Posts Tagged ‘lgbt

08
Apr
14

Rise and Shine

President Obama embraces Vice President Biden in the Oval Office after a meeting on the budget, April 8, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern):

11:45 EDT: President Obama delivers remarks on equal pay, East Room

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@petesouza: Pres Obama takes the stage at Bladensburg High School

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The Week Ahead

Wednesday: The President and the First Lady will travel to Houston, TX. The President will attend a memorial service at Fort Hood. He will attend DCCC and DSCC events. More details regarding the President and First Lady’s travel to Houston will be forthcoming.

Thursday: The President and the First Lady will travel to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library in Austin, TX. The President will deliver remarks at a Civil Rights Summit to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act. The President and the First Lady will return to Washington, DC, in the afternoon.

Friday: The President will travel to New York, NY to deliver remarks at the National Action Network’s 16th Annual Convention.

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Bryce Covert: Obama’s New Move On Gender And Pay Could Have More Impact Than The Lilly Ledbetter Act

President Obama on Tuesday is expected to sign two executive orders that will address the pay disparity between women and men. One will bar federal contractors from retaliating against employees who talk about their pay with each other. The other will require businesses to hand over data on pay, broken down by race and gender, to the Labor Department. The goal of both steps is to increase transparency, which is more important than it may sound. It’s hard to fight pay discrimination if you don’t even know what other people make. That’s exactly what happened to Lilly Ledbetter, for whom the Lilly Ledbetter Act is named. She didn’t find out she was being paid less than the men around her until 19 years after she started at Goodyear. Even then, it was thanks only to an anonymous note. While President Obama has touted the fact that his first act as president was to sign that bill, it was a very, very incremental step toward gender wage parity. The law merely gives women more time to bring suits.

The executive orders could start a new wave of progress. About half of American workers are either expressly barred or strongly discouraged from discussing pay with each other. Obama’s action won’t change that fact for everyone, but it will affect 22 percent of the workforce. And it can have ripple effects to other companies that might want to compete for federal contracts, changing standards over time.President Obama has proposed a universal preschool system that includes care for children ages zero to three and would go a long way toward helping parents afford the skyrocketing costs of child care. But many of these ideas are anathema to conservatives in Congress, because they would require government spending and/or interfering with the free market. Until that changes, executive orders like the ones Obama will issue Tuesday may be the best hope for a while.

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Meghashyam Mali: Obama Administration Reverses Planned Cuts To Medicare Advantage

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Monday announced that it would increase payments to insurers offering Medicare Advantage plans by 0.4 percent, reversing a planned cut. The move comes after criticism from insurance groups and Democratic lawmakers who feared the fallout from trimming benefits for seniors in a difficult midterm election year.

CMS had proposed a 1.9 percent rate cut in February. But on Monday, agency officials said that changed estimates allowed for them to reverse the cut. CMS in a statement said that the rate changes would “ensure beneficiaries will continue to have access to a wide array of high quality, high value, and low cost options while making certain that plans are providing value to Medicare and taxpayers.”

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Jamelle Bouie: Jonathan Chait’s Look At Race During The Obama Era Is Missing One Thing: Black Americans

You should contrast this with Jonathan Chait’s most recent feature for New York magazine, where the story of race in the Obama administration is a story of mutual grievance between Americans on the left and right, with little interest in the lived experiences of racism from black Americans and other people of color. It’s a story, in other words, that treats race as an intellectual exercise—a low-stakes cocktail party argument between white liberals and white conservatives over their respective racial innocence.That might fit the experiences of a mostly white pundit class, but it has nothing to do with race as experienced in the “day-to-day” lives of ordinary people. When a twentysomething black New Yorker talks about race, she isn’t as concerned with the rhetoric of Republicans as she is with the patrol car that trails her teenage brother when he rides his bike to the corner store.

What’s odd about the argument is that Chait clearly shows the extent to which conservatism—even if it isn’t “racist”—works to entrench racial inequality through “colorblindness” and pointed opposition to the activist state. But rather than take that to its conclusion, he asks us to look away.Of course, it’s not accusing conservatives of “racism” to note that particular policies—say, tax cuts to defund the social safety net, or blocking the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act—have a disparate impact. That’s just reality. And it’s not tarring your opponents to note that race plays a huge part in building popular support for those policies. Chait finishes his piece with a note (a hope?) that this dynamic of grievance will become irrelevant with time: “The passing from the scene of the nation’s first black president in three years, and the near-certain election of its 45th nonblack one, will likely ease the mutual suspicion. In the long run, generational changes grind inexorably away.” Yes, the Return of the White President will cause this tension to recede, as arguments over racial innocence—“You’re racist!” “You’re a race baiter!”—fade like the elves of Middle-Earth. But that’s only the end of the story if you’re most concerned with partisan fights.

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Eli Clifton: Exclusive: Shady Double-Agent’s Obamacare Sabotage: Top “Supporter” Quietly Funded Its Opposition

While proponents of the Affordable Care Act took a victory lap on the April 1 signup deadline, opposition to the state-run marketplaces continues to expand across the country through “Health Care Freedom Acts,” bills that would seek to limit state governments’ cooperation with the Affordable Care Act. But the untold story, until now, is that a key White House ally in passing the Affordable Care Act may have helped lay the groundwork for these very anti-ACA legislations being introduced across the country. Billy Tauzin, the president of the pharmaceutical lobby, couldn’t help gloating while delivering a keynote speech at his final PhRMA annual meeting before his 2010 retirement. Reflecting on the industry’s decision to support comprehensive healthcare reform, the mega-lobbyist quipped, “This PhRMA team is a Super Bowl championship team of advocacy.” That comparison might be more accurate if the NFL’s championship team had rigged the Super Bowl.

Tax records show that PhRMA initiated a series of payments to the American Legislative Exchange Council with a $379,192 contribution in 2008. Tauzin’s powerful lobby continued its payments to ALEC throughout its negotiations with the White House. Between 2008 and 2011, those contributions exceeded $1.25 million. ALEC, a conservative group serving as a clearinghouse for state-level legislation, opposed the Affordable Care Act and launched its Health Care Freedom Initiative in 2008, the same year that PhRMA initiated its support. The project promised to “expose the truth about ObamaCare and fight back — one state at a time.” It also armed state lawmakers with “14 specific recommendations to push back against Obamacare” and offered boilerplate legislation with its “Freedom of Choice in Health Care Act.”In a previously unpublished “Schedule of Contributors” tax filing, PhRMA is listed as contributing $339,000 to ALEC in 2010, making it ALEC’s second largest donor after cigarette giant Reynolds American. The filing lists Pfizer, a member of the pharmaceutical lobby, as contributing an additional $136,000 on its own.

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Think Progress: Black Women Are Breaking Barriers But Still Not Getting Compensated For It

Black women are graduating high school, attending college, participating in the labor force, and starting businesses at higher rates, but they still aren’t seeing the rewards of their hard work, according to a recent report from the Black Women’s Roundtable, the women’s initiative of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation. Young black women have increased their high school graduation rate by 63 percent over the past 50 years, more than tripling it and “virtually eliminating the gap with Asian women (down to 2%), and significantly narrowing the gap with white women (7%),” the report notes. That gap between the rates of black women and white women has shrunk from 22 percent in 1960. After they leave high school, black women have begun to dominate college. “Though all women lead their male counterparts in college enrollment and degree attainment,” the report says, “Black women do so at higher rates than any other group of women in America.”

In 2010, they were 66 percent of all blacks who finished a Bachelor’s Degree, 71 percent with a Master’s, and 65 percent with a Doctorate. And they keep excelling after they graduate. “As they have from the beginning of their experience in America, Black women lead all women in labor force participation rates,” according to the report. Their labor force participation rate is higher than all other women, and that continues to be true even after they become mothers. They are also very entrepreneurial, starting businesses at six times the national average and representing the fastest growing segment of women-owned businesses. Black women own more than 1 million firms, employ 272,000 people other than themselves, and generate an estimated $44.9 billion in revenue. But even as they’ve been working harder on their educations and starting more businesses, black women aren’t seeing higher returns. While women working full-time, on average, make 77 percent of what men make, black women make 64 percent of what white men make.

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Michael Cohen: How Putin Is Losing In Crimea: A Reality Check

A funny thing happened on March 21: Russia lost a war and virtually no one noticed. It was precisely this agreement — and the refusal of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to sign it — that led to the bloody demonstrations in Kiev that forced Yanukovych from power and spurred Russia’s seizure of Crimea. It’s the kind of trade that looks bad for Russia on the surface — and will only look worse in the future. Russia’s political influence in Ukraine and its dreams of creating an economic union to compete with the EU lies in tatters. Rather than push the U.S. and EU away from his western border, Putin’s actions have practically invited them in by strengthening the bonds between Kiev and the West. It is yet another reminder that Putin’s decision to seize Crimea, rather than serve as a triumphant moment, is far more likely to end up a disaster.

While Putin clearly imagines Russia to be a great power, the country is a hollow shell of its former self, with waning political and military influence and an economy that is teetering on the brink. Higher inflation, a weakening ruble, huge capital outflows and a lack of economic reforms contributed to a major slowdown in the growth rate last year — from a projected increase of 3.6 percent to a mediocre 1.3 percent clip. The Crimea crisis will only add to these economic woes.The far bigger one is that major financial institutions like Deutsche Bank are recommending that their clients keep their money out of Russia; two of the biggest ratings agencies, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch, have downgraded Russia’s investment rating from “stable” to “negative”; and even MasterCard and Visa are ending relationships with key Russian banks to avoid the snare of U.S. sanctions.

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Evan Perez and Steve Katsenbaum: Key Figure In M.J. Traffic Scandal, David Wildstein, Meets With Prosecutors

David Wildstein, a central figure in a political scandal that has upended the administration of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, met recently with federal prosecutors, two U.S. officials familiar with the matter told CNN. The U.S. attorney’s office in Newark is investigating suggestions that top Christie appointees and allies orchestrated traffic tie-ups near the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee last September. Prosecutors are looking at whether the gridlock was politically motivated.

A state legislative committee is also investigating the matter, which involved sudden closures of access lanes to the nation’s busiest bridge over several days. Lawyers from the Justice Department’s public integrity section have joined the investigation to consult on certain legal aspects, particularly over separate allegations the Christie administration conditioned Superstorm Sandy relief money for Hoboken on the mayor’s support for a redevelopment project backed by the governor, according to one U.S. official.

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NYT: In A Test Of Wills With China, U.S. Sticks Up For Japan

On his first trip to China as the secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel is finding himself in the middle of a spat that would not be out of place in “Mean Girls,” a movie about social cliques in high school. For the first time, China will host the Western Pacific Naval Symposium, a meeting every two years of countries that border the Pacific Ocean. The W.P.N.S., as it is known in naval circles, counts among its members the United States, Australia, Chile, Canada and a number of Asian countries, including China and Japan. Often at such meetings, the host country organizes an international fleet review, at which the visiting countries can parade their ships and show off some fancy hardware. For this year’s fleet review, China, which is hosting the event in Qingdao, invited all the countries in the symposium to take part — except Japan.

So on the eve of Mr. Hagel’s trip, which includes a visit to Qingdao, Pentagon officials announced that if Japan could not take part in the review, then neither would the United States. The United States will attend the meeting, the Pentagon said, but no American ships will sail in the fleet review. Late last year, China set off a trans-Pacific uproar after it declared that an “air defense identification zone” gave it the right to identify and possibly take military action against aircraft near the uninhabited islands in the East China Sea known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan and the Diaoyu Islands in China. Japan controls and administers the islands, but China claims them. Japan refused to recognize China’s claim, and the United States has been defying China ever since by sending military planes into the zone unannounced.

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John W. Gonzalez: Allegation Against Battleground Texas Dismissed

Two special prosecutors have rejected public complaints that Battleground Texas violated election laws while registering voters in San Antonio last year. Three people had alleged that a Battleground Texas staffer violated state election law by mining voters’ personal data. The Democratic group has steadfastly denied the allegation as a fiction from conservative activist James O’Keefe III, who’s been criticized for dubious and even criminal tactics.Based on their finding, a state district court judge dismissed the case on Friday, officials confirmed Monday.

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Brendan Sasso: FCC To Break Up Big TV Stations

Overriding intense Republican opposition, the Democratic leaders of the Federal Communications Commission voted Monday to crack down on media consolidation. The new rules bar multiple broadcast TV stations in the same market from sharing a single advertising staff. Democratic FCC officials argue that major TV companies around the country are using “joint sales agreements” to undermine the agency’s media-ownership caps. The FCC bars any company from owning more than one of the top four TV stations in a market. By selling ads for multiple stations, companies have been able to dodge the FCC’s ownership cap while effectively controlling several stations, the agency officials said.

The goal of the TV ownership cap is to ensure that viewers have access to a diverse range of views in the media and that no single corporation is able to dominate the flow of information. While the TV stations serve local markets, major media companies such as Sinclair own dozens of stations around the country. “The commission has long imposed limits on concentration of ownership for use of the public’s airwaves,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said. “Today, what we’re doing is closing off what is a growing end run around those rules.”

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Meredith Clark: Kansas Bill Kills Long-Held Teacher Rights

After a weekend of heated debate, the Kansas legislature passed a bill that strips teachers of the right to challenge dismissals and ensures tax breaks for corporations that fund private school scholarships. Despite huge majorities in the state House and Senate, the bills passed narrowly over the objections of hundreds of teachers and activists who packed the galleries to protest the bill. Until now, a teacher with three years of experience was guaranteed the right to receive a written reason for possible termination and the right to appeal the decision. Teachers in Kansas have had the right to due process since 1957. Without it, a teacher could be fired for being gay, or disagreeing politically with an administrator, and have no recourse.

The bill also provides $126 million to address disparities in public school funding. The Kansas supreme court ruled in March that the state’s current funding system is unconstitutional. The court had ordered the legislature to craft a solution before July 1. Some Republican lawmakers sought policy changes like the end of due process in exchange for supporting the funding measure. Republican Governor Sam Brownback has not said whether he will sign the bill. Kansas’ teachers are among the lowest paid in the United States, with the state coming in 42nd in teacher pay. Educators fear that eliminating due process rights for teachers will make it even harder to retain talented teachers. “How do we get great teachers to come to Kansas when they’re already getting paid so little, and now they have no due process?” Aaron Estabrook, a school board member in the city of Manhattan asked msnbc. “How can we recruit them when they won’t be protected?”

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On This Day

Sen. Barack Obama before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the situation in Iraq, Capitol Hill, April 8, 2008

Sen. Barack Obama at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the situation in Iraq, Capitol Hill, April 8, 2008

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President Obama offers a fist-bump to senior staff member Pete Rouse, during a meeting with senior advisors in the Oval Office, April 8, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama admires a tapestry at Prague Castle in Prague, Czech Republic, April 8, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, left, and Czech Republic President Vaclav Klaus, share a toast during a luncheon at Prague Castle, Czech Republic, April 8, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama talks with Secretary of State Rodham Clinton following the expanded delegation bilateral meeting with President Medvedev of Russia at Prague Castle in Prague, Czech Republic, April 8, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama talks with Vice President Biden in the Oval Office in between meetings to discuss the ongoing budget negotiations, April 8, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama is reflected in a mirror in the Outer Oval Office as talks with Chief of Staff Bill Daley, left, and Vice President Biden in the doorway of the Oval Office, April 8, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama meets with staff in the Roosevelt Room of the White House to discuss the ongoing negotiations on a budget funding bill, April 8, 2011. Pictured, from left, are: National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling; Bruce Reed, Chief of Staff to the Vice President; Phil Schiliro, Assistant to the President and Special Advisor; and Nancy-Ann DeParle, Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama talks on the phone with House Speaker John Boehner in the Oval Office, April 8, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama gestures while meeting with staff in the Roosevelt Room of the White House to discuss the ongoing negotiations on a budget funding bill, April 8, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama delivers a statement in the Blue Room of the White House after Democrats and Republicans reached a short-term budget deal to prevent a government shutdown, April 8, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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23
Mar
14

Rise and Shine

President Obama’s signature on the health insurance reform bill at the White House, March 23, 2010. The President signed the bill with 22 different pens (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

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Today:

8:50 PM EST: President Obama departs the White House

9:05: Departs Joint Base Andrews

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The Week Ahead:

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Amy Lynn Smith: Student Celebrates The ACA’s 4th Birthday With The Gift Of Coverage For $5.23/Month

On March 23, 2014, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) celebrates its fourth anniversary of being signed into law. Also known as Obamacare, the law has helped millions of Americans obtain affordable, quality coverage — many for the first time. Andreea Prundeanu, a 29-year-old doctoral candidate at Michigan State University in Lansing, is one of them. Concern about getting sick weighed heavily on her as she was working hard toward her future. She was uninsured for three years after she turned 26 and could no longer stay on her parents’ plan. Prundeanu enrolled in a Silver-level plan through Healthcare.gov. Because of her low income as a student, she was eligible for financial assistance — and now pays just $5.23 a month for coverage.

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The Judge who declared Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional

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Hunter Schwarz: Joe Biden Calls LGBT Workplace Discrimination “Barbaric”

Vice President Joe Biden called employers’ ability in some states to fire employees because of their sexuality “barbaric” and “bizarre” during a keynote address at the Human Rights Campaign Gala dinner Saturday. “Hate can never be defended because it’s a so-called cultural norm,” he said. “I’ve had it up to here with cultural norms.” He called on Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, which would outlaw discrimination by most private employers against people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

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Yahoo: How Obama Crippled A Russian Bank With A Stroke Of A Pen

He may not take shirtless horseback rides across the steppes, or have a black belt in judo, but on Thursday, President Obama sent a message to Russian president Vladimir Putin about strength. Specifically, economic strength. The message was this: Whenever I decide to, I can pick up a pen, and kill a significant financial institution in your country. Obama’s victim was the St. Petersburg-based Bank Rossiya. In response to Russia’s takeover of the Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, Obama yesterday authorized the Treasury Department to add 20 members of Putin’s inner circle, as well as Bank Rossiya, to the Office of Foreign Asset Control’s list of “specially designated nationals.”

The designation makes the individuals named ineligible to do business with U.S. financial institutions, which is likely a major personal inconvenience. But for Bank Rossiya, the designation is something like the kiss of death. Bank Rossiya is not the largest bank in Russia by a long shot, but its significance lies in its clientele rather than its size. In announcing the sanctions, the Treasury Department noted that Bank Rossiya “is the personal bank for senior officials of the Russian Federation” including members of the Ozero Dacha Cooperative, an exclusive community where members of Putin’s inner circle live. In addition, it provides financial services to the single largest segment of the Russian economy – the oil, gas, and energy sector.

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Sergei Seninsky: Crimea Annexation Threatens Already Weakened Russia Economy

Capital flight from Russia reached $35 billion in the first two months of this year, Russian Economic Development Minister Aleksei Ulyukayev said this week. That outflow has only increased in recent weeks and by the end of the first quarter, it could exceed the $65 billion capital-flight figure recorded for all of 2013, analysts say.

This trend — and other factors including likely international sanctions, the falling value of the ruble, and the costs of integrating Crimea into the Russian economy — could tip the sluggish Russian economy into recession. “The sum of these factors — the decline in investment and a slowdown in consumer demand — in my view will mean that the economy is on the edge of a recession,” says Kirill Tremasov, an economist with Nomos-Bank in Moscow. “Although you can still hear predictions from government bureaucrats that the economy might grow by 2 or 3 percent, I think these predictions are completely unfounded.”

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NYT: Russian Forces Take Over The Last Ukrainian Bases In Crimea

Russian forces pushed Saturday to complete their expulsion of the Ukrainian military from the disputed Crimean Peninsula, smashing through the gates of a base here with armored vehicles, firing weapons into the air and demanding that the cornered Ukrainian soldiers surrender. The operation to seize the base — one of the Ukrainian military’s last strongholds on the peninsula — was larger and more dramatic than at other installations where Ukrainian forces have capitulated steadily in recent days as Russia declared its formal annexation of the region.

By evening, Russian forces were fully in control of the base here, and most of the Ukrainian troops were dispatched to their barracks and homes to pack. In interviews before the takeover Saturday, soldiers expressed frustration with the lack of help from the their government in Kiev. Some troops said they were defending the base as a matter of honor, having sworn to serve the people and government of Ukraine. “I took an oath,” said one commander, adding that he felt no personal antipathy toward Russia or Russians. The sense of abandonment was echoed at other bases where soldiers and marines began to pack up their belongings last week, accepting that their cause was lost.

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Jonathan Cohn: The Koch Brothers Are Accidentally Advertising The Benefits Of Obamacare

Some new advertisements attacking the Affordable Care Act actually show why the law is working. The ads are running in Colorado and Louisiana, two states where incumbent Democratic senators face difficult reelection fights. They come from Americans for Prosperity, the conservative organization backed by the Koch Brothers. In short, these stories may generate sympathy but they are rarely the stuff of tragedy. And that’s because of the protections Obamacare provides—which is to say, the very things that Koch-funded right-wingers want to gut.

After all, it’s Obamacare that sets a minimum standard for insurance, so that all policies include comprehensive benefits and set limits on out-of-pocket spending. It’s Obamacare that puts coverage within financial reach of many more people than before, by offering those subsidies and then, for some people, reducing out-of-pocket expenses even more. In the old days, it wasn’t so hard to find tear-jerker anecdotes: People without insurance or with inadequate insurance were filing for bankruptcy, losing their homes, and missing out on essential medicine. Now those stories are less common and, for the most part, they are among people who had these same problems previously. Telling the stories of these people would be a rationale for expanding the Affordable Care Act, not repealing it.

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Christian Caryl: President Obama Takes A Big Risk And Scores A Big Win For Democracy — And No One Gives A Damn

President Obama pulled off a master stroke this week. He deployedU.S. military force in support of an infant democracy that desperately needs our help. The result was a resounding success, a vivid illustration of how the United States can put its unchallenged power to positive ends. He did it, once again, by sending in the SEALs, the U.S. Navy’s famous special forces. But this time they weren’t double-tapping a terrorist. Instead they seized a mysterious tanker that had skipped out of Libya with a shipment of oil that one of the country’s rogue militias was trying to sell on the open market. By doing it the SEALs foiled a potentially game-changing challenge to the authority of Libya’s hard-pressed government – one of the very few in the Arab world to have actually been elected by its own country’s people.

The reaction in Washington: a giant yawn. Deafening silence from Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who are always quick to demand U.S. military action in situations where it will usually make things worse. Fox News barely noticed. Nor was there a word of praise from the president’s liberal allies on Capitol Hill. Even theNew York Times ran a perfunctory report. And as for the rest of America: Well, hey, the NCAA tournament is getting under way, and there are big controversies from the world of reality TV that need attending to. The collective disinterest is even more appalling when you consider that the country we just helped is Libya. You remember, right — the place where our ambassador was killed by terrorists two years ago? The president’s critics never tire of bringing that up, since they can use it to score political points against him

Oil is Libya’s lifeblood. The economy entirely depends on it; turn off the taps and everything grinds to a halt. Make no mistake: This was not “leading from behind.” This was an act of daring from a president who’s often typecast as too passive for his own good. But it was also a smart, calculated move — a truly surgical operation of a kind that probably only the United States could have pulled off with such confidence. It sends exactly the message that needs to be sent: If you try freelancing with oil resources that rightfully belong to the Libyan people, you won’t get far.

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Think Progress: The Burger Chain That Pays $10 An Hour With Benefits

Shake Shack, a burger chain with locations in Florida, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C. as well as international locations in the Middle East, Russia, Turkey, and the United Kingdom, pays starting workers $9.50 an hour outside of New York City and $10 an hour for New Yorkers, CEO Randy Garutti told ThinkProgress. It also offers full-time employees health, dental, vision, retirement, and disability benefits plus paid time off. But on average, workers get $10.70 an hour thanks to a program it calls Shack Bucks. Every month, it gives employees a percentage of the company’s top-line sales. The company pays about 70 percent of employees’ health care premiums and also matches contributions to their 401(k)s.

Michigan’s Moo Cluck Moo pays entry-level workers $15 an hour, a move its owners say leads to less turnover, better customer service, and more skilled employees. In-N-Out, a West Coast burger chain, pays $10.50 an hour for entry-level employees. Outside of the burger world, Boston-based burrito chain Boloco pays starting workers anywhere from $9 to $11 an hour, which the owner says increases loyalty and productivity and, in turn, profitability. In light of the conversation to raise the minimum wage, others have decided to join in. Two pizza companies in St. Louis will soon pay at least $10.10 an hour. It has also spread outside of the food industry: clothing retailer The Gap recently announced it will also raise its lowest wage to $10.

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Sy Mukherjee: Insurance Giant Raises Its Profit Forecast Amid Surging Obamacare Enrollment

WellPoint, the insurance giant that encompasses the Anthem and Blue Cross Blue Shield brands, has raised its 2014 profit forecast after gaining more than a million new customers largely thanks to the Affordable Care Act. According to WellPoint CEO Joseph Swedish, the company now expects more than $8.20 per share in net income versus the $8.00 per share it was originally expecting, “driven by growth of 1.0 to 1.3 million net new medical members and mid-single digit percent increases in both operating revenue and operating gain.” Swedish even mentions Obamacare marketplaces specifically as a source of continuing growth.

“While it is early in 2014, we are encouraged by results thus far across our businesses and we believe [Obamacare] Exchanges are tracking our general expectations,” Swedish said in a press release. “As such, we are raising our 2014 earnings outlook… Our updated outlook reflects solid growth in membership, revenue and operating earnings. Our outlook also remains prudent in light of the dynamic nature of the marketplace, and we believe this is a point from which we will grow in the future.” WellPoint and its subsidiaries are selling policies in 14 states’ Obamacare marketplaces. Swedish has consistently been bullish about Obamacare enrollment — which surpassed five million private health plan signups earlier this week — both for this year and over the coming decade.

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Sandra Chereb: Nevada Sees Surge In Medicaid Enrollments

Nevada Medicaid enrollments under federal health care reform have surpassed initial projections and are on pace to reach 500,000 by summer, a mark initially not expected to be reached until the end of the 2015 fiscal year, a state official said. Mike Willden, director of the Department of Health and Human Services, said his agency has a backlog of 60,000 pending Medicaid applications, and he may need to speed up hiring to keep up with the demand. “We’ve doubled capacity. We really need to triple capacity,” Willden told the Board of Examiners on Tuesday. The Division of Welfare and Supportive Services began receiving electronic enrollments through Nevada’s health insurance exchange,

Nevada Health Link, in October. At the start, the agency was receiving about 121 applications per day electronically, representing about 40 percent of all Medicaid applications, Willden said. By December, “the floodgates opened” and enrollments jumped dramatically, sometimes reaching 3,000 per day, Willden said. “Since mid-December, the pipeline is wide-open and we are getting thousands of Medicaid applications each and every day,” he said. Under President Barack Obama’s health care law, states were given the option to expand Medicaid eligibility to include people up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. When the current fiscal year began July 1, Nevada had 320,000 enrolled in Medicaid. By February, that number spiked to 402,000.

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On This Day:

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President Obama talks with National Economic Council Director Larry Summers and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner following a meeting in the Oval Office, March 23, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Continue reading ‘Rise and Shine’

16
Mar
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama talks on the phone with Prime Minister Naoto Kan of Japan from the Treaty Room office in the White House Residence, Wednesday night, March 16, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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HHS.Gov: Making Health Care Coverage More Accessible And Equitable For Same-Sex Couples

Today, we are clarifying that, starting next year, if an insurance company offers coverage to opposite-sex spouses, it cannot choose to deny that coverage to same-sex spouses. In other words, insurance companies will not be permitted to discriminate against married same-sex couples when offering coverage. This will further enhance access to health care for all Americans, including those with same-sex spouses.

You can learn just how affordable coverage can be. Across the country, 6 out of 10 uninsured Americans can get covered for $100 per month or even less – some for a lot less.  And legally married same-sex couples are treated equally for purposes of financial assistance when purchasing coverage in the Marketplace, regardless of where they live.

Security and peace-of-mind are just a click or call away.  You can sign up 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at HealthCare.gov or 1-800-318-2596.  You can even get in-person help in your own community (just visit localhelp.healthcare.gov and punch in your zip code).

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Joshua Green: The Jeep Plant Mitt Romney Said Was Moving To China Is Hiring 1,000 Workers In Ohio

Remember the closing days of the 2012 presidential campaign when Mitt Romney ran that explosive ad suggesting Chrysler was going to stop building Jeeps in Ohio and move production to China? The one that got “Four Pinocchios” from the fact-checker at the Washington Post? Anyway, that Jeep plant? It didn’t move to China. And it’s actually doing quite well. No, scratch that: It’s going gangbusters. Demand for Jeeps is so high that Chrysler workers are clocking 60 hours a week and still can’t keep up. So according to the Toledo Blade, the company is planning on hiring up to 1,000 part-time workers—American workers, in Ohio—so they can crank out enough Jeeps to meet the demand.

These workers are even going to get health insurance. In case you’re wondering, hiring temp workers isn’t a maneuver to deny regular workers their hours. “You’ve gotta remember, these people [the regular workers] are working 10 hours a day, six days a week,” a UAW boss who helped negotiate the deal told the Blade. “It’s very important to have the day off you want with your family.” The Blade further reports that Chrysler has already hired 380 of these temp employees and converted 50 of them to full-time jobs.

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NYT: Under Watch Of Russian Troops, Crimea Votes On Secession

With thousands of heavily-armed Russian troops occupying this perenially embattled peninsula, the voters of Crimea went to the polls on Sunday to vote on secession from Ukraine in a public referendum that Western leaders have declared illegal and vowed to punish with economic sanctions. With the outcome of the vote virtually a foregone conclusion in a region that shares a language and centuries of history with Russia, the greater suspense lay in how swiftly and forcefully the United States and its European allies would levy threatened sanctions against allies of President Vladimir V. Putin, including senior Russian officials and business leaders. The answers were likely to depend to some degree on whether Mr. Putin showed any signs of acting quickly to annex Crimea or order further military incursion beyond Crimea’s borders, perhaps to seize vital infrastructure including water and energy supplies. “Our people must be united in Russia,” Yelena Parkholenko, 27, a manicurist with violet hair, said matter-of-factly after casting her vote at School No. 21 here in Simferopol, the Crimean capital.

It was a sentiment repeated over and over again at polling stations as citizens with misgivings about joining Mr. Putin’s Russian Federation, particularly Crimean Tatars, a Muslim Turkic people with a history of persecution by Russia, generally opted to stay home rather than participate in what they called a rigged vote. The referendum offered no option that would maintain Crimea’s current status of limited autonomy from the Ukrainian government in Kiev. The referendum asked voters: “Are you in favor of the reunification of Crimea with Russia as part of the Russian Federation?” or “Are you in favor of restoring the 1992 Constitution and the status of Crimea as a part of Ukraine?” The second choice would effectively grant Crimea independence without immediately breaking from Kiev, but such a break would be inevitable and the Ukrainian government, like the West, has rejected the vote as illegal.

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Timothy Egan: Paul Ryan’s Irish Amnesia

IN advance of St. Patrick’s Day, I went time traveling, back to the 1840s and Ireland’s great famine. On one side of the Irish Sea was Victorian England, flush with the pomp and prosperity of the world’s mightiest empire. On the other side were skeletal people, dying en masse, the hollow-bellied children scrounging for nettles and blackberries. A great debate raged in London: Would it be wrong to feed the starving Irish with free food, thereby setting up a “culture of dependency”? Certainly England’s man in charge of easing the famine, Sir Charles Trevelyan, thought so. “Dependence on charity,” he declared, “is not to be made an agreeable mode of life.”

And there I ran into Paul Ryan. His great-great-grandfather had fled to America. But the Republican congressman was very much in evidence, wagging his finger at the famished. His oft-stated “culture of dependency” is a safety net that becomes a lazy-day hammock. But it was also England’s excuse for lethal negligence. Ryan boasts of the Gaelic half of his ancestry, on his father’s side. “I come from Irish peasants who came over during the potato famine,” he said last year during a forum on immigration. BUT with a head still stuffed with college-boy mush from Ayn Rand, he apparently never did any reading about the times that prompted his ancestors to sail away from the suffering sod.

You can’t make these kinds of heartless remarks unless you think the poor deserve their fate — that they have a character flaw, born of public assistance. And there hovers another awful haunt of Irish history. In 2012, Ryan said that the network of programs for the American poor made people not want to work. On Wednesday, he went further, using the language of racial coding. You never hear Ryan make character judgments about generations of wealthy who live off their inheritance, or farmers who get paid not to grow anything. Nor, for that matter, does he target plutocrats like Romney who might be lulled into not taking risks because they pay an absurdly low tax rate simply by moving money around. Dependency is all one-way.

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Igor Volsky: Federal Judge Recognizes Marriages Of 3 Same-Sex Couples In Tennessee

A federal judge recognized the marriages of three same-sex Tennessee couples on Friday, issuing a preliminary injunction against the state’s same-sex marriage ban. “At this point, all signs indicate that, in the eyes of the United States Constitution, the plaintiffs’ marriages will be placed on an equal footing with those of heterosexual couples and that proscriptions against same-sex marriage will soon become a footnote in the annals of American history,”

Judge Aleta Trauger wrote in the order. The ruling only applies to the three couples who filed the lawsuit last year asking the state to recognize their marriages, which had been performed in New York or California. Tennessee outlawed same-sex marriage in 1998 and passed a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman in 2008.

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Think Progress: Federal Judge Strikes Down One Of The Strictest Abortion Laws In The Nation

A federal judge struck down on of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation on Friday, ruling that that a measure in Arkansas restricting abortions starting at 12 weeks of pregnancy “impermissibly infringes a woman’s Fourteenth Amendment right to elect to terminate a pregnancy before viability” of the fetus.

The law cut off women’s access to legal abortion services well before the point of viability, which is typically around 24 weeks. However, U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright’s ruling “let stand the law’s requirement that a woman seeking an abortion first undergo an ultrasound to determine whether a fetal heartbeat is present.” The legislature overrode Gov. Mike Beebe’s (D) veto and enacted the law in March 2013, which had initially sought to ban abortions after just six weeks.

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Jonathan Cohn: Begala To Dems: Come Out Swinging On Obamacare

And with Republicans making Obamacare the focus of their midterm strategy, many Democrats have been responding with a mixed message: Acknowledge the Affordable Care Act has flaws, but vow to fix them rather than repeal them. That seems to be roughly consistent with polls, which suggest the majority of Americans don’t like the health care law but the majority also don’t want to get rid of it. But nuanced messages have problems, even if the nuances reflect public sentiments. A politician who starts with backpedaling (“Yes, the law has problems, but…”) is bound to sound weak. And weak politicians don’t generally make attractive candidates. But it appears at least one prominent Democratic strategist is thinking along the same lines.

The strategist is Paul Begala. In an interview with the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent, who has become the go-to source for insights into liberal political strategy, Begala gives Democrats some blunt advice: “We should flip the wording of how we talk about Obamacare. Open on offense, instead of defense.” That would mean starting the conversation by reminding voters what Republicans propose to take away—like guaranteed insurance, even for people with pre-existing conditions, and extra assistance on Medicare prescription drugs. One reason to think the argument might work is that it worked once before. In 2012, President Obama used a very similar set of arguments—and adopted a very similar posture—in his campaign against Mitt Romney. He attacked Romney and the Republicans relentlessly—pointing out that, if successful, repeal would mean more exposure to insurance company abuses and fewer people with insurance.

But the benefits of Obamacare are also a lot less hypothetical than they were when Obama was talking about them on the stump. People who could never get insurance have it for the first time. People who could barely afford premiums are getting financial help. People who had weak coverage, with major gaps, finally have comprehensive insurance. These are real constituencies, with stories that can resonate just as much as the ones on Fox News.

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On This Day:

Earl M. Bourdon Center, Claremont, NH, March 16, 2007

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President Obama has lunch with Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine in the Oval Office Private Dining Room, March 16, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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First Lady Michelle Obama hugs a young girl after she and local students planted in the White House Kitchen Garden on the South Lawn of the White House, March 16, 2011

March 16, 2011: The President meets with national security aides John Brennan, foreground, and Denis McDonough after talking on the phone with Prime Minister Naoto Kan of Japan a few days after the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The call was made near midnight from the Treaty Room office in the White House Residence. Most nights after dinner and time with his family, the President retreats to this office where he catches up on paperwork and reads his briefing material for the next day.” Photo by Pete Souza.

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First Lady Michelle Obama at the Air National Guard base in St. Paul, Minn. on March 16, 2012 for a roundtable discussion with military and other local community leaders dedicated to supporting military families

Neighbors and supporters wave to President Obama upon his arrival in an Atlanta, Ga., neighborhood for an event, March 16, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama greets neighbors and supporters upon his arrival to an Atlanta, Ga., neighborhood for an event, March 16, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

Audience members listen as President Obama delivers remarks at a reception in Atlanta, Ga., March 16, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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14
Mar
14

Rise and Shine

President Obama listens as Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom offers a toast during the State Dinner on the South Lawn of the White House, March 14, 2012. Samantha Cameron is seated at right (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

10:30: President Obama meets with Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny of Ireland

1:30: Jay Carney briefs the press

12:0: President Obama attends a St Patrick’s Day lunch at the U.S Capitol with PM Kenny. The Vice President also attends.

5:10: The President and First Lady host a St Patrick’s Day reception, East Room

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Examiner: Affordable Care Act Recovers Record Amount From Healthcare Fraud

In a report released on Wednesday in Washington, D.C. by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the agencies announced that in the 2013 fiscal year the Affordable Care Act, also known as ‘Obamacare,’ was in part responsible for the record-breaking $4.3 billion recovery of funds lost due to Medicare and Medicaid fraud.

Over the past four years approximately $16.61 billion has been recovered from such fraud, a 219% increase over the previous four- year period’s recovery of $7.57 billion. The savings is a return of $8.10 for every dollar used to fight Medicare and Medicaid fraud.

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Elias Isquith: Canadian Doctor Makes Anti-Obamacare Senator Look Like A Buffoon

Speaking before a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday, Dr. Danielle Martin, vice president at the Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, masterfully showed how to smack down a disingenuous politician’s misleading and misinformed questions with courtesy, intelligence and, well, facts. In this instance, the role of disingenuous and ill-informed politician was played by North Carolina’s GOP Sen. Richard Burr, who decided to use his question time to imply that the Canadian healthcare system was bad because it led to Canadian doctors moving to America and rich people going to the U.S. to get complicated and expensive surgery. These were both good points — except for the fact that they were, as Martin made clear, completely wrong.

“Dr. Martin, in your testimony, you note that Canadian doctors exiting the public system for the private sector has had the effect of increasing waiting lists for patients seeking public health care,” Burr began. “Why are doctors exiting the public system in Canada?” “Thank you for your question, Senator,” Martin responded. “If I didn’t express myself in a way that made myself understood, I apologize. There are no doctors exiting the public system in Canada; and in fact we see a net influx of physicians from the United States into the Canadian system over the last number of years.”

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AP: Obama Orders Review Of US Deportation Practices

Seeking to pacify frustrated immigration advocates, President Barack Obama is directing the government to find more humane ways to handle deportation for immigrants in the U.S. illegally, the White House said Thursday. With prospects for an immigration overhaul in Congress appearing ever dimmer, immigration advocates have been ramping up pressure on Obama to halt all deportations — a step Obama has insisted he can’t take by himself. By announcing he’s open to changing how the U.S. enforces its current laws, Obama is signaling he may be growing more inclined to test the limits of his authority in the face of congressional inaction.

Obama’s announcement came Thursday in a meeting with Latino lawmakers who are seeking ways to resuscitate an immigration overhaul despite resistance from Republicans and election-year politics that have confounded their efforts. The White House said Obama told the lawmakers — all Democrats — that he’s deeply concerned about the pain that families suffer when they are separated due to a broken immigration system. “He told the members that he has asked Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson to do an inventory of the Department’s current practices to see how it can conduct enforcement more humanely within the confines of the law,” the White House said in a statement.

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Olexiy Haran: Don’t Believe The Russian Propaganda About Ukraine’s ‘Fascist’ Protesters

The Kremlin uses many kinds of falsifications to justify its aggression against Ukraine and plans to annex Crimean peninsula. One of which is that the mass protests of Ukrainians against the corrupt and bloody regime of Viktor Yanukovych, called the Euromaidan, was a gathering of far-right extremists intent on imposing nationalist rule over all other ethnic groups in Ukraine. But the Euromaidan was anything but this.

Although many Ukrainian nationalists passionately joined in the protests in central Kiev against Yanukovych’s plans to get Ukraine into a Moscow-led customs union instead of signing a forward-looking association agreement with the EU, the maidan was a place of multi-ethnic national solidarity in the face of repression. One shouldn’t forget that Sergey Nigoyan, the first victim of police ruthlessness in the Maidan, was an ethnic Armenian who came to support the protest from the Russian-speaking Dnipropetrovsk region in eastern Ukraine. Jews actively joined the ranks of protesters and a religious Jew headed one of the maidan self-defence units, passing command status to his Ukrainian deputy every Friday after the beginning of sabbath.

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Jamelle Bouie: What Paul Ryan Gets Wrong About ‘Inner-City’ Poverty

Ryan’s target isn’t “the poor”—a broad category that includes a large swath of Americans—as much as it’s the “inner city poor,” which for most people, translates to the black poor. Inner-city poverty didn’t just happen, it was built. It’s the job of a policymaker to understand the full scope of what that means, from the blueprints of past policies, to their implementation, to the forces that drove the issues to begin with. And in the case of urban poverty, the issue was racism. If the industrial cities of the Midwest and Northeast are heavily segregated—places like Milwaukee, Chicago, Cleveland, and Philadelphia—

it’s because they were made that way, through law, policy, and violence. Starved of public and private investment—from schools and libraries to home loans and business development—they collapsed into the same dysfunction we see whenever we isolate a community from general prosperity, and punish its members for trying to escape. And if Ryan would look closer at the communities he’s trying to reach, he’d see countless people participating in the “culture of work.” He doesn’t have to look far, either. In Washington D.C., he could ride an 80 bus to the Capitol, early on a weekday morning. There, he’d be packed next to men and women coming from the other side of the city to work crappy jobs at long hours for the sake of their families. They don’t need lectures about the “value of work”; they need material support for their livelihoods.

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Tara Culp-Ressler: 3 States Trying To Follow In Texas’ Footsteps And Shut Down Abortion Clinics

Texas isn’t the first state to shut down abortion clinics, and it won’t be the last. A stringent new law in the Lone Star State requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges with a local hospital, a medically unnecessary requirement that’s often impossible for doctors to comply with. Since hospitals are often wary to make partnerships with abortion providers, these state laws are effective tools to drive clinics out of business. Texas’ law has forced dozens of clinics to close, particularly in rural and underserved areas.

After the most recent round of closures, the second-largest state in the country now has a 400-mile swath without a single reproductive health facility that performs abortion services. This past summer, the fight over Texas’ law captured national headlines — and inspired anti-choice lawmakers in other states to adopt the same strategy. Here are the other places that are currently advancing Texas-style restrictions to shutter abortion clinics:

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Danny Vinik: The Senate Has A Deal On Unemployment Benefits. Here’s What You Need To Know

We have a deal. Five Senate Democrats and five Senate Republicans have agreed upon legislation to extend emergency unemployment insurance for five months, retroactive to December 28. Here’s everything you need to know: Pension smoothing? It’s an accounting technique that allows companies to backload their pension contributions. This increases their profits in the near-term and increases revenues the government collects from them. But over the long-term, companies have to contribute the full amount to employee pensions. And that means less revenue for the government later on. So it’s a trick designed to pay for something today by running up higher bills in the future.

OK. That’s the back story. What happened today?

Today, a bipartisan group of senators (five Democrats, five Republicans) agreed to a five-month extension of unemployment insurance, retroactive to its expiration on December 28. To pay for it, the senators included the “pension smoothing” gimmick and extended customs fees through 2024. The legislation also includes reforms, from Senators Tom Coburn and Jon Tester, that prevent people who earned more than $1 million in the previous year from collecting unemployment benefits.

In English, what does that really mean?

It means people who have been out of work more than 26 weeks and less than 73 would receive a big check from the government for unemployment benefits they would’ve been collecting over the past 10 weeks. If you were out of work 70 weeks as of December 28, you’d receive three weeks of unemployment insurance. If you were unemployed 50 weeks as of then, you’d receive 10 weeks of benefits now and continue receiving them until the five month extension expires. Oh, that’s assuming you didn’t make more than a million dollars last year. If you did, then you wouldn’t get anything.

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Gabriel Arana: Ezra Klein’s Queer New Hire

On Tuesday, former Washington Post pundit (and Prospect alum) Ezra Klein sent a shock wave through the gay community by announcing he had hired gay anti-gay apologist Brandon Ambrosino to join him at Vox Media, the much-hyped digital venture that’s aiming to remake journalism for the Internet age. Liberal watchdog group Media Matters was the first to sound the alarm, but within a day, gay-rights supporters—from Mark Stern at Slate to John Aravosis at AmericaBlog—had joined the chorus of voices asking Klein: What were you thinking?

In an interview on Wednesday evening, Klein told me he hadn’t read the pieces that had kicked up so much dust before bringing Ambrosino on but did so once he began facing criticism for the hire. “I don’t want to pretend that I have the context and the background to perfectly or authoritatively judge this debate,” Klein said. “But when I read his pieces, I didn’t come away with the impression that he holds an iota of homophobia.” Klein has come under fire for the lack of racial and gender diversity among Vox’s announced hires, and his decision to hire Ambrosino shows how much he has to learn about genuine diversity. While he has a number of female hires in the pipeline, Klein said he is struggling to find racial minorities for the venture, adding: “I also want to say, other kinds of diversity are important—ideological diversity.”

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Bloomberg: Americans Stick With Obamacare As Opposition Burns Bright

President Barack Obama’s health-care law is becoming more entrenched, with 64 percent of Americans now supporting it outright or backing small changes. “Things definitely seem to be getting better,” said Paul Attard, 50, a political independent in Evergreen, Colorado and a program manager for a cell-phone company who wants the law modified rather than repealed. “It seems like they are getting a lot more people to join. It’s a sign that the system is working.”

Through March 1, 4.2 million Americans had enrolled in health plans via the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges, the government said this week. The deadline for enrollment is March 31, and the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that 6 million people will sign up this year for private plans.

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The Morning Call: Millennials Are More Liberal Than Other Generations

Members of the huge millennial generation are less religious, less likely to call themselves “patriotic” and significantly more‎ liberal than older generations, new research shows. Although adults aged 18-33 are more likely to call themselves political independents than their elders are, they are also more likely to vote Democratic. Their views favoring activist government, as well as their stands on social issues such as gay rights, reinforce that voting behavior, an extensive study by the Pew Research Center shows.

The youngest generation of adults, born after 1980, has the most optimism about the country. That comes despite the economic difficulties that a large share of them have experienced since entering the workforce. And it stands in contrast with some previous generations: Baby boomers, for example, born between 1946 and 1964, were less optimistic than their elders at this stage of their lives. The millennials are also the only generation of adults with more people who identify themselves as liberals than as conservatives. Just less than one-third of millennials call themselves liberals while about one-quarter identify as conservative.

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Ambrose Evans-Pritchard: Russia Counts Cost As West Tightens Sanctions

Russia risks a wave of capital flight and a shattering economic crisis as the West prepares a package of sanctions over the seizure of Crimea. German Chancellor Angela Merkel spelled out the danger for Russia in a speech that silenced pro-Kremlin voices in her own coalition and left no doubt that Europe is now fully behind the US on punitive measures. Russia has threatened to retaliate with “symmetrical sanctions” but Tim Ash, from Standard Bank, said it is a one-sided contest that Moscow cannot win. “Russia is facing the entire West. Its economy is already very weak and this could end up being as bad as 2008-2009, when GDP contracted by 9pc,” he said.

Russia cannot suspend oil and gas exports without cutting off its own source of foreign revenue. Any such move would destroy its credibility as a supplier of energy, accelerating Europe’s long-term switch to other sources. Standard Bank said Washington is determined to make Russia pay for tearing up the post-Cold War settlement and undermining the architecture of nuclear non-proliferation. It is drawing up stealth sanctions to freeze Russia out of global finance. These will be spearheaded by the US Securities and Exchange Commission, which will enforce compliance of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The next step is to place Russia on the “grey list” for money laundering. “This would prevent global banks from dealing with Russian counterparts. Washington is tightening the noose. No bank is going to mess with the SEC,” said Mr Ash.

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Alec Macgillis: Florida Special Election Result Shows Democrats Need More Obamacare

So how to get more Democratic voters out? Well, this is where the more Obamacarecomes in. To the extent that the new law has not created a groundswell of enthusiasm for Democratic candidates among the law’s intended beneficiaries it is surely in part because…so many of the law’s intended beneficiaries are not being helped by the law. Fully one half of the expansion of health coverage under the law was supposed to occur through the expansion of Medicaid, to cover all people under 138 percent of the poverty line. And in Florida and nearly two dozen other states, that expansion is not happening, thanks to the Supreme Court ruling that made the expansion optional and the opposition of Republican governors and state legislators.

So what are Democratic candidates to do? Well, for one, argue for the Medicaid expansion. Make sure lower-income voters understand what’s at stake and why they have so far been denied any of the law’s benefits. No, not every voter who gets covered by the Medicaid expansion is going to vote for the Democrats as a result—stories from states that have expanded Medicaid, such as Kentucky and West Virginia, are replete with anecdotes of voters who are grateful for their new coverage without necessarily making the connection to Obamacare and Barack Obama. But enough lower-income voters will make the connection that it could help Democratic candidates like Allison Lundergan Grimes, Mitch McConnell’s Senate challenger, who is making a strong push for downscale, Democratic-leaning voters by stressing her support for raising the minimum wage.

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Jason Millman: Understanding The Latest Fight Over The Individual Mandate

In the latest war over Obamacare, the GOP is essentially trying to encourage Americans everywhere to seek out an exemption from the individual mandate, the health law provision that requires everyone to get insurance by March 31 or face a penalty. The Obama administration says exemptions to the mandate are much more limited than the GOP and opponents of the law would have you believe.

Separately, Republicans controlling the House vote today on a bill that would delay the individual mandate until 2018. The impact of this legislation would mean 13 million fewer people would have insurance in 2018 than if the mandate were kept in place, the Congressional Budget Office said this week. Behind these renewed attacks are the GOP’s hatred of the mandate.

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Your Laugh Of The Day

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On This Day:

President Obam, First Lady Michelle Obama, PM David Cameron and his wife Samantha Cameron greet the crowd on the White House South Lawn after a formal arrival ceremony for the British prime minister, March 14, 2012

President Obama and PM Cameron walk together as they begin a press conference in the Rose Garden of the White House, March 14, 2012

President Obama walks PM Cameron to his motorcade following their meetings at the White House, March 14, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

PM David Cameron and Samantha Cameron arrive at the White House for a State Dinner in their honor, March 14, 2012

The White House is seen through the window of a tent on the South Lawn during the State Dinner in honor of PM David Cameron and Samantha Cameron, March 14, 2012. The interior of the tent is reflected in the window (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, along with PM Cameron and Samantha Cameron, talk with guests during the State Dinner on the South Lawn of the White House, March 14, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama visit with PM Cameron and Samantha Cameron during a State Dinner reception on the Truman Balcony of the White House, March 14, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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09
Mar
14

Rise and Shine

President Obama holds up four-month-old Alia Jawando as her father, William Jawando, Deputy Associate Director of Public Engagement, and her mother Michele look on in the Oval Office, March 9, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today:

The First Family return to Washington DC from Florida

The Week Ahead:

Monday: The President will host a reception for the 2012 and 2013 NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Champions.

Tuesday: Travels to New York to attend DNC and DSCC events.

Wednesday – Friday: Attends meetings at the White House.

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Tara Culp-Ressler: Obamacare Is Already Helping Boost Americans’ Personal Incomes

According to a new report from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), the health reform law is having a positive effect on personal incomes and spending. According to the BEA, Obamacare accounted for about three quarters of the overall rise in Americans’ incomes in January. Personal incomes rose by 0.3 percent during the first month of the year — and the BEA explains that’s partly because of the impact of the health law’s consumer benefits. Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion increased public health insurance benefits by about $19.2 billion.

And the new refundable tax credits under health reform, like the subsidies available to help American purchase new plans in Obamacare’s marketplaces, totaled about $14.7 billion. “Personal income in January was boosted by several provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which affected government social benefit payments to persons,” the BEA concluded. The financial impacts of health reform are most evident among the sectors of the population that are struggling to stay out of poverty. A recent study by the Brookings Institute found that Obamacare has the potential to boost the incomes of the poorest Americans by anywhere from five to seven percent.

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Reuters: Kerry Urges Russia To Exercise Utmost Restraint In Ukraine’s Crimea

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned Russia on Saturday that any steps to annex Ukraine’s Crimea region would close the door to diplomacy, a U.S. State Department official said. Kerry’s latest telephone call with his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, came as the standoff between occupying Russian forces and besieged Ukrainian troops intensified in Crimea. “He made clear that continued military escalation and provocation in Crimea or elsewhere in Ukraine, along with steps to annex Crimea to Russia would close any available space for diplomacy, and he urged utmost restraint,” the official said. President Barack Obama sought to reassure nervous Baltic leaders on Saturday about U.S. support for their security and consulted other European allies about the Ukraine crisis.

He convened a conference call with Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, Latvian President Andris Berzins, and Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves. It was the first time he has spoken with the leaders of the three Baltic states about the crisis. The countries are NATO members with strong economic ties to Russia, and have expressed nervousness about President Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine. “The president reaffirmed the United States’ unwavering commitment to our collective defense commitments under the North Atlantic Treaty and our enduring support for the security and democracy of our Baltic allies,” the White House said in a statement. The United States has moved to reassure its NATO allies, sending six more F-15 fighter jets this week to NATO’s policing mission over the Baltic states. The jets are on call to respond to any violations of Baltic airspace.

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Baye Adofo-Wilson: [IN MEMORIAM] Who Was Chokwe Lumumba?

The Honorable Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, Chokwe Lumumba, an unapologetic revolutionary “New Afrikan” (Black) nationalist, fighting for the human rights and dignity of Black folks in a place that has the reputation of being antithetical to that notion, is dead at age 66. Born, Edwin Findley Taliaferro on August 4, 1947, in Detroit, Michigan. His initial exposure to the issues of human rights and dignity came from his mother, Priscilla.  A native of Alabama, Priscilla showed her children the infamous Jet Magazine cover of a deceased 14-year-old’s bashed in face. It was young Emmett Till, murdered for sassing a White woman. She followed this up with a conversation about racism—Lumumba, an impressible eight years old. He saw his mother organize in their community and raise funds for various causes.  Her strength, discipline and determination gave Lumumba a foundation for organizing and a sense of Black community pride and commitment.

Lumumba’s political watershed moment came as a reaction to the assassination of Martin Luther King, someone he followed closely throughout high school and college. Already a student leader, Lumumba and other students took over a building demanding more scholarships for Black students and an increase in Black faculty. Lumumba returned to law school and graduated top of his class.  He stayed in Detroit for over a decade, practicing criminal defense and human rights law. His law practice grew, representing political activists such as Bilal Sunni Ali, Mutulu Shakur (Tupac Shakur’s stepfather) and former Black Panther Assata Shakur. In 2009, he was elected Jackson City Councilman and was sitting in the Mayor’s chair by June 2013. As Mayor, Chokwe was just getting started.  Within four months he passed a one percent sales tax increase that is estimated to raise $700 million dollars over the next ten years for infrastructure improvements.  He had plans to make Jackson the greenest city in the South, by retrofitting and using renewable energy on all of the municipal buildings.

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TPM: Obama To Expand California National Monument

President Barack Obama will expand the California Coastal National Monument to include the Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands, a White House official said Saturday. Expected Tuesday, the action will permanently protect some 1,665 acres of federal lands on the Mendocino County coast in Northern California, just north of Point Arena. It will expand a national monument created in 2000 by President Bill Clinton to include coastal bluffs and shelves, tide pools, onshore sand dunes, coastal prairies, riverbanks and the mouth and estuary of the Garcia River.

Obama’s designation would follow recent action by the Environmental Protection Agency to block development of Pebble Mine, a massive copper and gold deposit in Alaska’s treasured Bristol Bay region. Obama pledged in this year’s State of the Union address to use his presidential authority to preserve more federal lands for future generations. The action he is taking next week will bypass Congress, which has been slow to act on proposed legislation to preserve public lands.

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Reuters: Ukraine PM Says He Will Go To U.S. To Discuss Crimea Crisis

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said on Sunday he would go to the United States this week to discuss the standoff with Russia over Ukraine’s southern region of Crimea. “I am going to the United states to hold top-level meetings on resolving the situation unfolding in our bilateral and multilateral relations,” Yatseniuk said at the start of a government meeting in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev.

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Henry Austin: Dalai Lama Voices Support For Gay Marriage

The Dalai Lama has come out in support of gay marriage, saying it was “OK” and a personal affair for people of the same sex to commit to each other. “If two people… really feel that way … and both sides fully agree, then okay,” the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader said on Ora.tv’s Larry King Now show. The Nobel laureate was interviewed after he offered the customary prayer that opens each Senate session in Washington D.C.

Ultimately, the Dalai Lama, who like all Tibetan Monks is celibate himself, said gay marriage was up to each government and was ultimately “individual business.” “People who have belief or who have special traditions, then you should follow according to your own tradition. Like Buddhism, there are different kinds of sexual misconduct, so you should follow properly.” “I think (it’s) OK,” he added. “I think that’s an individual’s business.”

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Igor Volsky: Bush’s Defense Secretary Destroys GOP Talking Points Against Obama’s Handling Of Crimea

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates pushed back on Sunday against conservatives who’ve blamed President Obama’s “weak” foreign policy for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Crimea. Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Gates dismissed arguments that Obama’s handling of the conflict in Syria or his efforts to trim the defense budget emboldened Putin, arguing that the Russian president also invaded Georgia during the George W. Bush administration.

“My own view is, after all, Putin invaded Georgia when George W. Bush was president. Nobody ever accused George W. Bush of being weak or unwilling to use military force,” Gates, who served as Defense Secretary for Presidents George W. Bush and Obama said. “So I think Putin is very opportunistic in these arenas. I think that even if — even if we had launched attacks in Syria, even if we weren’t cutting our defense budget — I think Putin saw an opportunity here in Crimea, and he has seized it.” Earlier this week, Gates told the Washington Post that the GOP lawmakers should “tone down” their criticism and “try to be supportive of the president rather than natter at the president.”

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Sharon Bernstein: California Democrats To Adopt Platform As Election Season Begins

California Democrats meeting in Los Angeles on Sunday were set to adopt a platform likely to call for an inflation-adjusted minimum wage, dramatic cuts in military spending, and tighter campaign finance and disclosure laws. Confident going into the 2014 election season with wide majorities in both legislative houses and control of all statewide elected offices, Democratic leaders at the party’s annual convention aimed to push their statewide success eastward in an effort to retake a majority in Congress.

Some 3,000 delegates and guests thronging the downtown Westin Bonaventure hotel were also scheduled to hear from legislative leaders, including top Democrats in the state senate and assembly. The convention had on Saturday showcased Democratic stars in the most populous U.S. state, including California Governor Jerry Brown and the state’s Attorney General Kamala Harris as well as former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whom party leaders are hoping may be able to return to her old job. The draft version of the platform sounds a number of key Democratic themes, including support for anti-poverty programs and increased funding for education.

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Tom Curry: Obama Aide Sees Russian Threat On Arms Inspection As ‘Serious’

Tony Blinken, President Barack Obama’s Deputy National Security Adviser, said Sunday that a Russian threat to cease inspections of nuclear weapons as required by U.S.-Russian arms control treaties would be “a serious development.” Blinken said on NBC’s Meet the Press that he’d seen news reports of those Russian threats — made in response to U.S. sanctions and other penalties for Russia’s seizure of the Crimea region of Ukraine — but that the Russian government had not communicated directly to the Obama administration on that matter. Asked what Obama had accomplished so far in his efforts to deter or penalize Putin for Russia’s seizure of Crimea,

Blinken said the president has been “mobilizing the international community in support of Ukraine to isolate Russia for its actions in Ukraine and to reassure our allies and partners.” Blinken said Obama has invited Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk to the White House on Wednesday to consult with him and to demonstrate American support for the Ukrainian government. Blinked argued that the decline in value of the Russian ruble and the increased uncertainty about foreign investment in Russia are “exacting a real cost and a real consequence” for Putin’s decision to intervene in Crimea.

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Ian Millhiser: Retired Supreme Court Justice Calls For Constitutional Amendment To Prevent Partisan Gerrymandering

Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has a new book out, in which he proposes six potential amendments to the Constitution — including one to prevent lawmakers from drawing legislative maps intended to entrench their own party in power: Districts represented by members of Congress, or by members of any state legislative body, shall be compact and composed of contiguous territory. The state shall have the burden of justifying any departures from this requirement by reference to neutral criteria such as natural, political, or historical boundaries or demographic changes. The interest in enhancing or preserving the political power of the party in control of the state government is not such a neutral criterion.

So long as justices with similar views to Scalia control the Court, however, Congress could probably also use this power to gerrymander congressional maps even more than they are currently. Under Scalia’s view, there is little preventing a Congress controlled by one party from redrawing every state’s map (or, at least, every state with more than one representative’s map) in order to maximize the likelihood that the incumbent party would be elected. This problem cannot be warded off by an act of Congress. And, as discussed above, it won’t be solved by a constitutional amendment either. The only sure way to prevent such widespread gerrymanders is to replace justices like Scalia with justices who understand that partisan gerrymanders are unconstitutional and that egregious gerrymanders must be struck down by the courts.

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Alasdair Baverstock: After A Month Of Violence, Protesters In Venezuela Try Peace

From behind their riot shield barricade, Venezuela’s National Guard cooly surveyed a scene of frustration. Dressed in white t-shirts representing their pacifism, protesters waved their national flags, pledged their commitment to peaceful protest and banged cooking pots in time to songs of government downfall. Saturday’s “empty pots march” had commenced.  Beneath the scorching Caracas sun, one man held up a banner to those who blocked their passage west to the centre of the Venezuelan capital: “If we all have the same problems, then why are we so divided?” The man’s message was not aimed at the authorities, rather the pro-government chavistaswho suffer under the same rampant inflation, chronic shortages of basic goods and massive murder rates that form daily struggles on both sides of Venezuela’s political divide.

After plotting a route to the Ministry of Food in the city center, Saturday’s “empty pots march” stopped short as protestors entered the pro-government Libertador municipality. In an “adapt or perish” bid to spur momentum into a fourth week of protests, Saturday’s demonstration was the first of its kind to emerge from the opposition districts. “We’re testing the water,” said one masked protester, who held his country’s flag upside-down over the lower tier of a freeway that ferries two million vehicles daily along the Caracas valley. “We want to reach out to those who don’t hear our message so that they can see we aren’t the fascists the government says we are.”

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Alyssa Mastromonaco

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AP: Long-Time Obama Aide To Leave White House

A top White House official who has been with President Barack Obama since he first became a senator nine years ago is resigning. Alyssa Mastromonaco is Obama’s deputy chief of staff for operations and often described as the most influential person inside the White House who isn’t well known outside of it. She is responsible for planning presidential events, hiring staff and overseeing the White House complex.

A White House official said Mastromonaco is leaving in May to look for a job in the private sector. The official said Obama insisted as a condition of her departure that she continue to act as an outside adviser. Mastromonaco joined Obama’s Senate office in February 2005 as scheduling director, and oversaw scheduling and advance for his 2008 presidential campaign and during Obama’s first term at the White House. She was promoted to deputy chief of staff in 2011.

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Your laugh of the day

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On This Day:

President Obama signs an Executive Order on stem cell research at the White House March 9, 2009. By signing the order, Obama reverses a Bush administration policy restricting U.S funding for embryonic stem cell research.

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First Lady Michelle Obama presents her inaugural gown to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History March 9, 2010

First Lady Michelle Obama greets Mrs. Ada Papandreou, the First Lady of Greece, in the Yellow Oval Room of the White House, March 9, 2010 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)

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President Obama talks on the phone with President-elect Vladimir Putin of Russia while aboard Air Force One en route to Richmond, Va., March 9, 2012. Alice Wells, Senior Director for Russian Affairs, listens in on the call. (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama speaks at a campaign event at Minute Maid Park, March 9, in Houston

First Lady Michelle Obama participates in the “Bunny Pokey” song and dance with kids in the Kinderbees Activty Room at Penacook Community Center in Penacook, N.H., March 9, 2012 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

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