President Barack Obama speaks at Union Depot in St. Paul, Minn., about a $300 billion transportation infrastructure plan. Obama spoke at Union Depot rail and bus station with a proposal asking Congress for $300 billion to update the nation’s roads and railways, and about a competition to encourage investments to create jobs and restore infrastructure as part of the President’s Year of Action.
President Barack Obama and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, listen as Mark Fuhrmann, New Start Program Director of Metro Transit, shows them a ticket vending machine during a tour of the Metro Transit Light Rail Operations and Maintenance Facility
Kathleen O’Brien: Obamacare In NJ: Four Out Of Five Enrollees Have Paid Their Premiums
At least three-quarters of the New Jerseyans who have selected health insurance through the federal marketplace website have followed through by paying their first month’s premium, according to the three companies selling the policies. The state’s rate of paying customers is in line with figures reported across the nation. The figures are seen by some as an important barometer of success in the opening months of coverage.
In New Jersey, an early reading shows the percentage of those who have paid ranges from 75 percent to 90 percent.m”To date, more than 80 percent of enrollees from the federal marketplace have paid their first month’s premiums, said Thomas Vincz, spokesman for Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey. “We expect that number to increase in coming weeks.”
Of all the myths and falsehoods that Republicans have spread about President Obama, the most pernicious and long-lasting is that the $832 billion stimulus package did not work. Since 2009, Republican lawmakers have inextricably linked the words “failed” and “stimulus,” and last week, five years after passage of the Recovery Act, they dusted off their old playbook again. it prevented a second recession that could have turned into a depression.
It created or saved an average of 1.6 million jobs a year for four years. (There are the jobs, Mr. Boehner.) It raised the nation’s economic output by 2 to 3 percent from 2009 to 2011. It prevented a significant increase in poverty — without it, 5.3 million additional people would have become poor in 2010. Government spending worked, helping millions of people who never realized it. And it can work again, whenever lawmakers agree that putting people to work is more important than winning ideological fights.
“You can get killed just for living in your American skin.” – Bruce Springsteen. On Aug. 7, 1930, two young black men were lynched in Marion, Ind. A photographer named Lawrence Beitler had a studio across the street from the lynching tree. He came out and snapped what became an iconic photo, which he made into a postcard and sold. It shows Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith hanging dead and their executioners, faces clearly visible, milling about as if at a picnic. Though authorities possessed this damning photographic evidence, they never arrested anyone for the crime. It was officially attributed to “persons unknown.”
This was not a unique thing. To the contrary, it happened thousands of times. And African-Americans carry this knowledge deep, carry it in blood and sinew, the understanding that the justice system has betrayed us often, smashed our hopes often, denied the value of our lives, often. This knowledge lent a certain tension and poignancy to the wait for a verdict in the Jordan Davis trial last week. Mr. Davis was the black kid shot dead by a white man, Michael Dunn. A guilty verdict would seem to have been a foregone conclusion. It wasn’t. Indeed, the verdict was mystifying.
Mr. Dunn was found guilty on three counts of attempted murder — meaning the three other young men in the SUV with Mr. Davis — but the jury deadlocked on the murder charge. It makes no sense: If Mr. Dunn is guilty of the three charges, how can he not be guilty of the fourth? The jury’s inability to hold him accountable for Mr. Davis’ death only validates African-Americans’ grimmest misgivings about the “just us” system. Brittney Cooper, an assistant professor at Rutgers University, put it as follows on Twitter: “This is not just about jail time. This is about whether white fear legally means more than black life.”
A federal court ruled against the University of Notre Dame on Friday in a lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate, the Associated Press reported. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago upheld a federal judge’s previous ruling that denied Notre Dame’s request for an injunction to prevent it from complying with the birth control mandate. The court noted in its decision that Notre Dame already notified the administrator of its employee plan as well as the insurer for students that the university would not pay for contraception coverage.
Chicago will be the site of a digital manufacturing institute backed by $70 million in government money and another $250 million of private funding, giving the city, once a factory town, a better chance to re-establish its credentials as a modern maker of things. The decision, to be announced officially Tuesday by President Barack Obama, was hotly anticipated by city and state officials who recognized the opportunity to jump start high-tech manufacturing as a core component of Chicago’s economic vision. The city today, while still home to some manufacturing, is better known for its financial markets and convention business. The idea behind the institute is that manufacturing is being transformed by digital design, which replaces the draftsman’s table with the capacity to work and create in a virtual environment.
BREAKING: President Obama to announce that Chicago will be home to a new research and development institute sun-tim.es/MjKoEu
The city envisions the institute would focus on such projects as the faster and cheaper production of a next-generation aircraft engine; drastically reducing the amount of scrap material associated with small manufacturing runs; and speeding the design process among spread-out suppliers. “This is clearly, without a doubt, one of the most significant things to secure Chicago’s long-term economic future,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a Saturday interview. “It is the best insurance policy you can buy, which is major research capacity.” The $70 million grant will come from the Defense Department. Obama will officially announce the Chicago hub on Tuesday at the White House. The manufacturing initiative follows Obama’s new playbook for dealing with an oppositional Congress unlikely to enact any part of his economic vision. The announcement also delivers on the President’s pledge in his 2013 State of the Union address to set up three new manufacturing institutes from existing government programs.
In the spring of last year, the administration launched the competition. In addition to Chicago’s “Digital Manufacturing and Design Institute,” Obama will announce that Detroit has won an institute of its own focused on lightweight and modern metals manufacturing. The administration set up a pilot site in Youngstown, Ohio, in 2012, and a few weeks ago announced a new institute in Raleigh, N.C. Obama has also pledged to launch four more competitions for new institutes in the coming year in hopes of setting eight institutes in motion without any action by Congress. But Obama’s broader plan is to spur Congress to support the concept. His blueprint calls for a full national network of up to 45 institutes funded in part with new resources approved by lawmakers.
Adam Searing: How NC (Surprisingly) Became A Leader In ACA Enrollment
While North Carolina has refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and many politicians continue to complain about the federal health exchange, the roll-out of Obamacare in N.C. tells a far more positive story. North Carolina is enrolling uninsured people at a rate at least twice that of any other state that has refused to set up its own health exchange and refused to expand Medicaid. In short, among states that are dragging their feet on the Affordable Care Act – no advertising campaigns, no speeches by the governor on how important it is for everyone to have access to health care, no Medicaid expansion that guarantees the lowest income workers coverage – North Carolina is by far leading the pack in private plan enrollment. Even with the federal health exchange’s shaky start, N.C. has already enrolled 107,778 uninsured people in private health plans. So what’s going on?
There are several answers. Our success starts with North Carolina’s excellent Medicaid managed-care program, Community Care of North Carolina. Even though Gov. Pat McCrory and legislative leaders declined the federal opportunity to expand Medicaid, N.C. Community Care has provided a natural framework to enroll uninsured people in private health plans. Under Community Care, local doctors, hospitals, health centers, health departments, social service offices, legal service providers and other community leaders have been quietly working together every day, every month and every year for a decade to help people access and use health care. Because of this, North Carolina’s Medicaid program is already a huge success both in delivering great care and containing costs. So, when the Affordable Care Act’s health exchange opened for business, there were already networks with proven records of success in helping people get health care. These organizations jumped right in to the enrollment effort because they work with uninsured families every day and know what a huge benefit this is.
Vladimir Putin has a dream – and for the past two weeks, the world has been helping him to live it. In this dream, Russia is rich again, a place where the reported $51-billion cost of the Winter Olympics in Sochi is no object. It’s a nation of impressive architecture and smiling volunteers who speak English but think like Russians. “Russia – Great, New, Open!” brag the billboards around the Olympic city. (“Open”? Sochi has high fences, surveillance balloons and warships off the coast; every phone call and e-mail is monitored.) Mr. Putin sees a Russia that is once more a global centre of gravity, indispensable on the world stage. Soon, if his plans come to fruition, Moscow will stand as the leader of a new bloc of nations – the Eurasian Union – with borders that look a lot like those of the Soviet empire, whose fall he has openly mourned.
Vladimir Putin also has a nightmare. And this week, it looked a lot like the burning heart of Kiev, the Ukrainian capital where tens of thousands of protesters battled police to bring down their Kremlin-backed, authoritarian government. Dozens died before a tentative truce Friday interrupted the hostilities, but anger remains so high that there is no guarantee it will hold. It’s not just that Mr. Putin fears the fall of President Viktor Yanukovych and the rise of a pro-Western government in Kiev, although that would be a heavy geopolitical blow. He needs Ukraine to take part if his Eurasian Union – currently set to launch next year with only Russia, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Belarus as members – is to look like anything more than a tiny dictators’ club.
AP: Venezuelan Government Cuts Internet Access, Blocks Websites In War Against Student Protesters
The battle for Venezuela is being fought as vigorously online as in the streets, with authorities cutting off the Internet to a clash-torn university city and blocking selected websites and a “walkie-talkie” service widely used by protesters. A local TV reporter in San Cristobal, capital of the western border state of Tachira, said Thursday night that she could hear gunshots as teargas-firing police broke up protests just as they had the night before when Internet service was cut. “We’re still without Internet. And some people don’t have water or electricity either,” said the reporter, Beatriz Font. San Cristobal, home to one private and three public universities, is where the current wave of anti-government demonstrations began on Feb. 2, the fiercest unrest since President Hugo Chavez died last March began.
Later Thursday, the U.S. company Zello told The Associated Press that Venezuela’s state-run telecoms company, CANTV, had just blocked access to the push-to-talk “walkie-talkie” app for smart phones and computers that has been a hugely popular organizing tool for protesters from Egypt to Ukraine. Zello supports up to 600 users on a single channel, and company CEO Bill Moore said it became the No. 1 app in Ukraine on Thursday for both the iOS and Android operating systems. In one day this week, Zello reported more than 150,000 downloads in Venezuela. Some believe Venezuela’s information war, which escalated last week as the government blocked images on Twitter after violence in Caracas claimed three lives, is only just beginning. The protesters are fed up with a catalogue of woes that include rampant inflation, food shortages and one of the world’s highest murder rates.
If a week is a long time in British politics, 24 hours has proven to be a long time in this Ukrainian political crisis. The priority must be to prevent further killing, and all sides must play their part in achieving this. The Ukrainian government has in recent months routinely ignored the democratic aspirations of the Ukrainian people. So it will take time for trust to be rebuilt across Ukrainian society and it will be hard for that progress to be made even after this crisis ends. That is why it is so important that the EU should continue to support Ukraine as the turmoil in Kiev continues. We must remember that this crisis began in November, when President Yanukovych walked away from an agreement with Europe that would have granted Ukraine access to the EU’s single market.
Yanukovich-allied oligarch, billionaire Rinat Akhmetov issued a statement stressing the need to keep Ukraine “united” nytimes.com/2014/02/23/wor…
The UK government has had a noticeably low profile as the crisis unfolded. But we must recognise that the number of people killed in Ukraine last week is a tragic expression of the gravity of the crisis. The streets of Kiev have revealed a geopolitical fault line between Russia and the West. President Obama was right to say that Ukraine can no longer be seen as part of a “Cold War chess board”. More than 20 years after the Berlin Wall fell we should not see a new era of 20th-century satellite states take hold on the 21st-century European continent. President Putin is known for his zero-sum approach to foreign affairs – but what happens in Ukraine cannot just be about judging what makes sense for Russia. It must be about what works for the people of Ukraine.
Like many of you, our friends, my wife and I have been literally rooted to our chairs as we watched events in our beloved Ukraine roll out, ever since those terrible days in Kyiv last November when Ukrainians began to die because of the brutality of Yanukovych’s Berkut. Since then, many, many more innocents have sacrificed themselves to protest injustice, tryanny and corruption. Ukrainians have been incredibly brave throughout all this. They have withstood freezing cold, Militia attacks, titushki beatings, kidnappings, torture, murder, Berkut Molotov cocktails and finally, an ultimate horror, the cold-blooded, merciless snipers of their own government’s security forces
One little known fact most Americans are not aware of is that Ukraine’s 40 million citizens legally possess more than 2 million private firearms: 400,000 of them are in Kyiv alone. And yet, even in the face of murderous provocation and killings by the police and Berkut, very few of those privately owned firearms were ever raised in anger, even against their tormentors: the ratio of citizens killed to police casualties was over 10 to 1. It tells us that Ukrainians are a people possessing extraordinary restraint and respect for life, because if every private gun in Ukraine had been fired in anger, the dead would be in the many thousands by now.
President Obama meets with actor George Clooney in the Oval Office, Feb. 23, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama listens to staff during a meeting in the Oval Office, Feb. 23, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden discuss the Military Families Campaign with spouses of U.S. military leadership in the Map Room of the White House, Feb. 23, 2011 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)
President Obama poses for a photograph with Ambassador Jacinth Lorna Henry-Martin of St. Kitts and Nevis during an ambassador credentialing ceremony in the Oval Office, Feb. 23, 2011. Chief of Protocol Capricia Marshall and members of Henry-Martin’s family watch from the edge of the room (Photo by Pete Souza)
First Lady Michelle Obama views the Slave Pen exhibit while touring the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, Feb. 23, 2012. Pictured, from left, are: Dina Bailey, Associate Curator of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center; Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory; Verna Williams; and Allison Singleton (Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)
11:50: Delivers remarks at a campaign event at Farm Bureau Live, Virginia Beach
1:0: Departs Virginia Beach
2:10: Arrives the White House
First Lady Michelle Obama visits Chicago on Thursday to headline two fund-raisers and to debut on Steve Harvey’s new television show. Mrs Obama has funders at Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo’s Studio and at the home of business executive and Democratic donor Fred Eychaner.
CNN: A new survey indicates President Barack Obama moved up four points following the Democratic National Convention last week, and now has a six point advantage over his Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
According to a CNN/ORC International Poll released Monday, 52% of likely voters nationwide back the president, compared to 46% for Romney. Just before the convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, Obama was tied with Romney 48%-48%.
Steve Benen: “Obamacare” is working: “The share of young adults without health insurance fell by one-sixth in 2011 from the previous year, the largest annual decline for any age group since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began collecting the data in 1997.” (See NYT)
WSJ: The Planned Parenthood Action Fund is making one of the largest ad buys in its history, buying $3.2 million TV time in the battleground states of Virginia and Ohio, saying Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is bad for women’s health.
Tuesday: To mark the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the President, the First Lady and White House staff will gather on the South Lawn of the White House Tuesday morning to observe a moment of silence. Later that morning, they will travel to the Pentagon Memorial. In the afternoon, the President will travel to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and visit with wounded warriors who are being treated at the hospital and their families
Wednesday: The President will travel to Las Vegas and Denver for campaign events. He will remain overnight in Denver
Thursday: The President will travel to Arvada, Colorado. He will return to the White House in the evening
Friday: The President and First Lady will welcome the 2012 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams to the White House
First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden talk outside the State Dining Room before addressing the National Governors Association annual meeting at the White House, Feb. 27, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
Tuesday: PBO will deliver remarks at the United Auto Workers conference in Washington, DC.
Wednesday: PBO and the First Lady will host a dinner at the White House to honor Armed Forces, who served in Iraq, and their families.
Thursday: PBO will travel to Nashua, New Hampshire, and deliver remarks on the economy. In the evening, the President will attend campaign events in New York City.
Friday: PBO will travel to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, to visit with wounded service members.
Toronto Star: When Mitt Romney regaled a Michigan audience this week with childhood memories of a landmark moment in Detroit history, it was a rare instance of emotional candour.
And, perhaps, an even rarer example of time travel.
Romney recalled he was “probably 4 or something like that” the day of the Golden Jubilee, when three-quarters of a million people gathered to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the American automobile.
“My dad had a job being the grandmaster. They painted Woodward Ave. with gold paint,” Romney told a rapt Tea Party audience in the village of Milford Thursday night, reliving a moment of American industrial glory.
The Golden Jubilee described so vividly by Romney …. took place June 1, 1946 – fully nine months before Romney was born…..
Slate: …. In January, workers in the manufacturing sector worked an average of 41.9 hours per week. That same figure was reached for a few months during the winter of 1997-1998, but the last time it was actually higher than that was July of 1945 when America’s factories were working overtime to fight and win World War II….
We’re at the point, in other words, where just to sustain current levels of output American factories are going to need to start adding workers.
Yahoo: Five months after the military’s ban on openly gay service expired, a photo of a young gay Marine’s homecoming kiss has gone viral. Nearly 15,000 people have liked the picture on Facebook, which was posted in a group for gay Marines on Saturday.
The Marine, Brandon Morgan, posted a response on his Facebook wall according to the JoeMyGod blog. “To everyone who has responded in a positive way. My partner and I want to say thank you. Dalan, the giant in the photo, can’t believe how many shares and likes we have gotten on this. We didn’t do this to get famous,or something like that we did this cause after 3 deployments and four years knowing each other, we finally told each other how we felt,” Morgan wrote.
ThinkProgress: An article in The Hill today describing the results of a new poll inaccurately reports that voters want “a lower tax bill” for wealthy individuals and businesses. If anything, the poll shows the opposite.
In tax policy, it’s critical to distinguish between marginal tax rates and effective tax rates … The Hill article fails to sort out this very basic distinction, then proceeds to make a number of apples-to-oranges comparisons that paint a misleading picture of what wealthy people and corporations are paying in taxes now and what people want them to pay.
….. Having repeatedly confused marginal and effective rates, the article misinterprets the poll results to conclude that people want “a lower tax bill” for individuals and corporations….
….Here’s a better explanation: Voters understand what The Hill does not – that wealthy people and corporations actually pay taxes at much lower rates than the top marginal rates on the books. And when asked what they think the “most appropriate” rates should be, a majority of people cite rates that are higher than what the wealthy and corporations are actually paying now.
Washington Post (Editorial): At a time of record debts and deficits, the two leading Republican presidential candidates are proposing a path on taxes and spending likely to add trillions more. That’s the sobering conclusion of the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB), whose board includes six Republican former lawmakers with expertise in budget issues, three Republican former heads of the Congressional Budget Office, and two former Office of Management and Budget directors under Republican presidents.
NY Mag: Of the various expressions of right-wing hysteria that have flowered over the past three years - goldbuggery, birtherism, death panels at home and imaginary apology tours by President Obama abroad – perhaps the strain that has taken deepest root within mainstream Republican circles is the terror that the achievements of the Obama administration may be irreversible, and that the time remaining to stop permanent nightfall is dwindling away.
… The GOP has reason to be scared. Obama’s election was the vindication of a prediction made several years before…. that demographic and political trends were converging in such a way as to form a natural-majority coalition for Democrats.
… if they lose their bid to unseat Obama, they will have mortgaged their future for nothing at all. And over the last several months, it has appeared increasingly likely that the party’s great all-or-nothing bet may land, ultimately, on nothing. In which case, the Republicans will have turned an unfavorable outlook into a truly bleak one in a fit of panic. The deepest effect of Obama’s election upon the Republicans’ psyche has been to make them truly fear, for the first time since before Ronald Reagan, that the future is against them.