Posts Tagged ‘marriage

27
Sep
14

President Obama And George Clooney: Men Of Character

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Donna

Good Morning TOD

Chips/NW in honor of Mr. Clooney’s wedding today (sigh) I think a thread honoring this beautiful, handsome, charming, intelligent, big time President Obama supporter would be appropriate….

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As you wish, Donna. :)

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NY Mag

George Clooney has never been shy about sharing his thoughts on politics and current events. So yesterday, when we ran into him at a Peggy Siegal lunch for his new space flick Gravity, we asked the liberal-leaning actor for his thoughts about the ongoing government shutdown. He had many — on John Boehner’s grand strategy, on the “idiots” who think we don’t need government, and on Ted Cruz’s reading of Green Eggs and Ham. “People keep talking about how this has to be a great negotiation, but there isn’t any negotiating a law.

We negotiate on all these other topics, but this was put into law, and [Obama] was reelected on it. It was reaffirmed, it was passed through the Supreme Court — it’s a law. You don’t like it? Win an election. That’s how it works. That’s how the country works. But you don’t get to shut down the government because of it. That’s not how it works.” “Shutting down the government is not how you make government work. And anybody who thinks we don’t need it is an idiot.”

More here

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May 11, 2012 – Pete Souza: “After some early morning basketball in Los Angeles, the President talks with the players who included actors Don Cheadle, Tobey Maguire, and George Clooney, along with two of Clooney’s long-time friends. Stacy Keibler is also at right.”

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Vanity Fair

What happens in Vegas . . . doesn’t stay in Vegas when you are George Clooney and get in an argument with a hotel tycoon over President Obama. “There were 9 people at that table. . .So you can ask them. . .Steve likes to go on rants. . .HE called the president an asshole. . . that is a fact. . .I said the President was my longtime friend and then he said ‘your friend is an asshole.’ . . .At that point I told Steve that HE was an asshole and I wasn’t going to sit at his table while he was being such a jackass. And I walked out. There were obviously quite a few more adjectives and adverbs used by both of us. Those are all the facts. It had nothing to do with politics and everything to do with character.”

More here

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Vanity Fair

Steve Wynn and I have met three times, two times for dinner. That is the extent of our knowledge of one another, so I will refrain from trying to categorize him based on the little time we’ve spent together, but I will not let his version of the truth go unchallenged. He now says he didn’t call the president an ‘a——.’ That is false. He bellowed ‘I voted for the a——,’ and then called him the same thing several more times as the dinner came to an abrupt end. Again there were eight people at the table, eight witnesses. I did in turn, call him the same body part, and walked out. Again he can make up whatever story he wants, but these are the facts. He said I drank 16 shots of tequila. I didn’t drink one shot of tequila, not one. We were drinking but it was early and we still had two events to attend.

He said I live in a bubble. More of a bubble than Las Vegas? Honestly? He says I’m ‘molly coddled,’ that I’m surrounded by people who coddle me. I would suggest that Mr. Wynn look to his left and right and find anyone in his sphere that says anything but ‘yes’ to him. Emphatically. I did not attend a private boys’ school, I worked in tobacco fields and in stock rooms, and construction sites. I’ve been broke more of my life than I have been successful, and I understand the meaning of being an employee and how difficult it is to make ends meet. Steve is one of the richest men in the world and he should be congratulated for it, but he needs to take off his red sparkly dinner jacket and roll up his sleeves every once in a while and understand what most of the country is actually dealing with … or at least start with the fact that you can’t make up stories when eight people who are not on your payroll are sitting around you as witnesses.

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Washington Post

Walking through Clooney’s house, Obama glimpsed at the “HOPE” poster from the 2008 campaign by Shepard Fairey and told donors: “People don’t realize that the photograph of me is actually me sitting next to George” at an event when Clooney was advocating on behalf of Darfur. “We struck up a friendship,” Obama said, and then joked, to much laughter: “This is the first time that George Clooney has actually been photo-shopped out of a picture. Never happened before, will never happen again.” Obama said Fairey did a poster for Clooney with both men on the same picture. “Why he said at the bottom ‘Dope and Hope,’ I don’t know.” More laughter. “We raised a lot of money because everybody loves George.

They like me, they love him. And rightfully so. Not only is he an unbelievable actor, but he is one of those rare individuals who is at ease with everybody. He seems to occupy a constant state of grace, and uses his extraordinary talents on behalf of something truly important.” Clooney listened intently to the president throughout, his hands folded as if in prayer and his chin resting on them. And I want to thank Clooney for letting us use his basketball court. This man has been talking smack about his basketball game ever since I’ve known him.”

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At the National Press Club for ‘SAVE DARFUR: Rally to Stop Genocide’, 2006

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Interesting interview. He talks about President Obama at 35:42.

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President Barack Obama jokes with cast members of the movie “The Monuments Men” in the Diplomatic Reception Room, prior to a movie screening in the Family Theater of the White House, Feb. 18, 2014. Standing from left are: Matt Damon and his wife Luciana Damon, Grant Heslov, and George Clooney (Photo by Pete Souza)

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.

More here

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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.”

More here

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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.

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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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