Posts Tagged ‘greenwald

29
May
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Barack Obama consoles a woman at the Joplin Community Memorial Service at Missouri Southern University in Joplin, Mo., May 29, 2011. The President delivered remarks during the service for those impacted by the deadly tornado that struck Joplin on May 22, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

11:10: President Obama delivers remarks at the White House Healthy Kids & Safe Sports Concussion Summit, East Room

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12:30: Jay Carney briefs the press

2:55: The President participates in a clinic as part of the Concussion Summit, South Lawn

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E.J. Dionne Jr: Obama Outlines A Doctrine Where Restraint Makes Us Stronger

By laying out a long-term foreign policy vision in a speech at West Point on Wednesday, President Obama challenged his critics, at home and abroad, not to speak in vague terms about U.S. “decline” or “weakness” but to answer the question: Exactly what would you do differently? This is as close as we have gotten to an Obama Doctrine, and here it is: The United States “will use military force, unilaterally if necessary, when our core interests demand it — when our people are threatened; when our livelihoods are at stake; when the security of our allies is in danger.”

But in other cases, “when issues of global concern do not pose a direct threat to the United States . . . we should not go it alone.”…. the president’s critics [have] an obligation to answer his challenge. Those who believe that the United States should underwrite a world order friendly to our values and interests need to accept that the promiscuous deployment of U.S. troops abroad is the surest way to undermine support for this mission at home. In calling for restraint and realism — and by insisting on raising the threshold for wars of choice — Obama may yet prove himself to be the best friend American internationalists have.

More article here

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Thomas L. Friedman: Putin Blinked

There was a moment at the height of the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962 when Soviet ships approached to within just a few miles of a U.S. naval blockade and then, at the last minute, turned back — prompting then-Secretary of State Dean Rusk to utter one of the most famous lines from the Cold War: “We’re eyeball to eyeball, and I think the other fellow just blinked.”

The crisis in Ukraine never threatened a Cold War-like nuclear Armageddon, but it may be the first case of post-post-Cold War brinkmanship, pitting the 21st century versus the 19th. It pits a Chinese/Russian worldview that says we can take advantage of 21st-century globalization whenever we want to enrich ourselves, and we can behave like 19th-century powers whenever we want to take a bite out of a neighbor — versus a view that says, no, sorry, the world of the 21st century is not just interconnected but interdependent and either you play by those rules or you pay a huge price. In the end, it was Putinism versus Obamaism, and I’d like to be the first on my block to declare that the “other fellow” — Putin — “just blinked.”

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Hunter Walker: Maya Angelou’s Son Shares The Most Important Lesson His Mother Taught Him

According to writer Guy Johnson, his mother, the late poet and author Dr. Maya Angelou, never gave him advice about his craft. Though Angelou didn’t guide his writing, Johnson said he learned many other lessons from his mother.
Johnson shared some of the most important things Angelou taught him and discussed some of his final memories of her in a conversation with Business Insider hours after her death Wednesday, at age 86. Johnson said the main thing he learned from Angelou is that “life’s complexity cannot be taught in a classroom.”

Angelou’s final conversation with her son took place over the phone Tuesday. Johnson said she was “laughing” and in “good spirits.” Johnson described his mother’s “mission” as focused on spreading “respect” and combatting racism. “It had to do with teaching people that we have to give respect to each other and respect this planet … that we are more alike than we are unalike … and that racism is a foolish and divisive construct,” Johnson said.

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Steve Benen: Turning The Conventional Wisdom On Its Ear

It was just a few months ago that the political world took solace in a few obvious facts. The Affordable Care Act was failing; it stood no chance of meeting its enrollment projections; and Republicans would use “Obamacare” as a cudgel for the rest of the year, beating Democrats who would no doubt try to change the subject.

That was then; this is now. All of a sudden, the ACA looks like a great success; the system has already exceeded its enrollment projections; and Democrats are suddenly willing to take the offensive on the issue they were supposed to avoid…the GOP strategy to date — vow to repeal Obamacare and mumble platitudes about replacing it with something or other that does all the things in it that people like – is a bust…. The repeal crusade is over. The right lost. It’s heartening to see the conventional wisdom start to catch up.

More here

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Simon Maloy: GOP’s New Obamacare Strategy: Why Their “Repeal” Cries Have Suddenly Shifted

As benefits take hold, Republicans’ message falls victim to the inevitable onset of nuance. A moment of silence, if you please, for the Republican “repeal Obamacare” message. It’s not dead yet, but it has fallen victim to a deadly terminal illness: nuance. The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire blog delivered the diagnosis this morning, noting that the Republican candidate field, as it transitions out of primary season, is discovering that simply calling for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act is not the winning strategy that it was once assumed to be.

The millions of people who gained coverage through the ACA, and would stand to lose it were the law to be scuttled, obviously would like to know what comes next. “Republicans won’t back off their push to repeal the law,” Washington Wire notes, “but the message is likely to be more nuanced, said Bill McInturff, a Republican pollster who has long studied the politics of health care.” “Nuance” in this sense means that Republicans are going to start using terms like “fix” and “reform” alongside (or in place of) “repeal.”

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Michael Kelley: Edward Snowden Says The US Stranded Him In Russia – Here Are 4 Problems With That Claim

Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden told “Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams in Moscow that he “never intended to end up in Russia.” The 30-year-old asserts that the U.S. State Department stranded him in Moscow after he arrived from Hong Kong on June 23. There are several issues with the claim that the U.S. stranded Snowden in Russia. Here are the most glaring: 1. Snowden couldn’t have left Russia because he had no valid travel documents when he landed at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport.

The U.S. revoked Snowden’s passport the day before he left. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange then acquired an unsigned Ecuadorian travel document — ostensibly for safe passage to Latin America — that was void when Snowden landed in Moscow. 2. WikiLeaks told him to go to Russia and stay there. Assange told Janet Reitman of Rolling Stone magazine in December that he advised Snowden against going to Latin America because “he would be physically safest in Russia.” WikiLeaks, who advised Snowden in Hong Kong while paying for his lodging and travel, reiterated the statement on May 1.

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Michael Tomasky: Mitch McConnell’s Big Obamacare-Kynect Lie

The Senator’s latest election-trail mistake? Vowing to repeal Obamacare while disingenuously promising to protect his state’s own Obamacare-funded health-care exchange, which serves 413,000 Kentuckians. Here’s why all the super-smart insidery people privately say they think that in the end, Alison Lundergan Grimes will not beat Mitch McConnell in Kentucky. Her strategy, they say, is to keep it close, keep her distance from Obama, hold her own in debates, try to match him attack ad for attack ad, and just hope McConnell makes a mistake.

And the super-smart people agree: You may admire or loathe McConnell, but if he’s proven one thing in umpteen elections, it’s that he doesn’t make mistakes. That’s what the insiders say. There’s just one problem with it. McConnell has made about a mistake a week so far! He’s run an awful campaign. And he’s given anybody no reason at all to think he won’t just keep making them.

More here

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Brett Logiurato: Obama Gives Boehner One Last Deadline For Immigration Reform

President Barack Obama has provided House Speaker John Boehner with a final deadline of sorts for moving immigration reform legislation through the House of Representatives. A White House official confirmed Obama asked Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to delay his completion of a review of U.S. deportation policies until the end of the summer. The White House said this would give Boehner more time to act because Obama believes there is still a “window” of opportunity for immigration reform legislation to pass in the House. Some advocates believe the House could pass immigration reform legislation after the end of Republican primaries, in which immigration has become a thorny issue. “The President’s priority is to enact a permanent solution for people currently living in the shadows and that can only come with immigration reform,” a White House official said in an email.

“Legislation should also continue to strengthen our border security, modernize the legal immigration system, and hold employers accountable. He believes there’s a window for the House to get immigration reform done this summer, and he asked the Secretary to continue working on his review until that window has passed. There’s a bipartisan consensus. It’s time for them to act and the President didn’t want the discussion of the Secretary’s review to interfere with the possibility of action in the House.” In March, Obama directed Johnson to lead an administrative review of whether deportation policies could be made more “humane,” a move aimed at reassuring immigration activists. It is largely expected Obama will take unilateral action to lessen deportations if Congress doesn’t act. Potomac Research analyst Greg Valliere said Obama’s message was clear. “If you fail to act, deportation policy will be liberalized; if you want to negotiate, deportations are on the table — your choice,” Valliere wrote in a research brief this morning.

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Brian Beutler: Mitch McConnell’s Dangerous, Deceptive Retreat From Obamacare Repeal

It took the winding down of GOP primary season for the Republican Party’s increasingly incoherent position on the Affordable Care Act to attract national media attention, and nobody did more to thrust it under the press’ nose than Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — the original gangster of anti-Obamacare absolutism. This will only strike you as ironic if you ignored ACA’s stunning successes in Kentucky, and the uncompromising demands of McConnell’s primary, as they unfolded simultaneously.

Now as a general election candidate, he must square his root-and-branch repeal position with the inescapable fact that full repeal would reverse those successes and leave nearly a half a million newly covered Kentuckians without health insurance. On Friday, McConnell attempted to obscure this obvious conundrum by claiming the fate of Kynect — the state’s popular and prosperous online insurance exchange — is “unconnected” from the fate of the ACA statute itself. I surmised by implication that McConnell was actually playing a far more deceitful game.

More here

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Paul Krugman: Cheap Climate Protection

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce just came out with its preemptive strike against Obama administration regulations on power plants. What the Chamber wanted to do was show that the economic impact of the regulations would be devastating. And I was eager to see how they had fudged the numbers.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the diatribe. The Chamber evidently made a decision that it wanted to preserve credibility, so it outsourced the analysis. And while it tries to spin the results, what it actually found was that dramatic action on greenhouse gases would have surprisingly small economic costs.

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First Lady Michelle Obama: The Campaign for Junk Food

When we began our Let’s Move! initiative four years ago, we set one simple but ambitious goal: to end the epidemic of childhood obesity in a generation so that kids born today will grow up healthy. To achieve this goal, we have adhered to one clear standard: what works. The initiatives we undertake are evidence-based, and we rely on the most current science. Research indicated that kids needed less sugar, salt and fat in their diets, so we revamped school lunch menus accordingly. When data showed that the lack of nearby grocery stores negatively affected people’s eating habits, we worked to get more fresh-food retailers into underserved areas. Studies on habit formation in young children drove our efforts to get healthier food and more physical activity into child care centers.

Today, we are seeing glimmers of progress. Tens of millions of kids are getting better nutrition in school; families are thinking more carefully about food they eat, cook and buy; companies are rushing to create healthier products to meet the growing demand; and the obesity rate is finally beginning to fall from its peak among our youngest children. So we know that when we rely on sound science, we can actually begin to turn the tide on childhood obesity. But unfortunately, we’re now seeing attempts in Congress to undo so much of what we’ve accomplished on behalf of our children.

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Chicago Tribune: First Lady To Appear At Keel-Laying Ceremony For USS Illinois

First Lady Michelle Obama will appear at a ceremony next week that recognizes the start of construction on a submarine named after her home state. At the June 2 keel-laying ceremony, the first lady will deliver remarks and meet the USS Illinois’ crew and their families, according to a release issued today from her office. Obama is also the “official sponsor” of the USS Illinois. She will chalk her initials on a metal plate that will later be mounted on the submarine, the release stated.

More here

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USA Today: White House Designates 12 ‘Manufacturing Communities’

The Obama administration named one dozen new “Manufacturing Communities” on Wednesday that will receive federal help for plans to try and attract global businesses. The Manufacturing Communities Partnership, launched in September, brings federal agencies together with local officials to develop strategies “that strengthen their competitive edge in attracting global manufacturers and their supply chains,” the administration said.

The 12 local communities are:

– Southwest Alabama led by the University of South Alabama

– Southern California led by the University of Southern California Center for Economic Development

– Northwest Georgia led by the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission

More here

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Perfect Snark Of The Day

Andy Borowitz: Obama Defends Controversial Policy Of Not Invading Countries For No Reason

President Obama raised eyebrows with his West Point commencement address Wednesday by offering a defense of his controversial foreign-policy doctrine of not invading countries for no reason. Conservative critics were taken aback by Obama’s speech, which was riddled with incendiary remarks about only using military force for a clearly identified and rational purpose.

Obama did not shy away from employing polarizing rhetoric, often using words such as “responsible” and “sensible” to underscore his message. Harland Dorrinson, a fellow at the conservative think tank the Center for Global Intervention, said that he was “stunned” to see Obama “defend his failure to engage the United States in impulsive and random military adventures.”

More here

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Coral Davenport: President Planning To Be Planning To Use Executive Authority On Carbon Rule

President Obama will use his executive authority to cut carbon emissions from the nation’s coal-fired power plants by up to 20 percent, according to people familiar with his plans, and will force industry to pay for the pollution it creates through cap-and-trade programs across the country. Mr. Obama will unveil his plans in a new regulation, written by the Environmental Protection Agency, at the White House on Monday. It would be the strongest action ever taken by an American president to tackle climate change and could become one of the defining elements of Mr. Obama’s legacy.

Cutting carbon emissions by 20 percent — a substantial amount — would be the most important step in the administration’s pledged goal to reduce pollution over the next six years and could eventually shut down hundreds of coal-fired power plants across the country. The regulation would have far more impact on the environment than the Keystone pipeline, which many administration officials consider a political sideshow, and is certain to be met with opposition from Republicans who say that Mr. Obama will be using his executive authority as a back door to force through an inflammatory cap-and-trade policy he could not get through Congress.

More here

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Greg Sargent: Mitch McConnell Effectively Abandons Obamacare Repeal

Today we have a big break in the Case of the Pathologically Dissembling Senate Minority Leader. As you know, Mitch McConnell has been struggling to articulate his position on the Affordable Care Act, ever since he laughably declared that the fate of Kentucky Kynect — the state exchange that has signed up over 400,000 people for coverage and is more popular than the hated Obamacare — is “unconnected” to his push to repeal the law.

His subsequent clarification only obfuscated matters more. Now, however, the McConnell campaign has issued a new statement to Post fact checker Glenn Kessler that, in effect, abandons his commitment to repeal. In the statement, a McConnell spokesman suggests he might largely retain the Medicaid expansion, which has expanded coverage to hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians.

More here

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On This Day

Sen. Obama speaks at the Medical Education and Biomedical Research Facility at the University of Iowa May 29, 2007 in Iowa City. Obama introduced his plan to reduce health care costs and ensure affordable health care for all Americans.

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NBC video and sound crews capture footage of the “First Dog” in the Rose Garden outside the Oval Office for their prime-time broadcast “Inside the Obama White House,” May 29, 2009 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)

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President Obama takes a walk down the street from his Chicago home accompanied by his daughter Sasha, May 29, 2010

…. accompanied by his mother-in-law Marian Robinson

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The President visited Joplin, Mo., following a devastating tornado. Here he greets Hugh Hills, 85, in front of his home. Hills told the President he hid in a closet during the tornado, which destroyed the second floor and half the first floor of his house. May 29, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama greets residents during a tour of neighborhoods impacted by the deadly tornado in Joplin, Mo., May 29, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama is greeted by Father Justin Monaghan at a memorial service on the campus of Missouri Southern State University during a visit to the community that was devastated by a tornado in Joplin, May 29, 2011

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First Lady Michelle Obama greets Sherri Shepherd of “The View” at the show’s studio in New York, N.Y., May 29, 2012 (Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)

President Obama talks with Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Toni Morrison in the Blue Room of the White House, May 29, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

Novelist Toni Morrison and President Obama share a moment after she was presented with a Presidential Medal of Freedom during an East Room event May 29, 2012 at the White House

Bob Dylan is presented with a Presidential Medal of Freedom

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President Obama talks to the pilots aboard Marine One after landing at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, May 29, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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13
Mar
14

Irony Just Guffawed

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TPM: Zuckerberg Calls Obama To Discuss ‘Frustration’ With NSA Surveillance

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said on Thursday that he phoned President Obama to urge reforms to the government’s surveillance practices. “The US government should be the champion for the internet, not a threat. They need to be much more transparent about what they’re doing, or otherwise people will believe the worst,”Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post. “I’ve called President Obama to express my frustration over the damage the government is creating for all of our future. Unfortunately, it seems like it will take a very long time for true full reform.”

More here

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02
Mar
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama meets with senior advisors in the Oval Office, March 2, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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The Week Ahead:

Monday: President Obama will host Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House. The Vice President will also attend.

Tuesday: The President will hold an event on the FY2015 budget and the plan to expand opportunity for all in Washington, DC. In the evening, the President will attend a DSCC event in the Washington, DC area.

First Lady Michelle Obama will join Secretary of State John Kerry to honor the recipients of the International Women of Courage Award in the Dean Acheson Auditorium of the U.S. Department of State.

Wednesday: The President will travel to the Hartford, Connecticut area for an event on the minimum wage. Following this, he will travel to Boston, Massachusetts for two DNC events.

First Lady Michelle Obama will participate in a conversation with Robin Roberts at the Leading Women Defined Summit, hosted by BET Networks. The discussion will be around the Affordable Care Act and a personal reflection on health and wellness. The First Lady will also visit a health center to highlight the work that hospitals, doctors and clinics are doing to educate their patients about the Affordable Care Act and how patients can get insurance.

Thursday: The President will hold an event on the economy and healthcare in Washington, DC.

Friday: The President and the First Lady will travel to the Miami area for an event on expanding opportunity for all.

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Timothy Snyder: Beneath The Hypocrisy, Putin Is Vulnerable. Here’s Where His Soft Spots Are

Russian intervention in Ukraine is directed against the EU, which Moscow has now decided is a threat to its interests and indeed a civilizational challenge. How can Europe respond to the immediate problem of military intervention in Ukraine and the more fundamental political challenge to European values and achievements?  Much of the Russian elite has sent its children to private schools in the European Union or Switzerland. Beyond that, since no Russian of any serious means trusts the Russian financial system, wealthy Russians park their wealth in European banks. In other words, the Russian social order depends upon the Europe that Russian propaganda mocks. And beneath hypocrisy, as usual, lies vulnerability.

Soft power can hurt. General restrictions on tourist visas, a few thousand travel bans, and a few dozen frozen accounts might make a real difference. If millions of urban Russians understood that invading Ukraine meant no summer vacation, they might have second thoughts. If the Russian elites understood that invading Ukraine meant dealing with their disaffected teenagers on an indefinite basis, they too might reconsider. If wealthy Russians understood that their accounts could be frozen, as has just happened to Ukrainian oligarchs, that might affect their calculations as well.

More here

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Andrew Ackerman: Obama To Request 30% Bump In CFTC Funding

President Barack Obama’s 2015 budget plan, set for release Tuesday, will request a 30% funding boost for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. Obama is expected to request $280 million for the CFTC, these people said, a $65 million increase above the current-year funding levels of $215 million. The requested increase, which would be the largest in the agency’s history, would be funded through user fees to entities policed by the agency.  An administration official said the funding boost, if enacted, would allow the agency to increase its staff by more than one-third and modernize its technology systems.

“The president is committed to securing sufficient funding to enable the CFTC to effectively oversee the futures and swaps markets,” the official said. The agency, which is responsible for implementing dozens of new rules required under the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial-overhaul law, has consistently warned it is underfunded. The funding woes prompted the CFTC to furlough employees last year and delay or shelve certain enforcement matters. Under the White House plan, the user fees would ensure taxpayers don’t have to bear the agency’s funding costs and put the CFTC on equal footing with other financial regulators such as the Securities and Exchange Commission.

More here

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TPM: Hundreds Of Gunmen Surround Military Base In Crimea

Hundreds of armed men in trucks and armored vehicles surrounded a Ukrainian military base Sunday in Crimea, blocking its soldiers from leaving. The outnumbered Ukrainians placed a tank at the base’s gate, leaving the two sides in a tense standoff. In Kiev, Ukraine’s new prime minister urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to pull back his military, warning that “we are on the brink of disaster.” Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk spoke a day after Russian forces took over the strategic Black Sea peninsula of Crimea from Ukraine without firing a shot.

“There was no reason for the Russian Federation to invade Ukraine,” Yatsenyuk said after a closed session of his new parliament in Kiev.  Ukraine’s acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov, announced late Saturday that he had ordered Ukraine’s armed forces to be at full readiness because of the threat of “potential aggression.” He also said he had ordered stepped-up security at nuclear power plants, airports and other strategic infrastructure.

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NBC News: Kerry Denounces Russian ‘Act Of Aggression,’ Warns Of Trade Freeze

Secretary of State John Kerry denounced the Russian movement of troops into Ukraine Sunday as “an act of aggression” and accused President Vladimir Putin of “possibly trying to annex Crimea.” “He’s going to lose on the international stage, Russia is going to lose, the Russian people are going to lose, and he’s going to lose all of the glow that came out of the Olympics, his $60 billion extravaganza,” Kerry said on NBC’s Meet the Press. He warned that Russia will suffer a loss of trade and investment if Putin does not reverse course.

Russia has “major investment and trade needs” which are bound to suffer if Russian troops don’t leave Ukraine, he said. “There’s a unified view by all of the foreign ministers I talked with yesterday – all of the G-8 and more — that they’re simply going to isolate Russia; that they’re not going to engage with Russia in a normal business-as-usual manner…. The ruble is already going down and feeling the impact of this,” he said.  He also warned that “there could even be ultimately asset freezes,” but did not specify how long it would take for foreign governments and banking authorities to freeze Russian assets held abroad. He also threatened bans on issuing visas to Russians seeking to travel to Europe, the United States and other countries.

More here (Video at the link)

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Hayes Brown: 5 Ways The U.S. Can Respond To Russia Invading Ukraine – Without Going To War

1. Suspend Russia’s membership in the G-8 Russia joining the Group of 7 in 1998, despite being the weakest of the group’s economies at the time, was considered a huge boost to the prestige a country still recovering after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Russia is also due to host the next meeting of the G-8 in Sochi, the site of the recently concluded Olympics, this June. Rather than the U.S. simply boycotting the meeting, the Obama administration could lead the charge along with the other members to suspend Russia’s membership in the group.

3. Enact trade sanctions against Russia As recently as December, Russia was looking to boost trade with the United States — which already stands at about $40 billion annually — though remaining just shy of a free trade deal. Both Russia and the United States are members of the World Trade Organization, which brings with it certain obligations when it comes to tarrifs and trade embargoes. But insofar as those obligations allow, the U.S. can use reduced trade with Russia to show its displeasure.

4. Suspension of NATO cooperation and participation After the collapse of the USSR, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization welcomed in several of the formerly Soviet states, including Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. Russia has long seen this expansion as a threat, which is part of the reason Ukraine is not a NATO member state. To help assauge those fears, NATO began outreach to Russia in the late 1990s, including setting up a NATO-Russia Council to frequently meet and exchange concerns. In light of Putin’s move on Ukraine, the U.S. should move to have those meetings suspended and cooperation between NATO and Russia halted.

More here

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Dexter Mullins: The ‘Invisible Man’ In The Age Of Trayvon And Jordan

With his widely read novel “Invisible Man,” Ralph Ellison ignited a conversation and an awareness of racial alienation in America that had the potential to help bridge the gap between the nation’s races. But as we celebrate what would have been his 100th birthday on Saturday, it is almost staggering to see how little has changed since Ellison published the book in 1952. Black people — and black men in particular — are still viewed and judged as though we are all one person, with one mind, and that we are all either criminals or about to become criminals. We are still treated as if we are less than everyone else, no matter the degrees we may possess, how impressive our job titles or our contributions to society. Indeed, as we celebrate Ellison today, it is a shame to have to say that the black man as an individual is still “invisible” and that the country has a long way to go.

There isn’t a black man or boy in this country who has not been told by someone in his family that while people may say we are equal, the reality is quite different and that — should you find yourself in a situation with any person of authority, or a rogue vigilante who thinks he’s above the law — it is better to hold your tongue and submit to the traffic ticket, search or humiliating line of questioning and get home alive than it is to try and make a stand to prove your point and come home in a pine box. At the end of Ellison’s novel, the main character learns to embrace his individuality after years of conforming to society’s perceptions and expectations of what a black man is supposed to be. Today, it is society that needs to embrace the individuality of minorities and re-examine where our nation’s race relations really are.

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David Remnick: Putin Goes To War

Vladimir Putin, the Russian President and autocrat, had a plan for the winter of 2014: to reassert his country’s power a generation after the collapse of the Soviet Union. He thought that he would achieve this by building an Olympic wonderland on the Black Sea for fifty-one billion dollars and putting on a dazzling television show. It turns out that he will finish the season in a more ruthless fashion, by invading a peninsula on the Black Sea and putting on quite a different show—a demonstration war that could splinter a sovereign country and turn very bloody, very quickly.

Sergei Parkhomenko, a journalist and pro-democracy activist who was recently detained by the police in Moscow, described the scenario taking shape as “Afghanistan 2.” He recalled, for Slon.ru, an independent Russian news site, how the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, in 1979, under the pretext of helping a “fraternal” ally in Kabul; to Parkhomenko, Putin’s decision to couch his military action as the “protection” of Russians living in Crimea is an equally transparent pretext. The same goes for the decorous way in which Putin, on Saturday, “requested” the Russian legislature’s authorization for the use of Russian troops in Ukraine until “the socio-political situation is normalized.” The legislature, which has all the independence of an organ grinder’s monkey, voted its unanimous assent.

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Paul Carr: On The Importance Of Keeping Investors Out Of The Newsroom, And Not Treating Your Readers Like Fools

Yesterday afternoon, Pando published a report by Mark Ames showing that eBay founder Pierre Omidyar invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in Ukrainian opposition groups involved in the overthrow of the country’s government. Even more interesting, given that Omidyar is now publisher ofThe Intercept, a blog which vows to expose American government wrongdoing, is the revelation that his co-investor in the groups was… the US government. This morning, Omidyar Group staffer Glenn Greenwald spent almost three thousand words meticulously not responding to the piece. Whether Greenwald likes it or not, this is an important story and one we will continue to report. There is, however, one aspect of Greenwald’s post that demands a firm rebuttal, and that’s his continuing attempt to shrug off Pierre Omidyar’s $250 million investment in First Look as if it’s business as usual for a media organization.

To suggest Omidyar is just a passive investor in Greenwald, Scahill, Wheeler et al. is as ridiculous as claiming Jesus was just a passive backer of the disciples (“Nah, you’ve got it all wrong. He just gave us the bread and wine, it’s up to us what we do with it.”) Pierre Omidyar is not the dumb money behind First Look, he is the company’s founder and publisher. It was Omidyar who called Glenn Greenwald and personally hired him to head The Intercept, just as it was Omidyar himself who takes credit for having hired Matt Taibbi away from Rolling Stone. Even after making those key hires, Omidyar did not recuse himself from the day-to-day editorial operations.

Pierre Omidyar, First Look’s sole backer, has a vision. A vision he spends his day sharing with First Look’s reporters via their internal messaging. By Scahill’s own admission, Omidyar’s voice is heard more frequently than any editorial staffer at the company. And yet, by Greenwald’s admission, he has spent precisely no time investigating the business deals or conflicts of interest which might shape that vision, or might lead Omidyar to try to influence the reporting by the staff whose paychecks he alone signs. If that’s how Omidyar believes the business of media should be transacted, that’s his choice. And if Greenwald is convinced that he remains entirely incorruptible, despite the constant muzak of his master’s voice playing in the newsroom, that’s fine too. But it’s not how most media companies do things, and it’s not how we do things at Pando. By claiming otherwise, Greenwald is treating his readers as fools.

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Washington Post: Government Expands Help For Buying Health Insurance

With just a month left for Americans to select health plans this year through new insurance marketplaces, the Obama administration is bending some rules to prevent people from being stranded without coverage because of state-run exchanges riddled with computer problems. In states with dysfunctional insurance marketplaces, the government will for the first time help pay for certain health plans that consumers buy on their own. And once people in those states are able to sign up through the exchanges, their insurance can be made retroactive. These rewritten rules, laid out in a three-page memo,

can be used by any state but are aimed primarily at helping people in Maryland and three other states whose exchanges have not been working well. The four states are among 14 that have each created an insurance marketplace under the 2010 Affordable Care Act. The rewritten federal rules would allow people to receive federal subsidies for health plans outside exchanges as long as the covered benefits are comparable to those of plans sold through the exchanges. In order to get retroactive subsidies, people will have to start to pay the full price of their health plan, then get the reduction once their state’s exchange is working well enough to determine whether their incomes make them eligible for the help.

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President Obama with Donna Brazile and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz at the DNC Winter Meeting in Washington, Friday

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On This Day:

Senator Obama holds up a baby as he greets supporters during a town hall meeting in  Westerville, Ohio, March 2, 2008

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First Lady Michelle Obama with daughters, Malia and Sasha, sled in the snow on the South Lawn of the White House, March 2, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama boards Air Force One, prior to departure from Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Ga., March 2, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama talks with Mona Sutphen, chief of staff for policy, Josh Earnest, assistant press secretary, and Jeffrey Lerner, of the Office of Political Affairs, aboard Marine One en route to the White House, March 2, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama signs H.R. 4691, Temporary Extension Act of 2010, in his private office in the residence of the White House, March 2, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wait in the Blue Room of the White House before greeting recipients of the 2010 National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal, March 2, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

First Lady Michelle Obama shares a laugh with National Humanities Medal honoree Wendell E. Berry, as President Obama talks with National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Rocco Landesman in the Blue Room of the White House, March 2, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama greets Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on the Colonnade prior to their meeting in the Oval Office, March 2, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

First Lady Michelle Obama participates in a conference call about the “Let’s Move!” Healthier U.S. School Challenge in the Map Room of the White House, March 2, 2011. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack joined Mrs. Obama to speak with education stakeholders about doubling the number of schools participating in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s program (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

President Obama is briefed by Lt. Gen. Doug Lute, Special Assistant to the President for Afghanistan and Pakistan, during a meeting in the Situation Room of the White House, March 2, 2011. Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough and National Security Advisor Tom Donilon are at right (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama and Vice President Biden talk following a meeting in the Oval Office, March 2, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

First Lady Michelle Obama embraces members of the Johnson C. Smith ladies’ basketball team during a “Let’s Move!” physical fitness promotion between games at the CIAA basketball tournament in Charlotte, N.C., March 2, 2012

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06
Feb
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day – Pete Souza: “Another snowstorm blanketed Washington for the second time in a few days. Because it was a Saturday, I hung around the White House thinking that the President might venture out in the snow with his daughters. Here they are playing in the Rose Garden in the midst of the storm.” Feb. 6, 2010

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Presidential Daily Schedule (All Times Eastern):

8:00AM: President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama attend the National Prayer Breakfast

12:00PM: Press Secretary Jay Carney holds a Press Briefing

1:00PM: Vice President Biden speaks on Infrastructure Investment in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

2:15PM: President Obama holds a bilateral meeting with President Martelly of Haiti

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Sy Mukherjee: Conservatives Seize on Report To Argue Obamacare Is a Job Killer – But The Author Says They’re Wrong

On Wednesday, Congressional Budget Office (CBO) director Doug Elmendorf refuted the claim that the Affordable Care Act is a job killer — a misleading takeaway from his agency’s new report that is being touted by Obamacare critics. Testifying before the House Budget Committee on the CBO’s newly released economic projections for the next decade, Elmendorf addressed the report’s finding that the Affordable Care Act will reduce the labor participation rate and the total number of hours worked by an equivalent of 2 million jobs in 2017. According to Elmendorf, that statistic is being taken out of context to suggest that Obamacare will eliminate jobs.

If someone says, ‘I decided to retire or stay home and spend more time with my family and spend more time doing my hobby,’ they don’t feel bad about it — they feel good about it. And we don’t sympathize. We say congratulations.” Elmendorf also noted that the ACA is actually expected to boost the economy in the near-term by making health insurance and medical care affordable for the poorest Americans, giving them the freedom to spend money in other areas of the economy. “On balance, CBO estimates that the ACA will boost overall demand for goods and services over the next few years,” states the report.

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Greg Sargent: CBO Director: Obamacare Will Reduce Unemployment

Under questioning today before the House Budget Committee from Dem Rep. Chris Van Hollen, CBO director Douglas Elmendorf confirmed that in reality, his report suggests Obamacare will reduce unemployment: The CBO report found that Obamacare — through subsidizing health coverage – would reduce the amount of hours workers choose to work, to the equivalent of 2.5 million full-time workers over 10 years. This was widely spun by Republicans as a loss of 2.5 million jobs. To counter this, Van Hollen cited the report’s findings on Obamacare’s impact on labor demand, rather than supply.

On page 124, the report estimates that the ACA will “boost overall demand for goods and services over the next few years because the people who will benefit from the expansion of Medicaid and from access to the exchange subsidies are predominantly in lower-income households and thus are likely to spend a considerable fraction of their additional resources on goods and services.” This, the report says, “will in turn boost demand for labor over the next few years.” “When you boost demand for labor in this kind of economy, you actually reduce the unemployment rate, because those people who are looking for work can find more work, right?” Van Hollen asked Elmendorf. “Yes, that’s right,” Elmendorf said.

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TPM: Iran Is Apparently Adopting Universal Health Care: RouhaniCare

The quasi-official Twitter account for Iranian president Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday that the country would be adopting a universal health care system to “extend medical insurance to all Iranians.” In English at least, the new government is also adopting a nickname that would sound familiar to American ears: RouhaniCare.

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Washington Post: Boehner Urges Allies To Consider Linking Military Benefits To Debt Limit

A new break in the GOP’s debt-ceiling strategy emerged at a private lunch on Wednesday, where House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) encouraged his allies to consider linking a restoration of recently cut military benefits with a one-year extension of the federal government’s borrowing authority.

“He was very warm to it, seeing it as something that can get us out of this fix,” said one attendee, who like the others requested anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. “I think this could be a way for us to get through the debt ceiling, but the speaker is going to spend the next few days taking the temperature of his members.”

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Sean Sullivan: Biden To Raise Money For Alex Sink In Florida Special Election

Vice President Biden will travel to Florida next week to attend a fundraising event for Democrat Alex Sink’s campaign for Congress, Biden’s office confirmed Wednesday, marking the White House’s first direct involvement in a special election seen as harbinger of the November midterms.

Sink is running against Republican David Jolly in a Tampa-area swing district. They are competing to success long-serving Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R), whose death last year led to the special election.

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Justin Snow: Obama Nominates Second Gay Black Judge To Federal Bench

After his first attempt to nominate an out African-American judge to the federal bench was blocked by Sen. Marco Rubio, President Barack Obama announced Wednesday his intent to try again. According to a release from the White House, Obama will nominate Darrin Gayles to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

Gayles, who has served as a circuit court judge for Florida’s 11th Judicial Circuit since 2011 and previously served as a county judge for the same circuit from 2004 to 2011, was endorsed by the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund for his bid for re-election in 2012. If confirmed, Gayles, much like Thomas before him, would become the first out black man in the nation’s history to serve on the federal bench.

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Miami Herald: Obama Nominates Four For Federal Judgeships Including Gay Miami-Dade Judge Darrin Gayles

President Barack Obama has nominated four people to serve as federal judges in Florida’s middle and southern districts. Three of those nominated Wednesday are currently circuit judges and one is an attorney in private practice. All four must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

According to a White House announcement, Obama chose Miami-Dade Circuit Judges Beth Bloom and Darrin Gayles for South Florida. Nominees for Florida’s middle district are Putnam County Circuit Judge Carlos Eduardo Mendoza and Orlando attorney Paul Byron.

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Noam Schieber: Socialized Law: A Radical Solution For Inequality

Anyone who has ever picked up a tabloid knows full well how the 1 percent flouts the laws that bind the rest of us. One night in 2004, 16-year-old Eric Bradlee Miller got drunk on a bottle of vodka, stole a pickup truck at a convenience store, then plowed into a car, killing the driver. Almost ten years later, Ethan Couch, also 16, packed several friends into his father’s pickup, stole two cases of beer from a Walmart, and proceeded to scream down a local thoroughfare until he collided with a disabled vehicle, killing its driver and three passersby. Miller’s grandfather, with whom he lived, had wanted to hire a private lawyer but couldn’t afford the expense, and so the court appointed one instead. The lawyer advised Miller to plead not guilty and take the case to trial, where he was convicted of murder and handed a 20-year sentence.

 Couch’s parents hired two prominent local defense attorneys who advised him to plead guilty and wallow in contrition before the judge. Most famously, they enlisted a psychologist to testify that Couch suffered from an obscure malady known as “affluenza,” in which wealthy parents render their children blameless by failing to discipline them. Prosecutors had asked for 20 years; the judge—the same one who sentenced Miller—set Couch free. The only catch was that the teenager would have to spend part of his probation in a California rehab facility with a half-million-dollar annual tab. The only way to bring about the ideal of equal protection under the law is to boost spending on lawyers for the poor and middle class, and to prevent the affluent from spending freely. We must, in effect, socialize the legal profession.

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AP: House Conservatives Rule Out Immigration This Year

Conservative Republicans on Wednesday ruled out any immigration legislation in the House this year, insisting that the GOP should wait until next year when the party might also control the Senate. several of the conservatives were adamant that the House should do nothing on the issue this year, a midterm election year when the GOP is angling to gain six seats in the Senate and seize majority control. Democrats currently have a 55-45 advantage but are defending more seats, including ones in Republican-leaning states.

“I think it’s a mistake for us to have an internal battle in the Republican Party this year about immigration reform,” Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, told reporters at a gathering of conservatives. “I think when we take back the Senate in 2014 one of the first things we should do next year after we do certain economic issues, I think we should address the immigration issue.” Labrador’s comments were noteworthy as he was one of eight House members working on bipartisan immigration legislation last year. He later abandoned the negotiations.

The Senate last June passed a bipartisan bill that would tighten border security, provide enforcement measures and offer a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the United States illegally. The measure has stalled in the House where Speaker John Boehner and other leaders have rejected a comprehensive approach in favor of a bill-by-bill process.

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Luke Harding: How Snowden Went From Loyal NSA Contractor To Whistleblower

At the time, the figure who most closely embodied Snowden’s rightwing views was Ron Paul, the most famous exponent of US libertarianism. Snowden supported Paul’s 2008 bid for the US presidency. He was also impressed with the Republican candidate John McCain. He wasn’t an Obama supporter as such, but he didn’t object to him, either. Once Obama became president, Snowden came to dislike him intensely. He criticised the White House’s attempts to ban assault weapons. He was unimpressed by affirmative action. Another topic made him even angrier. The Snowden of 2009 inveighed against government officials who leaked classified information to newspapers – the worst crime conceivable, in Snowden’s apoplectic view. In January of that year, the New York Times published a report on a secret Israeli plan to attack Iran. The Times said its story was based on 15 months’ worth of interviews with current and former US officials, European and Israeli officials, other experts and international nuclear inspectors.

TheTrueHOOHA’s response, published by Ars Technica, is revealing. In a long conversation with another user, he wrote the following messages: “WTF NYTIMES. Are they TRYING to start a war?” “They’re reporting classified shit” “moreover, who the fuck are the anonymous sources telling them this? those people should be shot in the balls” “that shit is classified for a reason” “it’s not because ‘oh we hope our citizens don’t find out’ its because ‘this shit won’t work if iran knows what we’re doing'” For the rest of the journey, Greenwald read the latest cache, mesmerised. Sleep was impossible: “I didn’t take my eyes off the screen for a second. The adrenaline was so extreme.” From time to time Poitras would come up from her seat in the rear and grin at Greenwald. “We would just cackle and giggle like schoolchildren. We were screaming and hugging and dancing with each other up and down,” he says. Their celebrations woke up some of their neighbours; they didn’t care. 

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NYT: Freeing Workers From The Insurance Trap

The report estimated that — thanks to an increase in insurance coverage under the act and the availability of subsidies to help pay the premiums — many workers who felt obliged to stay in a job that provided health benefits would now be able to leave those jobs or choose to work fewer hours than they otherwise would have. In other words, the report is about the choices workers can make when they are no longer tethered to an employer because of health benefits. The cumulative effect on the labor supply is the equivalent of 2.5 million fewer full-time workers by 2024. Some workers may have had a pre-existing condition and will now be able to leave work because insurers must accept all applicants without regard to health status and charge premiums unrelated to health status.

Some may have felt they needed to keep working to pay for health insurance, but now new government subsidies will help pay premiums, making it more possible for them to leave their jobs. The report clearly stated that health reform would not produce an increase in unemployment (workers unable to find jobs) or underemployment (part-time workers who would prefer to work more hours per week). It also found “no compelling evidence” that, as of now, part-time employment has increased as a result of the reform law, a frequent claim of critics.

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On This Day:

President Obama calls Senators from the Oval Office. Feb. 6, 2009. Phil Schiliro, Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs, is seated (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Snow blankets the White House south grounds during a blizzard Feb. 6, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama holds a child of a supporter after speaking at the Democratic National Committee winter meeting in Washington, D.C., Feb. 6, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama talks with, from left, Director of Speechwriting Jon Favreau, Senior Advisor David Plouffe and Speechwriting Associate Director Jonathan Lovett in the Oval Office, Sunday, Feb. 6, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama confers with Chief of Staff Denis McDonough as he talks on the phone in the Oval Office, Feb. 6, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

REI Chief Executive Officer Sally Jewell is congratulated by outgoing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar after she was nominated by President Obama to be the next Secretary of the Interior, Feb. 6, 2013

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26
Jan
14

Rise and Shine

President Obama talks on the phone with a foreign leader in the Oval Office, Jan. 26, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Sara Kliff: Don’t Look Now, But Obamacare Might Just Hit A Sign-Up Projection

Three million people have signed up for private insurance coverage through the health law marketplaces, according to Health and Human Services. Health and Human Services says that at least 800,000 people signed up for coverage through this week. So this new figure shouldn’t be seen as representing overall January enrollment–that number will likely inch up a bit, when the Obama administration releases a monthly enrollment report in February. Back in September, the Obama administration had projected 1.1 million people would sign-up in the first month of 2014–and these new figures suggest that enrollment could easily hit that number.

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Louise Radnosfky: Court Says Missouri Can’t Block Health-Law Helpers

A federal court has temporarily blocked Missouri officials from restricting organizations in the state from helping people sign up for health insurance as part of the federal health-overhaul law.

The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri granted an injunction Thursday blocking the Missouri insurance department from enforcing a state law passed last year that limited the activities of people seeking to enroll the uninsured through new insurance exchanges.

Judge Ortrie Smith granted a preliminary injunction on the grounds that the plaintiffs, St. Louis Effort for AIDS and Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, were likely to prevail in their argument that the state had improperly tried to override the federal government’s efforts to implement the health-care overhaul.

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Edward Lucas: Edward Snowden: Did The American Whistleblower Act Alone?

Spy agencies engage in espionage, an inherently disreputable trade: it involves stealing secrets. When details leak, they look shocking. But the hypocrisy of the Snowdenistas is as jarring as their naivety. Our enemies – notably Russia and China – are spying on us. So too are our allies. France runs a mighty industrial espionage service for the benefit of its big companies. Germany has an excellent signals intelligence agency, the Kommando Strategische Aufklärung. Germany’s spies were recently caught spying on their Nato ally, Estonia, using an official who was also spying for the Russians. Far from denigrating American intelligence, we should applaud it. It helps catch terrorists, gangsters and spies. Moreover, its oversight and scrutiny is the toughest in the world. America has taken the most elusive and lawless part of government and crammed it into a system of legislative and judicial control.

America is also part of the world’s only successful no-spy agreement, with its close allies – notably Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. A list of countries that would trust Germany or France not to spy on them would be rather shorter.  Instead, the great grievance of the Snowden camp is what they see as the arbitrary power of the NSA and GCHQ. Who gave these agencies the power to bug and snoop? The real answer to that is simple: the elected governments and leaders of those countries, the judges and lawmakers charged with supervising the intelligence services, and the directors of those agencies in the exercise of their lawful powers. The question deserves to be posed in the other direction. What gives the Snowdenistas and their media allies the right to leak our most closely guarded and expensive secrets?

The Snowden affair is a story of secrecy and deception – but not on the side of the intelligence agencies. Far too little attention has been paid to the political agendas of the most ardent Snowdenistas – people such as the bombastic Brazil-based blogger, Glenn Greenwald, hysterical “hacktivist” Jacob Appelbaum, and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. They cloak their extreme and muddled beliefs in the language of privacy rights, civil liberties and digital freedoms.

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Think Progress: Why Target’s Part-Time Employees Will Be Better Off Under Obamacare

Chain retailer Target announced on Wednesday that it will stop offering health insurance to employees who work less than 30 hours per week, instead sending these workers to Obamacare’s insurance marketplaces to buy new plans. Target will continue offering insurance to those who work for 30 hours or more per week, the threshold Obamacare sets for large employers with 50 or more employees. The company won’t be cutting anyone’s work week in order to save on its bottom line, will employ consultants to help workers sign up for new health plans, and will give them a one-time cash payment of $500 to help with the cost.

The sorts of plans that retailers and restaurants offer to part-time workers are nothing approaching comprehensive. By contrast, Obamacare’s marketplace plans have to offer comprehensive benefits, including for mental health services and prescription drugs, and cannot place annual or lifetime limits on coverage. A 27-year-old non-smoking Target employee named Jane makes $12 per hour and works 29 hours per week. Jane has a pre-tax annual income of about $16,704, meaning she is at about 145 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). The Kaiser Family Foundation’s (KFF) subsidy calculator shows that Jane would pay less than $52 per month for a mid-level “Silver” plan under Obamacare after getting her premium subsidy.

Since Jane makes less than 2.5 times the poverty level, she’d be eligible for even more Obamacare cost-sharing subsidies that would limit her yearly deductible and hold her maximum out-of-pocket medical expenses at $2,250 per year. An employee who made even less, like a 24-year-old non-smoker making $9 per hour, would qualify for Medicaid if he or she lived in a state that took place in Obamacare’s expansion of the program, or would have to pay just $20 per month for a Silver plan on the marketplaces.

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The Atlantic: Obamacare Is A Powerful New Crime-Fighting Tool

An astonishing two-thirds of the 730,000 men and women released from America’s lockups each year have either substance abuse problems, mental health problems, or both. Very often, those problems were largely responsible for getting them locked up in the first place. Most addicted and mentally ill prisoners receive little or no effective treatment while they’re incarcerated or after they’re turned loose, so it’s little surprise that, like Sanders, they soon wind up back in jail. But for some, that revolving door may stop spinning this year, thanks to a little-noticed side-effect of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Obamacare, it turns out, might be a crime-fighting tool.

Among many other reforms, the ACA is drastically expanding Medicaid, the federal insurance scheme for the poor. Previously, able-bodied childless adults were generally not covered by Medicaid, regardless of how impoverished they might have been. But starting this year, any American citizen under age 65 with a family income at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty line—about $25,000 for a family of three—is eligible for Medicaid (at least in the two dozen states that have so far agreed to participate in this aspect of Obamacare). Meanwhile, citizens and legal immigrants earning between 138 percent and 400 percent of the poverty line are now entitled to subsidies to help pay for private insurance. Taken together, those two provisions mean that tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of the inmates released every year are now eligible for health insurance, including coverage for mental health and substance abuse services.

Providing treatment to those former prisoners could yield enormous benefits for all of us. The average cost to incarcerate someone for a year is roughly $25,000. That means if only one percent of each year’s released inmates stay out of trouble, taxpayers will save nearly $200 million annually— “Success in implementing the Affordable Care Act has the potential to decrease crime, recidivism, and criminal justice costs, while simultaneously improving the health and safety of communities,” sums up a recent report by the federal Department of Justice.

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George Zornick: Justice Department Could Ease Regulations For Legal Weed Businesses ‘Very Soon’

Attorney General Eric Holder announced Thursday that the Obama administration will “very soon” issue some regulations that would make it easier for commercial banks to do business with legal marijuana operations—a seemingly small change, but one that could be seminal in launching legal marijuana into the mainstream. Currently, state-sanctioned marijuana outfits essentially have no access to normal venues for banking and finance. Banks worry that accepting deposits from legal marijuana operations, or giving them loans, could expose the bank to legal or regulatory action, given the patchwork set of laws that make marijuana illegal on the federal level, even if certain states have legalized it.

This is, naturally, a huge problem for commercial marijuana retailers—how can you launch and run a business without any loans? They also often have to pay bills and employees in cash, which is difficult from a logistical perspective. At the University of Virginia on Thursday, Holder cited the problem of undeposited cash and suggested changes are on the way. “You don’t want just huge amounts of cash in these places. They want to be able to use the banking system,” he said. “There’s a public safety component to this. Huge amounts of cash, substantial amounts of cash just kind of lying around with no place for it to be appropriately deposited, is something that would worry me, just from a law enforcement perspective.” Holder added that “we will be issuing some regulations I think very soon to deal with that issue.”

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Sam Polk: For The Love Of Money **(This piece is a MUST READ. 1% + Greed = Obscene)**

IN my last year on Wall Street my bonus was $3.6 million — and I was angry because it wasn’t big enough. I was 30 years old, had no children to raise, no debts to pay, no philanthropic goal in mind. I wanted more money for exactly the same reason an alcoholic needs another drink: I was addicted. After graduation, I got a job at Bank of America. At the end of my first year I was thrilled to receive a $40,000 bonus. Over the next few years I worked like a maniac and began to move up the Wall Street ladder. I became a bond and credit default swap trader, one of the more lucrative roles in the business. Just four years after I started at Bank of America, Citibank offered me a “1.75 by 2” which means $1.75 million per year for two years.

Now, working elbow to elbow with billionaires, I was a giant fireball of greed. I’d think about how my colleagues could buy Micronesia if they wanted to, or become mayor of New York City. They didn’t just have money; they had power. I wanted a billion dollars. It’s staggering to think that in the course of five years, I’d gone from being thrilled at my first bonus — $40,000 — to being disappointed when, my second year at the hedge fund, I was paid “only” $1.5 million. But in the end, it was actually my absurdly wealthy bosses who helped me see the limitations of unlimited wealth. I was in a meeting with one of them, and a few other traders, and they were talking about the new hedge-fund regulations. Most everyone on Wall Street thought they were a bad idea. “But isn’t it better for the system as a whole?” I asked. The room went quiet, and my boss shot me a withering look. I remember his saying, “I don’t have the brain capacity to think about the system as a whole. All I’m concerned with is how this affects our company.”

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From that moment on, I started to see Wall Street with new eyes. I noticed the vitriol that traders directed at the government for limiting bonuses after the crash. I heard the fury in their voices at the mention of higher taxes. These traders despised anything or anyone that threatened their bonuses. I had recently finished Taylor Branch’s three-volume series on the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement, and the image of the Freedom Riders stepping out of their bus into an infuriated mob had seared itself into my mind. I’d told myself that if I’d been alive in the ‘60s, I would have been on that bus. But I was lying to myself. There were plenty of injustices out there — rampant poverty, swelling prison populations, a sexual-assault epidemic, an obesity crisis. Not only was I not helping to fix any problems in the world, but I was profiting from them. During the market crash in 2008, I’d made a ton of money by shorting the derivatives of risky companies. As the world crumbled, I profited.

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On This Day:

Sen. Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama take the stage for his victory rally at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center January 26, 2008 after winning the South Carolina Democratic primary

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President Obama is briefed before the Swearing-in Ceremony for Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner at the U.S. Treasury Department, Jan. 26, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama is briefed prior to making phone calls to foreign leaders in the Oval Office, Jan. 26, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama and Rep. Ben Chandler (D-Ky.), call the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team from the Oval Office to thank them for raising over $1 million to help the relief efforts in Haiti through “Hoops for Haiti,” Jan. 26, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama exchanges greetings with a supporter after speaking at a UPS facility, Jan. 26, 2012, in Las Vegas

16
Jan
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama signs letters from children backstage after signing executive orders and unveiling new gun control proposals as part of the Administration’s response to the Newtown, Conn., shootings, and other tragedies, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building South Court Auditorium, Jan. 16, 2013. The children wrote the President letters in the wake of the Newtown tragedy expressing their concerns about gun violence and school safety (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Presidential Daily Schedule (All Times Eastern):

11:20 EST: President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama deliver remarks at an event on expanding college opportunity; South Court Auditorium

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AP: Obama Convenes College Leaders On Expanding Access

President Barack Obama is bringing university presidents from across the country together to exact commitments from each to expand access to higher education. The president and first lady Michelle Obama were to greet leaders from more than 100 colleges and universities, plus 40 nonprofit and other groups, in a White House auditorium Thursday. The price of admission: a promise to voluntarily take action to help more low-income students attend college.

The participating schools have agreed to take action in one of four areas: Helping low-income students connect with colleges that can meet their needs and then seeking to ensure that they graduate. Reaching out to elementary, middle and high school students in hopes that by engaging earlier, more students will be encouraged to pursue higher education. Boosting remedial programs so underprepared students will still have opportunities to succeed. Seeking to ensure lower-income students aren’t disadvantaged by lack of access to college advisers and inability to prepare for entrance exams like the SAT and ACT.

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The People’s View: Blowout Interest: 8 Million Have Applied For Coverage Under ACA

The headline numbers for the Affordable Care Act this week have been the 2.2 million Americans who have enrolled in a marketplace plan. But beneath the headlines lurks an even bigger blowout case for Obamacare: the interest is nearly literally off the charts.

By the 28th of last month 4,348,224 applications had been completed through the state and federal-run marketplaces applying for coverage for 7,716,824 individuals. Of those, 5.1 million have been deemed eligible for marketplace plans, and an additional 1.5 million for expanded Medicaid (note that Medicaid enrollees are not necessarily all enrolling through the exchanges, and additional numbers are doing so by directly applying with their states). About 1 million applicants’ status is still pending.

That only about 2.2 million of the over 5 million had chosen marketplace plans by December 28 is an indication of a surge in enrollments that likely continued past that date. That means that as we continue to receive updates and March 31 end of open-enrollment approaches, the numbers are likely to blast past even the huge spike in enrollment in December.

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Reuters: UnitedHealth says quarterly profit rose, sees 2014 growth

UnitedHealth Group Inc, the largest U.S. health insurer, on Thursday reported a higher fourth-quarter profit and the addition of 170,000 members, and said 2014 earnings would improve as well. The fourth quarter marked the beginning of sales of new individual plans created under the national healthcare reform law often called Obamacare, coverage which went into effect for the first customers on January 1. UnitedHealth has limited its participation in selling those new plans so far to three states but said in the release that “strength in sales to individuals and smaller employer groups” had contributed to adding new customers in the quarter.

Net income rose to $1.4 billion, or $1.41 per share, from $1.2 billion, or $1.20 per share, a year earlier. The insurer is the first to report its results in a group that also includes WellPoint Inc and Aetna Inc. Employer-based plans and government health programs, as well as a fast-growing health technology division, make up the bulk of UnitedHealth’s annual sales. UnitedHealth also added new members in its government plans for seniors and for the poor, for a total of 45,445,000 medical customers at the end of 2013. The company said that revenue rose to $31.12 billion, up from $28.77 billion a year earlier. Both earnings and revenue came in slightly ahead of analyst expectations

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USA Today: White House Jump Starts Health Exchanges With Celebrities

After a month of marketing the federal exchange site as “not broken anymore,” the White House has tossed the ball to Magic Johnson and Alonzo Mourning in new ads touting health insurance to begin running Thursday. Both men offered up their help for free, said Julie Bataille, communications director at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Their ads will spark a full-court press effort to get young people — in particular, young men — to sign up for health insurance before enrollment ends March 31. The ads, part of a $52 million campaign in digital, TV and radio advertising for the first quarter of 2014, will air on ESPN, ABC, TNT and NBAtv during NBA games.

Johnson and Mourning say they discovered their ailments and received treatment because they had health insurance. Johnson was diagnosed with HIV in 1991, but had no idea he was sick until after a full exam from his doctor, something he says wouldn’t have happened if he wasn’t insured. Mourning’s cousin, retired Marine Jason Cooper, donated his kidney to Mourning in 2003 after Mourning was diagnosed with a rare kidney disease. “I was at the top of my game,” Mourning says in his ad spot. “I felt invincible, but when I went for my regular team physical, it turned out I had serious kidney disease. It was caught in time to treat, and lucky for me, I was insured.”

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Ryan Cooper: Cory Booker Wants To Torpedo A Major Obama Achievement. What’s His Endgame?

American and Iranian negotiators came to an agreement Sunday on a six-month deal to put the Iranian nuclear program on hold in exchange for easing sanctions slightly, in the hopes of reaching a more permanent agreement in the interim. Meanwhile, at last count, 59 senators are supporting a bill that would impose new sanctions—among them Cory Booker, the brand-new New Jersey senator. President Barack Obama has threatened to veto it.

The bill’s supporters insist that they’re simply trying to improve the U.S. negotiating posture. On Twitter, Booker insisted that he favors a peaceful solution, adding, “I’m 4 additional sanctions if current negotiations fail 2 start or fail 2 work.”

A senior Democratic aide told Joshua Hersh and Ryan Grim, “The goal isn’t to disrupt things, it’s to make Iran even more willing to make serious concessions by making them aware of what will happen if they don’t.”

This isn’t credible….

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Hunter Walker: What Christie Did To Get A Reputation As A Political Bully Even In College

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) is no stranger to accusations of political bullying and backroom dealing like those at the heart of the bridge scandal. TPM has found one of the first times the brash political brawler faced such claims was in the mid-1980s when he was an undergrad at the University of Delaware. There, student newspaper archives show, Christie was accused of establishing a college political machine that rewarded his friends and drove his classmates out of student government. One fellow student even wrote to the paper to decry Christie’s “cronyism” and question the legitimacy of the future governor’s reign.

The accusations have have relevance anew now that the potential 2016 presidential contender is facing the biggest turmoil of his career with the uproar over the George Washington Bridge. Democrats in New Jersey have accused members of Christie’s administration of using their power to close lanes on the bridge, causing a traffic jam in the town of Fort Lee, N.J. as revenge against the mayor there.

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Bob Cesca: President Set To Announce NSA Reforms, Greenwald Insists Nothing Will Change

On Friday, President Obama will announce a slate of reforms aimed at the National Security Agency’s surveillance operations, as well as the FISA Court that oversees it. These changes are expected to be closely related to the recommendations published by the administration’s NSA review panel last month. From what we know now, the president will announce the following: 1) He’ll reform bulk collection of metadata by limiting NSA’s access to it. A source told The Washington Post that the president will say that “NSA’s bulk collection of phone data — which includes numbers dialed but not call content — is not something that the government should rely on except in limited circumstances.”

2) He’ll call for privacy measures to foreign intelligence gathering. 3) He’ll create a public civil liberties advocate on the FISA Court as a counter-point to NSA requests. But the president is wisely not planning to unilaterally turn over bulk collection to private sector corporations, as the panel had proposed. Instead, he’s going to leave this in the hands of Congress to decide. At the time, the panel’s recommendations were applauded by a practically giddy Glenn Greenwald and his supporters who believed the findings vindicated the national security leaks by Edward Snowden. But now that the president has decided to implement most of the panel’s top shelf recommendations, including (and to repeat) limiting the bulk metadata program, which is arguably the Greenwald crowd’s primary gripe, the president is evidently not changing anything. Literally nothing, says Greenwald.

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Milt Shook: The Republicanization Of The United States: Becoming A “Can Do” Nation Again

The debt is astronomical. At the time Saint Reagan took office, the total amount of debt the United States held was $900 billion. That’s for the entire 193 years since the Constitution was ratified. Again, that was 31% of the constantly increasing GDP at the time. By the time Saint Reagan and the elder Bush were done, in just 12 years, the total debt topped $6 trillion, and it represented 63% of GDP. Think about it; they have been cutting — and continue to cut — money for food inspections, money for OSHA inspections, money for the EPA, money for customs inspections, and money for pretty much anything that makes us safer, at the same time they’re giving oil companies billions of dollars in subsidies and giving the Pentagon money that even it says it doesn’t need for projects it says it doesn’t want.

At the same time, they crow about “free markets” even as everything in most of our stores is made in Asia. and they do everything they can to prevent workers from organizing into unions. Republicans have taken us from being a nation where every worker has a right to unionize to one in which “at-will employment” and “right to work” essentially gives employers the right to do anything they want. The Republicanization of the United States has to stop, and we have to stop it.

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‘Foggy morning on the South Lawn of the White House’ by Pete Souza

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David Ingram: U.S. Judge Upholds Subsidies Pivotal To Obamacare

A judge on Wednesday upheld subsidies at the heart of President Barack Obama’s healthcare overhaul, rejecting one of the main legal challenges to the policy by conservatives opposed to an expansion of the federal government. A ruling in favor of a lawsuit brought by individuals and businesses in Texas, Kansas, Missouri, Tennessee, West Virginia and Virginia would have crippled the implementation of the law by making health insurance unaffordable for many people. In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman in Washington D.C. wrote that Congress clearly intended to make the subsidies available nationwide under the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

“There is evidence throughout the statute of Congress’s desire to ensure broad access to affordable health coverage,” the judge wrote. In 2012 the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a requirement of the law, commonly called Obamacare, that most Americans buy health insurance or pay a tax penalty. The subsidies, in the form of tax credits, are available to people with annual incomes of up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, or $94,200 for a family of four. The law aims to provide health coverage to millions of uninsured or under-insured Americans by offering private insurance at federally subsidized rates through new online health insurance marketplaces in all 50 states and in Washington, D.C.

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On This Day:

President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia at a church service at Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in Washington, Jan. 16, 2011

President Obama paints a quotation attributed to civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr during a day of service in King’s honor at the Browne Education Campus school in Washington, January 16, 2012

First Lady Michelle Obama stands with her daughter Malia as President Obama delivers remarks during a day of service to honor Martin Luther King, Jr, at the Browne Education Campus school in Washington, January 16, 2012

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts for the Let Freedom Ring Celebration in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., January 16, 2012

President Obama works on his inaugural address with Jon Favreau, Director of Speechwriting, not pictured, in the Oval Office, Jan. 16, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama signs a series of executive orders on gun control surrounded by children who wrote letters to the White House about gun violence. They are, from left, Hinna Zeejah, Taejah Goode, Julia Stokes and Grant Fritz. Jan. 16, 2013

Letter-writer Grant:

Julia and Taejah’s letters:

04
Nov
13

That awkward moment for Glenn Greenwald

Chat away!

30
Aug
13

Rise and Shine

@petesouza: President Obama in the Oval Office, talking on phone to German Chancellor Merkel

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Today:

2:15 EDT: The President meets with President Toomas Hendrik Ilves of Estonia, Dalia Grybauskaitė of Lithuania, and President Andris Bērziņš of Latvia; the Vice President also attends

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CBS: Obama administration set to release Syria intel report

The administration will release on Friday a declassified version of its intelligence report on last week’s purported Syria chemical weapons attack, a senior administration official told CBS News late Thursday.

The official also said the administration would go public with its legal justification for taking military action against the Syrian regime if and when President Obama orders a strike.

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Steve Benen: The prospect of going alone in Syria

A few days ago, it was largely seen as a fait accompli – British Prime Minister David Cameron would get approval from the British Parliament for the use of force in Syria, and a coalition would move forward apace.

With these expectations in mind, last night’s developments were as stunning as they were dramatic. For the first time in generations, a British prime minister’s appeal for military authorization was rejected by members of Parliament, even after Cameron watered down the scope of his original request.

It’s safe to assume the White House, which appears eager to intervene in Syria and assumed the UK’s support was in hand, was rattled by Parliament’s decision. Indeed, it left President Obama in an unsettling global dynamic….

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Jonathan Cohn: Another Story of Obamacare Rate Shock That Isn’t

Another Obamascare article is making the rounds. This one, from National Journal, is about what people buying their own insurance will pay on the new Obamacare exchanges — and how those prices compare to what people pay when they get coverage from their employers.

“For the vast majority of Americans,” reporter Clara Ritger writes, “premium prices will be higher in the individual exchange than what they’re currently paying for employer-sponsored benefits, according to a National Journal analysis of new coverage and cost data. … Whether the quality of care in the new market is comparable to private offerings remains to be seen. But one thing is clear: The cost of care in the new market doesn’t stack up.”

…. this analysis doesn’t really tell us what the Obamacare critics think it does. In fact, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t really tell us what Ritger thinks it does….

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Jonathan Bernstein: Here comes more Obamacare misinformation

Wow. National Journal really booted one today on the Affordable Care Act …..it should be tossed in the garbage…

….. National Journal only has initial estimates of what plans in the exchanges will look like; over time, we don’t know how they’ll change. And, yes, there is surely a fair amount of uncertainty about how employers will react over time.

What we do know, however, suggests that this National Journal analysis doesn’t get it right, at all.

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Steve Benen: Eric Holder steps up, digs in, and breaks out

…. Eric Holder appears to have quietly positioned himself not only as a progressive champion, but as one of the more accomplished attorneys general in recent memory.

Think about some of the recent policies Holder has chosen to tackle: voting rights; sentencing reforms; condemnations of “Stand Your Ground” laws, and of course the drug policy announced yesterday. These are critically important law-enforcement policies, some of which have been neglected and ignored by officials in both parties for years, long in need of leadership – which Holder is now providing…..

Full post here

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FACT SHEET: New Executive Actions to Reduce Gun Violence

The Obama administration announced two new common-sense executive actions to keep the most dangerous firearms out of the wrong hands and ban almost all re-imports of military surplus firearms to private entities. These executive actions build on the 23 executive actions that the Vice President recommended as part of the comprehensive gun violence reduction plan and the President unveiled on January 16, 2013.

Even as Congress fails to act on common-sense proposals, like expanding criminal background checks and making gun trafficking a federal crime, the President and Vice President remain committed to using all the tools in their power to make progress toward reducing gun violence.

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Treasury: All Legal Same-Sex Marriages Will Be Recognized for Federal Tax Purposes

The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) today ruled that same-sex couples, legally married in jurisdictions that recognize their marriages, will be treated as married for federal tax purposes. The ruling applies regardless of whether the couple lives in a jurisdiction that recognizes same-sex marriage or a jurisdiction that does not recognize same-sex marriage.

The ruling implements federal tax aspects of the June 26th Supreme Court decision invalidating a key provision of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.

“Today’s ruling provides certainty and clear, coherent tax filing guidance for all legally married same-sex couples nationwide. It provides access to benefits, responsibilities and protections under federal tax law that all Americans deserve,” said Secretary Jacob J. Lew. “This ruling also assures legally married same-sex couples that they can move freely throughout the country knowing that their federal filing status will not change.”

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David Frum is hardly in a position to comment, but he’s right on this:

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TPM: Is This The Beginning Of The End Of The War On Drugs?

It’s America’s 40-year war. From Nixon through Nancy — “Just Say No!” — to Clinton not inhaling. From coke to crack to meth.

Throughout the War on Drugs, the drive has been for more law enforcement, stiffer sentences and less tolerance. The limitations of interdiction and incarceration are well-documented. But the push for harsher penalties rarely abated, and the emphasis remained on drugs as a criminal matter for law enforcement. Until Thursday, when the first real retreat of any kind was made official.

The Justice Department’s announcement that it would not block Colorado and Washington from implementing state laws legalizing marijuana marked a sea change.

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Seamus Heaney, the Irish Nobel Prize-winning poet, died today.

This poem, which I used in an abysmally made YouTube video back in 2008, was, I always thought, perfect for the campaign – and still is:

“History says, don’t hope
On this side of the grave,
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up
And hope and history rhyme.”

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Morning everyone.

30
Aug
13

Early Bird Chat

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Morning everyone! Thanks to Meta for the heads-up on Joshua Foust’s tweets this morning, absolutely incredible stuff. Check his timeline for more.

Back in a while with R&S.

02
Jul
13

A Toon or Two

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