Posts Tagged ‘immigration

23
Apr
14

Rise and Shine

President Obama views the scene of the mudslide in Oso, Wash., from Marine One, April 22 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today

Japan Standard Time is 13 hours ahead of US Eastern, so while we’re up and about, the President will, presumably, be sleeping.

Will post his Thursday schedule asap.

First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr Jill Biden will speak today to soldiers at Fort Campbell, Ky. – need to get a time for the event.

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Crowds wait for the arrival of President Obama at Ginza shopping district in Tokyo

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BBC: Obama pledges Japan islands support as Asian tour begins

US President Barack Obama has assured Japan that islands at the centre of its territorial dispute with China are covered by a bilateral defence treaty.

In an interview ahead of his Asian tour, Mr Obama said the US would oppose any attempt to undermine Japan’s control over the islands.

US officials have made such comments in the past, but this is the first time Mr Obama has given such explicit support.

He arrived in Japan on Wednesday ahead of stops in three other Asian nations.

…. Mr Obama is not going to Beijing, but relations with China are expected to dominate his meetings with regional leaders.

More here

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President Obama is welcomed to Sukiyabashi Jiro restaurant by Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe before dinner in Tokyo

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Steve Benen: Supreme Court upholds Michigan’s affirmative action ban

The ruling on affirmative action in Michigan did not come as too great a surprise, but it’s nevertheless one of the year’s big cases at the U.S. Supreme Court.

…. The ruling will be especially relevant in states that have chosen to ban affirmative action – the policies have been curtailed in Arizona, California, Florida, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, and the state of Washington – while also signaling to other states that they can now do the same without fear of judicial intervention.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a stinging dissent.

The entirety of the ruling is online here (pdf), but this excerpt helps capture the extent to which she disagreed with the majority.

….. “Today’s decision eviscerates an important strand of our equal protection jurisprudence. For members of historically marginalized groups, which rely on the federal courts to protect their constitutional rights, the decision can hardly bolster hope for a vision of democracy that preserves for all the right to participate meaningfully and equally in self-government.”

Full post here

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Charles Pierce: The Wonderful World Where Justices Dwell

The Day of Jubilee, declared by Chief Justice John Roberts in his decision gutting the Voting Rights Act, and celebrated in another venue with the McCutcheon decision, in which we learned that the only real form of political corruption is a direct quid pro quo, and that influence peddled is not influence at all, goes on and on at the Supreme Court, where today yet another decision was handed down that was not About Race, because nothing is ever About Race.

…. The decision was written by Anthony Kennedy, who lives in that wonderful world where the law is a pure crystal stream running through green meadows, unsullied by the grit and silt that piles up in the actual lives of actual human beings. It must be a wonderful world in which Anthony Kennedy lives.

…. This is pure majoritarianism – grotesquely so, if you consider the ongoing shenanigans at the state level regarding ballot access and voter suppression. There will be a real impact on real people – just as there will be with the gutting of the Voting Rights Act and with the cascade of money that this Court has unleashed on the political system….

From the bench, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who grew up in the real world and apparently still lives there, was having none of Kennedy’s rainbows and unicorns.

Full post here

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Steve Benen: Dems Doing The Unexpected: Embracing The ACA

At a press conference last week, a reporter asked President Obama whether “it’s time for Democrats to start campaigning loudly and positively on the benefits” of the Affordable Care Act. The president suggested the larger political discussion should start to include other issues, but he nevertheless gave Dems some direction. “I think that Democrats should forcefully defend and be proud” of the Americans benefiting from the ACA, he said, “I don’t think we should apologize for it, and I don’t think we should be defensive about it. I think there is a strong, good, right story to tell.” And with increasing frequency, Democrats have become eager to tell this strong, good, right story.

In Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial race, Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D) launched this new spot today. We talked two weeks ago, for example, about a very impressive independent-expenditure ad in Alaska, touting Sen. Mark Begich’s (D) support for the health care reform law. In Louisiana, meanwhile, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) is touting the importance of Medicaid expansion and pushing to allow voters to decide its fate in November. And in states like Michigan, North Carolina, and Arkansas, groups aligned with Democrats are airing pretty hard-hitting ads criticizing Republicans who don’t support health care reform.

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Times Record: Arkansas DHS: 155,000 Applications Approved For Private Option

More than 155,000 Arkansas have applied and been found eligible for the so-called private option, or about 70 percent of the 225,000 Arkansans estimated to qualify for the program, the state Department of Human Services said Monday. The agency also estimated that 82 percent of those Arkansans had incomes too low to qualify for federal subsidies to buy insurance through the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace. The subsidies are available to families with incomes between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level. “We now know that an overwhelming majority of Arkansans in the program would have likely gone without health insurance had the Legislature not passed the private option,”

DHS Director John Selig stated in a news release. “Clearly there was a real need in a lot of these families.” The private option, signed into law last April, allows the state to use federal Medicaid money to pay the private health insurance premiums for people earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $16,105 for a household of one. Statewide, 61 percent of Arkansans in the program are women and 64 percent are ages 19-44, a somewhat younger population than those getting coverage through the federal insurance marketplaces, said Arkansas Medicaid Director Andy Allison.

More here

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Maggie Fox: Most Support Birth Control Mandate, Survey Shows

Most Americans — 69 percent — support the requirement that health insurance plans pay for birth control, a new survey shows. The 2010 Affordable Care Act requires health insurers to pay for contraception as part of 10 essential benefits, including vaccines and cancer screenings. It’s the most controversial requirement, with religious groups,

some conservative commentators and some employers objecting. The Supreme Court is expected to rule by June on one appeal by two employers who say paying for certain forms of birth control interferes with their religious beliefs. Free coverage of contraception for most health plans started in 2012.

More here

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Dylan Scott: Red States Hatch Plans To Block Obamacare Even If Dems Take Over

Republicans are taking no chances when it comes to Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. They’re closing every possible door. Under bills passed in Georgia and Kansas recently, even if a Democratic candidate were to pull off an upset and take the governor’s seat, they would not be able to expand the program without the consent of the state legislature — which will almost certainly remain Republican. In other words, GOP lawmakers have taken steps to guarantee that many of their poorest residents will remain uninsured under the health care reform law, no matter what happens in the gubernatorial election.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) and Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) both oppose Medicaid expansion. They both look likely — if not quite certain — to win re-election in November. That should make the bills passed by their respective state lawmakers unnecessary, but they seem intent on guarding against even the remote possibility of a Democratic governor. Georgia and Kansas have left a combined 487,000 residents uncovered under Obamacare because they refused to expand Medicaid. And, though the law remains unpopular, a recent poll found that majorities of Georgians (54 percent) and Kansans (55 percent) support Medicaid expansion.

More here

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Adam Beam: Beshear: 413,000 People Signed Up For Health Care In KY

Beth Moore left her job – and her health insurance – to start her own company in January. In March, while visiting Texas, she had an emergency appendectomy followed by a nasty bout with pneumonia that added up to more than $30,000 in medical bills. But Moore was one of 413,410 Kentuckians who signed up for free or subsidized health insurance through kynect, Kentucky’s state-run health insurance marketplace made possible by the federal Affordable Care Act. So far, the most she has paid for her treatment is $150. “If I had not had insurance (it) would have been catastrophic for me,” Moore said. “I’m very grateful that I am a resident of Kentucky and that this was an option for me.”

Moore told her story alongside Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear and other state officials Tuesday who were celebrating the end of the open-enrollment period of Kentucky’s health insurance marketplace. While signups on the federal website were delayed by numerous technical glitches, Kentucky’s system worked smoothly. At its peak, Beshear said, the state’s website processed more than 7,000 applications per day. The final number is likely to grow because workers are still processing paper applications. Kynect’s next open enrollment period begins Nov. 15. “We’re going to keep enrolling people until everybody in Kentucky who needs health coverage has it,” Beshear said.

More here

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NYT: Oklahoma Limits Abortion Drug Use

Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill on Tuesday to further restrict the use of abortion-inducing drugs in Oklahoma, despite objections from opponents who say it will force more women to have surgical abortions. The bill was written in response to a recent Oklahoma Supreme Court decision that ruled a similar bill signed by Ms. Fallin in 2011 was unconstitutional.

The measure would prohibit off-label uses of certain abortion-inducing drugs by requiring that doctors administer them only in accordance with Food and Drug Administration protocol. That protocol calls for the drugs to be given in higher doses than is customary today, and only in the first seven weeks of pregnancy. It takes effect on Nov. 1.

More here

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NYT: The American Middle Class Is No Longer The World’s Richest

The American middle class, long the most affluent in the world, has lost that distinction. While the wealthiest Americans are outpacing many of their global peers, a New York Times analysis shows that across the lower- and middle-income tiers, citizens of other advanced countries have received considerably larger raises over the last three decades. After-tax middle-class incomes in Canada — substantially behind in 2000 — now appear to be higher than in the United States. The poor in much of Europe earn more than poor Americans. The numbers, based on surveys conducted over the past 35 years, offer some of the most detailed publicly available comparisons for different income groups in different countries over time.

They suggest that most American families are paying a steep price for high and rising income inequality. Although economic growth in the United States continues to be as strong as in many other countries, or stronger, a small percentage of American households is fully benefiting from it. Median income in Canada pulled into a tie with median United States income in 2010 and has most likely surpassed it since then. Median incomes in Western European countries still trail those in the United States, but the gap in several — including Britain, the Netherlands and Sweden — is much smaller than it was a decade ago.

More here

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CNN Money: Rebirth of America’s dead factories

Defunct factories around the country are in high demand as U.S. production once again revs up.

The past two decades have been brutal for American manufacturing as companies shifted production overseas and introduced high-tech systems that eliminated jobs.

Many of these once-thriving hubs have been idle for years, but that’s starting to change.

“Demand for closed factories has picked up since the recession,” said Stuart Lichter, president of Industrial Realty Group, which works with defunct commercial property.

This resurgence is largely triggered by U.S. companies bringing production back home. There has also been a boom in international firms, especially from China, shifting production to the U.S. as a way to grow their business and cut costs.

More here

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AP: First Lady announcing one-stop job site for vets

Aiming to streamline employment resources for people leaving the military, the government is creating an integrated website that can help job-seekers create resumes, connect with employers and become part of a database of veterans and their spouses for companies to mine for skills and talents.

First lady Michelle Obama was announcing the launch of the new Veterans Employment Center on Wednesday at Fort Campbell, Ky., during a special veterans’ jobs summit organized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, the Pentagon and the departments of Veterans Affairs and Labor.

“Our service members haven’t always had the time or information they needed to prepare their resumes, to plot their career goals, to meet with employers and get the jobs they deserve,” the first lady said in her prepared remarks. Mrs. Obama and Vice President Joe Biden’s wife, Jill, have long been focused on the needs of veterans.

More here

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Fernando Espuelas: Republicans Break Up With Hispanics

Breakups are rough — regrets, pain and bitter memories. As Republicans in the House block immigration reform time after time, American Latinos get the message: It’s over, don’t call me. Have a good life. What remains are the weekly flip-flops by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), the yelps of “amnesty” coming from a seemingly frightened Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the tiny fig leaf provided by Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s (R-Va.) seven bills he’s been talking about for a year and the shameful action to deport all Dreamers through the recently unanimous vote of the House Republican caucus’s fantasy bill, the Enforce Act. On my radio show every day, and on social media 24/7, I am part of a conversation where responsibility for both the failure of comprehensive reform, and the acrid discourse surrounding it, is laid at the feet of Republicans exclusively.

New to American politics, organic groups of American Latinos have formed online with the express purpose of increasing Latino turnout in November and dealing the GOP a blow. No longer tied to the traditional activist organizations, still espousing 1960s tactics and attitudes, these new groups are savvy Facebookers and Tweeters that can spread a political message across the country with the click of the mouse – reaching tens of thousands of people in an instant, hundreds of thousands per day. This political battle is now personal. Just like the Tea Party fervor of 2010, driven by a single-minded focus to oppose President Obama, these online Latino groups share a similar obsession with throwing Republicans out of office. Come this November 4, Republicans may just wake up to the ugly reality that breaking up with American Latinos over immigration was an easily avoidable and ultimately very costly divorce.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

In the afternoon, President Obama arrives in Tokyo, Japan

Later, the President joins Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan for a private dinner

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

In the morning, President Obama meets with Emperor Akihito of Japan at the Imperial Palace

The President meets with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan at Akasaka Palace

In the afternoon, the President participates in a joint press conference with Prime Minister Abe

Later, President Obama delivers remarks at a youth and science event with students at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation

The President visits Meiji Shrine

President Obama attends the Japan State Dinner and delivers remarks

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Friday, April 25, 2014

In the morning, President Obama greets members of the U.S. Embassy in Japan

Later that morning, the President bids farewell to the Emperor Akihito of Japan

In the afternoon, President Obama travels to Seoul, Republic of Korea

The President visits the National War Memorial and participates in a wreath-laying ceremony

Later, the President visits Gyengbok Palace

President Obama meets with President Park at the Blue House

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Saturday, April 26, 2014

In the morning, President Obama participates in a roundtable meeting with business leaders to discuss trade policy

Later, the President participates in a Combined Forces Command Briefing at Yongsan Garrison and delivers remarks

In the afternoon, the President travels to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

President Obama participates in an arrival ceremony in Parliament Square

Later that evening, the President attends a State Dinner and delivers remarks at Istana Negara

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Sunday, April 27, 2014

In the morning, President Obama greets members of the U.S. Embassy in Malaysia

Later, the President visits the National Mosque of Malaysia

President Obama meets with Prime Minister Najib Razak at Perdana Putra

In the afternoon, President Obama attends a working lunch with Prime Minister Najib Razak

The President delivers remarks at the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Center

Later, the President participates in the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative Town Hall at the University of Malaysia

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Monday, April 28, 2014

The President travels to Manila, Philippines, and participates in an arrival ceremony at Malacanang Palace

Later that afternoon, President Obama meets with President Benigno S. Aquino III of the Philippines

President Obama participates in a joint press conference with President Aquino

The President greets members of the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines

Later that evening, the President attends a State Dinner with President Aquino at Malacanang Palace

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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

In the morning, President Obama delivers remarks at Fort Bonafacio

Later that morning, the President participates in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Manila American Cemetery

The President travels back to Washington, D.C.

WH.gov

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On This Day

The folded hands of President Obama are seen, second from left, at the U.S. Capitol Holocaust Memorial event April 23, 2009, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Pete Souza)

The President throws a football to one of his aides before a meeting in the Oval Office. April 23, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama talks with Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel in the Outer Oval Office, April 23, 2010. Brian Mosteller, left, and Terry Szuplat work nearby (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama watches as active duty service members take the United States Oath of Allegiance during a naturalization ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House, April 23, 2010.(Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

President Obama salutes an active duty service member following a naturalization ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House, April 23, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama talk with patrons at 12 Bones restaurant in Asheville, N.C., April 23, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have a chance encounter with other hikers while walking along a trail off the Blue Ridge Parkway outside of Asheville, N.C., April 23, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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On this Day: President Obama strikes the Heisman pose after accepting a football from quarterback Tim Jefferson, left, during the Commander-in-Chief Trophy presentation to the United States Air Force Academy football team in the East Room of the White House, April 23, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama tours the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., with Sara Bloomfield, museum director, and Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Holocaust survivor, April 23, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama tours the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., with Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Holocaust survivor, and Sara Bloomfield, museum director, April 23, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

… with Elie Wiesel

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 First Lady Michelle Obama poses with a “Flat Stanley” cutout as Kelly McMahon takes her picture backstage at the Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C., April 23, 2013. Watching nearby, from left, are: Danielle Gray, Cabinet Secretary; Tina Tchen, the First Lady’s Chief of Staff; Kristen Jarvis, Deputy Director of Advance & Traveling Aide for the First Lady; and Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

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MoooOOOooorning everyone! A gazillion thanks to Nerdy for adding a bunch of great news stories to the post while I was snoring last night – Legend.

22
Apr
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama greets members of the audience following his remarks at an Earth Day reception in the Rose Garden of the White House, April 22, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern):

10:05 AM EDT: President Obama departs White House

3:30 EDT: Arrives Paine Field, Washington State

6:50 EDT: Delivers remarks, Oso Firehouse, Oso, Washington

8:0 PDT: Departs Washington for Tokyo, Japan

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Spandan Chakrabarti: The Real Story Of #8Million

Actually, it’s a story of nearly 20 million, if you count everyone who has health insurance directly thanks to the Affordable Care Act. And it could be the story of nearly 6 million more, who are being denied health insurance by Republicans refusing to fully federally funded Medicaid in states they control. It’s a story of tens of millions more, and millions of seniors who now have better coverage and no yearly limits on coverage. But last week’s big number was 8 million. The President announced that 8 million American have enrolled in private health insurance coverage through the exchanges, and in addition, 3 million more are covered under the Medicaid expansion, 3 million young adults can stay on their parents’ plans, and 5 million who bought ACA compliant plans outside the exchanges. I got an email with links to people telling their stories about finally being able to afford health insurance.

The story of these millions, though, is more encompassing than those who gained coverage. The story of the single dad who can no longer be denied health care because of a pre-existing condition, the story of a small business owner who can no longer be charged more just because she’s a woman, the story of a cancer survivor who no longer has to fret that in the third month of the year, she will have reached her annual limit from her insurer – all these stories are possible because of a story that is told far too rarely in the American discourse. That story begins with a young, charismatic newly elected president of the United States for whom health care reform wasn’t just a campaign promise but a deeply rooted cause from which he wouldn’t waver even when his political advisers wanted him to retreat. It begins with the overwhelming election of a president who, in his own words, was willing to become a one-term president to make sure that never again does a mother have to think twice about taking her sick child to the doctor. It’s a story of courage, of overcoming an unprecedented campaign of obstruction, of decoupling progress from ideological checklists.

More here

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Vice President Joe Biden talks with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk during a meeting in Kiev, Ukraine

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Boston Globe: Russia Must ‘Stop Talking And Start Acting,’ Biden Says

US Vice President Joe Biden warned Russia on Tuesday that ‘‘it’s time to stop talking and start acting’’ to reduce tension in Ukraine. Standing alongside acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Biden called on Moscow to encourage pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine to vacate government buildings and checkpoints, accept amnesty and ‘‘address their grievances politically.’’ Biden said Russia needs to act ‘‘without delay,’’ adding, ‘‘We will not allow this to become an open-ended process.’’ The vice president also announced the United States will provide an additional $50 million to help Ukraine’s beleaguered government with political and economic reforms.

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Vice President Joe Biden is greeted by Oleksandr Turchynov, the acting Ukrainian president

The money includes $11 million to help conduct the May 25 presidential election, including voter education, administration and oversight. It also will help fund expert teams from US government agencies to help Ukraine to reduce its reliance on energy supplies from Russia. Other technical advisers will help fight corruption. The White House also announced $8 million in nonlethal military assistance for the Ukrainian armed forces, including bomb-disposal equipment, communications gear and vehicles. In the most high-level visit of a US official since crisis erupted in Ukraine, Biden met privately with Yatsenyuk and acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov.

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Vice President Joe Biden addresses members of the Ukrainian parliament during a meeting

Biden said they have an historic chance now that former President Viktor Yanukovych has fled the country. ‘‘This is a second opportunity to make good on the original promise made by the Orange Revolution,’’ Biden said in a reference to 2004 protests that overturned a widely criticized election that had given Yanukovych the presidency. Yanukovych later took office but left the country after violent protests in February. Biden added, ‘‘To be very blunt about it, and this is a delicate thing to say to a group of leaders in their house of parliament, but you have to fight the cancer of corruption that is endemic in your system right now.’’ He mentioned reforming the courts and finding the right balance of power between the president and Rada.

More here

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CBS: DHS May Limit Deportations Of Illegal Immigrants

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson is considering limiting deportations of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally but without serious criminal records, according to the Associated Press. On President Obama’s orders, Johnson is conducting a politically charged review of U.S. deportation policy. The potential change could shield tens of thousands of immigrants now removed each year solely because of repeated immigration violations, such as re-entering the country after being deported. The possible move was confirmed by two people with knowledge of Johnson’s review: John Sandweg, formerly acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and an immigration advocate who has discussed the review with administration officials but spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions were confidential.

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Department Of Justice: Department Of Justice Announces University Tour By Administration Officials To Raise Awareness Of Campus Sexual Assault

In recognition of the 20th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the Department of Justice today announced a nationwide university tour by top administration officials to raise awareness of campus sexual assault. From April 23-May 1, senior officials from the Departments of Justice and Education will visit campuses across the country, including public and private universities, community colleges, historically black colleges and faith-based and tribal-affiliated institutions around the nation. Officials will speak with campus administrators, local law enforcement, community partners, local service providers and students about how best practices and lessons learned are playing out in areas such as prevention, public awareness and peer support. Visits will also highlight the role that federal, state and local government, working with university administrators, faculty and students, should play.

Each campus on the tour is a recipient of the department’s Office on Violence Against Women’s “Grants to Reduce Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence and Stalking on Campus Program.” The Campus Program funds institutions of higher education to adopt comprehensive responses to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking, creating partnerships among campus entities and with community-based victim services organizations and criminal and civil justice agencies. Campus Program grantees must provide prevention programs for all incoming students; train campus law enforcement or security staff; educate campus judicial or disciplinary boards on the unique dynamics of these crimes; and create a coordinated community response to enhance victim assistance and safety while holding offenders accountable.

More here

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NYT: Obama Names White House Counsel

President Obama announced Monday that he was naming W. Neil Eggleston, a veteran lawyer with extensive experience representing government officials in congressional and criminal investigations, as his next White House counsel. In choosing a veteran of Washington’s recurring oversight wars, the White House may be signaling that it expects the final two years of Mr. Obama’s presidency to be defined by politically charged hearings, demands for information by Republicans in Congress and legal battles over the scope and limits of executive authority.

Mr. Eggleston, 60, a partner at Kirkland & Ellis, one of the nation’s biggest corporate law firms, will succeed Kathryn Ruemmler, who is stepping down after nearly three years. Mr. Eggleston will start the second week of May. “Neil brings extraordinary expertise, credentials and experience to our team,” Mr. Obama said in a statement. “He has a passion for public service, is renowned for his conscientiousness and foresight, and I look forward to working closely with him in the coming years.”

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Your LOL tweet of the morning. This is how the GOP “rebrands”

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Washington Post: Iran Vice President Says Row Over Nuclear Reactor Resolved

Iran will redesign its Arak heavy water reactor to greatly limit the amount of plutonium it can make, the country’s vice president said Saturday, marking a major concession from the Islamic Republic in negotiations with world powers over its contested nuclear program. The comments by Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi come as the talks face an informal July 20 deadline to hammer out a final deal to limit Iran’s ability to build nuclear arms in exchange for ending the crippling economic sanctions it faces.

Iranian state television quoted Salehi, who heads the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, as saying that Iran has proposed to redesign Arak to produce one-fifth of the plutonium initially planned for it. He said that will eliminate concerns the West has that Iran could use the plutonium produced at Arak to build a nuclear weapon. There was no immediate comment from world powers, which include China, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the U.S. and Russia. However, what to do with Arak, a still under-construction 40-megawatt heavy water plant in central Iran, is a key factor in negotiations.

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Lauren Rankin: Blackburn Hasn’t Been Right About The GOP And Women Since The 1970s

After appearing on CBS’ Face the Nation on Sunday, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) made headlines and spurred double-takes with her claim that it is the Republican party — not the Democratic party — that is fighting for women’s rights. If we’re going back through history as Blackburn implores us to do, she’s right. Historically, the Republican party was the stronghold for women’s activists in the early 20th century. But as the two parties essentially switched ideological places from 1970-1973, feminists lost favor with the Republican party. It’s been downhill ever since. So what happened? Well, simply put, the New Right happened. Though initially the New Right was split on women’s issues (some even favored abortion rights and the ERA), they quickly realized the political power of social conservatives who had abandoned the Democratic party as it moved towards racial and gender justice. In order to appeal to disenchanted conservative Democrats, the Republican party trapped itself in a self-imposed ideological jail of religious fundamentalism and extreme conservatism, one from which today’s GOP cannot seem to escape.

Today’s Republican party is basically the embarrassing fanatic uncle of the Republican party of the early 20th century. They have become overtaken by a rabid, radical fringe, one that opposes every single aspect of women’s equality, from abortion and contraception access to equal pay, from access to affordable healthcare to a living wage. What Rep. Marsha Blackburn and other Republicans are banking on by peddling the Republican past as indicative of their present is that no one bothers to pay any attention to the absolutely atrocious record of the Republican party on women’s issues in recent memory, particularly in the last decade. Rather than attempting to beat back the Democratic claims of a “War on Women” by citing history, the Republican party would do well to actually enact some of the current policies they deceptively claim to champion. There isn’t a single women’s rights issue that serves as a bragging right for today’s GOP.

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Greg Sargent: No, Dems Are Not Uniformly Running Away From Obamacare

Mary Landrieu is one of the most vulnerable Senate Democratic incumbents, and her difficult reelection challenges — like those of other endangered Dems – are said to be all about Obamacare. So it’s curious that Senator Landrieu is aggressively campaigning for a major piece of the law that’s dragging her down: the Medicaid expansion currently being debated in her state. Dems there hope to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to get around Governor Bobby Jindal’s opposition that would ask Louisiana voters if they want billions in Medicaid expansion money to cover hundreds of thousands. Getting it on the ballot is a long shot — it would require two thirds of both houses of the legislature — but the fact is that Landrieu held a conference call last week with local media to push the idea. She has met with state editorial boards to advocate for the expansion, winning a positive editorial in the Times-Picayune. She’s going out with an email to her campaign list urging the constitutional amendment and slamming the “Jindal gap,” i.e., the Medicaid gap. She’ll hit opponent Bill Cassidy over the issue.

Landrieu greeted the recent news of high signups by saying that the ACA “holds great promise and is getting stronger every day.” All of this is not to say that Dems are running aggressively on Obamacare. They aren’t. But the widespread claim that they are uniformly running away from it is too simplistic. It’s more complicated than that. In North Carolina, Kay Hagan is airing a radio ad that hits likely GOP foe Thom Tillis over his equivocations on repeal, and she will hit his opposition to the state exchange and Medicaid expansion to build the case that he is anti-middle class. In Alaska, Dems have run an ad for Mark Begich that features a woman discussing how she benefitted from the law in unusually personal terms. Dem Super PACs have run ads in North Carolina and Michigan dramatizing how the GOP repeal stance would take the law’s benefits away.

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Steve Benen: Stuck In The First Stage Of Grief

At a press conference last week, President Obama announced a figure that was hard to even imagine a month ago: 8 million consumers signed up for private insurance through exchange marketplaces during the Affordable Care Act’s open-enrollment period. Obama also took a moment to chide Republicans for having been wrong about practically every aspect of the debate. “I recognize that their party is going through the stages of grief,” he said, “and we’re not at acceptance yet. ”That sounds about right, though I’m not sure the GOP is “going through the stages of grief” so much as it’s stuck on the first one. If the process is believed to have five stages – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance – we have quite a ways to go before “acceptance” is even on the horizon.

Denial still dominates. Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) said Monday he believes the uninsured rate in his state has increased since implementation of the 2010 health care reform law. There are a wide variety of counts when it comes to determining just how many uninsured Americans have been able to get coverage, but all of the reports have something important in common: they all show the rate of the uninsured going down, not up. But to argue that the number of uninsured people is climbing is comparable to arguing that the federal budget deficit is getting larger; the planet is experiencing global cooling; and Obama has pushed use of executive orders to new heights. Oh wait, conservative Republicans often believe all of those bogus claims, too.

More here

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Sahil Kapur: Supreme Court To Hear Case Challenging Ban On Campaign Lies

The Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments Tuesday in an important case about the validity of an Ohio state law banning false statements about political candidates in campaigns. The challenge was brought by the Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion group, which wants to invalidate the Ohio law. In 2010, it sought to put up a billboard claiming Rep. Steve Driehaus (D) supported taxpayer funding of abortion. The advertising company, under pressure from Driehaus who appealed to the Ohio Elections Commission to block the billboard under the statute, refused to put it up. (Driehaus lost reelection anyway.)

A lower court found that the SBA List lacked standing to sue. The 6th Circuit and 8th Circuit courts of appeals have issued split rulings on whether state laws banning false statements are permissible under the First Amendment. There’s a real chance the Supreme Court won’t weigh in on the merits of this case. If the justices conclude that the SBA List has standing, they’re expected to send it back to the lower courts to consider the merits first.

More here

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WTSP: FL Same-Sex Lawsuit Couple Attends W.H. Easter Egg Roll

A Florida couple suing the for marriage equality joined the first family Monday for the Annual White House Easter Egg Roll. The Aleniers were one of six couples that joined Equality Florida Institute to file the lawsuit in pursuit of marriage protections for their family. They, along with their son Ethan, were among the 30,000 people crowded on the South Lawn

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Reuters: U.S. Secretary Of State Urges Russia To Help Implement Ukraine Agreement

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged Russia on Monday to meet Ukraine halfway in trying to implement an agreement to defuse the crisis in the former Soviet republic. Kerry spoke with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov by telephone on Monday morning, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. Russia, Ukraine, the European Union and the United States on Thursday agreed on ways to ease tensions in the worst confrontation between Russia and the West since the Cold War.

“The secretary urged Russia to take concrete steps to help implement the Geneva agreement, including publicly calling on separatists to vacate illegal buildings and checkpoints, accept amnesty and address their grievances politically,” Psaki said at a news briefing. With pro-Moscow separatists showing no sign of surrendering government buildings they have seized in eastern Ukraine, Washington pegged a threat of new sanctions on Russia to how hard Moscow tries to make the Geneva agreement work. “If progress is not made in coming days, we will impose further costs,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

More here

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Reuters: Conservative Koch-Backed Group Uses Soft Touch In Recruiting U.S. Hispanics

The conservative advocacy groups backed by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch are known mostly for spending millions of dollars to pelt Democratic candidates with negative television ads. But this year, one Koch-backed group is using a softer touch to try to win over part of the nation’s booming Hispanic population, which has overwhelmingly backed Democrats in recent elections. The group, known as The Libre Initiative, is sponsoring English classes, driver’s license workshops and other social programs to try to build relationships with Hispanic voters in cities from Arizona to Florida – even as the group targets Democratic lawmakers with hard-edged TV ads. “If they trust us, they may seek our opinion on something else,” said Michael Barrera, a former Bush administration official who now works for Libre, which says it has built a mailing list of 90,000 people during the past three years.

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Libre’s task is complicated by Republican lawmakers’ reluctance to act on a proposed overhaul of the United States’ immigration laws and the harsh rhetoric used by some Republicans that many Americans have seen as anti-Hispanic or anti-immigrant, pollsters say. And even as Libre launches an ad campaign that paints President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act as an expensive failure, Obamacare remains more popular among Hispanics than it is in the overall population. At a recent Hispanic business fair in Orlando, Libre set up panel discussions on family-owned businesses and the shortcomings of Obamacare. Neither event drew much of an audience, but by the end of the day Libre had added 150 names to its mailing list. Several of those who signed up said they were drawn in by the chance to win a tablet computer that was raffled off by Libre, rather than any enthusiasm for conservative ideas. None said they were aware of Libre’s conservative agenda. Libre’s only public filing shows that it took in $2.15 million in revenue during the 12 months that ended June 30, 2012. The report does not say where the money came from, but separate filings show two Koch-backed groups, Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce Inc. and TC4 Trust, gave at least $3.8 million to Libre during an 18-month period that includes the time covered by Libre’s report.

More here

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Brian Beutler: Obamacare’s Success Is Destroying The GOP’s Midterm Strategy

If you’re a decent person, or someone who hasn’t contracted a political bug, the most satisfying thing about the Affordable Care Act’s enrollment total is the knowledge that it’s improved many people’s lives, and contributed to a sizable reduction in the uninsured population. But if you have a lot invested in the law’s success, you’re also relieved to have an answer to everyone trying to create the impression that Obamacare is a slow-rolling fiasco. Republicans won’t stop saying these things, but there’s an amusing tension between calling something a “slow-rolling fiasco” in one breath and then positing that perhaps 10 percent of the millions of new beneficiaries won’t pay their premiums in the next. Or pointing out that the respectable under-35 enrollment rate also includes children. Why nitpick a fiasco?

Taken together, eight million enrollees, lower-than-expected premium increases, and smaller fiscal costs together leave a great void in the political landscape that pathetic enrollment, large premium spikes, and runaway spending were supposed to occupy. In a recent article, conservative political analyst Sean Trende examined how an election that looks so ripe for Republicans could go sour. “The way this could occur is fairly straightforward: The Affordable Care Act improves; there’s no massive rate shock for premiums in September or October; and the economy slowly gains ground. This should propel President Obama’s job approval upward, lifting the collective Democratic boat.” As Danny Vinik has noted, none of this is remotely implausible. And if something along these lines begins taking shape, Republicans would have to revisit the idea that they can just block Democratic legislation, scream “Obummercare!” and let a friendly electoral map do all the work.

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Photos by Pete Souza

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On This Day

Senator Obama holds 10-month-old Claire Von Bergen of Iowa City while shaking hands with supporters after speaking on the Pentacrest at the University of Iowa April 22, 2007

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Senator Obama gets a hug from his wife Michelle Obama after he spoke at the Roberts Stadium, April 22, 2008 in Evansville Indiana

Sen. Barack Obama shakes hands outside of the P&G Pamela’s Diner in the Strip District section of Pittsburgh on the morning of the Pennsylvania Primary election, April 22, 2008

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President Obama and White House staff members prepare to leave Des Moines Airport April 22, 2009, following a visit to Newton, Iowa (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama greets actress Sigourney Weaver after he spoke at an Earth Day reception in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington on April 22, 2010

President Obama waves as he boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, April 22, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama boards Air Force One at Los Angeles International Airport, April 22, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama observes a moment of silence in honor of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings, in the Oval Office, April 22, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama looks at a piece of a wood-alternative fuel made from biomass waste while touring projects presented at the White House Science Fair in the East Garden of the White House, April 22, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

Trying out a bike that powers a water-filtration system built by young student inventors, April 22, 2013

President Obama greets New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz during the White House Science Fair, April 22, 2013

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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)

15
Apr
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama greets participants after a Land Titling event at the Plaza de San Pedro, Cartagena, Colombia, April 15, 2012. President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia is seen at right (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern):

11:30: President Obama meets with faith leaders to discuss ways to promote an immigration bill now pending in the U.S. House.

2:49: Observes a moment of silence to mark the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing

6:30: The President and First Lady host a Passover Seder at the White House

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The Week Ahead:

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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ThinkProgress: Very Bad News For Obamacare Opponents In The Government’s Latest Report

Premiums for health care insurance in the Affordable Care Act are lower than the federal government had anticipated, the Congressional Budget Office reported on Monday when it revised its cost estimate for the health care law. The nonpartisan office now believes that the ACA will cost the government $5 billion less than projected in 2014 and $104 billion less for the 2015-2024 period. It also found “no clear evidence” that premiums will surge in 2015, noting that “enrollees in the future will be healthier, on average, than the smaller number of people who are obtaining such coverage in 2014.” The agency estimated that the national average premium for individual silver policy plans would increase by $100 that year.

The CBO attributes the additional savings to government, relative to the CBO’s last assessment from February 2014, to lower-than expected premiums, which in turn lowered the cost for exchange subsidies, and higher-than expected revenues from the excise tax on high-premium insurance plans.

More here

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Steve Benen: CBO: Affordable Care Act getting even more affordable

…. what have we learned of late?

* ACA enrollment through exchanges reached 7.1 million, ahead of early estimates.

* The ACA is quickly reducing the uninsured rate.

* Thanks in part to the ACA, health care spending has slowed dramatically and health care inflation is at its lowest point in 50 years.

* According to the Department of Commerce, the ACA is also having a positive effect on personal incomes.

* And according to the CBO, the system is even more affordable than perviously projected.

… this is a system that’s working. The right can either acknowledge reality or embrace delusions and conspiracies, but the facts are quite evident for those who care to look.

Full post here

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NYT: In New York, Hard Choices on Health Exchange Spell Success

In contrast with the early stumbles in most of the country, New York State, almost from the start, has provided a textbook lesson in how to make the Affordable Care Act work. But it has done so by making some tough decisions.

New York has signed up more than 900,000 people for commercial or government plans, lured 16 insurance companies onto its exchange, provided subsidies for most customers and reduced premiums across the board.

“I have to say that on the whole this is a very savvy bunch of people they have operating the exchange,” Mark P. Scherzer, a lawyer and consumer advocate, said. “It really is a story of something that government could actually do right.”

More here

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Simon Maloy (Salon): Chris Cillizza, call your office: Buffoonish Obamacare critic gets it all wrong, again

…. The newest offering from the CBO is bad news for Obamacare’s conservative critics. Much of their criticism can be divided into three basic arguments — Obamacare is ineffective, it costs taxpayers too much, and it will send insurance premiums skyrocketing – and the CBO report took the wind out of all three. It found that Obamacare will cover more people than earlier estimates, will cost less money than earlier estimates, and will not preside over a nationwide premium spike.

…. DOWN GOES THE NARRATIVE! Right…?

Not really….

Take Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post as an example. Click over to the Fix or comb through his Twitter feed, as of early Monday evening, and you won’t find a single word written about the CBO’s latest findings. That’s curious, given that when the CBO issued a report in early February on Obamacare’s projected impact on the labor market, Cillizza was all over it.

More here

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Brian Beutler: The Right’s New Scam: Feigning Anger on Behalf of People They Encouraged to Skip Obamacare

Beginning last summer, and continuing unabated until a few weeks ago, conservatives undertook a variety of efforts (both subtle and explicit) to discourage people, particularly young people, from enrolling in ACA-compliant health plans.

The idea was to deny state-based insurance markets critical mass, and sound risk pools, and send them into actuarial death spirals. In almost every instance, conservatives were appealing to strangers to undertake considerable personal risk in service of dubious ideological principles.

Though these efforts failed to achieve the larger goal, they almost certainly succeeded at convincing some people to skip Obamacare. And when confronted about the recklessness of their strategy, the most unscrupulous conservatives would say, No biggie! Obamacare allows people to enroll after they get sick or injured. So there’s no risk at all.

This was a lie. And if it weren’t such a dangerous lie, I’d be amused to find that conservatives now want you to be outraged about the fact that the Affordable Care Act creates limited open-enrollment periods each year to prohibit precisely that kind of free riding.

More here

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NDN: Total Removals, Returns of Unauthorized Immigrants Plummet Under Obama

Over the past several months, NDN/NPI has published a series of analyses which argue that through greater investment, better strategies and deeper cooperation with Mexico, the Obama Administration has made the immigration system better and the border safer while seeing a dramatic expansion of trade with Mexico.

Today we release a simple analysis which sheds new light on the hotly debated issue of deportations. Using a broader, more accurate measure of the number of unauthorized immigrants removed from the country since the first year of the Bush Presidency, we find that in fact the total number of “removals[i]” and “returns[ii]” has actually plummeted during the Obama Presidency. In 2012, the Obama Administration removed and returned almost a million people less than the height of the Bush Presidency. And every year of the Obama Presidency has seen a sizable decline in the total number of unauthorized migrants removed or returned to their countries.

More here

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ThinkProgress: The Budget Deficit In March Was The Smallest Since 2000

The federal budget deficit for the first half of this year was $413 billion, a decline of $187 billion compared to the same time last year, according to the Treasury Department.

The deficit for the month of March stood at $37 billion, down from $107 billion last year. That figure was the smallest deficit for the month of March since 2000. The deficit is expected to be a about 4.1 percent of gross domestic product this year, a drop from almost 10 percent in 2009. Those falling numbers continue a trend, as the deficit fell faster in 2013 than in any year since the end of World War II, dropping from $1.1 trillion in 2012 to $680 billion.

More here

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Didn’t think Coates would be featuring at TOD any time soon, but here you go:

Ta-Nehisi Coates: Barack Obama’s Challenge to American Morality

If you haven’t yet, it’s work checking out Barack Obama’s address before the National Action Network, last week. I think it’s one of the most significant and morally grounded speeches of his presidency. I think we will eventually regard this current effort to suppress the vote through voter-ID laws, ending early voting, restricting voting hours, etc., in the same way we regard literacy tests and poll taxes.

More here

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BBC: Ukraine crisis: Obama urges Putin to rein in separatists

US President Barack Obama has urged his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to use his influence to make separatists in eastern Ukraine stand down.

The phone call between the two leaders came as pro-Russian activists continued to occupy buildings in eastern towns.

…. The White House said the “frank and direct” conversation between the two presidents was made at Russia’s request.

“The president expressed grave concern about Russian government support for the actions of armed, pro-Russian separatists who threaten to undermine and destabilise the government of Ukraine,” a statement said.

“The president emphasised that all irregular forces in the country need to lay down their arms, and he urged President Putin to use his influence with these armed, pro-Russian groups to convince them to depart the buildings they have seized.”

The statement also threatened Moscow with wider sanctions, saying “the costs Russia already has incurred will increase if those actions persist”.

More here

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Charles Pierce: Revisiting Homeland Security’s 2009 Domestic Terrorism Report

I think this is a particularly good day to look back to, say, April of 2009, when the Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano presiding, put out a nine-page report in which the DHS pointed out that veterans were being recruited by rightwing terrorist groups around the country. (This was about when people started noticing that the real crazy had come out of the jar when this particular president had been sworn in.) Oh, the fuss that this raised.

John Boehner said of Napolitano that he wanted an “explanation for why she has abandoned using the term ‘terrorist’ to describe those, such as al Qaeda, who are plotting overseas to kill innocent Americans, while her own Department is using the same term to describe American citizens who disagree with the direction Washington Democrats are taking our nation.”

More here

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MilkFoundation.org: USPS Harvey Milk Forever Stamp White House Ceremony

Following the announcement that the United States Postal Service first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony of the Harvey Milk Forever Stamp will take place at the White House on May 22, Harvey Milk’s nephew and co-founder of the Harvey Milk Foundation Stuart Milk released the following statement:

“A stamp dedication ceremony on May 22 at the White House comes with incredibly special significance for both place and date. President Obama and his administration have provided the nation with steadfast and trend setting leadership in support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community in the US and abroad….

“The Milk family thanks President Obama and other allies and champions of LGBT inclusive diversity as exemplified by Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, all of the LGBT leaders who have stood on uncle Harvey’s shoulders to run for and serve openly in public office, and each and every LGBT individual who go about their daily life with authenticity, refusing to hide who they are and who they love. Together, all of us, continue to move humanity forward, bending that arc of the moral universe ever closer to justice.”

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Wake-up Call:

AP: Donors return to Crossroads, give $5m in March

After a stretch of anemic fundraising, the Karl Rove-backed American Crossroads super PAC raised more cash in March than it did during the previous 14 months combined, according to summaries of campaign filings released Monday.

The GOP establishment’s favorite super PAC raised almost $5.2 million last month and had more than $6.3 million in the bank as of March 31, according to the report summary. That cash will be used as the outside group tries to help Republicans pick up the six seats they need to win control of the Senate. American Crossroads has been running ads supporting establishment GOP candidates in Alaska and North Carolina and is expected to support former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown in his bid to unseat Democrat Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire.

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Do what you can —> link

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 On This Day

At the Cuban Club during a fund raiser in Ybor City on April 15, 2007 in Tampa, Florida

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President Obama speaks about Tax Day in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, April 15, 2009

President Obama presents a birthday cake April 15, 2009, to senior advisor Pete Rouse in the Oval Office (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama jokes with senior advisors Mona Sutphen and David Axelrod during a birthday party April 15, 2009, for senior advisor Pete Rouse in the Oval Office (Photo by Pete Souza)

Bo is shown the Oval Office April 15, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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First Lady Michelle Obama hugs a woman working at New Roots Community Farm in San Diego, Calif., April 15, 2010 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

President Obama exits Air Force One with Rep. Suzanne M. Kosmas and Sen. Bill Nelson at the Shuttle Landing Facility at the Kennedy Space Center on April 15, 2010

President Obama tours the commercial rocket processing facility of Space Exploration Technologies, known as SpaceX, along with Elon Musk, SpacdeX CEO at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida on April 15, 2010

President Obama is given an “I’m an Obamanaut” bumper sticker at NASA operations at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., April 15, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama meets with Press Secretary Jay Carney, left, and Senior Advisor David Plouffe, center, before an interview with Ben Feller of the Associated Press, in Chicago, Ill., April 15, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama serves himself during a buffet lunch with President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia and U.S. and Colombian delegations at Casa de Huéspedes in Cartagena, Colombia, April 15, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama holds up an Alabama football jersey that was presented to him by Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron during ceremonies honoring the Crimson Tide as the BCS college national championships on the South Lawn of the White House on April 15, 2013

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President Obama speaks during a statement to the press following explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon in the briefing room of the White House April 15, 2013

03
Apr
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: April 3, 2013: “The President hugs Sue Connors and Jane Dougherty, right, following his remarks at the Denver Police Academy in Denver, Colo. The women lost their sister, Mary Sherlach, in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Conn.” (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern):

3:20: President Obama welcomes the 2014 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams to the White House; East Room

4:0: Signs the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act

6:0: Meets with the bipartisan Congressional leadership

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E.J. Dionne: The GOP Must Admit It Was Wrong On Obamacare

Is there any accountability in American politics for being completely wrong? Is there any cost to those who say things that turn out not to be true and then, when their fabrications or false predictions are exposed, calmly move on to concocting new claims as if they had never made the old ones? The fact that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) hit its original goal this week of signing up more than 7 million people through its insurance exchanges ought to be a moment of truth — literally as well as figuratively. It ought to give everyone, particularly members of the news media, pause over how reckless the opponents of change have been in making instant judgments and outlandish charges.

When the health-care Web site went haywire last fall, conservatives were absolutely certain this technological failure meant that the entire reform effort was doomed. If you doubt this, try a Google search keyed to that period relating the word “doomed” to the health-care law. It should be said that the general public was much wiser. A CNN poll in November that Post blogger Greg Sargent highlighted at the time found a majority (54 percent to 45 percent) saying that the problems facing the law “will eventually be solved.” Political moderates took this view by 55 percent to 43 percent, independents by 50 percent to 48 percent. Only Republicans — by a whopping 72 percent to 27 percent — and conservatives (by 66 percent to 33 percent) thought the law could never be fixed.

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Chan Lowe: Obamacare Beats Its Goal

You have to respect the tenacity of Republicans, especially those who’ve been catering to their benighted primary voters back home by beating the hell out of the ACA. They’ve adhered to a long obstructionist tradition that includes opposition to FDR’s Social Security and LBJ’s Great Society initiatives. They know full well that these “giveaway” programs, as they like to call them, develop faithful constituencies. Once the programs are entrenched, any attempt to destroy them has a way of backfiring on the perpetrator. The Affordable Care Act now boasts over seven million individual advocates, many of whom will be benefiting from preventive health care for the first time in their lives.

As their cancers and other diseases are caught and treated in their incipient stages — before they become fatal — the newly anointed are likely to go out among the multitudes and preach the gospel. The ACA is going to grow, and with each new adherent it will become ever more stable and viable.Meanwhile, the greatest compliment this nation can ever pay to the 44th President of the United States and his legacy will be that, decades from now — when Sasha and Malia are great-grandmothers —America’s national health care plan will continue to thrive and be known by its vernacular title: “Obamacare.”

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Harold Meyerson: How Capitalism Enriches The Few Rather Than The Many

Michael Lewis’s “Flash Boys,” his takedown of high-speed stock trading, may be making headlines this week, but it’s just one of two books on our economic dysfunctions that are flying off the shelves. While “Flash Boys” explains how the fastest-growing form of trading enriches the few at the expense of the many, the other book, Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” provides a more fundamental and disquieting explanation: how capitalism itself enriches the few at the expense of the many. Since 1980, however, their fortunes have swelled again — at the expense of everyone else. Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher slashed taxes on wealth, workers lost the ability to bargain for wages and, crucially, the population growth of many nations ground nearly to a halt. Capital, again, was accumulating faster than the overall economies were growing.

In the United States, Piketty shows, the incomes of the top 1 percent have grown so high — chiefly due to the linkage of top executive pay to share value, a form of capital — that they soon will create the greatest level of income inequality in the recorded history of any nation. Indeed, Piketty’s book provides a valuable explanatory context for America’s economic woes. Wages constitute the lowest share of U.S. GDP, and profits the highest, since the end of World War II. And with heightened accumulations of wealth come heightened accumulations of political power — a shift toward plutocracy to which Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision, permitting the wealthy to contribute to as many electoral campaigns as they wish, adds a helpful push.

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L.A. Times: High Deportation Figures Are Misleading

Immigration activists have sharply criticized President Obama for a rising volume of deportations, labeling him the “deporter in chief” and staging large protests that have harmed his standing with some Latinos, a key group of voters for Democrats.
But the portrait of a steadily increasing number of deportations rests on statistics that conceal almost as much as they disclose. A closer examination shows that immigrants living illegally in most of the continental U.S. are less likely to be deported today than before Obama came to office, according to immigration data. Expulsions of people who are settled and working in the United States have fallen steadily since his first year in office, and are down more than 40% since 2009. On the other side of the ledger, the number of people deported at or near the border has gone up — primarily as a result of changing who gets counted in the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency’s deportation statistics.

The vast majority of those border crossers would not have been treated as formal deportations under most previous administrations. If all removals were tallied, the total sent back to Mexico each year would have been far higher under those previous administrations than it is now. Until recent years, most people caught illegally crossing the southern border were simply bused back into Mexico in what officials called “voluntary returns,” but which critics derisively termed “catch and release.” Those removals, which during the 1990s reached more 1 million a year, were not counted in Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s deportation statistics. Now, the vast majority of border crossers who are apprehended get fingerprinted and formally deported. The change began during the George W. Bush administration and accelerated under Obama. The policy stemmed in part from a desire to ensure that people who had crossed into the country illegally would have formal charges on their records. In the Obama years, all of the increase in deportations has involved people picked up within 100 miles of the border, most of whom have just recently crossed over. In 2013, almost two-thirds of deportations were in that category.

At the same time, the administration largely ended immigration roundups at workplaces and shifted investigators into targeting business owners who illegally hired foreign workers. “If you are a run-of-the-mill immigrant here illegally, your odds of getting deported are close to zero — it’s just highly unlikely to happen,” John Sandweg, until recently the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said in an interview. Even when immigration officials want to deport someone who already has settled in the country, doing so is “virtually impossible” because of a lengthy backlog in the immigration courts, Sandweg said. Once people who have no prior removals or convictions are placed in deportation proceedings, actually removing them from the country can take six years or more in some jurisdictions, Sandweg said.

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Rebecca Berg: With Obamacare Enrollment Milestone Met, Democrats Feel Cautious Enthusiasm

Democrats who have been expecting a tough slog to defend the implementation of Obamacare in this important midterm election year weren’t just pleased this week with news that 7.1 million people had enrolled in health insurance through federal or state exchanges. They were jubilant, and more than a little relieved. “The Affordable Care Act CRUSHED its first major enrollment deadline!” a fundraising email on behalf of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee declared Wednesday.

Such caps-lock, exclamatory enthusiasm is reflective of a brightening mood this week among Democrats, who understand that many of their candidates could win or lose this year on the merits of the health care law and its first-year implementation. And for a party that has suffered a long political winter, the creep of cautious optimism is a welcome warming trend.”This is a new political environment where implementation of law is going well. That’s a much better political environment for us,” said Matt Canter, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee deputy executive director.

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Andy Kroll: The Supreme Court Just Gutted Another Campaign Finance Law. Here’s What Happened

The Supreme Court on Wednesday released its decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, the blockbuster money-in-politics case of the current term. The court’s five conservative justices all agreed that the so-called aggregate limit on the amount of money a donor can give to candidates, political action committees, and political parties is unconstitutional. In a separate opinion, conservative justice Clarence Thomas went even further, calling on the court to overrule Buckley v. Valeo, the 1976 decision that concluded it was constitutional to limit contributions to candidates. In their dissent, the court’s four liberal justices called their colleagues’ logic “faulty” and said it “misconstrues the nature of the competing constitutional interests at stake.” The dissent continues, “Taken together with Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, today’s decision eviscerates our Nation’s campaign finance laws, leaving a remnant incapable of dealing with the grave problems of democratic legitimacy that those laws were intended to resolve.”

How’d this happen? In the 2012 election cycle, a wealthy Alabama businessman named Shaun McCutcheon tried to make donations in the amount of $1,776 to 27 right-leaning congressional candidates. Not so fast, replied the Federal Election Commission (FEC), the nation’s campaign finance watchdog.After this decision, how much can Shaun McCutcheon give? Hypothetically, a single donor can now contribute as much as $3.5 million, to be divvied up between candidates, PACs, and political parties. No single entity could receive any more than the legal limits, and when you add up all the contributions a donor could potentially make without the aggregate limits, you get $3.5 million. (The overall aggregate limit was raised to $123,200 for the 2014 cycle.)University of California-Irvine law professor Rick Hasen, who did not support McCutcheon’s cause, nonetheless has argued that the decision could reinvigorate the parties and maybe scale back the gridlock crippling Congress. What comes next? Although the court’s majority opinion in McCutcheon, written by Roberts, blew up the FEC’s aggregate limits, it did not take a broader swipe at campaign finance restrictions in general. Court watchers feared a decision in McCutcheon that would open the door to future legal assaults on the bedrock of campaign finance law: direct contribution limits, such as the $2,600 limit to candidates, the $5,000 limit to PACs and party committees, and so on.

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Dylan Scott: How The White House Is Always Outflanking The GOP On Obamacare

House Republicans will vote on Thursday to repeal yet another piece of Obamacare: the provision that sets 30 hours as the threshold for defining full-time employees, raising it to 40 hours. A company’s compliance with the law’s employer mandate depends on its number of full-time employees, so fewer full-time workers would presumably lighten the mandate’s load on businesses. If that seems like small potatoes for the party after its leaders continued to advocate for full repeal this week, here’s why: The Obama administration has outmaneuvered Republicans on Obamacare, and the opposition party doesn’t have many options left in its quest to roll back any part of the law. The administration already made unilateral alterations to unpopular pieces of the law, drawing bewildered reactions even from supporters.

But by making changes itself, the White House hasn’t let the GOP get in on the game, despite the party’s unending stream of anti-Obamacare bills — therefore denying Republicans the opportunity to extract the high-profile pound of flesh from the law that they’ve been seeking for years. On its face, it’s tough to see the policy rationale for this latest attack on the law. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor explained the GOP’s thinking on the chamber floor Wednesday, arguing that Obamacare’s 30-hour rule had encouraged businesses to cut their workers’ hours and that raising the threshold would restore hours and therefore wages. The Congressional Budget Office projected, however, that the proposal would lead to 500,000 more uninsured Americans and raise the federal deficit by nearly $74 billion over the next 10 years.

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Maidan Translations: Widespread Disappointment Grows In Crimea

Earlier this week, two thirds of the peninsula were left without electricity. Who is to blame is still unclear, but the supply of electricity from the mainland has been substantially reduced. Officials warn that soon the separatists will receive significantly higher electricity bills. The promises to pensioners also turned out to be a myth. Their pensions were never doubled, but simply converted into rubles, reports TSN. Pricing chaos. Empty banks and ATMs. Lines for several days at a time. These are the first results of “improvement,” Crimean-style. All the joys of civilization, which were obvious before, do not work. The lights can be turned off at any time. In one’s passport, an address that doesn’t exist. Salary cards are a bare piece of plastic. Lines for pay, are just like in old Soviet films. For Crimeans, these old films have become a reality.

Olga Kunina does not hesitate to call Yevpatoria her home town, even though she had been living in the Ukrainian capital [Kyiv] for ten years now. She also insists that she will speak Ukrainian on camera. “I want to keep my Ukrainian passport, I want to be proud of being a Ukrainian, I don’t want to be forced to become a Russian because of the situation they are trying to put me in,” she says. Olga’s compatriots – ethnic Russians – dreamed of getting rich immediately after the so-called referendum. They wanted to sell out their citizenship for increased pensions. But the only increase has been in their disappointment. “We got exactly the same [pensions – Ed.], only in Russian rubles,” – explain the retirees. And in coins Russia is withdrawing from circulation. The rubles started causing chaos on the markets and in prices.

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Jonathan Weisman: Health Enrollment Numbers Lift Democratic Hopes

After months of pummeling by Republicans and with a grim election season approaching, Democrats on Tuesday had a rare bright day. President Obama’s announcement that the new health care plan had enrolled 7.1 million Americans coincided with the release by Representative Paul D. Ryan of a new Republican budget that proposes changes in Medicare and deep cuts in spending. It’s far too early to say a political turnaround is at hand, but for the first time this election year, Democrats are evincing some confidence that they have at least stanched the bleeding. “It’s changing. If you’ve been around awhile, and I’ve been around awhile, you can sense it,” said Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate. “You’re not going to turn away seven or 10 million people from insurance coverage — doesn’t work anymore. And then comes Ryan. Thank you, thank you Congressman Paul Ryan, for reminding us what Republicans would do if they had control.”

On the plus side, the president’s announcement that 7.1 million Americans had signed up for private health policies through the law’s exchange is likely to prove understated. Once totals are tabulated to include new Medicaid enrollees, people who signed up for new federally protected policies through private insurance brokers, and young adults who have stayed on their parents’ policies because of the law, the figure is likely to be at least double that. Moreover, the Ryan budget, which was approved by the House Budget Committee on Wednesday night along party lines, will present the Democrats a chance to expand the political conversation. It cuts Medicaid by $1.5 trillion over 10 years, food stamps by $125 billion, education programs by $145 billion — including Pell grants — and makes university students begin paying interest on student loans while still in college.

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Jonathan Chait: Charles Koch Explains Why He Is So Crazy

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page owns the deluded self-pitying billionaire screed genre, and today, it brings us Charles Koch. From the outside, Koch would appear to have it pretty good. He owns a vast fortune inherited in substantial part from his father. He commands enormous political influence, with hundreds of politicians and other political elites at his beck and call. But Koch’s view of himself is as a kind of ragtag freedom fighter hunted nearly to extinction. Here is Koch attempting to explain the major source of his grievance: Instead of encouraging free and open debate, collectivists strive to discredit and intimidate opponents. They engage in character assassination. (I should know, as the almost daily target of their attacks.)

This is the approach that Arthur Schopenhauer described in the 19th century, that Saul Alinky famously advocated in the 20th, and that so many despots have infamously practiced. Such tactics are the antithesis of what is required for a free society—and a telltale sign that the collectivists do not have good answers. So the trouble is that his critics attempt to “discredit” and “intimidate” him and employ “character assassination.” All these terms appear to be Koch synonyms for “saying things about Charles Koch that Charles Koch does not agree with.” In the kind of “free and open” debate he imagines, Koch would continue to use his fortune to wield massive political influence, and nobody would ever say anything about him that makes him unhappy.

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NYT: To Ponder: More Food Is Sourced At Home By Gardeners

The number of American households in which residents are growing their own food — either in home or community gardens — has increased 17 percent over the last five years, to 43 million, or one in three households according to a report to be released Wednesday from the National Gardening Association. While gardening was not so long ago associated with retirees in silly pants, the trend is now driven by Americans from ages 18 to 34 who are tending gardens of all sizes.

The association, which has published annual statistics on food gardening in America since 1978, cited a home gardening campaign by Michelle Obama as one of the factors in the rise. “Six years ago, we planted the White House Kitchen Garden on the South Lawn to inspire a national conversation about food and nutrition,” Mrs. Obama said by email, “and as healthy habits are becoming the new norm in America, I hope that interest in gardening and healthy eating continues to grow.”

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On This Day:

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama join staff aboard Air Force One during their flight April 3, 2009, from Stansted Airport in Essex, England, en route to Strasbourg, France (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama meets with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton aboard Air Force One during flight from Stansted Airport in Essex, England to France, April 3, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama walks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy from the Palais Rohan (Palace Rohan) April 3, 2009, following their meeting in Strasbourg, France (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama, joined by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, receives an enthusiastic welcome April 3, 2009, to Palais Rohan (Palace Rohan) in Strasbourg, France (Photo by Pete Souza)

First Lady Michelle Obama meets with Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, wife of French President Sarkozy at the Palais Rohan (Rohan Palace) April 3, 2009, in Strasbourg, France (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

President Obama reviews his speech to the Turkish parliament with speechwriter Ben Rhodes while eating lunch April 3, 2009, in Strasbourg, France (Photo/Pete Souza)

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