President Barack Obama and Poland’s President Bronislaw Komorowski, wave at Belveder residence in Warsaw, Poland. President Obama came to Poland to meet regional leaders and attend ceremonies marking 25 years of Poland’s democracy
President Barack Obama and Poland’s President Bronislaw Komorowski make statements and meet with U.S. and Polish troops at an event featuring four F-16 fighter jets, two American and two Polish, as part of multinational military exercises
President Barack Obama answers a question during a joint news conference with Poland’s President Bronislaw Komorowski
Remarks by President Obama and President Komorowski of #Poland in a Joint Press Conference: wh.gov/lskGq
Dylan Scott: Officials: People Returning To HealthCare.gov ‘In Droves’
Nearly three-fourths of those who have purchased health insurance on HealthCare.gov since early December were people returning to the site after visiting in October and November, according to senior administration officials. A survey on the federal website found that 73 percent of those who had completed enrollment in recent weeks said they had first come to the site in the previous two months, officials said. The Obama administration did not declare the site fully fixed until Dec. 1. The officials touted the figure as evidence that people were giving HealthCare.gov a second chance
NPR: Tagging Along On A Wisconsin Man’s Odyssey To Buy Insurance
Enrollment is picking up in new health insurance marketplaces. But the 365,000 who’ve signed up as of November 30 is a fraction of just one high-visibility group – those whose previous insurance has been cancelled because it didn’t meet Affordable Care Act standards. They’re people like Doug Normington, a 58-year-old self-employed videographer in Madison, Wis., who has struggled to buy new insurance since late October. “Getting the cancellation letter made me feel kind of nervous because my insurance runs out on December 31,” Normington said when I first talk to him on November 1. “I go on the HealthCare.gov website and spin my wheels for a couple of days and it’s just not working.”
Since Normington has diabetes, maintaining coverage is especially important to him. “I feel all this relief. It’s great!” he says. But he still hasn’t actually enrolled. “So let me click the enroll button, see what happens.” He clicks the button and gets a screen asking him to “confirm your health plan selection.” He hits that button. “The wheel is spinning,” he says. “And ‘Congratulations, you have successfully completed all steps of your application. “This is great!” Normington says. “The ironic twist is that this insurance company is a company that turned me down a year ago because I was diabetic. They can’t now.”
Why can’t people see this man? Nancy LeTourneau, aka Smartypants, has just completed a three-part blog series very ably addressing this question (Part I, Part II, and Part III). She looks at three “lenses” that cloud the perception of many: The Racial Lens - Few of us are able to acknowledge our Racial Lens; and because we can’t, we endlessly generalize about the strengths and weaknesses of another ethnic group or race. We may even think we really like Blacks, or Asians, or Latinos, but as long as the ethnic character of the individual is what we see first, then we look through a Racial Lens. It’s not a Person we see first; it’s a Black….person. If we can admit to ourselves that we do wear, albeit unconsciously, a Racial Lens, we can then notice what generalizations spring unproven from this lens. The two Nancy points to are competence and luck. Obama is always demonstrating incompetence, or he’s about to. And when a success is achieved, it’s luck.
What I would like to add to Nancy’s outstanding conversation is this: lenses are largely developmental. As we grow and develop, they change. Following the works and model of Ken Wilber, let me posit five developmental levels, each succeeding level representing a higher level of consciousness and awareness: Integral ( the self-transforming self; the mind sees patterns and thinks holistically; many perspectives can be internalized and held in awareness; paradox is seen as something to embrace, to engage – as a gateway to learning and truth. Obama is an integral leader. Large numbers of people at each of the prior levels cannot truly “see” him
BBC: S Sudan On Precipice Of Civil War, Obama Warns
US President Barack Obama has warned that South Sudan is on the “precipice” of a civil war, after clashes in the capital Juba spread around the country. He said 45 military personnel had been deployed to South Sudan on Wednesday to protect American citizens and property. At least 500 people are believed to have died since last weekend, when President Salva Kiir accused his ex-deputy Riek Machar of a failed coup. An estimated 34,000 people have taken refuge at United Nations compounds.
Three Indian peacekeepers were killed on Thursday when a UN base sheltering refugees came under attack near South Sudan’s eastern border with Ethiopia. Sudan suffered a 22-year civil war that left more than a million people dead before the South became independent in 2011. The recent unrest has pitted gangs from the Nuer ethnic group of Mr Machar against Dinkas – the majority group to which Mr Kiir belongs.
Washington Post: 93 Percent Of Hospital Executives Think Obamacare Will Make Health Care Better
Hospital executives think health reform is going to make the health care they deliver a whole lot better — and a bit cheaper: Fully 65 percent indicated that by 2020, they believe the healthcare system as a whole will be somewhat or significantly better than it is today. And when they were asked about their own institutions, the optimism was even more dramatic. Fully 93 percent predicted that the quality of care provided by their own health system would improve. This is probably related to efforts to diminish hospital acquired conditions, medication errors, and unnecessary re-admissions, as encouraged by financial penalties in the ACA. On cost control there was similar optimism: 91 percent forecasted improvements on metrics of cost within their own health system by 2020.
Let’s say you have a family of four, and you need to decide whether to pay for a dental plan, and the plan will cost an extra $150 a month. Does that sound like a lot to you? The plan will cover basic checkups twice a year, or about 85 percent of the cost for them. It will cover 50 percent of major dental work. So… $150 a month is $1800 a year. That’s a lot, yeah. And you still have to pay for some stuff. Ugh. But as a parent I assume you plan to go for visits twice a year, right? Because you know that good dental care is something kids need to develop, right? And modeling that care yourself is the best way to teach them? And you also know that preventative care of your teeth can help with things like heart disease? Now– all you have to do is have one procedure a year among the four of you that costs $600, and your dental coverage has paid for itself. Right? One kid with a cracked tooth. One root canal. Maybe two and a half small fillings on regular teeth. Or an irrigation for gum issues.
I woke up SO EXCITED about having bought new health care. I realize how boring I sound, but it's a big deal for us.
But these numbers are actually looking pretty close. So maybe I’m wrong, and you’d do just as well to pay out of pocket, right? Especially in years when you don’t need any fillings? Maybe you’re better off skipping the dental insurance, after all… WRONG! Because the kicker is that you WOULD NOT. You would NOT go to the dentist twice a year if you had to pay $150 bucks just for the visit. You would NOT opt for the X-rays, if you had to pay extra for them. Maybe you’d take the kids in on schedule, because you feel bad not doing it, and the pediatrician might ask, but you’d TOTALLY skip your own visits. You’d save the $150 and spend it on something else. You would suffer a tooth ache, and hope it goes away. You would wait… and wait… and wait. You’d wait years. And then, one day, you would find yourself at the ER in the night, because of sudden intolerable pain. And the doc at the ER would say, “Wow, this is serious. You’ve got a major infection in there. We need to take out these two teeth and you might have a malignancy in the bone. I SURE HOPE YOU HAVE INSURANCE!” And in that moment you will cringe. Because what you’re about to have done to your teeth–the surgery that could have been prevented with a $150 visit twice a year–it will cost thousands and thousands of dollars.
Chicago Tribune: Obama Orders Release Of Man Jailed For Life For Non-Violent Crime At 17
In 1994 when Reynolds Wintersmith, then still a young man, was sentenced to life in prison for dealing crack and cocaine as part of a large street conspiracy in Rockford, the federal judge charged with the task expressed regrets. “… There ought to be some latitude when you have a 17-year-old who gets involved,” U.S. District Judge Philip Reinhard said, according to a transcript. “There is not another alternative available. It gives me pause to think that that was the intent of Congress, to put somebody away for the rest of their life, but in any event, it’s there.”
Reinhard, under mandatory sentencing laws in place at the time, had no choice. On Thursday, President Obama commuted the sentences of Wintersmith and seven other men and women who all were sent to prison for lengthy sentences – six of them for life – under drug sentencing guidelines that are now understood to be draconian and unfair. Obama also pardoned 13 people. In a statement about the commutations, Obama concurred with Reinhard, calling the sentences a product of an “unfair system.”
ABC: States Cite Surge In Obamacare Sign-Ups Ahead Of First Deadline
States running their own Obamacare insurance exchanges are reporting a significant surge in sign-ups just four days before the first major enrollment deadline. The increase has ranged from 30 percent to 40 percent in the past few weeks, according to state officials who briefed reporters Wednesday. Monday is the last day to sign up for a plan that will guarantee health coverage effective Jan. 1. California, which has one of the most successful programs, averaged 15,000 enrollments a day last week, up from an average 7,000 a day the week before, state officials said. In all of November, 80,000 Californians picked a plan; in the first week of December, 50,000 signed up. In Kentucky, enrollments are up 40 percent since Thanksgiving, straining the state’s exchange and forcing administrators to hire dozens of extra call-center workers and application processors.
“We are seeing about 3,000 people a day approved for Medicaid or a [qualified health plan],” Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange executive director Carrie Banahan said. “We started out a few weeks ago at about a thousand per day.” More than 92,000 people have gotten coverage so far. In New York, phones at marketplace call centers are ringing off the hook, averaging between 1,200 to 1,500 calls per hour, officials say. Roughly 4,500 people are enrolling in coverage each day, state Department of Health counsel Lisa Sbrana said. In the past week alone, they’ve seen a 34 percent increase in people signing up. “We’re really happy,” Sbrana said. “We’re seeing a good mix of enrollees across age groups.” The uptick in demand has also been seen in Connecticut, where 47,000 people have enrolled through the exchange since October and they’re now adding an average 1,400 people a day.
NYT: Revision Shows U.S. Growing At Fastest Rate Since 2011
The United States economy grew at a torrid 4.1 percent annual pace in the third quarter, the Commerce Department said Friday. That is the strongest growth in nearly two years, and only the third time the economy has expanded that quickly since 2006. The Commerce Department revised its estimate of third-quarter growth to 4.1 percent from 3.6 percent in this release. The refined estimate is based on “more complete source data,” the department said, showing personal consumption and investment in things like factories to be higher than previously thought.
Economists had expected the final estimate of growth to be unchanged from that earlier 3.6 percent. But data showed that consumers have stepped up their spending on health care, houses and cars as the strengthening recovery has led to a sharp drop in the unemployment rate and rising home values have improved household balance sheets. The Commerce Department bumped up its estimate of consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of economic activity, to a 2 percent rate from 1.4 percent, reflecting higher spending on goods and services.
The growth came from a broad range of sources: personal consumption, exports, investment in new factories and houses, state and local government spending and a rise in business inventories. Federal spending cuts and rising imports were a drag on growth, the department said. “The economy is finishing 2013 in a stronger place than where it began the year,” said Jason Furman, the chairman of the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers, in a statement this week. “This is especially notable given the general fiscal environment, including the onset of the sequester in March.”
First Lady Michelle Obama collects toys from military children during a Toys for Tots event at the Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling Distribution Center in Washington, D.C., Dec. 19, 2013 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
Two Years Ago Today: A Promise Kept
President Obama and VP Biden participate in a ceremony at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Dec. 20, 2011, marking the return of the United States Forces-Iraq Colors and the end of the war in Iraq.
President Obama meets former Czech President Vaclav Havel during a summit between the United States and the 27-member European Union in Prague, Czech Republic, in this April 5, 2009 file photo. Havel, the dissident playwright who wove theater into politics to peacefully bring down communism in Czechoslovakia and become a hero of the epic struggle that ended the Cold War, died Sunday Dec. 18, 2011 in Prague. He was 75.
President Obama made the following statement on the death of Czech leader Vaclav Havel:
“I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing today of Vaclav Havel, a playwright and prisoner of conscience who became President of Czechoslovakia and of the Czech Republic. Having encountered many setbacks, Havel lived with a spirit of hope, which he defined as “the ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed.” His peaceful resistance shook the foundations of an empire, exposed the emptiness of a repressive ideology, and proved that moral leadership is more powerful than any weapon. He played a seminal role in the Velvet Revolution that won his people their freedom and inspired generations to reach for self-determination and dignity in all parts of the world. He also embodied the aspirations of half a continent that had been cut off by the Iron Curtain, and helped unleash tides of history that led to a united and democratic Europe.
“Like millions around the world, I was inspired by his words and leadership, and was humbled to stand with the Czech people in a free and vibrant Hradcany Square as President. We extend our condolences to President Havel’s family and all those in the Czech Republic and around the world who remain inspired by his example. Vaclav Havel was a friend to America and to all who strive for freedom and dignity, and his words will echo through the ages.”
Morning everyone. A bit of a busy day ahead, but will catch up later ;-)
TampaBay.com: President Barack Obama’s campaign last week announced that more than 1 million people had contributed to his re-election effort, a milestone that it said was well ahead of four years ago.
All told, the campaign has raised more than $90 million (not including what he has raised for the Democratic Party) and officials stress the number of grass roots, low-dollar donors, noting that the average donation is less than $60.
…. Florida bundlers have raised at least $4.5 million for the Obama campaign directly and for the Democratic National Committee….
“Basically since we announced the re-election campaign in April, we’ve gotten the old band back together, along with some new players who helped out a little four years ago and want to do more, or new people who want to get involved,” said Florida finance chairman Kirk Wagar, a lawyer in Coconut Grove.
…. “They’re saying, ‘I’m getting sick and tired of listening to the tea party when this president has done what he said he was going to do, and he’s done a lot,’ ” Wagar said.
Unlike the Republican presidential contenders, who have raised more than $80 million, Obama’s campaign releases the names of its top bundlers and ranges of what each brought in.
Alan Colmes: After the Washington Post story that Florida Senator Marco Rubio had some facts wrong in his retelling of his family’s history, he has updated his Senate web page biography.
“Rubio frequently repeated a compelling version of his family’s history that had special resonance in South Florida. He was the “son of exiles,” he told audiences, Cuban Americans forced off their beloved island after “a thug,” Fidel Castro, took power.
But a review of documents reveals that the Florida Republican’s account embellishes the facts. The documents show that Rubio’s parents came to the United States and were admitted for permanent residence more than two-and-a-half years before Castro’s forces overthrew the Cuban government and took power on New Year’s Day 1959.”
Rubio aggressively challenged the Post story, but changed his bio, nevertheless.
You people are beyond great – thank you so much for helping reach the target (link), appreciate it endlessly.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on ‘Meet the Press':
“Let me begin by saying that President Obama has passed with flying colors every leadership challenge. I mean, look at what he has done. I mean, just to name a few things …. we were looking for bin Laden for 10 years. It was under President Obama’s leadership that he was finally eliminated.
“Libya … with the kind of smart leadership that the president showed, demonstrating that American leadership was essential, but it was important to try to bring others into a coalition of efforts. And the objective was achieved keeping the promise to withdraw from Iraq, but not leave Iraq – by having a robust security and training mission accompanied by a very large diplomatic presence. I could go on and on. I think this president has demonstrated that …. it’s important to have someone at the helm of our country who understands how to manage what is an incredibly complex world now.”
“Yes, we have a lot of threats, but we also have opportunities. And I think President Obama has grasped that and has performed extraordinarily well. I think Americans are going to want to know that they have a steady, experienced, smart hand on the tiller of the ship of state, and there’s no doubt that that’s Barack Obama.”
“On behalf of the American people, I congratulate the people of Libya on today’s historic declaration of liberation. After four decades of brutal dictatorship and eight months of deadly conflict, the Libyan people can now celebrate their freedom and the beginning of a new era of promise.
Now that the fighting in Libya has reached an end, the Transitional National Council (TNC) must turn its attention to the political transition ahead. We look forward to working with the TNC and an empowered transitional government as they prepare for the country’s first free and fair elections.
The Libyan authorities should also continue living up to their commitments to respect human rights, begin a national reconciliation process, secure weapons and dangerous materials, and bring together armed groups under a unified civilian leadership. As they take these steps, the United States will continue our close cooperation with our international partners and the UN Support Mission in Libya to help advance a stable, democratic transition.”
People wait in line outside a polling station in Tunis. President Barack Obama congratulated Tunisians Sunday on casting ballots in their country’s first election since the revolt that started the Arab Spring, calling it “an important step forward.”