Dean Karnazes at the South Lawn of the White House, May 2, 2011

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President Obama celebrates the birthday of Bloomberg White House correspondent Julianna Goldman aboard Air Force One during the flight from Ramstein, Germany, to Joint Base Andrews, Md., May 2, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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The President tastes a sip of tequila at the urging of President Enrique Pena Nieto of Mexico prior to a working dinner at Los Pinos in Mexico City. May 2, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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14

President Obama Celebrates Teachers

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President Obama presents the 2014 National Teacher of the Year Sean McComb, a high school English teacher from Maryland who helps push students toward college, with his award, during a ceremony to honor the 2014 National Teacher of the Year and finalists in the East Room of the White House in Washington

Continue reading ‘President Obama Celebrates Teachers’

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14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama listens during one in a series of meetings discussing the mission against Osama bin Laden, in the Situation Room of the White House, May 1, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

11:30: Jay Carney briefs the press

2:25: President Obama honors the 2014 National Teacher of the Year and finalists

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Clara Ritger: 3 Reasons Why Obamacare’s Outlook Is Rosy For Insurers

WellPoint reported better earnings than expected Wednesday for the first quarter of 2014, adding to the growing list of health insurers showing positive outlooks for the future of the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges. The Blue Cross Blue Shield health insurance company, which offers plans on Obamacare’s exchanges in 14 states, upped its annual earnings per share projections by 20 cents to $8.40. On a call with investors Wednesday about the company’s outlook, WellPoint CEO Joe Swedish identified three reasons that the Affordable Care Act is panning out as insurers expected. 1. The vast majority of people are paying their premiums.

The rate of people who select a WellPoint plan and then pay the premium to begin coverage is hitting about 90 percent, Swedish said. That could change, because the customers who purchased coverage at the end of the open-enrollment period aren’t included in Wednesday’s earnings report. But the company said 400,000 people signed up for its exchange plans through Feb. 15, and it anticipates its total to top 600,000. 2. WellPoint is seeing an overall bump in its number of customers. “We’re winning a lot of new members, and whether they had insurance previously or not, we do not know,” Swedish said. WellPoint covered an additional 1.3 million people in the first quarter and predicts that it could double that by year’s end.” The age of our applicants decreased the further we got into the open enrollment,” Swedish said, “indicating that young people signed up later in the open-enrollment period.”

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Elise Vebeck: Insurer Backs Away From Dire O-Care Rate Hike Prediction

A major health insurer failed to embrace a prediction from one of its executives that premiums on ObamaCare’s exchanges would rise by double digits next year. Officials with Wellpoint, the biggest insurer in the new marketplaces, delivered an upbeat message about ObamaCare enrollment on a conference call with analysts Wednesday. Chief Financial Officer Wayne DeVeydt said the company met or exceeded expectations when it came to how many people signed up on the exchanges and their mix of ages. He predicted “less volatility in pricing” for Wellpoint members relative to people covered by other insurance companies.

“We’re really pleased with our strategy and the affirmation of our pricing strategy,” DeVeydt said. “If you were to talk to our actuarial team, we fell really good about moving into the new market. We think we hit our sweet spot.” The call focused on the company’s results in the first quarter of this year. Wellpoint raised its 2014 forecast again on Wednesday, pushing shares closer to their all-time high. Wellpoint reported Wednesday that it expects 600,000 customers on the exchanges this year. A total of 90 percent have paid their first premium, DeVeydt said.

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Alexandra Schuster: Desmond Tutu Responds To John Kerry’s ‘Apartheid’ Controversy

The Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town Desmond Tutu doesn’t object to Secretary of State John Kerry’s use of the word “apartheid” to describe the future of Israel if a peace agreement is not reached. Kerry has since apologized for his remarks while remaining strongly in support of a two-state resolution. In a HuffPost Live interview Tuesday, however, Tutu likened his own experience under apartheid in South Africa to that of Israel.

“I go and I visit the Holy Land and I see things that are a mirror image of the sort of things that I experienced under the apartheid,” Tutu told HuffPost Live host Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani. “How can you stop me from the right to describe as I feel. You go anywhere in the world and if I see things that mirror the kind of experience that I know first-hand, I think it’s cheek in a way for someone else to tell you, ‘no, you are wrong in feeling as you feel about what you have seen.'”

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AP: GOP: Health Signups Lagging

House Republicans issued a report Wednesday saying that one-third of people who signed up for health insurance through new federal exchanges hadn’t paid their first month’s premium as of mid-April, which could undermine the Obama administration’s claims of robust enrollment under the new health law. But administration officials, outside experts and even the health insurance industry immediately questioned the report, offering the latest skirmish over questionable claims and counterclaims that have come to characterize debate over President Barack Obama’s signature health law.

The report by House Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans said 67 percent of people who had signed up for health insurance through federal marketplaces had paid their first month’s premiums as of April 15. That was far lower than the numbers emerging from individual insurance companies, which have been reporting payment numbers in the range of 85 percent and above. Wellpoint reported on an earnings call Wednesday that some 90 percent of people signing up for insurance actually had paid. Administration officials, insurers and others were quick to point out that because the GOP data cut off in mid-April, it didn’t capture a surge of health law sign-ups in March prior to the end of the first open enrollment period.

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Alexis Okeowo: Nigeria’s Stolen Girls

“I thought it was the end of my life,” Deborah Sanya told me by phone on Monday from Chibok, a tiny town of farmers in northeastern Nigeria. “There were many, many of them.” Boko Haram, an Islamist terrorist group, kidnapped Sanya and at least two hundred of her classmates from a girls’ secondary school in Chibok more than two weeks ago. Sanya, along with two friends, escaped. So did forty others. The rest have vanished, and their families have not heard any word of them since. Sanya is eighteen years old and was taking her final exams before graduation. Many of the schools in towns around Chibok, in the state of Borno, had been shuttered. Boko Haram attacks at other schools—like a recent massacre of fifty-nine schoolboys in neighboring Yobe state—had prompted the mass closure.

It was noon when her group reached the terrorists’ camp. She had been taken not far from Chibok, a couple of remote villages away in the bush. The militants forced her classmates to cook; Sanya couldn’t eat. Two hours later, she pulled two friends close and told them that they should run. One of them hesitated, and said that they should wait to escape at night. Sanya insisted, and they fled behind some trees. The guards spotted them and called out for them to return, but the girls kept running. They reached a village late at night, slept at a friendly stranger’s home, and, the next day, called their families. In the meantime, as in so many other ways in Nigeria, each community has to fend for itself. For a while after the abduction, girls trickled back into town—some rolled off trucks, some snuck away while fetching water. That trickle has stopped. “Nobody rescued them,” a government official in Chibok said of the girls who made it back. “I want you to stress this point. Nobody rescued them. They escaped on their accord. This is painful.”

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Michael Grunwald: The Huge Obama Transportation Bill You Heard Nothing About

“Infrastructure spending is popular on both sides,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said. “Infrastructure investment is an area where we should work together,” House Majority Whip Eric Cantor once tweeted. And Republican-friendly business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Alliance for American Manufacturing are huge supporters of public works. Republicans have urged the Obama Administration to propose a major transportation bill, calling America’s crumbling infrastructure a natural issue for bipartisan cooperation. Well, on Tuesday, the Administration unveiled a four-year, $300-billion transportation bill. It included a 22% increase in highway funding, a 70% increase in transit funding, and a provision allowing states to put tolls on interstates. At a time when one in nine U.S. bridges are rated “structurally deficient,” and nearly half the public lacks access to public transit, it’s a pretty ambitious piece of legislation. And this is probably the first you’re hearing of it, because it got virtually no media attention.

This is partly because Washington reporters are more interested in politics than the nitty-gritty details of policy. They opposed his $50 billion “roads, rails and runways” proposal in 2010, and then again when it was expanded and incorporated into his American Jobs Act in 2011. They’ve blocked Obama’s plans for an infrastructure bank and a national high-speed rail network. They’ve also blocked Obama’s proposals for corporate tax reform, which is relevant, because the new GROW AMERICA Act depends on tax reform for much of its financing. Infrastructure advocates often complain that Obama hasn’t used his bully pulpit enough to push for an investment program. But he barnstormed the country for the American Jobs Act. He has talked about rebuilding America in every State of the Union address. His problem is not a lack of will or poor messaging. His problem is that he doesn’t have the votes. Republicans control the House, and they can block legislation in the Senate. If they were willing to pass an Obama infrastructure bill, then an Obama infrastructure bill might make news.

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KyivPost: Kyiv Ousts Russian Diplomat For Espionage

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry has declared Russia’s navy attaché in Kyiv persona non grata in connection with his “activities (that are) incompatible with a diplomatic status under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961,” its statement said, cited by BBC Ukraine and Radio Free Liberty and Radio Europe. The Foreign Ministry stated that Ukraine’s spy agency – Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) – had detained the Russian diplomat “as a result of a successfully conducted counterintelligence operation on April 30…at the place (where he was conducting) intelligence actions.” No further details were provided.

Russia’s naval attaché in Ukraine, according to the Russian embassy in Ukraine website, is Kirill Koliuchkin. According to Ukrainian military expert and blogger, Dmitry Tymchuk, Koliuchkin arrived in Ukraine on Feb. 20 as part of a Kremlin delegation that included Federal Security Service agents, military personnel, including intelligence, border guards, as well as other officials. Their arrival coincided with the bloodiest days of the EuroMaidan revolution during which dozens of anti-government protesters were killed, most of whom from sniper fire, on Feb. 20-22.

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PBS Newshour: Former Justice Stevens: Campaign Money Isn’t Speech

Campaign donations pay for more than political ads and should not be protected as free speech, former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens told a Senate panel Wednesday in urging them to rein in the billions of dollars shaping elections. The retired justice reminded lawmakers that political donations funded the burglary at the Watergate office complex under President Richard Nixon. That break-in at the Democratic National Committee is not speech, Stevens argued in a rare appearance of a former justice in the Senate.

“While money is used to finance speech, money is not speech. Speech is only one of the activities that are financed by campaign contributions and expenditures. Those financial activities should not receive precisely the same constitutional protections as speech itself,” Stevens said. “After all, campaign funds were used to finance the Watergate burglary, actions that clearly were not protected by the First Amendment.” Stevens has been a critic of his former colleagues’ decisions that have opened the floodgates for unlimited donations and super PACs.

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Igor Volsky: Health Care Spending Is On The Rise, And That’s A Good Thing

New federal data finds that health care spending increased by 9.9 percent in the first quarter of 2014, representing somewhat of a turnaround in the four-year slowdown in health care spending. Some critics are already spinning the news as an indictment of the health care law, pointing out, as Phil Klein does in The Washington Examiner, that health care costs are now spiking at the “fastest rate since 1980.” But let’s be very clear about what’s happening here: an improving economy is allowing Americans to now spend more on health care, while people who have previously been uninsured are finally getting insurance and are using their care. In the meantime, health care prices are still continuing to grow at low rates, reducing Americans’ health costs.

All of this was fully expected. When the Congressional Budget Office analyzed the Senate’s health care bill in 2009, it found that while spending would increase after the uninsured first obtain health care coverage, “during the decade following the 10-year budget window, the increases and decreases in the federal budgetary commitment to health care stemming from this legislation would roughly balance out, so that there would be no significant change in that commitment.” This month, the office released a report that included a graph showing this trend: a spike of health spending in 2014 and then an evening out, as growth comes down to below what it would have been without enacting reform

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Reuters: Obamacare Puts A Floor Under U.S. Economy In First Quarter

As the U.S. economy teetered on the brink of contraction in the first quarter, one thing stood out. Healthcare spending increased at its fastest pace in more than three decades. That surge is attributed to the implementation of President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law, the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Because of Obamacare, the nation narrowly avoided its first decline in output in three years. “GDP growth would have … been negative were it not for healthcare spending,” said Harm Bandholz, chief economist at UniCredit Research in New York. Healthcare spending increased at a 9.9 percent annual rate, the quickest since the third quarter of 1980, and it contributed 1.1 percentage points to GDP growth.

The economy expanded at only a 0.1 percent rate in the first quarter, held back by a drop in exports and business investment, which economists attributed to a harsh winter. White House economic adviser Jason Furman said the increase should not be a cause for alarm. “Any upward pressure on healthcare spending growth from expanding insurance coverage will cease once coverage stabilizes at its new, higher level, so it does not affect the longer-term outlook for spending growth,” he said in a statement. Government transfers, including health insurance premium subsidies, boosted personal income in the first-quarter.

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Danny Vinik: Republicans Love Big Business So Much, They Forget About Reducing The Deficit

Whenever Democrats propose new legislation that requires additional spending, Republicans demand a spending offset. But the GOP has finally found something they covet so much that they’re willing to break that rule: tax breaks for big business. Two bills working their way through Congress address the more than 50 tax breaks—known as “tax extenders”—that expired at the end of 2013. These tax deductions and credits are primarily for big business. Congress has typically renewed them at the end of each year, but failed to do so at the end of 2013. Both parties are eager to extend them once again, thanks to an intense lobbying effort. The legislation would increase the deficit by $310 billion over the next decade, plus an additional $68 billion in interest costs.

While the Democratic position is difficult to justify given their supposed concerns about the deficit, the Republican one blatantly conflicts with the party’s years-long obsession with austerity. Farm Bill negotiations dragged on for months and ended with $8.6 billion in cuts over a decade. The Ryan Budget cuts $135 billion from food stamps alone. Even President Obama’s plan to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit—which Republicans support in policy, but disagree on the offset—costs only $60 billion over a decade. The Republican position on unemployment insurance is even more hypocritical. The same day that Ways and Means passed the six tax extenders, Republican Senator Dean Heller called House Speaker John Boehner to lobby him on the Senate UI bill. The cost of the extension is just $9.7 billion and even includes a spending offset, although most of it ($6.1 billion) comes from a budget gimmick. But Boehner said the deal needs a full offset and a job-creation measure—despite a Congressional Budget Office finding that a UI extension would help the economy.

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Mary Tuma: First Lady Michelle Obama To Stop In San Antonio

First Lady Michelle Obama is expected to make a stop in the Alamo City this week to help promote higher education. On Friday, Obama will join Mayor Julián Castro for Destination College Week’s ‘College Signing Day,’ an event that allows high school seniors to publicly display their college or university plans. The mid-morning event is expected to draw more than 2,100 attendees. The week-long (free) citywide program is geared toward empowering children to seek higher ed opportunities and reminds the public SA is a prime spot for collegiate education in Texas, with around 150,000 students enrolled at area colleges or universities.

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This marks College Week’s fourth annual event. Obama will be speaking at The University of Texas at San Antonio and is slated to discuss the administration’s “North Star” education plan (as she’s been doing recently) which aims to make the U.S. once again, have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.

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Reuters: Sprint Moves Ahead With T-Mobile Bid Plan

Sprint Corp is meeting with banks to work out funding for its bid for smaller rival T-Mobile US Inc, a source familiar with the situation said, as the mobile carrier works to ease regulatory concerns that the deal would hurt competition. The source said that Sprint, which is owned by Japan’s SoftBank Corp, is hoping to fund the bulk of T-Mobile’s estimated $50 billion price tag with corporate bonds and cover the rest with syndicated loans and convertible bonds. Sprint is currently talking to at least five banks, the source told Reuters, including JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank. Sprint is facing a battle ahead with U.S. regulators who oppose consolidation in the wireless market on the basis it would inhibit competition.

The company is aware it may have to give up some of its spectrum holdings to win over critics, the source said. Two of the most vocal opponents to the deal are Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler and U.S. antitrust chief William Baer, who have pointed to T-Mobile’s success since U.S. authorities rejected a 2011 merger between AT&T Inc and T-Mobile on the grounds the market needs at least four major players to be competitive. The failure of that deal cost AT&T a $6 billion break-up fee, a penalty Sprint feels confident it can avoid, the source said, adding that it is leaning towards having Deutsche Telekom, which currently owns 67 percent of T-Mobile, retain part of that stake.

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MarketWatch: U.S. Consumer Spending Jumps In March

Consumer spending accelerated in March, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. Consumer spending rose 0.9%, the largest increase since August 2009. Personal income rose a solid 0.5%. Wall Street economists had expected a 0.5% gain for incomes and a 0.7% gain in spending. The savings rate fell to 3.8% from 4.2% in February, the smallest level since January 2013. Excluding inflation, real disposable incomes rose 0.3% for the third straight month in March. Adjusted for inflation, spending rose 0.7%, also the biggest gain since August 2009.

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Josh Rogin: Obama Confidant To Be Next Ambassador To South Korea

Mark Lippert currently serves as chief of staff to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. Obama will announce as soon as Thursday that he is nominating Lippert to replace Sung Kim as America’s top diplomat in South Korea, the officials said. The nomination comes at a tense time on the Korean peninsula, with North Korea threatening further provocations including a possible fourth nuclear test. Lippert is one of Obama’s oldest and closest advisors on foreign policy, having served in Obama’s Senate office and then as a top advisor in Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. Lippert was the National Security Council Chief of Staff, a position resurrected by the Obama White House in 2009 for 10 months. Lippert spent some time deployed abroad as a Naval Reserve intelligence officer before returning to the Obama administration in 2011 as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Affairs.

There is not expected to be any fight this time over Lippert’s nomination to be Ambassador to South Korea, although it could be a while before he gets confirmed due to the bitter Senate fight over confirmations following Democratic leadership’s elimination of the filibuster for executive appointments last fall. In retaliation, Republicans have slowed the confirmations process to a trickle and dozens of ambassadors are waiting in line for confirmation. But the South Korean government enthusiastically endorsed the Lippert choice because he is close personally to Obama and has had an extensive working relationship with Seoul during his time at the Pentagon. Lippert played an important role in crafting the Pentagon’s part of the Asia pivot policy, as codified in then Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s June 2012 speech at the Shangri-La conference in Singapore. He worked to bolster missile defense capabilities against the North Korean threat, has a good relationship with U.S. Forces Korea Commanders General Thurman and General Scaparrotti, and led two separate U.S. delegations to the Defense Trilateral Talks between the U.S.-Japan-Korea on a range of key security issues.

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Three Years Ago Today

Pete Souza: “This is a composite of several images of the President and his national security team during a series of meetings in the Situation Room of the White House discussing the mission against Osama bin Laden on Sunday, May 1, 2011. We put this together so in addition to the now iconic image of this day, people might have a better sense of what it’s like in presidential meetings of historic significance.”

President Obama talks with members of the national security team at the conclusion of one in a series of meetings discussing the mission against Osama bin Laden, in the Situation Room of the White House, May 1, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama edits his remarks in the Oval Office prior to making a televised statement detailing the mission against Osama bin Laden, May 1, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

May 1, 2011: “The President was ready to announce the news about the mission against Osama bin Laden and was putting the finishing touches on his statement in the Outer Oval Office. As he did so, the networks broke in with bulletins confirming that bin Laden had been killed and a photograph of him appeared on the television screen in the background near the Vice President and Press Secretary Jay Carney.” (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama talks on the phone in the Oval Office before making a statement to the media about the mission against Osama bin Laden, May 1, 2011. The President made a series of calls, including to former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton and others, to inform them of the successful mission (Photo by Pete Souza)

Senior administration officials listen as President Obama delivers a statement in the East Room of the White House on the mission against Osama bin Laden, May 1, 2011. Seated, from left, are: James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence; National Security Advisor Tom Donilon; CIA Director Leon Panetta; Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; and Vice President Joe Biden. (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama shakes hands with Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in the Green Room of the White House following his statement detailing the mission against Osama bin Laden, May 1, 2011. CIA Director Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton are pictured at left (Photo by Pete Souza)

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On This Day

Members of the military raise their hands during a naturalization ceremony for active duty service members in the East Room of the White House, May 1, 2009 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

President Obama during the playing of the national anthem at a Naturalization Ceremony in the East Room of the White House Friday, May 1, 2009 ( Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

President Obama in the outer Oval Office following a Homeland Security Council meeting in the Cabinet Room May 1, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama touches the sign above the locker room door at Michigan Stadium, before giving the commencement address to University of Michigan graduates in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, May 1, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama exits the stage with University of Michigan president Mary Sue Coleman after delivering the commencement address to University of Michigan graduates at Michigan Stadium, in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, May 1, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wait in a hallway at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C., moments before taking the stage at the White House Correspondents Association dinner, Saturday, May 1, 2010 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

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First Lady Michelle Obama speaks to a group of supporters and volunteers at The Springs Preserve May 1, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada

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