Posts Tagged ‘Marriage Equality

29
Jul
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama reacts to a picture presented to him of a younger Robert Gibbs, who played soccer at North Carolina State, following a town hall meeting at Broughton High School in Raleigh, N.C. on July 29, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

11:15: The President meets with a group of House Democrats on economic issues, Roosevelt Room

12:0: White House press briefing

3:0: The President departs White House

3:25: Meets with wounded service members, Walter Reed Hospital

5:15: Departs Bethesda, Maryland

7:0 CT: Arrives Kansas City, Missouri

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The Week Ahead

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Reuters: Table For Five: Obama To Dine With Kansas City Penpals

Valerie, a single mom from Kansas City, Missouri, who owns a small business, wrote to President Barack Obama last week “in the middle of the night,” describing just how hard she works.

On Tuesday, she will get the chance to tell Obama in person as one of four people the president dines with in a visit to the midwestern city – part of a summertime White House campaign to rouse Democratic voters ahead of November midterm elections.

“Are you serious?” said Valerie – whose last name was not provided – to Josh Earnest, Obama’s press secretary, who phoned her to invite her to the dinner.

“Oh my God! I would love it!” she told Earnest in a video made by the White House.

More here

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BBC: Israel Intensifies Gaza Attacks After Netanyahu Warning

At least 60 Palestinians are said to have been killed after Israel intensified its bombardment of Gaza and warned of a long conflict ahead.

Gaza’s only power plant caught fire as Israel carried out 60 air strikes, targeting sites associated with Hamas, the Islamist group which controls Gaza.

UN staff members are said to be among those killed.

….. A huge plume of smoke rose over the strip’s only power plant after one of its fuel tanks was reportedly set alight by Israeli tank shells, and the plant was forced to shut down.

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Jesse Rosenfeld: Israel Creates ‘No Man’s Land’ In Gaza, Shrinking Strip By 40 Percent

To protect itself from Hamas rockets and tunnels, Israel is forcing tens of thousands of people out of their homes, turning their old neighborhoods into a no-man’s land.

BEIT HANOUN, Gaza — This narrow strip of land that used to be called “the Gaza Strip,” already one of the more densely populated places on earth, is growing dramatically smaller. The Israeli military, relentlessly and methodically, is driving people out of the three-kilometer (1.8 mile) buffer zone it says it needs to protect against Hamas rockets and tunnels. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the buffer zone eats up about 44 percent of Gaza’s territory.

What that means on the ground is scenes of extraordinary devastation in places like the Al Shajaya district approaching Gaza’s eastern frontier, and Beit Hanoun in the north. These were crowded neighborhoods less than three weeks ago. Now they have been literally depopulated, the residents joining more than 160,000 internally displaced people in refuges and makeshift shelters. Apartment blocks are fields of rubble, and as I move through this hostile landscape the phrase that keeps ringing in my head is “scorched earth.”

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Michael Hiltzik: Here’s The Single Best Analysis Of The Halbig Anti-Obamacare Ruling

Northwestern University law and political science professor Andrew Koppelman moves past the absurd legal theory underlying the Halbig ruling on the Affordable Care Act — in which a federal appeals court invalidated subsidies provided to insurance buyers on federal, as opposed to state, insurance exchanges — to ask why the lawsuit’s backers brought the case in the first place. We know the consequences of the ruling: If it stands, about 4.8 million Americans will lose their subsidies and likely their health insurance, since it would be rendered unaffordable; there are residents of as many as 36 states that let the federal government establish their exchanges.

But is that what the plaintiffs and their backers really desired? And if not, what was their real goal? Koppelman’s conclusion is that the lawsuit is a product of the “moral dysfunction” infecting the fight over Obamacare. “The opponents of Obamacare,” he writes in the New Republic, “have from the beginning found themselves driven by the logic of their position to make arguments that are increasingly morally repulsive.” In this case and others aimed at overturning the ACA, he writes, the argument is that “if you get sick and you can’t pay for it, that’s your tough luck.” Koppelman doesn’t think the plaintiffs really believe that. He thinks they’re merely out to make a narrow ideological point about government responsibility, and the 4.8 million possible victims of their campaign are merely collateral damage.

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Business Insider: Israel Grants First Golan Heights Oil Drilling License To Dick Cheney-Linked Company

Israel has granted a U.S. company the first license to explore for oil and gas in the occupied Golan Heights, John Reed of the Financial Times reports.

A local subsidiary of the New York-listed company Genie Energy — which is advised by former vice president Dick Cheney and whose shareholders include Jacob Rothschild and Rupert Murdoch — will now have exclusive rights to a 153-square mile radius in the southern part of the Golan Heights.

That geographic location will likely prove controversial. Israel seized the Golan Heights in the Six-Day War in 1967 and annexed the territory in 1981. Its administration of the area — which is not recognized by international law — has been mostly peaceful until the Syrian civil war broke out 23 months ago.

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BBC: Russia ‘Violated 1987 Nuclear Missile Treaty’, Says US

Russia has violated a key arms control treaty by testing a nuclear cruise missile, the US government says.

Russia tested a ground-launched cruise missile, breaking the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty signed in 1987 during the Cold War, the US said.

A senior US official did not provide further details on the alleged breach, but described it as “very serious”.

The bilateral agreement banned medium-range missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 km (300 to 3,400 miles).

More here

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BBC: EU Set To Widen Sanctions On Russia Over Ukraine

The European Union is set to agree new sanctions against Russia, targeting its finance, energy and defence sectors over the conflict in Ukraine.

Top Russian individuals and entities are already subject to EU sanctions for their alleged role in Ukraine’s crisis.

Calls for the EU to act have been fuelled by the downing of flight MH17.

An international team has again failed to access the crash site in eastern Ukraine, amid heavy fighting between government forces and rebels there.

This is the third time in as many days that the team, which includes Dutch and Australian police officers, has had to abandon attempts to reach the site.

More here

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Michael Felberbaum: US Court: Virginia Marriage Is For All Lovers

Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban was ruled unconstitutional on Monday in the first such decision by a federal appellate court in the South. “We recognize that same-sex marriage makes some people deeply uncomfortable. However, inertia and apprehension are not legitimate bases for denying same-sex couples due process and equal protection of the laws,” Judge Henry F. Floyd wrote. The 2-1 ruling applies throughout the circuit that also includes West Virginia, Maryland, and the Carolinas, where the attorneys general split Monday on what they’ll do next. Virginians voted 57 percent to 43 percent in 2006 to amend their constitution to ban gay marriage.

Virginia laws prohibit recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states. Floyd said such measures “impermissibly infringe on its citizens’ fundamental right to marry.” The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond is the second federal appellate court to overturn gay marriage bans, and the first to affect the South, a region where the rising tide of rulings favoring marriage equality is testing concepts of states’ rights that have long held sway. Gay marriage proponents have won more than 20 legal decisions around the country since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act last year. Most are still under appeal. More than 70 cases have been filed in all 31 states that prohibit same-sex marriage. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia allow such marriages.

More here

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CNBC: US Confidence Jumps In July As Consumers See Better Days Ahead

Consumers grew more confident about the economy in July, The Conference Board reported on Tuesday, with stock markets perched near record highs and expectations building for the recovery. The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index rose to 90.9, higher than expectations and above the prior month’s showing of 86.4. That was the component’s highest since October 2007.

More here

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On This Day

 President Obama eats a peach following a town hall meeting at Kroger’s Supermarket in Bristol, Va. on July 29, 2009. Seconds later, the President handed a dollar bill to the CEO of Kroger’s, who attended the event (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama listens to a question at a town hall meeting at Broughton High School in Raleigh, N.C. on July 29, 2009 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

The hands of U.S. Secret Service agents as President Obama shakes hands along a rope line following a health care town hall meeting at Broughton High School in Raleigh, N.C on July 29, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Crime victim Lisa Marie Iyotte gets emotional while introducing President Obama before he signed the Tribal Law and Order Act during a ceremony in the East Room at the White House, on July 29, 2010

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First Lady Michelle Obama greets U.S. military families at Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England, July 29, 2012

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President Obama greets former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Outer Oval Office, July 29, 2013 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

President Obama has lunch with former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on the patio outside the Oval Office, July 29, 2013 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

President Obama meets with Secretary of State John Kerry in the Oval Office, July 29, 2013 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

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01
Jul
14

Rise and Shine

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama shake hands with the crowd gathered for their arrival at the State House in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, July 1, 2013

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Today (All Times Eastern)

10:55: The President holds a Cabinet meeting

1:0: Josh Earnest briefs the press

2:20: The President delivers remarks on the economy

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Aaron Carroll: It’s Getting Hard To Ignore Insurance Numbers (UPDATED)

Five percent of Americans report being newly insured in 2014. More than half of that group, or 2.8% of the total U.S. population, say they got their new insurance through the health exchanges that were open through mid-April. Given the population of the United States, this means that more than 15 million about 10-11 million American adults are newly insured this year. Almost 9 million of them received private insurance through the exchanges. There’s more (emphasis mine): The newly insured using exchanges are mostly under age 65, as would be expected, given that most Americans 65 and older are covered by Medicare.

Thus, the representation of newly insured Americans is higher across all three age groups younger than 65 than is true for the general population. More specifically, newly insured Americans using the exchanges in the 18 to 29 age category are eight percentage points more prevalent than their percentage in the overall adult population, while representation of those 30 to 49 and 50 to 64 are five and four points higher, respectively.This means that the fears that the young would refrain from buying insurance, thereby fracturing the risk pools, don’t seem to be coming to pass either.

More here

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Spandan Chakrabarti: Re-Igniting War On Women, Supreme Court Makes Case For Democratic Congress (#HobbyLobby)

5 conservative men on the Supreme Court decided that a core part of women’s health cannot be part of required employer-provided insurance coverage – even if the additional coverage costs nothing – at least as applied to private, family-owned corporations. All of the court’s female justices were joined by Justice Breyer in a strong and scathing dissent. it does, however, leave Democrats a major political opening when it comes to contraception. First, the majority explicitly held that HHS could in fact levy a contraception mandate – on insurance companies. In its language, the opinion refers to the method of contraception coverage HHS uses for employers already exempt from the contraception mandate (churches and other religious nonprofits) – requiring insurance companies to provide the coverage, outside of the employers’ policies but with no additional cost to the insured.

Secondly, and more importantly, the decision relies on a law passed by Congress – the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (1993 thanks, Bill Clinton) – and not the First Amendment. it can be overridden by an act of Congress. Therein lies the major opening for Democrats in 2014 and in 2016. This decision not only puts the Right wing’s war on women back on the forefront just in time for the midterms, it points to a specific cure: have Congress change the law to override the Court’s decision. If Democrats wanted to run on a single issue from now to November, it should be a promise to write into the law protections for contraceptive coverage should we win back the House and keep the Senate. It is time that we, as Americans, found out what everyone asking for our votes stands on women’s health. Leave behind all of your trepidation about why the Democratic party isn’t perfect and how President Obama has “disappointed” you. You have no right to be outraged by today’s decision if you do not show up to the polls in November and ensure the election of a Congress that will override the law that the Supreme Court says allows for employers to control the reproductive lives of their employees.

More here

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Energy.Gov: Energy Department Project Captures And Stores More Than One Million Metric Tons Of CO2

Following the one year mark since the release of the President’s Climate Action Plan, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) – in partnership with Air Products and Chemicals Inc. – today announced a major milestone, successfully capturing more than one million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) at the hydrogen-production facility in Port Arthur, Texas. Using an innovative technology called vacuum swing adsorption, the project captures more than 90 percent of the CO2 from the product stream of two commercial-scale steam methane reformers that would otherwise be emitted into the atmosphere.

In addition to the secure storage, captured carbon from the project will be used to help produce additional, hard-to-access resources from existing nearby oil fields. In total, Department of Energy projects have captured and securely stored nearly 7.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide to date, equivalent to taking more than 1.5 million cars off the road for a year. In just the last year since the release of the President’s Climate Action Plan, these Department-supported projects have stored approximately 2.8 metric tons.

More here

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Steve Benen: Boehner Gives Up On Immigration, Obama Moving Forward

Almost exactly a year ago, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in no uncertain terms that he would ignore the popular, bipartisan immigration reform bill passed by the Senate. The plan may have been endorsed by business leaders, labor unions, law enforcement, immigration advocates, leaders from the faith community, economists, and deficit hawks, but the Republican leader said it didn’t matter: the Senate bill was dead on arrival. Even if it had the votes to pass, it would never reach the House floor. But, Boehner said at the time, immigration reform was very much alive. “The House is going to do its own job in developing an immigration bill,” the Speaker vowed. “It is time for Congress to act. But I believe the House has its job to do, and we will do our job.”  That was 51 weeks ago.

And while Boehner probably meant what he said, the House Speaker made a commitment he could not keep. House members “will do our job”? Well, no actually, as is too often the case, the Republican-led chamber will do nothing. No longer willing to watch the GOP-led House do nothing, President Obama intends to move forward without legislative action. For his part, Boehner’s spokesperson, Michael Steel, told reporters this afternoon, “Speaker Boehner told the President exactly what he has been telling him: the American people and their elected officials don’t trust him to enforce the law as written. Until that changes, it is going to be difficult to make progress on this issue.” As talking points go, I find it hard to imagine any adult seriously believing an argument so transparently foolish. For one thing, Boehner himself already discredited the argument from Boehner’s office, admitting publicly that immigration reform hasn’t happened because his own Republican allies are afraid of hard work.

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Alan Gomez: Obama Rips GOP On Immigration, Says He Will Act Alone

After more than a year of urging Congress to pass an immigration law, President Obama gave a fiery White House speech Monday, saying the time had come for him to act alone on the issue. “The failure of House Republicans to pass a darn bill is bad for our security, it’s bad for our economy and it’s bad for our future,” he said. “If Congress won’t do their job, at least we can do ours.” The president laid out in a letter to congressional leaders Monday several steps his administration has taken in recent weeks to respond to an unprecedented surge in children caught crossing the border. The president ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate the federal agencies that have been catching, processing and housing the children. The Department of Justice is in the process of reassigning immigration judges and U.S. attorneys to the border to speed up hearings in immigration court, and

the Department of Health and Human Services has scoured the country to find places to put those children. In March, Obama ordered Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to conduct a systemwide review of deportation practices to see how they could be done “more humanely.” Obama later asked that the results of that review be postponed until the end of the summer to give Congress time to work through an immigration bill. Monday, with 28 days left in the legislative calendar, Obama said the review would be completed soon and would include changes to the country’s immigration enforcement structure. Obama said the only response from Republicans has been to use the crisis as their “newest excuse to do nothing.”

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Washington Post: Illinois To Allow Same-Day Registration, Expand Early Voting Hours

Illinois will dramatically expand access to the ballot box this year by allowing voters to register on Election Day, and by significantly extending the hours early-vote locations will be open. Gov. Pat Quinn (D) has said he will sign the measure, passed by the legislature late last month. The bill expands both the number of days during which early voting locations are open and the number of hours each day they remain open. Voters who cast a ballot early will not have to show a photo identification.

“Democracy works best when everyone has the opportunity to participate,” Quinn said in a statement. “By removing barriers to vote, we can ensure a government of the people and for the people.” Meanwhile, students at public universities will have an easier time casting a ballot under the new measure. The bill allows students attending public schools to change their residences from their hometowns to college campuses, giving them easier access to polling places on campus.

More here

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Harold Meyerson: Supreme Court Rules Disadvantaged Workers Should Be Disadvantaged Some More

The conservative majority on the Supreme Court today took up the case of some of America’s most disadvantaged workers, and ruled that they should be disadvantaged some more. The five-to-four ruling in Harris v. Quinn goes a long way to crippling the efforts that unions have made to help these workers get out of poverty. The case concerned some 28,000 home care aides in Illinois whose paychecks come from Medicaid. Before the state agreed in 2003 that they could form a union, they made the minimum wage. (It’s the state that sets their wage rate, since their pay comes entirely from Medicaid.) Currently, as a result of their union contract, they make $11.85 an hour rather than the minimum of $7.25. Tomorrow, by the terms of their contract, their hourly rate is raised to $12.25, and on December 1st to $13. The right to hire and fire these workers remains solely, of course, that of their home-bound patients and their families.

The workers, then, are joint employees of both their patients and the state. And since the state allowed them to vote on whether to join a union, and since they voted to join the Service Employees International Union, these 28,000 workers have seen their pay doubled and have received, for the first time, health care coverage. Like all unionized public employees, they don’t have to pay that portion of their union dues that goes to their union’s political activities, but they do have to pay that portion of dues that goes to the union’s bargaining with the state that has produced their contract. Pamela Harris, who works at home caring for her disabled son, didn’t like those dues obligations, however, and sued to get them overturned. So, Ms. Harris had to pay $650 for her raise? Actually, no. She belongs to a different category of home-care workers, and unlike the workers who voted to join SEIU, her group voted against joining a union. She pays no dues to anybody.

More here

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April 1, 2014

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Katie McDonough: SCOTUS Gets Hobby Lobby Horribly Wrong: Why This Isn’t A “Limited” Ruling

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled Monday that Hobby Lobby can ignore federal law and deny its employees comprehensive health insurance because of its “sincerely held religious beliefs.” Analysis of the case has so far called this a limited ruling because it only applies to closely held corporations and “only” impacts contraceptive coverage. But this framing completely ignores the fact that more than 90 percent of corporations in the United States are closely held, and that the court just effectively ruled that it’s fine for employers to discriminate against half of the labor force. There’s nothing limited about it. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted in her powerful dissent, far from being narrow in its ruling, the high court just “ventured into a minefield.” The ruling sends a strong message that women’s health and women’s rights — as individuals and employees — do not matter as much as so-called religious liberty.

It also shows once again that medically inaccurate ideas about healthcare can dictate the terms of a debate and ultimately win the day. To sum it up, five male justices ruled that thousands of female employees should rightfully be subjected to the whims of their employers. That women can be denied a benefit that they already pay for and is guaranteed by federal law. That contraception is not essential healthcare. That corporations can pray. That the corporate veil can be manipulated to suit the needs of the corporation. That bosses can cynically choose à la carte what laws they want to comply with and which laws they do not. Each specific finding opens a door to a new form of discrimination and unprecedented corporate power. If you think this ruling won’t affect you, you haven’t been paying attention. If you think these corporations are going to stop at birth control, you’re kidding yourself.

More here

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President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama smile while hosting a reception to observe LGBT Pride Month at the White House

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On This Day

President Obama signs S.614, a bill to award a Congressional Gold Medal to the Women Airforce Service Pilots, in the Oval Office Wednesday, July 1, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama looks out of the Oval Office for other aides before a meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on July 1, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama boards Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, July 1, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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People line the street as President Obama’s motorcade makes its way to the State House in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, July 1, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

First Lady Michelle Obama greets Tanzanian people during an official arrival ceremony in Dar Es Salaam July 1, 2013

27
Jun
14

Rise and Shine

 On This Day: President Barack Obama looks out a cell window as he and First Lady Michelle Obama tour the Maison des Esclaves Museum on Gorée Island, Senegal, June 27, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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 Today

10:50 CT: The President delivers remarks on the economy, Lake Harriet Band Shell, Minneapolis

12:20 CT: Departs Minneapolis

3:45 ET: Arrives White House

5:0 ET: Meets with Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan D Gibson and Rob Nabors

8:45 ET: Attends the Marine Barracks Evening Parade

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“Cynicism’s popular these days, but hope’s better.”

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Jonathan Cohn: Health Care Spending Down – One More Promising Sign About Obamacare

People tell me I worry too much. Maybe they are right. Back in April, I wrote a big article warning that we might be on the verge of another surge in health care spending. To critics of the Affordable Care Act, this apparent turn to health expenditure normalcy proved that the law had done little to control costs—and that it would eventually lead to much more spending. But the worrisome reports came with a huge asterisk. They were based on preliminary estimates and a whole lot of guesswork. As economists like David Cutler and Peter Orszag pointed out, other data points were more encouraging. Among other things, the cost of the federal government’s Medicare program was still rising very slowly. That suggested the health care industry really was reinventing itself and becoming more efficient—thanks, at least in part, to incentives that Obamacare had introduced.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis issued new estimates for how the economy and its component parts performed in the first quarter of 2014. The headlines were all about the economy shrinking. But that was expected, as QED’s Danny Vinik pointed out, given some one-time factors. The real surprise was health care. The supposed surge in health care spending was nowhere to be found. On the contrary, relative to the previous quarter, health care spending actually fell by 1.4 percent. it sure doesn’t look like Obamacare is bankrupting the country, as the critics always said it would. Better still, the law really may be nudging health care in the direction of more efficiency.

More here

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Benjamin Bell: Obama Calls Boehner Lawsuit Threat A ‘Stunt’ (Videos At Link)

Despite Republican House Speaker John Boehner’s threat this week to sue President Obama over his use of executive orders, the president refused to apologize for his actions during an exclusive interview with ABC News and took the Republican Party to task for what he described as its attempt to interfere with the basic functions of government. “You notice that he didn’t specifically say what exactly he was objecting to,” the president said when asked about the suit by ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos during an interview Thursday in Minnesota.

“I’m not going to apologize for trying to do something while they’re doing nothing,” the president added later. What I’ve told Speaker Boehner directly is, ‘If you’re really concerned about me taking too many executive actions, why don’t you try getting something done through Congress?’” the president said. “You’re going to squawk if I try to fix some parts of it administratively that are within my authority while you’re not doing anything?” Obama said, directing his comments toward Republicans.

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(Weird title. Interesting article)

Chemi Shalev: America’s Bye-Bye Bash For President Peres Was Both Bittersweet And Over-The-Top

Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer hosted a gala dinner for President Shimon Peres at the Israeli Embassy on Wednesday, attended by a formidable representation of Washington’s high and mighty. He gave a witty and humorous speech in which he included his personal impressions of the meetings held earlier that day at the White House: “You could not imagine a better relationship than the one between Peres and President [Barack] Obama,” he said. And Dermer should know. He has the right perspective. He is far more familiar than most people with the far frostier relationship between Obama and Dermer’s own superior, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. And “far frostier” is probably an understatement. For Obama, Peres might be the last vestige of the kind of Israel that the American left fell in love with until the Six-Day-War, the polar opposite of Netanyahu’s present-day Israel, adored most fervently by Obama’s enemies in the conservative right-wing.

In Obama’s eyes, Peres seeks peace and pursues it, while Netanyahu pays lips service and then runs for his coalition’s life. Why couldn’t things have been the other way round, with Peres as prime minister and Bibi as President, Obama may have wondered, and Peres would probably join him. Peres’ has also been Obama’s chief defender against the waves of criticism and sometimes hostility directed at the U.S. President in Israel. “I learned from Ben Gurion that one must judge people based on their record, not their image,” Peres told Haaretz. “I think Obama is being judged unjustly, based on an image that he did not create – but was created for him. I think people ignore his record. Tell me one thing in which he hasn’t been consistent in his attitude towards Israel and the Jewish people. He’s just added a billion dollars to the military aid for our anti-missile defense. What do people want from him?”

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Mike Lillis: Democrats: No Bluff, Obama Will Go It Alone On Immigration

The Obama administration is “not bluffing” in its intent to take executive action on immigration policy if House Republicans don’t act soon, top Democratic leaders warned Thursday. President Obama has delayed any potential changes to his deportation policy to allow House GOP leaders time to bring legislation to the floor this summer. But if the Republicans don’t act in July, the Democrats say, unilateral changes by Obama are inevitable. “We’re at the end of the line,” Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said Thursday during a press briefing in the Capitol. “We’re not bluffing by setting a legislative deadline for them to act.

“Their first job is to govern,” Menendez added, “and in the absence of governing, then you see executive actions.” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) piled on. Noting that a year has passed since the Senate passed a sweeping immigration reform bill with broad bipartisan support, he urged House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to bring a similar bill to the floor. “I don’t know how much more time he thinks he needs, but I hope that Speaker Boehner will speak up today,” Durbin said. “And if he does not, the president will borrow the power that is needed to solve the problems of immigration.”

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BBC: EU signs pacts with Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova

Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova have signed partnership agreements with the European Union, in a move strongly opposed by Russia. The pact – which would bind the three countries more closely to the West both economically and politically – is at the heart of the crisis in Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin said making Ukraine choose between Russia and the EU would split it in two. A ceasefire with pro-Russian rebels in east Ukraine is due to end on Friday. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, in Brussels to sign the pact, said he would take a decision on an extension to the truce when he arrived back in Kiev later on Friday.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he would welcome an extension, but not if it were simply an ultimatum for separatists to lay down their arms. Meanwhile the United Nations refugee agency said there had been a sharp rise in the numbers of displaced people in eastern Ukraine in the past week, with 16,400 people fleeing the area. The total number internally displaced has reached 54,400, while a further 110,000 people left Ukraine for Russia this year.

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Ariane de Vogue: One Year After Top Court’s Ruling Gay Marriage Is Legal In 19 States

It’s the one year anniversary of a major Supreme Court decision on gay marriage. A lot can happen in a year. In United States v. Windsor, the justices didn’t squarely address the issue of a state ban on gay marriage. Windsor, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, invalidated part of a federal law that denied benefits to same sex couples legally married in their states. But since June 26, 2013 , federal judges have adopted Kennedy’s equal protection language to strike down bans across the country. The latest ruling came Wednesday when the 10th Circuit Court ruled that Utah’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional.

Look at the statistics: A year ago same sex couples could marry in 10 states and DC. Today, that number has ballooned to 19 states and DC. Almost 44 percent of the country lives in states where same sex marriage is legal, according to Human Rights Campaign. The Supreme Court ruling fueled a social movement of such rapid pace that even veterans of social movements were taken by surprise: Here’s what Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who as a young lawyer fought the battle against gender discrimination, said recently in an interview with the Wall Street Journal: : “I haven’t seen a social change that rapid – ever.”

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Greg Sargent: Get Ready For The Next (Fake) Obamacare Freakout

Health wonks and Dem operatives are quietly mulling the possibility of a new batch of health plan cancellations in October — just before the midterms. Dems believe a round of “cancellation” headlines could greet this development. They think headlines will be out of sync with the actual problem, perhaps dramatically so. But as the gap between last fall’s “horror stories” and subsequent hard data about Obamacare has showed, press coverage of the law tends not to err on the side of proportionality or restraint. According to Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation, the possibility of more cancellations resides in the fact that an untold number of people may have renewed policies before January 1st,

meaning they did not have to meet Obamacare’s minimum standards. Those people with current plans that don’t comply could get cancellation notices 90 days before the end of this year, i.e., in October. “So much of this debate has been driven by anecdote, which can be misleading,” Levitt says. “When there is no data available to see whether the anecdotes are generalizable, they get reported anyway. This could be another example of a relatively small number of negative anecdotes being used by opponents of the law to discredit it.”

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Greg Sargent: The GOP Is Now Officially The Party Of ‘Get The Hell Out’

Exactly one year after the Senate passed an immigration reform bill that built a compromise on an exchange of increased enforcement for legalization for the 11 million, Republicans have now officially abandoned any pretense of a willingness to participate in solving the immigration crisis. Instead, they have committed the party to a course premised on two intertwined notions: There are no apparent circumstances under which they can accept legalization of the 11 million; and as a result, the only broad response to the crisis they can countenance is maximum deportations.

This means it’s now all in Obama’s hands to decide what he can do unilaterally to ease the pace of deportations and address the current unaccompanied migrant crisis. One way to understand what happened here is to trace the evolution of GOP Rep. Bob Goodlatte, chair of the Judiciary Committee. Now fast forward to yesterday. Goodlatte effectively declared immigration reform dead as long as Obama is in office, blaming his decision to defer the deportation of DREAMers for the current crisis of unaccompanied migrants crossing. This tells the entire story. Goodlatte was an early proponent of a form of legalization for the 11 million that could have been the basis for compromise.

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On This Day

Framed through two flags, President Obama takes questions during a press conference at the G20 Summit in Toronto, Canada, Sunday, June 27, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ride an escalator on the way to their bilateral meeting during the G20 Summit in Toronto, Canada, Sunday, June 27, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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 A little boy leans over to kiss President Obama during the Congressional picnic on the South Lawn of the White House, June 27, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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 President Obama participates in a joint press conference with President Macky Sall of Senegal at the Presidential Palace in Dakar, Senegal, June 27, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

June 27, 2013: “The President and his daughter Malia talk on the bow of a ferry traveling to Goree Island, Senegal.” (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama looks out of the “door of no return” during a tour of Goree Island, June 27, 2013, in Goree Island, Senegal

 First Lady Michelle Obama looks out a window at local children during her visit to a cultural center on Gorée Island, Senegal, June 27, 2013 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

 President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet residents as they walk towards the dock on Gorée Island, Senegal, June 27, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

 President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama arrive for an official dinner at the Presidential Palace in Dakar, Senegal, June 27, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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26
Jun
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama watches the U.S. vs. Ghana World Cup Soccer game before a meeting at the G20 Summit in Toronto, Canada, Saturday, June 26, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today

10:50 EDT: The President departs the White House

12:25 CT: Arrives Minneapolis

2:15 CT: Hosts a town hall meeting, Minnehaha Park, Minneapolis

7:30 CT: Delivers remarks and answers questions at a fundraiser for congressional Democrats, private residence, Minneapolis

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The Week Ahead

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Needs Your Help —> OFA

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ThinkProgress: Boehner Will Sue Obama For Stuff He Thought Was Totally Fine Under George W. Bush

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) confirmed Wednesday that he will file a federal lawsuit challenging the executive actions of President Barack Obama, despite supporting President George W. Bush’s extensive use of executive authority. … President Obama has issued about 180 executive orders — a power that has been utilized by every president since George Washington except for the brief-tenured William Henry Harrison …. But Boehner embraced the power of a Republican president to take action, even at times when he would circumvent Congress by doing so… … As of February, Obama had issued fewer executive orders than all but one of the other presidents since World War II.

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Steve Benen: Boehner Readies Frivolous Anti-Obama Lawsuit

I can think of some dangerous moves Boehner has made since becoming Speaker, including threatening to trash the full faith and credit of the United States on purpose. I can also think of some reckless moves he’s made, including shutting down the government. I can even think of some irresponsible moves from the Speaker, including refusing to compromise on pretty much any area of public policy. But I can’t think of anything quite as dumb from the last several years as this lawsuit.

Indeed, the Speaker himself couldn’t actually identify by name anything the president has done that warrants a legal challenge. Boehner is outraged by Obama’s use of executive power. And what, pray tell, has offended the Speaker? He didn’t say. I’m sure he’ll think of something to justify his lawsuit eventually, right? … It’s an embarrassment to the institution and the nation, but at this point, that simply means more of the same.

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BBC: Iraqi PM Welcomes Syria Air Strike On Border Crossing

Prime Minister Nouri Maliki of Iraq has told the BBC he supports an air strike on Islamist militants at a border crossing between Iraq and Syria. Military and rebel sources say the strike took place inside Iraq, at the Qaim crossing, although Mr Maliki said it was carried out on the Syrian side. Isis and its Sunni Muslim allies seized large parts of Iraq this month. The government has struggled to hold back the militants’ advance from the north and west. It has also been receiving support from Iran, with whom its Shia Muslim leaders have close links. The Syrian air strikes show how the conflicts in Syria and Iraq are merging together, with Isis as a common factor. Once-rival fighters on the Syrian side of the border at Qaim have now pledged allegiance to Isis, giving it control of both sides.

If US drones are not yet involved, they soon could be, illustrating how the threat posed by Isis is creating a convergence of interests between players who so far have been adversaries. That goes for Iran, too, which is deeply concerned about the sudden upheavals in Iraq. It has reinforced its positions along its own western border, where guards have been killed in an attack. There are reports that Iran has been heavily shelling border areas in the Kurdish mountains, where an Iranian Kurdish opposition group called Pejak has bases. The US, which also backs the government, has stressed that the militants can only be defeated by Iraq’s own forces. Mr Maliki is seeking to form a new government but has rejected calls to create an emergency coalition which would include all religious and ethnic groups.

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@petesouza: Pres Obama, VP Biden, & Speaker Boehner walk along WH Colonnade to event in East Room for President’s Cup golf teams

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Charles Pierce: John Boehner And His Frivolous Lawsuit

Let us compare what Boehner says the president has done — which, by the way, he has done less than almost all of his immediate predecessors — and then let’s compare everything his House hasn’t done because it doesn’t like the president, his party, his politics, or (sadly) his race. Let us determine who is “faithfully executing” the jobs for which they all get paid.

Hell, let us determine who’s actually interested in governing the country, or is counsel for the plaintiff going to argue that, if the country elects a obstructionist Congress, and that Congress holds together, then the country need not necessarily be governed by anyone at all? That would be an interesting point to be litigated – if, again, this were a serious legal action, and not the latest and most elaborate clown show staged by a threadbare political circus.

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NYT: Ikea To Increase Minimum Hourly Pay

Ikea plans to adopt a wage structure that it says will raise the average hourly minimum wage at its 38 stores in the United States to $10.76 an hour — a 17 percent increase. Ikea, which will be announcing its new wage policy on Thursday, said it would not impose an across-the-board minimum wage for its stores, but would instead set a minimum for each store based on the cost of living in that particular area. For example, the minimum wage will run from a low of $8.69 an hour at its stores in Pittsburgh and West Chester, Ohio, to $13.22 an hour at its store in Woodbridge, Va.

Ikea said that its new average minimum wage, $10.76 an hour, was $3.51 above the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. The retailer’s decision was made as many low-wage workers and labor unions are pushing for an increase in the federal minimum wage and after Gap Inc. informed its employees in February that it would set $9 as the minimum hourly rate for its United States work force this year and then establish a minimum of $10 next year.

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The People’s View: Please Proceed, Mr. Speaker: Why John Boehner’s Hissy Fit Over Obama’s Executive Actions Will Backfire

John Boehner has decided to formalize his hissy fit in the form of a lawsuit against the President for acting on behalf of the American people by the means of administrative and executive authority, given the GOP’s absolute resolve to allow Congress to do nothing. I could walk you through the mind-numbingly boring and utterly clueless memo Boehner wrote to the House, but the gist of it is this: We, the GOP House will not do any work, and we will not let anyone else do any either.

The lawsuit, needless to say, is wholly without merit. So much so that Boehner’s own memo did not name a single executive action he believes violates or ovesteps the president’s Constitutional authority. Of course, sources say he will tell them later. I suppose the irony of asking his chamber to approve unchecked authority for him to pick and choose whatever he wants to sue the president Obama while complaining that Obama has acted in a “king-like” fashion is completely lost on the Speaker.

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The Nation: The Media’s Disappearing Of Syria’s Chemical Weapons Program And Why It Matters

In Syria, the Obama administration just achieved an unprecedented foreign policy success in WMD nonproliferation, but you likely didn’t hear about it. Nine months after entering into joint negotiation with the Russians and Syria’s tyrannical President Bashar al-Assad, the last of that country’s 1,300 tons of declared chemical weapons began a journey to a chemical weapons-eating ship in the Mediterranean for destruction by the US.

The mission to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons programme has been a major undertaking marked by an extraordinary international cooperation. Never before has an entire arsenal of a category of weapons of mass destruction been removed from a country experiencing a state of internal armed conflict. And this has been accomplished within very demanding and tight timeframes. This successful dismantling of Syria’s chemical weapons program by the US has been matched by an almost as successful disappearing of the news of it by the Beltway media, however.

More here

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Adam Chandler: Army Clears Bergdahl Of Any Misconduct During Captivity

As the Army continues to investigate whether Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is guilty of deserting his unit, this afternoon they said there is no reason to believe that Bergdahl engaged in any misconduct during his five years in captivity. In fact, that’s all that the Army said: We have no reason to believe that he engaged in any misconduct.”

Bergdahl electrified the national discourse last month after he was freed in a prisoner swap involving five members of the Taliban held at Guantanamo Bay. As charges against his character emerged, the narrative quickly shifted from Bergdahl as POW to Bergdahl as despicable deserter, unworthy bargaining chip, unwitting endangerer of America, and worse.

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The People’s View: The Message from Mississippi: Democrats are Not Sitting it Out This Year

Last night  marked the second high-stakes GOP primary where Democrats have screwed up the pollsters’ math. In Virginia’s 7th district, where knocking off an entrenched Republican incumbent in the primary would actually give the Democrat in the race a shot against a nutjob Teabagger, they knocked off Eric Cantor. Now in Mississippi, where a Democrat has a smaller chance of winning the Senate seat than a hailstorm in hell, Democrats – black Democrats – mowed down the Tea Party scourge like it’s nobody’s business.

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TPM: First U.S. Appeals Court Finds A Right To Same-Sex Marriage

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that Utah’s ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional, becoming the first appellate court in the country to find a constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry.

“We hold that the Fourteenth Amendment protects the fundamental right to marry, establish a family, raise children, and enjoy the full protection of a state’s marital laws,” Judge Carlos F. Lucero wrote in the decision for a three-judge panel. “A state may not deny the issuance of a marriage license to two persons, or refuse to recognize their marriage, based solely upon the sex of the persons in the marriage union.”

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Pew: After Decades Of Gop Support, Cubans Shifting Toward The Democratic Party

Cubans in the U.S. have long identified with or leaned toward the Republican Party, even as Hispanics overall have tilted Democrat. But the party affiliation of Cubans has undergone a shift over the past decade, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of survey data.

Less than half (47%) of Cuban registered voters nationwide now say they identify with or lean toward the Republican Party—down from the 64% who said the same about the GOP a decade ago, according to 2013 survey data. Meanwhile, the share of Cubans who identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party has doubled from 22% to 44% over the same time period, according to the survey of Hispanics.

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Washington Post: Brown, Hogan Win Gubernatorial Nominations; Democrat Frosh wins attorney general contest

Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown cruised past his two rivals in Maryland’s bitter Democratic gubernatorial primary on Tuesday, setting up a November contest with GOP nominee Larry Hogan, a Cabinet secretary under the state’s last Republican chief executive. Brown would be Maryland’s first African American governor and only the third elected in the nation….

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Jonathan Capehart: Speaker Boehner’s Obama Impeachment Dress Rehearsal

After going out on a not-so-wobbly limb to suggest that Republicans would push to impeach President Obama if they succeeded in retaking the Senate, George Will’s Sunday column read like a real threat. Fed up with what he views as Obama’s “offenses against the separation of powers,” the conservative columnist advocated that Congress sue the executive branch to stop a lawless president. Yesterday, Speaker John Boehner told the House Republican caucus that he was contemplating such a step.

The plan all along has been to crash the Obama agenda and then climb on top of the wreckage and seize power. Not only are Republicans complicit in the “failures” they rail against, but they are also the reason the president has had to resort to executive action to get some things done. Even Will agrees Obama is within his authority to do this. He just doesn’t like the degree to which he has done it. Poor dear.

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On This Day

 President Obama jokingly reacts to news that staffer Nora Becker will be leaving to pursue a joint MD and PhD in healthcare economics, during the White House staff picnic on the South Lawn, June 26, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

 President Obama holds a football while taking a phone call in the Oval Office, June 26, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama tosses a football with Trip Director Marvin Nicholson in the outer Oval Office on June 26, 2009. Personal Secretary Katie Johnson watches from her desk (Photo by Pete Souza)

 President Obama stands in the Oval Office with a Hawaiian paddle that was given to him as a gift by chef Allen Wong, who catered the 2009 Presidential Luau, June 26, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

 President Obama greets Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany at the front door of the Oval Office, June 26, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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 President Obama greets South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak during their bilateral meeting at the G20 Summit in Toronto, Canada, Saturday, June 26, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron prepare to board Marine One at the Deerhurst Resort landing zone in Muskoka, Canada, following the conclusion of the G8 Summit, June 26, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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First Lady Michelle Obama exits Bright Star upon her arrival at Joint Base Andrews, Md., June 26, 2012 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

VP Biden in Independence, June 26, 2012

VP Biden in Waterloo, June 26, 2012

President Obama at the Varsity, a restaurant in Atlanta, Ga., June 26, 2012

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08
Jun
14

Love Is Love

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White House: Presidential Proclamation — Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, And Transgender Pride Month, 2014

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LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, AND TRANSGENDER PRIDE MONTH, 2014

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BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

As progress spreads from State to State, as justice is delivered in the courtroom, and as more of our fellow Americans are treated with dignity and respect — our Nation becomes not only more accepting, but more equal as well. During Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month, we celebrate victories that have affirmed freedom and fairness, and we recommit ourselves to completing the work that remains.

Last year, supporters of equality celebrated the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act, a ruling which, at long last, gave loving, committed families the respect and legal protections they deserve. In keeping with this decision, my Administration is extending family and spousal benefits — from immigration benefits to military family benefits — to legally married same-sex couples.

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My Administration proudly stands alongside all those who fight for LGBT rights. Here at home, we have strengthened laws against violence toward LGBT Americans, taken action to prevent bullying and harassment, and prohibited discrimination in housing and hospitals. Despite this progress, LGBT workers in too many States can be fired just because of their sexual orientation or gender identity; I continue to call on the Congress to correct this injustice by passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. And in the years ahead, we will remain dedicated to addressing health disparities within the LGBT community by implementing the Affordable Care Act and the National HIV/AIDS Strategy — which focuses on improving care while decreasing HIV transmission rates among communities most at risk.

Our commitment to advancing equality for the LGBT community extends far beyond our borders. In many places around the globe, LGBT people face persecution, arrest, or even state-sponsored execution. This is unacceptable. The United States calls on every nation to join us in defending the universal human rights of our LGBT brothers and sisters.

This month, as we mark 45 years since the patrons of the Stonewall Inn defied an unjust policy and awakened a nascent movement, let us honor every brave leader who stood up, sat in, and came out, as well as the allies who supported them along the way. Following their example, let each of us speak for tolerance, justice, and dignity — because if hearts and minds continue to change over time, laws will too.

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NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2014 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. I call upon the people of the United States to eliminate prejudice everywhere it exists, and to celebrate the great diversity of the American people.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand fourteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.

BARACK OBAMA

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06
Jun
14

A Tweet Or Two

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Continue reading ‘A Tweet Or Two’

21
May
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama greets graduating Joplin High School seniors before their commencement ceremony at Missouri Southern State University’s Leggett & Platt Athletic Center in Joplin, Mo., May 21, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

10:45: President Obama makes a statement in the briefing room after a meeting with Sec. Eric Shinseki

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11:35: The President participates in an ambassador credentialing ceremony

12:45: Jay Carney briefs the press

2:10: The President honors the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, East Room

4:10: The President delivers remarks on the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument Designation, Department of Interior

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Washington Post: Obama: ‘In Five Years It Will No Longer Be Called Obamacare.’

Just about everyone calls the Affordable Care Act “Obamacare” — even the White House. But is President Obama returning to his old stance that the health-care law should not have his name attached to it?

At a fundraiser in Potomac, Md., Monday night, Obama backed off the term that his administration shunned, and then embraced.

“First of all, in five years it will no longer be called Obamacare, because when something is working, they’re definitely not going to — there will be a whole renaming process similar to National. (Laughter.) I don’t know if it will be “Reagancare,” but it will definitely be — it will be something different,” Obama told the crowd.

(For those of you outside the Washington area, Obama was referring to Washington National Airport, which was renamed Reagan National Airport in 1998).

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NYT: Memo Approving Targeted Killing Of U.S. Citizen To Be Released

Facing the potential defeat of an appeals court nominee, the Obama administration decided Tuesday to publicly release much of a classified memo written by the nominee that signed off on the targeted killing an American accused of being a terrorist. The solicitor general, Donald B. Verrilli Jr., made the call to release the secret memo — and not appeal a court order requiring its disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act — and informed Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. of his decision this week, according to two administration officials. The White House was informed Tuesday. But the memo will not be released right away because officials said they needed time to redact it and to prepare an appeal asking the court not to reveal classified sections of a federal appeals court ruling last month requiring that most of the memo be made public. The memo was written by David J. Barron, a Harvard Law professor and former acting chief of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, who is Mr. Obama’s choice to fill a vacancy on the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston.

As a Justice Department lawyer, Mr. Barron wrote two memos concluding that it would be lawful to kill Anwar al-Awlaki, a United States citizen living in Yemen, based on intelligence agencies’ conclusion that he was a senior operational terrorist plotting attacks against the United States and that his capture was not feasible. The lawsuit focused on the second and longer of those memos. Mr. Awlaki was killed by an American drone strike in September 2011. Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, had promised to slow down Mr. Barron’s confirmation if the administration did not allow senators to view all of Mr. Barron’s memos or release redacted versions to the public. Libertarian-leaning senators in both parties had expressed reservations about the nomination, and some conservatives also argued that he was too liberal on other issues. A spokesman for Mr. Paul said the senator would still take the Senate floor on Wednesday for a filibuster-style protest of Mr. Barron’s nomination. Last year, Mr. Paul used the nomination of John O. Brennan to lead the Central Intelligence Agency to stage a nearly 13-hour filibuster.

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Philly.com: U.S. Judge Strikes Down Same-Sex Marriage Ban In Pa.

A federal judge on Tuesday struck down Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriages, a landmark ruling that appeared to clear the way for the Commonwealth to become the latest state to legalize gay marriage. The decision by U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III marked the first and most significant to date in a series of court challenges to the state’s 1996 ban. “We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them onto the ash heap of history,” Jones wrote in the 39-page opinion. “By virtue of this, ruling, same-sex couples who seek to marry in Pennsylvania may do so, and already married same-sex couples will be recognized as such in the Commonwealth.”

“What a great day!” said Mark Aronchick, one of the plantiffs lawyers in the case. “The court, in a bell-ringing opinion, has explained in crystal clear language why the promises of our Constitution extend to all Pennsylvanians. We urge the commonwealth to take whatever steps are necessary to allow marriages to proceed and the celebrations to begin immediately.” In Philadelphia, Register of Wills Ron Donatucci’s office immediately began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Guy Sabelli, the city’s marriage license supervisor, said 12 female couples and 6 male couples had obtained licenses by the time the office closed at 5:30 p.m. The office reopens at 8 a.m. Wednesday with extended hours until 7 p.m.

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TPM: WTF?

I’m not sure why this isn’t a bigger deal. I hadn’t heard about it other than in this brief passage tucked away in a Politico article about the House GOP agriculture bill. But it takes a small program intended provide meals to children in the school lunch program during the summer months and says it can now only be used to benefit kids in “rural areas”.

In other words, “urban” kids are now out of luck.

Here’s the passage in question ..

And in a surprising twist, the bill language specifies that only rural areas are to benefit in the future from funding requested by the administration this year to continue a modest summer demonstration program to help children from low-income households — both urban and rural — during those months when school meals are not available.

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ThinkProgress: President Obama Is Set To Create His Largest National Monument So Far

On Wednesday, President Obama will create his second national monument of the year, designating the Organ Mountains in New Mexico a protected area. The Organ Mountains, located at the southern end of New Mexico, will be the 11th and largest national monument of Obama’s presidency. The White House says that the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument will create $7.4 million in new annual economic activity in the region, a finding that first appeared in a 2013 report.

That report also found the monument would double the number of outdoor recreation and tourism jobs in the region and contribute $560,000 in state and local tax revenue. The monument encompasses a total of 496,000 acres, land which contains Native American petroglyphs in its canyons and is one of the most botanically diverse mountain ranges in New Mexico, home to about 870 vascular (i.e. plants with roots, stems, and leaves) plant species and a recorded 210 species of birds.

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Brentin Mock: EPA Takes On Three Villains At Once: Pollution, Climate Change, And Racism

You may have read something recently about the air being racist, which is of course ridiculous. It is true that if you are white in America you will tend to breathe air of a more premium quality. A recent study from the University of Minnesota found that black and brown Americans are more often trapped in neighborhoods laden with nitrogen dioxide than their white fellow Americans. This is not news to us. Our abnormally high asthma and cancer rates testify to this. President Obama’s first Environmental Protection Agency chief, Lisa Jackson, promoted environmental justice to top priority status in the agency’s overall mission in 2009. The resulting strategy, which the EPA began rolling out in March, is called Plan EJ 2014, and its primary goal is to end the culture of entitlement among polluters that dump toxic byproducts into the air, soil, and water of marginalized communities. Why is this a big deal?

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Because if you believe that the health and lives of people of color are no less precious than white people’s, this plan helps bring environmental laws in harmony with those values. If you think that clean air is Don Sterling (I like black people. I feed them with oxygen and give them wind. I just don’t want them breathing me.), then you want to know who the Adam Silver is who can commission a smack down. Because civil rights protections in America have been taking a beating lately. Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court, we now have weakened voting rights protections, weakened affirmative action policies, and we were this close to losing valuable housing discrimination protections (which would have had negative implications for environmentalists).
While civil rights have been getting pushed backwards, environmental justice is been slowly rolling along progressively. That’s no small feat, especially for an agenda that was attacked almost immediately upon Obama claiming the White House in 2009.

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ABC News: Biden: Punish Russia If It Meddles In Ukraine

Russia must be punished if it seeks to derail Ukraine’s presidential election this weekend, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday. Speaking during a tour of Eastern European nations, Biden urged European allies to use their influence and “promote a stable and positive environment” so Ukrainians can vote unhindered on Sunday. “If Russia undermines these elections … we must remain resolute and impose greater costs to Russia and (be) equally resolute to invest in the NATO alliance,” Biden said after talks with Romanian President Traian Basescu. The U.S. and the EU have imposed travel bans and asset freezes on President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle over Russia’s annexation of Crimea and have threatened to target entire sectors of the Russian economy if Russia tries to grab more land from Ukraine.

Biden urged Romania to develop its natural gas resources, which analysts say could be exported it to other countries in the region, including neighboring Moldova, which is 100 percent dependent on Russian gas. Romania imports about one-fifth of its natural gas from Russia and has its own supplies in the northwest Transylvania region. “We need to ensure that Russia can no longer use its energy resources as a weapon against anyone in the region,” Biden said. “The development of a secure, diverse and inter-connected energy market is the next great step for our European colleagues.”

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ThinkProgress: Chipotle Asks Customers To Keep Guns Away From Its Stores

On Monday, Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. formally requested that customers refrain from bringing guns into its restaurants. The announcement came after gun rights advocates entered a Texas restaurant with “military-style assault rifles.”

Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America distributed a petition calling for firearms bans in stores like Chipotle after “open-carry gun activists” entered a Chipotle in Dallas.

According to Chipotle, “the display of firearms in our restaurants has now created an environment that is potentially intimidating or uncomfortable for many of our customers.” It remains unclear whether or not the chain is implementing a complete ban on all firearms, but the official statement also claims that the company has previously adhered to local gun rights laws.

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Caroline F. Pearson: Avalere Analysis: Exchange Enrollment Outpaces Expectations In 22 States

A new analysis from Avalere Health finds that exchange enrollment meets or exceeds expectations in 22 states (44%), even after accounting for any attrition due to nonpayment of premiums. Assuming 15 percent of enrollees do not take the final enrollment step and pay their premiums, over 6.8 million people who enrolled through April 19 will have coverage effective as of May 1.

“The large uptick in enrollment in March and early April brought many states over the finish line in terms of projected enrollment for 2014,” said Caroline Pearson, Vice President at Avalere. “Even after accounting for potential non-payment, enrollment exceeds 100 percent of projections in nearly half of states.”

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The White House Turnaround Arts Talent Show: The Full Show:

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Paul Pillar: The President Strikes A Nerve

President Obama has gotten much attention from a single extended response he gave to a question about his foreign policy from Ed Henry of Fox News in a press conference in Manila. The apparently strongly felt need, on the part of some of the president’s hardline critics, to strike back at his remarks and to try to discredit them indicates that he spoke some embarrassing truths. Garden-variety disagreement with the substance of the president’s policies and what he has said to support them would never have stimulated this kind of response. The president made several perceptive observations about the less productive aspects of current discourse in Washington about Ukraine, Syria, and other difficult issues, but if there was a single “ouch” line that made the critics most uncomfortable it may have been Mr. Obama’s comment that “for some reason many who were proponents of what I consider to be a disastrous decision to go into Iraq haven’t really learned the lesson of the last decade, and they keep on just playing the same note over and over again.”

It must be painful for Mr. Obama’s opponents to be reminded how right he was about this issue while so many others—Democrats as well as Republicans—were wrong. If subsequent commentary by the critics were to be believed, the main takeaway from the president’s remarks was that he was accusing his political opponents of being warmongers. But the president explicitly acknowledged, in referring to debates over Syria and Ukraine, that the opponents he has in mind have disavowed wanting to send U.S. troops into such conflicts. Mr. Obama’s main point was instead that after making such disavowals, the critics either (1) fail to spell out what other action they have in mind, beyond what the administration already is doing; or (2) to the extent they do mention an alternative, fail to assess carefully the likely consequences both good and bad, and instead just make unsupported assertions that acting more boldly or aggressively will somehow help to solve the problem at hand.

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WPRI: 91% In RI Pay First Premiums For Obamacare Plans

The vast majority of individuals who signed up for private insurance plans through Rhode Island’s new Obamacare marketplace finished the process by paying their first premiums, the agency’s leader confirmed Friday. Christine Ferguson, executive director of HealthSource RI, said 91% of the 27,968 individuals who signed up for private plans during the open enrollment period from Oct. 1 to March 31 paid their first premiums by the April 23 deadline. Analysts have pointed to that percentage as a key test of whether the enrollment figures were as strong as they looked. A total of 25,879 individuals had signed up for a private plan through HealthSource RI and paid their first premiums as of April 30, the agency said. In addition, more than 70,000 people have now used the marketplace to sign up for Medicaid, the government insurance plan for low-income Americans, far more than were expected to do so.

Ferguson also confirmed that HealthSource RI is “in very serious discussions” with executives at UnitedHealth Group Inc. to have United start selling plans for individuals on the Rhode Island marketplace this fall. “I will say that there’s a very good chance that United will,” she said. Executives at United, the nation’s largest health insurer, have signaled in recent weeks that they plan to start selling Obamacare plans in more states during the next open enrollment period this fall. While United is already selling plans to small businesses through HealthSource RI, the marketplace currently has only Blue Cross & Blue Shield and Neighborhood Health Plan offering individual plans.

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Amy Lynn Smith: Obamacare Success Stories Keep Coming, With A Rosy Forecast For 2015

So much good news, it’s hard to know where to begin. In Michigan, 272,539 people signed up for coverage through Healthcare.gov, in addition to thousands more who have enrolled in the Healthy Michigan Plan, the state’s Medicaid expansion program that launched April 1. Numbers don’t lie, but even more compelling are the stories of people like Karen Marshall of Oak Park, Mich. Until about four years ago, she’d always had health insurance through work. But when she lost her job, she couldn’t get even the most expensive private insurance because the insurance company claimed she had a pre-existing condition.

Marshall has always considered herself fortunate to be healthy, but she never felt luckier than she did after getting health insurance that kicked in on January 1, 2014. On a trip the week before, she slipped on the ice and fell, breaking her wrist in three places. She saw an orthopedic surgeon on January 3 and had surgery the following week. Everything was covered by her insurance, leaving her only having to pay her deductible and her $6,000 out-of-pocket maximum for the year. She’s now had two surgeries, one hospitalization, and has physical therapy and follow-up visits ahead.

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On This Day

Sen. Barack Obama greets supporters during a campaign rally at the St. Pete Times Forum, May 21, 2008 in Tampa, Florida

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President Obama and the Pittsburgh Steelers pack care packages for distribution by the USO during an event on the South Lawn of the White House May 21, 2009 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

President Obama meets with Judge Sonia Sotomayor in the Oval Office on May 21, 2009. The President nominated Judge Sotomayer to the U.S. Supreme Court on May 26, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs (left) and Senior Advisor David Axelrod review President Obama’s address on national security outside the Oval Office on May 21, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama delivers an address on national security at the National Archives May 21, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama prepares to take a group photo with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the East Room of the White House, May 21, 2009 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

President Obama meets with Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete in the Oval Office Thursday, May 21, 2009. This was the President’s first meeting with an African Head of State. A bust of Martin Luther King is at far left (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama chats with journalists in a dining room located in the in the White House Navy Mess, May 21, 2009. (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama’s personal secretary, Katie Johnson, tries on a Pittsburgh Steelers football helmet outside the Oval Office, May 21, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama is reflected in a mirror during a impromptu drop-by visit with speechwriters in David Axelrod’s office in the West Wing of the White House on May 21, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama surprises members of the Office of the Staff Secretary in the West Wing of the White House during an impromptu drop-by visit on May 21, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama shares a laugh with Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., left, Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., right, and others during a meeting in the Oval Office, May 21, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama disembarks Air Force One upon his arrival at Joplin Regional Airport in Joplin, Mo., May 21, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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@PeteSouza: ‘POTUS receives update this am on Oklahoma tornado aftermath from Sec Napolitano et al’ May 21, 2013

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