Posts Tagged ‘FCC

01
May
14

Rise and Shine

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

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Today (All Times Eastern)

11:30: Jay Carney briefs the press

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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AP: GOP: Health Signups Lagging

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

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

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Alexis Okeowo: Nigeria’s Stolen Girls

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

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

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

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

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

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KyivPost: Kyiv Ousts Russian Diplomat For Espionage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Reuters: Sprint Moves Ahead With T-Mobile Bid Plan

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

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

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MarketWatch: U.S. Consumer Spending Jumps In March

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

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

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

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

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Three Years Ago Today

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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On This Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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08
Apr
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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