Posts Tagged ‘hawaii

01
Apr
14

Rise and Shine

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are welcomed by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to Buckingham Palace in London, England, April 1, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today:

11:35: President Obama honors the 2013 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox

12:15: Lunch with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi

3:15: Meets with Secretary of Commerce Pritzker

4:15: President Obama announces ObamaCare numbers

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Wednesday: Travels to Ann Arbor, Michigan for an event on his proposal to raise the national minimum wage. Following this event, he will travel to Chicago, Illinois to attend DNC events

Thursday: The President and First Lady will host members of the United States teams and delegations from the 2014 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games at the White House.

Friday: The President will host Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa of Tunisia at the White House.

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Brian Beutler: It’s All Over, Obamacare Haters! Why They’ve Officially Lost The Battle

By 11:59:59 p.m. Monday night — the last moment of the Affordable Care Act’s first open enrollment period — sign-ups on Healthcare.gov and 14 state-based exchanges had cleared the symbolic 7 million threshold, according to both administration officials and data experts, and will continue to climb above it over the next few weeks as HHS processes applications from people who were mid-queue when the clock struck midnight. Throw in new Medicaid enrollments, off-exchange enrollments into Qualified Health Plans, young invincibles on their parents’ plans, and the beneficiary total far exceeds 10 million. On net, millions more people — perhaps about 10 million — are now (or will soon be) insured because of Obamacare than were covered beforehand.

That net number will probably be less than initially forecast, but when you account for the fact that almost half of all states didn’t expand Medicaid, and Healthcare.gov effectively experienced a two-month outage last year, you have to be a fanatical Obamacare hater not to call it a comeback. Now that it’s all over but the shouting, conservatives are watching the mechanisms they’ve employed to discredit enrollment numbers shrink away from them. They are left to think wishfully that the new enrollees will not pay their premiums in overwhelming numbers, or deny that they exist altogether. The universe of Obamacare “success stories” is larger than the universe of Obamacare “horror stories” and many of said horror stories fall apart or are revealed to be ambiguous upon mild scrutiny.

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April Ryan: Champagne Celebration As 7 Million Signups Achieved

At 12:01 AM, White House Chief Technology Officer Todd Park acknowledged to QSSI, the Columbia, Maryland firm tasked with fixing Healthcare.gov that the ACA enrollments have surpassed the 7 million mark.  Park and QSSI employees celebrated with champagne after the early morning announcement in the lobby of the building as they are not allowed to drink alcohol in the offices at QSSI.

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TPM: BREAKING: Obamacare Sign-Ups On Track To Hit 7 Million On Final Day

Beating expectations, President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul was on track to sign up more than 7 million Americans for health insurance on deadline day Monday, government officials told The Associated Press. Two government officials confirmed the milestone, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter ahead of an official announcement. Seven million was the original target set by the Congressional Budget Office for enrollment in taxpayer-subsidized private health insurance through new online markets created under Obama’s signature legislation. At St. Francis Hospital in Wilmington, Del., enrollment counselor Hubert Worthen plunged into a long day. “I got my energy drink,” he said. “This is epic, man.”

At a Houston community center, there were immigrants from Ethiopia, Nepal, Eritrea, Somalia, Iraq, Iran and other conflict-torn areas, many of them trying anew after failing to complete applications previously. In addition to needing help with the actual enrollment, they needed to wait for interpreters. Many had taken a day off from work, hoping to meet the deadline. The White House and other supporters of the law were hoping for an enrollment surge that would confound skeptics. The insurance markets — or exchanges — offer subsidized private health insurance to people who don’t have access to coverage through their jobs. The federal government is taking the lead in 36 states, while 14 other states plus Washington, D.C., are running their own enrollment websites. New York, running its own site, reported more than 812,000 had signed up by Sunday morning, nearly 100,000 of them last week.

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Michael Hiltzik: Obamacare Numbers Surging: Here’s A Guide To GOP Excuse-Making

Against all odds and expectations, enrollments in health plans qualified under the Affordable Care Act are surging Monday toward – and maybe beyond — the 7-million figure projected by the Congressional Budget Office before Oct. 1, when the open-enrollment period began. The deadline for starting enrollment applications for 2014 plans is midnight Monday. The surge is creating a big problem for the “train wreck” narrative of Republican opponents of the ACA, who have been holding out hope for Obamacare’s utter failure. So the excuse-making has begun.

Before we examine those excuses: You will recall that the budget office reduced its projection of enrollments on individual insurance exchanges to 6 million earlier this year to account for the botched launch of healthcare.gov, the federal enrollment website. Enrollments blew past that mark days ago. If exchange enrollments meet or exceed the original projection of 7 million despite the loss of some six weeks in website functionality in October and November, that would be a testament to the public’s latent desire for effective healthcare coverage.

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Damon Tucker: U.S. Secretary Of Education Arne Duncan Praises Hawaii’s Education Leadership

Hawaii’s public schools can be a model for the nation, according to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who visited two schools today before returning to Washington, D.C. Secretary Duncan, Governor Neil Abercrombie and Schools Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi spoke with media in reflecting on the progress made during the last three years based on the Race to the Top (RTTT) federal education reform grant.“When we first did the RTTT grant, there was a huge amount of skepticism in the outside world, and frankly, internally,” stated Secretary Duncan. “Hawaii initially had its challenges; they’ve shown amazing leadership, courage and vision. I can’t overstate how important the Governor’s leadership has been…the leadership of the State Superintendent…they are a profile in courage. The only way you get better is to challenge the status quo. The only way to accelerate the rate of change is to do something different. The progress has been extraordinary.

Hawaii by any objective measure – is one of the fastest improving states in the nation – top five states, that’s top 10 percent in the nation.” Waipahu High is the second-largest high school in Hawaii with 2,450 students. About 70 percent of its students are of Filipino ancestry, while nearly 6 out of 10 students come from economically disadvantage backgrounds. Waipahu High Principal Keith Hayashi, who was appointed in 2009, has led a tremendous academic turnaround at the school. Reading proficiency among 10th graders rose to 69 percent in 2013 from 58 percent in 2011, while math proficiency jumped to 47 percent from 26 percent. College-going rate increased to 58 percent from 49 percent during the same period.

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Examiner: New Poll: More Americans Now Support ‘Obamcare’ Than Oppose It

As the Affordable Care Act open enrollment comes to a close, more people now support President Obama’s health care reform than those who oppose it. Though by a slim margin, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, 49 percent of Americans now support “Obamacare,” compared to 48 percent who oppose the law. President Obama has made a strong push over the last few months to encourage those who need insurance, to do so through the open enrollment period than ran through March 31.

When the same poll was taken in November of 2013, only 40 percent of Americans supported the law, while 57 percent opposed it.Two key voting blocks have also been tilting in the direction of Democrats and the Affordable Care Act. The WaPo/ABC poll notes that 57 percent of Hispanics support the law in addition to 52 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 29.

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Molly Redden: Hobby Lobby’s Hypocrisy: The Company’s Retirement Plan Invests In Contraception Manufacturers

When Obamacare compelled businesses to include emergency contraception in employee health care plans, Hobby Lobby, a national chain of craft stores, fought the law all the way to the Supreme Court. The Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, the company’s owners argued, forced them to violate their religious beliefs. But while it was suing the government, Hobby Lobby spent millions of dollars on an employee retirement plan that invested in the manufacturers of the same contraceptive products the firm’s owners cite in their lawsuit. Documents filed with the Department of Labor and dated December 2012—three months after the company’s owners filed their lawsuit—

show that the Hobby Lobby 401(k) employee retirement plan held more than $73 million in mutual funds with investments in companies that produce emergency contraceptive pills, intrauterine devices, and drugs commonly used in abortions. Hobby Lobby makes large matching contributions to this company-sponsored 401(k). Several of the mutual funds in Hobby Lobby’s retirement plan have holdings in companies that manufacture the specific drugs and devices that the Green family, which owns Hobby Lobby, is fighting to keep out of Hobby Lobby’s health care policies: the emergency contraceptive pills Plan B and Ella, and copper and hormonal intrauterine devices.

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Hayes Brown: Zero U.S. Troops Died In Combat In March, The First Time In More Than A Decade

March 2014 marked the first time in more than a decade that there were zero U.S. fatalities among American troops engaging in combat, according to numbers from the Department of Defense. After a decade at war in the post-9/11 environment, with major wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and smaller conflicts in the various other countries where the U.S. uses more covert methods to fight against terrorism, the lack of combat deaths in March 2014 marks a milestone.

In Iraq, the death toll reached 4,474 before the last soldier fell in November 2011. For years after the war’s launch in 2003, no months passed where at least one American didn’t die in battle and then only towards the end of the conflict did the numbers taper off enough to have a month where the only fatalities were non-combat related.

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Ellie Hall: Obama Told Military Leaders: Accept Gays In Military Or Step Down, Admiral Says

In a meeting with the heads of the five service branches in 2010, President Obama offered the leaders a choice: Support my efforts to end the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, or resign, the Commandant of the Coast Guard said. In a video obtained by BuzzFeed via a Freedom of Information Act request, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Robert Papp revealed that Obama was unwilling to compromise with service leaders over DADT during a meeting in 2010. “We were called into the Oval Office and

President Obama looked all five service chiefs in the eye and said, ‘This is what I want to do.’ I cannot divulge everything he said to us, that’s private communications within the Oval Office, but if we didn’t agree with it — if any of us didn’t agree with it — we all had the opportunity to resign our commissions and go do other things,” he said.The admiral, who will be retiring from active duty on May 30, added that he thought the U.S. military made the right decision by abolishing DADT.

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USA Today: He’s All Ivy — Accepted To All 8 Ivy League Colleges

In the next month, Kwasi Enin must make a tough decision: Which of the eight Ivy League universities should he attend this fall? A first-generation American from Shirley, N.Y., the 17-year-old violist and aspiring physician applied to all eight, from Brown to Yale. The responses began rolling in over the past few months, and by late last week when he opened an e-mail from Harvard, he found he’d been accepted to every one.

School district officials provided scanned copies of acceptance letters from all eight on Monday. Yale confirmed that it was holding a spot for Enin. The feat is extremely rare, say college counselors — few students even apply to all eight, because each seeks different qualities in their freshman class. Almost none are invited to attend them all. The Ivy League colleges are among the nation’s most elite.

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Brian Beutler: GOP’s Self-Defeating Myopia: Why Its Obamacare Mania Is Now A Gift To Democrats

Here’s a riddle for anyone who thinks the politics of Obamacare are straightforward, and toxic for Democrats. How is it possible, in defiance of public rebuke, widespread misinformation and other headwinds, that insurance enrollment is surging in just about every state in the country? I suppose it’s possible that these millions of new beneficiaries were all supporters of the law to begin with and the surge doesn’t hint at a more complex public opinion. But I don’t think that’s right. Over the past several days we’ve been presented with a wealth of evidence that the conventional theory of the Affordable Care Act and the coming midterm elections is flawed.

Going back to last year, before they knew how poor the rollout of the law would be, administration officials knew they’d have to circumvent traditional media to encourage enrollment. But perhaps because the rollout was so bad, the press has been less helpful to the cause of the ACA than the administration expected. Not that it’s the press’s job to encourage enrollment, exactly, but a profusion of glitches and delays has given reporters a lot to write about aside from subsidies and other ACA benefits. Yet despite all that, the enrollment rate is way up over the past several weeks, due almost entirely to external messaging, organizing and advertising on the part of the administration and its allies. And apparently it’s been pretty successful.

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Steve Benen: As ACA Climbs Higher, GOP Denial Digs Deeper

There is not yet an official announcement about exactly how many Affordable Care Act enrollments there were during the open-enrollment period. The Associated Press and others are reporting that the Obama administration believes it’s “on track” to sign up more than 7 million Americans for health insurance, but there’s been no official confirmation.As a practical matter, it really doesn’t much matter whether the total is 6.9 million or 7.1 million – it’s almost a matter of bragging rights at this point, but it doesn’t really affect the structural integrity of the system –

and it’s also worth noting that yesterday wasn’t necessarily the inflexible deadline anyway. Coverage through Medicaid expansion will continue, and those who began the process before the deadline will still be allowed to finish.But the larger takeaway remains the same. First, “Obamacare” is succeeding in ways no one was predicting a few months ago. Second, Republicans are in deep denial over facts that contradict everything they’ve chosen to believe about reality.

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Judy Lin: Deadline Brings High Interest For Health Insurance

A blizzard, jammed phone lines and unreliable websites failed to stop throngs of procrastinating Americans from trying to sign up for health coverage by the midnight Monday deadline for President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy initiative. In Louisiana, wait times for callers lasted up to two hours. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee received nearly 1,900 calls by midday compared with about 800 the previous Monday. And in California, where enrollments surged toward the Obama administration’s original projection of 1.3 million, the deadline day volume forced the state exchange to switch off a key function on its website and encourage people to finish their applications in the days ahead. Across the nation, the interest in getting health insurance and avoiding a federal tax penalty was made clear in interviews with enrollment counselors and consumers.

“I have not had a physical in over 15 years,” said Dionne Gilbert, a 51-year-old uninsured woman from Denver who waited in a 90-minute line to get enrollment assistance. “I told myself, ‘You need to do this. Your daughter loves you and needs you.’” The last-minute rush was expected to significantly boost the number of Americans gaining coverage under the new law, and government officials told The Associated Press late Monday that they were on track to sign up more than 7 million Americans for health insurance by the deadline. But the months ahead will show whether the Affordable Care Act will meet its mandate to provide affordable health care coverage or whether high deductibles, paperwork snags and narrow physician networks make it a bust.

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Bob Cesca: Please Republicans, Run Against Obamacare This Year And We’ll See You In November

Anyone who tells you the GOP is a lock for holding onto the House of Representatives while taking back the Senate in the midterms doesn’t know what the hell they’re talking about. Why? Because it’s April. The election isn’t for another seven months. That’s a huge block of time, especially knowing how the speed of online media has accelerated news cycles and shortened voter attention spans. Again, if the Democrats can appeal to voters based on each of the very popular line items in the law, they might even be able to swing a few moderate, open-minded Republicans (yes, they exist), and especially those Republicans who happen to have ACA coverage (yes, they exist, too). At the same time, there’s seven months to carpet bomb swing districts with all of the Obamacare success stories such as, you know, my success story.

That’s more than enough time, and there’s more than enough material. This is all to suggest that the Democrats can absolutely meet the Republicans eye-to-eye on Obamacare rather than spinelessly running away from the law. There’s plenty of ammunition, 9.5 million Americans with new policies, along with strengthening poll numbers from which to draw support. If Mr. Priebus wants to make Obamacare The Issue for 2014, bring it on. The Democrats should absolutely stick it to him and make the GOP sorry it bothered. Who knows whether this will change the make-up of Congress or how the numbers will stack up. It’s still way too early to tell. But it’s a good bet the Republicans are making a classic strategic blunder — basing their fortunes upon the diminishing returns of the same old Obamacare myths and demagoguery.

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Media Matters: From “Doomed” To Boom: How The Press Missed The Obamacare Comeback Story

Just three weeks ago the Associated Press reported the Obama administration needed “something close to a miracle” in order to “meet its goal” of enrolling six million people into private health care plans via the Affordable Care Act before the looming April 1 deadline arrived. The article’s premise was telling in that it focused on what the political fallout would be if Obamacare sign-ups fell short. Noticeably absent was any analysis of what an Obamacare deadline success would look like or what the political implications would be. The scenario of success simply wasn’t considered plausible or worth addressing.

Of course, we now know that as many as seven million people enrolled for private coverage through the exchanges established by Obama’s health care law. Thanks to an amazing consumer surge in the month of March, the seven million mark, routinely thought of last year as completely unattainable, and often dismissed this year as not possible, was met. And because of a provision of the Obamacare law, approximately three million young people have been added to their parents’ private insurance plans. Meaning, more than 10 million people have used Obamacare to secure health coverage. The new law, noted the Los Angeles Times, “has spurred the largest expansion in health coverage in America in half a century.” The paper reported, “At least 9.5 million previously uninsured people have gotten health insurance since Obamacare started.”

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Aaron Blake: Sebelius: 80-90 Percent Of Obamacare Enrollees Have Paid A Premium

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Monday that insurance companies estimate between 80 and 90 percent of the 6 million people who have signed up for Obamacare have actually paid a premium. “What we know from insurance companies … tell(s) us that, for their initial customers, it’s somewhere between 80, 85, some say as high as 90 percent, have paid so far,” Sebelius said on KWTV-TV. “Lots of companies have different timetables for when their new customers have to send their first payment.”

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ABC: Behind The Scenes With Rosie The Riveters At The White House

Phyllis Gould waited 12 years for the moment when she, one of the six original “Rosie the Riveters,” made it to the White House.
Gould, 92, and her five fellow “Rosie the Riveters,” who worked in a shipyard during World War II, were invited by Vice President Joe Biden Monday after a decades-long letter campaign by Gould that began when Bill Clinton was in office. “I thought we are not going to be here that much longer and we need to get this out,” Gould said of why she asked for a White House invitation. “Because no one else can do it for us.” “Truthfully, I always thought I would drift through my life invisible to anybody,” she said. Instead, Gould’s letter to Biden, in which she said her dream was to take a picture with the president and the vice president in the Oval Office, resulted in an invitation for Gould and her fellow “Rosies” to a week-long visit to Washington, D.C.

 “This was the start of the first women’s liberation movement,” Biden told ABC News’ Lara Spencer as he greeted the Rosie’s. “You see these women working in a factory doing anything any man can do. It began to change everything.” With their motto, “We can do it,” and their famous red bandanas, Gould and the 20 million other American women who went to work during World War II turned gender stereotypes on their heads. The riveters worked as welders, electricians and draftsman at the Kaiser Shipyard in Richmond, Calif., as the men fought in the war. During the women’s visit to the White House, Gould not only got the hug from Biden that she asked for in her letter, they all also got a surprise visit from President Obama.

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@VP: One of the Rosies at [yesterday’s] meeting requested a “Big Biden Hug”. Catch the whole story on [today’s] @GMA.

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On This Day:

Sarah Brown, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, President Obama and Michelle Obama on the steps of No.10 Downing St on the eve of the G20 summit in London, April 1, 2009

President Obama is welcomed to 10 Downing Street in London by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, April 1, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

First Lady Michelle Obama talks alone with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton prior to President Obama’s Meeting with President Hu of China. Winfield House in London, April 1, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev meet for the first time to issue a joint statement announcing their pursuit of a new START treaty, at Winfield House in London, April 1, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama smiles during a meeting with his Russian counterpart Medvedev at Winfield House in London, April 1, 2009

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 President Obama waves to crowd gathered for his arrival in Framingham, Mass., April 1, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama talks Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, center, at the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency in Framingham, Mass., April 1, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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The North Portico of the White House is seen through the fog, April 1, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama welcomes Robby Novak, known as “Kid President,” to the Oval Office, April 1, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama reacts to a missed shot on the White House Basketball Court, April 1, 2013. The President participated in a clinic with kids and professional basketball players as part of the 2013 White House Easter Egg Roll (Photo by Pete Souza)

 

 

26
Jan
14

The Man We Call President

05
Jan
14

Rise and Shine

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Pete Souza: President Barack Obama talks with Vice President Joe Biden in the Oval Office while National Security Advisor Tom Donilon and Counsel to the President Bob Bauer, right, confer in the Outer Oval Office, Jan. 5, 2011.

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HealthInsurance.org: Anatomy Of An Obamacare ‘Horror Story’

Texas daily went digging for victims of the ACA and Surprise! Reporter unearthed three Tea Partiers who hate the new law.

….. Yesterday I posted about a Fort Worth Star Telegram article that leads with the tale of Whitney Johnson, a 26-year-old new mother who suffers from multiple sclerosis (MS). Her insurer just cancelled her policy, and according to Johnson, new insurance would cost her over $1,000 a month.

That claim stopped me in my tracks. Under the ACA, no 26-year-old could be charged $1,000 monthly – even if she has MS.

Obamacare prohibits insurers from charging more because a customer suffers from a pre-existing condition. This rule applies to all new policies, whether they are sold inside or outside the exchanges.

At that point, I knew that something was wrong.

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Fred Kaplan: Why Snowden Won’t (And Shouldn’t) Get Clemency

I firmly disagree with the New York Times’ Jan. 1 editorial (“Edward Snowden, Whistle-Blower”), calling on President Obama to grant Snowden “some form of clemency” for the “great service” he has done for his country. It is true that Snowden’s revelations about the National Security Agency’s surveillance of American citizens—far vaster than any outsider had suspected, in some cases vaster than the agency’s overseers on the secret FISA court had permitted—have triggered a valuable debate,leading possibly to much-needed reforms. If that were all that Snowden had done, if his stolen trove of beyond-top-secret documents had dealt only with the NSA’s domestic surveillance, then some form of leniency might be worth discussing.

But Snowden did much more than that. The documents that he gave the Washington Post’s Barton Gellman and the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald have, so far, furnished stories about the NSA’s interception of email traffic, mobile phone calls, and radio transmissions of Taliban fighters in Pakistan’s northwest territories; about an operation to gauge the loyalties of CIA recruits in Pakistan; about NSA email intercepts to assist intelligence assessments of what’s going on inside Iran; about NSA surveillance of cellphone calls “worldwide,” an effort that (in the Post’s words) “allows it to look for unknown associates of known intelligence targets by tracking people whose movements intersect.”

In his first interview with the South China Morning Post, Snowden revealed that the NSA routinely hacks into hundreds of computers in China and Hong Kong. These operations have nothing to do with domestic surveillance or even spying on allies. They are not illegal, improper, or (in the context of 21st-century international politics) immoral. Exposing such operations has nothing to do with “whistle-blowing.” In fact, as Snowden himself told the South China Morning Post, he took his job as an NSA contractor, with Booz Allen Hamilton, because he knew that his position would grant him “access to lists of machines all over the world [that] the NSA hacked.” He stayed there for just three months, enough to do what he came to do.

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@StateDept: #SecKerry discusses South Sudan, Iraq, Syria and Mideast peace talks. Read his remarks: http://go.usa.gov/Zm2A 

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AlJazeera America: New York To Allow Limited Medical Marijuana Use

New York will soon allow the limited use of medical marijuana for seriously ill patients under a plan the state’s governor will announce in the next few days, the New York Times reported on Saturday. Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has steadily resisted pressure to legalize marijuana, was expected to announce the plan at Wednesday’s State of the State address, according to the newspaper’s website. The newspaper said the policy will be far more restrictive than the laws in Colorado or California, where medical marijuana is available to people with conditions such as backaches.

The move comes amid sharply shifting attitudes in the United States toward marijuana use. Earlier this week, Colorado became the first state to regulate and sell marijuana for recreational use. Twenty states and the District of Columbia have passed laws in recent years allowing for various uses of medical marijuana — though only Colorado and Washington have decriminalized its recreational use. Washington is not slated to open its first retail establishments until later in 2014. Under Cuomo’s plan, 20 hospitals across New York will be allowed to prescribe marijuana to patients suffering from cancer, glaucoma and other serious diseases that meet standards to be set by the state Department of Health, the newspaper said.

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Morgan Whitaker: How A Minimum Wage Hike Could Lift Nearly 5 Million From Poverty

Raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour could help to lift nearly 5 million Americans out of poverty, according to a new study released this week. University of Massachusetts-Amherst economist Arindrajit Dube found that proposals to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 would reduce the number of non-elderly living in poverty by around 4.6 million in the short term, and that nearly 7 million would be lifted from poverty over the long term. Shortly after winning re-election, President Obama first proposed raising the minimum wage to $9 during his State of the Union address in February.

Shortly thereafter Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin and Rep. George Miller introduced an even more ambitious plan to raise the wage to $10.10 (the proposal reviewed in the study.) The White House indicated in November that Obama would support that increase to $10.10, and Obama’s newly selected Labor Secretary, Tom Perez, said shortly thereafter that he would make a minimum wage hike a number one priority. But most Republicans oppose the minimum wage hike. A Gallup poll released in November found more than three quarters of Americans support raising the minimum wage to Obama’s proposed $9, and that the support increased by 5-points from when Obama initially made his pitch for the hike.

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Kyle Balluck: State Department: South Sudan Talks ‘Critical’

The State Department late Saturday urged negotiators participating in South Sudan peace talks in Ethiopia to make “rapid, tangible progress.” The Intergovernmental Authority on Development announced the start of direct talks in Addis Ababa on Saturday. “The parties must use these talks to make rapid, tangible progress on a cessation of hostilities, humanitarian access, and the status of political detainees,” State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said in a statement. Harf said the U.S. urges South Sudan to uphold its commitments and release political detainees immediately.

Secretary of State John Kerry hailed the start of talk, but said they were “only a first step.” “Both parties need to put the interests of South Sudan above their own, and that has been a message we have consistently delivered to those engaged in this conflict,” Kerry told reporters in Jerusalem. “Negotiations have to be serious. They cannot be a delay gimmick in order to continue the fighting and try to find advantage on the ground at the expense of the people of South Sudan. They have to be credible talks, and both parties need to approach the talks with courage and with resolve, with the clear intent of trying to find a political solution.”

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NYT: Kerry Opens Door To Iran’s Participation In Syrian Peace Talks

Secretary of State John Kerry suggested on Sunday that Iran might play a role at the peace talks on Syria that are scheduled to take place later this month. It was the first time that a senior American official indicated that Iranian diplomats might participate in the session, which is to convene in Switzerland on Jan. 22. But Mr. Kerry also made clear that there would be limits on Iran’s role if Tehran did not formally accept that the goal of the conference would be to work out arrangements for a transitional authority that would govern Syria if President Bashar al-Assad could be persuaded to give up power.

“Now, could they contribute from the sidelines? Are there ways for them conceivably to weigh in?” Mr. Kerry said, referring to the Iranians. “Can their mission that is already in Geneva be there in order in order to help the process?” “It may be that that could happen but that has to be determined by the secretary general,” he added, referring to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations. “It has to be determined by Iranian intentions themselves.” Mr. Kerry made the comments at a news conference in Jerusalem before he headed to Jordan to continue his consultations with King Abdullah on the Middle East peace talks. Mr. Kerry planned to head to Saudi Arabia later Sunday to meet with the Saudi monarch before returning to Israel.

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Lauren Rankin: The Unprecedented Attack On Reproductive Rights

As if we needed any more proof that a war is being waged on reproductive freedom in the United States, a new report from the Guttmacher Institute definitely answers yes. According to the report, more abortion restrictions were enacted from 2011-2013 than in the entire preceding decade. From 2000-2010, 189 abortion restrictions were enacted. From 2011-2013, that number jumps to 205. Two hundred five abortion restrictions in three years isn’t just a trend; it’s a crisis. According to the report, 22 states enacted 70 abortion restrictions in 2013 alone, making it second only to 2011 in the number of new abortion restrictions passed in a single year. 2013 saw unconstitutional 20-week, 12-week, and even 6-week abortion bans, from Texas to Arkansas to North Dakota, and this report makes clear that anti-choice activists aren’t slowing down — they’re actually growing more brazen in their attacks.

The terrain continues to shift from under our feet. The Guttmacher Institute reports that in 2000, 31 percent of women of reproductive age lived in one of the 13 states hostile to abortion rights. By 2013, 56 percent of women or reproductive age live in one of the 27 states hostile to abortion rights. There is no middle ground anymore, as even purple states like Ohio and Virginia, or even more traditionally blue states like Michigan and Wisconsin, have embraced fanatic anti-abortion restrictions.

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Jason Seher: No Clemency For Snowden, Ex-Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano Says

Count Janet Napolitano among the Washington luminaries dismissing the possibility of clemency for NSA leaker Edward Snowden. In an interview with NBC’s David Gregory that aired Sunday on “Meet the Press,” the former Homeland Security secretary rejected any possibility of excusing the contractor-turned-whistleblower, saying Snowden significantly damaged the United States’ intelligence infrastructure.

“I think Snowden has exacted quite a bit of damage and did it in a way that violated that law,” the ex-DHS chief said. “The damage we’ll see now and we’ll see it for years to come.” Asked by Gregory whether she believes the administration should consider negotiating a plea bargain with Snowden in exchange for the return of classified documents, the former Department of Homeland Security chief hesitated to weigh in, saying she “would require intimate knowledge of what he allegedly has” to properly evaluate if such a deal could be brokered. “From where I sit today, I would not put clemency on the table at all,” she said.

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WSOCTV: Affordable Care Act Takes Full Effect

The new year has a new meaning for Tracy Morgan. She has health coverage under the ACA without worry of a pre-existing condition leaving her without insurance. “It means that if anything happens to me. I won’t be dropped from a policy,” said Morgan.  In 2010, she lost coverage when the company she worked for filed for bankruptcy, a year after her husband was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. With the forecast calling for costly treatments, getting covered seemed impossible. “I was just distraught,” she said. She received coverage through a state-run program and became an advocate for healthcare reform. North Carolina was an early adopter of the Affordable Care Act.

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Husband Of The Year

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Hawaii News Now: First Lady Gets A Few Extra Days Of Hawaiian Sun

First lady Michelle Obama is getting a few extra days of Hawaiian sun. While President Barack Obama is departing Hawaii late Saturday, Mrs. Obama is staying behind to spend time with friends ahead of her upcoming 50th birthday party. The White House says the extra time in the islands is part of Mrs. Obama’s birthday gift from the president. The first lady turns 50 on Jan. 17. The White House did not say when she planned to return to Washington.

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The First Family is back at the White House

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Hawaii News Now: President Barack Obama’s Hawaii Vacation: Day 15

How President Barack Obama spent Day 15 of his holiday vacation in Hawaii on Saturday: WEEKLY ADDRESS: Obama used his weekly radio and Internet address to urge Congress to reinstate job benefits for more than 1 million Americans. The president said failing to do so will cause the economy to slow. A Senate proposal would extend the benefits for three months. Obama says he will sign it if it passes.

HIKING: Obama and his wife went on a brief morning hike Saturday, visiting a popular trail near their Kailua vacation home that overlooks the ocean. GOLF: The president played one last round of golf at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, having hit the links frequently during his trip. DINNER: For their final dinner in Hawaii on this trip, the Obamas went to Buzz’s Lanikai, a steakhouse and seafood restaurant across the street from Kailua Beach Park that has been a regular stop for the family on previous vacations.

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A Year Ago Today:

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama make their way to board Air Force One on January 5, 2013 upon departure from Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu

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Tee Time!

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President Barack Obama gestures on the second green as he plays golf at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe

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Hawaii News Now: Obama, New Zealand PM Hit Golf Course In Hawaii

President Barack Obama is hitting the golf course in Hawaii with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key. The two leaders teed off on a sunny and breezy morning on the island of Oahu. They’re at a course on a military base near Obama’s rented vacation home. Key’s son and Obama’s personal aide completed the foursome.

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President Barack Obama plays golf with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe

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Max Key, son of New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, holds the pin while playing a round of golf with President Barack Obama

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