Posts Tagged ‘energy

01
Jul
14

Rise and Shine

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama shake hands with the crowd gathered for their arrival at the State House in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, July 1, 2013

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Today (All Times Eastern)

10:55: The President holds a Cabinet meeting

1:0: Josh Earnest briefs the press

2:20: The President delivers remarks on the economy

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Aaron Carroll: It’s Getting Hard To Ignore Insurance Numbers (UPDATED)

Five percent of Americans report being newly insured in 2014. More than half of that group, or 2.8% of the total U.S. population, say they got their new insurance through the health exchanges that were open through mid-April. Given the population of the United States, this means that more than 15 million about 10-11 million American adults are newly insured this year. Almost 9 million of them received private insurance through the exchanges. There’s more (emphasis mine): The newly insured using exchanges are mostly under age 65, as would be expected, given that most Americans 65 and older are covered by Medicare.

Thus, the representation of newly insured Americans is higher across all three age groups younger than 65 than is true for the general population. More specifically, newly insured Americans using the exchanges in the 18 to 29 age category are eight percentage points more prevalent than their percentage in the overall adult population, while representation of those 30 to 49 and 50 to 64 are five and four points higher, respectively.This means that the fears that the young would refrain from buying insurance, thereby fracturing the risk pools, don’t seem to be coming to pass either.

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Spandan Chakrabarti: Re-Igniting War On Women, Supreme Court Makes Case For Democratic Congress (#HobbyLobby)

5 conservative men on the Supreme Court decided that a core part of women’s health cannot be part of required employer-provided insurance coverage – even if the additional coverage costs nothing – at least as applied to private, family-owned corporations. All of the court’s female justices were joined by Justice Breyer in a strong and scathing dissent. it does, however, leave Democrats a major political opening when it comes to contraception. First, the majority explicitly held that HHS could in fact levy a contraception mandate – on insurance companies. In its language, the opinion refers to the method of contraception coverage HHS uses for employers already exempt from the contraception mandate (churches and other religious nonprofits) – requiring insurance companies to provide the coverage, outside of the employers’ policies but with no additional cost to the insured.

Secondly, and more importantly, the decision relies on a law passed by Congress – the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (1993 thanks, Bill Clinton) – and not the First Amendment. it can be overridden by an act of Congress. Therein lies the major opening for Democrats in 2014 and in 2016. This decision not only puts the Right wing’s war on women back on the forefront just in time for the midterms, it points to a specific cure: have Congress change the law to override the Court’s decision. If Democrats wanted to run on a single issue from now to November, it should be a promise to write into the law protections for contraceptive coverage should we win back the House and keep the Senate. It is time that we, as Americans, found out what everyone asking for our votes stands on women’s health. Leave behind all of your trepidation about why the Democratic party isn’t perfect and how President Obama has “disappointed” you. You have no right to be outraged by today’s decision if you do not show up to the polls in November and ensure the election of a Congress that will override the law that the Supreme Court says allows for employers to control the reproductive lives of their employees.

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Energy.Gov: Energy Department Project Captures And Stores More Than One Million Metric Tons Of CO2

Following the one year mark since the release of the President’s Climate Action Plan, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) – in partnership with Air Products and Chemicals Inc. – today announced a major milestone, successfully capturing more than one million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) at the hydrogen-production facility in Port Arthur, Texas. Using an innovative technology called vacuum swing adsorption, the project captures more than 90 percent of the CO2 from the product stream of two commercial-scale steam methane reformers that would otherwise be emitted into the atmosphere.

In addition to the secure storage, captured carbon from the project will be used to help produce additional, hard-to-access resources from existing nearby oil fields. In total, Department of Energy projects have captured and securely stored nearly 7.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide to date, equivalent to taking more than 1.5 million cars off the road for a year. In just the last year since the release of the President’s Climate Action Plan, these Department-supported projects have stored approximately 2.8 metric tons.

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Steve Benen: Boehner Gives Up On Immigration, Obama Moving Forward

Almost exactly a year ago, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in no uncertain terms that he would ignore the popular, bipartisan immigration reform bill passed by the Senate. The plan may have been endorsed by business leaders, labor unions, law enforcement, immigration advocates, leaders from the faith community, economists, and deficit hawks, but the Republican leader said it didn’t matter: the Senate bill was dead on arrival. Even if it had the votes to pass, it would never reach the House floor. But, Boehner said at the time, immigration reform was very much alive. “The House is going to do its own job in developing an immigration bill,” the Speaker vowed. “It is time for Congress to act. But I believe the House has its job to do, and we will do our job.”  That was 51 weeks ago.

And while Boehner probably meant what he said, the House Speaker made a commitment he could not keep. House members “will do our job”? Well, no actually, as is too often the case, the Republican-led chamber will do nothing. No longer willing to watch the GOP-led House do nothing, President Obama intends to move forward without legislative action. For his part, Boehner’s spokesperson, Michael Steel, told reporters this afternoon, “Speaker Boehner told the President exactly what he has been telling him: the American people and their elected officials don’t trust him to enforce the law as written. Until that changes, it is going to be difficult to make progress on this issue.” As talking points go, I find it hard to imagine any adult seriously believing an argument so transparently foolish. For one thing, Boehner himself already discredited the argument from Boehner’s office, admitting publicly that immigration reform hasn’t happened because his own Republican allies are afraid of hard work.

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Alan Gomez: Obama Rips GOP On Immigration, Says He Will Act Alone

After more than a year of urging Congress to pass an immigration law, President Obama gave a fiery White House speech Monday, saying the time had come for him to act alone on the issue. “The failure of House Republicans to pass a darn bill is bad for our security, it’s bad for our economy and it’s bad for our future,” he said. “If Congress won’t do their job, at least we can do ours.” The president laid out in a letter to congressional leaders Monday several steps his administration has taken in recent weeks to respond to an unprecedented surge in children caught crossing the border. The president ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate the federal agencies that have been catching, processing and housing the children. The Department of Justice is in the process of reassigning immigration judges and U.S. attorneys to the border to speed up hearings in immigration court, and

the Department of Health and Human Services has scoured the country to find places to put those children. In March, Obama ordered Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to conduct a systemwide review of deportation practices to see how they could be done “more humanely.” Obama later asked that the results of that review be postponed until the end of the summer to give Congress time to work through an immigration bill. Monday, with 28 days left in the legislative calendar, Obama said the review would be completed soon and would include changes to the country’s immigration enforcement structure. Obama said the only response from Republicans has been to use the crisis as their “newest excuse to do nothing.”

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Washington Post: Illinois To Allow Same-Day Registration, Expand Early Voting Hours

Illinois will dramatically expand access to the ballot box this year by allowing voters to register on Election Day, and by significantly extending the hours early-vote locations will be open. Gov. Pat Quinn (D) has said he will sign the measure, passed by the legislature late last month. The bill expands both the number of days during which early voting locations are open and the number of hours each day they remain open. Voters who cast a ballot early will not have to show a photo identification.

“Democracy works best when everyone has the opportunity to participate,” Quinn said in a statement. “By removing barriers to vote, we can ensure a government of the people and for the people.” Meanwhile, students at public universities will have an easier time casting a ballot under the new measure. The bill allows students attending public schools to change their residences from their hometowns to college campuses, giving them easier access to polling places on campus.

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Harold Meyerson: Supreme Court Rules Disadvantaged Workers Should Be Disadvantaged Some More

The conservative majority on the Supreme Court today took up the case of some of America’s most disadvantaged workers, and ruled that they should be disadvantaged some more. The five-to-four ruling in Harris v. Quinn goes a long way to crippling the efforts that unions have made to help these workers get out of poverty. The case concerned some 28,000 home care aides in Illinois whose paychecks come from Medicaid. Before the state agreed in 2003 that they could form a union, they made the minimum wage. (It’s the state that sets their wage rate, since their pay comes entirely from Medicaid.) Currently, as a result of their union contract, they make $11.85 an hour rather than the minimum of $7.25. Tomorrow, by the terms of their contract, their hourly rate is raised to $12.25, and on December 1st to $13. The right to hire and fire these workers remains solely, of course, that of their home-bound patients and their families.

The workers, then, are joint employees of both their patients and the state. And since the state allowed them to vote on whether to join a union, and since they voted to join the Service Employees International Union, these 28,000 workers have seen their pay doubled and have received, for the first time, health care coverage. Like all unionized public employees, they don’t have to pay that portion of their union dues that goes to their union’s political activities, but they do have to pay that portion of dues that goes to the union’s bargaining with the state that has produced their contract. Pamela Harris, who works at home caring for her disabled son, didn’t like those dues obligations, however, and sued to get them overturned. So, Ms. Harris had to pay $650 for her raise? Actually, no. She belongs to a different category of home-care workers, and unlike the workers who voted to join SEIU, her group voted against joining a union. She pays no dues to anybody.

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April 1, 2014

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Katie McDonough: SCOTUS Gets Hobby Lobby Horribly Wrong: Why This Isn’t A “Limited” Ruling

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled Monday that Hobby Lobby can ignore federal law and deny its employees comprehensive health insurance because of its “sincerely held religious beliefs.” Analysis of the case has so far called this a limited ruling because it only applies to closely held corporations and “only” impacts contraceptive coverage. But this framing completely ignores the fact that more than 90 percent of corporations in the United States are closely held, and that the court just effectively ruled that it’s fine for employers to discriminate against half of the labor force. There’s nothing limited about it. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted in her powerful dissent, far from being narrow in its ruling, the high court just “ventured into a minefield.” The ruling sends a strong message that women’s health and women’s rights — as individuals and employees — do not matter as much as so-called religious liberty.

It also shows once again that medically inaccurate ideas about healthcare can dictate the terms of a debate and ultimately win the day. To sum it up, five male justices ruled that thousands of female employees should rightfully be subjected to the whims of their employers. That women can be denied a benefit that they already pay for and is guaranteed by federal law. That contraception is not essential healthcare. That corporations can pray. That the corporate veil can be manipulated to suit the needs of the corporation. That bosses can cynically choose à la carte what laws they want to comply with and which laws they do not. Each specific finding opens a door to a new form of discrimination and unprecedented corporate power. If you think this ruling won’t affect you, you haven’t been paying attention. If you think these corporations are going to stop at birth control, you’re kidding yourself.

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President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama smile while hosting a reception to observe LGBT Pride Month at the White House

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On This Day

President Obama signs S.614, a bill to award a Congressional Gold Medal to the Women Airforce Service Pilots, in the Oval Office Wednesday, July 1, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama looks out of the Oval Office for other aides before a meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on July 1, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama boards Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, July 1, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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People line the street as President Obama’s motorcade makes its way to the State House in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, July 1, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

First Lady Michelle Obama greets Tanzanian people during an official arrival ceremony in Dar Es Salaam July 1, 2013

09
May
14

President Obama ‘Acts On Climate’

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President Barack Obama speaks about energy during a visit to a Wal-Mart store in Mountain View, California. Walmart will double by 2020 the number of on-site solar energy projects at its U.S. outlets and distribution centers, the company announced

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Mercury News: Obama Praises Energy Efficiency At Local Walmart

Standing beneath the glare of fluorescent lights inside a Walmart store, President Obama on Friday rolled out his plan for sweeping energy reform, an ambitious effort to convert more businesses, homes and government building to solar power. Obama’s energy initiative — an executive action that calls for investments in more solar energy jobs, upgrading homes and buildings to be more efficient, and partnerships with the housing and tech industries — and aims to move the country away from foreign oil dependency while creating more jobs in the renewable energy sector. Despite a spotty record on labor issues, Walmart has been what many experts consider a pioneer in energy efficiency and renewable energy. It’s one of at least 10 private companies that, as part of Obama’s plan, have agreed to double-down on their efforts to convert more of their energy to renewable sources. Dozens of affordable housing organizations, retailers, home builders and tech companies have also signed on to the presidents plan with their own plans to invest in solar, helping the environment and lowering their electricity bills.

Arkansas-based Walmart, an early investor in the solar industry, pledged on Friday it will double the number of solar energy projects at its stores and distribution centers by 2020. By the end of last year, the retail giant had 335 renewable energy projects, with solar making up about 6 percent of those. The company expects the additional solar projects will save $1 billion per year in energy costs. “It’s the right thing to do because when you save that money you can pass that money back to consumers in the form of lower prices, or you can create more jobs,” Obama said. The executive order, an 11-page document released Friday morning, involves more than 300 private and public sector commitments to cut carbon emissions, an additional $2 billion in energy efficiency investments in federal buildings over three years, new efficiency standards for appliances and training programs at community colleges across the country that will assist 50,000 workers to enter the solar industry by 2020.

The announcement was applauded by several environmental groups, including Greenpeace and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. The Mountain View store in which Obama spoke now gets 14.5 percent of its energy from solar systems built and installed by SolarCity, based in San Mateo and one of Walmart’s biggest solar vendors. SolarCity says its projects with Walmart alone have created an estimated 9,000 construction jobs in the United States, and SolarCity itself has created an additional 5,000 permanent American jobs since it did its first project with Walmart in 2010. A few Silicon Valley tech leaders have also signed onto Obama’s energy plan. Apple is building a 2.8 million square-foot headquarters that will also run entirely on renewables, including a rooftop solar system, and has committed to powering all its facilities with green; Yahoo announced it will add a solar installation to their Sunnyvale headquarters by early 2015; and Google announced on Friday a $1 million prize to develop the next generation of power inverters, or cooler-size boxes that help homes run on solar panels.

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President Barack Obama walks down a shopping aisle after speaking about energy during his visit to a Wal-Mart store in Mountain View, California

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09
May
14

Rise and Shine

Pete Souza: “To appreciate this photograph, one must know the iconic photograph by Stanley Tretick of John Kennedy Jr. crawling out from the trap door of this same desk while his father, President Kennedy, worked at the desk. Caroline Kennedy had stopped by to see President Obama, and when she mentioned that he was using the same desk as her father, the President immediately remembered the Tretick picture and tried to open the trap door. It was locked and no one had a key.” March 9, 2009

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Today (All Times Eastern)

12:45 PM EDT: The President delivers remarks on energy, Walmart, Mountain View, California

1:45 PM EDT: Departs California

6:35 PM EDT: Arrives White House

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Taegan Goddard: ObamaCare Is Working – And The GOP Is Shifting Its Attack

After pounding Democrats on ObamaCare for the last several years, Republicans have a big problem. The law is working and their message is falling flat. This was confirmed again by testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee yesterday in which health care industry executives surprised Republican lawmakers. They said the law has not led to a government takeover of the industry, that most enrollees are paying their premiums as required, and that premiums are not certain to go up next year as Republicans claim. With more than 8 million people enrolled in health plans through the ObamaCare exchanges, many Republicans know it’s much harder to repeal the law now than it might have been several years ago. And they tried more than 50 times already without success.

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David Jackson: Obama Touts Energy Plans, Trumpets W. House Solar Panels

President Obama will announce new plans Friday designed to boost solar power and promote energy efficiency, including the completed installation of solar panels on the White House roof. The solar panels on the president’s residence are “part of an energy retrofit that will improve the overall energy efficiency of the building,” said White House spokesman Matt Lehrich. During a visit to Wal-Mart in Mountain View, Calif., near San Jose, Obama will also outline what aides call some 300 “private and public sector commitments” designed to create jobs and reduce carbon pollution.

The speech comes three days after the administration issued a report saying that climate change caused by pollution is already damaging the environment and triggering extreme weather conditions. The initiatives Obama will announce Friday include programs aimed at financing for new solar business ventures, training and developing a solar workforce, and enforcing new building codes to promote efficiency. Private companies, including Wal-Mart, will commit to similar projects, the White House said. The plans are projected to create enough new solar energy to power more than 130,000 homes, and energy savings that are the equivalent of taking 80 million cars off the road for one year, the White House said.

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One of the best stigma reducing pieces and videos I’ve seen on abortion. She uses facts to combat the rightwing extremism and lies. Bravo, Cosmopolitan for featuring this article.

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Emily Letts: Why I Filmed My Abortion

When Emily Letts got pregnant, she knew she would get an abortion. Then she decided to film it. Letts, 25, is an abortion counselor at Cherry Hill Women’s Center in New Jersey, which is where she had her abortion. The non-graphic video focuses on her face and shows her breathing and humming through the procedure. The doctor on the other side of the sheet is out of view. When she entered the Abortion Care Network’s Stigma Busting video competition and won, the video went viral. Here, she explains why she decided to share her experience so publicly. I searched the Internet, and I couldn’t find a video of an actual surgical procedure in the clinic that focused on the woman’s experience. We talk about abortion so much and yet no one really knows what it actually looks like. A first trimester abortion takes three to five minutes. It is safer than giving birth. There is no cutting, and risk of infertility is less than 1 percent. Yet women come into the clinic all the time terrified that they are going to be cut open, convinced that they won’t be able to have kids after the abortion. The misinformation is amazing, but think about it: They are still willing to sacrifice these things because they know that they can’t carry the child at this moment.

There are three options for a first-trimester abortion: medical abortion, which is the pill; a surgical abortion with IV sedation, where you’re asleep through the whole thing; and a surgical abortion with local anesthesia during which you’re awake. The first night I posted the video to my Facebook page, I couldn’t sleep. Then I looked at my Facebook wall. I was expecting this tsunami of hateful, scary things, but everyone was so breathtakingly supportive. People who I have never talked to started writing their own abortion stories. I had one woman who messaged me saying she’d had an abortion that week and she was plagued with guilt. Her boyfriend called her a killer, but she said she was recovering well and appreciated the video. Another woman told me she’d had a miscarriage and that because of my video she felt like she could talk to me about it. Just all of these things started pouring out of women.

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Derek Willis: The Most Republican Company?: The Makers Of Wonder Bread

The most Republican-leaning company in the country, based on political donations, isn’t Koch Industries. It’s the company that makes Wonder Bread. The political action committee of Flowers Foods, a Georgia company that produces the pillowy sandwich bread, Tastykakes and Nature’s Own baked goods, has given more than 99 percent of its political contributions since 1979 to Republicans. Only three Democratic congressional candidates have gotten money from its PAC since 1984, and not one in the past 20 years. Most corporations involved in national politics don’t operate this way. Despite its largess, Flowers keeps a low profile that masks the motives for its one-sided giving. It’s based in Thomasville, a southwestern Georgia city just over the Florida border best known for an annual rose festival and grand antebellum homes.

There are other companies that lean heavily toward Republicans: The Cracker Barrel Old Country Store PAC routinely gives them more than 80 percent of its contributions. The PAC of Phillips International, a financial information publisher, gave a combined $1,100 to just two Democrats between 1994 and 2006, compared with more than $545,000 to Republicans. The California-based radio and publishing company Salem Communications, which like Phillips has openly embraced a conservative message, also gives almost nothing to Democrats. Some trade associations, like the Associated Builders and Contractors, have long been exclusive donors to Republicans, much the way many labor unions have given almost all of their contributions to Democrats. But none of those companies have given as much money as Flowers has, and over as long a period of time.

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NBC News: The Newest Benghazi Controversy: Political Fundraising

House Speaker John Boehner would not say Thursday if the House GOP’s campaign arm should stop including the Benghazi attacks in fundraising appeals. Asked three times whether the National Republican Congressional Committee should be fundraising based on what they call Democratic obstruction of the Benghazi investigation, Boehner answered only: “Our focus is on getting the answers to those families who lost their loved ones. Period.”  An NRCC email sent Wednesday morning included a link to “become a Benghazi watchdog” – which led to a page where supporters can donate cash. A separate website called “BenghaziWatchdogs.com” still contains a link encouraging visitors to “help fight liberals by donating today.”

Democrats say that’s inappropriate and calls attention to the political nature of the GOP focus on Benghazi. In a statement sent minutes before Boehner’s weekly press conference began, Rep. Steve Israel, who chairs the Democratic counterpart to the NRCC, called the Republican cash appeal “callous.” “Fundraising off the Benghazi tragedy is despicable and insulting and has no place in the national conversation,” he said. “Speaker Boehner and Chairman Walden should immediately take down their BenghaziWatchdogs.com website and stop insulting the memory of the brave Americans who were lost there.”

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Eleanor Kennedy: HCA, Community Health Systems And LifePoint Starting To See Benefits From The Affordable Care Act

One quarter in, Nashville’s publicly traded hospital operators seem optimistic about the effects of the Affordable Care Act on their bottom lines. Community Health Systems CFO Larry Cash told investors and analysts during the company’s first-quarter earnings call Wednesday that the ACA should decrease self-pay admissions from about 8 percent to about 4 percent over a three-year period. The company has seen some early moderate impacts, especially in Medicaid expansion states where self-pay admissions have already begun to drop, Cash said. “We believe we have recognized, although on a roughly calculated basis, at least $10 million from the ‘woodwork effect’ [in which people currently eligible for Medicaid but who had yet to sign up will now do so because of the ACA] and the Affordable Care Act for additional Medicaid business,” Cash said.

Brentwood-based LifePoint was also high on the ACA’s impacts during its first-quarter earnings call last week, with company leadership emphasizing Medicaid expansion’s effects in many of the states where it operates hospitals. “So far and as expected, the new health care law has been a net positive for LifePoint with respect to Medicaid expansion,” CEO Bill Carpenter said during the call. “In the seven states where we operate that have expanded coverage, we saw increasing Medicaid and decreasing self-pay volumes. Increases in Medicaid membership and health insurance exchange participation contributed measurably to our results in the quarter.

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Elise Vebeck: Obama’s HHS Nominee Breezes Through Senate Confirmation Hearing

Senate Republicans mounted little resistance Thursday to Sylvia Burwell, President Obama’s nominee to replace Kathleen Sebelius as head of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). While several of the senators played up their opposition to ObamaCare, most Republicans called Burwell a qualified pick, and several went out of their way to praise the former Clinton administration official as uniquely suited to lead HHS. GOP lawmakers solicited Burwell’s views on major policy debates, such as how ObamaCare will affect the economy, the deficit and federal healthcare costs. Not surprisingly, Burwell sided with the administration on every point. “The Affordable Care Act is strengthening the economy … reducing the deficit and providing great savings,” she said.

At the same time, Burwell played up her desire to be flexible on certain issues, like states’ desire to expand Medicaid in alternative ways. She also sought to quiet debate on the cost-cutting Independent Payment Advisory Board and other controversial topics. “IPAB never needs to be used,” Burwell said, noting that the panel is only triggered when the rate of healthcare spending rises above a certain level. “In the current window that we’re looking at, it is our estimate that it would never be activated,” she said. The path to confirmation for Burwell would look very different had Senate Democrats not used the “nuclear option” last year. The procedural maneuver gave Democrats the power to confirm nominees like Burwell with a simple majority vote, which means they can approve Obama’s choices without any Republican support. Last April, she was confirmed to head the Office of Management and Budget by a vote of 96-0.

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Scott Keyes: Before Obamacare, GOP Candidate Was Denied Health Coverage For Adopting A Child

In a parallel universe, Matt Bevin might not be an anti-Obamacare crusader, but instead a poster child for the issues with the old health insurance industry and the ways in which the Affordable Care Act now prevents insurers from taking advantage of consumers. That’s because Bevin, a Republican Senate candidate trying to unseat Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), himself was once the victim of an unfair insurance industry practice: Denying coverage to consumers because of a pre-existing condition. During a campaign stop in western Kentucky on Monday, Bevin told the crowd that after leaving a job, “My wife and I literally didn’t have health care for about a year because of a pre-existing condition.”

Was it cancer? Heart disease? Pancreatitis? No. It wasn’t a health condition at all. “I was rather shocked… What it was is that we were adopting. That’s considered a pre-existing condition,” Bevin said. He and his wife have four adopted children from Ethiopia in total. As a result, Bevin noted, “For over a year or so, I had no coverage for my entire family. That’s a little bit unnerving for people.” Bevin’s experience is exactly the type of ordeal that families no longer have to go through now that Obamacare is the law of the land. Despite unwittingly making a succinct case in favor of health reform, Bevin’s takeaway from his own insurance debacle was that we need to repeal Obamacare and instead “let states come up with solutions.”

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Eugene Robinson: Obama’s Transformational Presidency

Is it safe to say that Barack Obama’s presidency will be remembered as the most consequential since Ronald Reagan’s — a presidency that “changed the trajectory of America” and “put us on a fundamentally different path”? In both the domestic and foreign spheres, Obama has had transformational impact. And there is more to come. Reagan’s great achievement at home was to shift the political spectrum to the right. People tend to forget how radical his ideas once seemed. His biggest legislative accomplishment, the Affordable Care Act, is a landmark because it establishes the principle that health care should be considered a right, not a privilege. Democrats such as Harry Truman — and Republicans such as Richard Nixon — sought for decades to move the nation toward universal care. The fact that Obama succeeded where others failed is, in itself, a huge achievement.

Health care is part of a larger suite of issues on which Obama has swung the pendulum back to the left. He made the case, for example, that more regulation of the financial sector was needed. Republicans were forced to give way. The president has been hammering away in speeches about the need for an increase in the minimum wage. Republicans haven’t caved on this yet, but in the end they almost surely will because of widespread public support for it. Whether Democrats lose the Senate or not, Obama will have a tough time getting significant legislation passed in his final two years. Please don’t tell me he simply needs to be a better politician, like Bill Clinton. Obama ran rings around both Clintons in 2008. A black man with the middle name Hussein who gets elected president twice should be in the all-time-all-world Politics Hall of Fame.

Obama is not the first president to endorse multilateralism, but he may be the first to mean it. He agreed to use force in Libya only after France and Britain nominally took the lead. He has kept the NATO allies together in cautiously dealing with the Ukraine crisis. He has refused to be drawn into Syria because he is unsure whether intervention would make the situation better or worse. The president realizes that even the most powerful nation on earth cannot mediate every dispute, take sides in all wars, alleviate all suffering. He acknowledges our limitations and more narrowly defines our national interest. The public approves, even if some foreign policy sages are apoplectic.

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Boss Move Of The Day

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On This Day

President Obama watches the action during a break from playing basketball at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, May 9, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama stops to talk with families after playing basketball at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, May 9, 2009. (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama reacts to a comment made at the White House Correspondents Awards Dinner in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, May 9, 2009 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

President Obama “meets” with speechwriter Cody Keenan, who dressed as a pirate for an Oval Office photo taken for use in the President’s humorous speech to the White House Correspondents Association dinner May 9, 2009. “But as I said during the campaign, we can’t just talk to our friends. As hard as it is, we also have to talk to our enemies, and I’ve begun to do exactly that,” the President said in his speech. (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama talks on the phone to Solicitor General Elena Kagan from the Treaty Room in the White House residence, Sunday night, May 9, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama talks on the phone with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss the economic situation in Europe, prior to the Hampton University commencement in Hampton, Va., Sunday, May 9, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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First Lady Michelle Obama participates in the “Pit Crew Challenge” during an event with the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition on the South Lawn of the White House, May 9, 2011. The First Lady visited seven activity stations during the event, which helped promote both the Let’s Move! and Joining Forces initiatives. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

President Obama walks through the Rose Garden of the White House for an outdoor meeting with senior staff, May 9, 2011. Walking with the President, from left, are: Senior Advisor David Plouffe, Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, Counselor to the President Pete Rouse, and Counsel to the President Bob Bauer (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama meets with senior staff in the Rose Garden of the White House, May 9, 2011. Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett is seen at right (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama participates in an interview with Robin Roberts of ABC’s Good Morning America, in the Cabinet Room of the White House, May 9, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama watches a demonstration by Oscar Perez and Bobford Do as he tours a classroom at Manor New Technology High School in Manor, Texas, May 9, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

First Lady Michelle Obama, Prince Harry of Wales, and Dr. Jill Biden help military children create Mother’s Day cards and other crafts in the State Dining Room of the White House, May 9, 2013. The children presented the gifts to their moms during the Joining Forces Military Mother’s Day Tea in the East Room. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

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30
Apr
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama talk in the Green Room of the White House before being introduced at a Joining Forces initiative employment announcement for veterans and military spouses, April 30, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

1:0 Jay Carney briefs the press

3:10: President Obama delivers remarks on the minimum wage

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Clyde Davis holds a sign before the NBA playoff game 5 between Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center in Los Angeles, April 29

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NPR: Obamacare Enrollees Emboldened To Leave Jobs, Start Businesses

Until recently, Mike Smith, 64, of Long Beach, Calif., worked 11 hours a day, Monday through Friday and then half a day on Saturday. He was a district manager for a national auto parts chain. He dreamed of retiring early, but it wasn’t an option for him because he and his wife relied on his the health insurance tied to his job. “At our age, with some pre-existing medical conditions, it would have been very costly to buy insurance on the open market — about $3,000 a month,” he says. But the Affordable Care Act changed that. Smith retired in January. So did his wife, Laura, also 64.

The couple now has a private health insurance policy that they bought through Covered California, the state’s insurance marketplace. It costs them $200 a month. The coverage helped the Smiths make a major lifestyle change. A recent study by Georgetown University and the Urban Institute predicts the ACA will enable up to 1.5 million Americans to leave their jobs and become self-employed, start new businesses or retire early. It’s a finding that runs counter to forecasts by critics of the federal health law, who contend it will cost the nation jobs and cripple America’s small-business economy.

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Washington Post: Obamacare beneficiary: ‘You Wouldn’t Have Caught Me Dead Watching MSNBC’

The story of Dean Angstadt’s sudden embrace of Obamacare made MSNBC last night. Host Chris Hayes picked up on a heartwarming story in the Philadelphia Inquirer about a 57-year-old logger of Boyertown, Pa., who’d resisted signing up for Obamacare coverage but finally relented under the urging of a friend.  what accounts for Angstadt’s resistance to Obamacare in the first place? He says that he “leans” Republican and essentially listened to what the GOP had to say about Obamacare, and not so much to what the Democrats had to say.

As for his media diet, Anstadt says he goes online for some of his news, but when it comes to television, “Fox News, of course, and that’s basically what I watch on TV” Asked if Fox News had molded his view of Obamacare, Angstadt responded, “Yeah, yeah — they get people fired up. You know what, I really do have a different outlook on it. It’s really wrong that people are making it into a political thing. To me, it is a life-and-death thing.” Of Obamacare’s namesake, Angstadt says, “I didn’t care for Obama. I can’t say nothing bad about him now because it was his plan that probably saved my life.”

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ThinkProgress: GOP Lawmakers Confronted By Constituents Demanding To Know Why They Won’t Expand Medicaid

Americans for Prosperity (AFP), a right-wing group funded by the billionaire Koch Brothers, has been aggressively pressuring states to reject Obamacare’s optional Medicaid expansion. Last fall, the organization launched a massive campaign that has focused mainly on Virginia. But the latest town hall meetings hosted by AFP in the state aren’t exactly going well. Over the past week, at several town halls intended to emphasize why Virginia shouldn’t expand Medicaid, GOP lawmakers have been confronted by constituents who are demanding to know why they’re denying health care from an estimated 400,000 low-income residents.

Last week, at an AFP-sponsored forum in Charlottesville featuring two GOP lawmakers who oppose the expansion, the event was packed with more than a hundred Medicaid supporters. Protesters gathered outside the building with signs encouraging passing cars to honk for Medicaid expansion, and a local outlet noted that the politicians faced a “hostile audience” inside, too. Then, on Monday, three Republicans were “deluged with questions” about their refusal to expand Medicaid at an AFP event in Ashburn

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Ari Berman: Federal Court Strikes Down Discriminatory Wisconsin Voter ID Law

At 2:17 pm EST today, ESPN announced that LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling had been banned from the NBA for life for his racist remarks. Seven minutes later, at 2:24 pm, the ACLU tweeted that a Wisconsin judge had struck down the state’s voter ID law because it disproportionately burdened black and Hispanic voters. Both decisions were striking affirmations of Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s dissent last week, in a Michigan affirmative action case, that “race matters.” Sotomayor pointed to contemporary voter suppression efforts as an illustration of her defense. Wisconsin federal district court Judge Lynn Adelman ruled today that the state’s voter ID law, which was temporarily enjoined in 2012, violated the Fourteenth Amendment and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

The voter ID law had a clear discriminatory impact, the judge found. “The evidence adduced at trial demonstrates that this unique burden disproportionately impacts Black and Latino voters,” Adelman wrote. Data from the 2012 election “showed that African American voters in Wisconsin were 1.7 times as likely as white voters to lack a matching driver’s license or state ID and that Latino voters in Wisconsin were 2.6 times as likely as white voters to lack these forms of identification.” The judge found that Wisconsin’s ID law overwhelmingly impacted lower-income voters and that “Blacks and Latinos in Wisconsin are disproportionately likely to live in poverty…. The reason Blacks and Latinos are disproportionately likely to live in poverty, and therefore to lack a qualifying ID, is because they have suffered from, and continue to suffer from, the effects of discrimination.”

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Steve Benen: House GOP leaders Scramble After Accidentally Telling The Truth

With a tip of the hat to Michael Kinsley, it appears half the House Republican leadership committed gaffes in recent days by accidentally telling the truth. They’re now scrambling to reverse course.

Late last week, for example, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the chair of the House Republican Conference, conceded to her local newspaper that the Affordable Care Act is unlikely to be repealed. Though she wants to “look at reforming the exchanges,” the local report added that McMorris Rodgers “said the framework established by the law likely will persist and reforms should take place within its structure.”

This was a perfectly sensible position for a House GOP leader to take. Yesterday, the congresswoman’s office assured the right she has no use for such reasonableness.

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Washington Post: White House Opens Door To Tolls On Interstate Highways, Removing Long-Standing Prohibition

With pressure mounting to avert a transportation funding crisis this summer, the Obama administration Tuesday opened the door for states to collect tolls on interstate highways to raise revenue for roadway repairs. The proposal, contained in a four-year, $302 billion White House transportation bill, would reverse a long-standing federal prohibition on most interstate tolling. Though some older segments of the network — notably the Pennsylvania and New Jersey turnpikes and Interstate 95 in Maryland and Virginia — are toll roads, most of the 46,876-mile system has been toll-free. “We believe that this is an area where the states have to make their own decisions,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We want to open the aperture, if you will, to allow more states to choose to make broader use of tolling, to have that option available.”

The question of how to pay to repair roadways and transit systems built in the heady era of post-World War II expansion is demanding center stage this spring, with projections that traditional funding can no longer meet the need. That source, the Highway Trust Fund, relies on the 18.4-cent federal gas tax, which has eroded steadily as vehicles have become more energy efficient. “The proposal comes at the crucial moment for transportation in the last several years,” Foxx said. “As soon as August, the Highway Trust Fund could run dry. States are already canceling or delaying projects because of the uncertainty.” While providing tolling as an option to states, the White House proposal relies on funding from a series of corporate tax reforms, most of them one-time revenue streams that would provide a four-year bridge to close the trust-fund deficit and permit $150 billion more in spending than the gas tax will bring in.

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Lindsey Bever: Botched Oklahoma Execution Reignites Death Penalty Debate

Tuesday night’s botched execution in Oklahoma, which resulted in an inmate’s writhing death from a heart attack 43 minutes after he received what was supposed to be a lethal injection, was just one in a series of bungled execution attempts the past few years. It’s prompting calls for a moratorium on capital punishment from death penalty opponents. The inmate, Clayton Lockett, was confirmed unconscious 10 minutes after the first dose in the state’s new three-drug protocol was administered. The first drug, midazolam, is intended to render a person unconscious. But three minutes later, he began breathing heavily, thrashing and straining to lift his head, media witnesses said. Reporters for Tulsa World and KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City said Lockett called out from the gurney, “man.”

The blinds were then lowered to prevent people in the viewing gallery from seeing inside the death chamber. Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton answered a ringing phone and left the room with a few officials. Patton told reporters Lockett’s vein line had “blown.” When asked what he meant, Patton said the vein had “exploded.” Executions have become increasingly difficult for states to carry out over the past two years because of similar incidents. Licensed physicians are now unwilling to have anything to do with them on ethical grounds. Pharmaceutical companies that market the most tested drugs have cut off supplies, forcing states to obtain compounds they refuse to describe from suppliers they refuse to identify. Now the battle concerns not who dies, but how they die, and the competence of states to carry out executions humanely.

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Charles Pierce: Another Win For Voting Rights

There is so little good news on the voter-suppression front these days that, when some actually rears its head, it catches you somewhat by surprise, even more so when it cites what everybody knows about these laws, but what many people have to pretend they can’t figure out.

…. There will be appeals. There also may be an attempt to push another, similar bill through the legislature by Scott Walker, the goggle-eyed homunculus hired by Koch Industries to manage their midwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Wisconsin. But, for now, something resembling the state’s proud progressive history has prevailed.

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Mike Florio: Sterling’s Lifetime Ban Sends Clear Message To All Owners

By banning L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life, Adam Silver has made the jobs a little easier for his colleagues in the Commissioners’ Club. Every owner of every major-league franchise, in the NBA or elsewhere, now knows that views like those espoused by Sterling will result in swift and decisive action.

How could Commissioner Roger Goodell do anything less with an NFL owner, now that Silver has set the precedent in a different sport? With Goodell developing in his seven-plus years on the job a reputation for aggressively enforcing all rules and policies against the league’s players, it would be virtually impossible for Goodell to not drop the hammer on an NFL owner who engages in similar conduct.

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Forbes: Here’s How Obama’s Russia Sanctions Will Destroy Vladimir Putin

The US Treasury Department announced further sanctions today on seven Russian officials and 17 Russian companies, including Igor Sechin, the head of Rosneft, Russia’s largest oil company, several financial institutions and a number of firms connected to the energy sector.  These will include visa bans, asset freezes and further restrictions on trade.

When the first round of sanctions were imposed, the Russians largely laughed them off and critics of the administration pounced.  How could visa bans and asset freezes affect the calculus of Putin’s most ardent supporters?  What effect will it have on the ones don’t travel extensively the West or keep assets in foreign banks?

Yet this line of reasoning betrays a deep misunderstanding about the purpose and effects of the sanctions.  They are, in fact, a new breed of financial warfare that the Treasury department has been honing since 9/11, which rely on new legislation such as Section 311 of the Patriot Act and “know your customer” banking rules.

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Anthony Man: Looking For Complaints, Rick Scott Instead Finds Praise For Obamacare

Gov. Rick Scott visited a senior center Tuesday to warn about cuts he said Obamacare is forcing in a popular version of the Medicare health program and to collect their horror stories. What he found was a satisfied group with few complaints. The 20 seniors assembled for a roundtable with Scott at the Volen Center were largely content with their Medicare coverage and didn’t have negative stories to recount. And some praised Obamacare – a program that Scott frequently criticizes. “I’m completely satisfied,” Harvey Eisen, 92, a West Boca resident, told Scott. Eisen told the governor he wasn’t sure “if, as you say,” there are Obamacare-inspired cuts to Medicare. But even if there are, that would be OK. “I can’t expect that me as a senior citizen are going to get preferential treatment when other programs are also being cut.”

Ruthlyn Rubin, 66, of Boca Raton, told the governor that people who are too young for Medicare need the health coverage they get from Obamacare. If young people don’t have insurance, she said, everyone else ends up paying for their care when they get sick or injured and end up in the hospital. Eventually, Rubin said, Obamacare will become more popular. “People were appalled at Social Security. They were appalled at Medicare when it came out. I think these major changes take some people aback. But I think we have to be careful not to just rely on the fact that we’re seniors and have an entitlement to certain things,” she said. “We’re all just sitting here taking it for granted that because we have Medicare we don’t want to lose one part of it. That’s wrong to me. I think we have to spread it around. This is the United States of America. It’s not the United States of senior citizens,” Rubin said from her spot two seats away from the governor.

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Washington Post: Virginia Attorney General Declares ‘Dreamers ‘ Eligible For In-State Tuition

Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring thrust himself and his state back into the national spotlight Tuesday by announcing that some illegal immigrants who were brought to this country as children can qualify for in-state college tuition under existing law. Herring made the announcement at Northern Virginia Community College’s Alexandria campus just a few months after the legislature declined to enact the idea and on the heels of another brazen legal move in January, when he declared that the state’s ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional. “We should welcome these smart, talented, hard-working young people into our economy and society rather than putting a stop sign at the end of 12th grade,” Herring (D) said Tuesday to sustained applause and cheers from a room full of Latino students, immigration activists and education officials.

Announced in Spanish, Hindi, Vietnamese and Korean in addition to English, Herring’s move built upon President Obama’s decision to allow thousands of young illegal immigrants to remain in the country. Virginia students who are lawfully present in the United States as a result of Obama’s effort, which is known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, qualify for in-state tuition as long as they meet the state’s residency requirements, Herring said. Herring’s decision was far more than symbolic, instantly making college more affordable for more than 8,000 young illegal immigrants. The attorney general said state universities will immediately implement the policy, which comes just in time for high school seniors trying to make college plans for the fall.

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Suzanne Gamboa: Can You Trust Obama To Police Immigration? Report: Yes You Can

House Speaker John Boehner said Tuesday that moving ahead on immigration reform depends on the President showing he’s enforcing the law, which authors of an enforcement analysis said he has done. In his first news conference since Congress returned from a two-week break, Boehner said the biggest impediment on immigration reform is that Obama has “got to show the American people and the Congress he can implement the law the way it may be passed.” As Boehner made the statement, the Migration Policy Institute unveiled an analysis concluding Obama has built on enforcement policies of previous administrations and accelerated them, while trying to focus on border security and deportations of criminals.

In addition, some 250 evangelical pastors from 25 states also seemed reluctant to wait for more evidence on Obama’s trustworthiness. On Tuesday they were in Washington, D.C. visiting more than 100 members of Congress, mostly Republicans, and pushing for movement on immigration reform. Immigration hawks have criticized Obama’s record because of a drop in the number of immigrants apprehended in the interior of the U.S. Some have also opposed Obama’s decision to extend relief from deportation to young immigrants who are in the country illegally.“ If you are looking to critique the administration, you can find certain people are not crossing ICE’s radar and not being deported and that’s because the administration is focusing efforts mostly at the border,” said Rosenbaum, who served on Obama’s transition team on immigration.

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Coral Davenport: Justices Back Rule Limiting Coal Pollution

In a major victory for the Obama administration, the Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate the smog from coal plants that drifts across state lines from 28 Midwestern and Appalachian states to the East Coast. The 6-to-2 ruling bolsters the centerpiece of President Obama’s environmental agenda: a series of new regulations aimed at cutting pollution from coal-fired power plants. Republicans and the coal industry have criticized the regulations, which use the Clean Air Act as their legal authority, as a “war on coal.” The industry has waged an aggressive legal battle to undo the rules.

Legal experts said the decision, written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, signals that the Obama administration’s efforts to use the Clean Air Act to fight global warming could withstand legal challenges. In June, the E.P.A. is expected to propose a sweeping new Clean Air Act regulation to cut emissions of carbon dioxide, the heat-trapping greenhouse gas that scientists say is the chief cause of climate change. Coal plants are the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.

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Reuters: U.S. Consumer Confidence Rebounds To Pre-Crisis Levels In First Quarter

U.S. consumer sentiment rose sharply in the first quarter as optimism about the economic outlook improved, according to a global survey which also showed rising confidence in debt-laden euro zone countries. Globally, consumer confidence returned to pre-financial crisis levels in the first three months of this year, at its highest since the first quarter of 2007, the survey by global information and insights company Nielsen showed on Wednesday.

The Nielsen Global Consumer Confidence Index rose 2 points in the first quarter to 96, according to the survey, conducted between February 17 and March 7. A reading below 100, however, signals still relatively low consumer morale. Consumer confidence in the United States hit the 100 mark, rising 6 points from the previous quarter, and 44 percent of respondents said they were putting spare cash into savings accounts, up from 39 percent in the previous quarter. “Recovery gained forward momentum in the U.S. as the world’s largest economy reported improving unemployment numbers and rising equity and home prices,” said Venkatesh Bala, chief economist at The Cambridge Group, a part of Nielsen.

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First Lady Michelle Obama poses for a selfie with a member of the audience after participating in a Joining Forces initiative event with service members, military spouses, and employers at the Fort Campbell Veterans Jobs Summit and Career Forum at Fort Campbell, Ky., April 23, 2014 (Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

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On This Day

President Obama gets a hug from Angelica Guarino, whose fiance was one of the participants in the “White House to Light House” Wounded Warrior Soldier Ride that took place moments before on the South Lawn of the White House, April 30, 2009

President Obama shakes hands with Marines attending the “White House to Light House” Wounded Warrior Soldier Ride, April 30, 2009

President Obama, surrounded by members of Congress and Jeanne White-Ginder, mother of Ryan White (2nd R), signs the Ryan White HIV/AIDS treatment extension act of 2009 in the Diplomatic Room of the White House in Washington on October 30, 2009. The act is the largest federally funded program for people living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S. It was named in honor of Ryan White, a teenager who contracted AIDS through a tainted hemophilia treatment in 1984 and became a well-known advocate for AIDS research and awareness, until his death on April 8, 1990

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First Lady Michelle Obama meets hostesses at the annual Congressional Club Luncheon at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C., April 30, 2009 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)

President Obama talks with Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, following a health care meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, April 30, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama leans against the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office, April, 30, 2010.(Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama looks through binoculars as he tours the Secret Service’s James J. Rowley Training Center in Beltsville, Md., April 30, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama disembarks Marine One after he arrived on the South Lawn of the White House, April 30, 2010

President Obama meets with Bono to discuss development policy in the Oval Office, April 30, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama laughs with, from left, Senior Advisor David Axelrod, Associate Director of Speechwriting Jonathan Lovett, and Director of Speechwriting Jon Favreau, while reading a draft of his remarks for the White House Correspondents Association dinner, in the Outer Oval Office, April 30, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wait backstage before being introduced at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in Washington, D.C., April 30, 2011. Press Lead Advance Brandon Lepow and Trip Director Marvin Nicholson, right, stand with the President and First Lady (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

First Lady Michelle Obama chats with Seth Meyers at the White House Correspondents Association Gala, April 30, 2011

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President Obama and Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda of Japan wait in the Green Room of the White House before the start of their press conference in the East Room, April 30, 2012 ( Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama in the Green Room of the White House at a Joining Forces initiative employment announcement for veterans and military spouses, April 30, 2013

President Obama during a press conference in the Brady Press Room at the White House, April 30, 2013

President Obama and Vice President Biden talk with advisors following a National Security Staff meeting in the Situation Room of the White House, May 1, 2013. Clockwise from the President are: Mike Froman, Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economics; National Security Advisor Tom Donilon; and Tony Blinken, Deputy National Security Advisor (Photo by Pete Souza)

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26
Apr
14

President Obama’s America

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Bloomberg: Consumer Sentiment In U.S. Rose In April To Nine-Month High

Consumer confidence rose in April to a nine-month high, showing Americans are growing more upbeat about the economy as the labor market gains traction. The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan final index of sentiment increased to 84.1 from a four-month low of 80 in March. The median projection in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for 83 after a preliminary April reading of 82.6. Consumers were more optimistic about current conditions than at any time since July 2007 as smaller ranks of the unemployed, near-record stock prices and higher property values help bolster household finances. Further strides in the labor market that generate bigger wage gains would provide additional impetus for the consumer spending that makes up almost 70 percent of the economy. “Consumer sentiment continues to chug higher,” said Brett Ryan, an economist at Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. in New York. “It means people are getting jobs or incomes are increasing or they feel a little bit more stable about their situation.”

Gains in sentiment are translating into stronger sales. Cars and light trucks sold in March at a 16.3 million annualized rate, the fastest since May 2007, following a 15.3 million pace the prior month. Purchases at General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp., Nissan Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC all topped analysts’ estimates. “The economy is entering the second quarter on an improved trend,” Ellen Hughes-Cromwick, chief economist at Ford, said on an April 1 conference call. There are “some signs of improving wage and income gains. Very steady consumer confidence is also helping to be a support.” More job opportunities are helping underpin sentiment. Payrolls climbed by 192,000 workers in March after a 197,000 increase the previous month that was larger than first estimated, the Labor Department said earlier this month. Private payrolls, which exclude those at government agencies, exceeded the pre-recession peak for the first time.

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EIA: Solar-Electric Generating Capacity Increases Drastically In The Last Four Years

U.S. solar capacity increased significantly in the last 4 years. In 2010, the total solar capacity was 2,326 MW which accounted for a comparatively small fraction (0.22%) of the total U.S. electric generating. capacity. By February 2014, this capacity increased 418% to 12,057 MW, a 9,731 MW gain, and now accounts for almost 1.13% of total U.S. capacity. Net metered applications, which are generally intended to displace retail purchased power to lower the overall energy bill for a host site, have increased each year since 2010 at an annual rate of about 1,100 MW and now total 5,251 MW. Although sunny California has the largest net metered solar capacity (38% of the total), abundant sunshine is not the only growth factor for this sector. Net metered applications are typically incentivized through various state level programs. New Jersey and Massachusetts together represent an additional 21% of the total net metered solar capacity. Overall, nationally the growth in net metered photovoltaic capacity is fairly evenly split between residential and commercial applications.

Utility scale PV applications, which are 1 MW or greater, have also expanded significantly and currently account for 5,564 MW. In 2013 utility scale solar exceeded the capacity of net metered applications. Sunny states like California (2,702 MW, 49% of the total utility scale PV) and Arizona (960 MW, 17%) enjoy favorable siting conditions. However, North Carolina accounts for 340 MW or 6% of the total utility level solar capacity, and is the third leading state in this sector largely due to state incentives. In summary, the U.S. solar capacity has moved quickly from a relatively small contributor to the nation’s total electric capacity into a one of comparative significance. Much like the wind sector growth, which grew tremendously from 6,456 MW in January 2005 to 60,661 MW to January 2014, solar capacity is quite clearly up and coming.

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Steve Benen: CFPB, Hard At Work

It doesn’t get enough attention, but I still consider the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) one of the more important breakthroughs for progressive governance in the Obama era. That its work on our behalf tends to happen far from the spotlight somehow makes it more impressive – the agency’s work isn’t showy, it’s just effective. It was the CFPB that recently announced multi-million dollar fines for four mortgage insurers for “doling out illegal kickbacks to mortgage lenders in exchange for business.” It was the CFPB that cracked down on a lender for allegedly “paying illegal bonuses to employees who steered home buyers toward higher-interest loans.” It was the CFPB that ended 2013 with “a string of enforcement cases … on lending discrimination, mortgage servicing, online lending and credit card products.”

And it’s the CFPB that keeps adding to its to-do list. Federal regulators are investigating reports that lenders are pressuring thousands of college graduates to immediately repay their full student loan debt when a relative who co-signed the loans dies or files for bankruptcy. So, the CFPB is intervening on consumers’ behalf. The young people are feeling pushed around by lenders, so now they’ll have a government agency doing what they can’t: push back. Remember, congressional Republicans fought tooth and nail to destroy the CFPB, even using unprecedented, legally dubious schemes to prevent the agency from even getting to work. Fortunately for consumers, Republicans failed.

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20
Apr
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama prepares to board Air Force One before his departure from Andrews Air Force Base, April 20, 2011

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The President has no public events scheduled today

See here for ‘The Week Ahead’

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Zachary Roth: Obamacare Helping Millions Register To Vote

It’s the right’s worst nightmare: Obamacare working to boost not just the number of Americans who have affordable health insurance — but also the number who are registered to vote. And it could be coming true. Under the terms of an agreement between California and an alliance of good government groups, the state will mail voter registration forms to 4 million people who applied for Obamacare via California’s online exchange. The deal could end up creating 400,000 new registered Golden State voters — the actual numbers will be available later this year.

Nationwide, Obamacare could ultimately be responsible for registering anywhere from 3 to 7 million voters — potentially over 10% of the total number of eligible voters who aren’t registered today — over the next eight years. Here’s why: Under the 1993 National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), which aimed to boost voter registration, people applying for public assistance—as well as DMV customers—must be offered the chance to register to vote. That means every state insurance exchange like California’s, as well as the federal exchange, will need to ask people whether they want to register. Even those people who end up getting covered via Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion or through other parts of the law, rather than through the private market, will still be offered the chance to register to vote.

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Washington Post: White House Announces Itinerary For Obama’s Asia Trip

President Obama will meet with the leaders of four Asian nations, answer questions at a town hall-style event at a university in Malaysia and address U.S. service members in South Korea during a week-long trip that begins Tuesday, the White House announced. Administration officials hailed the president’s visit to Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines as a chance to underscore the United States’s commitment to the Asia-Pacific, with an emphasis on regional allies.

“Unlike many of the president’s overseas trips, particularly to Asia, there are no large summits involved,” National Security Adviser Susan Rice said while briefing reporters on Obama’s itinerary Friday. “So the agenda in each country can focus intensively on energizing our bilateral relationships and advancing the different elements of our Asia strategy.” The town-hall event at Malaya University will be with young leaders from 10 Southeast Asian nations, and Obama also will meet with civil-rights leaders in Malaysia, as the United States attempts to promote democratic values.

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Wendy George: After 17 Years, I’m Bringing My Little Sister Home From Prison

When we were little, we used to tell our mama she had good ears. My little sister and I would whisper under the covers in our bed after lights out, and somehow mom could always hear us. She’d tell us to quit talking and go to sleep. Tomorrow I’m going to pick up my sister from prison. She’s been away for 17 years, and until last December I thought she would never come home. I can’t wait to drive back to my house, get in bed, and tell each other everything like we used to. You’d think I had a twin. As kids, my sister and I looked a lot alike. Our mom used to dress us the same. Even as we got older, we wore the same kinds of clothes. We raised our small kids together. We both wanted to style hair for a living. Since she’s been gone, a part of me has been missing. A part of me has been locked up for years.

Stephanie was 26 with four small kids when she was sentenced. Even though the judge objected, a mandatory minimum law meant that she got life without the possibility of parole for being “a girlfriend and bag holder and money holder” in a drug conspiracy. When Stephanie was sentenced, I took her kids into my home and raised them. I am grateful I had the strength to keep pushing on to make sure that her kids got to the prison to visit their mom. She told me horror stories of some of the women in there who didn’t have a family outside to help with the kids. It was a rough role, but I thank God for giving me the strength to raise them all. I talked to my sister on the phone last week and joked that once she gets home, I am going to take a month vacation. She said I deserve it. Even when they said she had a life sentence, I never accepted that. I’ve been praying and fighting for this day since day one. And the fighting has paid off. Finally, my sister’s sentence has been commuted by President Obama.

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NYT: Republicans See Political Wedge In Common Core

The health care law may be Republicans’ favorite weapon against Democrats this year, but there is another issue roiling their party and shaping the establishment-versus-grass-roots divide ahead of the 2016 presidential primaries: the Common Core. A once little-known set of national educational standards introduced in 44 states and the District of Columbia with the overwhelming support of Republican governors, the Common Core has incited intense resistance on the right and prompted some in the party to reverse field and join colleagues who believe it will lead to a federal takeover of schools. Conservatives denounce it as “Obamacore,” in what has become a surefire applause line for potential presidential hopefuls. Other Republicans are facing opprobrium from their own party for not doing more to stop it.

The learning benchmarks, intended to raise students’ proficiency in math and English, were adopted as part of a 2010 effort by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers to bolster the country’s competitiveness. Unlike the health care law, the Common Core retains bipartisan support and has the backing of powerful elements of the business community. The Republican revolt against the Common Core can be traced to President Obama’s embrace of it, particularly his linking the adoption of similar standards to states’ eligibility for federal education grants and to waivers from No Child Left Behind, the national education law enacted by President George W. Bush. “There is a great deal of paranoia in the country today,” said Sonny Perdue, a former governor of Georgia, who was also instrumental in creating the program. “It’s the two P’s, polarization and paranoia.”

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Kathy Lally: Ukraine, Short On Military Budget, Starts Fundraising Drive

Ukraine’s new government inherited an army so bereft of modern equipment and training that when Russian troops entered Crimea and agitators stormed government offices in eastern Ukraine, the country proved helpless to protect its borders and citizens. The corruption that had darkened all the nation’s institutions had provoked demonstrators to stand their ground in Kiev until the old leaders fled. But the depth of the damage took the country by surprise when the Crimean Peninsula was easily lost to Russian annexation last month, revealing a military profoundly weakened by theft and neglect. “Our army has been systematically destroyed and disarmed,” Deputy Defense Minister Petro Mehed said at a briefing this past week, “and its best personnel dismissed.” In the east, militants have occupied buildings in more than a dozen cities and on Saturday showed no signs of giving up their positions.

The army was sent in and looked more anemic than ever when small knots of civilians managed to block armored personnel carriers simply by standing in front of them. Ukraine’s position is dire. The new government found the treasury empty when it took over Feb. 27. The Ministry of Defense was so desperate for money that it went to the public for help. People across the country have responded by pulling together for the Support the Ukrainian army fundraising drive, trying to repair the damage done by years of thieving governments. Children have held fairs and bake sales to raise money. Adults have delivered food and water to tent encampments. Community groups have collected shoes, clothes and canned goods. Ukrainian businesses and individuals had raised more than $9 million for the military as of Friday, the Defense Ministry reported. Of that, $2 million came from cellphone users who made 50-cent donations from their accounts by calling a designated number.

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Michael Laris: Voting-Rights Quest In Va. Will Soon Become Easier For Ex-Prisoners Held On Serious Drugs Charges

Those convicted in Virginia of manufacturing drugs, distributing drugs, having the intent to distribute drugs or “accommodating” the sale of drugs will now be put in the same category as those who were found guilty of mail fraud, check kiting, embezzlement or simple drug possession when it comes to processing requests to have their voting rights restored. The drug-dealing and other major drug charges had been on the state’s “violent/more serious” list of offenses. Bumping them to the list of nonviolent crimes will have far-reaching implications. Since McDonnell’s reforms, those types of lesser offenses are processed in a faster, more streamlined fashion, taking weeks or months rather than years. Unlike most states, Virginia requires ex-felons to proactively pursue their voting rights — they are not automatically restored.

Virginia law, the American Civil Liberties Union says, has prevented hundreds of thousands of people — many convicted of drug crimes — from voting, and advocates point to racial disparities. About 45 percent of those arrested for drug offenses are black, said Edward Hailes, general counsel for the Advancement Project, a civil rights group active on the issue. “We should see a large number of African Americans in Virginia getting their rights restored more automatically,” he said, adding that one in five can’t vote because of felony convictions. “Virginia is making progress but is still far behind most of the states in the union.” Attorney General Eric Holder, speaking at the Georgetown University Law Center this year, called for further changes in Virginia and elsewhere. “Eleven states continue to restrict voting rights to varying degrees even after a person has served his or her prison sentence and is no longer on probation or parole,” Holder said. “It is time to fundamentally reconsider laws that permanently disenfranchise people who are no longer under federal or state supervision.”

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Lucia Graves: Good News For Obamacare Is Bad News For Conservative Pundits

Conservatives were sure at every turn that Obamacare would fail, but as the numbers roll in, those convictions are looking increasingly ideological. First they said nobody would enroll. Then they said first-year premiums would be through the roof. And later, they warned of a “death spiral,” wherein premiums would go up uncontrollably. My colleague Sam Baker has written an excellent analysis of the situation, the upshot of which is that Obamacare is on a winning streak. The next great frontier of conservative hyperbole concerns premiums for 2015, with critics warning that costs will double or even triple next year. As of this week, we have good evidence to the contrary.

Health insurance premium rates are expected go up just 7 percent—a rate of increase much lower than what critics were predicting. And the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is predicting that premium hikes will be relatively modest. “The double-rate increases we’ve been hearing are probably exaggerated,” Dave Axene, a fellow with the Society of Actuaries, told USA Today. “That’s not what we’re seeing from the actuarial organizations—I guess we’re being a little bit more optimistic.” “A little bit more optimistic” is something of an understatement. For weeks, pundits have been spouting apocalyptic notions about the costs of insurance premiums, warning Americans that “the worst is yet to come.”

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Derek Thompson: Get Rich, Live Longer: The Ultimate Consequence Of Income Inequality

Brookings economist Barry Bosworth crunches the data on income and lifespans for the Wall Street Journal, and the numbers tell three clear stories. 1. Rich people live longer. 2. Richer people’s lifespans are growing at a faster rate. 3. The problem is worse for women than for men. First, let’s look at the guys. A rich man (top decile) born in 1940 can expect to live 10 years longer after he turns 55 than a poor man (bottom decile). That longevity gap grew by four years in one generation. Women live longer than men, overall. But their inequality gap getting worse. A rich woman at 55 can expect to live a decade longer than a poor woman, too. But this gap grew even more between the Silent and early Boomer generations, by six years.

The typical guy in McDowell County, West Virginia, makes less than $30,000 a year and doesn’t live to 65. Five hours north on the highway, a typical man living in Fairfax County, Virginia, makes more than $100,000 and lives more than 80 years. The two Virginian counties are two different countries. When somebody in Washington proposes raising the retirement age for Social Security or Medicare, he typically says something like: “We can afford it, because we are living longer.” Yes, We can afford it, when the We in that sentence applies to an audience of white rich old men and women who really are seeing their lifespans grow by leaps and bounds. But We doesn’t apply to the millions of poor women whose lifespans are actually declining. Raising the Social Security retirement age disproportionately reduces lifetime benefits for the very people Social Security was invented to protect.

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USA Today: New Data Signal Smaller Jump In Health Care Costs

Several new reports also hint at a bend in the health cost curve — even as health spending picks up with the improving economy. The change after years of large increases in how much health care costs seems to be coming for several reasons, the reports find: Americans are using their prescribed medications more often, which may be keeping them out of the hospital; payment systems have begun to reward quality over quantity, which has encouraged a team-based, data-driven approach; and record numbers of medications have been developed to address chronic disease, while older medications have come off their expensive patents. The week’s findings include a report from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics that found that even as health care spending has rebounded with the economy, the growth rate remains lower than usual. In addition, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected lower health insurance premiums than originally expected.

Aitkin says people spent more on drugs and less on follow-up visits and hospitalizations, which could be key to keeping the growth rate low. Health experts have long held that if people can afford — and take — prescribed medications, it may keep them safe from heart attacks or low blood sugar levels, and ultimately keep their overall health costs lower. Aitkin says 23% of prescription drugs had no co-pays in 2013, mostly because of provisions within the Affordable Care Act, including the one for coverage of contraceptives as preventive medications. Women saved $483 million in out-of-pocket costs in 2013 for contraceptives alone. And hospitalizations from emergency room visits decreased 14.6%, possibly because consumers were encouraged to try other options first. This week, the CBO downgraded its original premium projections by about 15% lower than projected in the fall of 2009, in part due to “lower projected health care costs for the federal government and the private health sector.”

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Frank Newport: Newly Insured In 2014 Represent About 4% of U.S. Adults

Four percent of Americans are newly insured this year, reporting that they have health insurance now but did not last year. A little more than half of that group, or 2.1% of the U.S. population, got their new insurance through health exchanges. The rest got it using some other mechanism. Overall, 11.8% of U.S. adults say they got a new health insurance policy in 2014. One-third of this group, or 4% nationally, say they did not have insurance in 2013. Another 7.5% got a new policy this year that replaced a previous policy. The ACA envisioned that the new healthcare exchanges would be the main place where uninsured Americans would get their insurance this year, but it appears that a sizable segment of the newly insured Americans used another mechanism.

These sources presumably include employee policies, Medicaid, and other private policies not arranged through exchanges. The newly insured are, on average, much younger than the overall population, with most younger than age 65. Within the 18 to 64 age range, the newly insured are slightly more overrepresented in the 18 to 29 age category than in the 30 to 49 and 50 to 64 age categories. These data suggest that the ACA’s efforts to add previously uninsured young people to the ranks of the insured have been modestly successful. The newly insured who signed up outside of the exchanges are substantially younger than those who signed up through the exchanges.

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Energy.Gov: Energy Department Announces $15 Million To Help Communities Boost Solar Deployment

In support of the Administration’s goal of doubling renewable energy generation for a second time by 2020, the Energy Department today announced $15 million to help communities develop multi-year solar plans to install affordable solar electricity for homes and businesses. The United States continues to be a global leader in solar, with total U.S. solar energy installations reaching 13 gigawatts last year. As the cost of solar energy continues to decline, more states and local communities are deploying solar energy projects to meet their electricity needs.

“As part of the President’s all-of-the-above energy strategy, solar energy is helping families and businesses throughout the U.S. access affordable, clean renewable power,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “The Energy Department is committed to further driving down the cost of solar energy and supporting innovative community-based programs – creating more jobs, reducing carbon pollution and boosting economic growth.”

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Maggie Fox: Obamacare Helped Up To 10 Million Get Insurance, Gallup Finds

Obamacare has helped as many as 9.9 million people to get new health insurance, and more than 4 percent of all Americans have gotten health insurance for the first time, according to a new Gallup poll. It’s the largest poll yet to assess the effects of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, and the findings add to what’s been reported in earlier surveys and the government tally of how many people signed up through the new online exchanges. The percentage of the U.S. population that has no health insurance has plummeted from an all-time high of 18 percent during the last quarter of 2013 to just 15 percent this past March, says Dan Witters, lead researcher for the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

About half got insurance on the new state and federal online health exchanges, the survey found, and half got it through Medicaid, an employer or bought it directly from an insurance company. “We feel pretty comfortable attributing much of this change to the Affordable Care Act,” Witters told NBC News. The survey confirms that people started getting insurance in the last months of 2013 and really started signing up in the first three months of 2014. “There is no evidence that the exchanges only signed up extremely sick people,” said Frank Newport, Gallup’s editor in chief. Gallup found younger people aged 18-29 tended to gravitate to buying health insurance directly, not on the exchanges, while those signing up on the new exchanges tended to be in the 50-64 age group. Overall, 30 percent of those getting insurance for 2014 were 18 to 29; 24 percent bought insurance on the exchanges and 37 percent got it elsewhere.

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Christopher Ingraham: Your Taxes Are Really, Low, In One Chart

Taxed enough already? Hardly. According to the Congressional Budget Office, your effective federal tax rates are near historic lows.
One of the great ironies of the rise of the tea party movement was that it coincided with the lowest total tax burdens seen in at least 30 years. The chart below plots effective federal tax rates since 1979 by income group. The key word here is “effective” — these are the tax rates people actually pay after factoring in things like the mortgage interest deduction, the child tax credit and the myriad other deductions and credits written into the U.S. tax code. Values for 2011 and 2012 aren’t yet available, but the CBO does provide projections for 2013 tax filings, which I’ve plotted, as well.

Overall the trend is downward. The average filer saw her effective tax rate drop from 22 percent in 1979 to 18.1 percent in 2010. Rates on the bottom 20 percent of tax filers went from 7.5 percent to 1.5 percent, while the top 20 percent of earners saw a more modest decrease, from 27.1 to 24.0 percent over the same period. The effect of crisis-era policy is clearly visible in the sharp drop in rates from 2007 to 2008, mostly from tax provisions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Tax rates hit rock bottom in 2009, right as the tea party movement was gaining steam.

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National Journal: Obamacare Is On A Winning Streak

The headlines about the Affordable Care Act have turned positive lately, and they’re starting to pile up. The most dire predictions from the law’s critics simply haven’t panned out, and now Democrats are headed into another big health care fight—the confirmation of a new Health and Human Services secretary—with stronger real-world evidence than they’ve had before. Narratives feed on themselves, and there was a time when Obamacare just kept losing. But over the past few weeks, the news has started to roll in the other direction. Enrollment has surged beyond expectations. Costs are coming in lower than predicted. Various reports say the number of uninsured Americans is falling. Now it’s good news snowballing, and it’s critics who increasingly seem to have missed the mark with their warnings of inevitable collapse.

Critics still promise that the law cannot work as intended, but the evidence keeps piling up in the other direction. The opportunities for failure keep falling away, and worst-case predictions keep going bust. There was no death spiral, nor will there be one. And there was never going to be a “death panel.” The next big warning is about premiums for 2015. Critics say premiums will skyrocket because not enough healthy people signed up this year. some insurers are looking to expand their presence in the exchanges next year, and others have indicated they might jump in for the first time, after taking a wait-and-see approach this year. So far, no large plans have said they intend to leave the exchange marketplace. All of that indicates that insurers see the market as stable. And more plans competing for more new customers will likely keep premium increases in check. According to Gallup, the percentage of Americans without health insurance has fallen from 18 percent in to 15 percent.

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The Obamas leaving the White House today for Easter Services at the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church

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Malia Obama follows her father President Barack Obama, her mother First Lady Michelle Obama and her sister Sasha as they depart for Easter Services at the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church.

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WH.gov: The 10 most eggcellent moments from past Easter Egg Rolls

1. That time Bo wore bunny ears


2. Playing H-O-R-S-E with the P-O-T-U-S


3. 30-Love


4. YOU get an egg, and YOU get an egg, and YOU get an egg!


5. That time 30,000 people were on the South Lawn like “NBD”


6. When everyone did the “Wild Rumpus”


7. When we had a Kid POTUS


8. When Bo did an Easter egg hunt and was all like “Found it!”


9. Float like a butterfly, hop like a bunny.

10. And we went “Hip hop hooray!”

See the full Easter Egg Roll program here

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On This Day

Sen. Barack Obama with Caroline Kennedy before addressing supporters at a rally in Scranton, Pa., April 20, 2008

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President Obama with Tiger Woods in the Oval Office April 20, 2009

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On This Day: First Lady Michelle Obama greets students after talking to them about the importance of exercise as part of the “Let’s Move!” initiative at River Terrace Elementary School in Washington on April 20, 2010

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President Obama speaks at a “town hall” at Facebook headquarters, with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in Palo Alto, California on April 20, 2011

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President Obama signs a proclamation to designate federal lands within the former Fort Ord as a national monument under the Antiquities Act in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, April 20, 2012. Fort Ord is a former military base located on California’s central coast and is a world-class destination for hikers, mountain bikers, and outdoor enthusiasts

President Obama greets members of the military and their families during the kick off event for the Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride on the South Lawn of the White House April 20, 2012

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Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama greets tourists at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., Saturday, April 9, 2011. The President made an unannounced stop to thank people for visiting the memorial a day after he and Congressional leaders agreed on a bill to keep the government open (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (all times Eastern):

9:05 AM: The President and First Lady depart the White House

12:30: Arrive in Killeen, Texas

3:0: The President and First Lady attend a memorial ceremony, Fort Hood, Sadowski Field

5:20: The President and First Lady arrive in Houston, Texas

6:0: The President attends a DNC event, Private Residence

8:20: The President delivers remarks and answers questions at a joint DCCC/DSCC dinner, Private Residence

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TPM: Obamacare Might Be Covering Way More People Than Previously Thought

RAND Corp, a non-profit think tank, released the survey. Its eye-opening finding: 7.2 million previously uninsured people have gained health coverage through their employer since mid-September. That’s on top of those people who have purchased private coverage on Obamacare’s insurance marketplaces or enrolled in Medicaid or young adults who signed up through their parents’ plan. Those three groups were the only people that many previous estimates of Obamacare’s impact had accounted for.

In other words, if you take the earlier estimates of 8.3 million to 9.5 million uninsured people who had gotten covered by marketplace plans, Medicaid and their parents’ policies — and then add some of the millions more who RAND found had gotten insured through their employer — then Obamacare could be responsible for reducing America’s uninsured ranks much more than the earlier estimates suggested.It’s safe to say that if Obamacare is leading to that significant a surge in employer-based coverage, it’s an impact that few people saw coming. The Congressional Budget Office didn’t anticipate such an increase — its analysis had projected that employer-based coverage would rise by only 1 million from 2013 to 2014.

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Paul Krugman: Three Legs Good, One Leg Bad

The good news for Obamacare just keeps coming in. Via Charles Gaba, the Rand Survey — which was the subject of a report in the LA Times, but which wasn’t publicly available — is now in. And it says that as of mid-March — that is, before the final enrollment surge — the Affordable Care Act had already produced a net gain of 9.3 million insured adults. Again, that’s a net gain; so much for claims that more people are losing insurance than gaining it.

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Philip Bump: The Source Of Black Poverty Isn’t Black Culture, It’s American Culture

Americans don’t want to imagine that our racist history is actually an ongoing, racist reality. We like to look at racism as a thing that has gotten better (if not gone away completely) and that the way black Americans are treated in society is actually colorblind. So, if forced to pick between the idea that our country’s structures and systems are biased toward white people or the idea that black communities are flawed, many pick the latter. Some doing so, of course, because they’re racist. Believing that black culture is primarily at fault means believing that black cultural attitudes

are why the black unemployment rate has always been at least 50 percent higher than white unemployment. Is black culture why this 2003 study found that job applicants “with white-sounding names are 50 percent more likely to get called for an initial interview than applicants with African-American-sounding names”? American history demonstrates countless examples of racist obstruction of black economic success. Ongoing examples show countless ways in which black Americans are still obstructed in the same way.

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Alex Pareene: Morning Joe’s Special Privileges: Why Is MSNBC Allowing Him To Help GOP Raise Money?

Joe Scarborough, who is definitely not running for president, is going to New Hampshire next month to deliver the keynote address at the Chesire County Republican Lincoln Day Dinner. This follows another visit to New Hampshire last month, where Scarborough delivered a speech to the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference. Joe Scarborough would like you to know that he is not planning a run for president — he just happens to enjoy New Hampshire, I guess, and who doesn’t? (He also recently visited South Carolina.) But as the Huffington Post’s Michael Calderone reports, this totally normal not-at-all presidential campaign-related New Hampshire visit probably violates MSNBC policy on hosts raising money for political parties or candidates. Because it is a fundraiser.

Maybe it doesn’t make a ton of sense to allow hosts to advocate, on-air, for certain parties and candidates, but not to donate to or raise money for them, but those are the rules, and those rules are what got then-MSNBC host Keith Olbermann suspended in 2010, after Olbermann donated money to three Democratic candidates.This year, MSNBC forced liberal host Ed Schultz to withdraw from a Democratic Party fundraiser. This will be Scarborough’s second Republican Party fundraiser of the year. He is delivering the keynote address, not merely moderating a panel. The money raised for the dinner will go to Cheshire County Republicans. It all seems pretty cut and dried.

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Charles Pierce on The Washington Examiner:

“It’s one step above that which you find under your windshield wiper at a flea market.”

Genius.

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NYT: U.S. And NATO Warn Russia Against Further Intervention In Ukraine

As the government in Kiev moved to reassert control over pro-Russian protesters across eastern Ukraine, the United States and NATO issued stern warnings to Moscow about further intervention in the country’s affairs amid continuing fears of an eventual Russian incursion. Secretary of State John Kerry accused the Kremlin of fomenting the unrest, calling the protests the work of saboteurs whose machinations were as “ham-handed as they are transparent.” Speaking to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he added:

“No one should be fooled — and believe me, no one is fooled — by what could potentially be a contrived pretext for military intervention just as we saw in Crimea. It is clear that Russian special forces and agents have been the catalysts behind the chaos of the last 24 hours.” The secretary general of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said Russia would be making a “historic mistake” by going into Ukraine, and he urged the Kremlin to “step back.” At a news conference in Paris, he said any such actions “would have grave consequences for our relationship with Russia” and “would further isolate Russia internationally.”

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Sahil Kapur: Republicans Warn Of New Obamacare Reality: No Repeal Without Alternative

For all the challenges still facing Obamacare and its supporters, conservative health wonks are increasingly cautioning Republicans that the politics of the issue have changed in the wake of the 7 million initial sign-ups. Simply repealing the law is no longer an option, they warn, even if Republicans gain the power to do so. If they want to unwind the law, the least they’ll have to do is coalesce around health care solutions of their own, lest they strip away benefits for millions of Americans without a plan of their own. And the party is far from a consensus on how they’d replace the law. There is internal dissent on whether Republicans ought to come up with an alternative. One congressional GOP health aide, who was granted anonymity to speak candidly, said his party is as determined as ever to fight Obamacare, and will remain so as long as it exhibits failure. He said devising an alternative is fraught with the difficulty of crafting a new benefits structure that doesn’t look like the Affordable Care Act.

“If you want to say the further and further this gets down the road, the harder and harder it gets to repeal, that’s absolutely true,” the aide said. “As far as repeal and replace goes, the problem with replace is that if you really want people to have these new benefits, it looks a hell of a lot like the Affordable Care Act. … To make something like that work, you have to move in the direction of the ACA. You have to have a participating mechanism, you have to have a mechanism to fund it, you have to have a mechanism to fix parts of the market.” It sheds light on why Republicans haven’t yet followed through on the “replace” component of their “repeal and replace” mantra, more than four years after Obamacare was enacted. The popular parts of the law, most notably the preexisting conditions guarantee, are unsustainable without unpopular parts like the individual mandate. Unraveling the parts people dislike means unraveling the whole structure, and rebuilding the well-liked elements is difficult without arriving at a similar place as Obamacare.

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BBC: Ukraine Crisis: Key Four-Way Talks Announced

Senior officials from the EU, Russia, the US and Ukraine are to meet next week to discuss the worsening situation in Ukraine. It will be the first four-way meeting since the crisis erupted. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton will join US Secretary of State John Kerry, his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov and Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsia. Russia annexed Crimea in February and has troops massed along the border. Kiev and the US accuse Moscow of fomenting unrest in the mainly Russian-speaking east of the country as a pretext to possibly seizing more territory – a claim strongly refuted by Russia.

As a war of words between Russia and the West hotted up on Tuesday, Mr Kerry said Russian special forces and agents had been “the catalyst behind the chaos of the last 24 hours”. He said the events “could potentially be a contrived pretext for military intervention just as we saw in Crimea”. On Tuesday, an EU diplomatic source told BBC News that the European Commission was setting up a special “Support Group for Ukraine” to co-ordinate assistance. The group will consist of several dozen people and its work could be extended to cover fellow ex-Soviet states Georgia and Moldova, the source added.

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NPR: Wave Of Newly Insured Patients Strains Oregon Health Plan

Millions of Americans who didn’t have health insurance last year now do because of the Affordable Care Act. In Lane County, Oregon, Trillium Community Health Plan is struggling to deal with a huge influx of new patients looking for health care. CEO Terry Coplin says the company figured 26,000 people would sign up in the first few years. Instead, about that many signed up right off the bat. Cheryl Stumph is one of them. She and her husband, Mike, run Green Streak Automotive, an all-service garage in Veneta, Ore. Last November, Stumph’s 27-year-old son had a stroke and died at the wheel of his tow truck. The stroke stemmed from a genetic problem, so Stumph spent the winter worrying about her six other kids.Genetic testing is expensive, and she didn’t have health insurance. But now she and her family get Medicaid through Trillium Health. She’s thrilled to be able to get a mammogram and treatment for a stubborn infection. The kids can get genetic testing.

She says her husband has a chronic medical problem that needs attention, too. Stories like Stumph’s are being repeated across Oregon. Trillium’s Coplin says the health plan has come up with a four-part plan to deal with this unexpected influx. First, it will pay bonuses to doctors who accept new patients covered by Trillium. Second, Trillium is giving Lane County $900,000 to open a new clinic in an existing building. “They have proposed ways that they can get this clinic up and running by mid-year,” says Coplin. Third, Trillium is hiring a consultant to see if existing clinics can increase efficiency, for example, by changing who fills out forms. “Having physicians do clerical work is really a waste of valuable resources,” Coplin says. And finally, Trillium is offering $500,000 to any clinic or group of physicians willing to expand their practice to take on another 5,000 adult patients.

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Tommy Christopher: Anatomy Of A Media Attack: ABC News, Fox News, And CNN On White House And Equal Pay

On this Equal Pay Day, it is instructive to see how the mainstream media constructs an attack on the White House and disguises it as good old-fashioned adversarial journalism. One clip you’ve probably seen all day today is of cable news hosts debating the talking point about a supposed gender pay gap among the White House staff, which conservatives raise annually in an attempt to undermine the President’s commitment to pay equity, and the notion of pay equity itself. The figure that The American Enterprise Institute is using this year, 88 cents on every dollar, comes from comparing the median annual salary of women who work in the White House, to the median annual salary of their male colleagues. The AEI report deliberately ignores whether the men and women at the White House are being paid the same amount for the same jobs, because they’re trying to critique President Obama’s use of a similar statistic in his speeches about equal pay.

Besides, when two different reporters tag-teamed White House Press Secretary Jay Carney about it on Monday, Carney explained, clear as a bell, that women in the White House get paid exactly the same as men for the same jobs. Clear as a bell. Jon Karl brought up the AEI study, and Carney explained the gap as a function of looking at the aggregate of all staffers, including the most junior, but that “men and women in equivalent roles here earn equivalent salaries. For example, we have two deputy chiefs of staff, one man and one woman, and they earn the same salary. We have 16 department heads, over half of them are women, all of whom make the same salary as their male counterparts.” What isn’t fair is for ostensibly objective news organizations to present a Republican talking point, then only play part of the White House’s response.

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Annie-Rose Strasser: Why The Government Just Threw Down $225 Million On Hybrid Electric Trains

The Illinois Department of Transportation signed a contract to bring a total of 32 hybrid electric-diesel trains to the United States last month. The trains will start running by 2016. And the project, when all is said and done, will cost the United States $225 million — a number that may sound enormous but that will actually save a significant amount of both money and the carbon pollution that drives climate change. “The Charger locomotives will be used exclusively in passenger service,” a release from Siemens, the company manufacturing the locomotives, says. The trains “will be manufactured in the U.S. by Cummins Inc., headquartered in Columbus, Indiana,” and, will run in Illinois, California, Michigan, Missouri and Washington.

Should all go well with the original 32, there’s an option for an additional 225 locomotives down the line. The hybrid electric engines will make the trains more efficient. The emissions standards, in particular, are what will make the locomotives worth the extra million dollars apiece. Those EPA standards require a 90 percent reduction in nitrogen oxide, a greenhouse gas, and in particulate matter (aka soot), which contributes to pollution and health problems.A similar train in Germany, in fact, reduced carbon emissions and energy use by a full 25 percent compared to standard trains.

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Alec Macgillis: This Is What Life In A Plutocracy Looks Like

2. On Monday, a Senate subcommittee releases a report on the tax avoidance used by Caterpillar, the giant Peoria, Ill.-based heavy equipment manufacturer, which cut its tax bill by $2.4 billion over the past 13 years by allotting $8 billion in revenues from its parts division to a subsidiary in Switzerland, where only 65 of the division’s 8,500 employees work. In an email exchange about whether this was appropriate, a managing director at PricewaterhouseCoopers, which was paid $55 million to concoct this arrangement, said: “What the heck, we’ll all be retired when this audit comes up on audit…Baby boomers have their fun, and leave it to the kids to pay for it.” 6. Later on Thursday morning, between 9 and 10 a.m., part of the overhead electric line that powers the Acela train comes down onto the tracks near Bowie, Maryland, between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore.

Virtually all train traffic between Baltimore and Washington shuts down for hours as undermanned crews struggle to repair the line, thereby severely hampering traffic in the Washington to Boston Northeast corridor that carries 750,000 passengers on 2,000 trains per day and also spelling panic for the Thursday afternoon rail commuters heading north out of Washington.One passenger is left thinking that this country could use some more spending on infrastructure, transportation and the general commonweal. Yes, that risks being “collectivist” and would be opposed by a casino magnate with vast holdings in Macau and would leave less for top-bracket tax cuts in the Ryan budget. But heck, it would also mean some more business for Caterpillar, which might even be prevailed upon to keep some of its income stateside, thus helping pay for said investment in the future of the greatest nation on earth.

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Peter Beinart: Sheldon Adelson’s Culture Of Hate

Imagine this. Hillary Clinton, Andrew Cuomo, Elizabeth Warren and multiple lesser Democratic notables travel halfway across the country to kiss the ring of a Palestinian-American billionaire who has shown himself willing to spend tens of millions of dollars subsidizing presidential campaigns. The billionaire has some provocative views. Six months earlier, he suggested that if Israel does not end its nuclear weapons program, America should drop an “atomic weapon…in the middle of the [Negev] desert that doesn’t hurt a soul.” If that doesn’t work, America should drop “the next one…in the middle of” Tel Aviv.

The billionaire insists that there is no such thing as the Jewish people. It’s a hoax; the Jews “have fooled the world very successfully.” And he declares that “There isn’t a” Jew “alive who wasn’t raised on a curriculum of hatred and hostility toward the” Palestinians. Change the words “Democrat” to “Republican,” “Israel” to “Iran” and “Palestinian” to “Jewish,” and that’s exactly what just happened. Leading contenders for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination spent last weekend wooing and feting a billionaire, Sheldon Adelson, whose views – if directed at Jews—would put him in the company of Louis Farrakhan and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Think I’m exaggerating? Let’s check the record. Adelson has called for nuking the Iranian desert (which supposedly wouldn’t “hurt a soul”) and then nuking Tehran unless Iran abandons its nuclear weapons program. I’m all for Iran abandoning its nuclear weapons program. But how does threatening Tehran with nuclear annihilation make Adelson any different than those Iranians who have threatened to destroy Israel? Then there’s Adelson’s view that the Palestinians are an “invented people.” Again, flip it around. In 2008, when Tel Aviv University’s Shlomo Sand published a book called “The Invention of the Jewish People,” he was widely called anti-Semitic. When Adelson says the same about Palestinians, he’s a Republican rock star. This isn’t hawkishness. It’s hate.

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Danny Vinik: House GOP Leader Admits His Party Doesn’t Care About The Long-Term Unemployed

Over the past three months, Republicans have offered one excuse after another for not extending unemployment insurance. With the Senate passing a UI extension on Monday night, House Republican leaders are searching for any reason to oppose the bill—and openly admitting that they only care about the politics of the long-term unemployment crisis. Now Representative Tom Cole, the deputy whip, has come up with a new one: House Republicans don’t feel any pressure to pass it. “I don’t think there is a great sense of pressure on our members,” Cole said Monday.

“The prevailing view in our conference is that there aren’t adequate pay-fors and it’s time for this program to come to an end.” In other words, House Republicans will only help the long-term unemployed when they think there is political pressure on them to do so—not because it is sound public policy.Then again, at least Cole is being honest: House Republicans don’t care about the long-term unemployed. They only care about the politics surrounding them.

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The New Zealand Herald: Michelle Obama’s Mother Plays A Crucial Role

It was a rare, almost intimate scene, between Michelle Obama and her mother, played out before the world. When a group of Chinese girls invited the First Lady to skip rope at an event on the ancient city wall during her recent visit to Xi’an, China, she kicked her heels off to slide on a pair of flats. Before an aide could swoop in and pick up her daughter’s shoes, Marian Robinson bent down to grab them. Then, the 76-year-old grandmother beamed as Obama jumped. Obama’s daughters, Sasha and Malia, stood nearby, shyly hanging back as their mother took centre stage. Robinson clapped and smiled. For six days in China, the least-public resident of the White House was a central figure on the public stage. Overseas trips such as the one Robinson took with her daughter and granddaughters last month provide an uncommon glimpse into their family dynamic and the critical role she has continued to play in the first family.

In China, Michelle Obama proudly showed off her mother, and their bond was obvious. Max Baucus, the newly appointed US ambassador to China, tasked with introducing the First Lady to Chinese students at Peking University, offered, “She’s so devoted to her mother, Mrs Robinson.” Her children have said she has built a busy social life, but she still remains a go-to person for ensuring her granddaughters, who’ve grown up as household names, maintain some normality. It was this role she played in China, walking with her granddaughters as their mother drew the world’s attention, or taking them to dinner when the First Lady had other obligations. It is a space in which Robinson has grown comfortable. She smiled brightly at China’s president, Xi Jinping, and outstretched her hand to him during a brief, formal meeting between the two first families. She greeted China’s First Lady, Peng Liyuan, with a wave, and she strolled along as their group toured the Forbidden City, where emperors once dwelled. She chatted with Baucus while walking through the Summer Palace, an enchanting park of gardens, lakes and pavilions in Beijing.

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Susan K. Livio: Most NJ Residents Want To Keep Obamacare Law, Poll Says

Now that Obamacare is here and the first enrollment period has closed, a growing majority of New Jerseyans say want to keep the health care law and fix its flaws, according to a Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press Poll released today. About 60 percent of the poll’s participants said they want the law improved, while 7 percent said Obamacare, formally known as the Affordable Care Act, is fine as it is, but all of them, 67 percent, would oppose an effort to repeal it, according to the poll’s findings.

That’s 8 points higher than the response from a national poll by Kaiser Health poll last month.According to February statistics from the Obama administration, 74,000 New Jerseyans signed up for private health insurance through the online exchange and 123,000 enrolled through Medicaid. Enrollment closed March 31 for 2014, but will reopen in November for the following year.

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President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama walk on the South Lawn of the White House before boarding the Marine One helicopter, for a short trip to Andrews Air Force base, Md., then onto Fort Hood, Texas for a memorial service in honor of those who died

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President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama walk with Col. William M. Knight from the Marine One helicopter to board Air Force One

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On This Day:

Children from Bancroft Elementary School help First Lady Michelle Obama plant the White House Vegetable Garden April 9, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton) 

President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speak together sitting at a picnic table April 9, 2009, on the South Lawn of the White House (Photo by Pete Souza)

Children from Bancroft Elementary School in Washington, D.C. help First Lady Michelle Obama plant the White House Vegetable Garden, April 9, 2009 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)

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President Obama talks on the phone with Associate Justice John Paul Stevens, in the Oval Office, after announcing that he would be retiring from the Supreme Court, April 9, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama waves to tourists at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., April 9, 2011. The President made an unannounced stop to thank people for visiting the memorial a day after he and Congressional leaders agreed on a bill to keep the government open (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama plays basketball with former NBA player Bruce Bowen on April 9, 2012, during the annual White House Easter Egg Roll

President Obama does push-ups on the White House Basketball Court after a member of the Harlem Globetrotters made a shot, April 9, 2012. The President participated in “Shoot for Strength”, a game where children did push-ups for every basketball shot made by the pros, during the 2012 White House Easter Egg Roll festivities (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama acts out a part of the story while reading from the book Where The Wild Things Are“ with first lady Michelle Obama and his daughter Sasha during the White House Easter Egg Roll, April 9, 2012

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First Lady Michelle Obama introduces Justin Timberlake at a workshop, “Soulsville, USA: The History of Memphis Soul,” in the State Dining Room of the White House, April 9, 2013

“Oh, watching all your faces — priceless. Priceless!” she told the excited group. “Okay, let’s breathe. Come on,” she teased. “Everyone, let’s breathe – even the moms.”

Mavis Staples and Justin Timberlake listen to the First Lady at the “Soulsville, USA: The History of Memphis Soul” workshop

President Obama and Chief of Staff Denis McDonough walk along the South Lawn driveway at the White House, April 9, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama talks with Justin Timberlake in the Blue Room of the White House prior to the “In Performance at the White House: Memphis Soul” concert in the East Room, April 9, 2013. At left, First Lady Michelle Obama talks with Queen Latifah and her grandmother, Katherine Viola Bray (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, along with daughters Malia and Sasha, listen as Eddie Floyd sings “Knock On Wood” during the “In Performance at the White House: Memphis Soul” concert in the East Room of the White House, April 9, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama join musicians on stage during the finale of the “In Performance at the White House: Memphis Soul” concert in the East Room of the White House, April 9, 2013. The program included performances by Alabama Shakes, William Bell, Steve Cropper, Eddie Floyd, Ben Harper, Queen Latifah, Cyndi Lauper, Joshua Ledet, Sam Moore, Charlie Musselwhite, Mavis Staples, Justin Timberlake, and Booker T. Jones (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

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