Posts Tagged ‘Equal Pay

23
Jun
14

President Obama & The First Lady Champion Working Families

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President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the White House Summit on Working Families at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington. President Obama, as part of efforts to make the U.S. workplace more accommodating for employees with families, will on Monday direct federal agencies to step up efforts to give workers more leeway in determining their schedules.

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President Barack Obama is introduced by Lisa Rumain of Martinsville, N.J., at The White House Summit on Working Families

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President Barack Obama sits with, from left, Mark Weinberger, Ernst & Young, Alex Gorsky, CEO of Johnson and Johnson, Shelia Marcello, CEO of Care.com, Debra Lee, Chairman and CEO of BET Networks, and Dave Lissy from Bright Horizons during their meeting at the White House Summit on Working Families

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Marlei Martinez: Obama Seeks ‘Good, Strong, Healthy Families’

President Barack Obama is encouraging Congress and the country to focus on issues here at home — namely how to improve the livelihoods of working families.Here are the five things we learned from our sitdown with the President: 1. The goal of the summit is … “… to lift up the conversation that everybody is already having individually and let people know you’re not alone out here,” Obama said. Priority one: Paid family leave According to a survey from the United Nations’ labor agency, of the 185 countries and territories with readily available information, only three do not provide paid maternity leave. And, you guessed it, the United States made that list. The other two countries are Oman and Papua New Guinea. “Paid family leave, we’re the only advanced country on Earth that doesn’t have it,” the President said. “It doesn’t make any sense. There are a lot of countries that are a lot poorer than we are that also have it.”

Priority two: Workplace flexibility The President said he’s pushing for workplace flexibility to give parents the opportunity to become more involved in their children’s lives and education. “We always say that we want parents involved in our kids’ education,” he said. “There are millions of families out there who can’t even imagine taking time off to go to a parent-teacher conference.” This type of workplace flexibility is a practice that he and the first lady believe will improve employee morale and motivation. Priority three: Child care. “We don’t do a very good job providing high-quality, affordable child care, and there are a lot of countries, a lot of our competitors do it,” Obama told Bolduan. “That means that it’s a lot easier for women to be in the workforce and not have to make choices that ultimately mean they’re, in some cases, getting paid less or having less opportunities. And it also means, by the way, that our kids are more likely to thrive.” Add to that list: Equal pay for equal work.

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President Barack Obama mimics someone handing him a baby

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President Barack Obama walks down Calvert Street NW to have lunch at a Chipotle Mexican Grill in Washington, before they attended the White House Summit on Working Families. Walking with President Obama, from second from left are, Shirley Young, Shelby Ramirez, Lisa Rumain, and Rodger Trombley

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President Barack Obama with Shelby Ramirez

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Robin Roberts and First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House Summit on Working Families

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11
Apr
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: First Lady Michelle Obama participates in an interview with Stephen Colbert during a taping of “The Colbert Report,” at the Colbert Report Studio in New York, N.Y., April 11, 2012 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

11:0 President Obama announces the nomination of Sylvia Burwell to be HHS Secretary

12:15: First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden Host a Joining Forces Caregivers Event

1:55: The President and First Lady depart the White House

3:05 Arrive New York City

4:10 The President delivers remarks at the National Action Network’s 16th Annual Convention

11:30 The President and First Lady depart New York

12:40 Arrives White House

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 Caitlin Macneal: Arkansas Free Clinic Closing, Citing More Insured Through Obamacare

A medical clinic in Mena, Ark. announced that it would be closing, citing a large drop in need for the clinic as people have signed up for health insurance under Obamacare. “Because people are qualifying for insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, our free medical clinic will not be needed anymore,” Stacey Bowser, the director of the 9th Street Ministries Clinic, told the Mena Star.

“We’ve gone from seeing around 300 people a month on a regular basis, but as people were enrolling in Obamacare, the numbers we were seeing have dropped. We were down to 80 people that came through the medical clinic in February, all the way down to three people at the medical clinic in March. Our services won’t be needed anymore, and this will conclude our mission,” she continued.

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LA Times: Bank Of America To Pay $772 Million For Illegal Credit Card Practices

Bank of America Corp. has agreed to refund customers $727 million and pay $45 million in fines for illegal credit card practices, according to a settlement with federal regulators announced Wednesday. The refunds will go to as many as 2.9 million people who were deceived into signing up for products such as credit monitoring and identity theft protection or were improperly charged for such services, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said. The action was part of a crackdown by the bureau on deceptive marketing, enrollment and billing practices related to such so-called add-on products by credit card companies. Bank of America is the fifth financial services company to be hit with fines and refund orders.

“Bank of America both deceived consumers and unfairly billed consumers for services not performed,” said Richard Cordray, the bureau’s director. “We will not tolerate such practices and will continue to be vigilant in our pursuit of companies who wrong consumers in this market.” Bank of America agreed to the refunds and penalties without admitting or denying the allegations. In addition to the refunds, the bank will pay a $20-million civil penalty to the bureau and a $25-million civil penalty to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

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Judy Peres: How Obamacare Affects Women’s Health

Meg Finnegan thought she might never be able to afford to have a baby. Finnegan, who is self-employed and has a pre-existing medical condition, was having trouble finding health insurance at all, let alone a policy that would cover pregnancy and childbirth. So she was thrilled to discover that the plan she signed up for last fall under the Affordable Care Act includes maternity coverage. “When you don’t have insurance, you’re afraid of any life event that brings you to the hospital, for a good or a bad reason,” said Finnegan, 37, an Evanston resident. “If I didn’t have insurance, I wouldn’t have a baby. All those doctor’s appointments and tests, and possibly a high-risk delivery — how would you pay for it?” A guarantee of maternity coverage — all new insurance policies must provide it — is just one of a basket of provisions in the federal health law that specifically benefit women. Other guaranteed services include preventive care, which must be covered with no out-of-pocket cost. For most plans, preventive care includes at least one annual “well-woman” visit, breast-feeding support, contraceptives and contraceptive counseling, annual mammograms and cervical cancer screening.

Women’s health advocates also expect women to benefit more from some provisions in the law that apply to people of either sex. For example, the expansion of Medicaid, as well as financial assistance in the form of tax credits and cost sharing, is expected to disproportionately benefit women, who are more likely than men to have low incomes. Insurers also are required to cover mental health screening and treatment, and women have higher rates of depression and other types of mental illness. Kathy Waligora of EverThrive Illinois (formerly the Illinois Maternal and Child Health Coalition) said she considers the law “a huge victory for women.” Finnegan, who said she has a rare condition called Behcet’s disease, is one of 129 million Americans with pre-existing conditions, which private policies generally did not cover before the health overhaul. Now, by law, insurers may not deny coverage or charge higher premiums on the basis of health status. “I couldn’t get insurance,” said Finnegan, who owns TruFit Personal Training Studio in Evanston. “I tried five different companies. One offered me a policy for $850 a month with a huge deductible and terrible coverage — nothing related to my condition. But all my medical costs are related to that, so basically it meant no coverage.” At the same time, many insurance plans used to consider pregnancy, cesarean section, and even domestic violence and sexual abuse as pre-existing conditions.

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USA Today: Man Cleared Of NYC Murder After 25 Years In Prison

A man who spent almost a quarter-century behind bars for murder was freed Tuesday and cleared of a killing that happened when he was 1,100 miles away on a Disney World vacation. Jonathan Fleming was in tears as he hugged his lawyers and family in a Brooklyn courtroom. Relatives said, “Thank you, God!” after he was freed. “After 25 years, come hug your mother,” she said, and he did. Defense attorneys and prosecutors asked a Brooklyn judge to dismiss Fleming’s conviction in the 1989 shooting. A key eyewitness recanted, new witnesses have implicated someone else and a review by prosecutors turned up a hotel receipt putting Fleming in Florida hours before the killing, defense lawyers Anthony Mayol and Taylor Koss said.

“He is elated and stunned, while tempered by the fact that he realizes that this is just the first step in getting his life back,” Koss said before the hearing. Fleming had plane tickets, videos and postcards from his trip, his lawyers said, but authorities suggested he could have been in New York at the actual time of the shooting, and a woman testified that she had seen him shoot Rush. The exoneration, first reported by the New York Daily News, comes amid scrutiny of Brooklyn prosecutors’ process for reviewing questionable convictions — scrutiny that comes partly from the new DA Kenneth Thompson himself. He unseated longtime DA Charles “Joe” Hynes last year after a campaign that focused partly on wrongful convictions on Hynes’ watch. Hynes had created a special conviction integrity unit to review false-conviction claims, but some saw the effort as slow-moving and defensive.

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Jim Puzzanghera: Small-Business Optimism Rebounds As Winter Ends, Survey Says

Small-business owners were more optimistic about the economy last month and expected sales to increase as a winter marked by severe weather ended, according to survey results released Tuesday. The confidence index from the National Federation of Independent Business rose to 93.4 in March, from 91.4 the previous month. The measure is one of the few monthly barometers of the small-business sector, which is a key driver of the economy.

About 12% of the those surveyed said they expected higher sales volumes during the next three months, up 9 percentage points from the February survey. Hiring also improved last month. Small-business owners reported increasing their payrolls by an average of 0.18 workers in March, up from 0.11 the previous month. It was the sixth straight month the survey showed an increase in hiring.

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Igor Volsky: Kathleen Sebelius’ Biggest Achievement Is The One No One Is Talking About

Kathleen Sebelius wasn’t President Obama’s first choice to run the Department of Health and Human Services and oversee the passage and implementation of health care reform. But after Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD) dropped out, Obama tapped the two-term Kansas governor and former state insurance commissioner. Sebelius didn’t have much D.C. experience, but had an impressive track record of working across the aisle as a Democratic governor in a red state. And while the united GOP opposition to health legislation eventually overwhelmed any goodwill Sebelius had built up within the Republican party and the rocky rollout of Obamacare has come to dominate the discussion of her tenure as secretary, that bipartisan quality proved essential to the implementation of the law. Sebelius leaves the office having enrolled some 10 million people in health care coverage. This was only possible because she convinced numerous Republican lawmakers in bright red states to extended health care coverage to the poorest Americans. No one is talking about it, but it is her biggest and most impressive achievement as secretary.

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision invalidating Obamacare’s compulsory Medicaid expansion, most Republican-controlled states refused to extend health care coverage to residents below 133 percent of the poverty line. But Sebelius traveled the country, urging Republican governors to reconsider. As of today, eight GOP-controlled states have approved expansion — in no small part because of the flexibility Sebelius and her team provided. The flexibility extended beyond Medicaid. Sebelius and her team convinced red states to form partnership health care exchanges in which the federal government and the state would share responsibilities in running the marketplaces. They routinely presented GOP governors with information on all other state models and waivers, assuring them that they could customize reform to their specific state needs. As a result, several Republican-dominated states bucked the national party and chose to run their exchanges either on their own, or in collaboration with HHS.

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Josh Israel: Jindal Demands Congressman Resign Over Extramarital Kissing, But Defended Prostitute-Hiring Senator

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) called for Rep. Vance McAllister (R-LA) to resign his House seat, after a videotape surfaced of the freshman Congressman kissing a married woman who is not his wife. But in 2007, Jindal defended Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) when he was revealed to be a client of a DC prostitution service. Jindal released a statement on Thursday, calling McAllister’s behavior “an embarrassment” and suggesting that “the best way to get privacy and work on putting his family back together is to resign from Congress.” But seven years ago, then-Congressman Jindal made no such suggestion to the state’s U.S. Senator. After Vitter’s name appeared on the phone list for “D.C. Madam” Deborah Jeane Palfrey, he apologized for the “very serious sin in my past.” Yet Jindal’s response was to stand by Vitter

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Jonathan Cohn: Sebelius Resigns

On Thursday morning, Kathleen Sebelius testified before Congress and announced that Obamacare signups had reached 7.5 million people. On Thursday evening, news broke that Sebelius was stepping down as Secretary of Health and Human Services. Implementing Obamacare was never going to be easy. The law is full of compromises that, however politically necessary, weakened regulations and depleted funding that would have made introducing the new insurance system a lot easier. And Sebelius never had the kind of control a chief executive officer would. She was always dealing with a host of other players—from superiors at the White House to underlings at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to Democrats on Capitol Hill to lobbyists for the health care industry. And that’s to say nothing of her war with the congressional Republicans, who were trying actively to sabotage the law through repeal votes, funding cuts, and intimidation of would-be allies.

More important, the law seems to be working, despite all of those early problems. That 7.5 million figure she announced on Thursday is a genuinely big deal—particularly since, from what I hear, the final number is likely to be even higher. Sebelius can’t take all or even most of the credit for those successes, any more than she should take all or most of the blame for the law’s troubles. But her role in those achievements (and others, like improvements to Head Start and stronger regulations on child care safety) is also part of her record. To take one obvious example, Sebelius worked extensively with Republican governors who wanted to expand Medicaid in states with hostile conservative constituencies. Some of those efforts succeeded. The memories of Obamacare’s difficult start will certainly linger. But to the millions of people around the country who now have access to affordable medical care, I’m not sure that really matters.

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Fem Chat: 6 Things Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler Missed About The Gender Wage Gap

Glenn Kessler presents a very one-sided discussion of the wage gap in this April 9th “Fact Checker” post in which he increased President Obama’s rating on his use of wage gap statistics from one Pinocchio (in the 2012 campaign) to two—he should have lowered it from one to zero. President Obama has correctly used a long standing data series issued every year by the Census Bureau. The 77 percent wage ratio figure is an accurate measure of the inequality in earnings between U.S. women and men who work full-time, year-round in the labor market. Here are some other things to keep in mind about that statistic: 1) Kessler claims that President Obama uses the 77 percent wage ratio figure because it shows the biggest wage gap when other data series available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show slightly smaller gaps.

Leaving aside how Kessler could get inside the President’s head and know why he picked a certain series, everyone who writes about this issue should know that this figure based on median annual earnings is the historical headline figure that allows the longest comparison across time. 2) Kessler claims that the other series—weekly or hourly earnings—are more accurate, but there is simply no basis for saying so. The 77 percent figure actually includes the broadest range of kinds of earnings; for example annual bonus payments are a big part of remuneration in some fields and are included in the 77 percent figure, but are excluded from the weekly or hourly earnings figures.

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Brian Beutler: The Right Searches For Obamacare Alternative, Finds Obamacare

The Affordable Care Act’s enrollment comeback has confounded conservatives in many ways. The realization that there happens to be popular demand for something as self-evidently grotesque as Obamacare has given rise to a palpable cognitive dissonance on the right. A growing recognition among Republicans that they can’t bank on organizing the midterm campaign around relentless Obamacare opposition has party elders looking at contingency plans (even if they haven’t exactly gone back to the drawing board). But most importantly, it has thrown the conservative health policy community for a loop, and completely wrong-footed Republicans in Congress who were hoping — against considerable odds and a well-worn historical pattern — to craft an Obamacare alternative that both passes the laugh test and doesn’t create a significantly lower level of welfare.

If enrollment had sputtered, that task would have been considerably easier. The fact it surged in March, and continues to grow today, measurably limits their options. If you accept (or acquiesce) to the need for a large coverage expansion and don’t want a single payer or substantial expansion of existing public systems, you need to make sure private insurers cover the sick, which means you need guaranteed issue and community rating — so that nobody is closed out of the system, and so that risk is spread across large populations, not assigned to individuals. But if you have those two things then you need a coverage requirement, so you’re not just spreading risk among old, sick people. And if you have that mandate, you need substantial subsidies — means tested or otherwise — so people aren’t required to purchase insurance they can’t afford. Of course, that’s just Obamacare.

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Bill Schneider: An Election Democrats Can Win

Obamacare versus Ryanomics. That’s the battle line for 2014. It’s also a battle Democrats can win. Why? Because most Americans are pragmatists. Pragmatists believe that whatever works is right. Ideologues believe that if something is wrong, it can’t possibly work — even if it does work. That’s the Republican view of Obamacare: It’s wrong, so it can’t possibly work. But it now looks like Obamacare may work. More than 7 million people signed up for health insurance by the March 31 deadline, meeting the Obama administration’s original goal. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said, “The Affordable Care Act, whether my Republican friends want to admit it or not, is working.” On April 1, Ryan came out with a 10-year budget plan involving massive cuts in popular federal programs like Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, education, student loans and environmental protection.

Ryan’s proposal would eventually change Medicare — the most popular of all federal programs — from an insurance policy to a “premium support” program, where seniors would be given subsidies to purchase private insurance. GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney proposed doing that in 2012. Look where it got him.  Democrats will run against Ryanomics. Republicans will run against Obamacare. Remember the rule of pragmatism: Whatever works is right. If Americans come to believe Obamacare works, they will be reluctant to throw it out. Especially the millions who will already have a stake in Obamacare. On the other hand, Ryan is threatening to do away with programs like Medicare that people know are working. Why? Because he and his fellow Republicans think those programs are wrong. Attacking programs that work is pure ideological bloodlust. And a losing battle for sure.

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Ann Sanner: About 106,000 Ohioans Enroll In Expanded Medicaid

More than 106,000 Ohioans have signed up for Medicaid under an expansion of the taxpayer funded health program, while thousands of others are waiting to hear whether they are deemed eligible. Republican Gov. John Kasich’s administration moved forward with extending Medicaid eligibility last fall under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. Coverage took effect Jan. 1. The safety-net program for the poor and disabled provides coverage for one of every five Ohioans. The Medicaid expansion allows those earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level to gain health care coverage. For a single adult, that’s about $16,104 a year. Ohio’s monthly report on Medicaid caseloads shows that 106,238 residents had enrolled under the extension as of March 31.

That’s about 29 percent of the roughly 366,000 newly eligible people estimated to sign up by the end of June 2015. Residents have been enrolling in Medicaid through the state’s new benefits website. Potential enrollees can use the site instead of visiting county Job and Family Services offices, where many low-income residents apply for food stamps, cash assistance and other public programs. More than 345,000 people have sought Medicaid coverage through the state’s benefit site since Oct. 1. About 65 percent of the applications have been resolved, while roughly 120,000 are still pending. Many of those cases await eligibility determinations by the state’s largest counties.

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LOL GOP: 5 Ways Paul Ryan’s Budget Screws Seniors

Republicans often point out that Obamacare cuts Medicare Advantage and reforms the program. But they fail to mention, as Democrats often do, the benefits the president’s health law has given to current Medicare beneficiaries. The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare reports: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently reported that since the passage of the ACA, over 7.9 million Medicare beneficiaries in the Medicare Part D donut hole have saved $9.9 billion on their prescription drugs, an average of $1,265 per person. Also, 37.2 million people with Medicare took advantage of at least one preventive service with no cost sharing, including an estimated 26.5 million people with traditional Medicare, and more than 4 million who took advantage of the Annual Wellness Visit. Ryan’s budget would repeal those benefits while keeping the cuts Republicans have been campaigning against for four years now.

Obamacare reforms have also lowered the growth of Medicare’s costs to zero. If this trend continues, the program would be solvent even through the peak of Baby Boomer retirements, protecting seniors from future benefit cuts. In an effort to balance the budget in 10 years while keeping tax cuts that mostly benefit the rich, Ryan would cut a slew of programs seniors have relied on. “Funding for Older Americans Act programs like Meals on Wheels, family caregiver support, job training, senior centers, and disease prevention programs, would suffer significant cuts when the need for these services is increasing,” the National Council on Aging (NCOA) reports. “Over time, these programs—which are NOT contributing to the federal budget deficit—would be cut by 22 percent below current levels.” Another $137 billion would be cut from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, aka food stamps. Currently, 9 million seniors and people with disabilities receive SNAP benefits.

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BBC: Hamid Aboutalebi: US Congress Passes Ban On Iran Envoy

The US Congress has sent a bill to the president that would bar Iran’s pick for ambassador to the UN from entering the country. The House of Representatives passed the measure unanimously two days after the Senate approved it. Hamid Aboutalebi was a part of the Muslim student group that seized the US embassy in Tehran in 1979. The White House has told Iran Mr Aboutalebi was “not viable” but has not taken a position on the bill. Fifty-two Americans were held for 444 days at the height of Iran’s Islamic revolution, which saw pro-American Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi sent into exile and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini take power.

Mr Aboutalebi, who previously served as Iran’s ambassador to Belgium, the European Union, Italy and Australia, told Iranian media his participation in the hostage crisis began only after the initial seizure of the embassy, and primarily involved translation. On Thursday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said, “We’ve made clear and have communicated to the Iranians that the selection they’ve put forward is not viable.” As the host country of the United Nations, the US has previously but rarely denied entry to an envoy or head of state. Those included a previous Iranian diplomat and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. In those cases the applications were withdrawn after the US signalled opposition, or the state department simply declined to process the visas. Those options are available in Mr Aboutalebi’s case.

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Paul Krugman: Health Care Nightmare

When it comes to health reform, Republicans suffer from delusions of disaster. They know, just know, that the Affordable Care Act is doomed to utter failure, so failure is what they see, never mind the facts on the ground. Thus, on Tuesday, Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, dismissed the push for pay equity as an attempt to “change the subject from the nightmare of Obamacare”; on the same day, the nonpartisan RAND Corporation released a study estimating “a net gain of 9.3 million in the number of American adults with health insurance coverage from September 2013 to mid-March 2014.” Some nightmare. And the overall gain, including children and those who signed up during the late-March enrollment surge, must be considerably larger. First, there was the amazing come-from-behind surge in enrollments.

Then there were a series of surveys — from Gallup, the Urban Institute, and RAND — all suggesting large gains in coverage. Taken individually, any one of these indicators might be dismissed as an outlier, but taken together they paint an unmistakable picture of major progress. But wait: What about all the people who lost their policies thanks to Obamacare? The answer is that this looks more than ever like a relatively small issue hyped by right-wing propaganda. RAND finds that fewer than a million people who previously had individual insurance became uninsured — and many of those transitions, one guesses, had nothing to do with Obamacare. It’s worth noting that, so far, not one of the supposed horror stories touted in Koch-backed anti-reform advertisements has stood up to scrutiny, suggesting that real horror stories are rare. Republicans clearly have no idea how to respond to these developments. They can’t offer any real alternative to Obamacare.Their political strategy has been to talk vaguely about replacing reform while waiting for its inevitable collapse. And what if reform doesn’t collapse? They have no idea what to do.

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On This Day

President Obama listens during a meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel at Blair House in Washington, D.C., before a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India, April, 11, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama meets with Director of Speechwriting Jon Favreau on the Colonnade outside the Oval Office, April 11, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama returns to the Oval Office through the Rose Garden after surprising students from Altona Middle School in Longmont, Colo., during their White House tour, April 11, 2011. President Obama received a letter from the mother of an Altona student who worried that her son’s trip to Washington, D.C., would be canceled if there was a government shutdown (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Sherman and Tammie Gillums look at their pictures with First Lady Michelle Obama as Mrs. Obama continues to greets guests at the Joining Forces Community Challenge event on the South Lawn of the White House, April 11, 2012 (Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)

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President Obama holds Chaplain (Captain) Emil Kapaun’s Easter stole in the Oval Office during a greet with Kapaun’s family in the Oval Office, April 11, 2013. The President and First Lady Michelle Obama met with members of Chaplain Kapaun’s family before awarding him the Medal of Honor posthumously during a ceremony in the East Room (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama talks on the phone with Nicole Hockley and families of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Conn., in the Oval Office, April 11, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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09
Apr
14

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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14

When Women Succeed, America Succeeds

President Barack Obama is introduced to speak by Lilly Ledbetter at an event aimed at increasing transparency about women’s pay during an event at the White House. The first law President Obama signed after taking office in 2009 was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which extended time periods for employees to file claims for wages lost as a result of discrimination.

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Text of the President’s remarks here

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President Barack Obama signs executive actions, with pending Senate legislation, aimed at closing a compensation gender gap that favors men, during an event marking Equal Pay Day. President Obama announced new executive actions to strengthen enforcement of equal pay laws for women.

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Lisa De Bode: Obama Signs Executive Order On Equal Pay For Women

Keeping with his promise to champion women’s rights in the workplace, President Barack Obama signed an executive order Tuesday that addresses the issue of unequal pay among federal contractors.The executive order addresses the federal government’s gender wage gap by mandating that contractors publish wage data — by gender and race — to ensure compliance with equal-pay laws. The order also prohibits contractors from retaliating against employees who compare salaries. Tuesday’s signing coincides with National Equal Pay Day, serving as a reminder that more than 50 years after the Equal Pay Act was made law, women still earn less then men. On average, women earn only about 77 cents on the dollar compared with men. African-American women and Latinas take home even less, just 64 cents and 54 cents, respectively, for every dollar earned by white men, according to the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC). Obama called the numbers “embarrassing,” and “wrong.”

“It is good to move the ball forward on improving our equal pay policies,” Fatima Graves, NWLC vice president for education and employment, told Al Jazeera. “It’s important because right now workers are left in the dark about wage disparity information.” “What we really need is for Congress to pass the Fair Paycheck Act which would get at all workers,” she said. A Senate vote on that act, slated for Tuesday, would extend the order’s requirements to most other employers. However, the bill has already failed to pass twice, despite evidence that pay transparency can reduce the gender wage gap. In the federal government, for example, where pay rates are publicly available, the gender wage gap is much smaller than in the private sector, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.The Fair Paycheck Act would close loopholes in the Equal Pay Act of 1963

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Members of Congress including Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., pose for photos in the East Room of the White House in Washington, before an event marking Equal Pay Day

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14

Rise and Shine

President Obama embraces Vice President Biden in the Oval Office after a meeting on the budget, April 8, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern):

11:45 EDT: President Obama delivers remarks on equal pay, East Room

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@petesouza: Pres Obama takes the stage at Bladensburg High School

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The Week Ahead

Wednesday: The President and the First Lady will travel to Houston, TX. The President will attend a memorial service at Fort Hood. He will attend DCCC and DSCC events. More details regarding the President and First Lady’s travel to Houston will be forthcoming.

Thursday: The President and the First Lady will travel to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library in Austin, TX. The President will deliver remarks at a Civil Rights Summit to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act. The President and the First Lady will return to Washington, DC, in the afternoon.

Friday: The President will travel to New York, NY to deliver remarks at the National Action Network’s 16th Annual Convention.

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Bryce Covert: Obama’s New Move On Gender And Pay Could Have More Impact Than The Lilly Ledbetter Act

President Obama on Tuesday is expected to sign two executive orders that will address the pay disparity between women and men. One will bar federal contractors from retaliating against employees who talk about their pay with each other. The other will require businesses to hand over data on pay, broken down by race and gender, to the Labor Department. The goal of both steps is to increase transparency, which is more important than it may sound. It’s hard to fight pay discrimination if you don’t even know what other people make. That’s exactly what happened to Lilly Ledbetter, for whom the Lilly Ledbetter Act is named. She didn’t find out she was being paid less than the men around her until 19 years after she started at Goodyear. Even then, it was thanks only to an anonymous note. While President Obama has touted the fact that his first act as president was to sign that bill, it was a very, very incremental step toward gender wage parity. The law merely gives women more time to bring suits.

The executive orders could start a new wave of progress. About half of American workers are either expressly barred or strongly discouraged from discussing pay with each other. Obama’s action won’t change that fact for everyone, but it will affect 22 percent of the workforce. And it can have ripple effects to other companies that might want to compete for federal contracts, changing standards over time.President Obama has proposed a universal preschool system that includes care for children ages zero to three and would go a long way toward helping parents afford the skyrocketing costs of child care. But many of these ideas are anathema to conservatives in Congress, because they would require government spending and/or interfering with the free market. Until that changes, executive orders like the ones Obama will issue Tuesday may be the best hope for a while.

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Meghashyam Mali: Obama Administration Reverses Planned Cuts To Medicare Advantage

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Monday announced that it would increase payments to insurers offering Medicare Advantage plans by 0.4 percent, reversing a planned cut. The move comes after criticism from insurance groups and Democratic lawmakers who feared the fallout from trimming benefits for seniors in a difficult midterm election year.

CMS had proposed a 1.9 percent rate cut in February. But on Monday, agency officials said that changed estimates allowed for them to reverse the cut. CMS in a statement said that the rate changes would “ensure beneficiaries will continue to have access to a wide array of high quality, high value, and low cost options while making certain that plans are providing value to Medicare and taxpayers.”

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Jamelle Bouie: Jonathan Chait’s Look At Race During The Obama Era Is Missing One Thing: Black Americans

You should contrast this with Jonathan Chait’s most recent feature for New York magazine, where the story of race in the Obama administration is a story of mutual grievance between Americans on the left and right, with little interest in the lived experiences of racism from black Americans and other people of color. It’s a story, in other words, that treats race as an intellectual exercise—a low-stakes cocktail party argument between white liberals and white conservatives over their respective racial innocence.That might fit the experiences of a mostly white pundit class, but it has nothing to do with race as experienced in the “day-to-day” lives of ordinary people. When a twentysomething black New Yorker talks about race, she isn’t as concerned with the rhetoric of Republicans as she is with the patrol car that trails her teenage brother when he rides his bike to the corner store.

What’s odd about the argument is that Chait clearly shows the extent to which conservatism—even if it isn’t “racist”—works to entrench racial inequality through “colorblindness” and pointed opposition to the activist state. But rather than take that to its conclusion, he asks us to look away.Of course, it’s not accusing conservatives of “racism” to note that particular policies—say, tax cuts to defund the social safety net, or blocking the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act—have a disparate impact. That’s just reality. And it’s not tarring your opponents to note that race plays a huge part in building popular support for those policies. Chait finishes his piece with a note (a hope?) that this dynamic of grievance will become irrelevant with time: “The passing from the scene of the nation’s first black president in three years, and the near-certain election of its 45th nonblack one, will likely ease the mutual suspicion. In the long run, generational changes grind inexorably away.” Yes, the Return of the White President will cause this tension to recede, as arguments over racial innocence—“You’re racist!” “You’re a race baiter!”—fade like the elves of Middle-Earth. But that’s only the end of the story if you’re most concerned with partisan fights.

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Eli Clifton: Exclusive: Shady Double-Agent’s Obamacare Sabotage: Top “Supporter” Quietly Funded Its Opposition

While proponents of the Affordable Care Act took a victory lap on the April 1 signup deadline, opposition to the state-run marketplaces continues to expand across the country through “Health Care Freedom Acts,” bills that would seek to limit state governments’ cooperation with the Affordable Care Act. But the untold story, until now, is that a key White House ally in passing the Affordable Care Act may have helped lay the groundwork for these very anti-ACA legislations being introduced across the country. Billy Tauzin, the president of the pharmaceutical lobby, couldn’t help gloating while delivering a keynote speech at his final PhRMA annual meeting before his 2010 retirement. Reflecting on the industry’s decision to support comprehensive healthcare reform, the mega-lobbyist quipped, “This PhRMA team is a Super Bowl championship team of advocacy.” That comparison might be more accurate if the NFL’s championship team had rigged the Super Bowl.

Tax records show that PhRMA initiated a series of payments to the American Legislative Exchange Council with a $379,192 contribution in 2008. Tauzin’s powerful lobby continued its payments to ALEC throughout its negotiations with the White House. Between 2008 and 2011, those contributions exceeded $1.25 million. ALEC, a conservative group serving as a clearinghouse for state-level legislation, opposed the Affordable Care Act and launched its Health Care Freedom Initiative in 2008, the same year that PhRMA initiated its support. The project promised to “expose the truth about ObamaCare and fight back — one state at a time.” It also armed state lawmakers with “14 specific recommendations to push back against Obamacare” and offered boilerplate legislation with its “Freedom of Choice in Health Care Act.”In a previously unpublished “Schedule of Contributors” tax filing, PhRMA is listed as contributing $339,000 to ALEC in 2010, making it ALEC’s second largest donor after cigarette giant Reynolds American. The filing lists Pfizer, a member of the pharmaceutical lobby, as contributing an additional $136,000 on its own.

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Think Progress: Black Women Are Breaking Barriers But Still Not Getting Compensated For It

Black women are graduating high school, attending college, participating in the labor force, and starting businesses at higher rates, but they still aren’t seeing the rewards of their hard work, according to a recent report from the Black Women’s Roundtable, the women’s initiative of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation. Young black women have increased their high school graduation rate by 63 percent over the past 50 years, more than tripling it and “virtually eliminating the gap with Asian women (down to 2%), and significantly narrowing the gap with white women (7%),” the report notes. That gap between the rates of black women and white women has shrunk from 22 percent in 1960. After they leave high school, black women have begun to dominate college. “Though all women lead their male counterparts in college enrollment and degree attainment,” the report says, “Black women do so at higher rates than any other group of women in America.”

In 2010, they were 66 percent of all blacks who finished a Bachelor’s Degree, 71 percent with a Master’s, and 65 percent with a Doctorate. And they keep excelling after they graduate. “As they have from the beginning of their experience in America, Black women lead all women in labor force participation rates,” according to the report. Their labor force participation rate is higher than all other women, and that continues to be true even after they become mothers. They are also very entrepreneurial, starting businesses at six times the national average and representing the fastest growing segment of women-owned businesses. Black women own more than 1 million firms, employ 272,000 people other than themselves, and generate an estimated $44.9 billion in revenue. But even as they’ve been working harder on their educations and starting more businesses, black women aren’t seeing higher returns. While women working full-time, on average, make 77 percent of what men make, black women make 64 percent of what white men make.

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Michael Cohen: How Putin Is Losing In Crimea: A Reality Check

A funny thing happened on March 21: Russia lost a war and virtually no one noticed. It was precisely this agreement — and the refusal of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to sign it — that led to the bloody demonstrations in Kiev that forced Yanukovych from power and spurred Russia’s seizure of Crimea. It’s the kind of trade that looks bad for Russia on the surface — and will only look worse in the future. Russia’s political influence in Ukraine and its dreams of creating an economic union to compete with the EU lies in tatters. Rather than push the U.S. and EU away from his western border, Putin’s actions have practically invited them in by strengthening the bonds between Kiev and the West. It is yet another reminder that Putin’s decision to seize Crimea, rather than serve as a triumphant moment, is far more likely to end up a disaster.

While Putin clearly imagines Russia to be a great power, the country is a hollow shell of its former self, with waning political and military influence and an economy that is teetering on the brink. Higher inflation, a weakening ruble, huge capital outflows and a lack of economic reforms contributed to a major slowdown in the growth rate last year — from a projected increase of 3.6 percent to a mediocre 1.3 percent clip. The Crimea crisis will only add to these economic woes.The far bigger one is that major financial institutions like Deutsche Bank are recommending that their clients keep their money out of Russia; two of the biggest ratings agencies, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch, have downgraded Russia’s investment rating from “stable” to “negative”; and even MasterCard and Visa are ending relationships with key Russian banks to avoid the snare of U.S. sanctions.

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Evan Perez and Steve Katsenbaum: Key Figure In M.J. Traffic Scandal, David Wildstein, Meets With Prosecutors

David Wildstein, a central figure in a political scandal that has upended the administration of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, met recently with federal prosecutors, two U.S. officials familiar with the matter told CNN. The U.S. attorney’s office in Newark is investigating suggestions that top Christie appointees and allies orchestrated traffic tie-ups near the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee last September. Prosecutors are looking at whether the gridlock was politically motivated.

A state legislative committee is also investigating the matter, which involved sudden closures of access lanes to the nation’s busiest bridge over several days. Lawyers from the Justice Department’s public integrity section have joined the investigation to consult on certain legal aspects, particularly over separate allegations the Christie administration conditioned Superstorm Sandy relief money for Hoboken on the mayor’s support for a redevelopment project backed by the governor, according to one U.S. official.

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NYT: In A Test Of Wills With China, U.S. Sticks Up For Japan

On his first trip to China as the secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel is finding himself in the middle of a spat that would not be out of place in “Mean Girls,” a movie about social cliques in high school. For the first time, China will host the Western Pacific Naval Symposium, a meeting every two years of countries that border the Pacific Ocean. The W.P.N.S., as it is known in naval circles, counts among its members the United States, Australia, Chile, Canada and a number of Asian countries, including China and Japan. Often at such meetings, the host country organizes an international fleet review, at which the visiting countries can parade their ships and show off some fancy hardware. For this year’s fleet review, China, which is hosting the event in Qingdao, invited all the countries in the symposium to take part — except Japan.

So on the eve of Mr. Hagel’s trip, which includes a visit to Qingdao, Pentagon officials announced that if Japan could not take part in the review, then neither would the United States. The United States will attend the meeting, the Pentagon said, but no American ships will sail in the fleet review. Late last year, China set off a trans-Pacific uproar after it declared that an “air defense identification zone” gave it the right to identify and possibly take military action against aircraft near the uninhabited islands in the East China Sea known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan and the Diaoyu Islands in China. Japan controls and administers the islands, but China claims them. Japan refused to recognize China’s claim, and the United States has been defying China ever since by sending military planes into the zone unannounced.

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John W. Gonzalez: Allegation Against Battleground Texas Dismissed

Two special prosecutors have rejected public complaints that Battleground Texas violated election laws while registering voters in San Antonio last year. Three people had alleged that a Battleground Texas staffer violated state election law by mining voters’ personal data. The Democratic group has steadfastly denied the allegation as a fiction from conservative activist James O’Keefe III, who’s been criticized for dubious and even criminal tactics.Based on their finding, a state district court judge dismissed the case on Friday, officials confirmed Monday.

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Brendan Sasso: FCC To Break Up Big TV Stations

Overriding intense Republican opposition, the Democratic leaders of the Federal Communications Commission voted Monday to crack down on media consolidation. The new rules bar multiple broadcast TV stations in the same market from sharing a single advertising staff. Democratic FCC officials argue that major TV companies around the country are using “joint sales agreements” to undermine the agency’s media-ownership caps. The FCC bars any company from owning more than one of the top four TV stations in a market. By selling ads for multiple stations, companies have been able to dodge the FCC’s ownership cap while effectively controlling several stations, the agency officials said.

The goal of the TV ownership cap is to ensure that viewers have access to a diverse range of views in the media and that no single corporation is able to dominate the flow of information. While the TV stations serve local markets, major media companies such as Sinclair own dozens of stations around the country. “The commission has long imposed limits on concentration of ownership for use of the public’s airwaves,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said. “Today, what we’re doing is closing off what is a growing end run around those rules.”

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Meredith Clark: Kansas Bill Kills Long-Held Teacher Rights

After a weekend of heated debate, the Kansas legislature passed a bill that strips teachers of the right to challenge dismissals and ensures tax breaks for corporations that fund private school scholarships. Despite huge majorities in the state House and Senate, the bills passed narrowly over the objections of hundreds of teachers and activists who packed the galleries to protest the bill. Until now, a teacher with three years of experience was guaranteed the right to receive a written reason for possible termination and the right to appeal the decision. Teachers in Kansas have had the right to due process since 1957. Without it, a teacher could be fired for being gay, or disagreeing politically with an administrator, and have no recourse.

The bill also provides $126 million to address disparities in public school funding. The Kansas supreme court ruled in March that the state’s current funding system is unconstitutional. The court had ordered the legislature to craft a solution before July 1. Some Republican lawmakers sought policy changes like the end of due process in exchange for supporting the funding measure. Republican Governor Sam Brownback has not said whether he will sign the bill. Kansas’ teachers are among the lowest paid in the United States, with the state coming in 42nd in teacher pay. Educators fear that eliminating due process rights for teachers will make it even harder to retain talented teachers. “How do we get great teachers to come to Kansas when they’re already getting paid so little, and now they have no due process?” Aaron Estabrook, a school board member in the city of Manhattan asked msnbc. “How can we recruit them when they won’t be protected?”

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On This Day

Sen. Barack Obama before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the situation in Iraq, Capitol Hill, April 8, 2008

Sen. Barack Obama at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the situation in Iraq, Capitol Hill, April 8, 2008

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President Obama offers a fist-bump to senior staff member Pete Rouse, during a meeting with senior advisors in the Oval Office, April 8, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama admires a tapestry at Prague Castle in Prague, Czech Republic, April 8, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, left, and Czech Republic President Vaclav Klaus, share a toast during a luncheon at Prague Castle, Czech Republic, April 8, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama talks with Secretary of State Rodham Clinton following the expanded delegation bilateral meeting with President Medvedev of Russia at Prague Castle in Prague, Czech Republic, April 8, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama talks with Vice President Biden in the Oval Office in between meetings to discuss the ongoing budget negotiations, April 8, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama is reflected in a mirror in the Outer Oval Office as talks with Chief of Staff Bill Daley, left, and Vice President Biden in the doorway of the Oval Office, April 8, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama meets with staff in the Roosevelt Room of the White House to discuss the ongoing negotiations on a budget funding bill, April 8, 2011. Pictured, from left, are: National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling; Bruce Reed, Chief of Staff to the Vice President; Phil Schiliro, Assistant to the President and Special Advisor; and Nancy-Ann DeParle, Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama talks on the phone with House Speaker John Boehner in the Oval Office, April 8, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama gestures while meeting with staff in the Roosevelt Room of the White House to discuss the ongoing negotiations on a budget funding bill, April 8, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama delivers a statement in the Blue Room of the White House after Democrats and Republicans reached a short-term budget deal to prevent a government shutdown, April 8, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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07
Apr
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: Iraq, April 7, 2009

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Today:

11:15 President Obama visits Bladensburg High School, Maryland

11:35: Delivers remarks

2:0: Meets with the Commander-in-Chief and Executive Director of the Veterans of Foreign Wars

3:25: Attends the ceremonial swearing in of Maria Contreras-Sweet as Administrator of the Small Business Administration, South Court Auditorium

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The Week Ahead

Tuesday: The President will host an event on the economy at the White House.

Wednesday: The President and the First Lady will travel to Houston, TX. The President will attend a memorial service at Fort Hood. He will attend DCCC and DSCC events. More details regarding the President and First Lady’s travel to Houston will be forthcoming.

Thursday: The President and the First Lady will travel to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library in Austin, TX. The President will deliver remarks at a Civil Rights Summit to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act. The President and the First Lady will return to Washington, DC, in the afternoon.

Friday: The President will travel to New York, NY to deliver remarks at the National Action Network’s 16th Annual Convention.

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TPM: GOP Grapples With The Unsettling Fear That Obamacare May Succeed

In light of Obamacare achieving its goal of 7 million initial insurance sign-ups, William Kristol’s 1993 memo urging his party to block health care reform at all costs seems prescient. In it, the then-GOP operative’s message was remarkably candid: it’s a “serious political threat to the Republican Party.”

Kristol argued that it would cast Democrats as protectors of the middle class and “strike a punishing blow” to GOP ideals about the evils of government.

…. Two decades later, Democrats have achieved their century-long dream, defeating the GOP’s revived Kristol-esque strategy to destroy health care reform at all costs. Obamacare unexpectedly crossed its first big milestone last week with 7 million sign-ups on the exchanges. While the law still faces many challenges, conservatives who broadly predicted it would collapse under its own weight are forced to reckon with the unsettling fear that health care reform might succeed.

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Michael Tomasky: The House GOP’s Down-Low, Backhanded Endorsement of Obamacare

Even as they publicly decry the president’s health care law, the moves they’re making behind closed doors reveal they may be resigned to its existence.

It’s not all that often that the lead piece on the Drudge Report attacks Republicans, so it’s worth a little savoring when it happens, and this one is especially delectable. The link was to an AP story reporting that two weeks ago, House Republicans stealthily voted for a measure that changed an aspect of the Affordable Care Act.

What? I know. In other words, Congress amends bill it passed a few years ago. In a normal moral universe, this would scarcely qualify as news. But when we speak of the House of Representatives, we are in the modern Republican Party’s moral universe, and there, the rules are different.

You see, by agreeing to amend Obamacare, Republicans are acknowledging the law’s existence and legitimacy. The only things they’re supposed to be doing with Obamacare are burning copies of it on the Capitol steps and voting to repeal it. But here they’ve done the exact opposite.

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Sahil Kapur: The Opposition To ObamaCare Is Strangely Familiar

The intense conservative ire for Obamacare may seem like an anomaly in American history. But it’s eerily reminiscent of two other large — and now widely popular — expansions of the safety net: Social Security and Medicare.

The two programs are now a staple of American political culture. But a backward glance at the political environment during their inception reveals equally fierce, ugly antipathy from conservatives — including screaming warnings that they’d be ruinous to freedom.

….. Half a century later, Republicans loudly and proudly proclaim their support for both programs, and are loathe to admit their party ever opposed them.

But history repeats itself….

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ThinkProgress: The Ethics Of NBC Letting George W. Bush Be Interviewed By His Daughter

Last February, the world caught a glimpse George W. Bush’s paintings through work of a hacker named Guccifier. The paintings were amateurish and charming and slightly embarrassing for a former president. They famously included self-portraits of him bathing.

On Friday, Bush decided to show off a series of paintings of world leaders in a more controlled fashion — in an exclusive interview with his daughter, NBC News special correspondent Jenna Bush Hager…..

….as a journalistic outlet, what are the ethical implications of turning over an interview with a former President to his own daughter?

The Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics states that journalists should “avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.” Three experts in ethics and journalism contacted by ThinkProgress all raised substantial concerns with the segment.

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ThinkProgress: Why Obama Is Ending Pay Secrecy For Federal Contractors

President Obama will announce this week that he is directing all federal contractors to lift ‘gag rules’ that discourage or outright ban workers from discussing their salaries, the AP reported on Sunday. The move, which he will announce on April 8, is part of an effort to eliminate the pay gap between male and female employees who hold the same jobs or do the same work.

April 8 is 2014′s Pay Equity Day, which marks the number of extra days into 2014 that the average woman has to work to earn as much as her male counterpart did in 2013. Obama will also announce that he is directing all contractors to provide data on the pay of employees by race and gender.

Obama has long said that pay fairness by gender is one of his policy priorities, and these directives are consistent with his general approach of circumventing Congress where he can to make the changes for a fraction of the population that he’d like to see enacted in law for everyone.

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WH.gov: America’s PrepareAthon!

Here at the White House, we’re getting ready for the first America’s PrepareAthon!, a national day of action that will take place April 30, 2014.

Join us this Monday, April 7 at 1:00 p.m. ET to discuss America’s PrepareAthon!, a community-based campaign to build a more secure and resilient nation by getting people to understand what disasters could happen in their communities and to take action to increase their preparedness. Actions include signing up for mobile alerts and warnings, holding a preparedness discussion to emphasize the steps people should take to be ready should a disaster occur, and conducting a drill so people are familiar with what to do beforehand.

Join us for a Google+ Hangout to hear from the head of FEMA, an award-winning meteorologist, and leaders from across the nation who share a passion for getting prepared.

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On This Day

President Obama addresses U.S. troops during his visit to Baghdad, Iraq, April 7, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama receives a fist-bump from a U.S. soldier as he greets hundreds of U.S. troops during his visit to Iraq, April 7, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama reaches behind a pillar to shake hands with U.S. troops in Baghdad, Iraq, April 7, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama meets with General Raymond T. Odierno, Commanding General, Multi-National Force-Iraq, during the President’s visit with U.S. troops in Baghdad, Iraq, April 7, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama removes his shoes as he prepares to visit the Blue Mosque April 7, 2009, in Istanbul, Turkey (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama signs a bill in the Oval Office, April 7, 2010 ( Photo by Pete Souza)

During a phone call from the Oval Office, April 7, 2010, President Obama talks with the family of workers who were killed in a West Virginia coal mine explosion on Monday (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama listens during a secure conference call and meeting on Libya in the Situation Room of the White House, April 7, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama waits with 2012 National Teacher of the Year, Rebecca Mieliwocki, 7th-grade English teacher at Luther Burbank High School, Burbank, Calif., and Education Secretary Arne Duncan in the Green Room of the White House before the start of a ceremony to honor the 2012 National and State Teachers of the Year in the East Room, April 24, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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MoooOOOooorning everyone – ran out of time again, will catch up with more newsie stuff later. Happy Monday!

06
Apr
14

Rise and Shine

President Obama talks to Coach Mike Krzyzewski, who led Duke to win the NCAA Men’s Division One Basketball Championship, in the Oval Office, April 6, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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The Week Ahead

Today: The President has no public events scheduled.

Monday: The President will travel to Prince George’s County, MD to host an event on the economy. Following this event, he will meet with the Commander-in-Chief and Executive Director of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Tuesday: The President  will host an event on the economy at the White House.

Wednesday: The President and the First Lady will travel to Houston, TX. The President will attend DCCC and DSCC events. More details regarding the President and First Lady’s travel to Houston will be forthcoming.

Thursday: The President and the First Lady will travel to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library in Austin, TX. The President will deliver remarks at a Civil Rights Summit to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act. The President and the First Lady will return to Washington, DC, in the afternoon.

Friday: The President will travel to New York, NY to deliver remarks at the National Action Network’s 16th Annual Convention.

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KEYE Tv: President Obama To Attend Memorial At Ft. Hood

A White House aide says President Barack Obama plans to attend a memorial service Wednesday at Fort Hood — the site of last week’s shooting rampage. A Fort Hood spokesman confirms there will be a remembrance ceremony that day, and presidential adviser Dan Pfeiffer tells CBS’ “Face the Nation” that Obama will be there. Investigators say that an Army truck driver, Ivan Lopez, had an argument before opening fire at the Texas post last Wednesday, killing three soldiers and wounding 16 others before taking his own life.

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White House: Statement By The President On Elections In Afghanistan

On behalf of the American people, I congratulate the millions of Afghans who enthusiastically participated in today’s historic elections, which promise to usher in the first democratic transfer of power in Afghanistan’s history and which represent another important milestone in Afghans taking full responsibility for their country as the United States and our partners draw down our forces.

We commend the Afghan people, security forces, and elections officials on the turnout for today’s vote –- which is in keeping with the spirited and positive debate among candidates and their supporters in the run-up to the election.

These elections are critical to securing Afghanistan’s democratic future, as well as continued international support, and we look to the Afghan electoral bodies to carry out their duties in the coming weeks to adjudicate the results –- knowing that the most critical voices on the outcome are those of Afghans themselves.

Today, we also pay tribute to the many Americans –- military and civilian –- who have sacrificed so much to support the Afghan people as they take responsibility for their own future.

The United States continues to support a sovereign, stable, unified, and democratic Afghanistan, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with the new government chosen by the Afghan people on the basis of mutual respect and mutual accountability.

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Jim Kuhnhenn: Obama To Sign Executive Order With Equal Pay Rules For Federal Contractors

Lacking congressional backing to raise wages or end gender pay disparities, President Barack Obama is imposing his policies directly on federal contractors, following a long-established tradition of presidents exerting their powers on a fraction of the economy directly under their control. This week, the president will sign an executive order that would prohibit federal contractors from retaliating against employees who discuss their pay with each other. The prohibition on the wage “gag rules” is similar to language in a Senate bill aimed at closing a pay gap between men and women. That legislation is scheduled for a vote this week, though it is not likely to pass.

In addition, Obama on Tuesday will direct the Labor Department to adopt regulations requiring federal contractors to provide compensation data based on sex and race. The president will sign the executive order and the presidential memo during an event at the White House where he will be joined Lilly Ledbetter, whose name appears on a pay discrimination law Obama signed in 2009.Separately, on Monday, Obama will also announce the 24 schools that will share in more than $100 million in grants to redesign their schools to better prepare high school students for college or for careers. The awards are part of an executive order Obama signed last year. Money for the program comes from fees that companies pay for visas to hire foreign workers for specialized jobs.

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Michael Hiltzik: A Look At How Many Obamacare Enrollees Were Uninsured: 5.4 Million

As we observed earlier this week, one of the obsessions of opponents of the Affordable Care Act is the question of how many enrollees in Obamacare health plans already had insurance. The goal is to knock down the latest enrollment numbers by suggesting that most of the 7.1 million people enrolled through the individual insurance exchanges just moved from one insurance plan to another in a waste of time and effort. The real figure probably won’t be known for weeks, even months. But researchers at the Urban Institute’s Health Policy Center have weighed in with their own estimate. They’re figuring that the ACA has reduced the number of uninsured Americans by 5.4 million from the first quarter of 2013 through early March this year.

Their estimate is based on data from their March 2014 Health Reform Marketing Survey, which consists of public polling. Their finding is that the uninsurance rate for adults ages 18–64 was 15.2% for the nation in early March, a decline of 2.7 percentage points since September 2013, just before open enrollment on the exchanges began Oct. 1. “This represents a gain in coverage for about 5.4 million adults,” they write. Although the Urban Institute figures aren’t keyed to the enrollment figures, it’s worth observing that if all those newly insureds were among those who signed up on the individual exchanges, that would mean that of the 7.1 million enrollees, 77% were previously uninsured.

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AP: Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Over Drone Strikes

A federal judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit against Obama administration officials for the 2011 drone-strike killings of three U.S. citizens in Yemen, including an al-Qaida cleric. Permitting a lawsuit against individual officials “under the circumstances of this case would impermissibly draw the court into ‘the heart of executive and military planning and deliberation,'” said Collyer. She said the suit would require the court to examine national security policy and the military chain of command as well as operational combat decisions regarding the designation of targets and how best to counter threats to the United States. “Defendants must be trusted and expected to act in accordance with the U.S. Constitution when they intentionally target a U.S. citizen abroad at the direction of the president and with the concurrence of Congress,” said Collyer. “They cannot be held personally responsible in monetary damages for conducting war.” The lawsuit sought unspecified damages.

Anwar al-Awlaki’s classification as a key leader raises fundamental questions regarding the conduct of armed conflict, Collyer’s 41-page opinion stated. The Constitution commits decision-making in this area to the president, as commander in chief, and to Congress, the judge said. U.S.-born al-Qaida leader al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, an al-Qaida propagandist, were killed in a drone strike in September 2011. Al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman, was killed the following month.  Anwar al-Awlaki had been linked to the planning and execution of several attacks targeting U.S. and Western interests, including a 2009 attempt on Christmas Day on a Detroit-bound airliner and a 2010 plot against cargo planes. “The fact is that Anwar al-Awlaki was an active and exceedingly dangerous enemy of the United States, irrespective of his distance, location, and citizenship,” said Collyer. “As evidenced by his participation in the Christmas Day attack, Anwar al-Awlaki was able to persuade, direct, and wage war against the United States from his location in Yemen, without being present on an official battlefield or in a hot war zone.” She said that the U.S. government moved against al-Awlaki as authorized by the defendants and she said the officials acted in accordance with the Authorization for Use of Military Force, which was enacted by Congress after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

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Bruce Japsen: Medicare Seniors Like ObamaCare’s Team Approach

As the U.S. health care system moves away from fee-for-service medicine to more accountable care that uses a teamof health professionals, seniors covered by Medicare say they are okay with these new models that include nurses, social workers and other allied health professionals in the front lines of their treatment, according to a new analysis. Increasingly, the Medicare health insurance program for the elderly as part of the Affordable Care Act is moving to a system that rewards doctors and hospitals for working together to improve care. A new national survey of adults 65 and older from the John A. Hartford Foundation about “team care and the medical home” shows 27 percent say they get this kind of care right now, they like it and it has improved their health.

The openness to new models debunks theories by some in health care who think patients only want to see a doctor for all their health care needs. The bulk of the sample, or 73 percent say they want such care and 61 percent say they believe it would improve their health. Medicare, too, is moving aggressively toward more accountable models with success achieving savings. In the first year of the Medicare Shared Savings Program, almost half of the ACOs that started operations in 2012 had lower medical expenses than projected, exceeding their quality benchmarks, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. There were 29 ACOs that generated shared savings of more than $125 million.

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Bloomberg: Private U.S. Payrolls Top Pre-Recession Peak

Private employers in the world’s largest economy reached an important milestone in March: they have made up all the jobs lost as a result of the recession, and then some. The CHART OF THE DAY shows payrolls excluding government agencies climbed to 116.1 million, surpassing the prior peak of 116 million in January 2008. Winning industries include mining and logging, education and health care, and professional services. Manufacturing and construction have lagged behind.

“Private-sector employment has popped its head out of the hole, and finally replaced the headcount lost due to the recession,” said Ward McCarthy, chief financial economist at Jefferies LLC in New York. “The labor market is the heartbeat of the economy, so when it finally gets to the point where it’s growing again, good things happen.” The recovery in private payrolls signals better times ahead for Americans still looking for work and lays the ground for a gradual pickup in wages and consumer spending, according to McCarthy. Steady progress also will probably prompt Federal Reserve policy makers to continue trimming stimulus while keeping interest rates low.

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Cynthia Tucker: Irrational Hatred Of Obamacare Is Hard To Fathom

My friend Isatou has just received an invoice from Kaiser Permanente, testament to her new coverage through the Affordable Care Act — usually called “Obamacare.” She’s thrilled to finally have health insurance so she can get regular checkups, including dental care. A reasonably healthy middle-aged woman, she knows she needs routine mammograms and screenings for maladies such as hypertension. But before Obamacare, she struggled to pay for those things. She once had to resort to the emergency room, which left her with a bill for nearly $20,000. (She settled the bill for far less, but it still left her deeply in debt.) She is one of more than 7 million people who have signed up for health insurance through the ACA, stark evidence of the overwhelming market demand.

Now, young adults can stay on their parents’ health insurance policies until they are 26 years old — a boon in an economy where many young folks are struggling to find decent jobs. Now, patients with previously diagnosed illnesses (“pre-existing conditions,” in insurance lingo) can’t be denied coverage. Now, the chronically ill don’t have to worry about hitting a lifetime cap that would deny them essential procedures or pharmaceuticals. Now, working folks who don’t get insurance through their employers can purchase affordable policies. The GOP’s relentless opposition has been puzzling. Republicans have resorted to extreme measures to try to derail Obamacare, including an implicit threat to prevent the National Football League from participating in a marketing campaign to encourage people to sign up.It’s strange. Could it be that Republicans are simply furious that millions of Americans like Isatou finally have health insurance?

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Bloomberg: Cement Deals Lay Foundation For Building Boom

For signs that construction is on the mend, look no further than the cement industry. Money being spent to acquire suppliers of building materials worldwide is surging to the highest level since at least May 2008, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. After $22 billion of deals in the past 12 months, Holcim Ltd. (HOLN) and Lafarge SA (LG) — the world’s two biggest cement makers with a combined market value of more than $50 billion — are in advanced merger talks. “What we’re seeing is a recognition by these companies that the bottom is in and that the recovery is happening,” Todd Vencil, a Richmond, Virginia-based analyst at Sterne Agee Group Inc., said in a phone interview.

“Companies are feeling confident enough about that to have the buyers and sellers able to come together now.” In the U.S., construction spending increased 8.7 percent in the 12 months ended in February and 9.4 percent in the period ended in January, the fastest since 2006, data from the Census Bureau compiled by Bloomberg show. U.S. cement consumption will rise 8.1 percent this year to 86 million metric tons and will continue to increase through 2018, according to estimates from the Portland Cement Association.

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Tara McGuiness: While Marketplace Enrollment Ended, Medicaid Enrollment Continues

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has already provided coverage to millions of Americans. More than 7.1 million Americans signed up for coverage through the Marketplaces, 3 million additional young adults were covered under their parents’ insurance and millions more will have access through Medicaid. A new report shows that more people are gaining coverage through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) as a result of the health law. The analysis, produced by the Health and Human Services Department shows enrollment in Medicaid and CHIP in February was at least 3 million people higher than it was, on average, between July and September. That does not include March, which saw an enormous spike in Marketplace enrollment and traffic to HealthCare.gov.

While this is great progress, states where governors or legislatures refuse to implement the Medicaid expansion provisions of the law will leave 5.7 million Americans uninsured. States that have expanded Medicaid, such as Kentucky and New York, have seen particularly dramatic declines in their uninsured populations. Just take Kentucky, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal, Kentucky has seen a 40 percent drop in its rate of uninsured since October 1.While open enrollment for the Marketplaces closed on March 31st, Medicaid coverage enrollment continues year round. That means we are going to continue, working with partners, to sign people up for Medicaid. We have made improvements to our systems and we are ramping up the tactics and tools that are working to reach uninsured Americans. We have learned that Medicaid expansion had a positive impact in getting people covered, as enrollment growth in states that expanded Medicaid was over 5 times higher than in other states (8.3 percent versus 1.6 percent).

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AlJazeera America: Medicaid Boosted By 3 Million, Bringing ‘Obamacare’ Sign-Ups To 10 Million

Three million lower-income Americans have enrolled in the Medicaid program so far during the rollout of U.S. President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform law. That brings to more than 10 million the number of people who have signed up for both public and private health coverage since the Oct. 1 launch of the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. This week, the White House announced there were 7.1 million sign-ups as of March 31 for private health plans through new electronic insurance marketplaces now operating in all 50 states.

The current data includes people who qualify for Medicaid programs that have existed for decades, but it does seem as if the health care law is the reason behind many of the new enrollees: Medicaid enrollment has been brisker in states that are expanding the program – with a rate 8.3 percent higher than before Oct. 1. States that have not expanded Medicaid have seen enrollment rise by only 1.6 percent.

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Joe Conason: On Our Highest Court, A Former Lobbyist Guts Campaign Finance Reform

It was Kennedy who wrote the majority opinion in Citizens United, which dismissed the notion that corruption will arise from unlimited political campaign contributions because they will all be disclosed. “Citizens can see whether elected officials are ‘in the pocket’ of so-called moneyed interests …and disclosure permits citizens and shareholders to react to the speech of corporate entities in a proper way,” he wrote. “This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages.” But if any Supreme Court justice knows how ridiculous that sounds, it must be Kennedy – whose own background as a corporate lobbyist and son of a lobbyist has been forgotten in nearly three decades since his Senate confirmation in 1987. His father, Anthony “Bud” Kennedy, was a backslapping, hard-drinking partner in a powerful lobbying law firm run by one Arthur “Artie” Samish, “the “secret boss of California” who finally went to prison on tax charges in the mid-1950s, while young Tony was studying to enter law school.

Samish liked to brag that he had amassed more power than anyone else in the state, including the governor, that he could buy any legislator with “a baked potato, a bottle, or a broad,” and that he was able to “unelect” any lawmaker who didn’t vote his way. The major clients of Samish and Kennedy were racing, entertainment, and liquor interests, notably including Schenley Industries, then run by J. Edgar Hoover’s mobbed-up pal Lewis Rosenstiel. When Bud Kennedy died suddenly in 1963, young Tony was only two years out of law school. But he went into the family business and inherited his late father’s clientele. While Kennedy always insisted that lobbying was only a “sideline” in his law practice, his billings were substantial – the equivalent of hundreds of thousands or more in today’s dollars. In 1974, he pushed through a bill for Capitol Records that saved the company (and cost the state) millions in sales taxes. How did he do it? The same way that special interests work their will today – by doling out huge wads of cash to lawmakers on behalf of his clients.

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Washington Post: Facing Obamacare Deadline, More Young People Signed Up In March

Five state-based health insurance marketplaces and the District of Columbia’s exchange have so far provided an age breakdown of people who signed up for coverage through March 31, the official end of open enrollment. Compared against numbers reported by the Department of Health and Human Services in January and February, young adults in March signed up at higher rates.These numbers don’t tell the whole story of youth enrollment, though. HHS hasn’t reported March demographic data for the 36 states where it’s operating the marketplaces. Nine other state-based exchanges also haven’t yet provided an age breakdown for March enrollment.

People who struggled to sign up before March 31 can still enroll before April 15 through HealthCare.gov, the federal enrollment portal. HHS said it doesn’t have a reliable estimate of how many are still trying to enroll. State-run exchanges have also allowed some deadline leeway. The numbers also don’t account for young adults who enrolled in coverage outside the exchanges. The online Web broker eHealthInsurance, which sells off-exchange plans nationwide, recently reported that 45 percent of its shoppers since Jan. 1 are between 18 and 34 years old. Insurers must consider exchange customers and non-exchange customers as part of the same risk pool if they’re selling in both markets.

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Jonathan Cohn: Obamacare Is Helping People Via Medicaid – Except In States Where Officials Are Fighting It

Some new Obamacare information: As of the end of February, the number of Americans on Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) was 3 million higher than it was at the beginning of the Affordable Care Act’s open enrollment period. It’s one more sign that the health care law is reducing the number of Americans without insurance significantly—although it doesn’t tell us by how much or whether, at year’s end, the reduction will live up to original projections. It’s also one more window into our growing geopolitical divide—between the part of America where officials are trying aggressively to help poor people get health insurance, and the part where officials are not. taking advantage of flexibility following the 2012 Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare, a large swath of mostly conservative states have opted not to expand eligibility.

As a result, millions of low-income Americans living in these states remain with no viable source of comprehensive coverage. The story is different in states that have expanded Medicaid. That explains the new figures, which the Department of Health and Human Services released on Friday morning. In states expanding Medicaid, enrollment in the two programs rose by more than 8 percent. In states that haven’t expanded Medicaid, enrollment rose by just 1.8 percent. Presumably a lot of these people were already eligible for Medicaid but either didn’t know it or hadn’t decided to do it before they heard about Obamacare. Wonks call this the “woodworking” effect.

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 On This Day:

Sen. Barack Obama, D-IL, talks on his cell phone outside of the Senate chamber during a cloture vote on the immigration reform bill on April 6, 2006, on Capitol Hill in Washington

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President Obama speaks with National Security Advisor Gen. James Jones following a reception with Turkish President Abdullah Gul and heads of state attending the Alliance of Civilizations Dinner April 6, 2009, at Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul, Turkey (Photo by Pete Souza)

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The Mount Ennon Baptist Church Children’s Chorus, from Clinton, Md., perform at an Easter Prayer Breakfast with Christian leaders in the East Room of the White House, April 6, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama walks to an outdoor meeting with, from left, Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor, Dan Pfeiffer, communications director, Jim Messina, deputy chief of staff, and Bob Bauer, counsel to the President, in the Rose Garden of the White House, April 6, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama and Vice President Biden meet with staff in the Oval Office following a late night meeting with House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on the budget, April 6, 2011. Pictured, from left, are: Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew; Rob Nabors, Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs; Senior Advisor David Plouffe; and Director of Communications Dan Pfeiffer (Photo by Pete Souza)

First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, bottom right, meet with Members on Congress to discuss the Joining Forces military families initiative in the Map Room of the White House, April 6, 2011 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Filmmaker Spike Lee uses his iPad to photograph President Obama as he greets guests at the National Action Network’s Keepers of the Dream awards gala in New York, N.Y., April 6, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden greet participants during a roundtable meeting with military spouses, veterans, and volunteers to discuss the Joining Forces military families initiative in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, April 6, 2011 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden talk to AFPS reporter Elaine Sanchez about “Joining Forces,” the new White House initiative to raise awareness about the challenges facing military families, in the Map Room at the White House, April 6, 2011

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President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama host a Passover Seder Dinner for family, staff and friends, in the Old Family Dining Room of the White House, April 6, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama host a Passover Seder Dinner for family, staff and friends, in the Old Family Dining Room of the White House, April 6, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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