Posts Tagged ‘hagel



11
Sep
14

Honoring Those We Lost

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President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Vice President Joe Biden observe a moment of silence on the 13th anniversary of 9/11.

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President Barack Obama pauses during a moment of silence at the Pentagon in remembrance of those who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks

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President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama observe a moment of silence on the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks at the White House in Washington.

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President Barack Obama, flanked by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, and Joint Chefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, speaks at the Pentagon, to mark the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks

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President Barack Obama, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff U.S. Army General Martin Dempsey bow their heads during a moment of silence at the Pentagon

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05
Sep
14

President Obama’s Press Conference

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President Barack Obama speaks at a news conference at the conclusion of the NATO Summit at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, Wales

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President Barack Obama speaks with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel at a leaders meeting on the future of NATO

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01
Jul
14

The President’s Day

President Obama and staff watch the U.S. soccer team vs Belgium in World Cup action in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building South Court Auditorium, July 1 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Barack Obama speaks to the media during a meeting with his cabinet members in the Cabinet Room of the White House. From left are, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

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Attorney General Eric Holder

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Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson

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With the Key Bridge, linking Washington and Northern Virginia in the background, President Barack Obama speaks about the economy and transportation, at Georgetown Waterfront Park in Washington. The President said 700,000 jobs could be at risk next year if Congress doesn’t quickly agree on how to pay for highway and transit programs.

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02
Jun
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: Sen. Barack Obama talks with the news media after visiting with workers at the Rite Aid Distribution Center June 2, 2008 in Waterford, Michigan

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Today (All Times Eastern)

12:45: Jay Carney briefs the press

2:0: President Obama speaks on a conference call with public health groups about reducing carbon pollution from power plants

7:30: Departs White House for Warsaw, Poland

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The Week Ahead – See Here

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NYT: The Vanishing Cry Of ‘Repeal It’

It was supposed to be so easy this election year for Republican congressional candidates. All they would have to do was shout “repeal Obamacare!” and make a crack about government doctors and broken websites, and they could coast into office on a wave of public fury. The failure of the Affordable Care Act was simply assumed. But it has not quite worked out that way. The government website was fixed, and 8.1 million people managed to sign up for insurance through the exchanges. An additional 4.8 million people received coverage through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Three million people under the age of 26 were covered by their parents’ plans. Though the law itself has never been widely popular, most people say they like its component parts, and a large majority now says it wants the law improved rather than repealed.

That sentiment conflicts with the Republican playbook, which party leaders are suddenly trying to rewrite. The result has been an incoherent mishmash of positions, as candidates try to straddle a widening gap between blind hatred of health reform and the public’s growing recognition that much of it is working. Sometimes the dissonance reaches nearly comic levels. The Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, recently won his party’s primary for his Kentucky Senate seat in part by saying he wanted to repeal the health law “root and branch.” Last week, though, he was asked what repeal would mean for the 413,000 people who had signed up for insurance under Kynect, Kentucky’s state-run exchange. “I think that’s unconnected to my comments about the overall question,” he said. The good news is that some Democratic candidates, sensing the same change in the weather, are beginning to campaign on the law’s benefits. Improving access to health care was the right thing for the country, and supporting it may turn out to be good politics, too.

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Dan Murphy (CS Monitor): Five Taliban Released For Sgt. Bergdahl? This Is How Wars End.

A prisoner swap with sworn enemies is never pleasant. But sometimes, it’s necessary. The prisoner swap that saw Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who had been held by the Taliban for five years, released in exchange for five Taliban leaders who had been held for over a decade at Guantanamo, has touched off a predictable array of complaints. Congress wasn’t consulted, President Obama had negotiated with terrorists, that US soldiers will be at greater risk in future because of the precedent.

Among the most strident of the critics has been Senator Ted Cruz, who said in response to the deal: “What does this tell terrorists, that if you capture a US soldier, you can trade that soldier for five terrorists we’ve gone after?… The reason why the US has had the policy for decades of not negotiating with terrorists is because once you start doing it, every other terrorist has an incentive to capture more soldiers.” But dealing with people you find odious – your enemies – is how most wars end. And with the US set for full withdrawal from Afghanistan at the end of 2016, the prospect of a crushing defeat for the Taliban is pretty much nil. Getting POWs back, whatever the circumstances of their capture, a crucial goal.

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Matt Furber: Planned Celebration For Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl Just Got A Whole Lot Bigger

“It’s really, really amazing and incredible, fantastic news,” said Molly Goodyear, who was getting lunches at Atkinson’s Market for children playing soccer with Sawtooth United under-13 girls’ team on Saturday when she got a text with the news. “You can’t go anywhere in Hailey without thinking about it,” she said. “There was a sticker for Bowe at the deli counter. I remember thinking about how long it has been. Even in 2011, it seemed so long. It’s going to be a long, hard reintegration for him, I think. But this is such a great community for him to return to. People will do so much for him.”

“I encourage you to keep praying for Bowe and their family,” Mark Clementz, pastor of the Wood River Assembly of God, told congregants on Sunday morning. “Not too many of us have been kind of held captive for five years, we probably don’t know what that’s like, do we? I believe it’s going to take him some time and effort to assimilate back into, ‘O.K., what do I do now?’ So let’s keep praying for their family and keep lifting them up in prayer.”

Speculation about how and why Sergeant Bergdahl became a captive is largely absent for now. “Until Bowe is home and able to tell his own story, nobody knows what happened that day,” Debbie ONeill said. “However he got from A to B isn’t what’s important. He’s an American that needs to come home. I could not be happier that Jani is going to be able to hold her son in her arms again.”

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Washington Post: EPA To Propose Cutting Carbon Dioxide Emissions From Coal Plants 30% By 2030

The Environmental Protection Agency will propose a regulation Monday that would cut carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal plants by up to 30 percent by 2030 compared with 2005 levels, according to individuals who have been briefed on the plan. Under the draft rule, the EPA would analyze four options that states and utilities would have to meet the new standard, with different approaches to energy efficiency, shifting from coal to natural gas, investing in renewable energy and making power plant upgrades, according to those who spoke on the condition of anonymity because it has not been formally announced. Other compliance methods could include offering discounts to encourage consumers to shift electricity use to off-peak hours.

The rule represents one of the most significant steps the federal government has ever taken to curb the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, which are linked to climate change, and the draft is sure to spark a major political and legal battle. Conscious of that, President Obama called a group of Senate and House Democrats on Sunday afternoon to thank them for their support in advance of the proposed rule. The proposal, which would cut 500 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually by 2030, ranks as one of Obama’s most far-reaching climate policies. His previous measures to limit carbon emissions in cars and light trucks produced between fleet years 2012 and 2025 will cut 6 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions over the lifetime of those vehicles.

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NYT: Administration Defends Swap With Taliban To Free U.S. Soldier

Susan E. Rice, the president’s national security adviser, spoke a day after years of fitful negotiations had finally yielded the release in Afghanistan of the prisoner, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. The deal, brokered with Qatari help, also freed five high-level Taliban members from the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The release of the Taliban officials was sharply assailed by Republicans, including Representative Mike Rogers of Michigan, chairman of the intelligence committee, as a dangerous transgression of longstanding policy against negotiating with terror groups. The release of the Taliban officials was sharply assailed by Republicans, including Representative Mike Rogers of Michigan, chairman of the intelligence committee, as a dangerous transgression of longstanding policy against negotiating with terror groups.

But Ms. Rice said: “Sergeant Bergdahl wasn’t simply a hostage; he was an American prisoner of war captured on the battlefield. We have a sacred obligation that we have upheld since the founding of our republic to do our utmost to bring back our men and women who are taken in battle, and we did that in this instance.” She was speaking on the ABC program “This Week.” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said while visiting troops in Afghanistan on Sunday said that he would not have agreed to the detainees’ release unless suitable security arrangements were in place. Asked whether the sergeant, who by some reports was captured after leaving his base without authorization, might be subject to military discipline, Mr. Hagel replied, “This is a guy who probably went through hell for the last five years, and let’s focus on getting him well,” according to NBC News.

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Evan McMorris-Santoro: Obama Administration Opens The Door To Medicare-Funded Sex Reassignment Surgery

The Obama administration struck a major blow for transgender rights by quietly ending a decades-long blanket ban that prevented Medicare from covering sex reassignment surgery. The Department of Health and Human Services’ Departmental Appeals Board, an internal review structure within the byzantine federal agency, issued a ruling that ended a ban on Medicare even considering covering sex reassignment surgery and related care because a fear of “serious complications” resulting from the “experimental” surgery. That language was issued in 1981, and most medical professional organizations now consider sex reassignment surgery a safe and accepted procedure. The DAB ruling noted the change in how sex reassignment surgery is understood 33 years after the Medicare ban was issued.

“Even assuming the [National Coverage Determination]’s exclusion of coverage at the time the NCO was adopted was reasonable, that coverage exclusion is no longer reasonable,” reads the ruling. “This record includes expert medical testimony and studies published in the years after publication of the NCO.” “Denying Medicare coverage of all transsexual surgery as a treatment for transsexualism is not valid under the “reasonableness standard” the Board applies,” the HHS board ruling continues. Experts say the change to Medicare could have far-reaching implications for American medicine, helping to drive more private insurers to offer coverage for sex reassignment surgery and related care.

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AP: Hagel: Captive’s Life Was In Danger

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Sunday the military operation to free Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from the Taliban in exchange for the release of five Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detainees was not relayed to Congress because officials believed the soldier’s life was in danger. In his first extensive public comments about Saturday’s operation, Hagel said intelligence the U.S. had gathered suggested that Bergdahl’s “safety and health were both in jeopardy, and in particular his health was deteriorating.” Taliban members handed Bergdahl over to special operations forces in eastern Afghanistan, and later in the day the detainees were flown from the Guantanamo detention center to Qatar. The Pentagon did not give Congress the required 30-day notice for the release of detainees.

Hagel said it was the administration’s judgment the military had to move quickly to get Bergdahl out, “essentially to save his life.” He said it was the unanimous consensus of the National Security Council, and the president has the authority to order such a release under Article 2 of the Constitution. Only a handful of people knew about the operation and Hagel said “we couldn’t afford any leaks anywhere, for obvious reasons.” “No shots were fired. There was no violence,” said Hagel. “It went as well as we not only expected and planned, but I think as well as it could have …The timing was right. The pieces came together.”

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Ian Millhiser: Pentagon Will Allow Some Undocumented Immigrants To Join The Armed Forces

The Pentagon approved a policy that will allow a small group of undocumented immigrants to join the military, potentially creating a path to citizenship for them. The new policy will affect immigrants currently enabled to remain in the country by the Obama Administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, a program that benefits certain law-abiding young undocumented immigrants who came to the United States before the age of sixteen. The new military policy, however, only extends to immigrants with certain specialized skills.

As a general rule, federal law provides that “no person shall be naturalized unless he has been lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residence,” a rule that excludes DACA beneficiaries. A program known as Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI), however, permits non-citizen members of the armed forces to “naturalize without first obtaining a Green Card.” On Saturday, the White House asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to hold off on the policy until August in order to give Congress more time to work on permanent immigration legislation.

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Abigail Bessler: Indianapolis Will Give All Students Free Breakfast And Lunch

Starting this fall, all students in Indianapolis public schools will get a free breakfast, lunch, and snack every school day under a federal program set up four years ago. “Hunger and having a healthy lunch and breakfast should not be a barrier to teaching and learning,” Indianapolis Public Schools superintendent Lewis Ferebee told the Indianapolis Star earlier this week. “We want to make sure our students are healthy and well fed so they can learn.” The federal program, which was set up by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, funds free meals for students in “Community Eligible” districts where 40 percent of kids at one or more schools already qualify for free lunches. In Indianapolis, 77 percent of students qualified for free meals and just 18 percent, 5,500 students out of over 30,000, were required to pay.

U.S. President Barack Obama and First lady Michelle Obama arrive for the signing of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 in Washington

Indianapolis wasn’t the first to decide to join the program. Schools in Dallas, Boston, and Chicago already participate, and New York City may join. The free meal program cuts down child hunger in low-income areas. By eliminating the application process for free or reduced lunches, the free lunch program also lifts the hurdle of paperwork for low-income families, especially for parents whose native language is not English. And despite some concerns about the cost of making school lunches free for all students, making meals free can actually cut down on other costs. The bureaucracy associated with determining whether a child qualifies for free or reduced-price lunches can be complex and therefore expensive.

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Zachary Goldfarb: Magic Johnson To Help Lead Effort For Black And Hispanic Young Men

President Obama …. has tasked former basketball star and entrepreneur Earvin “Magic” Johnson with co-leading a private effort focused on supporting boys and young men of color. Johnson will join Joe Echevarria, chief executive of Deloitte, in captaining the effort, known as “My Brother’s Keeper.” A 90-day evaluation of the effort has generated a series of recommendations, including improving mentor programs, eliminating harsh disciplinary actions in preschool,

and making sure more boys of color can read at grade level by third grade. It also calls for increasing high school graduation rates, summer employment and apprenticeship programs for men to gain entry-level jobs. Finally, the group is working toward reducing racial and ethnic bias in the racial and criminal justice systems. Obama has already received commitments of $200 million to help fund the project from a range of philanthropies.

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Kenneth T. Walsh: Obama Still A Fundraising Champion

he still has the ability to raise millions of dollars for Democratic candidates in this fall’s midterm elections. He has held 23 fundraisers for his party’s four major campaign committees so far this year, and is expected to increase the number to 30 by the end of June. Obama also has authorized his former campaign team from 2012 to share lists and contact information about Obama supporters with Democratic congressional and gubernatorial committees.

This could be worth additional millions on the fundraising circuit and boost efforts to get out the vote. Public disclosure of the amounts raised aren’t due until later in the year, but the sums certainly run into the tens of millions of dollars. Last Thursday, Obama headlined two fundraisers in Chicago. At the home of Michael and Tanya Polsky, guests paid $1,000 to $35,000 to meet Obama and hear him speak, according to The Washington Post.

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On This Day

President Obama closes his eyes before he tapes his weekly Radio Address in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, June 2, 2009 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)

President Obama talks with (from left) Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest, Senior Advisor David Axelrod, and Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough in the Outer Oval Office June 2, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and former First Lady Nancy Reagan walk side-by-side through Center Hall in the White House, June 2, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama listens to a question from a reporter as he walks out of the White House toward Marine One in Washington on June 2, 2009. President Obama was traveling to Saudi Arabia.

President Obama waves as he boards Air Force One at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C. for the flight to King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, June 2, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama meets with the Democratic House Caucus in the East Room of the White House, June 2, 2011. Flanking the President are Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, left, and Rep. Steny Hoyer, Minority Whip (Photo by Pete Souza)

First Lady Michelle Obama speaks as she unveils a new food icon during an event June 2, 2011 at the Agriculture Department in Washington, DC

President Obama greets a group of Wounded Warriors in the Cross Hall of the White House, June 2, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

Joe Paulsen, White House Advance Office site lead, holds the curtain for President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama as they are introduced during the Pritzker Architecture Prize award ceremony at the Andrew Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C., June 2, 2011 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the Pritzker Architecture Prize Event in Washington, DC, June 2, 2011

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26
May
14

Honoring Heroes

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President Barack Obama places a wreath at the Tomb of the Unkowns at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day

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President Barack Obama speaks during Memorial Day ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia

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Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, and President Barack Obama, stand as the National Anthem is played during a Memorial Day Observance at Arlington National Cemetery

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David Jackson: President Obama Honors Veterans ‘Who Gave Their All’

President Obama on Monday honored all the Americans who have given their lives for their country, from the Civil War of a century-and-a-half ago to the Afghanistan war that is wrapping up this year. In Memorial Day remarks delivered a day after a surprise visit to Afghanistan, Obama said the U.S. troops there “are coming home” from the conflict that began a month after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. “By the end of this year, our war in Afghanistan will finally come to an end,” Obama said during the annual Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. During his speech, Obama praised veterans from all the nation’s wars. “Everything that we hold precious in this country was made possible by Americans who gave their all,” Obama said.

The president delivered his Memorial Day speech just four hours after his return to the White House. During his Sunday trip to Afghanistan, Obama received a briefing from commanders at Bagram Air Force, spoke at a rally for the troops, and visited wounded warriors at the base hospital. Shortly after arriving back at the White House early Monday morning, Obama hosted a Memorial Day breakfast. Guests included senior members of the military leadership, as well as veterans’ and military families’ organizations. Obama then traveled to the Arlington cemetery, where he placed the traditional wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

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President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel bow their head in prayer during a ceremony on Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia

Continue reading ‘Honoring Heroes’

08
Apr
14

Rise and Shine

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

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Today (All Times Eastern):

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

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

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The Week Ahead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Meghashyam Mali: Obama Administration Reverses Planned Cuts To Medicare Advantage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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John W. Gonzalez: Allegation Against Battleground Texas Dismissed

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

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Brendan Sasso: FCC To Break Up Big TV Stations

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

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

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Meredith Clark: Kansas Bill Kills Long-Held Teacher Rights

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

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

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On This Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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