Posts Tagged ‘kerry



02
Feb
14

Rise and Shine

Feb. 2, 2009 – Pete Souza: “The light was streaming through the windows behind his Oval Office desk as the President talked with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.”

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Washington Post: Life After Jan. 1: Kentucky Clinic Offers Early Glimpse At Realities Of Health-Care Law

The envelopes began arriving in December across eastern Kentucky, one of the sickest and poorest corners of the country. “Dear member . . . We want you to be healthy . . .” read the letter to Mary Combs, and with it came a plastic card representing the first insurance she ever had: a Medicaid plan made possible by the nation’s new health-care law, effective Jan. 1. Nine days into the new year, the 41-year-old call-center worker headed to the health clinic on Highway 15. She saw a doctor about her chronic stomach ulcers, had her blood drawn for tests and collected referrals for all the specialists she had been told she needed but could never afford. The next week, she saw a neurologist, who found lesions on her brain and prescribed medicine for the cluster headaches, which are also called “suicide headaches” for pain that is far more intense than a migraine and which Combs had been treating with an alcohol-soaked cloth wrapped around her head.

“That’s the big question — does getting insurance bend the cost curve or the health outcomes curve?” said Karen Ditsch, the executive director of Juniper Health, which runs the nonprofit Breathitt clinic. Life since Jan. 1: The number of uninsured has dropped by 520 people, which represents about 21 percent of the those without coverage. Of that 520, 472 qualified under the health-care law’s expanded income parameters for Medicaid, which is aimed at the working poor. Here and there, for-profit clinics that never accepted the uninsured have hung “Welcome new patients!” signs on doors. A new blue billboard hovering above the Hardee’s advertises surgery to treat acid reflux.

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Michael Hiltzik: What’s Behind Anthem’s Huge Premium Increase? Not Obamacare

Insurance companies, bless their hearts, seem determined to remind us why we need the Affordable Care Act. The latest example comes from Anthem Blue Cross, which has just hit 306,000 customers in California with premium increases of up to 25%. As reported by my colleague Chad Terhune, the increases average 16% and are scheduled to kick in April 1, unless the state Department of Insurance jawbones Anthem into backing down.

Here’s the kicker: No one can blame these increases on the mandates of the Affordable Care Act, a popular argument among critics of the act. That’s because the increases are for grandfathered policies exempt from the act.

“It’s a rich irony,” says Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access, a leading California consumer advocacy group. “The insurers can’t have it both ways — they can’t blame the increases on the ACA while increasing rates on their non-ACA-compliant plans as well.” Luckily, Anthem customers have a choice this time around. They can check the state’s insurance exchange at coveredca.com to see if they can replace their old plan with a new one that might well be better, at lower cost.

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Sandra Fluke: What Mike Huckabee Wants To Take Away From Women

Memo to former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and the bosses at for-profit corporations who think they belong in every doctor’s office and that they should be able to decide whether their employees have access to birth control: Women who use birth control do not have an “overactive libido.” We are not looking for a handout from “Uncle Sugar” to score a contraceptive fix. We are not sluts. This is not the reality for women — it never has been and never will be.

In fact, women who use birth control are your mother, partner, sister, and daughter. Ninety-nine percent of sexually active American women have used birth control at some point in their lives. We are just regular people trying to take care of ourselves medically and financially. That’s why seven in ten Americans believe that health insurance companies should be required to cover the full cost of birth control, just as they do for other preventive services.

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Jonathan Cohn: Farewell To Henry Waxman, A Liberal Hero

One of America’s most accomplished lawmakers—a crusader responsible for cleaner air, safer food, and healthier kids—is calling it a career. On Thursday, Congressman Henry Waxman announced that he would retire at the end of this term, 40 years after he first came to Congress. The list of laws for which he deserves substantial credit is simply staggering—not only for its length, but also for its breadth. Waxman was behind the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, the Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments, plus laws regulating lead, greenhouse gas emissions, and formaldehyde. That arguably makes him his generation’s most influential lawmaker on environmental issues.

He was also behind a series of Medicaid expansions, the Ryan White Care Act, the Orphan Drug Act, the Waxman-Hatch Generic Drug Act, and, of course, the Affordable Care Act. That almost certainly makes him the most influential living lawmaker on health care issues. Other major accomplishments include the Food Quality Protection Act and the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act—and, somewhere along the way, he found time to modernize the postal service. How has Waxman done it? For one thing, Waxman recognizes that lawmaking requires patience and persistence—that you have to build the case for legislation, through investigations and stagecraft, even if that takes years or even decades.

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Hannah Allam: Kerry’s First Year As Top U.S. Diplomat Yields Breakthroughs On Thorny Issues

A year ago, John Kerry succeeded Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, joking on one of his first days at work that he had “big heels to fill.” Now a year into his role as America’s top diplomat, Kerry has proven that any trepidation about following such a high-profile figure was misplaced. Kerry’s anniversary this week – he assumed office on Feb. 1, 2013 – finds him, in the opinion of foreign policy analysts, with more significant, concrete breakthroughs than Clinton had in her entire four-year term. As showpieces they hold up the nuclear deal with Iran and the chemical weapons pact with Syria.

A year into Kerry’s tenure, Ross said, the picture from Asia is brighter. Ross, who’s in Beijing for six months, said U.S. diplomacy has brought about improved cooperation with China on North Korea, including landmark banking and other sanctions. And while there are still no U.S.-Chinese military agreements, he said, there are deeper military contacts so that American officials can “pick up the phone and call them if there’s an escalation.” “Secretary Kerry speaks with a quieter voice and made real policy adjustments,” Ross said. “The quiet approach has been more useful than his predecessor’s.”

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Robert McCoppin and Lolly Bowean: Low Wage Workers Struggle To Get By

In the bitter cold, dark hours of the night, as many others are sleeping, Rocio Caravantes begins her hourlong journey on public transportation from her home in Logan Square to one of her two jobs downtown. Once she arrives at work, Caravantes spends hours vacuuming and scrubbing floors, polishing sinks and toilets, cleaning the bar areas and event spaces and tidying up the rugs in an upscale luxury hotel where she can’t afford to spend a night. Panic at times grips her as she thinks about how she will pay all her bills, she said.

“It is impossible to live on $8.25 an hour,” Caravantes said in Spanish, through an interpreter. “Not even three jobs are enough. I earn $495 biweekly. The first check goes to rent — it’s $500 a month. The second is for transportation, food, (phone) and education.” Caravantes, 40, is one example of the minimum wage workers who have become the focus of a national conversation about salaries for the working poor. It’s a political debate in the Illinois governor’s race, and Gov. Pat Quinn used his State of the State address last week to renew his push for an increase in the state minimum wage. President Barack Obama weighed in on the issue too when he asked Congress to increase the federal wage to $10.10.

But the Economic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan research organization in Washington, D.C., paints a broader portrait of low-wage workers. “People tend to think of low-wage workers as teenagers who are working on the weekends for extra spending money,” said David Cooper, an analyst with the institute. “While that is a portion of these workers, the vast majority don’t fit that stereotype.” According to the institute’s research, more than half of low-wage workers are older than 30.

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Jacob J. Lew: MyRA: A Start To A Secure Retirement

As President Barack Obama made clear in his State of the Union address, it is time to focus on restoring opportunity for all. That means helping to make sure more Americans can take part in our growing economy and build some economic security for the long term. To get that done, we are putting forward real, concrete solutions to our most pressing problems – from college affordability and job training to fair wages and a stable retirement.  This program, which will begin later this year, is called myRA or My Retirement Account. This account is designed to help low- and middle-income workers, who are too often overlooked or ignored, begin saving for retirement. We are talking about the waitress who is holding down two part-time jobs to support her kids; the recent graduate who landed a job but is grappling with student loans; the janitor who has never been given the chance to invest in a retirement account.

Here is how myRA, which is simple, safe and affordable, will work. You will be able to start saving with an initial deposit of as little as $25 and contribute as little as $5 each payday. If an employer chooses to participate, contributions are made through automatic payroll deductions, making them hassle-free. There are no fees – 100 percent of any contribution goes into the account and is invested in a Treasury security. That means it will be backed by the full faith and credit of the United States, will earn the same interest rate that is available to federal employees for their retirement savings, and the balance will never go down. Finally, myRA is not tied to any one employer – it belongs to the worker, not the workplace. In other words, the account is portable and can be easily rolled into a Roth IRA. And if myRA savers ever need to, they can withdraw their contributions tax-free, at any time.

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Brian Murphy: Well, That Escalated Quickly

It is utterly irrelevant if Chris Christie ‘wins the day’ or the weekend or the next 5 minutes or the next week. Irrelevant. The bottom line is that he is in serious trouble, politically and legally. On the legal front, the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey is probing allegations by the mayor of Hoboken that a member of Christie’s cabinet and the lieutenant governor linked federal Hurricane Sandy relief funds to the the mayor’s support for a redevelopment project in Hoboken that would exclusively benefit one of Christie’s closest allies – whom he appointed to chair the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

This morning on his MSNBC show Steve Kornacki discussed reporting he and I (and producer Jack Bohrer) did showing that those federal Hurricane Sandy funds have not been monitored by the Christie Administration as required by a law that Christie himself signed last March. Furthermore, relief funds have been extremely hard to account for because Christie vetoed a bill that would have created a single website to track Sandy funding and contract information. Based on the reactions of two congressmen who watched the report with me, officials in Washington will be loath to trust Christie with the next round of federal funds and we should not be surprised if an investigation is on the horizon.

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Chicago Tribune: Push To Bring Obama Library To Chicago Begins

The push to build Barack Obama’s presidential library officially got underway Friday with the establishment of a foundation managed by three of his longtime supporters. “The president’s future library will one day serve as an important part of our nation’s historical record, and our mission is to build a library that tells President Obama’s remarkable story in an interactive way that will inspire future generations to become involved in public service,” Nesbitt said.

The foundation is responsible for developing a library that reflects Obama’s values and priorities, according to Nesbitt. He said it will focus on economic opportunity, inspiring an ethic of American citizenship and promoting peace, justice and dignity around the world, among other things.

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Happy Super Bowl Sunday!

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On This Day:

St Louis, Feb. 2, 2008

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Pete Souza: “White House valets had moved the sofas in the Oval Office to accommodate the large number of press photographers that were covering the President’s meeting with Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas. When the photo-op ended, the President said to Gov. Douglas, ‘let’s move the sofas back in place.’ Gov. Douglas didn’t quite know what to do as the President did the heavy lifting. The valets now good-naturedly cringe when they look at this picture because it was their responsibility to move the sofas back in place.” Feb. 2, 2009

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President Obama walks to the Oval Office after returning to the White House following a trip to Nashua, N.H., Feb. 2, 2010 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

First Lady Michelle Obama speaking alongside Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Democratic Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, on childhood obesity during a meeting with Cabinet and Congressional members in the Old Family Dining Room of the White House, February 2, 2010

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Vice President Joe Biden talks with Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., after President Barack Obama signed the New START Treaty in the Oval Office, Feb. 2, 2011. Behind them, the President talks with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama is updated on the severe winter storm currently moving across the country during a phone call with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate in the Oval Office, Feb. 2, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Vice President Joe Biden snaps a photo of President Barack Obama and keynote speaker Eric Metaxas during the National Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C., Feb. 2, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

30
Jan
14

The First Lady Speaks On Let’s Move And ObamaCare

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Sierra Marquina: First Lady Michelle Obama Talks Let’s Move!, Signing Up For The Affordable Care Act, And Valentine’s Day

Mrs. Obama’s initiative to help stop the problem of childhood obesity, Let’s Move!, was launched four years ago and has made a significant impact on children’s health today, not only in their homes, but in their schools as well. The goal with the initiative is to solve obesity within a generation and set up children to be able to lead healthier lives, a movement she starts by doing at home in the White House. When it comes to her two daughters, 15-year-old Malia and 12-year-old Sasha, the first lady shares: “Barack and I try to lead by example. I mean, we eat dinner together every night and we rarely miss that, even with his schedule, and we spend a lot of time talking about the issues of the day, but we talk about what we’re eating and why we’re eating it. We have a lot of, ‘Finish your vegetables’ conversations.”

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The Affordable Care Act allows every single American to have access to quality affordable health care, which is so important because there are millions of people out there who are worried about losing their home or going bankrupt because someone gets sick … What Barack believes is that here in America … poor health should not be the thing that causes someone to lose their home. But before the Affordable Care Act … that’s actually what was happening to people around the country.” “Here’s the thing, young people lead risky lives. I always joke about this, but the young people are the ones out at the club at three o’clock in the morning and more likely to slip on the ice … I mean, life throws you some curveballs and young people in particular need to have insurance. If you think about it, you insure your car, but you’re not going to insure your life?”

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So what does Mrs. Obama expect from her husband this Valentine’s Day? Not much! Mrs. Obama explains: “This year, again, I’ve had this big birthday celebration—my husband really celebrated me so well—He did a great job. I had a great couple of weeks, so I think we’re going to low-key it for Valentine’s Day.” Albeit, she’s not concerned he’ll be too low-key. ”We have been married for 21 years and he never forgets a Valentine’s Day, an anniversary, a birthday. He’s really good at that kind of stuff.”

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after turning 50 on January 17, she insists everything gets better with age. “You’re more confident, you know yourself more, you’re not concerned about what other people think. And if you’ve taken care of your health, many times you can be in the best shape you’ve been in … you watch your kids grow up and I know, my girls, they’re starting to become real people with opinions and it’s just so much fun to talk to them now,” she shares. And speaking of her two girls, what’s it like to grow up in the White House as a 15 or 12-year-old? “Barack and I strive to make sure Malia and Sasha can lead as normal a life as possible and even though we are in this crazy bubble, they do things that normal kids do,” Mrs. Obama admits. “They go to sleepovers, they go to concerts, they go to dances.”

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Bonus: The best moment of Kevin Hart’s life? Meeting President Obama and getting a nickname from him!

12
Jan
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama hugs first lady Michelle Obama after speaking at a memorial service at McKale Center on the University of Arizona campus, Jan. 12, 2011, in Tucson, Ariz

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The Week Ahead:

Monday: The President will welcome the President of Spain, Mariano Rajoy Brey, to the White House

Tuesday: The President will hold a Cabinet meeting, and in the afternoon he will welcome the 2013 NBA Champion Miami Heat to the White House to honor the team on winning their second straight championship title

Wednesday: The President will travel to Raleigh, North Carolina, for an event on the economy

Thursday: The President and First Lady will host an event at the White House on expanding college opportunity

Friday: The President will make remarks about the outcome of the review that he has led on the issue of signal intelligence

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Name: Lindsey Carmichael

Occupation: Social services, Paraolympian

Why is having health care important to you?

If I didn’t have access to health care I couldn’t imagine what my life would be like. The health care technology we have today is a blessing. The idea that we’re not sharing that with as many people as possible is crazy to me.

How did it feel to learn about the new health care options available to you?

It made me feel relieved and a little bit more in control.

Getting covered means: a piece of mind to keep living my life.

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@nycjim: What Chris Christie woke up to this morning.

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Media Matters: How The Media Marketed Chris Christie’s Straight Shooter Charade

He’s been relentlessly and adoringly depicted as some sort of Straight Shooter. He’s an authentic and bipartisan Every Man, a master communicator, and that rare politician who cuts through the stagecraft and delivers hard truths.  Christie’s coverage has been a long-running, and rather extreme, case of personality trumping substance. The truth is Christie was never the Straight Shooter that political reporters and pundits made him out to be. Not even close, as I’ll detail below. Instead, the Straight Shooter story represented appealing fiction for the press. They tagged him as “authentic” and loved it when he got into yelling matches with voters.

In August of 2010, the state was shocked to discover it had narrowly missed out on $400 million worth of desperately needed education aid from the federal government because New Jersey’s application for the grant was flawed. Christie initially tried to blame the Obama administration but that claim was shown to be false. Christie’s own Education Commissioner then publicly blamed Christie for the failure to land the money. He insisted the governor, who famously feuds with the state’s teacher unions, had placed that political battle and his right-wing credentials ahead of securing the federal funds and that Christie had told him the “money was not worth it” to the state if it meant he had to cooperate with teachers. In November 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice inspector general found that while serving as U.S. attorney, Christie routinely billed taxpayers for luxury hotels on trips and failed to follow federal travel regulations.

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Martin Longman: Christie Showed His Stripes As U.S. Attorney

The dismissal of U.S. attorneys controversy of 2007 has been largely forgotten, but it was a very big deal at the time. It resulted in the resignations of the Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney General, the Acting Associate Attorney General, the chief of staff for the Attorney General, the chief of staff for the Deputy Attorney General, the Director of the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, the former acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, and the Department of Justice’s White House Liaison. It was a total disaster for the Bush administration that was the natural result of a conspiracy to deliberately politicize the Justice Department. The U.S. Attorneys who were fired were fired for insufficient partisan zeal. In some cases, they refused to open meritless voter fraud cases. In other cases, they wouldn’t open meritless investigations on Democratic politicians. In still other cases, they were actually investigating lawbreaking by Republicans.

So, one of the takeaways from the scandal was that the U.S. Attorneys who weren’tdismissed were incredibly suspect. The attorneys who were found acceptable to the Bush administration were the ones who would launch phony investigations against innocent people and who would cover up criminal activity if is was carried out by Bush’s allies. Chris Christie was a U.S. Attorney who passed that test. He was considered sufficiently corrupt (or corruptible) to remain a U.S. Attorney in Alberto Gonzales’s (and Karl Rove’s) Justice Department.

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Adario Strange: 5 Hospitalized After West Virginia Water Contamination Crisis

Five people have been hospitalized following a major water-contamination crisis in West Virginia, according to local news reports. Although the exact reasons for the hospitalizations have yet to be confirmed, local reports suggest that the patients’ symptoms could have been caused by chemical contamination of the water supply. Government officials in West Virginia declared a state of emergency on Thursday in nine counties due to water contamination that has impacted over 300,000 local residents. Due to the contaminated supply, residents in the affected areas have been unable to drink tap water or use it to bathe, cook or even wash clothes for several days.

The situation reached a critical point Thursday when residents of Kanawha County reported smelling a licorice smell in the air, which was traced back to a 35,000-gallon chemical storage tank based near the Elk River. Operated by Freedom Industries, the storage tank reportedly overflowed and eventually contaminated the water supply maintained by the West Virginia American Water Co. plant, according to CNN. Freedom Industries president Gary Southern held a televised press conference Friday during which he answered questions about the accident, while sipping a bottle of Aquafina water. “At this point, Freedom Industries is still working to determine the amount of 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol, or Crude MCHM, a chemical used in processing coal, that has been released, as the first priority was safety, containment and cleanup.”

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BBC: BP Loses Bid Over Gulf Oil Payouts

BP has lost an appeal to cancel the terms of its multi-billion-dollar settlement with businesses over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster. A US federal appeals court on Saturday upheld the terms of the original 2012 settlement. The UK oil giant has supported compensation for businesses harmed by the disaster.

But it argued that the terms of the existing deal meant that some huge sums were being paid for false claims. In 2012, BP agreed to make payments to those who suffered economic losses as a result of the disaster aboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, which triggered the worst offshore oil spill in US history. The blast killed 11 workers and released an estimated four million barrels of oil into the gulf.

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The Economist: He May Be Getting Somewhere, After All

FEW believed that John Kerry, the American secretary of state, would manage to haul the Israelis and Palestinians back into the negotiating room, let alone get them to discuss anything of substance. Yet six months since talks began, he may be able to present, within weeks, a “framework agreement”, after which final details must be hammered out. Diplomats who had mocked his dogged prophetic conviction now sound shocked by his progress. Rejectionists on both sides who quietly presumed that the process would collapse under its own weight now express alarm. Consternation and confusion are visible on the faces of some ministers in Binyamin Netanyahu’s Israeli government.

Mr Kerry’s methodical midwifery may be paying off. His team of 120, including four generals, has almost as great a command of detail as do the Israelis and Palestinians. He hugs the foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, a former firebrand who vilified Palestinians and was cordially detested by them in return, whereas his predecessor, Hillary Clinton, used to shun him. Mr Lieberman nowadays praises Mr Kerry for bringing peace closer than ever, and has turned the ten naysayers in his party’s parliamentary bloc into yes men. Yair Lapid, the finance minister, has come out strongly in favour, bringing onside his 19 parliamentarians, the second-biggest party in the 120-strong Knesset. Mr Kerry’s people have also courted the black-hatted Haredim, or ultra-Orthodox. All told, he has overseen a remarkable turnaround. After the election at the beginning of last year, a narrow majority in the Knesset would have shied from a negotiated two-state solution. Now, according to insiders, its members stand 85-35 or so in its favour.

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Jonathan Chait: That Awkward Moment When Republicans Have To Hurt The Poor Before They Can Love Them

“Poverty,” reports the New York Times, “is suddenly the subject of bipartisan embrace.” Before poor people get too excited about this new development, some clarification may be in order. The parties are not embracing a shared program to alleviate poverty, nor even the goal of doing something at all about poverty anytime soon. There is merely shared agreement to discuss poverty as a subject. What hasn’t changed is the general shape of the Republican economic agenda in either the long run or the short run. Republicans agree that government takes too much from the rich and gives too much to the non-rich, and its domestic agenda is constructed largely as a corrective to what Republicans see as excessive redistribution.

Republicans also believe that nothing about the immediate labor market requires any changes to their general economic policies. (That is, they don’t believe high unemployment justifies temporarily relaxing their opposition to deficit spending or to worry less about coddling the unemployed.) The near-term agenda remains completely unaltered. Republicans remain unified in their desire to cut food stamps and end emergency unemployment benefits unless offset by other cuts to domestic spending. Nearly all support ongoing state-based campaigns to deny Medicaid coverage to uninsured people too poor to qualify for tax credits to buy private insurance.

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Chris Geidner: Obama Administration To Recognize Utah Same-Sex Couples’ Marriages

The federal government will recognize the marriages of same-sex couples who married in Utah in recent weeks, the Justice Department announced Friday. Approximately 1,360 same-sex couples married between Dec. 20, 2013 — when U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby found the state’s ban on same-sex couples’ marriages to be unconstitutional — and this Monday, when the Supreme Court put new marriages of same-sex couples on hold pending the state’s appeal of Shelby’s ruling.

In a video released by the Justice Department on Friday, Attorney General Eric Holder announced, “I am confirming today that, for purposes of federal law, these marriages will be recognized as lawful and considered eligible for all relevant federal benefits on the same terms as other same-sex marriages.” Specifically, he noted, “In the days ahead, we will continue to coordinate across the federal government to ensure the timely provision of every federal benefit to which Utah couples and couples throughout the country are entitled — regardless of whether they are in same-sex or opposite-sex marriages.”

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Let’s Enroll Texas

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On This Day:

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05
Jan
14

Rise and Shine

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

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

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

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

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

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

At that point, I knew that something was wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

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AlJazeera America: New York To Allow Limited Medical Marijuana Use

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Lauren Rankin: The Unprecedented Attack On Reproductive Rights

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

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

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

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

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

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WSOCTV: Affordable Care Act Takes Full Effect

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

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Husband Of The Year

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

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

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The First Family is back at the White House

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

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

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

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A Year Ago Today:

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

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Dec
13

Rise and Shine

President Obama pauses in the Oval Office after making a series of telephone calls to Members of Congress, Dec. 1, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Jason Sattler: REMINDER: The Number Of Uninsured Americans Increased By 7.9 Million Under George W. Bush

The week President Obama took office, initial jobless claims, the statistic that immediately gauges layoffs, hit a 26-year high with 637,000 applying for unemployment insurance in one week. It was clear that the president was inheriting a record deficit, a cratering economy and two floundering wars. But buried in all those crises was an unspoken slow-motion disaster that people rarely mentioned: the steady crumbling of our health care system.

“When [former president Bill] Clinton left office, the number of uninsured Americans stood at 38.4 million,” Ron Brownstein wrote in 2009. “By the time [former president George W.] Bush left office that number had grown to just over 46.3 million, an increase of nearly 8 million or 20.6 percent.” The numbers were just as bad when you looked at the share of the uninsured. When Clinton left office, 13.7 percent of the population was uninsured. Bush left with 15.4 percent lacking coverage.

The New York Times‘ Paul Krugman calls the Affordable Care Act’s role in bringing health-cost growth to its lowest rate on record the law’s “secret success.” But the other secret success is how Obamacare is helping to reverse the growth of the uninsured population. This began in 2011 with children and young adults being able to stay on their parents’ plans until age 26, covering more than three million. And it continues this year with millions of Americans being added to the Medicaid rolls and millions likely to sign up for private plans, if the law’s health care exchanges begin working well enough.

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Jonathan Bernstein: The Minimum Wage And The Post-Policy GOP

At the federal level, one would think that Democrats might have some success actually passing an increase. After all, raising the minimum wage always polls extremely well, and with many state and local increases happening, it’s easy to imagine business lobbyists willing to accept a relatively modest national increase that could take a lot of steam out of those other initiatives. There’s plenty of precedent for Democrats forcing the issue by attaching a minimum wage hike to something Republicans want and managing to get it passed.

And while most Republicans in Congress surely oppose an increase, it’s not as if there’s some important principle violated by a $10 an hour minimum wage compared with $7 and change. Perhaps it will happen. But if not, the culprit is going to be, once again, the post-policy Republican Party. This just isn’t how the American political system is supposed to work. There really is an opportunity here for a deal that could enact popular policy ideas from both sides. But thanks to a dysfunctional Republican Party, it’s very hard to see it happening.

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@ACASuccessStory

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Media Matters: How Print And Broadcast Media Are Hiding Obamacare’s Success In Controlling Costs

Jason Furman: “ACA Is Contributing To The Recent Slow Growth In Health Care Prices.” In a November 20 report, economist Jason Furman, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors (CEA), highlighted several positive impacts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). According to Furman, the ACA has already helped reduce waste and overpayment in Medicare that is “contributing to the recent slow growth in health care prices and spending.” Furman argues that reduced spending in Medicare is having an effect across the health care sector

Print Media Devote Only Five Stories To ACA’s Role In Slowed Costs. Since the release of the CEA report on November 20, the five top newspapers in the United States - The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, and USA Today - issued only five articles that mentioned the ACA’s role in slowing the growth of health care costs. In the same time period, all print outlets combined issued 67 stories focusing on other aspects of the ACA rollout, including issues with the Healthcare.gov website and cancellations of individual policies. Only two outlets – USA Today and The New York Times – issued front page stories mentioning the CEA report.

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The People’s View: The Conservative Movement’s Death Wish

However, a funny thing is happening. Conservatives have forgotten how to play the game. Or rather, what passes for conservative now is so to the right that it no longer bears any relation to reality. Thus D’Souza tweets his tweet about President Obama being a grown-up Trayvon, and that the US must “survive” him. Thus Rush Limbaugh compares the nuking of the filibuster to allowing rape. Thus every half-assed thing which comes out of a conservative’s mouth makes people who have some sense shake their heads in bewilderment.

At this point, it’s as if conservatives can’t help themselves. The fact that Obama has run rings around them in spite of their vigorous efforts has led to a psychotic break. Republicans fight Democrats with vile assertions. Republicans knife each other in purity contests. A strong, intelligent, black Democratic president who knows exactly what they’re up to, and times his attacks for maximum effect, has put them flat on their backs. They’re used to Democrats and liberals who are defensive. They’re used to the triangulations of a Bill Clinton. Barack Obama’s strength has sent them into a fugue state from which, as yet, they haven’t been able to awaken.

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Reuters: Cayman Islands, Costa Rica Sign Tax Pacts With U.S.

The United States has signed agreements with the Cayman Islands and Costa Rica to help those countries’ banks comply with an anti-tax evasion law starting next year, the Treasury Department said on Friday. The deals are part of the US effort to enforce the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), which was enacted in 2010 and is set to take effect in July 2014. FATCA requires foreign financial institutions to tell the US Internal Revenue Service about Americans’ offshore accounts worth more than $50,000.

It was enacted after a Swiss banking scandal showed that 17,000 US taxpayers had hidden substantial fortunes overseas. On Thursday a former UBS banker, Raoul Weil, agreed to be extradited to the US to face charges arising from that scandal. With these two deals, both signed this week, the Treasury has now finished 12 FATCA “intergovernmental agreements” (IGAs), which help countries’ financial institutions comply with the law.

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Timothy Garnder: U.S. Extends Iran Oil Sanctions Waivers To China, India, South Korea

The U.S. State Department extended six-month Iran sanctions waivers on Friday to China, India, South Korea and other countries in exchange for their reducing purchases of Iranian crude oil earlier this year. The waivers had been expected. Under a law governing sanctions imposed on Iran’s disputed nuclear program by the United States, the State Department is required to determine whether the Islamic Republic’s oil consumers have reduced their purchases.

The decision comes even after the United States and five other global powers, known as the P5+1, agreed in Geneva this month to ease Iran’s access to about $4.2 billion in foreign currency reserves for six months in exchange for Tehran’s taking steps to curb its nuclear program. The waivers, which the State Department calls exceptions, mean that banks in the consuming countries will not face being cut off from the U.S. financial system for the next six months.

Since the beginning of the sanctions regime in 2012, all 20 of Iran’s oil customers have qualified for the periodic waivers. But despite the Geneva agreement, the United States reserves the right to sanction any oil consuming country should it suddenly increase its purchases. 

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Mark Barabak: Kentucky Governor Sees Health Law As Chance To Heal An Ailing State

Relations between President Obama and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear have not always been friendly. But leading one of the nation’s poorest, sickest states, Beshear has improbably overseen one of the most successful rollouts of Obama’s troubled healthcare overhaul and become, deep in his long public career, a hero to Democrats grasping to find a redeeming figure amid the political wreckage. “I knew if I was going to make a huge difference in the health status of Kentucky, it was going to take some kind of transformational tool to do that, and that’s what the Affordable Care Act is for me,”

Beshear, white-haired and greyhound-lean, said as he sat behind a big maple desk in his office. “I think we’ve started something here,” he later added, “that a generation from now you’ll see a very different Kentucky than what you see today. The need for care in this pretty but hard-pressed state is unarguable. Kentucky leads the nation in cancer deaths and preventable hospitalizations and suffers some of the highest rates of diabetes, cardiovascular illness and premature death. Extending healthcare to as many as possible could make a difference, the 69-year-old Beshear said, long after he is gone. “To me,” he said, “it was the morally responsible and the right thing to do.”

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LA Times: The Chalice That Helped Make Possible The Iran Nuclear Deal

Many paths led to the international agreement to temporarily curb Iran’s nuclear program: secret meetings in Oman, formal negotiations in Geneva, and a quiet encounter in New York involving two diplomats and an exquisite silver chalice in the shape of a mythical winged creature. The latter session led in September to the return of the chalice to Iran, where officials hailed it as a gesture of friendship by the United States.

When Rouhani announced plans to attend the U.N. General Assembly in New York in September, Obama’s advisors decided the moment was right for a gesture. A day after Obama delivered his annual address to the world body, the American diplomat received an email from Washington, which he read at his desk three blocks from U.N. headquarters. He was instructed to find a way to return the griffin chalice to the Iranians with no fanfare before Rouhani left in two days. Two days later, Rouhani accepted a telephone call from Obama, the first such high-level contact since 1979, when militants stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, taking hostages they held for 444 days.

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Lisa Mascaro: GOP Promise Of Immigration Reform Fades A Year After Election

Earlier this year, as House Republicans began considering changes to the nation’s immigration laws after their party’s defeat in the presidential election, they were given a list of do’s and don’ts that updated GOP thinking on the issue. The suggestions seemed obvious to most but signaled a new tone for the Republican Party. “Don’t use the term’anchor baby’ or phrases like ‘send them all back,’” said the memo from a Republican-aligned advocacy group, the Hispanic Leadership Network.

“Do acknowledge that ‘our current immigration system is broken and we need to fix it.’” Changing the way the party talks about immigration is about all House Republicans have to show for their efforts over the last 11 months — and even that effort has notable exceptions. In fact, the House’s most visible immigration-related action was a measure to defund an Obama administration program to defer deportations of young immigrants, a vote that increased Latino animosity even though it failed to become law.

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On December 1st, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus and her courageous act sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Civil Rights Movement that changed the course of history. We are forever grateful.

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On This Day:

Pete Souza: “He and the Vice President were headed for the short walk from the White House to the Eisenhower Executive Office building to brief Congressional leaders on his new Afghanistan strategy that he would publicly unveil at West Point that night. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had just pulled up in her motorcade and the Vice President congratulated her that her daughter, Chelsea, had just gotten engaged.” Dec. 1, 2009

President Obama gestures while talking on the phone Oval Office prior to leaving for his speech at West Point, Dec. 1, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

An ornament hangs on the official White House Christmas Tree in the Blue Room of the White House, Dec. 1, 2009 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

President Obama jokes with Vice President Biden and former Secretary of State Colin Powell following their meeting in the Oval Office, Dec. 1, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

The President with Malia and the First Lady with Sasha wait backstage before the lighting of the National Christmas Tree in Washington, D.C., Dec. 1, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and his daughter Sasha at the lighting of the National Christmas Tree in Washington December 1, 2011

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Nov
13

Rise and Shine

President Obama at the NCAA basketball game between Oregon State and Howard University on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2010 …  a day after he needed 12 stitches in his lip when he took an elbow during a game of basketball with friends and family at Fort McNair

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Today (All Times Eastern):

1:20: President Obama pardons the National Thanksgiving Turkey

2:35: Holds a bill signing

4:30: The First Family participates in a service event

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Steve Benen: Turning The Health Care Corner

Political journalism is sometimes criticized, fairly, for its “pack” mentality. Major news organizations wait for the conventional wisdom to organically take shape, and then the players stick to their scripts, reinforcing an agreed upon consensus. In practically no time at all, there are certain political facts that “everyone knows” to be true.

But soon after, that gets dull, the conventional wisdom invites skeptics, and contrarian instincts kick in. Maybe, the political world starts to wonder, those truths that “everyone knows” aren’t so true after all.

For the last several weeks, the consensus in establishment circles was that the Affordable Care Act’s open-enrollment period was not only a disaster, but a catastrophe that would destroy Obama’s presidency, the Democratic Party, the American health care system, and the very idea of progressive governance. Pundits could hardly contain their analogies – this was Obama’s Katrina, Obama’s Iraq, Obama’s Watergate, Obama’s Iran-Contra, and even Obama’s Bay of Pigs.

But the funny thing about narratives is that they’re sometimes fleeting….

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Paul Krugman: The Obamacare Worm Turns

I suggested yesterday that we’re probably heading for a turning point in the health reform discussion. Conservatives are operating on the assumption that it’s an irredeemable disaster that they can ride all the way to 2016; but the facts on the ground are getting better by the day, and Obamacare will turn into a Benghazi-type affair where Republicans are screaming about a scandal nobody else cares about.

And it’s already starting to happen.

…. media coverage is shifting fast. It’s still mostly trying for equivalence — each positive story of people being helped matched by a negative story of people hurt. But the stories don’t actually match up at all.

… At this rate, the whole horrors-of-Obamacare meme will be gone in weeks, not months. But the GOP echo chamber won’t be able to let it go.

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Barbara Starr: Official: U.S. B-52s Flew Over China’s Controversial New Air Defense Zone

Two U.S. military aircraft flew into China’s newly claimed and challenged air defense zone over the East China Sea, a U.S. official said. The U.S. Air Force B-52 planes — which were not armed because they were on a training mission — set off Monday from Guam and returned there without incident. The mission lasted for several hours, and the aircraft were in China’s newly declared air zone for about an hour, according to the U.S. official.

The flights came two days after China unilaterally announced the creation of a “Air Defense Identification Zone” over several islands it and Japan have both claimed. The two countries have been sharply at odds over those isles, which are believed to be near large reserves of natural resources. Washington responded negatively to what Secretary of State John Kerry characterized as an “escalatory action (that) will only increase tensions in the region and create risks of an incident.” The U.S. government has rallied around its ally Japan, where thousands of its troops are stationed as part of a security treaty.

And specifically regarding China’s new air defense zone, the United States has said it won’t recognize it. Japan’s two main commercial airlines said Wednesday that following a request from the Japanese government, they and other members of the Scheduled Airlines Association of Japan will not submit flight plans to Chinese authorities for flights through the zone claimed by Beijing.

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Charles Pierce: Success Is Not News

Look, there’s something going on with the Affordable Care Act that doesn’t require an IT specialist to explain. There’s a world beyond the ginned-up anecdote. Who knew?

…. through Covered California, the state’s individual insurance marketplace, they’ve found a plan through Sharp Healthcare that will cover them both for a total premium of $142 a month …. More important than that was knowing that they couldn’t be turned down for coverage come Jan. 1. “We felt we didn’t have to panic, or worry,” Holzman says. “If not for the Affordable Care Act, our ability to get insurance would be very limited, if we could get it at all.”

….. this is increasingly looking like the last chance for the United States to join the rest of the industrialized world in crafting a sensible health-care policy for its citizens. All of its citizens.

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Think Progress: Treasury And IRS To Crack Down On Super PACs Masquerading As Tax-Exempt Social Welfare Groups

The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service issued proposed guidelines on Tuesday that could force dark-money political groups like Crossroads GPSand the American Future Fund to spend less of their money on campaign advertising and other overt electioneering. If implemented, this guidance would clarify what actions by tax-exempt social welfare organizations are limited “candidate-related political activity” and what actions can count toward their principal purpose.

According to the Wall Street Journal, these rules would label “campaign advertising, voter registration, get-out-the-vote efforts, and distribution of voter guides and campaign materials,” as “candidate-related political activity.” None of that would be able to count as part of the group’s tax-exempt purpose — meaning only a minority of its work could fall into those categories. While 501(c)(4)s would still be free to engage in those activities, they couldn’t be the main focus. This could mean groups accused of masquerading as (c)(4)s could have to find new ways to spend their money.

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Sally Kohn: The GOP’s Late-Term Abortion Strategy Is Backfiring

As the Supreme Court announces it will hear a challenge to Obama’s contraception mandate, a study on late-term abortion seekers finds the GOP’s anti-abortion laws are backfiring.

Right wing politicians who are push laws to restrict a woman’s access to later-term abortions presumably do so because they don’t want women having abortion after 20 weeks. But new research from medical school-based scholars finds that other policies that conservative Republicans are pushing, including restrictions on access to clinics as well as constrained access to health insurance, actually result in more women seeking later-term abortions. In other words, not only are Republicans hypocrites—but their hypocrisy is backfiring.

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Mother Jones: Republicans Refuse To Cover The Poor, Then Complain That Obamacare Isn’t Covering The Poor

The New York Times has gotten hold of the “House Republican Playbook” on Obamacare, and I have to admit that it brought back warm memories. It’s just like the launch kits. In any case, it’s all pretty predictable stuff: Obamacare is an abomination; people are losing their insurance; small companies are being ruined; etc. etc.

Needless to say, this is primarily because Republicans governors have refused to implement Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, even though it’s 100 percent paid for at first and 90 percent paid for forever. These governors literally prefer to have their state’s residents pay taxes and get nothing in return rather than give so much as an extra dime to poor people who need health care. It’s truly hard to fathom what kind of human being is callous enough to do this, but apparently there are a bunch of them in the Republican Party.

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Erik Wemple: ’60 Minutes’ And Benghazi: Five Hard Realities

CBS News distributed a summary of findings from an internal investigation into the discredited Oct. 27 “60 Minutes” report on Benghazi. The investigation was conducted by Al Ortiz, executive director of standards and practices at CBS News, and the findings addressed the various red flags that “60 Minutes” failed to heed in featuring the testimony of Dylan Davies, a security contractor in Benghazi at the time of the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on U.S. interests in the Libyan city. The document cited 10 discrete issues with the Benghazi story. Lara Logan, the correspondent on the story, and the segment’s producer, Max McClellan, are taking leaves of absence following the breakdowns.

 CBS News and “60 Minutes” might as well be on different planets. For CBS News, Benghazi represents the folly of firewalls. Right after the Benghazi attack itself, “60 Minutes” correspondent Steve Kroft asked President Obama how he viewed the tragedy. “Do you believe that this was a terrorist attack?” asked Kroft. Here’s how he responded: OBAMA: Well, it’s too early to know exactly how this came about, what group was involved, but obviously it was an attack on Americans. And we are going to be working with the Libyan government to make sure that we bring these folks to justice, one way or the other.

Trouble was, the public didn’t find out about the president’s response for weeks, until just two days before Election Day — long after it might have affected the course of the campaign. Somewhere between “60 Minutes” and the rest of CBS News, the Kroft-Obama exchange got lost.

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Larry Derfner: Under The Radar: Israel’s Security Establishment Supports New Iran Agreement

The news from Israel is that Israel hates the Iranian nuclear deal struck in Geneva – but the news is not entirely accurate. It’s true, of course, that Netanyahu and his government ministers (with the exception of Justice Minister Tzipi Livni) think the agreement is bad, very bad, very very bad, and that Obama and the West sold the Jews out to Hitler again. But there are some other extremely powerful Israelis who don’t think the agreement is so bad, and who certainly prefer it to the no-agreement that Bibi and AIPAC were driving toward – and these Israelis make up the country’s military-intelligence establishment.

It shouldn’t be a big surprise; these are the same people who, with an assist from President Shimon Peres and the Israeli media, stopped Netanyahu and then-defense minister Ehud Barak from bombing Iran like they wanted to last year. Israel’s generals don’t relish going head-to-head with the United States, they don’t live on paranoia, apocalyptic visions and scare-mongering, and right there you have enough to understand why they don’t go along with Netanyahu on Iran. The Israeli brass are certainly not peaceniks. They’re not sanguine at all about the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran. They are not opposed in principle to bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities – in fact, like with most Israelis, their preferred solution is for the U.S. to bomb them. But unlike Netanyahu and the right, they don’t automatically see red when they look at Iran

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AP: Obama’s Gatekeeper Now Point Man On Health Care

White House chief of staff Denis McDonough was ready to vent. “I’ve had too much humble pie,” he fumed, striding into a top aide’s West Wing office. “That was the last slice. I’m full.” McDonough had just finished another hand-holding meeting with health care advocates anxious over the disastrous rollout of the health care law. McDonough’s message: It was time to change tactics, quit lamenting the problems and start emphasizing the benefits of the health care overhaul.

McDonough is now holding evening meetings every day with key players in the health care rollout, offering support even as he holds agency leaders accountable. “We went straight into problem solving,” he said last week during a stroll on the White House South Lawn. “We knew that going into this, that no plan survives first contact. We knew that we would be confronted with challenges along the way. “We are focused on getting it working, absolutely, and we’re making good progress on that.”

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“Denis takes everything personally. Nobody is going to be harder on Denis than himself,” says his friend Ben Rhodes, a deputy White House national security adviser. “He was angry, frustrated, all of the above. If there is a problem, it is his personal mission to fix it, even if it is beyond his direct capacity to do so.” Of all the chiefs of staff who have worked for Obama, McDonough, 43, has the closest relationship with the president. McDonough is a fierce defender of the president, known during his national security days for vigorously challenging reporters. In a recent meeting with Democratic senators, a participant in the room said, he had a feisty exchange with Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, over a fix the president had proposed to the health care law.

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President Barack Obama runs down the White House Colonnade with Denis McDonough’s children

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On This Day:

First lady Michelle Obama, Sasha Obama and President Obama look on during an NCAA basketball game between Oregon State and Howard University on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2010 in Washington

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25
Nov
13

Rise and Shine

Sasha and the pardoned turkey, November 25, 2009

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Presidential Daily Schedule (All Times Eastern)

11:50AM: Pres. Obama departs Seattle, Washington

1:30PM: Pres. Obama arrives in San Francisco, California

2:35PM: Pres. Obama delivers remarks on immigration reform at the Betty Ann Ong Chinese Recreation Center

4:10PM: Pres. Obama delivers remarks at a DNC event at the San Francisco Jazz Center

5:00PM: Pres. Obama attends a DNC event at a private residence

6:30PM: Pres. Obama departs San Francisco, California

7:35PM: Pres. Obama arrives in Los Angeles, California

9:10PM: Pres. Obama delivers remarks at a DCCC/DSCC joint event at a private residence in Beverly Hills

11:20PM: Pres. Obama delivers remarks and answers questions at a DCCC/DSCC joint event at a private residence in Beverly Hills

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Yahoo: Obama, At Fundraiser, Calls GOP An ‘Impediment’

Obama told donors the sight of Mt. Rainier illuminated by a setting sun was particularly special because it reminded him of his mother, who attended high school in the Seattle area. “I feel the spirit of my mom,” he said. “I’m not a particularly ideological person,” he said, adding he still is passionate about giving people a fair shake, about the environment, and working for peace and national security. “But I’m pretty pragmatic about how we get there.”

 High-profile events on the schedule include a reception at the home of retired basketball star Earvin “Magic” Johnson and his wife, Cookie, in Beverly Hills, Calif., and one at the house of Marta Kauffman, co-creator of television’s “Friends.” Accompanied by House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California, Obama attended a reception and dinner Sunday at the home of former Microsoft executive Jon Shirley.

In addition to a half-dozen fundraisers, Obama intended to use the trip to keep the heat on Congress to pass an overhaul of immigration laws. He planned to address that issue during a stop Monday at a Chinese recreation center in San Francisco, and to promote his economic agenda Tuesday at the DreamWorks Animation studio in Glendale, Calif.

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Fred Kaplan: We Have A Deal With Iran. A Good One.

The Iranian nuclear deal struck Saturday night is a triumph. It contains nothing that any American, Israeli, or Arab skeptic could reasonably protest. Had George W. Bush negotiated this deal, Republicans would be hailing his diplomatic prowess, and rightly so. A few weeks ago, a “senior administration official” outlined the agreement that President Obama hoped to achieve in Geneva. Some reporters who heard the briefing (including me) thought that the terms were way too one-sided, that the Iranians would never accept them. Here’s the thing: The deal just signed by Iran and the P5+1 nations (the United States, Britain, France, Russia, and China plus Germany) is precisely the hoped-for deal laid out at that briefing.

It is an interim agreement, not a treaty (which means, among other things, that it doesn’t require Senate ratification). It is meant as a first step toward a comprehensive treaty to be negotiated in the next six months. More than that, it expires in six months. In other words, if Iran and the other powers can’t agree on a follow-on accord in six months, nobody is stuck with a deal that was never meant to be permanent. There is no opportunity for traps and trickery.

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Maryland Health Benefit Exchange: Maryland Health Connection Update

The Maryland Health Benefit Exchange announced today that consumers who require health coverage effective January 1, 2014 can now enroll through December 23. This extension will allow consumers more time to review plan options, talk with their families, providers or enrollment assisters, and enroll in a plan. After enrollment in plans through Maryland Health Connection, consumers will receive their initial invoice for premiums from their insurance company. Carriers will accept payment from consumers through January 15, 2014.

Interest in Maryland Health Connection continues to be strong. Highlights from today’s report include that, as of November 16: More than 59,000 Marylanders have created identity-verified accounts, and there have been more than 450,000 unique visitors to the website; Enrollments in qualified health plans increased by more than 500 during the week ending November 16 to a total of 2,253 individuals, reflecting the most enrollments in a week to date; and Counting Medicaid pre-enrollments, new Medicaid eligibles, and individuals who have selected qualified health plans for enrollment, more than 90,000 Marylanders are on track for coverage beginning January 1, 2014, under the Affordable Care Act.

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NYT: Getting To Yes With Iran

The interim nuclear deal between Iran and the major powers is an important step toward resolving the increasingly dangerous dispute over Iran’s progress on production of a nuclear weapon. President Obama and President Hassan Rouhani of Iran deserve credit for resisting fierce domestic opposition and a 30-year history of animosity between the two countries to get to this point.

Even though the temporary agreement does not achieve permanent and total dismantlement of Iran’s nuclear program, no one can seriously argue that it doesn’t make the world safer. It would freeze key aspects of Iran’s program for six months and lay the ground for negotiating a comprehensive, permanent deal. The alternatives are ratcheting up sanctions and possible military action, with no assurance that those steps would stop Iran’s nuclear advances. A negotiated solution is unquestionably better; it is alarming to hear Israeli politicians reject it in extremist terms and threaten unspecified unilateral action.

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Sahil Kapur: Why The Filibuster Change Is Fantastic News For Obama

The Senate’s historic “nuclear option” vote Thursday to end the filibuster for executive nominees and most judicial nominees is excellent news for President Barack Obama. Obama’s second-term agenda largely runs through the powerful D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which often has the final word on matters of White House and executive branch authority. That’s the strongest tool Obama has to still get things done, because as long as Republicans control the House, his legislative agenda isn’t going anywhere. The Senate rules change clears a path for the president to confirm his three stalled nominees to vacancies on the conservative-leaning court, and make it less hostile to his executive actions.

The D.C. Circuit has been the GOP’s most potent weapon against Obama’s use of executive power, as it has overturned a slew of his regulations on health care, financial reform, environmental protection, labor rules and recess appointments. Most recently, a three-judge panel on the court struck down Obamacare’s contraception mandate. Once Obama nominees Patricia Millett, Nina Pillard and Robert Wilkins become judges, the D.C Circuit’s active bench will have a 7-4 split of Democratic appointees.

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Kathleen O’Brien: Two-Thirds Of Jerseyans At Risk Of Losing Their Health Policies Will Get Subsidies, Study Says

A crunch of the numbers by Families USA, a Washington-based non-profit, shows that two-thirds of New Jersey residents at risk for losing their existing health insurance have low enough incomes to get a subsidy.

Nationwide, 71 percent will be able to get a subsidy; the New Jersey figure is 67 percent.The study goes on to say only 4.8 percent of N.J. residents under the age of 65, or 361,000 people, have private, individual plans. That’s slightly lower than the national rate of 5.7 percent.

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Susan K. Livio: Medicaid Applications Up 35 Percent Since Obamacare Exchange Opened

The opening of the Obamacare health exchange last month drove a 35 percent surge in new applications for Medicaid, the health insurance program for low-income people, the state Department of Human Services confirmed. The number of applicants to the State’s Medicaid program — known as New Jersey FamilyCare — during October totaled 21,946, an increase of 35 percent from September when 16,339 applicants were reported, according to NJ Citizen Action Health Policy Advocate Maura Collinsgru.

New Jersey is one of 26 states that agreed to accept billions of federal dollars to expand the income eligibility limits in the Medicaid program. Doing so is expected to net the state $227 million in higher reimbursements while also enrolling 104,000 new people next year.

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Defense One: The Deal Is For Real

Every president since Jimmy Carter has tried to make a deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran. None have succeeded. President Barack Obama just did. It starts with a single step, and it is an important one. The first phase of the agreement just reached in Geneva makes it much more difficult for Iran to dash for a bomb. It also begins to lock down the nuclear program that has plagued United States officials for over ten years.

The deal Secretary John Kerry masterfully crafted in Geneva eliminates the threat Mr. Netanyahu said was his most serious concern. It completely stops the enrichment of uranium to 20 percent. It gets rid of all the uranium Iran had already enriched to this level. As a result, it doubles the time it would take Iran to dash to a bomb, plus it adds tough new daily inspections of the nuclear facilities that could spot any such dash, giving nations ample time to take appropriate actions. Coupled with the success of the agreement to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal, the negotiations are a dramatic example of the efficacy of diplomacy in resolving the most difficult of security problems. It’s the real deal.

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The Daily Banter: President Obama Ushering World Peace, Corporate Media Shrugs

When reached for comment, Republicans, bona fide warmongers and their useful idiots in the eye-rolling mainstream press determined that this is already just another failure of leadership and desperation by a lame-duck president still trying to distance himself from hisonly real achievement: Landmark healthcare insurance reform– which has since been forever and ever deemed a colossal failure because the American media, still obsessed with pretending that Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush weren’t paranoid, smiling psychopathic mass-murderers and race-baiters-at-heart say so.

But make no mistake. This is another win and another huge “first” in a long line of firsts for the Obama administration which just keeps moving us forward despite the nagging fat asses of soft-racism slowing us up to complain the whole way about the alleged lies and tyrannical policies that brought them better health insurance, record DOW and S&P, reduced deficit, stable gas prices, less nukes, financial sector accountability, saved the U.S. auto industry, blah, blah, blah. The president earned every bit of his Nobel Peace Prize this weekend, which should drive his buffoonish critics to new lows to explain away his mastery of presidential politics on the world stage.

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Danny Westneat: Debunking Obamacare Sob Story

Another day, another Obamacare horror story. Only this one was different, because it came from right here in Washington state. One of the few places Obamacare was supposedly working. “Obamacare Under Fire: EXCLUSIVE,” blared CNN last Monday morning. A reporter did a live stand-up in front of the White House. “Single Mom Touted by President Loses Insurance,” read the crawl.

Except there’s a key detail none of these media outlets mentioned. Which is: Sanford’s son was discovered to qualify for Medicaid coverage at a cost of just $30 a month. He has ADHD and, according to Sanford, it costs them $250 a month for prescription drugs alone. Which will now all be covered. It’s true the rest of her insurance won’t get a big discount, as she had first thought. “That mistake is totally on us,” said Bethany Frey of the Washington state health exchange.

But a bronze-level policy for a 48-year-old woman making $49,000 can be had on the state exchange for $237 a month, and a silver-level policy for $313. So here’s a family that was totally uninsured for 15 years because it had always cost at least $500 to $600 a month for skimpy policies to cover them both. And what they can get now is full coverage for $30 a month for the son and scantier coverage in the $250 to $300 a month range for the mom. How is that a horror story?

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Reuters: ‘Great Satan’ Meets ‘Axis Of Evil’ And Strikes A Deal

Saturday night had turned into Sunday morning and four days of talks over Iran’s nuclear program had already gone so far over schedule that the Geneva Intercontinental Hotel had been given over to another event. At around 2:00 a.m., U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and counterparts from Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia were brought to a conference room to approve a final text of the agreement which would provide limited relief of sanctions on Iran in return for curbs to its nuclear program.

At the last minute, with the ministers already gathered in the room, an Iranian official called seeking changes. Negotiators for the global powers refused. Finally the ministers were given the all clear. The deal, a decade in the making, would be done at last. Now that the interim deal is signed, talks are far from over as the parties work towards a final accord that would lay to rest all doubts about Iran’s nuclear program.

According to a senior U.S. State Department official, Kerry told Zarif there could be no more delay. President Barack Obama’s administration would call for even tighter sanctions on Iran unless a deal was reached now. Congress members were demanding new sanctions and the White House would join them. Kerry made the case that “there would be no way to hold back new sanctions to give room for (a) new round and we would lead the charge for more sanctions if we did not come to agreement,” the State Department official said. By Saturday evening, the final language was personally approved by Obama in Washington.

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Going Nuclear

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Jim Stuart: A Team Effort In The Long Game

What an exciting moment this is: a first stage, six month deal with Iran has been inked by the P5+1. The Supreme Leader in Iran has sent President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif a letter of congratulations. Iranian social media is happily abuzz on both sides of the political divide – reformers and pro-regime supporters. Israel and Saudi Arabia are negative, as are many US conservatives – which to my mind is predictable and makes our getting the deal done even more admirable.

Strategic patience is what Stratfor’s George Friedman has called it. That, and both the willingness and the capacity to play the long game – to have a crystal clear picture of what you would like to see happen, and to wait, and to take the hits, and to wait some more until the moment of possibility arrives. Clear vision. A strong team. A deep and quiet space within you that allows you to take the hits without flinching or flailing about. And patience. And if the other side really does have shred interests, a deal that is good for both sides can happen. And it just did! Bravo, Mr. President and Mr. Secretary! Bravo!

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Brian Beutler: Whoops! Obamacare Turns Out To Be Great Deal Personally For Boehner

Poor John Boehner. Thanks to a Republican amendment to the Affordable Care Act, most members of Congress will see their government-provided health insurance lapse at the end of the year, leaving many of them no other choice but to enroll in dreaded Obamacare. As speaker of the House, Boehner is technically exempt from the requirement, but in order to avoid accusations of special treatment (i.e., because of politics) he decided to take the plunge, too. And he wants you to know how difficult it was. He even wrote a blog post about it.

t’s a bummer Boehner got that error message. Tyranny almost. But if he’d reached the point at which he was signing up for coverage, it means he’d already had a chance to shop around and pick a plan. His post is oddly quiet about that part of the experience. Which is curious. As a 64-year-old heavy smoker, it’s a marvel Boehner will be able to purchase individual market coverage at all. I wonder what crazy law guarantees that he can?

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NYT: California Encouraged By Health Plan Enrollment

Nearly 80,000 people have enrolled in health plans through California’s online marketplace, at a rate of several thousand a day in November — a sizable increase over a month ago, state officials said. Especially encouraging, officials said, was the enrollment of young people, who are considered essential to the success of the Obama administration’s health care law.

Officials said 18- to 34-year-olds made up 22.5 percent of the nearly 31,000 Californians who selected a private health plan in October. The same age group makes up 21 percent of the state’s population. The enrollment of young people is important to insurers because their relative good health offsets the costs for people with serious medical conditions.

Officials said that over 10,000 applications for coverage were now being completed each day, with more than 360,000 applications having been completed through Tuesday. Those numbers include people who are also eligible for Medi-Cal, California’s no-cost health insurance program for the poor.

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President Obama briefly glances up toward the sunset after arriving Sunday, Nov. 24, at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

24
Nov
13

A Hopeful New Day

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Continue reading ‘A Hopeful New Day’




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