NYT: Justice Dept. Sets Record In Penalties For Fraud
The Justice Department collected a record $24.7 billion in penalties from fraud and other cases in the 2014 fiscal year, the agency said on Wednesday, as fines against banks for financial misconduct soared. Collections from civil and criminal actions, including money collected on behalf of other agencies, was $8 billion in 2013, and $13 billion in 2012. Collections in 2014 were bolstered by multibillion-dollar payouts from JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup to resolve claims they misled investors about the quality of mortgage bonds in the run-up to the financial crisis, and include $11 billion in payments made to federal agencies or states. Payouts in the 2014 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, also include hundreds of millions of dollars in fines levied on UBS and Royal Bank of Scotland.
(Excerpts from his remarks, as provided by the Justice Department)
“We have seen a great deal of progress over the years. But we also see problems and these problems stem from mistrust and mutual suspicion.
I just had the opportunity to sit down with some wonderful young people and to hear them talk about the mistrust they have at a young age.
These are young people and already they are concerned about potential interactions they might have with the police.
I understand that mistrust.
I am the Attorney General of the United States, but I am also a black man. …I think about my time in Georgetown — a nice neighborhood of Washington — and I am running to a picture at about 8 o’clock at night. I am running with my cousin.
Police car comes driving up, flashes his lights, yells, ‘Where you going? Hold it!’ I say, ‘Whoa, I’m going to a movie.’
Now my cousin started mouthing off; I’m like, ‘This is not where we want to go. Keep quiet.’
I’m angry and upset.
We negotiate the whole thing and we walk to our movie.
At the time that he stopped me, I was a federal prosecutor. I wasn’t a kid. I was a federal prosecutor.
I worked at the United States Department of Justice.
So I’ve confronted this myself.
We are starting here a good dialogue. But the reality is the dialogue is not enough. We need concrete action to change things in this country. That’s what I have been trying to do. That’s what the President has been trying to do.
We have a very active Civil Rights Division. I am proud of what these men and women have done. As they write about the legacy of the Obama administration, a lot of it is going to be about what the Civil Rights Division has done.
So this interaction must occur. This dialogue is important. But it can’t simply be that we have a conversation that begins based on what happens on August 9, and ends sometime in December, and nothing happens.
As I was just telling these young people, change is possible. The same kid who got stopped on the New Jersey freeway is now the Attorney general of the United States.
On This Day: President Obama greets people following his remarks at the Ford Motor Company Chicago Assembly Plant in Chicago, Ill., Aug. 5, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
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Today (all times Eastern)
12:30: White House press briefing
1:45: VP Biden Delivers Remarks at U.S.-Africa Business Forum
2:45: President Obama delivers remarks and participates in the U.S.-Africa Business Forum
9:30: The President and First Lady host a dinner at the White House for African heads of state – Lionel Richie performs
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President Obama meets with advisors in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Aug. 4, 2014 (Photo by Pete Souza)
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The Week Ahead
Wednesday: The President participates in Summit Leader Meetings as part of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit.
First Lady Michelle Obama, in partnership with former First Lady Laura Bush and the Bush Institute, will host a day-long spouses symposium at the Kennedy Center focused on the impact of investments in education, health, and public-private partnerships.
Thursday & Friday: Attends meetings at the White House
President Barack Obama is announcing $14 billion in commitments by U.S. businesses to invest in the continent of Africa.
Obama plans to make the announcement Tuesday at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum in Washington. The forum is bringing together African heads of state and American business leaders to find ways to boost economic ties. It comes on the second day of a U.S.-Africa summit involving nearly 50 African heads of state.
The White House says the investments include industries like construction, banking, information technology and energy.
WH.gov: The First Lady at the U.S. – Africa Leaders Summit
On August 6, 2014, the Office of First Lady Michelle Obama, the George W. Bush Institute, and the U.S. Department of State will host Investing in Our Future at the U.S. – Africa Leaders Summit.
The day-long symposium will bring together First Lady Michelle Obama, Mrs. Laura Bush, African first spouses from nearly 30 countries, leaders from non-governmental and non-profit organizations, private sector partners, and other leading experts.
The symposium will highlight the important role first spouses play and will focus on the impact of investments in education, health, and economic development through public-private partnerships. This collaboration builds on the Bush Institute’s 2013 African First Ladies Summit, Investing in Women: Strengthening Africa, held in Tanzania.
Although the enemies of health reform will never admit it, the Affordable Care Act is looking more and more like a big success. Costs are coming in below predictions, while the number of uninsured Americans is dropping fast, especially in states that haven’t tried to sabotage the program. Obamacare is working. But what about the administration’s other big push, financial reform? The Dodd-Frank reform bill has, if anything, received even worse press than Obamacare, derided by the right as anti-business and by the left as hopelessly inadequate. But also like Obamacare, financial reform is working a lot better than anyone listening to the news media would imagine. The decision to create a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau shouldn’t have been controversial, given what happened during the housing boom.
At this point, however, all accounts indicate that the bureau is in fact doing its job, and well — well enough to inspire continuing fury among bankers and their political allies. A recent case in point: The bureau is cracking down on billions in excessive overdraft fees. how do you rescue the banking system without rewarding bad behavior? The answer is that the government should seize troubled institutions when it bails them out, so that they can be kept running without rewarding stockholders or bondholders who don’t need rescue. In 2008 and 2009, however, it wasn’t clear that the Treasury Department had the necessary legal authority to do that. So Dodd-Frank filled that gap, giving regulators Ordinary Liquidation Authority, also known as resolution authority, so that in the next crisis we can save “systemically important” banks and other institutions without bailing out the bankers.
TPM: Israel-Hamas Truce Sets Stage For Talks On Gaza
Israel and Hamas began observing a temporary cease-fire on Tuesday that sets the stage for talks in Egypt on a broader deal on the Gaza Strip, including a sustainable truce and the rebuilding of the battered, blockaded coastal territory.
Israel withdrew its ground forces from Gaza’s border areas, and both sides halted cross-border attacks as the three-day truce took effect at 8 a.m. (0500 GMT) Tuesday. The shelling stopped and in Gaza City, where streets had been deserted during the war, traffic picked up and shops started opening doors.
If the calm holds, it would be the longest lull in almost a month of fighting that has killed nearly 1,900 Palestinians and 67 Israelis.
For the last two hours we’ve heard nothing but sonic booms and the sound of rockets and mortars. Shells have fallen on our street a few hundred yards from my father-in-law’s house, where my wife and I, and our five kids, are staying, and on the street behind us.
My wife, Hanna, is arguing with the kids over what to buy to celebrate Eid, the holiday that marks the end of Ramadan. She has forbidden them to go to the grocery store, and she’s adamant that they won’t visit the Internet cafes or the PlayStation shop near my father’s place. They don’t understand the impossibility of shopping at a time of war.
Last night, we all became convinced that the tank fire would soon reach the Jabaliya refugee settlement, where our families live. All night long the tanks fired on the eastern side of the camp. The buildings on our street creaked and lurched, as if about to fall. Everything shifts with each strike. It’s as if you’re an extra in a disaster movie.
BBC: Ebola Crisis: World Bank Announces $200M Emergency Fund
The World Bank has announced that it is allocating $200m (£120m) in emergency assistance for West African countries battling to contain the Ebola outbreak. The money will be distributed to the governments of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea as well as to the World Health Organization (WHO). The number of people killed in the outbreak has reached 887, the WHO says.
The World Bank’s announcement came as African leaders including 35 presidents discuss the crisis in Washington. World Bank President Jim Yong Kim – an expert on infectious diseases – said that he was “deeply saddened” by the spread of the virus and how it was contributing to the breakdown of “already weak health systems in the three countries”.
Watch Rand Paul run away from a DREAMer who confronts him and Steve King:
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Ed Kilgore: In the Middle of An August Friday Night
If you want to do something politically dangerous in Washington that you’d just as soon not draw widespread notice, doing it late on a Friday night before the August Congressional Recess begins is about as good as it gets. And that’s exactly what House Republicans did on Friday night, passing an insultingly small “border resources” package that will vanish without a trace if and when Congress returns and gets serious about the issue, and then passing another bill prohibiting continuation of the Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals program, which has enabled children and young adults (usually collectively known as DREAMers) under strict conditions to avoid deportations.
When I looked at the news aggregators this morning, there was zippo about this whole topic, which dominated political chatter last week. It’s as though quite literally nothing of interest happened Friday night.
The Obama administration took a “historic” step in changing the drug war Friday, activists said, when Attorney General Eric Holder said the rationale prosecutors often use to defend mandatory-minimum sentences was worthless. “Some have suggested that these modest changes might somehow undermine the ability of law enforcement and prosecutors to induce cooperation from defendants in federal drug cases,” Holder said in remarks before the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers conference in Philadelphia, according to prepared remarks posted to the Justice Department website.
“But the reality is that nothing could be further from the truth,” Holder went on, citing his own past as a federal prosecutor. “Like anyone who served as a prosecutor in the days before sentencing guidelines existed and mandatory minimums took effect, I know from experience that defendant cooperation depends on the certainty of swift and fair punishment, not on the disproportionate length of a mandatory-minimum sentence,” Holder said. The speech was a big deal, said Families Against Mandatory Minimums. Price’s spokesperson, Mike Riggs, was more direct. “It’s pretty damn historic,” he said.
March 30, 2011: President Obama greets James Brady in Press Secretary Jay Carney’s West Wing office at the White House. Brady’s wife Sarah, right, and son Scott, center, joined him for the meeting (Photo by Pete Souza)
Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to the family of former White House Press Secretary James Brady on his passing. Jim is a legend at the White House for his warmth and professionalism as press secretary for President Reagan; for the strength he brought to bear in recovering from the shooting that nearly killed him 33 years ago; and for turning the events of that terrible afternoon into a remarkable legacy of service through the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Since 1993, the law that bears Jim’s name has kept guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals. An untold number of people are alive today who otherwise wouldn’t be, thanks to Jim.
Every day, reporters and White House staffers walk past a plaque marking the day in 2000 that the White House Briefing Room was renamed the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room. It reads, “May his courage and dedication continue to inspire all who work in this room and beyond.” Those words will endure, as will his legacy. Our thoughts and prayers are with Jim’s wife Sarah, who has been Jim’s steadfast partner in advocacy, and their children Scott and Melissa.
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Elite Daily: Happy Birthday, Mr. President: 26 Times Barack Obama Has Killed The Game
President Obama waits to be introduced at a luncheon for U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias of Illinois at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago, Ill., Aug. 5, 2010. Right to left, Trip Coordinator Jordan Whichard, Bobby Schmuck, political affairs staff assistant, and Director of Political Affairs Patrick Gaspard, wait with the President (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama talks on the phone at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago, Ill., Aug. 5, 2010. From left, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Eric Whitaker and Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett work nearby (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama signs memorabilia as he talks on the phone at the Chicago Cultural Center in Chicago, Ill., Aug. 5, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
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President Obama arrives at the White House after spending the night at Camp David on Sunday, August 5, 2012 in Washington, DC.
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President Obama meets with former Negro League baseball players in the Cross Hall of the White House, Aug. 5, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)
On This Day: President Obama kisses First Lady Michelle Obama for the “Kiss Cam” while attending the U.S. Men’s Olympic basketball team’s game against Brazil at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., July 16, 2012. Vice President Joe Biden and Malia Obama look up at the jumbotron (Photo by Pete Souza)
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Today (all times Eastern)
12:45: Vice President Biden Speaks to Generation Progress Summit
NYT: Budget Office Revises Estimate of Federal Spending on Health Care
The growth of federal spending on health care will continue to decline as a proportion of the overall economy in the coming decades, in part because of cost controls mandated by President Obama’s health care law, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said on Tuesday.
The budget office said in its annual 25-year forecast that federal spending on major health care programs would amount to 8 percent of gross domestic product by 2039, one-tenth of a percentage point lower than its previous projection.
With the latest revision, the budget office has now reduced its 10-year estimate for spending by Medicare, Medicaid and other health programs by $1.23 trillion starting in 2010, the year the health care law took effect. By 2039, the savings would amount to $250 billion a year in today’s dollars.
The estimable Sarah Kliff tabulates all the predictions of Obamacare disaster that didn’t come true; she puts it at seven major themes, ranging from “the website will never work” to “nobody will sign up”. We can presume, then, that people like John Boehner — who declared that it would never work and that more people would lose insurance than gain it — are spending some time now trying to understand how they could have been so wrong.
April fools! (Yes, I know it’s July.)
…. It’s probably about partisanship, which means both living in an information bubble and being so deeply committed to a worldview that you literally can’t consider facts that don’t fit.
Washington Post: House Democrats unveil policy ‘Action Plan’ as Pelosi sets ambitious goal for November
House Democrats plan to unveil a list of election-year proposals Wednesday that party leaders hope will resonate with women, blue-collar workers and younger voters — three key constituencies that historically don’t show up to vote in significant numbers in midterm election years.
The release of the “100 Day Action Plan” comes as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that her goal is to pick up 25 GOP seats in November, a bold ambition given historical trends: The party of a two-term president usually loses seats in his sixth year in office.
…. But Pelosi believes that her new policy plan and the recent talk among House Republicans about filing a lawsuit or possibly impeaching Obama will shore up support among Democratic-base voters, win over independents and give the party a narrow edge.
Milt Shook: Dems are not wimps! Some of the 375 bills they passed in 111th Congress!
By request, I’m reposting this again, to remind everyone just how much damage the GOP has done with their abuse of the filibuster, and to remind some progressives of the major bonehead moves they made in 2010.
In addition to the constant trashing of Obama’s real record with lies and distortions, I’m also sick to death of claims that Democrats “had no spines” and couldn’t pass anything. Republicans held Congress from 1994-2006 and rigged the filibuster rules in 2005, under the threat of killing it altogether. They made it easier for a single senator to hold up a bill anonymously, and they effectively transformed the Senate into a body that requires 60 votes to pass that bill.
The SOLUTION to the problem in 2010 would have been to keep the House, and reduce the number of Republicans in the Senate. Instead, we had the Right Wing crying “Democrats can’t get anything done!” and the Left Wing crying, “Democrats can’t get anything done!” THAT is why Democrats lost so badly last year; instead of offering up an alternate viewpoint, we basically echoed theirs. That’s what drove turnout down, and gave the GOP one of the biggest wins in their history.
Read these and tell me Democrats weren’t trying really hard to make things better.
CBS: Eric Holder demands Congress address inequality
Attorney General Eric Holder called on Congress and the American people to not only celebrate civil rights successes but also renew the spirit of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by working to “eradicate” inequality.
“Like all who are old enough to remember those days, I will never forget the turmoil and violence that characterized the Civil Rights era,” Holder told a crowd of civil rights advocates, cabinet officials and students during an event at Howard University celebrating the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act. “I am especially mindful that without the Civil Rights Act or the monumental progress that followed few of us would be here. I would not stand before you as attorney general of the United States.”
TPM: Holder Expects To Challenge GOP Voting Measures In Ohio, Wisconsin
Attorney General Eric Holder plans to support challenges to Republican-backed voting laws in two key midwestern battleground states.
Holder told ABC’s Pierre Thomas in an interview that has yet to air that he expects the Justice Department to join lawsuits challenging laws in both Ohio and Wisconsin.
GOP lawmakers in the Buckeye State passed measures earlier this year that chopped six days off the state’s early voting period, while Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted eliminated early voting on Sundays.
Trevor LaFauci (The People’s View): ‘Murica and Murrietta: Xenophobia and Racism in 21st Century America
Ask a Republican about the good old days.
No really, do it. There’s nothing more enlightening for a progressive than to hear about what life was like back in the day. Odds are the narrative you hear will go something like this: First and foremost, there was a trusted man in the White House, usually with the first name Ronald and the last name Reagan. There was a harmonious family life, where the husband made a decent wage and the mother stayed home and raised he kids. The neighborhoods were free of gangs, the schools were all good, and everybody went to church on Sundays. The local communities were full of mom and pop stores and you grew up the same town where you would eventually raise your own family. As long as you worked hard, you would be able to go to college, get a good job, find a spouse, and start a family of your own. You’d buy a nice home with a decent patch of land where you raise your kids and babysit your grand kids. This was the America that Republicans all knew and loved.
ThinkProgress: The GOP’s Plot To Convince You They Support Birth Control
There’s a war over birth control brewing in the Senate, and Republican lawmakers want to make it clear that the GOP is on the right side.
On Tuesday, after Senate Democrats introduced a measure to override the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on Hobby Lobby and clarify that for-profit companies must offer contraceptive coverage, their Republican colleagues announced some forthcoming legislation of their own. As the Hill reports, GOP leadership will introduce a bill that appears to be supportive of women’s access to birth control.
…. the GOP’s competing legislation likely wouldn’t do anything to change the status quo or ensure that Hobby Lobby employees have insurance coverage for contraception. Instead, it’s simply a way for Republicans to reinforce the point that the high court’s ruling on Hobby Lobby doesn’t inhibit women’s legal access to birth control.
… But legality isn’t exactly the same as accessibility. And the Hobby Lobby case was about the latter.
Charles Pierce: Things In Politico That Make Me Want To Mainline Antifreeze, Part The Infinity
Its puerilty has finally crossed over into indecency. Its triviality has finally crossed over into obscenity. The comical political starfcking that is its primary raison d’erp has finally crossed over into $10 meth-whoring on the Singapore docks. Once a mere surface irritation, Tiger Beat On The Potomac has finally crossed over into being a thickly pustulating chancre on the craft of journalism. It has demonstrated its essential worthlessness. It has demonstrated that it has the moral character of a sea-slug and the professional conscience of the Treponema pallidum spirochete. Trust me. Stephen Glass never sunk this low. Mike (Payola) Allen has accomplished the impossible. He’s made Jayson Blair look like Ernie Pyle…..
… You [Dick Cheney] cheap fraud. You people didn’t “face” any threat before 9/11. Every damn one of you fell asleep at the switch. You abandoned counterterrorism in favor of chasing porn merchants and Tommy Chong. You exiled Richard Clarke. You started worrying about missile defense. Your boss took a vacation and blew off his CIA briefings and failed to read his presidential daily briefings. You watched the towers fall, at least partly through your sheer dereliction of duty, and you turned a national tragedy into a personal opportunity to get rich.
SmartyPants: Pundits join Putin in 19th century thinking
An awful lot of pundits these days seem just as stuck in the 19th century as Vladimir Putin. For example, check out this jaw-dropping commentary on the Israel/Palestinian situation from Cokie Roberts on ABC’s This Week:
It’s a real absence of the American leadership in the region…We haven’t made a strong enough presence in that region to have people be afraid of this country. So I think there’s a sense that they can get away with anything they want to get away with. So much criticism of President Obama for not going in, conducting the air strikes against Syria.
Its almost hard to know where to begin. In the end, her point seems to be that if President Obama had bombed Syria he could have prevented the current escalation of the situation in Israel/Gaza. And that’s – of course – because there aren’t enough people in the Middle East who are afraid of us. So lets go bomb some more brown people over there because they’re sure not going to get mad about that and fight back. What they’ll do instead is be afraid and quit all that shooting/bombing each other.
Patch: First Lady Michelle Obama will deliver keynote speeches at a pair of events today
…. She will first speak at a Unite for Veterans event at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza hotel in Century City. The event is aimed at discussing ways of providing opportunities for veterans to find employment and housing.
…. Obama is also scheduled to speak at the Grammy Museum’s Jane Ortner Education Award Luncheon. The award honors educators who “find innovative ways to engage students by integrating music in their classrooms and curricula.”
This year’s honoree is Sunshine Cavalluzzi, a teacher at El Dorado High School in Placentia. She is being recognized for what the museum called her “innovative economics lesson plans.” Six-time Grammy nominee Janelle Monae will also be honored for her “continued commitment to Grammy Museum educational programming.”
President Obama and his family hike on Cadillac Mountain at Acadia National Park in Maine, July 16, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
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Vice President Biden and President Obama look at an app on an iPhone in the Outer Oval Office, Saturday, July 16, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
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President Obama talks with coach Geno Auriemma and members of the U.S. Women’s Olympic basketball team following their 99-67 win over Brazil at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., July 16, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama talks with LeBron James as First Lady Michelle Obama hugs Deron Williams during their greet with members of the U.S. Men’s Olympic basketball team at halftime of the game against Brazil at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., July 16, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama in Cincinnati, July 16, 2012
President Obama and VP Biden at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., July 16, 2012
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President Obama visits with Make-A-Wish child Suhail Zaveri, 14, from Anaheim, Calif., in the Oval Office, July 16, 2013. Accompanying Suhail are his parents, Sandeep and Asmi Zaveri, and younger brother Arsh Zaveri (Photo by Pete Souza)