Posts Tagged ‘gun control

17
Apr
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama embraces Nicole Hockley, who lost a son in the Sandy Hook shootings, after delivering a statement on the Senate’s failure to pass a measure to expanded gun background checks, April 17, 2013

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Today (all times Eastern):

11:05: President Obama welcomes the Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride to the White House

11:40: Meets with representatives from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners

1:35: Meets with insurance executives

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LA Times: Health insurance gains since last fall hit 12 million, survey shows

President Obama’s health law has led to an even greater increase in health coverage than previously estimated, according to new Gallup survey data, which suggest that about 12 million previously uninsured Americans have gained coverage since last fall.

That is millions more than Gallup found in March and suggests that as many as 4 million people signed up for some kind of insurance in the last several weeks as the first enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act drew to a close.

Just 12.9% of adults nationally lacked coverage in the first half of April, initial data from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index indicates, the lowest rate since the survey began in 2008.

More here

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Brian Beutler: The Repeal Swindle Republicans are pretending to support Obamacare’s goals, but they don’t

For years now, undeterred by an imposing level of conservative schadenfreude, a handful of us have argued that the introduction of Affordable Care Act benefits in January would flip the politics of Obamacare, and the GOP’s repeal platform would collapse.

It’s April now and that worm is turning before our eyes, both on on Capitol Hill and in states across the country.

Republicans have replaced an unabashed “full repeal!” mantra with a deluge of weasel words meant to conceal the fact that “repeal” is still the beginning and end of their health-care reform agenda. It’s still the goal—they’re just a little ashamed of it now. And that places an onus on Dems (and reporters and anyone else who believes politicians should own the consequences of their policies) to be extremely explicit about the benefits Obamacare is conferring, and what an unvarnished rendering of GOP health policy would really look like.

More here

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Steve Benen: Jobless claims inch up, but remain near 7-year low

Initial unemployment claims improved unexpectedly last week to a level unseen in seven years, and though the new figures from the Labor Department aren’t quite as good, they’re close.

The number of people who applied for unemployment-insurance benefits ticked up by 2,000 to 304,000 in the week that ended April 12, a slight increase from the lowest level since 2007…

… In terms of metrics, when jobless claims fall below the 400,000 threshold, it’s considered evidence of an improving jobs landscape, and when the number drops below 370,000, it suggests jobs are being created rather quickly. At this point, we’ve been below 340,000 in 13 of the last 15 weeks.

Full post here

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CBS: Obama warns of “consequences” for Russian actions destabilizing Ukraine

President Obama put Russian President Vladimir Putin on notice Wednesday evening, warning that further actions to destabilize the interim Ukrainian government will result in consequences from both the United States and Europe.

In an interview with CBS News White House Correspondent Major Garrett , Mr. Obama said it was “absolutely clear” that Russia had violated Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity by annexing Crimea last month, and they continue to do so by supporting “non-state militias” in southern and eastern Ukraine.

Still, the White House has not abandoned diplomatic solutions. Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Geneva Wednesday evening to prepare for four-party talks with European, Russian and Ukrainian officials.

More here – video at link

And more from the interview here

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LA Times: Putin: Russia may invade Ukraine to protect locals

Russia may invade southeast Ukraine to protect the local population, President Vladimir Putin said Thursday.

Speaking live at his annual call-in show in a Moscow television studio, Putin implied he reserves the right to move Russian troops into the neighboring country on behalf of pro-Russian residents.

“We know quite well that we must do our best to protect their rights and help them independently decide their fate and we will struggle for that,” Putin said. “I remind you that the Federation Council of Russia [the upper house of Parliament] empowered the president to use the armed forces in Ukraine.”

But Putin added that he hoped he would not have to resort to that.

Putin’s threat suggests that Russia’s armed intervention in Ukraine is a looming reality, Ukrainian political scientist Vadim Karasyov said.

More here

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LA Times: Russian economy hit by Ukraine fallout; 0% growth in 2014 possible

Russia’s economy has been hit hard by the Ukraine crisis, prompting finance officials to cut growth forecasts for this year to near zero and draining the country’s hard currency reserves as investors flee an uncertain market, Kremlin officials disclosed Wednesday.

In an address to the lower house of parliament, Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev said $63 billion had been converted from rubles to hard currencies and taken out of the country in the first quarter of this year.

If that pace of capital flight continues, Russia could easily surpass the $120 billion lost at the height of the global economic crisis six years ago.

More here

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Reuters: US Court Deportations Have Fallen Drastically Under Obama

Deportations through U.S. immigration courts have fallen 43 percent in the past five years as the federal government brought fewer cases before those courts, according to Justice Department data analyzed by the New York Times on Wednesday.

The figures come as President Barack Obama and House of Representatives Republicans clashed openly over immigration- reform legislation that remains stalled in the Republican-led House.

… Obama, who has made immigration reform a priority, has drawn fire from advocacy groups and been called “deporter in chief” for presiding over an administration that has deported some 2 million people. But his administration brought 26 percent fewer cases in immigration courts in 2013 than in 2009, the New York Times reported.

More here – (And see NDN Analysis: Total Removals, Returns of Unauthorized Immigrants Plummet Under Obama)

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And who is helping push the ‘Deporter in Chief’ smear? Ah yes, Ezra’s Vox:

Get outta here.

PS Stay classy, Ezra:

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USA Today: Biden: I’ll tell Obama first if I run in 2016

Vice President Biden says he hasn’t decided whether to seek the presidency in 2016 – and when he does he’ll tell the incumbent about it first.

“If I decide to run, believe me, this’ll be the first guy I talk to,” Biden said during a joint interview with President Obama on CBS News. “But that decision hasn’t been made for real, and there’s plenty of time.”

.”.. If I absolutely knew I wasn’t going to run – or I absolutely knew I was – there’s nothing I would do differently over the next seven, eight, ten months,” Biden said. “We have a very important job to do.”

Obama responded by praising Biden. “I’ve got somebody who I think will go down as the finest Vice Presidents in history, and he has been, as I said earlier, a great partner in everything that I do,” Obama said.

More here

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SmartyPants: Why Taibbi’s brand of linkbait works

Perhaps by now you’ve heard that Matt Taibbi went on Democracy Now to promote his latest book and gin up that old emo meme about how President Obama is worse than Bush – this time it’s about not holding Wall Street accountable for the crimes that led to the Great Recession. So he managed to get our attention and probably sold a lot more of his books….

…. In stark contrast to this approach is a long article by Jed Rakoff, United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York (someone who knows a thing or two about securities law and white collar crime). He thoroughly reviews every argument made for the lack of prosecutions (including the one made by Taibbi), discarding them all. Then he speculates about three of his own. The reason you probably haven’t heard about it is that he makes intelligent and nuanced arguments. He’s writing to educate, not inflame.

More here

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Trevor LaFauci (The People’s View): From Boston To Bundy: Mainstream Media’s Struggle To Define Modern Terrorism

This past week in Kansas, a man shot and killed a teenager and his grandfather coming out of their house of worship. Three states over in Las Vegas, Nevada, a woman attempted to attack the former American Secretary of State during her speech by throwing a shoe at her. And down the road from the footwear fiasco, a man in Clark County, Nevada and an armed renegade militia engaged in a standoff with federal land managers for misusing government land and refusing to pay taxes.

Let’s recap: A vicious murder of two unarmed people after a religious service. An attack of an American diplomat and potential 2016 presidential candidate. An armed rebellion by a rancher who threatened federal employees who were just trying to do their job. Three separate events that put Americans’ safety and security at risk. Three deranged individuals who openly took up violence against their fellow citizens. There was media coverage of these events and yet not a single mention of a word that describes the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political means. Nowhere in any mainstream media coverage did any of the networks refer to any of these events as what they were:  Terrorism.

Which brings us to an interesting question: How does the mainstream media in the year 2014 determine who is and who isn’t a terrorist?

More here

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Peter Bergen (CNN): U.S. right wing extremists more deadly than jihadists

On Sunday, a man shot and killed a 14-year-old boy and his grandfather at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City and then drove to a nearby Jewish retirement community where he shot and killed a third person. Police arrested a suspect, Frazier Glenn Cross, who shouted “Heil Hitler” after he was taken into custody.

Cross, who also goes by Frazier Glenn Miller, is a well-known right wing extremist who founded the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and the White Patriot Party, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

…. since 9/11 extremists affiliated with a variety of far-right wing ideologies, including white supremacists, anti-abortion extremists and anti-government militants, have killed more people in the United States than have extremists motivated by al Qaeda’s ideology. According to a count by the New America Foundation, right wing extremists have killed 34 people in the United States for political reasons since 9/11.

More here

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Mother Jones: Is New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez the Next Sarah Palin?

Petty. Vindictive. Weak on policy. And yet she’s being hailed as the Republican Party’s great new hope.

…. Previously unreleased audio recordings, text messages, and emails reveal a side of Martinez the public has rarely, if ever, seen.

Full post here

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The Daily Banter: Cenk Uygur Just Took $4-Million from a Conservative Source (but He’s Still a Better Liberal Than You)

One of the pitfalls of running a for-profit media company that traffics almost entirely in one specific brand of political opinion is that your funding, and where it comes from, becomes especially relevant. If you spend all day espousing what you claim are strongly liberal views, then turn around and take a giant bag of money from, say, a former Republican candidate for president and governor of Louisiana who has worked against a woman’s right to choose and in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act, people might accuse you of being a bit hypocritical.

Just a little while ago the Young Turks Network announced that it’s inked a deal to get $4-million in seed money from a group run by Buddy Roemer. With the funding comes an option that could double the take for TYT, with the whole thing being made through Roemer’s private equity fund, Roemer, Robinson, Melville & Co. Roemer himself is a pretty staunch conservative, despite having been a Democrat for many years and a late-career decision to try running for president as a member of both the Reform and Americans Elect party. In addition to his retrograde views on abortion and gay marriage, he also supported Arizona’s draconian crackdown on undocumented immigrants, is pro-torture, and is for the repeal of the ACA, saying that it amounts to government interference in healthcare. In other words, the guy is the furthest thing from a liberal.

More here

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On This Day

President Obama greets Costa Rica President Oscar Arias during a reception at the Summit of the Americas in Port of Spain, Trinidad, April 17, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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First Lady Michelle Obama smiles as she greets several members of the 911th Airlift Wing of the Air Force Reserve Command and the 171st Air Refueling Wing at their base near Pittsburgh on April 17, 2012

…. embracing one of the female members of the 911th Airlift Wing of the Air Force Reserve Command and the 171st Air Refueling Wing

President Obama looks at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship trophy as he approaches Tony Stewart’s car during an event on the South Lawn of the White House, April 17, 2012. NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers Tony Stewart, center, Kyle Busch, and Ryan Newman, right, watch nearby (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

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President Obama walks into the Rose Garden to deliver a statement on the Senate’s failure to pass a measure to expanded gun background checks, April 17, 2013

President Obama puts his arm around former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords before he speaks in the Rose Garden, April 17

Vice President Joe Biden embraces Mark Barden, father of Daniel who died at Sandy Hook

President Obama and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki applaud participants in the Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride on the South Lawn driveway at the White House, April 17, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

First Lady Michelle Obama has lunch with midshipmen in King Hall at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., April 17, 2013 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

President Obama delivers remarks during an interfaith prayer service dedicated to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings, at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston, Mass., April 18, 2013 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

14
Apr
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: First Lady Michelle Obama greets children during her visit to a school, Escuela Siete de Enero, in Mexico City, Mexico, April 14, 2010 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)

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Today (all times Eastern):

9:30 AM: The President hosts an Easter Prayer Breakfast, East Room

1:0: Jay Carney briefs the press

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The Week Ahead

Tuesday: The President and the First Lady will mark the beginning of Passover with a Seder at the White House with friends and staff.

Wednesday: President Obama and Vice President Biden will travel to Leetsdale, Pennsylvania for an event on the economy.

Thursday: The President will welcome the Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride to the White House in celebration of the eighth annual Soldier Ride.

Friday: The President will meet with the National Commander and Executive Director of the American Legion. Later, he will welcome the United States Naval Academy Football Team to the White House to present them with the 2013 Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy.

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CNN Money: Thankful for Obamacare

Many enrollees are thankful for Obamacare coverage. CNNMoney looks at some of the success stories.

Name: Kathy Bentzoni, 58

I started feeling sick in January, but I thought driving a school bus, I was picking up whatever the kids had. But when I was checking the school bus early in the morning in the cold, all my fingers would go numb.

I had signed up for health insurance early enough to get coverage for Jan. 1. I had to drop my old, useless insurance back in November because I could no longer afford the premiums. The insurer denied every claim I sent in because they said it was a pre-existing condition. That’s the wonder of Obamacare … they can’t say that anymore.

I have a Highmark Blue Shield silver plan. I pay $55 for the premium with the tax credit. I almost cried when I saw it. I thought ‘Oh my god, I can actually afford this. It’s amazing!”

On March 1, I had to go the ER. They found my hemoglobin level was 5.7, and the normal is 14. I needed a transfusion. It was due to a rare blood disorder.

Where would I be without Obamacare? ER, 3 units of blood, multiple tests in the hospital and a 5-day inpatient stay without insurance? Probably dead.

I have to thank Obamacare for saving my life.

More here

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Brian Beutler: Democrats Need to Start Blaming the GOP for the Death of Charlene Dill

How liberals should talk about the Medicaid expansion

On Wednesday, the Orlando Weekly published the explosive and infuriating story of Charlene Dill, a struggling, 32 year old mother of three who collapsed and died on a stranger’s floor late last month. According to Weekly reporter Billy Manes, Dill suffered from a treatable heart condition. She also fell into what policy experts call the Medicaid coverage gap — a hole the Supreme Court punctured in the health safety net when seven of its justices rendered the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion entirely voluntary.

Over 20 Republican state governments have ripped that hole wide open by refusing billions of federal dollars, offered on the sole condition that they be used to insure residents who earn less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level. In their states, residents who weren’t previously eligible for Medicaid, but currently earn too little to qualify for subsidies to purchase private insurance, are out of luck. Experts estimate that five million people nationwide have fallen into the gap. Nearly a million of those people reside in Florida alone — collateral damage in the GOP’s war against Obamacare. Dill was one of those people. She was selling a vacuum cleaner to earn the money she needed to buy her heart medication when she collapsed.

More here

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

Kathleen Sebelius wasn’t President Obama’s first choice to run the Department of Health and Human Services and oversee the passage and implementation of health care reform. But after Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD) dropped out, Obama tapped the two-term Kansas governor and former state insurance commissioner. Sebelius didn’t have much D.C. experience, but had an impressive track record of working across the aisle as a Democratic governor in a red state.

And while the united GOP opposition to health legislation eventually overwhelmed any goodwill Sebelius had built up within the Republican party and the rocky rollout of Obamacare has come to dominate the discussion of her tenure as secretary, that bipartisan quality proved essential to the implementation of the law. Sebelius leaves the office having enrolled some 10 million people in health care coverage. This was only possible because she convinced numerous Republican lawmakers in bright red states to extend health care coverage to the poorest Americans. No one is talking about it, but it is her biggest and most impressive achievement as secretary.

More here

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BBC: Ukraine crisis: Pro-Russian attack in Ukraine’s Horlivka

Pro-Russian activists have attacked another official building in east Ukraine, ignoring a deadline to leave or face eviction by Ukrainian forces.

A crowd stormed a police station in the town of Horlivka, near Donetsk, taking control of the building.

Ukraine’s interim president hit out at “aggression” from Russia, but signalled support for a national referendum.

Olexander Turchynov said Kiev was “not against” a vote on the future of the country, a key demand from protesters.

Mr Turchynov also said Ukraine was preparing an “anti-terrorist operation” against gunmen occupying government buildings in Sloviansk and a number of other towns and cities.

Correspondents says people in eastern Ukraine are anxiously waiting to see if Mr Turchynov carries through on his threat to use the army against the pro-Russian groups.

More here

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Bloomberg: Obama’s Shrinking Budget Deficits Silence Foreign Fiscal Critics

Six months ago, global finance officials meeting in Washington berated the U.S. for failing to put its fiscal house in order. This time, the critics were silent.

The Congressional Budget Office is projecting the 2014 deficit will be the lowest in six years and down more than 60 percent from the record $1.4 trillion in 2009. With the annual April 15 tax filing deadline looming, the U.S. has received about $80 billion more in income taxes this fiscal year than it had 12 months earlier.

The Treasury’s coffers are swelling as the almost five-year economic expansion gains momentum, generating more corporate and personal income-tax revenue and reducing spending on social services. Stronger growth, in turn, will depend less on government spending to fuel growth than it has in the past.

More here

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Steve Benen: Obama calls out ‘the real voter fraud’

It’s easy to get inured to stories about voting restrictions. The imposition of new hurdles, intended to keep more Americans from participating in their own democracy, has been ongoing for about three years, and the tactics have become so common in so much of the country, maintaining a sense of outrage is simply exhausting.

But common or not, the outrageousness hasn’t changed. The very idea that a major political party in a modern democracy has decided to give itself an electoral advantage by systemically and deliberately blocking voter access should be called what it is: a genuine national scandal.

Given this, it was heartening to see the issue get the spotlight by way of the president’s bully pulpit.

More here

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ThinkProgress: The 3 Most Sobering Graphics From The U.N.’s New Climate Report

The overall message of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s newest report is simple: a rapid shift to renewable energy is needed to avert catastrophic global warming. The science behind that message, however, is less simple.

In an attempt to make the message more clear, the IPCC’s report — produced by 1250 international experts and approved by every major government in the world — uses a number of charts to get its point across. Though the charts themselves are very complex, they provide a way to visualize increases in human-caused greenhouse gases, where those gases come from, and what they could do to our climate.

Here are three of the most sobering charts from that report, and what they tell us about the state of our warming world….

More here

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USA Today: Obama: Kansas shooting ‘horrific’

President Obama says his administration will assist in the investigation of the Kansas shooting that left three people dead at a Jewish community center and retirement complex.

“I want to offer my condolences to all the families trying to make sense of this difficult situation, and pledge the full support from the federal government as we heal and cope during this trying time,” Obama said in a statement.

The president, who called the shootings “horrific” and “heartbreaking,” said that he and first last Michelle Obama “offer our thoughts and prayers to the families and friends who lost a loved one and everyone affected by this tragedy.”

A white supremacist and former Ku Klux Klan member has been arrested and charged with the shooting.

More here

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Crooks and Liars: Minnesota Becomes Fifth State To Hike Minimum Wage In 2014

With Congress deadlocked and incapable of addressing mounting economic inequality, cities and states are doing what they can to pick up the slack.

On Friday, the Minnesota House approved raising the state minimum wage to $9.50 per hour. According to the National Employment Law Project (NELP), it’s the fifth state to hike the minimum wage this year, following  Delaware, West Virginia, Connecticut and Maryland, which just approved its hike earlier this week.

Two aspects of the Minnesota bill make it especially helpful for low-wage workers.

More here

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Courier Journal: Grimes: Raising minimum wage would help families

The shared belief that if you have the grit to work hard, there should be no ceiling to your potential, is what binds us together as Kentuckians. We are people who reward ingenuity and industry. We celebrate success, and believe in the virtue of a job well done.

But the hard truth today is that far too many families in the commonwealth are struggling to make ends meet. The promise that every Kentuckian has a chance at working their way into the middle class is fading. The rich are getting richer, while many Kentuckians live below the poverty level.

More here

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Blog Tyrant at Work:

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On This Day

President Obama and the First Lady with daughters Malia and Sasha and their new dog Bo on the South Lawn of the White House, April 14, 2009

First Lady Michelle Obama visits the Department of Homeland Security in Washington D.C, April 14, 2009 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)

President Obama meets with Jon Favreau Director of Speechwriting in the Oval Office to review a speech April 14, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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First Lady Michelle Obama gives an address to students at Universidad Iberoamericana, April 14, 2010

President Obama hugs country music artist Garth Brooks in a West Wing hallway at the White House, April 14, 2010. The President was presented with the 2007 Grammy Award for best spoken word album for his book “The Audacity of Hope” (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama meets with senior advisors in the Oval Office, April 14, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama meets with bipartisan leaders of the House and Senate, including from left, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., House Republican Leader John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to discuss Wall Street reform, in the Cabinet Room of the White House, April 14, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama walks through the Rose Garden of the White House with National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, April 14, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama gives gifts to Make-a-Wish child Kai Dunbar, third from left, and her family, during their visit to the Oval Office, April 14, 2011. Pictured, from left, are: Kai’s mother, Kimberly Dunbar; father, Kem Dunbar; sister, Kacie Dunbar; and brother, Kem Dunbar II (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama puts on a Chicago Bulls hat and waves to the crowd after delivering remarks at a 2012 campaign event at Navy Pier in Chicago on April 14, 2011

President Obama delivers remarks at a 2012 campaign event at Navy Pier in Chicago on April 14, 2011

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President Obama meets with President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina during the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, April 14, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama at the CEO Summit of the Americas, in Cartagena, Colombia, April 14, 2012

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MoooOOOooorning!

19
Mar
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: Senator Barack Obama at the 36th Annual NAACP Image Awards in Los Angeles, March 19, 2005

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Today (all times Eastern):

1:0: Jay Carney briefs the press

2:25: President Obama hosts a screening of the film Cesar Chavez at the White House

3:05: The President will participate in the latest installment of “Live from the White House” by conducting a round of interviews with local television anchors from New England, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Dallas, Phoenix, and San Diego to make the case for raising the minimum wage and giving hardworking Americans the raise they deserve. While in Washington, the local anchors will spend the day with behind-the-scenes access to the White House and the President’s top advisers. These interviews are embargoed until 5:00PM EDT

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CBS Philly: Organizers Urging Philadelphians To Beat Obamacare Signup Deadline

Federal officials have announced that more than five million people have now enrolled in a health insurance plan through the Affordable Care Act web site, healthcare.gov.

Philadelphia has one of the highest rates of signup, but advocates are not resting until the March 31st deadline passes.

Today, a signup rally in Love Park (JFK Plaza) featured elected officials and the newly insured, who testified to the “affordable” part of the Affordable Care Act.

“My rate for my health care, per month, is 27 cents,” said Susan O’Connell, who said she had been paying almost $600 a month for a “Cobra” plan after losing her job.  So, she noted, it was a significant savings for a plan that all her doctors accept and has lower co-pays.

More here

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The People’s View: The Obamacare Coalition: Why the Affordable Care Act is a Huge Asset for Democrats

As we sprint to the finish to the March 31 open-enrollment period deadline in the health insurance marketplaces set up by the Affordable Care Act, national pundits are increasingly making the case that Obamacare is going to be a political liability for Democrats in November. As evidence, they point to the loss of Alex Sink in a Congressional special election in Florida, pronouncing that it was the ACA that sank Sink’s ship.

Actual data, of course, points in the exact opposite direction, suggesting that the traction Sink got in a heavily Republican district in a low-turnout election was in part due to her opposition to Obamacare’s repeal. If Obamacare is responsible for the results, then a more accurate reading would be that Obamacare closed an 11-point GOP registration gap to a 2-point voting gap on election day. That’s the miracle here, and of course, the corpse of a national media isn’t talking about it.

More here

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Good grief:

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EclectaBlog: Could you get health insurance for $56/month? This Michigan man did

He’s one of the 17 million Americans eligible for financial assistance to make coverage more affordable. Find out if you are, too — before the March 31 deadline.

Michael Paul Goldenberg has lived without health insurance since 2009 — almost as long as he’s had type 2 diabetes. The Ann Arbor, Mich.-based part-time math teacher and consultant lost his insurance when he lost his previous job, and the $500 a month to continue his coverage was unaffordable over the long term.

When some additional health concerns came up a few months ago, Goldenberg decided it was time to look into what the Affordable Care Act (ACA) could do for him…..

More here

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Steve Benen: Boehner’s casual indifference to healthcare facts

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) held a press conference late last week and said, practically as an afterthought, that there are “less people today with health insurance than there were before this law went into effect.” That didn’t make any sense, so a reporter followed up.

REPORTER: Mr. Speaker, you said a minute ago there are fewer people today with health insurance then when the law was passed. I want to make sure I understand. You’re saying that “Obamacare” has resulted in a net loss of insurance?

BOEHNER: I believe that to be the case. When you look at the 6 million Americans who have lost their policies and some – they claim 4.2 million people who have signed up – I don’t know how many have actually paid for it – that would indicate to me a net loss of people with health insurance.

The problem, of course, is that none of this is even remotely true….

More here

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ThinkProgress: Parts Of The GOP’s Obamacare Alternative Just Rip Off Obamacare

House Republicans are planning to unveil a unified alternative to the Affordable Care Act this spring, the Washington Post reported on Monday. Though details of the plan remain sketchy, the measure is “hardly intended as a full replacement of the federal health-care law” and will focus on filling gaps in the health care system.

According to the Post, lawmakers will endorse “ability to buy insurance across state lines, guaranteed renewability of policies and changes to medical-malpractice regulations.” Once Obama’s health care reform law is repealed, insurers will be able to discriminate against individuals with pre-existing conditions, though the GOP-backed proposal will offer sicker individuals coverage through “high-risk insurance pools” managed and subsidized by the states.” The alternative will also promote health savings accounts, allow small businesses “to purchase coverage together” and permit young people to stay on their parents’ health care plan until age 26.

If that last plank sounds a whole lot like the Affordable Care Act, that’s because it is. Of the seven provisions outlined by the Post, five — save health savings accounts and malpractice reform — are already included in the law in one way or another.

More here

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Jonathan Cohn: Another Rich Guy Says Populists Are Like Nazis

Remember the story about the rich guy comparing left-wing populism to Nazism? It’s happening again, only this time it’s a different rich guy.

It’s Ken Langone, co-founder of Home Depot and financier of the Republican Party. Politico’s Ben White and Maggie Haberman caught up with him, while reporting an article about how the very wealthy see the political landscape—and whether they are worried, as they were before, that liberal arguments about inequality and redistribution were resonating with the public.

“I hope it’s not working,” Ken Langone, the billionaire co-founder of Home Depot and major GOP donor, said of populist political appeals. “Because if you go back to 1933, with different words, this is what Hitler was saying in Germany. You don’t survive as a society if you encourage and thrive on envy or jealousy.”

…. An easy and perfectly appropriate response would be to focus on the absurdity of these Nazi comparisons — starting with the fact that, you know, raising taxes on the wealthy isn’t exactly like genocide.

More here

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A rare Politico link, but this fella’s usually worth it:

Roger Simon: (Politico): Mess with bull, get horns

…. And you thought the big three issues for Obama were jobs, jobs, jobs. How wrong you are. Why should Obama worry about Detroit, when he should really be worrying about Donetsk?

…. Past U.S. presidents knew how to use power. There is but one nation in the history of the world that has used nuclear weapons against another nation: USA! USA! USA!

Obama should stop going around in that silly windbreaker with the presidential seal on the front. Instead, the front of his jacket should have a mushroom cloud and the words: “You mess with the bull and you get the horns.”

But he won’t do that. He worries about things like a thermonuclear exchange and how it would end all mankind.

Wuss.

More here

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Paul Waldman: Vivek Murthy, the NRA and the politics of fear

The National Rifle Administration knows the power of fear. After all, its entire business model is based on it. When the organization’s chief executive, Wayne LaPierre, goes before an audience and proclaims, “We know, in the world that surrounds us, there are terrorists and home invaders and drug cartels and car-jackers and knock-out gamers and rapers, haters, campus killers, airport killers, shopping mall killers, road-rage killers, and killers who scheme to destroy our country with massive storms of violence against our power grids, or vicious waves of chemicals or disease that could collapse the society that sustains us all,” he’s not trying to give a reasoned assessment of contemporary challenges. (In the real world, crime has been steadily declining for two decades.) LaPierre is trying to make his audience as afraid as possible, because fear is great for his business.

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USA Today: Obama’s Final Four: Fla., Ariz., L’ville, Mich. St.

President Obama has picked his Final Four in the 2014 men’s college basketball tournament: Florida, Louisville, Arizona, and Michigan State.

ESPN, which interviewed Obama about the tournament on Tuesday, will reveal the president’s pick for the title later today.

It’s the sixth straight year that the president has participated in what ESPN calls “Barack-etology.”

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On This Day:

President Obama practices his golf swing at an outdoor hold prior to an event at the Miguel Contreras Learning Center in Los Angeles, Calif., March 19, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama talks with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and L.A. Mayor Antonio Ramon Villaraigosa prior to an event at the Miguel Contreras Learning Center in Los Angeles, Calif., March 19, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama gestures while speaking at the Miguel Contreras Learning Center in Los Angeles, Calif., March 19, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama shares a moment with Jay Leno off set of the Tonight Show at NBC Studios, Burbank, Calif., March 19, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama talks to a Member of Congress while en route to George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., to deliver remarks on health insurance reform, March 19, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama speaks on health insurance reform at George Mason University’s Patriot Center in Fairfax, Virginia on March 19, 2010

President Obama calls a Member of Congress to discuss health care reform in the Oval Office, March 19, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama calls a Member of Congress about health care reform from the Oval Office, March 19, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Arriving at Brasilia Air Base, Brazil, March 19, 2011

President Obama walks with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff following the arrival of First Lady Michelle Obama, and daughters Sasha and Malia, at the Palacio do Alvorada in Brasilia, Brazil, March 19, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama talks on the phone with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the Oval Office, March 19, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

First Lady Michelle Obama is interviewed during a taping of the “Late Show with David Letterman” at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York, N.Y., March 19, 2012 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

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President Obama speaks during a meeting with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny in the Oval Office of the White House, March 19, 2013

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MoooOOOooorning!

06
Mar
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama signs the prosthetic arm of Sgt. Carlos Evans, USMC, after greeting wounded warriors in the East Room during their tour of the White House, March 6, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern):

11:0 The First Lady hosts a workshop for students – “I’m Every Woman: The History of Women in Soul”

11:35: President Obama participates in a town hall, Newseum, Washington

7:0: Hosts “In Performance at the White House: Women of Soul”

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Elijah Wolfson: How Obamacare May Lower The Prison Population More Than Any Reform In A Generation

While many have focused on the individual mandate, and the online (and glitchy) insurance exchanges, one of the most potentially impactful elements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) has flown more or less under the radar. It may be the biggest piece of prison reform the U.S. will see in this generation. In 1980, the number of Americans incarcerated for drug-related offenses was around 41,000. Then, in 1982, the country’s “War on Drugs” officially commenced, and by 2011, that number had shot up to 500,000. In conjunction with funding the front on drug users, President Ronald Reagan defunded federal mental health programs, dropping total mental health spending by over 30 percent. As a result, many of the nation’s mentally ill lost what was essentially their home and place of work, and many ended up on the street.

Today, a good portion of those make their beds in prisons and jails. The last major study on mental health in prisons, conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, found that 64 percent of inmates in state and federal prisons met the criteria for mental illness at the time of their booking or during the twelve months leading up to their arrest. Many hope and believe that change is on its way. The Justice Department estimates suggest that with the expansion of Medicaid, 5.4 million ex-offenders currently on parole or probation could get the health care they need. (It’s important to note that 25 states plus Washington, D.C. have implemented the Medicaid expansion as of 2014. However, many policy experts expect the remaining states to fall in line, citing the historical example of how CHIP was initially rejected by many states when it rolled out in 1997, but is now utilized in every state in the country.)

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Carol E. Lee: Obama To Donors: Don’t Let Democrats Get ‘Walloped’

President Barack Obama pleaded with Democratic donors not sit on the sidelines in the midterm elections, warning them the party could get “walloped” if their voters don’t turn out this November. Mr. Obama indicated at a fundraiser Wednesday that he’s concerned Democrats could suffer losses this fall because they are already so focused on the 2016 presidential campaign. No one will work harder than he will to make sure a Democrat succeeds him in office, he said, because he wants to “consolidate and solidify” the gains he’s made over two terms. But right now, he said, the party needs to focus on 2014.

“I’m going to need you,” Mr. Obama told about 70 donors at a dinner held at the Artists for Humanity EpiCenter. “The progress we’ve made is on the ballot.” Mr. Obama said Democrats will stand for policies designed to boost the middle class. He pointed to polls showing broad support among Americans for his proposed increase in the federal minimum wage as evidence of what he described as a political system in Washington that’s not reflecting the views of the country. “This counts,” the president said, imploring the well-heeled crowd to “step up.”

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Catherine Thompson: Pope Signals Church Could Support Civil Unions In Some Cases

Pope Francis signaled that the Catholic Church could support some civil unions, particularly in order to guarantee property rights or medical care for nonmarried couples. The pontiff made the comment in a wide-ranging interview with Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera published Wednesday. While the pope’s remark opens the door to support for same-sex civil unions, he did not endorse them outright. The Catholic News Service noted “until now, no pope has indicated even tentative acceptance of civil unions.”

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Isaac Chotiner: Meet Vladmir Putin’s American Apologist

Given that I don’t watch much Russian state television, I naively assumed it would be possible (and even desirable) to go through an entire day without hearing a solid defense of Vladimir Putin’s warmongering. But when confronted with the figure of NYU Professor Stephen F. Cohen, this becomes impossible. In a piece for The Nationand an appearance on Fareed Zakaria’s CNN show, Cohen gave his best defense of Putin’s Ukraine policy, and inadvertantly showed why making excuses for an autocratic regime makes the apologist look worst of all.

Cohen’s discussion with Fareed Zakaria was brief but telling. After first denying that Putin was a “rank dictator” and saying that he is not “a thug” or “anti-American” (would Putin even deny this last bit anymore?), Cohen got to the main point of his argument: Notice that Cohen initially argues that some sort of control over Ukraine is a requirement of Russian greatness. And then, after explaining this, he says the whole crisis was “imposed” on Putin! This is apologetics done well: first you explain why bad behavior is actually sensisble, and then you say that the bad behavior wasn’t really under the control of the bad actor.

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Greg Sargent: Culture War Paranoia Lives On As Dems Sink An Obama Nominee

In a setback for President Obama, the Senate today sank his nomination to head the Justice Department’s civil rights division, at a time when the war over voting is increasingly central to our politics, after seven Senate Dems joined Republicans to vote No. They were apparently spooked by Republican attacks on Debo Adegbile for his role in representing Mumia Abu-Jamal, whose case became an international story after he was convicted of killing a cop in Philadelphia in 1981. The New York Times adds: “As the head of the N.A.A.C.P. legal fund, Mr. Adegbile was not directly involved in Mr. Abu-Jamal’s defense, and the group stepped into the case 25 years after the murder.” Dems who supported Adegbile argued he should not be blamed for the conduct of the man he represented, and that so doing undercuts the foundations of the legal system.

One possible explanation for what happened: Culture war paranoia is alive and well among Democrats. At a time when Dems are increasingly emboldened to take stands on gay rights, gun control, immigration and even abortion that once would have given them far more trepidation, echoes of a battle that feels culturally and politically out of a bygone era were enough to sink a nominee that would have been central to the battle over voting access, which is increasingly important to Dems and their core constituencies in the present. This, even though the once-feared label “soft on crime” seemed to have lost much of its potency against Dems long, long ago.

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National Journal: Americans Cared More About Obamacare Than The Olympics

Nearly six in 10 Americans (58 percent) reported following the health law’s implementation “very” or “fairly” closely in February, according to a new poll, while only 47 percent said they followed the Winter Olympics coverage as intently. Among the most popular health care stories was the decision by CVS to stop selling tobacco products in its stores, as well as news that some employers would have an extra year to comply with the Affordable Care Act’s requirement to provide workers with coverage. More Americans–nearly 70 percent–also paid more attention to the U.S. economy than the Olympics.

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Imani Gandy: Black Women Are An Electoral Voting Force. Recognize

The 2014 midterm elections are fast approaching, and Planned Parenthood Action Fund has just rolled out its campaign to help educate voters about candidates’ positions on women’s health. “We know that women’s health is a winning issue and that no candidate will be able to win without a plurality of women,” the group’s president, Cecile Richards, said in a statement announcing the launch of the effort, dubbed the “Women are Watching” campaign, which is expected to spend more than $18 million in at least 14 states. A week later, the most prominent and well-funded reproductive rights advocacy organization in the nation has demonstrated that it will be relying on the same old campaign formulas designed to educate “key voters” about candidates’ position on abortion and birth control. The problem with this approach is that it is blind to the fact that most women in this country are concerned about more than just birth control and abortion. It’s that broader group of women—Black and Latina women, specifically—who will be delivering electoral victories for Democrats, which, essentially, also means we will be delivering reproductive rights victories in 2014, just as they have in elections dating back to 1980.

Consider the recent election of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. In each of those races, Black women propelled the candidates to victory. Left in the hands of white women, Republican candidate Ken Cucinelli, who would have been a disaster for reproductive rights, would be in the Virginia governor’s mansion right now. Let’s also not forget that if it wasn’t for Black women, we would be face-palming our way through a Mitt Romney presidency right now.  For example, one of the most important issues facing Black women in the 2014 election cycle—as in the 2012 election cycle—is voter suppression. Republican voter suppression efforts target us because they know that we make up the “gender gap” that has, since 1980, helped Democrats win in election after election. Considering that the upcoming midterm elections will be the first major election since theSupreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in Shelby v. Holder, and considering the intensity with which lawmakers in states like Texas, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Georgia have pushed barriers to voting, it seems to me that reproductive rights organizations must place voter suppression at the top of their priorities list.

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Josh Marshall: Obama’s Critics Should Put Up Or Shut Up

Do you remember when President Bush’s political adversaries starting ragging on him during the first days after 9/11? Or during the first days of the invasion of Iraq? Me neither. Whatever you think of the holder of the presidential office, if you are actually concerned about the nation’s welfare you don’t go on TV mocking him and saying he’s weak. The President’s critics talk about “resolve” and “leadership” and “toughness” because there are not any actual actions they can point to that they think he should do but isn’t. These phrases are plastic, can mean anything and can be puffed up with all manner of wish-projection and foreign policy fantasy untethered to any concrete and specifics actions.

It recalls the glory days of #RomneyStrength. It’s really that clear. Vague and ambiguous phrases are used to conceal this. What President Obama could do is give Putin an ultimatum to leave Crimea or be forcibly expelled. Then we’d have a real test of strength and Putin would see deep potential costs to his actions. But even the President’s toughest critics recognize this would be insane. It’s really not a good idea to get into a land war with the world’s other major nuclear power on their own terrain. (And whatever we think of the relationship between Russia and Ukraine now they were part of a single country for centuries and in terms of experience, tactics and knowledge it’s home ground for the Russian Army.)

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Jesse Wegman: The Senate’s Hierarchy Of Victimhood

Debo Adegbile did his job, and for that he was deemed unfit by the Senate to become the head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. His misstep, specifically, was helping represent a death-row inmate while he was director of litigation at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. With this excuse in hand, Senate Republicans and seven cowardly Democrats, three of whom are up for re-election in November, managed to shut down Mr. Adegbile’s nomination. The final, shameful vote was effectively 51-48 (Senator Harry Reid supported Mr. Adegbile but voted no for procedural reasons). But wait: didn’t the Senate vote to confirm John Roberts to the Supreme Court, even after learning that he, too, had assisted in the defense of a death-row inmate? That man, John Errol Ferguson, killed eight people. (Despite the help of one of the nation’s top lawyers, Ferguson was executed in Florida last year.)

So why does John Roberts get a pass but not Debo Adegbile? Because Mr. Adegbile represented Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted and sentenced to death in 1982 for killing a Philadelphia police officer named Daniel Faulkner. For three decades the case has reverberated across the region, which now apparently includes the constituency of Delaware Senator Chris Coons, the last and least expected Democratic vote against the nomination. Some have called Mr. Adegbile a “cop-killer advocate.” Another word for that might be “lawyer.” In representing people like John Ferguson and Mumia Abu-Jamal, Chief Justice Roberts and Mr. Adegbile were doing what lawyers everywhere are trained to do. Particularly in death-penalty cases, it is critical to ensure that a defendant has adequate representation and that his trial, conviction and sentence do not violate the Constitution.

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Sulia: Russia Today Anchor Resigns Live On Air Over ‘Whitewashing’ Of Putin’s Actions Against Crimea

RT news called it a ‘self promotional’ stunt, but I call it brave:  “Russia Today America anchor Liz Wahl resigned Wednesday live on air, saying she could no longer work at the Kremlin-funded network after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Wahl said she feels “many ethical and moral challenges” especially since her grandparents fled Hungary during the Soviet era, “ironically to escape the Soviet Union.”

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EJ Dionne: Blaming Obama First

…. Moreover, Republicans were utterly unrestrained in casting opposition to Bush’s policies as disloyalty to the nation. When Nancy Pelosi accused Bush in 2004 of being “incompetent,” Tom DeLay, then the House majority leader, denounced the top House Democrat for being “so caught up in the partisan hatred for President Bush that her words are putting American lives at risk.”

…. There’s also this. A remarkably broad cross-party consensus has quickly coalesced around two propositions: (1) we will not commit American military forces in this crisis, but (2) we should use every realistic form of pressure at our disposal to contain and then reverse Putin’s assault on Ukraine’s sovereignty. Must we pretend to disagree even when we agree?

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Persona Non Grata: The First Victim

It is often said, “In war, the first victim is truth.” It applies just as much today and perhaps even more so given the many means technology now provides us to seek and find information. The information is then problematic because it is increasingly difficult to sort truth from lies, distortion from disinformation, half-truths from wholly fabricated falsehoods. Perhaps no better example of this is the recently leaked audio recording of a conversation between Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet and Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy for the European Union.

The recording is being claimed as proof that Kyiv’s new “Euromaidan” government itself hired the snipers who killed dozens in Ukraine in February. If true, this would be a world-shaking revelation. But is it? What does the audio recording reveal to us, actually? Here are some observations: 1. Even diplomatic meetings are today subject to unauthorized interception & retransmission. This not only threatens the freedom of diplomats to freely exchange views and information, it also makes it easy for third parties to use the released information and present it out of context.

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John Harper: Afghanistan Veteran William Kyle Carpenter To Receive Medal Of Honor

President Barack Obama will award medically retired Marine Lance Cpl. William Kyle Carpenter the Medal of Honor later this year in recognition of Carpenter’s heroic actions during a November 2010 grenade attack in Afghanistan. Carpenter, 24, would be the 10th U.S. servicemember — and the second Marine — to receive the Medal of Honor from the war in Afghanistan. Carpenter was nominated for the nation’s highest award for valor following reports that he covered a grenade to save the life of his friend,

Lance Cpl. Nicholas Eufrazio, during an insurgent attack in the Marjah district of Helmand province as the two Marines were standing guard on a rooftop on Nov. 21, 2010. Carpenter and Eufrazio survived the blast, but suffered severe wounds. Carpenter lost an eye and most of his teeth and shattered his jaw; his arm was also broken in several places. Damage from shrapnel to the frontal lobe of Eufrazio’s brain left him unable to speak for two years.

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TPM: 41 GOP Senators Try To Filibuster Judge, Then Confirm Him Unanimously

Forty-one Republican senators voted Wednesday to filibuster Pedro A. Delgado Hernandez of Puerto Rico, a nominee to be a U.S. district court judge. Their attempt failed because under new rules established by Democrats, “cloture” on most presidential nominees requires a simple majority, rather than 60 votes. So the nominee moved forward, 57-41. Then the Senate proceeded to a final vote on the nomination, which passed 98-0, capturing the Republican senators who had just attempted to filibuster Delgado.

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Caitlin MacNeal: 5 Year-Old Boy Accidentally Shoots And Kills Himself In California

A 5-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed himself with a gun he found inside his Riverside County, Calif. home on Tuesday, police told NBC Los Angeles. A neighbor called 911 to report the incident, and police pronounced the boy dead when they arrived at the scene, according to NBC.

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Washington Post: U.S., Allies Slowly Put Squeeze On Russia

The United States and its European allies incrementally tightened the noose of their disapproval around Russia on Wednesday, agreeing to send more money to Ukraine, dispatching international observers and more U.S. aircraft to the region, and edging closer to direct sanctions against Moscow. With little movement reported on the ground in Crimea, the autonomous Ukrainian region where Russian troops have taken control, attention focused on a chaotic day of diplomatic meetings in Europe. Secretary of State John F. Kerry held his first direct meeting with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, since street protests in the Ukrainian capital turned deadly last month and led to the ouster of Kiev’s pro-Russia government. No progress was reported after the session, held at the home of Russia’s ambassador to France, but Kerry and Lavrov agreed to keep talking.

No similar quips emerged from a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council in Brussels. A NATO diplomat, describing the session as “tense,” said alliance members one by one confronted Alexander V. Grushko, Russia’s representative to NATO, with charges that Moscow was violating international law in Crimea and concocting threats against ethnic Russians there to justify its actions. “It was quite an uncomfortable meeting,” said the diplomat, speaking on the condition of anonymity about the closed-door session. When it was over, NATO announced that it was suspending collaboration with Russian armed forces on several fronts, including planning for Russia to provide a maritime escort for the U.S. ship that is to destroy Syrian chemical weapons at sea in the spring. E.U. representatives gave preliminary approval to a $15 billion aid package of loans and grants to Ukraine over the next several years, on top of a U.S. announcement Tuesday of $1 billion in energy loan guarantees.

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Reuters: Iran Cutting Sensitive Nuclear Stocks, Much Work Remains: IAEA

Iran is reducing its most proliferation-prone nuclear stockpile as required by its landmark deal with world powers but much work remains to be done to resolve all concerns about Tehran’s activities, the U.N. atomic watchdog chief said. Among measures Iran is taking since the interim agreement took effect on January 20 is the dilution of its stock of higher-enriched uranium to a fissile concentration less suitable for any attempt to fuel an atomic bomb. Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), indicated that Iran had made sufficient progress in this regard to receive a scheduled March 1 installment of $450 million out of a total of $4.2 billion in previously blocked overseas funds. The IAEA has a pivotal role in checking that Iran is living up to its part of the six-month accord in curbing its disputed nuclear program in exchange for some easing of sanctions that have impaired its oil-dependent economy.

“As of today, measures agreed under the Joint Plan of Action are being implemented as planned,” Amano said, referring to the November 24 agreement struck in Geneva between Iran and the United States, Germany, France, Russia, China and Britain. These included “the dilution of a proportion of Iran’s inventory” of 20 percent uranium gas to a lower enrichment level, which “has reached the halfway mark”, he told the IAEA’s 35-nation board, according to a copy of his speech. Under the accord, Iran suspended enrichment of uranium to 20 percent fissile concentration – a relatively short technical step away from the level required for nuclear bombs – and is taking action to neutralize its holding of the material. In return, Iran is gradually winning access to $4.2 billion of its oil revenues frozen abroad and some other sanctions relief. The funds will be paid out in eight transfers on a schedule that started with a $550 million payment by Japan on February 1. Last month, banking sources said South Korea was set to make two payments in March totaling $1 billion.

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LA Times: Weekly Jobless Claims Drop Sharply To 323,000 As Layoffs Ease

Initial jobless claims fell sharply last week to their lowest level in three months, the Labor Department said Thursday, as a private report showed layoffs eased in February. About 323,000 people filed for first-time unemployment benefits in the week ending Saturday, down from 349,000, the previous week, the Labor Department said. The falloff was steeper than that expected by analysts, who had forecast 338,000 first-time claims. Last week’s figure was the lowest since the end of November.

Weekly jobless claims below 350,000 indicate moderate labor market growth. The four-week moving average dropped by 2,000 last week, to 336,500. Planned layoffs last month were down 24% from a year ago and marked the lowest February total since 2000, Challenger said. Announced job cuts in the first two months of the year were 9.2% less than for the same period in 2013. Banks and other financial firms had the most announced job cuts in February, with 9,791, about double the amount in January.

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Trevor LaFauci: Deafening Silence: Why Conservatives Fear Obama’s Foreign Policy

What’s ironic about the Republican arguments against President Obama’s current course of action is the fact that they clearly aren’t based in reality and only serve to further embarrass the party.  For a political party that used to pride itself on foreign policy victories, today’s Republican Party has officially become paranoid after a string of victories by the Obama administration.  The problem focuses on the fact that diplomacy is now seen as a viable solution to solving major international conflicts.  This undermines the entire Republican foreign policy of flexing our military muscle first and asking questions later.

It also hurts the Republican Party where it matters most:  its wallet.  You see, if there are no boots on the ground or no planes overhead then our friends at Boeing and Haliburton can’t make a few million bucks producing products with that profit then trickling down to their shareholders who just happen to be Republican government officials.  If American diplomacy not only is implemented, but also works, then maybe, just maybe, people might begin to suggest that this tactic always be used first when an international incident occurs.  If that happens, if we actually have dialogue between major world leaders, if we actually have economic pressures and sanctions placed against countries that violate law, if we freeze a nation’s assets, then this could lead to a world where American diplomacy, rather than American destroyers, ends up solving international conflicts. And that, for Republicans, is a very scary world.

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Two Years Ago Today:

President Obama on GOP hawks lusting after war with Iran:

“…. those folks don’t have a lot of responsibilities. They’re not Commander-in-Chief. And when I see the casualness with which some of these folks talk about war, I’m reminded of the costs involved in war. I’m reminded that the decision that I have to make in terms of sending our young men and women into battle, and the impacts that has on their lives, the impact it has on our national security, the impact it has on our economy.

This is not a game. There’s nothing casual about it. And when I see some of these folks who have a lot of bluster and a lot of big talk, but when you actually ask them specifically what they would do, it turns out they repeat the things that we’ve been doing over the last three years, it indicates to me that that’s more about politics than actually trying to solve a difficult problem.

Now, the one thing that we have not done is we haven’t launched a war. If some of these folks think that it’s time to launch a war, they should say so. And they should explain to the American people exactly why they would do that and what the consequences would be.  Everything else is just talk.”

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On This Day:

President Obama shoots hoops on the White House South Lawn basketball court, March 6, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama walks towards the White House with friend Eric Whitaker, right and Personal Assistant Reggie Love after shooting hoops at the South Lawn basketball court, March 6, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama arrives at Port Columbus International Airport. Columbus, Ohio with Sen. Sherrod Brown, Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy, and Secret Service, March 6, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama ride in the presidential limousine on the way to attending a parent teacher meeting, March 6, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama shoots baskets on the White House basketball court with Justin Friedlander and his family, July 6, 2010. Friedlander, who was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor in March, 2009, has launched an initiative called “Justin’s Quest,” in which he will shoot 63,000 basketball shots, one for every person diagnosed with a primary brain tumor each year in the United States (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama at a news conference in the White House press briefing room, March 6, 2012

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First Lady Michelle Obama drops by a Partnership for a Healthier America board meeting in the Map Room of the White House, March 6, 2013 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Gabrielle Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly visit the site of a shooting in Tucson, Ariz., that left her critically wounded, March 6, 2013

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27
Feb
14

“My Brother’s Keeper”

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Youth Guidance: President Obama Invites BAM Program Back To The White House

President Obama has invited Youth Guidance’s Becoming a Man (B.A.M.) program back to Washington D.C. to kick off a new White House initiative called “My Brother’s Keeper.” Three B.A.M. students from Hyde Park High School, along with B.A.M. Lead Supervisor, Marshaun Bacon, and Youth Guidance Board Member, Stuart Taylor, will visit the White House Thursday and Friday. The President’s initiative will support young male minorities by bringing foundations and companies together to find ways to keep young men in school and out of the criminal justice system.

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USA Today: Obama Plans Program To Aid Minority Men

As part of the new effort, businesses and foundations would seek to develop strategies designed to help young men at critical and vulnerable parts of their lives. Goals range from helping boys get to school on time to avoiding problems with the criminal justice system. Ideas include promoting literacy, early childhood education and healthy lifestyles, as well as disrupting what one official called “the school-to-prison pipeline.” “My Brother’s Keeper” also involves a review of existing federal programs designed to address the challenges facing young men, discarding those that don’t work and improving those that do — “all within existing federal resources,” one official said. One official said the goal of “My Brother’s Keeper” is “to make sure that every young man of color who is willing to work hard and lift himself up has an opportunity to get ahead and reach his full potential.”

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Yahoo: Obama Embraces A Lifelong Cause: Helping Minority Boys Succeed

“I never signed a Father’s Day card before,” the young man explained as the president opened the card. “I’ve never signed a Father’s Day card, either,” Obama replied, according to an aide, improbably closing the distance between the Chicago teens and the American president. It was an intimate, private moment that moved him. On Thursday afternoon, Obama will be addressing the same set of issues in a far more public way. Three of the BAM teens will return to the White House for Obama’s unveiling of a new initiative partly inspired by the Chicago program. As part of “My Brother’s Keeper,” as the new campaign is known, the White House will bring together nonprofits, foundations and private businesses to endorse and test out programs designed to help young minority men graduate from high school, stay out of juvenile detention centers and prisons, and train for and get good jobs.

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Continue reading ‘“My Brother’s Keeper”’

27
Jan
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama kisses First Lady Michelle Obama in a holding room at the Capitol after delivering his first State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress, Jan. 27, 2010

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Today:

The President has no public events scheduled

1:15 EST: Jay Carney briefs the press

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USA Today: Obama to take two-day post-speech trip

President Obama will hit the road after Tuesday night’s State of the Union speech, selling his ideas during two days of stops in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Tennessee.

Obama’s first followup to his annual address to Congress comes Wednesday morning in Prince George’s County, Md. … he then travels to the Pittsburgh area for a midafternoon speech before flying on to Milwaukee, where he is scheduled to spend Wednesday night.

The Milwaukee speech is scheduled for Thursday morning, following by another flight and speech in Nashville. Obama is scheduled to return to the White House Thursday evening.

In addition, Obama is scheduled to take a virtual national tour on Friday, when he takes questions from Internet users across the country during a Google+ Hangout.

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WH.gov: The First Lady’s Box Seats at the 2014 State of the Union

For nearly three decades, extraordinary Americans who exemplify the themes and ideals laid out in the State of the Union Address have been invited to join the First Lady in her viewing box. Learn more about the remarkable individuals who will join First Lady Michelle Obama for the 2014 State of the Union Address:

Jason Collins (Los Angeles, CA)

12-Year NBA Player

While at Stanford, Jason Collins was selected as an All American, named the NCAA’s “Big Man of the Year,” and earned an appearance in the Final Four. After graduating in 2001, Collins was drafted into the NBA and has since played for six teams including the Celtics, whose then coach Doc Rivers said of Collins: “He’s the best. He literally is one of the best guys I’ve ever had in the locker room, player or coach.” In his 12 years in the league, Collins’ teams earned 9 trips to the playoffs including 2 NBA Finals appearances. In April 2013, Collins became the first male player in major American team sports to come out openly as gay. The President expressed his gratitude to Collins for his courageous announcement through an article Collins penned himself. The President said he “couldn’t be prouder” of Collins, recognizing this as a point of progress for the LGBT community, and one more step in America’s goal to treat everyone fairly and with respect. Collins is 35 and lives in Los Angeles, California.

Carlos Arredondo and Jeff Bauman (Boston, MA)

Survivors of the Boston Marathon Bombing

Carlos Arredondo and Jeff Bauman are forever linked due to the attacks on the 117th Boston Marathon. In what has become an iconic image from the day in April of 2013, Carlos – wearing his white Cowboy hat – was captured rushing a badly injured Jeff away from the bombing to safety, thereby becoming two of the faces of ‘Boston Strong.’ From his intensive care hospital bed, Jeff played a vital role in identifying the bombers. After losing both legs in the attack, he is battling back, describing himself as a quick healer and stronger now than he was before the attack. Jeff, 27, and Carlos, 53 and a Gold Star Father, have become close friends.

More here

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@JamiMLynn

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TPM: GOP Candidates Suddenly Find Love For Obamacare’s Medicaid Expansion

The conventional wisdom is that Republicans running in 2014 will be campaigning against Obamacare, attempting to recreate the 2010 magic that saw them make massive gains in Congress and state governments, holding themselves in stark contract to Democrats who are responsible for what the GOP sees as a fatally flawed law.

That’s the narrative, and that’s what Republican strategists would have you believe. But comments — or the lack thereof — from some GOP candidates in state and national elections suggest that opposition might not be as ironclad as previously believed, as the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent has documented. In at least one case, in fact, a Republican in one of the most competitive Senate races in the country effectively endorsed the expansion.

It’s a huge shift from the “defund or repeal” mantra during the government shutdown of October, a possible indicator that some conservatives are recognizing that Obamacare is here to stay — and that proposing to knock the newly enrolled off Medicaid is politically perilous.

More here

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Politicususa: Republicans Are In Total Retreat As Obamacare Enrollment Skyrockets Past 3 Million

The defeated Republican anti-Obamacare forces are in full retreat after ACA enrollment in healthcare plans surged past 3 million.

In a blog post, HHS reported that:

Since the beginning of open enrollment, millions of Americans are gaining access to health coverage-many for the very first time—thanks to the Affordable Care Act. The most recent data indicates that approximately 3.0 million people have now enrolled in a private health insurance plan through the Federal and State-based Marketplaces since October 1.

Additionally, between October and December over 6.3 million individuals were determined eligible to enroll in Medicaid or CHIP through state agencies and through state-based Marketplaces…..

The mainstream media isn’t reporting this, but the ACA is turning into a huge victory for President Obama.

Full post here

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Michael Tomasky: Republicans Can’t Remember the World Before Obama

Birth control and data mining used to be things they believed in, now both are Big Government plots to be stopped.

I’m sure you chuckled at this weekend development as much as I did: At its winter meeting, the Republican National Committee passed a resolution condemning the NSA’s data-mining policy….

…. let’s not kid ourselves. The passage of this resolution is mostly about the guy in the White House. If you want to try to tell me this was an act of principle by the RNC, then put Mitt Romney in the White House for a moment. Do you think the RNC would have considered such a resolution? Please. Reince Priebus would have had a stroke. He’d have quashed it in minutes. But with Barack Obama in the White House, the rules are different. The RNC passed this resolution to kick a little extra sand in Obama’s face.

More here

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Brian Beutler (Salon): How the right destroyed itself: History, ideology and strategic blunders

Republicans can’t moderate because their base won’t allow it. Even if they could, Democrats already beat them there

Last week I wrote an article arguing that the impediments to conservative reform are structural — that the idiosyncrasies of the Republican base make appealing to moderate voters a zero-sum game for the party, and thus eliminates the incentive that, for instance, impelled Democrats in the 1980s and 1990s to cater to less-liberal voters.

The article generated some interesting responses, which is fortunate, because they provide a jumping off point to explore the historical and political context of the GOP’s unique predicament.

I think it’s fairly evident that Republicans’ increasing reliance on an older, whiter, more conservative constituency has trapped them into a number of non-negotiable policy dogmas. And I think they they bear most of the blame for their own circumstances. It’s an outgrowth of a conscious political strategy. They began the country and their party down this road, hoping, as Pat Buchanan famously put it, to “split the country in two and…take the bigger half.” They fused the low tax, low regulation agenda of wealthy elites to the worldview of religious conservatives. They birthed the Reagan Revolution, then milked it so vigorously that they’ve become unable to wean themselves from it more than 30 years later.

But there’s more to the story than one losing bet…

More here

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Frederic Poag (The Daily Banter): The Calculus of Hypocrisy: It’s Still a Lie Even If You Believe It

I don’t trust the Republican Party. This goes beyond disagreeing with them on every single policy position they hold. As a party, they’re deceitful, manipulative, and wholly disingenuous. It’s not even a question anymore; it’s verifiable fact. Their brand is badly damaged and is about to become completely unsalvageable.

…. This is the rot within the Republican Party. Thanks to Karl Rove, the Architect, the GOP abandoned notions of objective reality in an effort to win elections. They’ve latched onto their own created delusion and show no signs of changing. If they can’t effectively message whatever reality they’re trying to create, then they simply change their position to be counter to the opposition. They’re not concerned with what’s actual. It’s about how they can bend actual to their will but their grip is weakening.

Though cynical and insidious, this strategy has worked so effectively that it won’t be easily abandoned. It created a path to power for Newt Gingrich to become Speaker of the House and propelled George W. Bush to the Oval Office twice. But like all things, this strategy was based on historical/cultural context that’s no longer relevant.

More here

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ThinkProgress: Congressman’s U.S. Senate Campaign Is Giving Away An Assault Rifle

Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) has made a career out of appealing to a certain sense of conservative grievance. He once labeled the Civil War the “War of Yankee Aggression.” He offered legislation to defund a key prong of the Voting Rights Act (a goal that the Roberts Court was happy to achieve for him). And he’s warned that a “socialistic elite” that includes President Obama and congressional Democratic leaders are looking for an excuse to declare martial law — “[t]hey’re trying to develop an environment where they can take over,” in Broun’s words.

So it’s probably not that surprising that his campaign views this as a great way to develop a list of supporters…

More here

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On This Day:

President Obama talks on the phone in the Oval Office, Jan. 27. 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama leaves the White House with his Legislative Affairs Director Phil Shiliro en route the U.S. Capitol to meet with Republican members of Congress, Jan. 27, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

On Capitol Hill, President Obama listens to a question from a member of the House Republican caucus, Jan. 27, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama greets kitchen staff prior to a lunch at the U.S. Capitol, Jan. 27, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama talks on the phone with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev in the Oval Office, Jan. 27, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

Raymond Joseph, Haiti’s Ambassador to the U.S., kisses the hand of First Lady Michelle Obama at the U.S. Capitol during President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, Jan. 27, 2010 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)

President Obama shakes hands with Vice President Joe Biden and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi at the conclusion of his State of the Union address, Jan. 27, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama walks on stage to deliver a speech about college affordability at the University of Michigan January 27, 2012 in Ann Arbor, Michigan

President Obama looks back as Bo, the Obama family dog, follows him into the Oval Office, Jan. 27, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

18
Jan
14

Rise and Shine

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama stand together in the Blue Room of the White House, before a brunch celebrating the Inauguration, Jan. 18, 2013 (Photo: Pete Souza)

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The Week Ahead:

Saturday and Sunday: The President has no public events scheduled.

Monday: The President and the First Lady will participate in a community service project in the Washington, DC area in celebration of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service and in honor of Dr. King’s life and legacy. (1:30 EST).

Tuesday: The President and the Vice President will meet with members of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration.

Wednesday: The President and the Vice President will host an event for the Council on Women and Girls at the White House.

Thursday: The President will host a reception for mayors at the White House.

Friday: The President will attend meetings at the White House.

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BREAKING NEWS

Steve Kornacki: Christie Camp Held Sandy Relief Money Hostage, Mayor Alleges

Two senior members of Gov. Chris Christie’s administration warned a New Jersey mayor earlier this year that her town would be starved of hurricane relief money unless she approved a lucrative redevelopment plan favored by the governor, according to the mayor and emails and personal notes she shared with msnbc. The mayor, Dawn Zimmer, hasn’t approved the project, but she did request $127 million in hurricane relief for her city of Hoboken – 80% of which was underwater after Sandy hit in October 2012. What she got was $142,000 to defray the cost of a single back-up generator plus an additional $200,000 in recovery grants.

In an exclusive interview, Zimmer broke her silence and named Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and Richard Constable, Christie’s community affairs commissioner, as the two officials who delivered messages on behalf of a governor she had long supported. Two days later, Zimmer got a call from the Lieutenant Governor, Kim Guadagno, who wanted to come to town to do an event at a ShopRite to spotlight businesses that had recovered from the storm.

On May 13, Guadagno and Zimmer met at the Hoboken ShopRite. That is where, Zimmer said, Guadagno delivered the first message about the relief aide. Zimmer shared this diary entry which she said she wrote later that day. “At the end of a big tour of ShopRite and meeting, she pulls me aside with no one else around and says that I need to move forward with the Rockefeller project. It is very important to the governor. The word is that you are against it and you need to move forward or we are not going to be able to help you. I know it’s not right – these things should not be connected – but they are, she says, and if you tell anyone, I will deny it.”

The second warning, according to Zimmer, came four days later. She and Constable, who now led Christie’s department of community affairs, were seated together on stage for a public television special on Sandy recovery. Again, Zimmer provided this diary entry from May 17, which she said captured the incident. “We are mic’ed up with other panelists all around us and probably the sound team is listening. And he says “I hear you are against the Rockefeller project”. I reply “I am not against the Rockefeller project; in fact I want more commercial development in Hoboken.” “Oh really? Everyone in the State House believes you are against it – the buzz is that you are against it. If you move that forward, the money would start flowing to you” he tells me.

More here

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USA Today: What A Shocker! Young People Like Obamacare

First it was, we think we are invincible. Then it was that the penalty was too low, or that we would be turned off by website glitches. After the Department of Health and Human Services released its initial age breakdown enrollment data Monday, it is time to finally put the pessimism to rest. Young people are enrolling in health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act, and for good reason — being covered is essential to their economic security.

Department of Health & Human Services announced that 30% of Obamacare’s 2.2 million private insurance enrollees are under the age of 35. More specifically 24% of enrollees are between the ages of 18- and 34-years-old. In other words, the exchanges have a percentage of young adult enrollees that is comparable to their proportion of the overall population. All the evidence suggests that youth enrollment will only go up as we get closer to the deadline.

More here

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“I’ve got to get back because somebody is having a birthday today…I’m going to go ahead and sign this bill.”

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Ari Berman: Members Of Congress Introduce A New Fix For The Voting Rights Act

The Sensenbrenner-Conyers-Leahy bill strengthens the VRA in five distinct ways: 1: The legislation draws a new coverage formula for Section 4, thereby resurrecting Section 5. States with five violations of federal law to their voting changes over the past fifteen years will have to submit future election changes for federal approval. This new formula would currently apply to Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Local jurisdictions would be covered if they commit three or more violations or have one violation and “persistent, extremely low minority turnout” over the past fifteen years.

The formula is based on a rolling calendar, updated with a current fifteen-year time period to exempt states who are no longer discriminating or add new ones who are, creating a deterrent against future voting rights violations. It’s based on empirical conditions and current data, not geography or a fixed time period—which voting rights advocates hope will satisfy Chief Justice John Roberts should the new legislation be enacted and reach the Supreme Court.

The new Section 4 proposal is far from perfect. It does not apply to states with an extensive record of voting discrimination, like Alabama (where civil rights protests in Selma gave birth to the VRA), Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, which were previously subject to Section 5. Nor does it apply to states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin that have enacted new voting restrictions in the past few years. Moreover, Department of Justice objections to voter ID laws will not count as a new violation.

More here

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David Cay Johnston: Willful Blindness Worsens Inequality

The rich really are getting richer, while the vast majority is getting poorer. All you have to do is look at the official government data to know this. Sadly, though, most of our nationally prominent journalists, especially David Brooks of The New York Times and PBS, do not know this because they neglect to do a basic journalistic task. It’s called reporting. The first and overwhelming problem is that his scale is wrong, probably because Brooks just conjured up the only hard number in that passage. Brooks writes about “the growing wealth of the top 5 percent.”

The threshold to be in the top 5 percent income group in 2012 was $161,000, analysis of tax return data by economists Emanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty shows. That is a lot of money to most people, but it is pocket change for top Wall Streeters, the group whose pay Brooks properly calls perverse. Lloyd Blankfein, who runs Goldman Sachs, was paid $23 million in 2012. That is 142 times the threshold to be in the top 5 percent. Looked at another way, had Blankfein been paid weekly, his first paycheck would have shown almost 3 times the gross pay that those at the top 5 percent threshold labored all year to make.

Goldman’s 32,400 employees made $12.6 billion last year, which is as much money as the lowest-earning 6.2 million American workers made the year before. To put that in another inequality perspective, in 2012 America had 23.3 million workers, all of them part-time or seasonal, who made less than $5,000. They averaged $2,025 each. Ponder that for a moment. About one worker in six made only $2,000.

More here

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Think Progress: Governor Of State With Highest Minimum Wage Says It’s Still Too Low

Washington Governor Jay Inslee (D), whose state has the highest minimum wage of any in the country at $9.32 an hour, proposed raising it to between $10.82 and $11.82 in his State of the State address on Tuesday. “There are tens of thousands of jobs that people depend on that don’t provide a living wage in our state,” he said. “An increase in minimum wage means more money being spent in our economy.”

Republicans in the sate House and Senate expressed concerns that a higher wage could hurt small businesses, farmers, and businesses along the border with Idaho, which has a minimum wage at the federal level of $7.25. Democrats control the House but Republicans effectively control the Senate. Washington has lately become home to demands for even higher minimum wages. In the town surrounding the Seattle-Tacoma airport, voters approved a $15 minimum wage, although a court recently narrowed its impact to just those who work outside the airport. The group that organized support for the higher wage is fighting that decision.

More here

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TIME: Harvey Weinstein To Take Aim At NRA In New Movie

Film executive Harvey Weinstein said Wednesday he plans to make an anti-gun movie starring Meryl Streep that will take a direct shot at the National Rifle Association. 

“We’re going to take this issue head on, and they’re going to wish they weren’t alive after I’m done with them,” Weinstein said on Howard Stern’s radio show. “I never want to have a gun,” Weinstein said. “I don’t think we need guns in this country, and I hate it, and I think the NRA is a disaster area.”

More here

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On This Day:

The “We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration At The Lincoln Memorial” on January 18, 2009 at the National Mall

President Obama shoots hoops with his personal aide, Reggie Love, at the White House Basketball Court, Jan. 18, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama meets with civil rights movement leader Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery and his family in the Oval Office, Jan. 18, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

08
Jan
14

Rise and Shine

President Obama talks with Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer concerning the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others, on a cell phone in the hallway outside the Situation Room of the White House, Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Presidential Daily Schedule (All Times Eastern):

9:45AM: President Obama and Vice President Biden receive the Presidential Daily Briefing

10:45AM:  Pres. Obama and VP Biden meet with the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board

12:30PM:  Pres. Obama and VP Biden meet for lunch (press pool to take pictures)

1:30PM: Press Briefing by Press Sec. Jay Carney

2:15PM: Pres. Obama and VP Biden meet with leaders of the intelligence community

3:45PM: Pres. Obama and VP Biden meet with Secretary of State Kerry

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Andy Chow: Ohio Hospitals Try To Keep Patients From Coming Back

Bruce Vanderhoff is chief medical officer for OhioHealth, a network of 17 hospitals in central Ohio. And “it is no exaggeration,” he says, “to say that we are working with them to transform the model of health care delivery.” That transformation was sparked by a provision of the Affordable Care Act, which penalizes hospitals with high readmission rates. With a possible cut to Medicare reimbursement on the line, medical facilities around the country are thinking of new ways to make sure patients don’t need to come back for additional treatment.

Like many other hospitals around the state, OhioHealth is placing an emphasis on patient education, making sure they know everything about their treatment and medication before they walk out the door. Vanderhoff says it’s also important to identify which patients are at a higher risk of readmission. Hospitals do this by providing health coaches who visit patients’ homes and help further their treatment. Follow-up phone calls, pharmacy consultations, and in-depth meetings with a patient’s family are also used in the process.

More here

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SCTimes: MNSure Tallies 67,000 Enrollees In Wake Of Insurance Deadline

Minnesota’s health insurance exchange saw a sizable last-minute spike in enrollment ahead of a deadline for coverage. MNsure released its latest enrollment figures Friday. By the Dec. 31 deadline for coverage starting Jan. 1, the agency reported 67,805 Minnesotans had enrolled for insurance under the new federal health care law.

That means more than 14,600 people signed up for coverage in the last four days of December. Of the 67,805 who signed up, about 38 percent enrolled in private insurance plans. The rest signed up for the state’s two public insurance programs, MinnesotaCare and Medical Assistance. MNsure stressed that the latest enrollment figures are preliminary.

More here

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@FreeRangeTalk

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NPR: 3 Ways Obamacare Is Changing How A Hospital Cares For Patients

The Affordable Care Act is transforming more than health insurance. In hospitals around the country, the legislation could transform the way doctors and nurses actually care for patients. Part of the law is designed to rein in the nation’s exploding health care costs by creating hundreds of little experiments that test new ways for hospitals to save money. One example: At Summa Akron City Hospital in Akron, Ohio, doctors are preparing for a new way of doing business. Michael Firstenberg, a heart surgeon at the hospital, says there’s something a little funny about the way he gets paid. If a patient comes in for a bypass operation, Firstenberg earns a certain amount of money for the hospital. “However, if that patient that night has to go back for bleeding, then I get paid for that procedure as well,” he says.

“And everybody’s happy because look at all the revenue I’m generating, independent of the quality.” As a result, everything is more expensive. The key question for health care reformers trying to rein in costs is how to create a less expensive system that still provides good care. Starting on Jan. 1, the federal government, the hospital and some of the doctors there will try a new approach. Rather than paying for that bypass operation and then paying again for bleeding, Medicare will pay one lump sum upfront to cover the surgery and any complications that occur after surgery. One payment for one operation, plus follow-up; that’s it. If the patient doesn’t have problems within 30 days of being discharged from the hospital, the doctors could make even more money than they do today. But if there are lots of problems after surgery, they could lose money.

More here

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Gabrielle Giffords: The Lessons Of Physical Therapy

TODAY, the anniversary of the shooting in Tucson that put a bullet through my head and killed six of my constituents, is when I make my annual resolutions. Many may look at me and see mostly what I have lost. I struggle to speak, my eyesight’s not great, my right arm and leg are paralyzed, and I left a job I loved representing southern Arizona in Congress. But three years ago, dispatched to an almost certain death by an assassin’s bullet, I was allowed the opportunity for a new life. I’ve spent the past three years learning how to talk again, how to walk again.

I asked myself, if simply completing a normal day requires so much work, how would I ever be able to fulfill a larger purpose? The killing of children at the school in Sandy Hook a little over a year ago gave me my answer. It shocked me, it motivated me, and frankly, it showed me a path. Predictably, Washington disappointed us during the first year of our work with the organization we began, Americans for Responsible Solutions. Many of you were outraged at the failure of the Senate to pass the background checks bill, and so was I. But I continue to be inspired by my fellow Americans. By any measure, they’re with us. They know gun violence is a complex problem. No one law will make it go away.

We’re not daunted. We know that the gun lobby, which makes money by preventing sensible change, relies on dramatic disappointments to wound us, reduce our power, push us back on our heels. Our fight is a lot more like my rehab. Every day, we must wake up resolved and determined. We’ll pay attention to the details; look for opportunities for progress, even when the pace is slow. Some progress may seem small, and we might wonder if the impact is enough, when the need is so urgent. But every day we will recruit a few more allies, talk to a few more elected officials, convince a few more voters. Some days the steps will come easily; we’ll feel the wind at our backs. Other times our knees will buckle. We’ll tire of the burden. I know this feeling. But we’ll persist.

More here

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Max Fisher: Robert Gates Was Wrong On The Most Important Issue He Ever Faced

Back in 1985, when Mikhail Gorbachev took over as general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the United States faced a really big dilemma. Gorbachev professed to be a reformer. Should the United States work with him to reduce nuclear weapons, ease the U.S.-Soviet proxy battles that were at that point directly responsible for a number of deadly conflicts around the world and, just maybe, try to end the Cold War? This wasn’t just a major, difficult question: It would turn out to be one of the most important U.S. foreign policy decisions in decades.

President Ronald Reagan eventually came around to the idea that, yes, he could and should work with Gorbachev. He was persuaded by, among others, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who famously said that Gorbachev was a man the West could do business with. But Reagan had to overcome the fierce opposition of a top CIA Kremlinologist and eventual CIA director named Robert M. Gates, who maintained for years that Gorbachev was no reformer, that he was not to be trusted and that Reagan would be walking into a Soviet ploy. Quite simply, Gates was wrong, overruled by Reagan, and the world was better off for it.

More here

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Isaac Chotiner: Bob Woodward’s Incoherent Afghanistan Scoop Shows His Anti-Obama Bias

Robert Gates’s memoir is all set to be released and The Washington Post‘s Bob Woodward got himself a copy. Unfortunately, Woodward’s account of the book is as flawed and overly simplified as, er, Woodward’s own books about the Obama administration. According to Woodward, it is a serious charge against a president to say that he had doubts about the “course he had charted.” Since the same author wrote three increasingly critical books about a certain former president who never expressed the slightest doubts about disastrous policy choices, you would think Woodward might know better. Apparently not. It wouldn’t be the first time that Woodward showed a strong dislike for the president, and allowed his opinions to get ahead of the facts.

More here

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Great comment by Nusholtz, a reader of Chotiner’s article:

“more than doubts about the course he had charted in Afghanistan” I also consider that a virtue.  I heard one of the members of the President Obama’s Bin Laden group explaining that during considerations of the raid on Bin Laden’s compound, after the President’s advisers became entrenched in their positions during discussions over whether a raid or a bombing was the correct choice, the President had all of the details wrapped up in a volume and a fresh set of advisers were brought in.  A decider who prides himself on his fact free instincts when making a difficult decision won’t have doubts about the course he charted.  I prefer a thoughtful one who has doubts.

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Michael Tomasky: States Edge Closer To Medicaid Expansion: Who’ll Go First?

When will some states that initially refused federal money to expand Medicaid for their poor citizens pull a flip-flop and accept it? Because it’s inevitable that some will—and as they do, the Republicans’ sabotage of Obamacare will be profoundly undermined, and people’s concomitant opposition to the law will start to vaporize. This thought is occasioned by the publication yesterday by Theda Skocpol, the esteemed Harvard sociologist and political scientist and head of the excellent Scholars’ Strategy Network, of an eye-popping chart about how health-care coverage is proceeding so far in various states.

In the full-go states, the average Medicaid enrollment (along with S-CHIP, which is for children) is 42.9 percent of those eligible, and the average attainment of coverage through exchanges is 37.2 percent. In the supporter states, those numbers are 15.7 and 5.8 percent, respectively. And in the “just say no” states, they’re feeble—just 1.5 and 5.6 percent. In other words, says the SSN website, “It is apparent that Affordable Care is doing best in the states that are really trying to carry it through.”

More here

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Jeff Cox: Private Sector Job Creation Is ‘Off And Running’: ADP

Private sector job creation continued at a healthy clip in December, with companies adding a better-than-expected 238,000 positions despite the inclement weather. ADP and Moody’s Analytics said the month was the best for 2013 and pointed towards a solid number when the government releases its nonfarm payrolls report Friday. “This is it. We’re off and running,” Moody’s economist Mark Zandi told CNBC. “We’ve jumped to a new level of growth.”

Among the highlights: Construction jobs grew by the largest monthly number since 2006, adding 48,000, while goods-producing industries contributed 69,000. Overall, professional and businesses services again led the way with 170,000 new jobs, down a shade from November’s 182,000. The big number could sway economists to change their view of the monthly unemployment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is expected to show 196,000 additional positions, all but 1,000 from the private sector.

More here

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On This Day:

President Obama takes part in a conference call in the Situation Room of the White House concerning the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others in Tucson, Az., Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011. Pictured, left to right, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, incoming Chief of Staff Bill Daley, Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina, Director of Communications Dan Pfeiffer, and Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs Phil Schiliro. Also taking part in the call were Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, and FBI Director Robert Mueller (Photo by Pete Souza)

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