Posts Tagged ‘John Kerry

30
Mar
14

Rise and Shine

President Obama enters the South Portico of the White House following his arrival aboard Marine One on the South Lawn, March 30, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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The Week Ahead:

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Addicting Info: Ted Cruz Tries To Use Facebook To Prove No One Likes Obamacare And It Blows Up In His Face

The Tea Party crusade against the Affordable Care Act (ACA) hit a huge snag this week. On March 24, 2014, Texas Tea Party Senator, Ted Cruz, decided to put up a ‘quick poll,’ about the ACA on his facebook page. Problem? The Koch brothers don’t control the conversation on social media, the people do.

Ask a question, get an answer. The question Rafael ‘Ted’ Cruz asked on facebook was simple. Are you better off now than you were before the ACA, also called Obamacare, was signed into law, four years ago? Nearly 40,000 comments later, the resounding answer from people all across the country was YES.

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NYT: New G.O.P. Bid To Limit Voting In Swing States

Pivotal swing states under Republican control are embracing significant new electoral restrictions on registering and voting that go beyond the voter identification requirements that have caused fierce partisan brawls. The bills, laws and administrative rules — some of them tried before — shake up fundamental components of state election systems, including the days and times polls are open and the locations where people vote. Republicans in Ohio and Wisconsin this winter pushed through measures limiting the time polls are open, in particular cutting into weekend voting favored by low-income voters and blacks, who sometimes caravan from churches to polls on the Sunday before election.

Democrats in North Carolina are scrambling to fight back against the nation’s most restrictive voting laws, passed by Republicans there last year. The measures, taken together, sharply reduce the number of early voting days and establish rules that make it more difficult for people to register to vote, cast provisional ballots or, in a few cases, vote absentee.In all, nine states have passed measures making it harder to vote since the beginning of 2013. Most have to do with voter ID laws. Other states are considering mandating proof of citizenship, like a birth certificate or a passport, after a federal court judge recently upheld such laws passed in Arizona and Kansas. Because many poor people do not have either and because documents can take time and money to obtain, Democrats say the ruling makes it far more difficult for people to register.

Last year, the Supreme Court struck down a central provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The decision allowed a number of mostly Southern states to alter their election laws without the prior approval once required from the Justice Department. A few weeks later, free of the mandate and emboldened by a Republican supermajority, North Carolina passed the country’s most sweeping restrictions on voting.

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Tara Culp-Ressler: Survivors Of Domestic Violence Now Have Better Access To Obamacare Benefits

Survivors of domestic violence who are living separately from an abusive spouse will now be able to claim tax credits to help them afford an Obamacare plan, thanks to new rules being developed by the federal government. Before the change, these individuals were locked out of federal assistance for health care unless they filed joint taxes with their abuser. Obamacare’s tax credits are intended to ensure that insurance plans on the new marketplaces are affordable for the Americans who may otherwise struggle to pay for health care. But in order for married people to qualify, the health law requires them to file their taxes jointly. If they file separately, they lose out on the federal assistance altogether. Domestic violence prevention advocates argue that policy ends up harming victims of abuse —

particularly because domestic violence is more concentrated among low-income households, and the victims who are financially dependent on their abusers are less likely to be able to extricate themselves from the relationship.  Last week, a group of 79 lawmakers, led by Reps. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), urged the Treasury Department to change this policy and safeguard victims of domestic violence. It only took a few days for Treasury officials to agree. “For victims of domestic abuse, contacting a spouse for purposes of filing a joint return may pose a risk of injury or trauma or, if the spouse is subject to a restraining order, may be legally prohibited. Your concerns are consistent to those expressed to us by numerous others in public comments and meetings,” the Treasury Department acknowledged on Wednesday in a written response to Slaughter and Doggett, explaining that the administration will work on finalizing a new rule on this issue.

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Pete Souza: Pres Obama talks on phone to Pres Putin from Saudi Arabia Friday night

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Fareed Zakaria: Obama Pursues The Right Response To Russia’s 19th-Century Behavior

This is not an academic debate. The best way to deal with Russia’s aggression in Crimea is not to present it as routine and national interest-based foreign policy that will be countered by Washington in a contest between two great powers. It is to point out, as Obama did eloquently this week in Brussels, that Russia is grossly endangering a global order that has benefited the entire world. Compare what the Obama administration has managed to organize in the wake of this latest Russian aggression to the Bush administration’s response to Putin’s actions in Georgia in 2008. That was a blatant invasion. Moscow sent in tanks and heavy artillery; hundreds were killed, nearly 200,000 displaced.

Yet the response was essentially nothing. This time, it has been much more serious. Some of this difference is in the nature of the stakes, but it might also have to do with the fact that the Obama administration has taken pains to present Russia’s actions in a broader context and get other countries to see them as such. You can see a similar pattern with Iran. The Bush administration largely pressured that country bilaterally. The Obama administration was able to get much more effective pressure because it presented Iran’s nuclear program as a threat to global norms of nonproliferation, persuaded the other major powers to support sanctions, enacted them through the United Nations and thus ensured that they were comprehensive and tight. This is what leadership looks like in the 21st century.

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@GOPIsPoverty

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Guardian: Kerry To Meet Russia’s Lavrov For Ukraine Talks In Paris On Sunday

Halfway home from Saudi Arabia, US secretary of state John Kerry has abruptly changed course. He will now stay in Europe for talks on Ukraine. The news followed reports from Russia that Kerry had spoken to the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, by phone, a day after President Vladimir Putin called President Barack Obama. The Russian foreign ministry said Washington had initiated the call between Kerry and Lavrov, adding that they discussed Ukraine and plans for further contact.

Flying from Riyadh to Ireland for a refuelling stop, Kerry decided to turn around after speaking to Lavrov from the plane. State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki confirmed on Saturday that Kerry had arrived in Paris and that the meeting would be held on Sunday.

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Kate Nocera: Univision Works Overtime To Get Latinos Enrolled In Obamacare

The Obama administration has been working overtime in recent months to enroll uninsured Latinos — one of the groups most likely to be uninsured — but it’s not just the White House making a concerted effort. For more than a year, the Spanish-language television network Univision has embarked on their own company-wide effort to get Latinos signed up on the exchanges, working through newscasts, special programming, advertising partnerships, and a dedicated health care website. Univision has not only been providing information to their viewers as to how to sign up but openly encouraging them to do so.

The network’s “empowerment initiatives” team — which focuses primarily on health and educational programming — began looking for partners to help their audience find coverage last year. Univision ultimately went with the California Endowment and the Ford Foundation, launching in earnest last April. The company makes no bones about what they were trying to do. Empowerment Initiatives Director Stephen Keppel told BuzzFeed that the company thinks “it’s better to have health insurance than not to have it” and because of the high number of uninsured Latinos, it was an important initiative for them to take on.

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BBC: Vladmir Putin: The Rebuilding Of ‘Soviet’ Russia

On 16 August 1999, the members of Russia’s parliament – the State Duma – met to approve the candidacy of a prime minister. They heard the candidate’s speech, they asked him a few questions, and they dutifully confirmed him in the position. This was President Boris Yeltsin’s fifth premier in 16 months, and one confused party leader got the name wrong. He said he would support the candidacy of Stepashin – the surname of the recently sacked prime minister – rather than that of his little-known successor, before making an embarrassing correction.

If even leading Duma deputies couldn’t remember the new prime minister’s name, you couldn’t blame the rest of the world if it didn’t pay much attention to his speech. He was unlikely to head the Russian government for more than a couple of months anyway, so why bother? That man was a former KGB officer, Vladimir Putin, and he has been in charge of the world’s largest country, as president or prime minister, ever since. Few realised it at the time, because few were listening, but that speech provided a blueprint for pretty much everything he has done, for how he would re-shape a country that was perilously close to total collapse.

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Scott Keyes: It Saves Millions To Simply Give Homeless People A Place To Live

It is cheaper to give homeless people a home than it is to leave them on the streets. That’s not just the opinion of advocates working to end homelessness, nor is it the opinion of homeless people themselves. It is a fact that has been borne out by studies across the country, from Florida to Colorado and beyond. The latest analysis to back up this fact comes out of Charlotte, where researchers from the University of North Carolina Charlotte examined a recently constructed apartment complex that was oriented towards homeless people.

Moore Place opened in 2012 with 85 units. Each resident is required to contribute 30 percent of his or her income, which includes any benefits like disability, veterans, or Social Security, toward rent. The rest of the housing costs, which total approximately $14,000 per person annually, are covered by a mix of local and federal government grants, as well as private donors. In the first year alone, researchers found that Moore Place saved taxpayers $1.8 million. These savings comes from improvements in two primary areas: health care and incarceration.

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Sara Fischer: Biden: Undocumented Immigrants ‘Already American Citizens’

Vice President Joe Biden echoed the West Wing’s “we can’t wait” mantra Thursday, telling a crowd at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Summit that “undocumented aliens” are already American citizens. “You know, 11 million people that are living in the shadows. I believe they’re already Americans citizens,” Biden said. “These people are just waiting, waiting for a chance to be able to contribute fully. And by that standard, 11 million undocumented aliens are already Americans in my view.”

Citing the contribution Hispanics have made to the American economy, Biden stressed the importance of passing immigration reform sooner rather than later, arguing, “It’s the single most significant thing we can do. It’s a game-changer financially for the country.”“Just this one act alone, if we pass the Senate bill, can extend Social Security solvency by two years.” Biden said. “Even Republicans think we should pass the Senate bill,” he later added.

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Chris Geidner: Federal Appeals Court Rejects Challenge To Texas Abortion Restrictions

A federal appeals court rejected Planned Parenthood’s challenge to Texas’ restrictive abortion law passed last summer, save for one small exception. Thursday’s unanimous decision of a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a trial court decision from October finding two provisions in the law unconstitutional.

Planned Parenthood challenged two provisions: One required physicians performing abortions to have admitting privileges “at a hospital no more than thirty miles from the location where the abortion is provided.” The second provision limited medication abortions by requiring that, with few exceptions, abortion-inducing drugs only be used when they “comply with the protocol authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).”

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Michael Cohen: Obama’s Not-Another-Cold-War-Vision: Don’t Hate The Players – Play The Game

From the day Barack Obama took office, his approach to American foreign policy has vacillated between a seemingly irreconcilable set of impulses. There’s been the sentimentalist agitating for reductions in nuclear weapons, calling for a more modest approach – and the commander-in-chief ramping up the US drone war, surging in Afghanistan, going far beyond his mandate to affect regime change in Libya. There was the lawyer and internationalist drawing a redline on Syria’s use of chemical weapons – and the hard-headed realist who, to date, has assiduously avoided any policy that would risk miring the US in that country’s bloody civil war. Yesterday in Brussels, as Obama spoke about the proper response to Russia’s seizure of Crimea, those contending instincts were once again on stark display.

Yet rarely has Obama so effectively navigated the middle ground between them – or quite so lovingly embraced Europe as he cast a distinctly icy glare at Vladimir Putin. In the process, the American president offered perhaps the clearest sense of his own vision on international relations: one that upholds the international system for its role in creating a world of greater peace and security – and explaining why, in an era of retrenchment, that system matters more than ever.In Obama’s formulation, peace is a product of universalist ideals, yes. But it is sustained and reinforced by an international system of laws and norms.

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Betsy Phillips: Creationism Is Not Being Ignored On ‘Cosmos’ — It’s The Focus

Danny Faulkner, a “scientist” working for the same group that runs Kentucky’s creation museum was complaining last week that Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey doesn’t address creationism.Actually, Tyson is deliberately and straightforwardly giving a whole lot of time to creationism. Why did we have to sit through the history of the eyeball? Creationists love to argue that the complexity of the eyeball disproves evolution. Note how he talked specifically about how the eyeball isn’t actually this perfect mechanism, but something that works well enough for what we need it for, but not as well as it does in fish — the whole idea that the eyeball is a perfect, too-complex thing is a creationist argument.

 Another example: Why did Tyson spend so much time explaining the similarities and differences in how polar bears have evolved through natural selection vs. how dogs have changed in the time we’ve been breeding them for certain traits? Because creationists acknowledge that changes within species happen. They just like to pretend like one kind of organism couldn’t really have brought forth another kind of organism. Tyson isn’t ignoring creationism. Creationists wish Tyson were ignoring creationism. Tyson is instead standing on creationism’s home turf and playing by their rules.Tyson is taking creationists’ claims deadly seriously, and showing all the ways they’re wrong.

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Jon Emont: Can Israeli Business Leaders Push Netanyahu Toward A Palestinian Peace Deal?

In late January, the face of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began to appear on scores of billboards in Tel Aviv. The caption read: “A strong state signs the deal. Bibi only you can do it!” The message—to work out a peace agreement with the Palestinians—was idealistic. But the money was all business. The 1 million shekel (around $300,000) advertising campaign was paid for by the Israeli wing of Breaking the Impasse, an alliance of more than 150 Israeli corporate executives. The campaign comes at a crucial time. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is one month away from his April 29 deadline to release a framework agreement that will establish the U.S. government’s principles for a final deal.

After nine months of discussion there is widespread worry that the framework agreement will be dead on arrival. Kerry’s demands from the Palestinians might cause Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, to withdraw from talks or lose his authority to negotiate. At the same time, Kerry’s demands for Israeli concessions over settlements or East Jerusalem might lead the Israeli right to pressure Netanyahu to withdraw from the talks. Israelis are pessimistic about the peace process, and Netanyahu has little domestic incentive to make concessions to spur negotiations. This worries Israeli business executives. They’re concerned that Israel will face increasing international isolation, including an expanded boycott campaign, if the talks founder. BTI represents these business people. It’s planning a well-funded public campaign to pressure Netanyahu to make concessions and sign a deal.

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Katie Zezima: Just How Popular Was Michelle Obama’s Visit To China?

According to a tally by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, photos, videos and stories about Michelle Obama’s visit to China garnered more than 1 billion page views. Yes, that’s billion with a B.It’s probably not too far-fetched of a notion, according to Cheng Li, director of the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution. “This is really Michelle fever in China,” he said.Cheng said Obama and her family –

her mother, Marian Robinson, and daughters, Malia and Sasha, traveled with her — showed respect for Chinese traditions and deftly weaved in diplomacy with lighter moments in a way that made the Chinese want to see what she was doing and where she was going. “Chinese do not only see this leader to leader. They see it family to family and in a broader context the respect of the two great countries,” he said. “This is why people got so excited.”

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Get Covered Illinois: #GCISuccess Stories

Rebecca S.: Rebecca, a 27 year-old Chicago resident, was denied coverage in 2012 because of her pre-existing condition. Upon being rejected in the private market, Rebecca enrolled in a plan for high-risk individuals that was beyond her price range and didn’t cover many of her health care needs. Now, Rebecca is enrolled in a Silver plan that saves her $1,600 per year compared to her previous coverage and covers the majority of her needs. Rebecca sees her new health insurance as more than just comprehensive coverage at a fair price. She believes enrolling in affordable health care is her chance at the American dream to be young and hardworking without the fear that an accident or illness will derail her dreams.

Joe Z.: Joe, a 55 year-old self-employed realtor from Chicago, previously had a COBRA plan that ended in 2013. Preparing for the New Year, Joe enrolled in a Silver plan with Blue Cross Blue Shield through the Marketplace. He was amazed to learn that his premium would be reduced by over 50% and that his new plan offered more extensive coverage. Joe is thankful that he was able to find affordable coverage on the Marketplace, especially with his pre-existing condition. In 2005, Joe underwent open heart surgery and said it was nearly impossible to find reasonable coverage with his medical history until the Affordable Care Act. Since enrolling, he has already used his insurance at his annual checkup with his cardiologist. Joe can rest easy now knowing his medical history will never dictate the type of coverage he can get again.

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On This Day

 Standing on the Colonnade with Phil Schiliro, assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs, prior to the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act Bil signing ceremony in the Red Room of the White House, March 30, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

 President Obama walks to a podium in the Cross Hall, Grand Foyer of the White House, before making a statement regarding the American auto industry, March 30, 2009 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)

President Obama walks away from the podium after delivering a statement regarding the American auto industry in the Cross Hall, Grand Foyer of the White House, March 30, 2009 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

 President Obama and Staff Secretary Lisa Brown on the Colonnade prior to the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act Bill signing ceremony, March 30, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

 

 President Obama conducts interviews in the Map Room of the White House, March 30, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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 President Obama walks towards the Oval Office, after returning to the White House from Northern Virginia Community College in Alexandria, Va., March 30, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and Vice President Biden meet with advisors for a health care implementation meeting in the Oval Office, March 30, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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First Lady Michelle Obama greets actress Hilary Swank and other guest mentors in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House during an event celebrating Women’s History Month, March 30, 2011 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

President Obama shakes hands with members of the audience following his speech on energy security at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., March 30, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

 President Obama greets James Brady in Press Secretary Jay Carney’s West Wing office at the White House, March 30, 2011. Brady, former President Ronald Reagan’s press secretary, was wounded during the assassination attempt on President Reagan 30 years ago. Brady’s wife Sarah, right, and son Scott, center, joined him for the meeting (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama talks with White House correspondents Bill Plante, CBS News, and Savannah Guthrie, NBC News, in the Upper Press Office of the White House, March 30, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama looks out the window of Marine One as he departs the White House South Lawn en route to Joint Base Andrews, Md., for a trip to Vermont, March 30, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama talks with Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Marcelle Leahy aboard Air Force One en route to Burlington, Vt., March 30, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama is reflected in sunglasses as he greets people on the tarmac following his arrival at Portland International Jetport in Portland, Maine, March 30, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

 

27
Feb
14

Rise and Shine

Terrell Anderson Jr, 3, of Detroit, a relative of Rosa Parks, with President Obama after the unveiling of a statue in her honor at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, February 27, 2013

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Today (All Times Eastern):

11:0: First Lady Michelle Obama unveils proposal for major changes to food labeling rules

2:0: President Obama meets with foundation and business leaders to discuss his “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative; State Dining Room

3:25: Delivers remarks on the My Brother’s Keeper initiative

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Jonathan Easley: Enroll America Adds Muscle To O-Care Push

An ObamaCare enrollment group with close ties to the White House is launching a final, coordinated push to sign people up for health insurance ahead of the March 31 deadline. A spokesman for Enroll America told The Hill the prominent nonprofit had grown its pool of volunteers to nearly 20,000, increased its field reach by 35 percent, hired more than 70 new employees since January, and increased its digital advertising budget from $5 million to $7 million for 2014. The group’s “Countdown to Get Covered” will include a bus tour through Texas and Ohio, with stops at events popular with the young, like the SXSW music festival, and more than 3,000 events assisting people with in-person enrollment.

“All of the work that our dedicated staff, volunteers, and partner organizations have done over the past five months has positioned us for success in this critical final stretch,” said Anne Filipic, president of Enroll America. “Thanks to the data we’ve collected, we know what works, and thanks to the huge coalition we have built, we’re ready to leave no stone unturned as we work right up to the deadline.” Enroll America is also working with the Ad Council on multimedia public service announcements for the Web, television, radio and print. In addition, the group will work with more than 2,200 partner organizations, including Planned Parenthood, MomsRising, Protect Your Care, Organizing for Action and National Congress for Black Women, and with groups participating in events like the National Youth Enrollment Day and Latino Enrollment Summits.

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

On Father’s Day last June, President Barack Obama welcomed 14 teenagers sporting black-and-white T-shirts that read “BAM” into the Oval Office. The letters stood not for the nickname occasionally slapped on the president by big-city tabloids, but for “Becoming a Man,” a program run by a Chicago nonprofit working with at-risk youth in the public schools. The president had met the group of young black men once before, when he dropped by one of BAM’s hourlong group discussion sessions at Hyde Park Academy High School last February. He’d pulled up a chair and sat in the boys’ circle that day, talking with them so long about their lives his aides worried he would blow up his carefully planned schedule during his visit to the city.

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As the teens gathered around the president, one handed him a green and gold Father’s Day card, which all the boys had signed. They had gone out and purchased it the day before, unbeknown to their counselor, Marshaun Bacon, who traveled with them to the White House. “I never signed a Father’s Day card before,” the young man explained as the president opened the card. “I’ve never signed a Father’s Day card, either,” Obama replied, according to an aide, improbably closing the distance between the Chicago teens and the American president. It was an intimate, private moment that moved him.

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The Obama administration’s most ambitious and high profile effort to tackle the systemic problems facing young men of color is rooted in a series of White House conversations led by Obama in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting two years ago. They continued and gathered momentum — including with first lady Michelle Obama — after the random shooting of another teen who lived just a mile from the Obamas’ Chicago home. After his re-election, those discussions began to shape a more serious policy debate as Obama quietly began to bond with the Chicago youngsters. But what started as a second-term presidential bid to confront a vexing social crisis may be turning into a lifelong cause.

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Peter Schroeder: CFPB Sues For-Profit School System For Predatory Lending

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is launching a lawsuit against one of the nation’s largest for-profit college programs. The watchdog announced Wednesday it was suing ITT Educational Services for predatory lending practices, pushing prospective students into costly loans and misleading them about future job prospects. CFPB Director Richard Cordray said the suit should serve as “a warning to the for-profit college industry that we will be vigilant about protecting students against predatory lending practices.”

In a U.S. District Court, the regulator sued the Indiana-based company and charged that the company pushed students into predatory loans without properly explaining what they were signing up for. The CFPB said some students did not even realize they had taken out the loans until they received calls from collection agencies. The CFPB also claimed that ITT credits did not transfer to many other schools. That meant that the company would threaten expulsion and the loss of money already spent on a first year to “coerce” students into taking out more loans.

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USA Today: Chokwe Lumumba, Activist And Jackson Mayor, Dies At 66

Mayor Chokwe Lumumba, a longtime civil rights activist, died Tuesday afternoon at a hospital after experiencing chest pains. He was 66. His chief of staff choked up as she announced the news. “It is with heavy heart that we inform you that our beloved brother, human rights activist and mayor of the great city passed away this afternoon,” Safiya Omari said at a news conference Tuesday evening. “We ask that you pray for his children and family, his friends and for this great city of ours.” The national civil rights community took note when Lumumba became mayor last year of Mississippi’s capital city — a place that had seen its share of violence during the civil rights movement. Lumumba, a black nationalist, had worked with mainstream and leftist figures in the civil rights world.

The native of Detroit was born Edwin Taliaferro and graduated cum laude from Wayne State University Law School. He renamed himself after Patrice Lumumba, the Congolese independence leader, and the Chokwe, an Angolan tribe. Lumumba’s activism began early. On the day after Martin Luther King Jr. died, he took part in a student takeover of a campus building at Western Michigan University, where he was a student. He and others were demanding more black educators and scholarships for black students. He also pushed for more black studies programs at colleges and universities in the Midwest. He worked with Julian Bond and Dick Gregory as a leader with the Republic of New Afrika, a social movement that proposed an independent black country in the southeastern United States. He also was a target of the FBI’s counterintelligence operation.

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Steve Benen: Court Rejects Texas’ Ban On Marriage Equality

Opponents of marriage equality have been on a losing streak that’s nothing short of brutal. A federal court struck down Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage two weeks ago, which came on the heels of similar rulings in Kentucky,Oklahoma, and Utah. But today, the trend reached the largest of the nation’s ruby-red states. A federal judge in San Antonio ruled Wednesday that Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutionally deprives some citizens of due process and equal protection under the law by stigmatizing their relationships and treating them differently from opposite-sex couples.

U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia cited recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings as having trumped Texas’ moves to ban gay marriage. “Today’s court decision is not made in defiance of the great people of Texas or the Texas Legislature, but in compliance with the U.S. Constitution and Supreme Court precedent,” the judge wrote. “Without a rational relation to a legitimate governmental purpose, state-imposed inequality can find no refuge in our U.S. Constitution.” Does this mean marriage equality has come to Texas? Not quite yet. Garcia concluded that the state ban on marriage equality is unconstitutional, but existing Texas law will remain in place as the appeals process gets underway.

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Joy-Ann Reid: Are The Unarmed Unequal Under Stand Your Ground?

In the wake of the verdict in the case of Michael Dunn, convicted of three counts of second-degree attempted murder and of firing 10 shots at a car containing four teenagers, state Rep. Alan Williams underlined the need to repeal Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. One of the teenagers was Jordan Davis, who was killed by Dunn. Williams said recent cases of black teenagers shot to death by strangers in the state “have renewed the argument that this injustice in our laws makes ordinary citizens feel empowered to shoot first and ask questions later; boosting murder rates and justifiable homicides and putting individuals that people too often presumed to be a threat in particular peril.”

Indeed, a January 2013 study by Texas A&M researcher Mark Hoekstra found that homicide rates have increased by 7 percent to 9 percent in the 23 states that have Stand Your Ground-type laws versus those without them.  For young black men in particular, who are more often consigned to societal unworthiness by implicit racial bias with the damning label of “thug” — based on how they dress or wear their hair, or their choice of music — Stand Your Ground effectively demands a specific kind of submissiveness: If they want to live, submit to the invisible authority of virtually any civilian who might believe, like Michael Dunn, per his jailhouse letters, that “if more people would arm themselves and kill these [expletive] idiots when they’re threatening you, eventually they may take the hint and change their behavior.”

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Daniel Strauss: Davis ‘Pleased’ Texas Judge Ruled Gay Marriage Ban Unconstitutional

Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis (D), the likely Democratic nominee for governor, is pleased with a federal judge’s ruling that declared the state’s gay marriage ban unconstitutional. “She is pleased with the ruling because she believes that all Texans who love one another and are committed to spending their lives together should be allowed to marry,” press secretary Rebecca Acuña said in a statement to TPM on Wednesday afternoon.

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Tony Plohetski: Despite Negative Blood And Breath Tests, Man Arrested For DWI

To Austin attorney Daniel Betts, driving while intoxicated can sometimes be what he calls “an opinion crime.” Law enforcement must decide, sometimes within only a matter of minutes, whether a person is intoxicated and should go to jail — or be allowed to simply drive way. On the night Austin police arrested his client, they made the wrong choice, he says – his opinion bolstered by a voluntary breath and blood test showing Larry Davis wasn’t intoxicated when he was arrested Jan. 13, 2013. He tested 0.00 on a Breathalyzer – the lowest possible reading — and the blood test, which took months to be tested, came back negative.

“My reaction was just shock that it happened,” Betts said of the arrest, after watching a police dash cam video and reviewing the evidence. The arrest meant Davis spent a day in jail, and he was left with a criminal case looming over him for more than a year. Prosecutors last week dismissed the case against Davis. “I was arrested for nothing, really,” he said. “It was suspicion of drunk driving, which I wasn’t so I was surprised and hurt at the same time.” Davis is now working to have his arrest record wiped clean, a process that could take several more months.

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Brett Logiurato: Texas To Appeal Gay Marriage Ruling

Texas will appeal a federal judge’s ruling Wednesday that the state’s ban on gay marriages is unconstitutional, Attorney General Greg Abbott said. Here’s the full statement from Abbott, who is also the Republican frontrunner in the state’s gubernatorial race: “This is an issue on which there are good, well-meaning people on both sides. And, as the lower court acknowledged today, it’s an issue that will ultimately be resolved by a higher court. Texas will begin that process by appealing today’s ruling to the Fifth Circuit.

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Lalita Clozel: U.S. Vows To Deny Visas To Those Accused Of Wartime Sexual Violence

Secretary of State John F. Kerry announced on Tuesday a ban against issuing U.S. visas to foreigners implicated in wartime sexual violence. “No one at the highest level of military or governance who has presided over, or engaged in, or knew of, or adopted these kinds of attacks is ever going to receive a visa to travel into the United States of America from this day forward,” Kerry said during talks with his British counterpart, William Hague.

Hague applauded the announcement. “The shattering of impunity … is the crucial ingredient so that people know they will not get away with it,” he said. Awareness of the use of sexual violence in conflicts grew after the 1990s war in the former Yugoslavia, where more than 20,000 women and girls were reportedly raped, and the Rwandan genocide, during which the figure is believed to have reached into the hundreds of thousands.

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AP: Child Care Centers To Follow First Lady Guidelines

The nation’s second-largest for-profit child care provider is adopting Michelle Obama’s healthy eating and activity guidelines. The Learning Care Group, based in Novi, Mich., says it will limit TV and computer time for children, eliminate fried foods, serve fruits and-or vegetables at every meal, replace sugary drinks with water or plain, low-fat milk, and provide at least an hour of daily physical activity. It will also allow mothers to provide breast milk for their children and accommodate mothers who want to breast feed.

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The Learning Care Group says it provides early education and child care services to more than 100,000 children between the ages of 6 weeks and 13 years at its 900 centers around the country. The centers operate under five brand names: Childtime Learning Centers, Tutor Time Child Care/Learning Centers, The Children’s Courtyard, Montessori Unlimited and La Petite Academy.  The first lady this week has been marking the fourth anniversary of “Let’s Move,” the initiative to combat childhood obesity that she launched in February 2010. The healthy eating and activity guidelines for child care centers, which were released in 2011, are part of that program. Some 13,000 child care centers nationwide are now following the rules, said Sam Kass, the executive director of “Let’s Move.”

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Daniel Arkin: Arizona Governor Jan Brewer Vetoes Anti-Gay Bill

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has vetoed a hot-button measure that would have permitted businesses in the state to deny service to gay and lesbians for religious beliefs. At a news conference at the State Capitol Wednesday evening, Brewer said the bill “could result in unintended and negative consequences.” “I sincerely believe that Senate Bill 1062 has the potential to create more problems than it purports to solve,” Brewer said.

Gay rights advocates gathered outside the Capitol broke out in loud cheers immediately after Brewer’s announcement. The controversial bill had sparked outcry from LGBT activists and drew vocal criticism from civic leaders, business interests and state economic groups. “Discrimination has no place in Arizona, or anywhere else,” said Alessandra Soler, executive director of the ACLU of Arizona. “We’re grateful that the governor has stopped this disgraceful law from taking effect, and that Arizona will remain open for business to everyone.”

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Zachary Roth: Ohio Cuts Early Voting Method Favored By Blacks

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted announced Tuesday he is cutting early voting on Sundays and weekday evenings, dealing another blow to the voting rights effort in the nation’s most pivotal swing state. Husted’s change would spell doom for a voting method that’s popular among African-Americans in Ohio and elsewhere. Many churches and community groups lead “Souls to the Polls” drives after church on the Sunday before the election. There’s little doubt that cuts to early voting target blacks disproportionately. In 2008, black voters were 56% of all weekend voters in Cuyahoga County, Ohio’s largest, even though they made up just 28% of the county’s population.

“By completely eliminating Sundays from the early voting schedule, Secretary Husted has effectively quashed successful Souls to the Polls programs that brought voters directly form church to early voting sites,” said Mike Brickner, a spokesman for the Ohio American Civil Liberties Union, in an email. The news comes days after Republican Gov. John Kasich signed two GOP-backed bills that cut six more days from the early voting period, end same-day registration and make it harder to vote absentee. Together, the restrictions could significantly reduce minority turnout this fall and in 2016.

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Sy Mukherjee: Rand Paul Blocks Surgeon General Nominee For Saying Gun Violence Is A Public Health Threat

On Wednesday — two years to the day after George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin — Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) placed a hold on President Barack Obama’s nominee for Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, over Murthy’s view that gun violence represents a significant public health threat. “In his efforts to curtail Second Amendment rights, Dr. Murthy has continually referred to guns as a public health issue on par with heart disease and has diminished the role of mental health in gun violence,” wrote Paul in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. But Paul is actually out of step with most physicians.

The idea that gun violence is a danger to public health is utterly uncontroversial among doctors’ groupsacademic institutions that focus on public health, and children’s safety advocates. Although Paul criticizes Murthy’s position that physicians and pediatricians should ask patients about the presence of guns in their households, the American Medical Association (AMA) adopted a resolution in 2011officially opposing any law that bars doctors from having open conversations about gun safety and the risks of having firearms in a household with their patients. In fact, just yesterday, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued new guidelines recommending that households with children who are diagnosed with depression should remove guns and ammunition from their homes entirely.

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Michael Hiltzik: The Simple Math That Tells You The New GOP Tax Plan Is A Scam

The long-awaited Republican tax reform plan was released today by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich). It’s being hailed as a breakthrough in putting real reform on the table, but also being instantly eulogized as dead-on-arrival in a Congress that wants no part of any tax reform, now or ever.  Still, it’s instructive to examine the Camp plan for a primer on the latest mathematical trickery aimed at making something that preserves, even enhances, tax benefits for the wealthy appear instead to be a tax increase for the wealthy. Nice try, Congressman Dave. Here’s the easiest calculation. Camp says he’s eliminating the preferential tax rate on capital gains, and taxing them the same as ordinary income. That would be a big philosophical change and a big tax hike on the rich, if it were true. It’s not true. Camp’s plan exempts 40% of capital gains (and investment dividends) from any taxation at all.

How does this work out in real numbers? The top marginal tax rate on married taxpayers today is 39.6% (couples with more than $457,600 income). The top capital gains rate is 20%. Camp wants to cut the top marginal rate to 35%. If you tax capital gains at 35%, but exempt 40% of them from any tax, your effective rate on all capital gains works out to (… wait for i t…) 21%. In other words, Camp is raising the standard cap gains rate by a single percentage point. But since he’s also cutting the top rate on all income by nearly five percentage points, rich taxpayers still come out ahead. Camp would make the job of the IRS harder. He would ease the registration process for C-4s, and allow them to keep almost all their donors secret not only from the public, but from the IRS too. This is really sleazy of him. It gives rich political campaign donors more of a shield from the law than they deserve, and much more than is healthy for the public interest. If there were a single reason to laugh this tax “reform” off the table, this would be it.

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BBC: Ukraine Interim Leaders Warn Of ‘Unpopular Steps’ Ahead

Ukraine’s acting President Olexander Turchynov and PM-designate Arseniy Yatsenyuk have warned of the need for “unpopular” steps to help restore the country’s economy and politics. Mr Yatsenyuk told the BBC the central challenge for the newly named government was to “stabilise” Ukraine. Ukrainian MPs are expected to vote later on the new cabinet line up. Meanwhile, the regional parliament and government headquarters in Crimea have been seized by armed men. The two buildings in the regional capital Simferopol were seized overnight by a group of at least 50 pro-Russian men who were preventing government workers from entering, regional Prime Minister Anatoliy Mohilyov told AFP news agency.

The Russian flag was seen flying over both buildings. Interim President Turchynov warned the crowds the new government would “have to pass unpopular decisions”. “The government will be criticised, treated like dirt. But they must fulfil their obligations and work to the bone for the sake of Ukraine.” He has promised to resign once the country is back on its feet. Acting government officials predict Ukraine needs $35bn (£21bn) in bailout loans to get through the next two years. On Wednesday, the US said it was considering offering Ukraine’s struggling economy – which faces default – loan guarantees of up to $1bn. Meanwhile, Mr Yanukovych has been put on the international wanted list.

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On This Day:

Before giving a policy speech on Iraq, President Obama places his hand on his heart as the national anthem is played backstage at the Field House in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Feb. 27, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama attends a Washington Wizards vs Chicago Bulls basketball game at the Verizon Center, Washington, D.C., Feb. 27, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama holds conference call from the Situation Room of the White House concerning the earthquake in Chile, Feb. 27, 2010. Pictured are, left to right, Tom Donilon, deputy national security advisor, Rajiv Shah, administrator of USAID, and Rahm Emanuel, White House chief of staff. Other Cabinet officials joined the meeting by phone (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Dr. Jill Biden, react while watching Sasha Obama and Maisy Biden, the Vice President’s granddaughter, play in a basketball game in Chevy Chase, Md., Feb. 27, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama and Vice President Biden greet Susannah Flanagan, daughter of Frank Buckles, at Arlington National Cemetery Memorial Chapel in Arlington, Va., March 15, 2011. Buckles, the last surviving American World War I veteran, passed away on Feb. 27, 2011, at his West Virginia home. He was 110. (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama listen as Gladys Knight performs during the Governors Dinner in the East Room of the White House, Feb. 27, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama meets with former Chief of Protocol Selwa “Lucky” Roosevelt, left, and guests in the Oval Office, Feb. 27, 2012. The President signed a presidential commendation in honor of Roosevelt’s government service (Photo by Pete Souza)

First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden talk outside the State Dining Room before addressing the National Governors Association annual meeting at the White House, Feb. 27, 2012 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

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President Barack Obama talks with senior advisors following a meeting in the Oval Office, Feb. 27, 2013. Standing, from left, are: Rob Nabors, Deputy White House Chief of Staff for Policy; Pete Rouse, Counselor to the President; Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett; Chief of Staff Denis McDonough; Senior Advisor Dan Pfeiffer; Mark Childress, Deputy Chief of Staff for Planning; Miguel Rodriguez, Director of Legislative Affairs; Danielle Gray, Cabinet Secretary; Press Secretary Jay Carney; and Alyssa Mastromonaco, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama greets veterans of the 2nd Ranger Infantry Company (Airborne) in the Oval Office, Feb. 27, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

First Lady Michelle Obama at a “Let’s Move!” event in Clinton, Miss. with Rachael Ray, February 27, 2013

President Obama at the unveiling of a statue in honor of civil rights activist Rosa Parks at the U.S. Capitol, February 27, 2013

13
Oct
13

Meanwhile, The Adminstration’s Work Goes On

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel meet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the prime minister’s official residence in Tokyo

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Continue reading ‘Meanwhile, The Adminstration’s Work Goes On’

03
Oct
13

Rise and Shine

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Happy 21st Anniversary!

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Presidential Daily Schedule (All Times Eastern)

10:40AM: President Obama delivers remarks at M. Luis Construction Company

12PM: President Obama and VP Biden receive the Presidential Daily Briefing

12:30PM: Press Sec. Jay Carney briefs the press

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Sy Mukherjee: Meet Butch Matthews, A Republican Who Came To Love ObamaCare After Realizing It Will Save Him $13,0000

Butch Matthews is a 61-year-old former small business owner from Little Rock, Arkansas who used to wake up every morning at 4 A.M. to deliver canned beverages to retailers before retiring in 2010. A lifelong Republican, he was heavily skeptical of the Affordable Care Act when it first passed. “I did not think that Obamacare was going to be a good plan, I did not think that it was going to help me at all,” he told ThinkProgress over the phone.

But after doing a little research, Matthews eventually realized how much the law could help him. And on Tuesday, his local Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) provider confirmed that he would be able to buy a far better plan than his current policy while saving at least $13,000 per year through Arkansas’ Obamacare marketplace.

The mid-level “Silver” policy that he picked out also offers a significantly better benefits package. “It’s a lot better plan,” Matthews said. His old plan was considered to be “Bronze” and had much higher co-pays. Under Obamacare, when Matthews visits a doctor, it will no longer cost him around $150. It will cost $8.

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Texas Tribune: The Big Conversation

What’s likely to be one of the nation’s most closely watched 2014 races kicks into full swing today. After months of speculation about whether she would parlay her newfound political stardom into a bid for higher office, state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, is expected to formally announce today that she’s running for governor.

Davis’ announcement last week of the event — which will be held around 5 p.m. at the auditorium in Haltom City where she received her high school diploma — all but confirmed that she would run. At The Texas Tribune Festival over the weekend, she talked at length about why and how she would run, but stopped short of confirming that she was doing so.

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Nick Kristof: Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

Think about it. Suppose Russia or Iran said, “we will use cyberattacks to shut down your government and wreck your economy, unless you make concessions.” Would we then blithely sit down and negotiate an amicable solution? Yet that’s what the House Republicans are saying. They’re insisting that Obama make concessions on a 3-year-old law, or else they will dock wages of government employees and damage the national economy to the tune of $300 million a day. In effect they’re assuming that Obama is more responsible than they are, and that he will capitulate to this blackmail and protect the economy.

Let’s be clear. This is not government as usual. I’ve watched politicians for decades and have seen any number of backstabbings, scandals, vituperations, and Machiavellian machinations. But I can’t think of the last time a major political party undertook a serious campaign to damage the American economy, unless the other party gives in.

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Think Progress: Under ObamaCare, Disney World Will Promote Its Part-Time Workers To Full-Time Status

Walt Disney Co. announced on Wednesday that it is offering full-time employment to the 427 part-time employees at its Disney World theme park in Orlando, Florida who work at least 30 hours per week — the threshold at which the Affordable Care Act requires large employers with 50 or more workers to offer basic health benefits to employees or risk paying a $2,000 per employee fine after the first 30 workers.

Disney already offers a level of health coverage that is acceptable under Obamacare to its full-time employees. But part-time workers, including those who work at the 30-hour cutoff set by the health law, receive more limited benefits. Instead of rolling back these workers’ hours to avoid expanding their health coverage, Disney is choosing to promote them to full-time status.

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USA Today: Extended Shutdown Could Be Matter Of Life And Death

The federal shutdown has forced pre-kindergarten classes to close. Patients with incurable diseases have been turned away from a federal hospital. Millions of America’s poorest children are at risk of losing baby formula and healthy meals provided by federal programs.

The National Institutes of Health’s Clinical Center closed its doors due to the shutdown, turning away about 30 children who come seeking cures for incurable illnesses from cancer to infectious diseases, said Francis Collins, director of the NIH. “When I think of the patients who come here — we are their last hope and to have to turn them away, how can I not feel emotional about that,” he says. “It’s pretty disheartening. … As the director of the NIH, I feel powerless.”

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Continue reading ‘Rise and Shine’

08
Sep
13

Rise and Shine

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Katie Johnson, President Barack Obama’s personal secretary, far right, talks with Larry Summers, Director of the National Economic Council, before the start of the President’s daily economic briefing in the Oval Office, Sept. 8, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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The Week Ahead:

Sunday: The President has no public events scheduled

Monday: Attends meetings at the White House and sits down with network and cable news outlets to discuss Syria

Tuesday: Addresses the nation from the White House

Wednesday: The President, the Vice President, the First Lady, Dr Jill Biden and White House staff will gather on the South Lawn of the White House to observe a moment of silence to mark the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The President will then travel to the Pentagon Memorial to attend the September 11th Observance Ceremony

Thursday: The President will hold a Cabinet Meeting. The Vice President will attend

Friday: Welcomes to the White House the Amir of Kuwait, His Highness Shaykh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al Sabah

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MPR News: MNsure Unveils Costs Of Health Plans

Uninsured Minnesotans in the Twin Cities can expect to pay as little as $91 a month for health care coverage bought through MNsure, the state’s new online marketplace. “We believe that … these rates that we’re announcing today undeniably are extremely competitive,” Minnesota Commerce Department Commissioner Mike Rothman said. His department regulates insurance products.

Rothman said that Minnesota has the lowest average rates in the country compared to plans offered on 11 other exchanges. A total of 141 plans for individuals and families will be offered on MNsure, and 63 plans will be available to small businesses. “Many individuals and small businesses through MNsure will get even lower cost coverage,” said MNsure Executive Director April Todd-Malmlov. She said roughly half of the people who use MNsure will be eligible for the subsidies. Subsidies are available for people with annual incomes of $23,000 to about $46,000. For a family of four, the income range is $55,000 to $110,000. Government health plans are available for people making less.

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Truth Team: Did You Say Free?

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Michael Sallah: Left With Nothing

On the day Bennie Coleman lost his house, the day armed U.S. marshals came to his door and ordered him off the property, he slumped in a folding chair across the street and watched the vestiges of his 76 years hauled to the curb. Movers carted out his easy chair, his clothes, his television. Next came the things that were closest to his heart: his Marine Corps medals and photographs of his dead wife, Martha. The duplex in Northeast Washington that Coleman bought with cash two decades earlier was emptied and shuttered. By sundown, he had nowhere to go.

All because he didn’t pay a $134 property tax bill. The retired Marine sergeant lost his house on that summer day two years ago through a tax lien sale — an obscure program run by D.C. government that enlists private investors to help the city recover unpaid taxes.

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Ruby Cramer: Alongside His Family, Bill de Blasio Denounces Bloomberg Comments

At a rally in Brooklyn’s Clinton Hill neighborhood, Bill de Blasio responded to a recent interview with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the man he hopes to succeed in City Hall, calling his charges of racism “very unfortunate and inappropriate.” Just days before Tuesday’s New York City primary, Bloomberg told New York Magazine, in an interview published Saturday morning, that de Blasio has run a “class-warfare and racist” campaign because of the way in which he has used “his family to gain support,” the outgoing three-term mayor said.

“I think we have run a campaign about the ideas, about the issues, about how to move this city forward,” said de Blasio, who led a recent Quinnipiac poll with 43 percent of the Democratic vote. “I’m very proud of that. I’m exceedingly proud of my family, and as you’ll know meeting every member of my family, they are each and every one strong and independent and make their own decisions.”

 After the rally, where de Blasio appeared alongside Ken Thompson, a candidate for Brooklyn District attorney, his daughter Chiara told reporters she and her mother and brother, 16-year-old Dante, participated in the campaign on their own terms. “My mom, my brother, and I are all capable of making our own decisions,” she said. “Twenty years ago, my dad did not know he was running for mayor and did not seek to marry a black woman to put on display.”

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Reuters: Kerry Says No Decision Yet On Whether To Seek U.N. Vote On Syria

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday the United States did not rule out the possibility of returning to the United Nations Security Council to secure a resolution on Syria once U.N. inspectors complete their report. Speaking at a news conference in Paris with his Qatari counterpart Khaled al-Attiya, Kerry said President Barack Obama had yet to make a decision on the issue.

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Steve Benen: Bush Casts A Long Shadow

Karl Rove argued this afternoon that President Obama has created a “longing” for a “decisive” George W. Bush. I’m reasonably certain Rove wasn’t kidding. He might as well have been. Bush excelled in being “decisive,” which is admirable just so long as we ignore whether those decisions had merit. The problem for the failed former president, however, is that Americans care less about whether a leader makes decisions quickly based on instinct and care about whether a leader makes the right decisions. Pausing to reflect and think through decisions based on evidence is not a bad idea.

In Bush’s case, the Republican had a unique ability to decisively make the wrong call in every possible instance that really mattered. He was “decisive” when he chose to ignore warnings about Osama bin Laden in August 2001; he was “decisive” when he brushed off concerns as Hurricane Katrina barreled down on New Orleans; he was “decisive” when he pursued one misguided economic policy after another; and he was “decisive” when he launched a catastrophic war in Iraq based on lies and ideological ambitions.

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Niraj Chokshi: White House’s McDonough Argues Chemical Weapon Prohibition Has Benefited Troops

In pressing the case for military intervention in Syria on the Sunday morning political talk shows, White House Chief of Staff Dennis McDonough argued that a ban on the use of chemical weapons has benefited American troops. “As a result of that prohibition, our troops have not faced that chemical weapon since World War One,” McDonough said on “Fox News Sunday.” “It has a very direct consequence for our men and women.”

In multiple appearances Sunday morning, McDonough challenged lawmakers to watch recently released videos of Syrian citizens suffering from the alleged attack before coming to a decision on whether to authorize the use of military force in Syria. Congress reconvenes on Monday and will begin debating the issue this week.

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Right On!

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President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden pose for a photo with Supreme Court Justices prior to the investiture ceremony for Justice Sonia Sotomayor, at the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., Sept. 8, 2009. From left: Associate Justices Samuel Alito, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthony M. Kennedy, John Paul Stevens, Chief Justice John Roberts, the President, Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the Vice President, Associate Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Stephen Breyer, and retired Associate Justice David Souter (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Barack Obama watches a monitor in House Speaker John Boehner’s Ceremonial Office at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., before addressing a Joint Session of Congress to outline the American Jobs Act, Sept. 8, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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03
Sep
13

News of the Day

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Michael Kelley: Actually, The U.S. Has A Strategy In Syria – And It’s Starting To Work

One of the primary criticisms of U.S. President Barack Obama’s plan for a limited attack on Syria is that there is no long-term strategy in place for what happens after bombs fall on Damascus. But that’s not true. There is a U.S. Syria strategy, and it is showing signs of increasing success. Former U.S. Army vice chief of staff General Jack Keane said he spoke with Republican senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who were briefed by the president on Monday. “What [Obama] has told the two senators is that he also intends to assist the opposition forces, so he is going to degrade Assad’s military capacity and he is going to assist and upgrade the opposition forces with training assistance,” Gen. Keane told BBC Radio.

Last week Pentagon officials told The Wall Street Journal that the planned attack would “deter and degrade” President Bashar al-Assad’s security forces. The key would be hitting various Damascus headquarters as well as some of the regime’s six operable airports. These airports are the “regime’s nervous system,” defected Air Force Colonel Hassan Hamada told Der Spiegel. The less obvious, and more long-term, part of the plan involves providing vetted parts of the opposition with advanced weaponry, training them with Western advisors, and curbing the funding for jihadist groups.

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Igor Bobic: Kerry: ‘Beyond A Reasonable Doubt’ Assad Conducted Gas Attack

Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday that the United States believed “beyond a resonable doubt” the Assad regime conducted a devastating chemical weapons attack against the Syrian people last month.

“It did happen and the Assad regime did it,” Kerry said at a Senate hearing on whether to approve President Barack Obama’s request to intervene militarily in the country.

“Our intelligence community has scrubbed and descrubbed the evidence,” Kerry said, citing in part hair and blood samples collected by first responders.

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Andrea Peterson: The U.S. Isn’t Bombing Syria Yet. But It Is Providing Tech Support To The Rebels

The United States hasn’t decided whether to launch airstrikes against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. But the Obama administration long ago decided to provide the rebels with another form of assistance: hardware and software to help the rebels communicate more effectively and evade government censorship.

In fact, while the White House authorized the CIA to help arm some moderate rebels battling the Assad regime, it hasn’t done so yet. So the most significant aid given to the rebels by the United States so far may actually be the influx of communications equipment, censorship and monitoring circumvention software, and technical training sent their way by the State Department.

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TPM: Kerry: ‘Obama Is Not Asking America To Go To War’

Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday that President Barack Obama wasn’t seeking all out war against Syria, but rather the more specific goal of taking out the Assad regime’s capaibility to employ chemical weapons.

“President Obama is not asking America to go to war,” Kerry told a Senate hearing on whether to strike Syria with missiles in response to a reported chemical weapons attack last month.

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Brian Beutler: How Katy Perry Can Thwart GOP Obstruction

Republicans in Congress aren’t about to give the White House any money to get the word out about Obamacare. But it’s forced Obamacare implementers to think creatively about how to get the word out. Farah, and Funny or Die, are among a small network of what you could call Obamacare’s celebrity volunteer army. Just as the White House understands that reaching the young and uninsured via more traditional marketing campaigns means partnering with less-mainstream media outlets, they’ve also identified a number of celebrities with huge social media followings who want to make sure the uninsured have the date Oct. 1 seared into their minds.

Katy Perry has about 42 million followers. Obama has about 36 million. Perry is one of a number of celebrities the White House has enlisted. Last week, reporters spotted Magic Johnson entering the White House. When he left, he made it pretty clear he’s on board. Obama and White House officials also took advantage of a large, captive, mostly African-American audience during the March on Washington anniversary last week, including interviews with popular DJs, meetings, and news interviews in markets with large African-American populations. “Starting on Oct. 1, because of the Affordable Care Act — Obamacare — anybody who doesn’t have health insurance in this country is going to be able to get it at an affordable rate,” Obama explained to Tom Joyner, host of an eponymous, nationally syndicated morning drive show

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Chris Geidner: Husband Of Gay Service Member Booed At GOP Debate Now Has His Military ID Spouse Card

Major Stephen Snyder-Hill found himself at the center of the national debate over the end of “don’t ask, don’t tell” when he was booed by audience members at a a September 2011 Republican presidential debate when he asked about the change that allows him now to serve his country and talk openly about his husband, Joshua. Two years later, in a sign of the changed landscape for same-sex couples, Stephen and Joshua Snyder-Hill went to the Defense Supply Center, Columbus, or DSCC, in Ohio on Tuesday — where Joshua became “official,” as Stephen put it, and received his spousal military ID card on the first day the cards were available to same-sex spouses.

“I’ve been in the military for 24 years. I was pre-‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ during and after. It’s just been a really long fight, I think, for [same-sex couples’] military families to be able to get the same protection that other soldiers’ families get,” Stephen Snyder-Hill told BuzzFeed Tuesday afternoon. “I mean, we’ve had times when we’ve had family days, things that just beat down your morale because you just feel like you’re not the same or you’re not equal or you’re not protected as well. And I think that now, we’re pretty much equal.”

The U.S. military began recognizing married same-sex couples Tuesday, and one of the key changes allows service members’ same-sex spouses to obtain a spousal military ID card. The card provides access to bases and services provided by the military to military families, and, before Tuesday, it was available only to opposite-sex spouses.

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Morgan Whitaker: Conservative Speaker Claims Obama Not Criticized Because He’s Black

Is President Obama criticized too much or too little? The answer you get may depend on who you ask. And if you’re asking at least one conservative writer, the answer is too little and the reason why might surprise you. Conservative writer and occasional conspiracy theorist David Horowitz joined high-profile Republicans like Gov. Bobby Jindal and Sen. Marco Rubio at the Koch Brother-sponsored “Defending the American Dream Summit,” in Florida last Friday. While his fellow speakers were busy blasting the president, Horowitz claimed that Obama doesn’t get attacked enough as The Washington Post first reported.

“The reason we don’t attack him is obvious, but no one will say it out loud. I will: It’s because the color of his skin is black–actually he’s half black,” Horowitz told the crowd. “It is because Obama is a minority that nobody will hold him to a standard or confront him with what he has done.” In reality, the president receives criticism on a nearly daily basis, from everything from his policies to his demeanor.

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Steve Benen: ‘We Agree With The Same Red Line, Actually’

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) issued a statement this afternoon that left his position on Syria unclear, though he complained that President Obama “has some work to do to recover from his grave missteps in Syria.” Curiously, the Wisconsin Republican didn’t say what “grave missteps” he disapproves of. When GOP lawmakers generally make this complaint, they’re referring to Obama last year declaring Syria’s use of chemical weapons a “red line” that the Assad government must not cross. But Ryan really isn’t in a position to make this complaint. As CNBC’s Eamon Javers noted today, this was the exchange from last year’s vice presidential candidates’ debate:

RADDATZ: What happens if Assad does not fall? Congressman Ryan, what happens to the region? What happens if he hangs on? What happens if he does?

RYAN: Then Iran keeps their greatest ally in the region. He’s a sponsor of terrorism. He’ll probably continue slaughtering his people. We and the world community will lose our credibility on this….

RADDATZ: So what would Romney-Ryan do about that credibility?

RYAN: Well, we agree with the same red line, actually, they do on chemical weapons, but not putting American troops in, other than to secure those chemical weapons. They’re right about that.

More here

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01
Sep
13

Rise and Shine

Sept. 1, 2010 – Photo by Pete Souza

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Presidential Daily Schedule

Today and tomorrow: The President has no public events scheduled.

Tuesday: The President will attend meetings at the White House. In the evening, he will depart Washington, DC en route Stockholm, Sweden.

Wednesday: The President will arrive in Stockholm. While there, he will hold a bilateral meeting and joint press conference with Prime Minister Reinfeldt. He will then participate in an event honoring Raoul Wallenberg at the Great Synagogue in Stockholm and tour an expo featuring clean energy innovations at the Royal Institute of Technology. In the evening, he will take part in a dinner with Nordic Leaders.

Thursday: The President will hold a bilateral meeting with the King and Queen of Sweden. He will then depart Stockholm en route Saint Petersburg, Russia where he will attend the G-20 Summit.

Friday: Attends the G-20 Summit. Returns to Washington, DC on Friday evening.

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Secretary John Kerry will be on five Sunday shows today: NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX, CNN.

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Text of the draft legislation from the President of the United States to the speaker of the House and president of the Senate regarding authorization for the use of the U.S. armed forces in connection with the conflict in Syria.

Whereas, on August 21, 2013, the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack in the suburbs of Damascus, Syria, killing more than 1,000 innocent Syrians;

Whereas these flagrant actions were in violation of international norms and the laws of war;

Whereas the United States and 188 other countries comprising 98 percent of the world’s population are parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention, which prohibits the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling or use of chemical weapons;

Whereas, in the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003, Congress found that Syria’s acquisition of weapons of mass destruction threatens the security of the Middle East and the national security interests of the United States;

Whereas the United Nations Security Council, in Resolution 1540 (2004), affirmed that the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons constitutes a threat to international peace and security;

Whereas, the objective of the United States’ use of military force in connection with this authorization should be to deter, disrupt, prevent, and degrade the potential for, future uses of chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction;

Whereas, the conflict in Syria will only be resolved through a negotiated political settlement, and Congress calls on all parties to the conflict in Syria to participate urgently and constructively in the Geneva process; and

Whereas, unified action by the legislative and executive branches will send a clear signal of American resolve.

SEC. ___ AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES

(a) Authorization. — The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in connection with the use of chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in the conflict in Syria in order to –

(1) prevent or deter the use or proliferation (including the transfer to terrorist groups or other state or non-state actors), within, to or from Syria, of any weapons of mass destruction, including chemical or biological weapons or components of or materials used in such weapons; or

(2) protect the United States and its allies and partners against the threat posed by such weapons.

(b) War Powers Resolution Requirements. –

(1) Specific Statutory Authorization. — Consistent with section 8(a)(1) of the War Powers Resolution, the Congress declares that this section is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution.

(2) Applicability of other requirements. — Nothing in this joint resolution supersedes any requirement of the War Powers Resolution.

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Steve Benen: Congress, Be Careful What You Wish For.

The funny thing about a dog that chases a car? Sometimes it catches the car and has no idea what to do next.

Over the last several days, members of Congress have spoken out with a variety of opinions about U.S. policy towards Syria, but lawmakers were in broad agreement about one thing: they wanted President Obama to engage Congress on the use of military force. Few expected the White House to take the requests too seriously.

Why not? Because over the last several decades, presidents in both parties have increasingly consolidated authority over national security matters, tilting practically all power over the use of force towards the Oval Office and away from the legislative branch…..

That is, until this afternoon, when President Obama stunned everyone, announcing his decision to seek “authorization” from a co-equal branch of government.

It’s one of those terrific examples of good politics and good policy.

More here

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Business Insider: Obama’s ‘Blink’ On Syria Is Politically Brilliant

For much of the past week, Congress has grown louder and louder with calls that President Barack Obama go through them for any authorization of military action in Syria.

Saturday, Obama gave them their wish.

Congress is now the “dog that caught the car,” tweeted former senior White House adviser and chief Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod.

Obama blinked, but he blinked with a dare. He is daring Congress to say no to limited action against a dictator for the brutal use of chemical weapons against his own people — an attack that the U.S. says killed 1,429 people, including 426 children.

More here

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Slate: Obama’s Gamble – Seeking Congressional Approval For His Syria Strike Was Risky And Right.

President Obama is taking a monumental gamble with his Rose Garden statement on war with Syria, but it’s a worthwhile one.

In recent days he and Secretary of State John Kerry have made a powerful case that Bashar al-Assad’s regime launched the chemical weapons that killed more than 1,000 civilians …. Obama has also made a strong case that a military response is the proper action … to enforce a long-standing global prohibition on the use of chemical weapons.

However, this rationale for military strikes puts him in a box. The organizations charged with enforcing international law are not joining in the attack. The U.N. Security Council is “paralyzed,” as Obama said in today’s speech, because Russia will certainly veto any resolution to use force….

….. To gain some measure of legitimacy, Obama at least needs domestic support…. Maybe we will learn – contrary to the experience of the past decade – that a democracy can go to war in a full and open vote without deceit.

Full post here

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James Fallows: A Very Wise Decision By Obama

He moves himself, and the country, out of a corner, with two important choices.

The two crucial parts of his announcement:

1) No rush about doing whatever needs to be done with Syria. This is a punitive rather than a preventive action, which should be undertaken with deliberation and — if and when it happens — by surprise.

2) Recognizing the higher wisdom — for himself, for the country, for the world — of taking this to the Congress.

This is the kind of deliberation, and deliberateness, plus finding ways to get out of a (self-created) corner, that has characterized the best of his decisions. It is a very welcome change, and surprise, from what leaks had implied over the past two weeks.

More here

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Boston Globe: Nelson Mandela Discharged From Hospital

Nelson Mandela was released from the hospital on Sunday while still in critical condition to his Johannesburg home which has been set up to provide intensive care, South Africa’s president said. ‘‘His home has been reconfigured to allow him to receive intensive care there,’’ the statement said. ‘‘The health care personnel providing care at his home are the very same who provided care to him in hospital. If there are health conditions that warrant another admission to hospital in future, this will be done.’’

Mandela, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is feted around the world as a towering figure of reconciliation. Despite being jailed for 27 years for his prominent role in opposing white racist rule, Mandela was seemingly free of rancor on his release in 1990, becoming the unifying leader who steered South Africa through a delicate transition to all-race elections that propelled him to the presidency four years later. The United Nations has recognized Mandela’s birthday as an international day to honor themes of activism, democracy and responsibility embodied by the former leader.

More here

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@CallOut4

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Ellen KnickMeyer: Arab League Set To Meet On Syria

The Arab League is due to meet Sunday amid a flourish of diplomatic activity aimed at strengthening the group’s public stance for U.S.-led strikes on Syria. President Barack Obama’s unexpected announcement Saturday that he would wait to put U.S. military action to the U.S. Congress could change the stance of Arab leaders.

The meeting of Arab foreign ministers Sunday, two days earlier than planned, came at the request of Gulf states, Arab League and Saudi government officials said. An Arab League meeting last Tuesday on Syria identified Mr. Assad as the culprit in the Aug. 21 attack in a Damascus suburb.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar have helped to arm and fund rebels fighting Mr. Assad’s regime behind the scenes, U.S. and Gulf officials say. Publicly and privately, they long have pushed the U. S. and international community for tougher action. Saudi Arabia shares some tribal ties with Syria and wants to contain Mr. Assad and his allies Iran and Hezbollah. Qatar has been more active than other Gulf states in supporting Arab Spring revolutions.

More here

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Craig Whitlock: Sarin Gas Used In Syria Attack, Kerry Says

Secretary of State John F. Kerry said Sunday that fresh laboratory tests show that Sarin nerve gas was used in an Aug. 21 attack in Syria that killed more than 1,400 people, the first time that U.S. officials have pinpointed what kind of chemical weapon was used.

In an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Kerry said blood and hair samples from emergency workers in east Damascus had tested positive for Sarin, a highly toxic nerve agent. He said that U.S. officials learned of the lab results in the past 24 hours, citing the evidence as yet another reason for Congress to pass President Obama’s request to authorize the use of military force against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

More here

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Think Progress: Poverty Has Same Effect On The Brain As Constantly Pulling All Nighters

The mental strain of living in poverty and thinking constantly about tight finances can drop a person’s IQ by as much as 13 percent, or about the equivalent of losing a night of sleep, according to a new study. It consumes so much mental energy that there is often little room to think about anything else, which leaves low-income people more susceptible to bad decisions.

One of the study’s authors, Harvard economist Sandhil Mullainathan, told the Washington Post, “Poverty is the equivalent of pulling an all-nighter. Picture yourself after an all-nighter. Being poor is like that every day.”

Poverty has other negative impacts. The chronic stress of growing up in poverty has been found to impair children’s brains, particularly in working memory. A study of veterans found that poverty is a bigger risk factor for mental illnessthan being exposed to warfare. The mental stress of being poor is also a major reason for why low-income people tend to have negative health outcomes like high blood pressure and cholesterol or elevated rates of obesity and diabetes.

More here

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Sept. 1, 2012: “The overview of a campaign rally in Urbandale, Iowa” (Photo by Pete Souza)

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30
Aug
13

President Obama’s remarks on Syria

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Food For Thought

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