Posts Tagged ‘medicaid

23
Apr
14

Rise and Shine

President Obama views the scene of the mudslide in Oso, Wash., from Marine One, April 22 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today

Japan Standard Time is 13 hours ahead of US Eastern, so while we’re up and about, the President will, presumably, be sleeping.

Will post his Thursday schedule asap.

First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr Jill Biden will speak today to soldiers at Fort Campbell, Ky. – need to get a time for the event.

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Crowds wait for the arrival of President Obama at Ginza shopping district in Tokyo

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BBC: Obama pledges Japan islands support as Asian tour begins

US President Barack Obama has assured Japan that islands at the centre of its territorial dispute with China are covered by a bilateral defence treaty.

In an interview ahead of his Asian tour, Mr Obama said the US would oppose any attempt to undermine Japan’s control over the islands.

US officials have made such comments in the past, but this is the first time Mr Obama has given such explicit support.

He arrived in Japan on Wednesday ahead of stops in three other Asian nations.

…. Mr Obama is not going to Beijing, but relations with China are expected to dominate his meetings with regional leaders.

More here

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President Obama is welcomed to Sukiyabashi Jiro restaurant by Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe before dinner in Tokyo

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Steve Benen: Supreme Court upholds Michigan’s affirmative action ban

The ruling on affirmative action in Michigan did not come as too great a surprise, but it’s nevertheless one of the year’s big cases at the U.S. Supreme Court.

…. The ruling will be especially relevant in states that have chosen to ban affirmative action – the policies have been curtailed in Arizona, California, Florida, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, and the state of Washington – while also signaling to other states that they can now do the same without fear of judicial intervention.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a stinging dissent.

The entirety of the ruling is online here (pdf), but this excerpt helps capture the extent to which she disagreed with the majority.

….. “Today’s decision eviscerates an important strand of our equal protection jurisprudence. For members of historically marginalized groups, which rely on the federal courts to protect their constitutional rights, the decision can hardly bolster hope for a vision of democracy that preserves for all the right to participate meaningfully and equally in self-government.”

Full post here

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Charles Pierce: The Wonderful World Where Justices Dwell

The Day of Jubilee, declared by Chief Justice John Roberts in his decision gutting the Voting Rights Act, and celebrated in another venue with the McCutcheon decision, in which we learned that the only real form of political corruption is a direct quid pro quo, and that influence peddled is not influence at all, goes on and on at the Supreme Court, where today yet another decision was handed down that was not About Race, because nothing is ever About Race.

…. The decision was written by Anthony Kennedy, who lives in that wonderful world where the law is a pure crystal stream running through green meadows, unsullied by the grit and silt that piles up in the actual lives of actual human beings. It must be a wonderful world in which Anthony Kennedy lives.

…. This is pure majoritarianism – grotesquely so, if you consider the ongoing shenanigans at the state level regarding ballot access and voter suppression. There will be a real impact on real people – just as there will be with the gutting of the Voting Rights Act and with the cascade of money that this Court has unleashed on the political system….

From the bench, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who grew up in the real world and apparently still lives there, was having none of Kennedy’s rainbows and unicorns.

Full post here

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Steve Benen: Dems Doing The Unexpected: Embracing The ACA

At a press conference last week, a reporter asked President Obama whether “it’s time for Democrats to start campaigning loudly and positively on the benefits” of the Affordable Care Act. The president suggested the larger political discussion should start to include other issues, but he nevertheless gave Dems some direction. “I think that Democrats should forcefully defend and be proud” of the Americans benefiting from the ACA, he said, “I don’t think we should apologize for it, and I don’t think we should be defensive about it. I think there is a strong, good, right story to tell.” And with increasing frequency, Democrats have become eager to tell this strong, good, right story.

In Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial race, Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D) launched this new spot today. We talked two weeks ago, for example, about a very impressive independent-expenditure ad in Alaska, touting Sen. Mark Begich’s (D) support for the health care reform law. In Louisiana, meanwhile, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) is touting the importance of Medicaid expansion and pushing to allow voters to decide its fate in November. And in states like Michigan, North Carolina, and Arkansas, groups aligned with Democrats are airing pretty hard-hitting ads criticizing Republicans who don’t support health care reform.

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Times Record: Arkansas DHS: 155,000 Applications Approved For Private Option

More than 155,000 Arkansas have applied and been found eligible for the so-called private option, or about 70 percent of the 225,000 Arkansans estimated to qualify for the program, the state Department of Human Services said Monday. The agency also estimated that 82 percent of those Arkansans had incomes too low to qualify for federal subsidies to buy insurance through the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace. The subsidies are available to families with incomes between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level. “We now know that an overwhelming majority of Arkansans in the program would have likely gone without health insurance had the Legislature not passed the private option,”

DHS Director John Selig stated in a news release. “Clearly there was a real need in a lot of these families.” The private option, signed into law last April, allows the state to use federal Medicaid money to pay the private health insurance premiums for people earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $16,105 for a household of one. Statewide, 61 percent of Arkansans in the program are women and 64 percent are ages 19-44, a somewhat younger population than those getting coverage through the federal insurance marketplaces, said Arkansas Medicaid Director Andy Allison.

More here

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Maggie Fox: Most Support Birth Control Mandate, Survey Shows

Most Americans — 69 percent — support the requirement that health insurance plans pay for birth control, a new survey shows. The 2010 Affordable Care Act requires health insurers to pay for contraception as part of 10 essential benefits, including vaccines and cancer screenings. It’s the most controversial requirement, with religious groups,

some conservative commentators and some employers objecting. The Supreme Court is expected to rule by June on one appeal by two employers who say paying for certain forms of birth control interferes with their religious beliefs. Free coverage of contraception for most health plans started in 2012.

More here

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Dylan Scott: Red States Hatch Plans To Block Obamacare Even If Dems Take Over

Republicans are taking no chances when it comes to Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. They’re closing every possible door. Under bills passed in Georgia and Kansas recently, even if a Democratic candidate were to pull off an upset and take the governor’s seat, they would not be able to expand the program without the consent of the state legislature — which will almost certainly remain Republican. In other words, GOP lawmakers have taken steps to guarantee that many of their poorest residents will remain uninsured under the health care reform law, no matter what happens in the gubernatorial election.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) and Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) both oppose Medicaid expansion. They both look likely — if not quite certain — to win re-election in November. That should make the bills passed by their respective state lawmakers unnecessary, but they seem intent on guarding against even the remote possibility of a Democratic governor. Georgia and Kansas have left a combined 487,000 residents uncovered under Obamacare because they refused to expand Medicaid. And, though the law remains unpopular, a recent poll found that majorities of Georgians (54 percent) and Kansans (55 percent) support Medicaid expansion.

More here

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Adam Beam: Beshear: 413,000 People Signed Up For Health Care In KY

Beth Moore left her job – and her health insurance – to start her own company in January. In March, while visiting Texas, she had an emergency appendectomy followed by a nasty bout with pneumonia that added up to more than $30,000 in medical bills. But Moore was one of 413,410 Kentuckians who signed up for free or subsidized health insurance through kynect, Kentucky’s state-run health insurance marketplace made possible by the federal Affordable Care Act. So far, the most she has paid for her treatment is $150. “If I had not had insurance (it) would have been catastrophic for me,” Moore said. “I’m very grateful that I am a resident of Kentucky and that this was an option for me.”

Moore told her story alongside Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear and other state officials Tuesday who were celebrating the end of the open-enrollment period of Kentucky’s health insurance marketplace. While signups on the federal website were delayed by numerous technical glitches, Kentucky’s system worked smoothly. At its peak, Beshear said, the state’s website processed more than 7,000 applications per day. The final number is likely to grow because workers are still processing paper applications. Kynect’s next open enrollment period begins Nov. 15. “We’re going to keep enrolling people until everybody in Kentucky who needs health coverage has it,” Beshear said.

More here

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NYT: Oklahoma Limits Abortion Drug Use

Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill on Tuesday to further restrict the use of abortion-inducing drugs in Oklahoma, despite objections from opponents who say it will force more women to have surgical abortions. The bill was written in response to a recent Oklahoma Supreme Court decision that ruled a similar bill signed by Ms. Fallin in 2011 was unconstitutional.

The measure would prohibit off-label uses of certain abortion-inducing drugs by requiring that doctors administer them only in accordance with Food and Drug Administration protocol. That protocol calls for the drugs to be given in higher doses than is customary today, and only in the first seven weeks of pregnancy. It takes effect on Nov. 1.

More here

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NYT: The American Middle Class Is No Longer The World’s Richest

The American middle class, long the most affluent in the world, has lost that distinction. While the wealthiest Americans are outpacing many of their global peers, a New York Times analysis shows that across the lower- and middle-income tiers, citizens of other advanced countries have received considerably larger raises over the last three decades. After-tax middle-class incomes in Canada — substantially behind in 2000 — now appear to be higher than in the United States. The poor in much of Europe earn more than poor Americans. The numbers, based on surveys conducted over the past 35 years, offer some of the most detailed publicly available comparisons for different income groups in different countries over time.

They suggest that most American families are paying a steep price for high and rising income inequality. Although economic growth in the United States continues to be as strong as in many other countries, or stronger, a small percentage of American households is fully benefiting from it. Median income in Canada pulled into a tie with median United States income in 2010 and has most likely surpassed it since then. Median incomes in Western European countries still trail those in the United States, but the gap in several — including Britain, the Netherlands and Sweden — is much smaller than it was a decade ago.

More here

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CNN Money: Rebirth of America’s dead factories

Defunct factories around the country are in high demand as U.S. production once again revs up.

The past two decades have been brutal for American manufacturing as companies shifted production overseas and introduced high-tech systems that eliminated jobs.

Many of these once-thriving hubs have been idle for years, but that’s starting to change.

“Demand for closed factories has picked up since the recession,” said Stuart Lichter, president of Industrial Realty Group, which works with defunct commercial property.

This resurgence is largely triggered by U.S. companies bringing production back home. There has also been a boom in international firms, especially from China, shifting production to the U.S. as a way to grow their business and cut costs.

More here

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AP: First Lady announcing one-stop job site for vets

Aiming to streamline employment resources for people leaving the military, the government is creating an integrated website that can help job-seekers create resumes, connect with employers and become part of a database of veterans and their spouses for companies to mine for skills and talents.

First lady Michelle Obama was announcing the launch of the new Veterans Employment Center on Wednesday at Fort Campbell, Ky., during a special veterans’ jobs summit organized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, the Pentagon and the departments of Veterans Affairs and Labor.

“Our service members haven’t always had the time or information they needed to prepare their resumes, to plot their career goals, to meet with employers and get the jobs they deserve,” the first lady said in her prepared remarks. Mrs. Obama and Vice President Joe Biden’s wife, Jill, have long been focused on the needs of veterans.

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Fernando Espuelas: Republicans Break Up With Hispanics

Breakups are rough — regrets, pain and bitter memories. As Republicans in the House block immigration reform time after time, American Latinos get the message: It’s over, don’t call me. Have a good life. What remains are the weekly flip-flops by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), the yelps of “amnesty” coming from a seemingly frightened Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the tiny fig leaf provided by Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s (R-Va.) seven bills he’s been talking about for a year and the shameful action to deport all Dreamers through the recently unanimous vote of the House Republican caucus’s fantasy bill, the Enforce Act. On my radio show every day, and on social media 24/7, I am part of a conversation where responsibility for both the failure of comprehensive reform, and the acrid discourse surrounding it, is laid at the feet of Republicans exclusively.

New to American politics, organic groups of American Latinos have formed online with the express purpose of increasing Latino turnout in November and dealing the GOP a blow. No longer tied to the traditional activist organizations, still espousing 1960s tactics and attitudes, these new groups are savvy Facebookers and Tweeters that can spread a political message across the country with the click of the mouse – reaching tens of thousands of people in an instant, hundreds of thousands per day. This political battle is now personal. Just like the Tea Party fervor of 2010, driven by a single-minded focus to oppose President Obama, these online Latino groups share a similar obsession with throwing Republicans out of office. Come this November 4, Republicans may just wake up to the ugly reality that breaking up with American Latinos over immigration was an easily avoidable and ultimately very costly divorce.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

In the afternoon, President Obama arrives in Tokyo, Japan

Later, the President joins Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan for a private dinner

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

In the morning, President Obama meets with Emperor Akihito of Japan at the Imperial Palace

The President meets with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan at Akasaka Palace

In the afternoon, the President participates in a joint press conference with Prime Minister Abe

Later, President Obama delivers remarks at a youth and science event with students at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation

The President visits Meiji Shrine

President Obama attends the Japan State Dinner and delivers remarks

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Friday, April 25, 2014

In the morning, President Obama greets members of the U.S. Embassy in Japan

Later that morning, the President bids farewell to the Emperor Akihito of Japan

In the afternoon, President Obama travels to Seoul, Republic of Korea

The President visits the National War Memorial and participates in a wreath-laying ceremony

Later, the President visits Gyengbok Palace

President Obama meets with President Park at the Blue House

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Saturday, April 26, 2014

In the morning, President Obama participates in a roundtable meeting with business leaders to discuss trade policy

Later, the President participates in a Combined Forces Command Briefing at Yongsan Garrison and delivers remarks

In the afternoon, the President travels to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

President Obama participates in an arrival ceremony in Parliament Square

Later that evening, the President attends a State Dinner and delivers remarks at Istana Negara

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Sunday, April 27, 2014

In the morning, President Obama greets members of the U.S. Embassy in Malaysia

Later, the President visits the National Mosque of Malaysia

President Obama meets with Prime Minister Najib Razak at Perdana Putra

In the afternoon, President Obama attends a working lunch with Prime Minister Najib Razak

The President delivers remarks at the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Center

Later, the President participates in the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative Town Hall at the University of Malaysia

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Monday, April 28, 2014

The President travels to Manila, Philippines, and participates in an arrival ceremony at Malacanang Palace

Later that afternoon, President Obama meets with President Benigno S. Aquino III of the Philippines

President Obama participates in a joint press conference with President Aquino

The President greets members of the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines

Later that evening, the President attends a State Dinner with President Aquino at Malacanang Palace

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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

In the morning, President Obama delivers remarks at Fort Bonafacio

Later that morning, the President participates in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Manila American Cemetery

The President travels back to Washington, D.C.

WH.gov

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On This Day

The folded hands of President Obama are seen, second from left, at the U.S. Capitol Holocaust Memorial event April 23, 2009, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Pete Souza)

The President throws a football to one of his aides before a meeting in the Oval Office. April 23, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama talks with Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel in the Outer Oval Office, April 23, 2010. Brian Mosteller, left, and Terry Szuplat work nearby (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama watches as active duty service members take the United States Oath of Allegiance during a naturalization ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House, April 23, 2010.(Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

President Obama salutes an active duty service member following a naturalization ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House, April 23, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama talk with patrons at 12 Bones restaurant in Asheville, N.C., April 23, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have a chance encounter with other hikers while walking along a trail off the Blue Ridge Parkway outside of Asheville, N.C., April 23, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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On this Day: President Obama strikes the Heisman pose after accepting a football from quarterback Tim Jefferson, left, during the Commander-in-Chief Trophy presentation to the United States Air Force Academy football team in the East Room of the White House, April 23, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama tours the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., with Sara Bloomfield, museum director, and Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Holocaust survivor, April 23, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama tours the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., with Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Holocaust survivor, and Sara Bloomfield, museum director, April 23, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

… with Elie Wiesel

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 First Lady Michelle Obama poses with a “Flat Stanley” cutout as Kelly McMahon takes her picture backstage at the Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C., April 23, 2013. Watching nearby, from left, are: Danielle Gray, Cabinet Secretary; Tina Tchen, the First Lady’s Chief of Staff; Kristen Jarvis, Deputy Director of Advance & Traveling Aide for the First Lady; and Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

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MoooOOOooorning everyone! A gazillion thanks to Nerdy for adding a bunch of great news stories to the post while I was snoring last night – Legend.

22
Apr
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama greets members of the audience following his remarks at an Earth Day reception in the Rose Garden of the White House, April 22, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern):

10:05 AM EDT: President Obama departs White House

3:30 EDT: Arrives Paine Field, Washington State

6:50 EDT: Delivers remarks, Oso Firehouse, Oso, Washington

8:0 PDT: Departs Washington for Tokyo, Japan

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Spandan Chakrabarti: The Real Story Of #8Million

Actually, it’s a story of nearly 20 million, if you count everyone who has health insurance directly thanks to the Affordable Care Act. And it could be the story of nearly 6 million more, who are being denied health insurance by Republicans refusing to fully federally funded Medicaid in states they control. It’s a story of tens of millions more, and millions of seniors who now have better coverage and no yearly limits on coverage. But last week’s big number was 8 million. The President announced that 8 million American have enrolled in private health insurance coverage through the exchanges, and in addition, 3 million more are covered under the Medicaid expansion, 3 million young adults can stay on their parents’ plans, and 5 million who bought ACA compliant plans outside the exchanges. I got an email with links to people telling their stories about finally being able to afford health insurance.

The story of these millions, though, is more encompassing than those who gained coverage. The story of the single dad who can no longer be denied health care because of a pre-existing condition, the story of a small business owner who can no longer be charged more just because she’s a woman, the story of a cancer survivor who no longer has to fret that in the third month of the year, she will have reached her annual limit from her insurer – all these stories are possible because of a story that is told far too rarely in the American discourse. That story begins with a young, charismatic newly elected president of the United States for whom health care reform wasn’t just a campaign promise but a deeply rooted cause from which he wouldn’t waver even when his political advisers wanted him to retreat. It begins with the overwhelming election of a president who, in his own words, was willing to become a one-term president to make sure that never again does a mother have to think twice about taking her sick child to the doctor. It’s a story of courage, of overcoming an unprecedented campaign of obstruction, of decoupling progress from ideological checklists.

More here

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Vice President Joe Biden talks with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk during a meeting in Kiev, Ukraine

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Boston Globe: Russia Must ‘Stop Talking And Start Acting,’ Biden Says

US Vice President Joe Biden warned Russia on Tuesday that ‘‘it’s time to stop talking and start acting’’ to reduce tension in Ukraine. Standing alongside acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Biden called on Moscow to encourage pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine to vacate government buildings and checkpoints, accept amnesty and ‘‘address their grievances politically.’’ Biden said Russia needs to act ‘‘without delay,’’ adding, ‘‘We will not allow this to become an open-ended process.’’ The vice president also announced the United States will provide an additional $50 million to help Ukraine’s beleaguered government with political and economic reforms.

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Vice President Joe Biden is greeted by Oleksandr Turchynov, the acting Ukrainian president

The money includes $11 million to help conduct the May 25 presidential election, including voter education, administration and oversight. It also will help fund expert teams from US government agencies to help Ukraine to reduce its reliance on energy supplies from Russia. Other technical advisers will help fight corruption. The White House also announced $8 million in nonlethal military assistance for the Ukrainian armed forces, including bomb-disposal equipment, communications gear and vehicles. In the most high-level visit of a US official since crisis erupted in Ukraine, Biden met privately with Yatsenyuk and acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov.

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Vice President Joe Biden addresses members of the Ukrainian parliament during a meeting

Biden said they have an historic chance now that former President Viktor Yanukovych has fled the country. ‘‘This is a second opportunity to make good on the original promise made by the Orange Revolution,’’ Biden said in a reference to 2004 protests that overturned a widely criticized election that had given Yanukovych the presidency. Yanukovych later took office but left the country after violent protests in February. Biden added, ‘‘To be very blunt about it, and this is a delicate thing to say to a group of leaders in their house of parliament, but you have to fight the cancer of corruption that is endemic in your system right now.’’ He mentioned reforming the courts and finding the right balance of power between the president and Rada.

More here

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CBS: DHS May Limit Deportations Of Illegal Immigrants

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson is considering limiting deportations of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally but without serious criminal records, according to the Associated Press. On President Obama’s orders, Johnson is conducting a politically charged review of U.S. deportation policy. The potential change could shield tens of thousands of immigrants now removed each year solely because of repeated immigration violations, such as re-entering the country after being deported. The possible move was confirmed by two people with knowledge of Johnson’s review: John Sandweg, formerly acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and an immigration advocate who has discussed the review with administration officials but spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions were confidential.

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Department Of Justice: Department Of Justice Announces University Tour By Administration Officials To Raise Awareness Of Campus Sexual Assault

In recognition of the 20th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the Department of Justice today announced a nationwide university tour by top administration officials to raise awareness of campus sexual assault. From April 23-May 1, senior officials from the Departments of Justice and Education will visit campuses across the country, including public and private universities, community colleges, historically black colleges and faith-based and tribal-affiliated institutions around the nation. Officials will speak with campus administrators, local law enforcement, community partners, local service providers and students about how best practices and lessons learned are playing out in areas such as prevention, public awareness and peer support. Visits will also highlight the role that federal, state and local government, working with university administrators, faculty and students, should play.

Each campus on the tour is a recipient of the department’s Office on Violence Against Women’s “Grants to Reduce Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence and Stalking on Campus Program.” The Campus Program funds institutions of higher education to adopt comprehensive responses to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking, creating partnerships among campus entities and with community-based victim services organizations and criminal and civil justice agencies. Campus Program grantees must provide prevention programs for all incoming students; train campus law enforcement or security staff; educate campus judicial or disciplinary boards on the unique dynamics of these crimes; and create a coordinated community response to enhance victim assistance and safety while holding offenders accountable.

More here

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NYT: Obama Names White House Counsel

President Obama announced Monday that he was naming W. Neil Eggleston, a veteran lawyer with extensive experience representing government officials in congressional and criminal investigations, as his next White House counsel. In choosing a veteran of Washington’s recurring oversight wars, the White House may be signaling that it expects the final two years of Mr. Obama’s presidency to be defined by politically charged hearings, demands for information by Republicans in Congress and legal battles over the scope and limits of executive authority.

Mr. Eggleston, 60, a partner at Kirkland & Ellis, one of the nation’s biggest corporate law firms, will succeed Kathryn Ruemmler, who is stepping down after nearly three years. Mr. Eggleston will start the second week of May. “Neil brings extraordinary expertise, credentials and experience to our team,” Mr. Obama said in a statement. “He has a passion for public service, is renowned for his conscientiousness and foresight, and I look forward to working closely with him in the coming years.”

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Your LOL tweet of the morning. This is how the GOP “rebrands”

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Washington Post: Iran Vice President Says Row Over Nuclear Reactor Resolved

Iran will redesign its Arak heavy water reactor to greatly limit the amount of plutonium it can make, the country’s vice president said Saturday, marking a major concession from the Islamic Republic in negotiations with world powers over its contested nuclear program. The comments by Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi come as the talks face an informal July 20 deadline to hammer out a final deal to limit Iran’s ability to build nuclear arms in exchange for ending the crippling economic sanctions it faces.

Iranian state television quoted Salehi, who heads the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, as saying that Iran has proposed to redesign Arak to produce one-fifth of the plutonium initially planned for it. He said that will eliminate concerns the West has that Iran could use the plutonium produced at Arak to build a nuclear weapon. There was no immediate comment from world powers, which include China, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the U.S. and Russia. However, what to do with Arak, a still under-construction 40-megawatt heavy water plant in central Iran, is a key factor in negotiations.

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Lauren Rankin: Blackburn Hasn’t Been Right About The GOP And Women Since The 1970s

After appearing on CBS’ Face the Nation on Sunday, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) made headlines and spurred double-takes with her claim that it is the Republican party — not the Democratic party — that is fighting for women’s rights. If we’re going back through history as Blackburn implores us to do, she’s right. Historically, the Republican party was the stronghold for women’s activists in the early 20th century. But as the two parties essentially switched ideological places from 1970-1973, feminists lost favor with the Republican party. It’s been downhill ever since. So what happened? Well, simply put, the New Right happened. Though initially the New Right was split on women’s issues (some even favored abortion rights and the ERA), they quickly realized the political power of social conservatives who had abandoned the Democratic party as it moved towards racial and gender justice. In order to appeal to disenchanted conservative Democrats, the Republican party trapped itself in a self-imposed ideological jail of religious fundamentalism and extreme conservatism, one from which today’s GOP cannot seem to escape.

Today’s Republican party is basically the embarrassing fanatic uncle of the Republican party of the early 20th century. They have become overtaken by a rabid, radical fringe, one that opposes every single aspect of women’s equality, from abortion and contraception access to equal pay, from access to affordable healthcare to a living wage. What Rep. Marsha Blackburn and other Republicans are banking on by peddling the Republican past as indicative of their present is that no one bothers to pay any attention to the absolutely atrocious record of the Republican party on women’s issues in recent memory, particularly in the last decade. Rather than attempting to beat back the Democratic claims of a “War on Women” by citing history, the Republican party would do well to actually enact some of the current policies they deceptively claim to champion. There isn’t a single women’s rights issue that serves as a bragging right for today’s GOP.

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Greg Sargent: No, Dems Are Not Uniformly Running Away From Obamacare

Mary Landrieu is one of the most vulnerable Senate Democratic incumbents, and her difficult reelection challenges — like those of other endangered Dems – are said to be all about Obamacare. So it’s curious that Senator Landrieu is aggressively campaigning for a major piece of the law that’s dragging her down: the Medicaid expansion currently being debated in her state. Dems there hope to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to get around Governor Bobby Jindal’s opposition that would ask Louisiana voters if they want billions in Medicaid expansion money to cover hundreds of thousands. Getting it on the ballot is a long shot — it would require two thirds of both houses of the legislature — but the fact is that Landrieu held a conference call last week with local media to push the idea. She has met with state editorial boards to advocate for the expansion, winning a positive editorial in the Times-Picayune. She’s going out with an email to her campaign list urging the constitutional amendment and slamming the “Jindal gap,” i.e., the Medicaid gap. She’ll hit opponent Bill Cassidy over the issue.

Landrieu greeted the recent news of high signups by saying that the ACA “holds great promise and is getting stronger every day.” All of this is not to say that Dems are running aggressively on Obamacare. They aren’t. But the widespread claim that they are uniformly running away from it is too simplistic. It’s more complicated than that. In North Carolina, Kay Hagan is airing a radio ad that hits likely GOP foe Thom Tillis over his equivocations on repeal, and she will hit his opposition to the state exchange and Medicaid expansion to build the case that he is anti-middle class. In Alaska, Dems have run an ad for Mark Begich that features a woman discussing how she benefitted from the law in unusually personal terms. Dem Super PACs have run ads in North Carolina and Michigan dramatizing how the GOP repeal stance would take the law’s benefits away.

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Steve Benen: Stuck In The First Stage Of Grief

At a press conference last week, President Obama announced a figure that was hard to even imagine a month ago: 8 million consumers signed up for private insurance through exchange marketplaces during the Affordable Care Act’s open-enrollment period. Obama also took a moment to chide Republicans for having been wrong about practically every aspect of the debate. “I recognize that their party is going through the stages of grief,” he said, “and we’re not at acceptance yet. ”That sounds about right, though I’m not sure the GOP is “going through the stages of grief” so much as it’s stuck on the first one. If the process is believed to have five stages – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance – we have quite a ways to go before “acceptance” is even on the horizon.

Denial still dominates. Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) said Monday he believes the uninsured rate in his state has increased since implementation of the 2010 health care reform law. There are a wide variety of counts when it comes to determining just how many uninsured Americans have been able to get coverage, but all of the reports have something important in common: they all show the rate of the uninsured going down, not up. But to argue that the number of uninsured people is climbing is comparable to arguing that the federal budget deficit is getting larger; the planet is experiencing global cooling; and Obama has pushed use of executive orders to new heights. Oh wait, conservative Republicans often believe all of those bogus claims, too.

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Sahil Kapur: Supreme Court To Hear Case Challenging Ban On Campaign Lies

The Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments Tuesday in an important case about the validity of an Ohio state law banning false statements about political candidates in campaigns. The challenge was brought by the Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion group, which wants to invalidate the Ohio law. In 2010, it sought to put up a billboard claiming Rep. Steve Driehaus (D) supported taxpayer funding of abortion. The advertising company, under pressure from Driehaus who appealed to the Ohio Elections Commission to block the billboard under the statute, refused to put it up. (Driehaus lost reelection anyway.)

A lower court found that the SBA List lacked standing to sue. The 6th Circuit and 8th Circuit courts of appeals have issued split rulings on whether state laws banning false statements are permissible under the First Amendment. There’s a real chance the Supreme Court won’t weigh in on the merits of this case. If the justices conclude that the SBA List has standing, they’re expected to send it back to the lower courts to consider the merits first.

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WTSP: FL Same-Sex Lawsuit Couple Attends W.H. Easter Egg Roll

A Florida couple suing the for marriage equality joined the first family Monday for the Annual White House Easter Egg Roll. The Aleniers were one of six couples that joined Equality Florida Institute to file the lawsuit in pursuit of marriage protections for their family. They, along with their son Ethan, were among the 30,000 people crowded on the South Lawn

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Reuters: U.S. Secretary Of State Urges Russia To Help Implement Ukraine Agreement

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged Russia on Monday to meet Ukraine halfway in trying to implement an agreement to defuse the crisis in the former Soviet republic. Kerry spoke with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov by telephone on Monday morning, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. Russia, Ukraine, the European Union and the United States on Thursday agreed on ways to ease tensions in the worst confrontation between Russia and the West since the Cold War.

“The secretary urged Russia to take concrete steps to help implement the Geneva agreement, including publicly calling on separatists to vacate illegal buildings and checkpoints, accept amnesty and address their grievances politically,” Psaki said at a news briefing. With pro-Moscow separatists showing no sign of surrendering government buildings they have seized in eastern Ukraine, Washington pegged a threat of new sanctions on Russia to how hard Moscow tries to make the Geneva agreement work. “If progress is not made in coming days, we will impose further costs,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

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Reuters: Conservative Koch-Backed Group Uses Soft Touch In Recruiting U.S. Hispanics

The conservative advocacy groups backed by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch are known mostly for spending millions of dollars to pelt Democratic candidates with negative television ads. But this year, one Koch-backed group is using a softer touch to try to win over part of the nation’s booming Hispanic population, which has overwhelmingly backed Democrats in recent elections. The group, known as The Libre Initiative, is sponsoring English classes, driver’s license workshops and other social programs to try to build relationships with Hispanic voters in cities from Arizona to Florida – even as the group targets Democratic lawmakers with hard-edged TV ads. “If they trust us, they may seek our opinion on something else,” said Michael Barrera, a former Bush administration official who now works for Libre, which says it has built a mailing list of 90,000 people during the past three years.

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Libre’s task is complicated by Republican lawmakers’ reluctance to act on a proposed overhaul of the United States’ immigration laws and the harsh rhetoric used by some Republicans that many Americans have seen as anti-Hispanic or anti-immigrant, pollsters say. And even as Libre launches an ad campaign that paints President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act as an expensive failure, Obamacare remains more popular among Hispanics than it is in the overall population. At a recent Hispanic business fair in Orlando, Libre set up panel discussions on family-owned businesses and the shortcomings of Obamacare. Neither event drew much of an audience, but by the end of the day Libre had added 150 names to its mailing list. Several of those who signed up said they were drawn in by the chance to win a tablet computer that was raffled off by Libre, rather than any enthusiasm for conservative ideas. None said they were aware of Libre’s conservative agenda. Libre’s only public filing shows that it took in $2.15 million in revenue during the 12 months that ended June 30, 2012. The report does not say where the money came from, but separate filings show two Koch-backed groups, Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce Inc. and TC4 Trust, gave at least $3.8 million to Libre during an 18-month period that includes the time covered by Libre’s report.

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Brian Beutler: Obamacare’s Success Is Destroying The GOP’s Midterm Strategy

If you’re a decent person, or someone who hasn’t contracted a political bug, the most satisfying thing about the Affordable Care Act’s enrollment total is the knowledge that it’s improved many people’s lives, and contributed to a sizable reduction in the uninsured population. But if you have a lot invested in the law’s success, you’re also relieved to have an answer to everyone trying to create the impression that Obamacare is a slow-rolling fiasco. Republicans won’t stop saying these things, but there’s an amusing tension between calling something a “slow-rolling fiasco” in one breath and then positing that perhaps 10 percent of the millions of new beneficiaries won’t pay their premiums in the next. Or pointing out that the respectable under-35 enrollment rate also includes children. Why nitpick a fiasco?

Taken together, eight million enrollees, lower-than-expected premium increases, and smaller fiscal costs together leave a great void in the political landscape that pathetic enrollment, large premium spikes, and runaway spending were supposed to occupy. In a recent article, conservative political analyst Sean Trende examined how an election that looks so ripe for Republicans could go sour. “The way this could occur is fairly straightforward: The Affordable Care Act improves; there’s no massive rate shock for premiums in September or October; and the economy slowly gains ground. This should propel President Obama’s job approval upward, lifting the collective Democratic boat.” As Danny Vinik has noted, none of this is remotely implausible. And if something along these lines begins taking shape, Republicans would have to revisit the idea that they can just block Democratic legislation, scream “Obummercare!” and let a friendly electoral map do all the work.

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Photos by Pete Souza

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On This Day

Senator Obama holds 10-month-old Claire Von Bergen of Iowa City while shaking hands with supporters after speaking on the Pentacrest at the University of Iowa April 22, 2007

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Senator Obama gets a hug from his wife Michelle Obama after he spoke at the Roberts Stadium, April 22, 2008 in Evansville Indiana

Sen. Barack Obama shakes hands outside of the P&G Pamela’s Diner in the Strip District section of Pittsburgh on the morning of the Pennsylvania Primary election, April 22, 2008

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President Obama and White House staff members prepare to leave Des Moines Airport April 22, 2009, following a visit to Newton, Iowa (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama greets actress Sigourney Weaver after he spoke at an Earth Day reception in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington on April 22, 2010

President Obama waves as he boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, April 22, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama boards Air Force One at Los Angeles International Airport, April 22, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama observes a moment of silence in honor of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings, in the Oval Office, April 22, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama looks at a piece of a wood-alternative fuel made from biomass waste while touring projects presented at the White House Science Fair in the East Garden of the White House, April 22, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

Trying out a bike that powers a water-filtration system built by young student inventors, April 22, 2013

President Obama greets New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz during the White House Science Fair, April 22, 2013

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16
Apr
14

Rise and Shine

President Obama listens, during a meeting on Afghanistan and Pakistan, in the Situation Room of the White House, April 16, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern):

1:0: President Obama departs the White House

2:30: Arrives Pittsburgh

3:10: With the vice president, tours a classroom at Community College of Allegheny West Hills Center, Oakdale, Pennsylvania

3:45: The President and VP deliver remarks on jobs-driven skills training

5:45: The President departs Pittsburgh

7:20: Arrives White House

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Thursday: The President will welcome the Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride to the White House in celebration of the eighth annual Soldier Ride.

Friday: The President will meet with the National Commander and Executive Director of the American Legion. Later, he will welcome the United States Naval Academy Football Team to the White House to present them with the 2013 Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy.

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Darlene Superville: Obama, Biden To Announce $600M For Job Grants

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are hitting the road to trumpet $600 million in new competitive grants to spur creation of targeted training and apprenticeship programs that could help people land well-paying jobs. The programs that Obama and his Pennsylvania-born vice president are announcing do not need approval from Congress because they will be paid for with money that lawmakers have already authorized for spending. In response to stiff resistance to his agenda from Republican lawmakers, Obama has made it a goal this year to take smaller steps on his own, without support from Congress, to benefit the economy, workers and others, and Wednesday’s program fits that script. The larger of the two grant programs will put nearly $500 million toward a job training competition run by the Labor Department that is designed to encourage community colleges, employers and industry to work together to create training programs that are geared toward the jobs employers need to fill. Applications will be available starting Wednesday.

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The training is part of an existing competitive grant program for community colleges that prepare dislocated workers and others for jobs. A priority will be placed on partnerships that include national entities, such as industry associations, that pledge to help design and institute programs that give job seekers a credential that will be recognized and accepted across a particular industry, signaling to an employer what kind of work the holder can do. The Labor Department is also making an additional $100 million available for grants to reward partnerships that expand apprenticeship programs. Apprenticeships are used less widely in the U.S. than in some other countries, said administration officials, who also noted that nearly 9 out of 10 apprentices end up in jobs that pay average starting salaries of above $50,000 a year.

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Dan Witters: Uninsured Rate Drops More In States Embracing Health Law

he uninsured rate among adults aged 18 and older in the states that have chosen to expand Medicaid and set up their own exchanges in the health insurance marketplace has declined significantly more this year than in the remaining states that have not done so. The uninsured rate, on average, declined 2.5 percentage points in the 21 states (plus the District of Columbia) that have implemented both of these measures, compared with a 0.8-point drop across the 29 states that have taken only one or neither of these actions. Medicaid expansion and state health insurance exchanges — are realizing a rate of decline that is substantively greater than what is found among the remaining states that have not done so. Consequently, the gap that previously existed between the two groups has now expanded.

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Reuters: Americans Increasingly Prefer Democrats On Healthcare: Reuters/Ipsos Poll

Americans increasingly think Democrats have a better plan for healthcare than Republicans, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted after the White House announced that more people than expected had signed up for the “Obamacare” health plan.

Nearly one-third of respondents in the online survey released on Tuesday said they prefer Democrats’ plan, policy or approach to healthcare, compared to just 18 percent for Republicans. This marks both an uptick in support for Democrats and a slide for Republicans since a similar poll in February.

…. “In the last couple of weeks, as the exchanges hit their goals, news coverage has been more positive and the support of the Democratic Party on this issue has rebounded,” said Ipsos pollster Chris Jackson.

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Sun Times: At Howard U, Michelle Obama To Meet Chicago Public H.S. Students

First Lady Michelle Obama, a graduate of Whitney Young High School, will meet with Chicago high school students visiting Howard University in Washington D.C. on Thursday, juniors and seniors who will take part in a program called “Escape to the Mecca, ” run by Howard’s  Chicago Peoples Union and  “designed to immerse talented high school students in a college campus environment,” the White House said.

Background, from the White House: “The First Lady’s visit to Howard is part of her higher education initiative, in particular working to achieve the President’s “North Star” Goal, that by the year 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.

The First Lady will join the students on a campus tour followed by a roundtable discussion where the students will be joined by their hosts. In the discussion, the First Lady will hear how college tours and similar types of exposure can inspire students to reach higher in their education.

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Kyle Cheney and Brett Norman: Insurers See Brighter Obamacare Skies

Health insurers got their first taste of Obamacare this year. And they want seconds. Insurers saw disaster in the fall when Obamacare’s rollout flopped and HealthCare.gov was a mess. But a strong March enrollment surge, along with indications that younger and healthier people had begun signing up, has changed their attitude. Around the country, insurers are considering expanding their stake in the Obamacare exchanges next year, bringing their business to more states and counties. Some health plans that skipped the new marketplaces altogether this year are ready to dive in next year. “[W]e see 2014 as just the beginning for exchanges,” said Tyler Mason, a spokesman for UnitedHealth Group, one of the nations’ largest insurers. “As the economics, sustainability and dynamics of exchanges continue to become clearer, we believe exchanges have the potential to be a growth market with much to offer UnitedHealthcare and other insurers and consumers.”

State officials and insurance company representatives signaled in interviews that at least 10 states would feature more companies, not fewer, on the Obamacare health plan menu. Those include Kentucky, California, Connecticut and Washington, four states that have enthusiastically supported the health law and built high-performing exchanges. New York’s exchange chief, Donna Frescatore, said her state has had “additional interest” from new insurers, as well. But the list also includes more surprising interest in places like South Dakota, Idaho, Iowa and Michigan, far from diehard fans of the president’s health law. A spokeswoman for one of the companies Haislmaier cited, Michigan-based Physician’s Health Plan, said in an interview that it will indeed join the state’s exchange in 2015. The company had planned to join in 2014 but pulled out at the last minute, citing uncertainty caused by federal delays. New, Obamacare-funded nonprofit insurers are expanding their footprints, as well. Minuteman Health in Massachusetts is expanding into bordering New Hampshire; Montana Health CO-OP will sell plans in Idaho; and Kentucky Health Cooperative is moving into West Virginia.

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USA Today: As MLB Honors Jackie Robinson, Can It Reverse A Trend?

Just when we want to believe that times are changing and prejudice is waning, along comes a ferocious reminder like a Manny Pacquiao punch to the jaw. Sheer racism, exposed in vile letters directed to Hall of Famer Hank Aaron, have poured into the Atlanta Braves offices over the past week. Yes, it was like 1974 all over again, the year Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record, with letters laced with the most hateful epithet known to African Americans. “Hank Aaron is a scumbag piece of (expletive) (racial slur)” a man named Edward says in an e-mail to the Braves front office obtained by USA TODAY Sports. Edward invokes the epithet five times in four sentences, closing with, “My old man instilled in my mind from a young age, the only good (racial slur) is a dead (racial slur).” There are 67 black players in the major leagues, with three teams not represented by a single African-American player: the San Francisco Giants, Arizona Diamondbacks and St. Louis Cardinals.

Forty years ago, Aaron had the audacity to break Ruth’s home run record. This time, he simply spoke his mind. When asked by USA TODAY Sports last month why he still keeps those hate letters, Aaron calmly revealed his sentiments. “To remind myself that we are not that far removed from when I was chasing the record,” he said. “If you think that, you are fooling yourself. A lot of things have happened in this country, but we have so far to go. There’s not a whole lot that has changed. “We can talk about baseball. Talk about politics. Sure, this country has a black president, but when you look at a black president, President Obama is left with his foot stuck in the mud from all of the Republicans with the way he’s treated. We have moved in the right direction, and there have been improvements, but we still have a long ways to go. “The bigger difference is back then they had hoods. Now they have neckties and starched shirts.” When I first started playing, you had a lot of black players in the major leagues,” Aaron said last month. “Now, you don’t have any (7.8%). So what progress have we made? You try to understand, but we’re going backward.”

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Clare McCann: CBO Finds Third Consecutive Year Of Good News On Pell Costs

Yesterday, the Congressional Budget Office announced some more good news for members of Congress: For the third consecutive year, the Pell Grant funding cliff is smaller and further away than we thought. After a few shaky years of funding during the recession, the updated CBO baseline will surely come as welcome news to lawmakers facing midterm elections and a tight budget. Then, starting with the 2013 CBO estimate, there was some surprising news: The program actually cost less than expected. As the rate of growth in the program flat-lined, the expected costs started to drop. Underestimating the numbers for fiscal year 2013 meant Congress could draw on an accumulated surplus in the program. Those funds–which actually come from funding provided in past years but never spent–are large enough that Congress can spread the surplus across fiscal years 2014 through 2017, added to a flat appropriation for the program.

Based on a separate funding formula, the maximum grant also increases with inflation. Here’s where it starts to get tricky. In fiscal year 2017, all that will be left of the surplus is $0.4 billion. And at the same time, the costs of the program are projected to increase as more students become eligible. That means members of Congress aren’t off the hook in ensuring the Pell Grant program–the cornerstone of federal financial aid for low-income students–is financially stable. The CBO report is good news for the immediate future, but it’s not a cure. Lawmakers have bought themselves a few years to figure out the long-term future of Pell Grant appropriations. If they don’t, the Pell Grant funding cliff will come knocking again.

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Jamelle Bouie: What If Bundy Ranch Were Owned By A Bunch Of Black People?

For 20 years the federal government has fined Cliven Bundy for grazing his cattle on protected land. And for 20 years Bundy has refused to pay. Last month this dance came to an end when the Bureau of Land Management sent Bundy a letter informing him that it intended to “impound his trespass cattle” that have been roaming on federal property. It closed off hundreds of thousands of acres, and earlier this month, moved to round up Bundy’s cows. The federal government blinked, and the Bureau of Land Management announced an abrupt end to its cattle roundup, hoping to avoid violence and further confrontations. this entire incident speaks to the continued power of right-wing mythology. For many of the protesters, this isn’t about a rogue rancher as much as it’s a stand against “tyranny” personified in Barack Obama and his administration.

right-wing media ought to be condemned for their role in fanning the flames of this standoff. After years of decrying Obama’s “lawlessness” and hyperventilating over faux scandals, it’s galling to watch conservatives applaud actual lawbreaking and violent threats to federal officials. I can’t help but wonder how conservatives would react if these were black farmers—or black anyone—defending “their” land against federal officials. Would Fox News applaud black militiamen aiming their guns at white bureaucrats as someone who closely follows the regular incidents of lethal police violence against blacks and Latinos, I also wonder whether law enforcement would be as tepid against a group of armed African-Americans. Judging from past events, I’m not so sure.

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Neela Banerjee: U.S. Appeals Court Upholds Obama Administration Limits On Air Toxins

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Tuesday upheld the Environmental Protection Agency’s first-ever limits on air toxins, including emissions of mercury, arsenic and acid gases, preserving a far-reaching rule the White House had touted as central to President Barack Obama’s environmental agenda. In a 2-1 decision, the court ruled that the mercury rule “was substantively and procedurally valid,” turning aside challenges brought both by Republican-led states that had argued the rule was onerous and environmental groups that had contended it did not go far enough.

The EPA welcomed the decision, calling it “a victory for public health and the environment.” Liz Purchia, an agency spokeswoman, said. “These practical and cost-effective standards will save thousands of lives each year, prevent heart and asthma attacks, while slashing emissions of the neurotoxin mercury, which can impair children’s ability to learn.” The EPA estimates that the mercury and air toxins rule will prevent 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks and 130,000 asthma attacks annually.

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Josh Gerstein: President Barack Obama Chops 3 1/2 Years Off Pot Sentence

President Barack Obama has issued a commutation to a drug convict, shortening his sentence by three-and-a-half years in what the White House said was an effort to correct a sentencing error. Ceasar Cantu of Katy, Texas pled guilty in 2006 to possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and money laundering. He received a 15-year prison term but a White House official said it was subsequently discovered that a presentence report contained a mistake which caused the extra three-and-a-half years to be added to his sentence. “A judge ruled that Mr. Cantu did not discover this error in time to correct it through any judicial means; as a result, it can now only be rectified through clemency,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said at the daily briefing, repeating word for word a comment offered on background by another Obama aide earlier in the day.

“The president thought [this] was the right thing to do to commute his sentence….The president wanted to act as quickly as possible. This is a matter of basic fairness and it reflects the important role of clemency as a failsafe in our judicial system,” Carney added. According to the Justice Department, Obama has issued 52 pardons and (now) ten commutations while in office. In recent months, Attorney General Eric Holder and his top aides have been encouraging lawyers for prisoners who believe their sentences are too lengthy to file commutation applications with the Justice Department.

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LA Times: Surging Retail Sales Signal An Economy On The Upswing

Americans rushed out to shop as frigid weather lifted in March, propelling retail sales at the fastest pace in a year and a half. The gauge from the Commerce Department surged 1.1% last month from February in its biggest leap since September 2012. Sales boomed 3.8% from March 2013. The strong sales, which beat economists’ expectations for a 1% increase, bolstered hopes that the economy would continue to gain momentum after struggling through an especially harsh winter. “One month doesn’t answer all the questions, and it’s not like we have all-over-the-place exploding growth,” said NPD Group analyst Marshal Cohen. “But we’re beginning to see that the recovery is no longer segmented — it’s broader.” Consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of economic output, making retail sales a strong indicator of the nation’s overall economic health. But other reports this month also signal a rebound.

Employers created a net 192,000 new jobs in March, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which said that all private sector jobs that were lost in the downturn have been recovered. Initial jobless claims hit their lowest level in nearly seven years. The International Monetary Fund projects that global economic growth will rise 3.6% this year in the strongest increase since 2011, led by expansion in the U.S. Small-business owners surveyed by the National Federation of Independent Business believe their sales are set to increase. The government also revised the anemic 0.3% improvement previously reported for February retail sales to a much stronger 0.7% upswing.

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Jonathan Cohn: A New Report On Obamacare Says It’s $104 Billion Cheaper Than Expected

Republicans and their allies keep saying the Affordable Care Act will bankrupt the taxpaying public. Now there’s one more reason to think they are wrong. It comes from the Washington’s official accountant, the Congressional Budget Office, which on Monday released a newly updated projection on how the Affordable Care Act will affect the deficit and insurance coverage. It’s actually the latest in a series of revisions, each one suggesting the law would cost less money than the previous projection had suggested.  And why this latest change? It doesn’t appear to be because the law will reach fewer people. CBO now expects slightly more people to end up with health insurance, at least over the long run. The CBO’s primary explanation for lower costs is that health insurance premiums on the new exchanges—what the administration calls “marketplaces”—are lower than CBO had originally expected they would be.

the federal government is simultaneously providing generous tax subsidies, designed to offset those price increases and, more generally, make health care more affordable for people who couldn’t pay for it previously. Those subsidies, along with the law’s expansion of Medicaid, are the most expensive part of the law—together they account for the vast majority of its spending. The cost of those subsidies depends on the raw, unsubsidized prices that insurers are charging upfront. The higher the premiums, the more expensive the subsidies. And that’s where the law has, so far, outperformed expectations. Insurers are offering plans with lower premiums than CBO and other experts had predicted. As a result, the federal government is on the hook for less financial assistance. Better still, the CBO says that it doesn’t expect across-the-board premium spikes next year, as the law’s critics and even some insurance company officials have speculated would happen.

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On This Day:

Senator Barack Obama and his wife Michelle wave to supporters after addressing a Women for Obama luncheon in Chicago on April 16, 2007

Senator Obama and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley watch a video highlighting Olympic venues at a rally celebrating Chicago’s selection as the U.S. candidate to host the 2016 Summer Games in Chicago on April 16, 2007

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Sen. Hillary Clinton speaks at a Democratic presidential debate with opponent Sen. Obama at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on April 16, 2008

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President Obama listens as Vice President Biden discusses the Obama administration’s plans for promoting high speed rail service in areas of the United States in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on April 16, 2009

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President Obama receives an update on the explosions that occurred in Boston, in the Oval Office, April 16, 2013. Seated, from left, are: Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano; Tony Blinken, Deputy National Security Advisor; Jake Sullivan, National Security Advisor to the Vice President; Attorney General Eric Holder; Lisa Monaco, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism; Chief of Staff Denis McDonough; and FBI Director Robert Mueller (Photo by Pete Souza)

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14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: First Lady Michelle Obama participates in an interview with Stephen Colbert during a taping of “The Colbert Report,” at the Colbert Report Studio in New York, N.Y., April 11, 2012 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

11:0 President Obama announces the nomination of Sylvia Burwell to be HHS Secretary

12:15: First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden Host a Joining Forces Caregivers Event

1:55: The President and First Lady depart the White House

3:05 Arrive New York City

4:10 The President delivers remarks at the National Action Network’s 16th Annual Convention

11:30 The President and First Lady depart New York

12:40 Arrives White House

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 Caitlin Macneal: Arkansas Free Clinic Closing, Citing More Insured Through Obamacare

A medical clinic in Mena, Ark. announced that it would be closing, citing a large drop in need for the clinic as people have signed up for health insurance under Obamacare. “Because people are qualifying for insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, our free medical clinic will not be needed anymore,” Stacey Bowser, the director of the 9th Street Ministries Clinic, told the Mena Star.

“We’ve gone from seeing around 300 people a month on a regular basis, but as people were enrolling in Obamacare, the numbers we were seeing have dropped. We were down to 80 people that came through the medical clinic in February, all the way down to three people at the medical clinic in March. Our services won’t be needed anymore, and this will conclude our mission,” she continued.

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LA Times: Bank Of America To Pay $772 Million For Illegal Credit Card Practices

Bank of America Corp. has agreed to refund customers $727 million and pay $45 million in fines for illegal credit card practices, according to a settlement with federal regulators announced Wednesday. The refunds will go to as many as 2.9 million people who were deceived into signing up for products such as credit monitoring and identity theft protection or were improperly charged for such services, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said. The action was part of a crackdown by the bureau on deceptive marketing, enrollment and billing practices related to such so-called add-on products by credit card companies. Bank of America is the fifth financial services company to be hit with fines and refund orders.

“Bank of America both deceived consumers and unfairly billed consumers for services not performed,” said Richard Cordray, the bureau’s director. “We will not tolerate such practices and will continue to be vigilant in our pursuit of companies who wrong consumers in this market.” Bank of America agreed to the refunds and penalties without admitting or denying the allegations. In addition to the refunds, the bank will pay a $20-million civil penalty to the bureau and a $25-million civil penalty to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

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Judy Peres: How Obamacare Affects Women’s Health

Meg Finnegan thought she might never be able to afford to have a baby. Finnegan, who is self-employed and has a pre-existing medical condition, was having trouble finding health insurance at all, let alone a policy that would cover pregnancy and childbirth. So she was thrilled to discover that the plan she signed up for last fall under the Affordable Care Act includes maternity coverage. “When you don’t have insurance, you’re afraid of any life event that brings you to the hospital, for a good or a bad reason,” said Finnegan, 37, an Evanston resident. “If I didn’t have insurance, I wouldn’t have a baby. All those doctor’s appointments and tests, and possibly a high-risk delivery — how would you pay for it?” A guarantee of maternity coverage — all new insurance policies must provide it — is just one of a basket of provisions in the federal health law that specifically benefit women. Other guaranteed services include preventive care, which must be covered with no out-of-pocket cost. For most plans, preventive care includes at least one annual “well-woman” visit, breast-feeding support, contraceptives and contraceptive counseling, annual mammograms and cervical cancer screening.

Women’s health advocates also expect women to benefit more from some provisions in the law that apply to people of either sex. For example, the expansion of Medicaid, as well as financial assistance in the form of tax credits and cost sharing, is expected to disproportionately benefit women, who are more likely than men to have low incomes. Insurers also are required to cover mental health screening and treatment, and women have higher rates of depression and other types of mental illness. Kathy Waligora of EverThrive Illinois (formerly the Illinois Maternal and Child Health Coalition) said she considers the law “a huge victory for women.” Finnegan, who said she has a rare condition called Behcet’s disease, is one of 129 million Americans with pre-existing conditions, which private policies generally did not cover before the health overhaul. Now, by law, insurers may not deny coverage or charge higher premiums on the basis of health status. “I couldn’t get insurance,” said Finnegan, who owns TruFit Personal Training Studio in Evanston. “I tried five different companies. One offered me a policy for $850 a month with a huge deductible and terrible coverage — nothing related to my condition. But all my medical costs are related to that, so basically it meant no coverage.” At the same time, many insurance plans used to consider pregnancy, cesarean section, and even domestic violence and sexual abuse as pre-existing conditions.

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USA Today: Man Cleared Of NYC Murder After 25 Years In Prison

A man who spent almost a quarter-century behind bars for murder was freed Tuesday and cleared of a killing that happened when he was 1,100 miles away on a Disney World vacation. Jonathan Fleming was in tears as he hugged his lawyers and family in a Brooklyn courtroom. Relatives said, “Thank you, God!” after he was freed. “After 25 years, come hug your mother,” she said, and he did. Defense attorneys and prosecutors asked a Brooklyn judge to dismiss Fleming’s conviction in the 1989 shooting. A key eyewitness recanted, new witnesses have implicated someone else and a review by prosecutors turned up a hotel receipt putting Fleming in Florida hours before the killing, defense lawyers Anthony Mayol and Taylor Koss said.

“He is elated and stunned, while tempered by the fact that he realizes that this is just the first step in getting his life back,” Koss said before the hearing. Fleming had plane tickets, videos and postcards from his trip, his lawyers said, but authorities suggested he could have been in New York at the actual time of the shooting, and a woman testified that she had seen him shoot Rush. The exoneration, first reported by the New York Daily News, comes amid scrutiny of Brooklyn prosecutors’ process for reviewing questionable convictions — scrutiny that comes partly from the new DA Kenneth Thompson himself. He unseated longtime DA Charles “Joe” Hynes last year after a campaign that focused partly on wrongful convictions on Hynes’ watch. Hynes had created a special conviction integrity unit to review false-conviction claims, but some saw the effort as slow-moving and defensive.

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Jim Puzzanghera: Small-Business Optimism Rebounds As Winter Ends, Survey Says

Small-business owners were more optimistic about the economy last month and expected sales to increase as a winter marked by severe weather ended, according to survey results released Tuesday. The confidence index from the National Federation of Independent Business rose to 93.4 in March, from 91.4 the previous month. The measure is one of the few monthly barometers of the small-business sector, which is a key driver of the economy.

About 12% of the those surveyed said they expected higher sales volumes during the next three months, up 9 percentage points from the February survey. Hiring also improved last month. Small-business owners reported increasing their payrolls by an average of 0.18 workers in March, up from 0.11 the previous month. It was the sixth straight month the survey showed an increase in hiring.

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Igor Volsky: Kathleen Sebelius’ Biggest Achievement Is The One No One Is Talking About

Kathleen Sebelius wasn’t President Obama’s first choice to run the Department of Health and Human Services and oversee the passage and implementation of health care reform. But after Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD) dropped out, Obama tapped the two-term Kansas governor and former state insurance commissioner. Sebelius didn’t have much D.C. experience, but had an impressive track record of working across the aisle as a Democratic governor in a red state. And while the united GOP opposition to health legislation eventually overwhelmed any goodwill Sebelius had built up within the Republican party and the rocky rollout of Obamacare has come to dominate the discussion of her tenure as secretary, that bipartisan quality proved essential to the implementation of the law. Sebelius leaves the office having enrolled some 10 million people in health care coverage. This was only possible because she convinced numerous Republican lawmakers in bright red states to extended health care coverage to the poorest Americans. No one is talking about it, but it is her biggest and most impressive achievement as secretary.

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision invalidating Obamacare’s compulsory Medicaid expansion, most Republican-controlled states refused to extend health care coverage to residents below 133 percent of the poverty line. But Sebelius traveled the country, urging Republican governors to reconsider. As of today, eight GOP-controlled states have approved expansion — in no small part because of the flexibility Sebelius and her team provided. The flexibility extended beyond Medicaid. Sebelius and her team convinced red states to form partnership health care exchanges in which the federal government and the state would share responsibilities in running the marketplaces. They routinely presented GOP governors with information on all other state models and waivers, assuring them that they could customize reform to their specific state needs. As a result, several Republican-dominated states bucked the national party and chose to run their exchanges either on their own, or in collaboration with HHS.

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Josh Israel: Jindal Demands Congressman Resign Over Extramarital Kissing, But Defended Prostitute-Hiring Senator

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) called for Rep. Vance McAllister (R-LA) to resign his House seat, after a videotape surfaced of the freshman Congressman kissing a married woman who is not his wife. But in 2007, Jindal defended Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) when he was revealed to be a client of a DC prostitution service. Jindal released a statement on Thursday, calling McAllister’s behavior “an embarrassment” and suggesting that “the best way to get privacy and work on putting his family back together is to resign from Congress.” But seven years ago, then-Congressman Jindal made no such suggestion to the state’s U.S. Senator. After Vitter’s name appeared on the phone list for “D.C. Madam” Deborah Jeane Palfrey, he apologized for the “very serious sin in my past.” Yet Jindal’s response was to stand by Vitter

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Jonathan Cohn: Sebelius Resigns

On Thursday morning, Kathleen Sebelius testified before Congress and announced that Obamacare signups had reached 7.5 million people. On Thursday evening, news broke that Sebelius was stepping down as Secretary of Health and Human Services. Implementing Obamacare was never going to be easy. The law is full of compromises that, however politically necessary, weakened regulations and depleted funding that would have made introducing the new insurance system a lot easier. And Sebelius never had the kind of control a chief executive officer would. She was always dealing with a host of other players—from superiors at the White House to underlings at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to Democrats on Capitol Hill to lobbyists for the health care industry. And that’s to say nothing of her war with the congressional Republicans, who were trying actively to sabotage the law through repeal votes, funding cuts, and intimidation of would-be allies.

More important, the law seems to be working, despite all of those early problems. That 7.5 million figure she announced on Thursday is a genuinely big deal—particularly since, from what I hear, the final number is likely to be even higher. Sebelius can’t take all or even most of the credit for those successes, any more than she should take all or most of the blame for the law’s troubles. But her role in those achievements (and others, like improvements to Head Start and stronger regulations on child care safety) is also part of her record. To take one obvious example, Sebelius worked extensively with Republican governors who wanted to expand Medicaid in states with hostile conservative constituencies. Some of those efforts succeeded. The memories of Obamacare’s difficult start will certainly linger. But to the millions of people around the country who now have access to affordable medical care, I’m not sure that really matters.

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Fem Chat: 6 Things Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler Missed About The Gender Wage Gap

Glenn Kessler presents a very one-sided discussion of the wage gap in this April 9th “Fact Checker” post in which he increased President Obama’s rating on his use of wage gap statistics from one Pinocchio (in the 2012 campaign) to two—he should have lowered it from one to zero. President Obama has correctly used a long standing data series issued every year by the Census Bureau. The 77 percent wage ratio figure is an accurate measure of the inequality in earnings between U.S. women and men who work full-time, year-round in the labor market. Here are some other things to keep in mind about that statistic: 1) Kessler claims that President Obama uses the 77 percent wage ratio figure because it shows the biggest wage gap when other data series available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show slightly smaller gaps.

Leaving aside how Kessler could get inside the President’s head and know why he picked a certain series, everyone who writes about this issue should know that this figure based on median annual earnings is the historical headline figure that allows the longest comparison across time. 2) Kessler claims that the other series—weekly or hourly earnings—are more accurate, but there is simply no basis for saying so. The 77 percent figure actually includes the broadest range of kinds of earnings; for example annual bonus payments are a big part of remuneration in some fields and are included in the 77 percent figure, but are excluded from the weekly or hourly earnings figures.

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Brian Beutler: The Right Searches For Obamacare Alternative, Finds Obamacare

The Affordable Care Act’s enrollment comeback has confounded conservatives in many ways. The realization that there happens to be popular demand for something as self-evidently grotesque as Obamacare has given rise to a palpable cognitive dissonance on the right. A growing recognition among Republicans that they can’t bank on organizing the midterm campaign around relentless Obamacare opposition has party elders looking at contingency plans (even if they haven’t exactly gone back to the drawing board). But most importantly, it has thrown the conservative health policy community for a loop, and completely wrong-footed Republicans in Congress who were hoping — against considerable odds and a well-worn historical pattern — to craft an Obamacare alternative that both passes the laugh test and doesn’t create a significantly lower level of welfare.

If enrollment had sputtered, that task would have been considerably easier. The fact it surged in March, and continues to grow today, measurably limits their options. If you accept (or acquiesce) to the need for a large coverage expansion and don’t want a single payer or substantial expansion of existing public systems, you need to make sure private insurers cover the sick, which means you need guaranteed issue and community rating — so that nobody is closed out of the system, and so that risk is spread across large populations, not assigned to individuals. But if you have those two things then you need a coverage requirement, so you’re not just spreading risk among old, sick people. And if you have that mandate, you need substantial subsidies — means tested or otherwise — so people aren’t required to purchase insurance they can’t afford. Of course, that’s just Obamacare.

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Bill Schneider: An Election Democrats Can Win

Obamacare versus Ryanomics. That’s the battle line for 2014. It’s also a battle Democrats can win. Why? Because most Americans are pragmatists. Pragmatists believe that whatever works is right. Ideologues believe that if something is wrong, it can’t possibly work — even if it does work. That’s the Republican view of Obamacare: It’s wrong, so it can’t possibly work. But it now looks like Obamacare may work. More than 7 million people signed up for health insurance by the March 31 deadline, meeting the Obama administration’s original goal. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said, “The Affordable Care Act, whether my Republican friends want to admit it or not, is working.” On April 1, Ryan came out with a 10-year budget plan involving massive cuts in popular federal programs like Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, education, student loans and environmental protection.

Ryan’s proposal would eventually change Medicare — the most popular of all federal programs — from an insurance policy to a “premium support” program, where seniors would be given subsidies to purchase private insurance. GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney proposed doing that in 2012. Look where it got him.  Democrats will run against Ryanomics. Republicans will run against Obamacare. Remember the rule of pragmatism: Whatever works is right. If Americans come to believe Obamacare works, they will be reluctant to throw it out. Especially the millions who will already have a stake in Obamacare. On the other hand, Ryan is threatening to do away with programs like Medicare that people know are working. Why? Because he and his fellow Republicans think those programs are wrong. Attacking programs that work is pure ideological bloodlust. And a losing battle for sure.

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Ann Sanner: About 106,000 Ohioans Enroll In Expanded Medicaid

More than 106,000 Ohioans have signed up for Medicaid under an expansion of the taxpayer funded health program, while thousands of others are waiting to hear whether they are deemed eligible. Republican Gov. John Kasich’s administration moved forward with extending Medicaid eligibility last fall under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. Coverage took effect Jan. 1. The safety-net program for the poor and disabled provides coverage for one of every five Ohioans. The Medicaid expansion allows those earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level to gain health care coverage. For a single adult, that’s about $16,104 a year. Ohio’s monthly report on Medicaid caseloads shows that 106,238 residents had enrolled under the extension as of March 31.

That’s about 29 percent of the roughly 366,000 newly eligible people estimated to sign up by the end of June 2015. Residents have been enrolling in Medicaid through the state’s new benefits website. Potential enrollees can use the site instead of visiting county Job and Family Services offices, where many low-income residents apply for food stamps, cash assistance and other public programs. More than 345,000 people have sought Medicaid coverage through the state’s benefit site since Oct. 1. About 65 percent of the applications have been resolved, while roughly 120,000 are still pending. Many of those cases await eligibility determinations by the state’s largest counties.

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@Politics_PR

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LOL GOP: 5 Ways Paul Ryan’s Budget Screws Seniors

Republicans often point out that Obamacare cuts Medicare Advantage and reforms the program. But they fail to mention, as Democrats often do, the benefits the president’s health law has given to current Medicare beneficiaries. The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare reports: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently reported that since the passage of the ACA, over 7.9 million Medicare beneficiaries in the Medicare Part D donut hole have saved $9.9 billion on their prescription drugs, an average of $1,265 per person. Also, 37.2 million people with Medicare took advantage of at least one preventive service with no cost sharing, including an estimated 26.5 million people with traditional Medicare, and more than 4 million who took advantage of the Annual Wellness Visit. Ryan’s budget would repeal those benefits while keeping the cuts Republicans have been campaigning against for four years now.

Obamacare reforms have also lowered the growth of Medicare’s costs to zero. If this trend continues, the program would be solvent even through the peak of Baby Boomer retirements, protecting seniors from future benefit cuts. In an effort to balance the budget in 10 years while keeping tax cuts that mostly benefit the rich, Ryan would cut a slew of programs seniors have relied on. “Funding for Older Americans Act programs like Meals on Wheels, family caregiver support, job training, senior centers, and disease prevention programs, would suffer significant cuts when the need for these services is increasing,” the National Council on Aging (NCOA) reports. “Over time, these programs—which are NOT contributing to the federal budget deficit—would be cut by 22 percent below current levels.” Another $137 billion would be cut from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, aka food stamps. Currently, 9 million seniors and people with disabilities receive SNAP benefits.

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BBC: Hamid Aboutalebi: US Congress Passes Ban On Iran Envoy

The US Congress has sent a bill to the president that would bar Iran’s pick for ambassador to the UN from entering the country. The House of Representatives passed the measure unanimously two days after the Senate approved it. Hamid Aboutalebi was a part of the Muslim student group that seized the US embassy in Tehran in 1979. The White House has told Iran Mr Aboutalebi was “not viable” but has not taken a position on the bill. Fifty-two Americans were held for 444 days at the height of Iran’s Islamic revolution, which saw pro-American Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi sent into exile and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini take power.

Mr Aboutalebi, who previously served as Iran’s ambassador to Belgium, the European Union, Italy and Australia, told Iranian media his participation in the hostage crisis began only after the initial seizure of the embassy, and primarily involved translation. On Thursday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said, “We’ve made clear and have communicated to the Iranians that the selection they’ve put forward is not viable.” As the host country of the United Nations, the US has previously but rarely denied entry to an envoy or head of state. Those included a previous Iranian diplomat and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. In those cases the applications were withdrawn after the US signalled opposition, or the state department simply declined to process the visas. Those options are available in Mr Aboutalebi’s case.

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Paul Krugman: Health Care Nightmare

When it comes to health reform, Republicans suffer from delusions of disaster. They know, just know, that the Affordable Care Act is doomed to utter failure, so failure is what they see, never mind the facts on the ground. Thus, on Tuesday, Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, dismissed the push for pay equity as an attempt to “change the subject from the nightmare of Obamacare”; on the same day, the nonpartisan RAND Corporation released a study estimating “a net gain of 9.3 million in the number of American adults with health insurance coverage from September 2013 to mid-March 2014.” Some nightmare. And the overall gain, including children and those who signed up during the late-March enrollment surge, must be considerably larger. First, there was the amazing come-from-behind surge in enrollments.

Then there were a series of surveys — from Gallup, the Urban Institute, and RAND — all suggesting large gains in coverage. Taken individually, any one of these indicators might be dismissed as an outlier, but taken together they paint an unmistakable picture of major progress. But wait: What about all the people who lost their policies thanks to Obamacare? The answer is that this looks more than ever like a relatively small issue hyped by right-wing propaganda. RAND finds that fewer than a million people who previously had individual insurance became uninsured — and many of those transitions, one guesses, had nothing to do with Obamacare. It’s worth noting that, so far, not one of the supposed horror stories touted in Koch-backed anti-reform advertisements has stood up to scrutiny, suggesting that real horror stories are rare. Republicans clearly have no idea how to respond to these developments. They can’t offer any real alternative to Obamacare.Their political strategy has been to talk vaguely about replacing reform while waiting for its inevitable collapse. And what if reform doesn’t collapse? They have no idea what to do.

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On This Day

President Obama listens during a meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel at Blair House in Washington, D.C., before a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India, April, 11, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama meets with Director of Speechwriting Jon Favreau on the Colonnade outside the Oval Office, April 11, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama returns to the Oval Office through the Rose Garden after surprising students from Altona Middle School in Longmont, Colo., during their White House tour, April 11, 2011. President Obama received a letter from the mother of an Altona student who worried that her son’s trip to Washington, D.C., would be canceled if there was a government shutdown (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Sherman and Tammie Gillums look at their pictures with First Lady Michelle Obama as Mrs. Obama continues to greets guests at the Joining Forces Community Challenge event on the South Lawn of the White House, April 11, 2012 (Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)

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President Obama holds Chaplain (Captain) Emil Kapaun’s Easter stole in the Oval Office during a greet with Kapaun’s family in the Oval Office, April 11, 2013. The President and First Lady Michelle Obama met with members of Chaplain Kapaun’s family before awarding him the Medal of Honor posthumously during a ceremony in the East Room (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama talks on the phone with Nicole Hockley and families of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Conn., in the Oval Office, April 11, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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09
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Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama greets tourists at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., Saturday, April 9, 2011. The President made an unannounced stop to thank people for visiting the memorial a day after he and Congressional leaders agreed on a bill to keep the government open (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (all times Eastern):

9:05 AM: The President and First Lady depart the White House

12:30: Arrive in Killeen, Texas

3:0: The President and First Lady attend a memorial ceremony, Fort Hood, Sadowski Field

5:20: The President and First Lady arrive in Houston, Texas

6:0: The President attends a DNC event, Private Residence

8:20: The President delivers remarks and answers questions at a joint DCCC/DSCC dinner, Private Residence

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TPM: Obamacare Might Be Covering Way More People Than Previously Thought

RAND Corp, a non-profit think tank, released the survey. Its eye-opening finding: 7.2 million previously uninsured people have gained health coverage through their employer since mid-September. That’s on top of those people who have purchased private coverage on Obamacare’s insurance marketplaces or enrolled in Medicaid or young adults who signed up through their parents’ plan. Those three groups were the only people that many previous estimates of Obamacare’s impact had accounted for.

In other words, if you take the earlier estimates of 8.3 million to 9.5 million uninsured people who had gotten covered by marketplace plans, Medicaid and their parents’ policies — and then add some of the millions more who RAND found had gotten insured through their employer — then Obamacare could be responsible for reducing America’s uninsured ranks much more than the earlier estimates suggested.It’s safe to say that if Obamacare is leading to that significant a surge in employer-based coverage, it’s an impact that few people saw coming. The Congressional Budget Office didn’t anticipate such an increase — its analysis had projected that employer-based coverage would rise by only 1 million from 2013 to 2014.

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Paul Krugman: Three Legs Good, One Leg Bad

The good news for Obamacare just keeps coming in. Via Charles Gaba, the Rand Survey — which was the subject of a report in the LA Times, but which wasn’t publicly available — is now in. And it says that as of mid-March — that is, before the final enrollment surge — the Affordable Care Act had already produced a net gain of 9.3 million insured adults. Again, that’s a net gain; so much for claims that more people are losing insurance than gaining it.

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Philip Bump: The Source Of Black Poverty Isn’t Black Culture, It’s American Culture

Americans don’t want to imagine that our racist history is actually an ongoing, racist reality. We like to look at racism as a thing that has gotten better (if not gone away completely) and that the way black Americans are treated in society is actually colorblind. So, if forced to pick between the idea that our country’s structures and systems are biased toward white people or the idea that black communities are flawed, many pick the latter. Some doing so, of course, because they’re racist. Believing that black culture is primarily at fault means believing that black cultural attitudes

are why the black unemployment rate has always been at least 50 percent higher than white unemployment. Is black culture why this 2003 study found that job applicants “with white-sounding names are 50 percent more likely to get called for an initial interview than applicants with African-American-sounding names”? American history demonstrates countless examples of racist obstruction of black economic success. Ongoing examples show countless ways in which black Americans are still obstructed in the same way.

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Alex Pareene: Morning Joe’s Special Privileges: Why Is MSNBC Allowing Him To Help GOP Raise Money?

Joe Scarborough, who is definitely not running for president, is going to New Hampshire next month to deliver the keynote address at the Chesire County Republican Lincoln Day Dinner. This follows another visit to New Hampshire last month, where Scarborough delivered a speech to the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference. Joe Scarborough would like you to know that he is not planning a run for president — he just happens to enjoy New Hampshire, I guess, and who doesn’t? (He also recently visited South Carolina.) But as the Huffington Post’s Michael Calderone reports, this totally normal not-at-all presidential campaign-related New Hampshire visit probably violates MSNBC policy on hosts raising money for political parties or candidates. Because it is a fundraiser.

Maybe it doesn’t make a ton of sense to allow hosts to advocate, on-air, for certain parties and candidates, but not to donate to or raise money for them, but those are the rules, and those rules are what got then-MSNBC host Keith Olbermann suspended in 2010, after Olbermann donated money to three Democratic candidates.This year, MSNBC forced liberal host Ed Schultz to withdraw from a Democratic Party fundraiser. This will be Scarborough’s second Republican Party fundraiser of the year. He is delivering the keynote address, not merely moderating a panel. The money raised for the dinner will go to Cheshire County Republicans. It all seems pretty cut and dried.

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Charles Pierce on The Washington Examiner:

“It’s one step above that which you find under your windshield wiper at a flea market.”

Genius.

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NYT: U.S. And NATO Warn Russia Against Further Intervention In Ukraine

As the government in Kiev moved to reassert control over pro-Russian protesters across eastern Ukraine, the United States and NATO issued stern warnings to Moscow about further intervention in the country’s affairs amid continuing fears of an eventual Russian incursion. Secretary of State John Kerry accused the Kremlin of fomenting the unrest, calling the protests the work of saboteurs whose machinations were as “ham-handed as they are transparent.” Speaking to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he added:

“No one should be fooled — and believe me, no one is fooled — by what could potentially be a contrived pretext for military intervention just as we saw in Crimea. It is clear that Russian special forces and agents have been the catalysts behind the chaos of the last 24 hours.” The secretary general of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said Russia would be making a “historic mistake” by going into Ukraine, and he urged the Kremlin to “step back.” At a news conference in Paris, he said any such actions “would have grave consequences for our relationship with Russia” and “would further isolate Russia internationally.”

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Sahil Kapur: Republicans Warn Of New Obamacare Reality: No Repeal Without Alternative

For all the challenges still facing Obamacare and its supporters, conservative health wonks are increasingly cautioning Republicans that the politics of the issue have changed in the wake of the 7 million initial sign-ups. Simply repealing the law is no longer an option, they warn, even if Republicans gain the power to do so. If they want to unwind the law, the least they’ll have to do is coalesce around health care solutions of their own, lest they strip away benefits for millions of Americans without a plan of their own. And the party is far from a consensus on how they’d replace the law. There is internal dissent on whether Republicans ought to come up with an alternative. One congressional GOP health aide, who was granted anonymity to speak candidly, said his party is as determined as ever to fight Obamacare, and will remain so as long as it exhibits failure. He said devising an alternative is fraught with the difficulty of crafting a new benefits structure that doesn’t look like the Affordable Care Act.

“If you want to say the further and further this gets down the road, the harder and harder it gets to repeal, that’s absolutely true,” the aide said. “As far as repeal and replace goes, the problem with replace is that if you really want people to have these new benefits, it looks a hell of a lot like the Affordable Care Act. … To make something like that work, you have to move in the direction of the ACA. You have to have a participating mechanism, you have to have a mechanism to fund it, you have to have a mechanism to fix parts of the market.” It sheds light on why Republicans haven’t yet followed through on the “replace” component of their “repeal and replace” mantra, more than four years after Obamacare was enacted. The popular parts of the law, most notably the preexisting conditions guarantee, are unsustainable without unpopular parts like the individual mandate. Unraveling the parts people dislike means unraveling the whole structure, and rebuilding the well-liked elements is difficult without arriving at a similar place as Obamacare.

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BBC: Ukraine Crisis: Key Four-Way Talks Announced

Senior officials from the EU, Russia, the US and Ukraine are to meet next week to discuss the worsening situation in Ukraine. It will be the first four-way meeting since the crisis erupted. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton will join US Secretary of State John Kerry, his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov and Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsia. Russia annexed Crimea in February and has troops massed along the border. Kiev and the US accuse Moscow of fomenting unrest in the mainly Russian-speaking east of the country as a pretext to possibly seizing more territory – a claim strongly refuted by Russia.

As a war of words between Russia and the West hotted up on Tuesday, Mr Kerry said Russian special forces and agents had been “the catalyst behind the chaos of the last 24 hours”. He said the events “could potentially be a contrived pretext for military intervention just as we saw in Crimea”. On Tuesday, an EU diplomatic source told BBC News that the European Commission was setting up a special “Support Group for Ukraine” to co-ordinate assistance. The group will consist of several dozen people and its work could be extended to cover fellow ex-Soviet states Georgia and Moldova, the source added.

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NPR: Wave Of Newly Insured Patients Strains Oregon Health Plan

Millions of Americans who didn’t have health insurance last year now do because of the Affordable Care Act. In Lane County, Oregon, Trillium Community Health Plan is struggling to deal with a huge influx of new patients looking for health care. CEO Terry Coplin says the company figured 26,000 people would sign up in the first few years. Instead, about that many signed up right off the bat. Cheryl Stumph is one of them. She and her husband, Mike, run Green Streak Automotive, an all-service garage in Veneta, Ore. Last November, Stumph’s 27-year-old son had a stroke and died at the wheel of his tow truck. The stroke stemmed from a genetic problem, so Stumph spent the winter worrying about her six other kids.Genetic testing is expensive, and she didn’t have health insurance. But now she and her family get Medicaid through Trillium Health. She’s thrilled to be able to get a mammogram and treatment for a stubborn infection. The kids can get genetic testing.

She says her husband has a chronic medical problem that needs attention, too. Stories like Stumph’s are being repeated across Oregon. Trillium’s Coplin says the health plan has come up with a four-part plan to deal with this unexpected influx. First, it will pay bonuses to doctors who accept new patients covered by Trillium. Second, Trillium is giving Lane County $900,000 to open a new clinic in an existing building. “They have proposed ways that they can get this clinic up and running by mid-year,” says Coplin. Third, Trillium is hiring a consultant to see if existing clinics can increase efficiency, for example, by changing who fills out forms. “Having physicians do clerical work is really a waste of valuable resources,” Coplin says. And finally, Trillium is offering $500,000 to any clinic or group of physicians willing to expand their practice to take on another 5,000 adult patients.

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Tommy Christopher: Anatomy Of A Media Attack: ABC News, Fox News, And CNN On White House And Equal Pay

On this Equal Pay Day, it is instructive to see how the mainstream media constructs an attack on the White House and disguises it as good old-fashioned adversarial journalism. One clip you’ve probably seen all day today is of cable news hosts debating the talking point about a supposed gender pay gap among the White House staff, which conservatives raise annually in an attempt to undermine the President’s commitment to pay equity, and the notion of pay equity itself. The figure that The American Enterprise Institute is using this year, 88 cents on every dollar, comes from comparing the median annual salary of women who work in the White House, to the median annual salary of their male colleagues. The AEI report deliberately ignores whether the men and women at the White House are being paid the same amount for the same jobs, because they’re trying to critique President Obama’s use of a similar statistic in his speeches about equal pay.

Besides, when two different reporters tag-teamed White House Press Secretary Jay Carney about it on Monday, Carney explained, clear as a bell, that women in the White House get paid exactly the same as men for the same jobs. Clear as a bell. Jon Karl brought up the AEI study, and Carney explained the gap as a function of looking at the aggregate of all staffers, including the most junior, but that “men and women in equivalent roles here earn equivalent salaries. For example, we have two deputy chiefs of staff, one man and one woman, and they earn the same salary. We have 16 department heads, over half of them are women, all of whom make the same salary as their male counterparts.” What isn’t fair is for ostensibly objective news organizations to present a Republican talking point, then only play part of the White House’s response.

More here

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Annie-Rose Strasser: Why The Government Just Threw Down $225 Million On Hybrid Electric Trains

The Illinois Department of Transportation signed a contract to bring a total of 32 hybrid electric-diesel trains to the United States last month. The trains will start running by 2016. And the project, when all is said and done, will cost the United States $225 million — a number that may sound enormous but that will actually save a significant amount of both money and the carbon pollution that drives climate change. “The Charger locomotives will be used exclusively in passenger service,” a release from Siemens, the company manufacturing the locomotives, says. The trains “will be manufactured in the U.S. by Cummins Inc., headquartered in Columbus, Indiana,” and, will run in Illinois, California, Michigan, Missouri and Washington.

Should all go well with the original 32, there’s an option for an additional 225 locomotives down the line. The hybrid electric engines will make the trains more efficient. The emissions standards, in particular, are what will make the locomotives worth the extra million dollars apiece. Those EPA standards require a 90 percent reduction in nitrogen oxide, a greenhouse gas, and in particulate matter (aka soot), which contributes to pollution and health problems.A similar train in Germany, in fact, reduced carbon emissions and energy use by a full 25 percent compared to standard trains.

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Alec Macgillis: This Is What Life In A Plutocracy Looks Like

2. On Monday, a Senate subcommittee releases a report on the tax avoidance used by Caterpillar, the giant Peoria, Ill.-based heavy equipment manufacturer, which cut its tax bill by $2.4 billion over the past 13 years by allotting $8 billion in revenues from its parts division to a subsidiary in Switzerland, where only 65 of the division’s 8,500 employees work. In an email exchange about whether this was appropriate, a managing director at PricewaterhouseCoopers, which was paid $55 million to concoct this arrangement, said: “What the heck, we’ll all be retired when this audit comes up on audit…Baby boomers have their fun, and leave it to the kids to pay for it.” 6. Later on Thursday morning, between 9 and 10 a.m., part of the overhead electric line that powers the Acela train comes down onto the tracks near Bowie, Maryland, between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore.

Virtually all train traffic between Baltimore and Washington shuts down for hours as undermanned crews struggle to repair the line, thereby severely hampering traffic in the Washington to Boston Northeast corridor that carries 750,000 passengers on 2,000 trains per day and also spelling panic for the Thursday afternoon rail commuters heading north out of Washington.One passenger is left thinking that this country could use some more spending on infrastructure, transportation and the general commonweal. Yes, that risks being “collectivist” and would be opposed by a casino magnate with vast holdings in Macau and would leave less for top-bracket tax cuts in the Ryan budget. But heck, it would also mean some more business for Caterpillar, which might even be prevailed upon to keep some of its income stateside, thus helping pay for said investment in the future of the greatest nation on earth.

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Peter Beinart: Sheldon Adelson’s Culture Of Hate

Imagine this. Hillary Clinton, Andrew Cuomo, Elizabeth Warren and multiple lesser Democratic notables travel halfway across the country to kiss the ring of a Palestinian-American billionaire who has shown himself willing to spend tens of millions of dollars subsidizing presidential campaigns. The billionaire has some provocative views. Six months earlier, he suggested that if Israel does not end its nuclear weapons program, America should drop an “atomic weapon…in the middle of the [Negev] desert that doesn’t hurt a soul.” If that doesn’t work, America should drop “the next one…in the middle of” Tel Aviv.

The billionaire insists that there is no such thing as the Jewish people. It’s a hoax; the Jews “have fooled the world very successfully.” And he declares that “There isn’t a” Jew “alive who wasn’t raised on a curriculum of hatred and hostility toward the” Palestinians. Change the words “Democrat” to “Republican,” “Israel” to “Iran” and “Palestinian” to “Jewish,” and that’s exactly what just happened. Leading contenders for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination spent last weekend wooing and feting a billionaire, Sheldon Adelson, whose views – if directed at Jews—would put him in the company of Louis Farrakhan and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Think I’m exaggerating? Let’s check the record. Adelson has called for nuking the Iranian desert (which supposedly wouldn’t “hurt a soul”) and then nuking Tehran unless Iran abandons its nuclear weapons program. I’m all for Iran abandoning its nuclear weapons program. But how does threatening Tehran with nuclear annihilation make Adelson any different than those Iranians who have threatened to destroy Israel? Then there’s Adelson’s view that the Palestinians are an “invented people.” Again, flip it around. In 2008, when Tel Aviv University’s Shlomo Sand published a book called “The Invention of the Jewish People,” he was widely called anti-Semitic. When Adelson says the same about Palestinians, he’s a Republican rock star. This isn’t hawkishness. It’s hate.

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Danny Vinik: House GOP Leader Admits His Party Doesn’t Care About The Long-Term Unemployed

Over the past three months, Republicans have offered one excuse after another for not extending unemployment insurance. With the Senate passing a UI extension on Monday night, House Republican leaders are searching for any reason to oppose the bill—and openly admitting that they only care about the politics of the long-term unemployment crisis. Now Representative Tom Cole, the deputy whip, has come up with a new one: House Republicans don’t feel any pressure to pass it. “I don’t think there is a great sense of pressure on our members,” Cole said Monday.

“The prevailing view in our conference is that there aren’t adequate pay-fors and it’s time for this program to come to an end.” In other words, House Republicans will only help the long-term unemployed when they think there is political pressure on them to do so—not because it is sound public policy.Then again, at least Cole is being honest: House Republicans don’t care about the long-term unemployed. They only care about the politics surrounding them.

More here

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The New Zealand Herald: Michelle Obama’s Mother Plays A Crucial Role

It was a rare, almost intimate scene, between Michelle Obama and her mother, played out before the world. When a group of Chinese girls invited the First Lady to skip rope at an event on the ancient city wall during her recent visit to Xi’an, China, she kicked her heels off to slide on a pair of flats. Before an aide could swoop in and pick up her daughter’s shoes, Marian Robinson bent down to grab them. Then, the 76-year-old grandmother beamed as Obama jumped. Obama’s daughters, Sasha and Malia, stood nearby, shyly hanging back as their mother took centre stage. Robinson clapped and smiled. For six days in China, the least-public resident of the White House was a central figure on the public stage. Overseas trips such as the one Robinson took with her daughter and granddaughters last month provide an uncommon glimpse into their family dynamic and the critical role she has continued to play in the first family.

In China, Michelle Obama proudly showed off her mother, and their bond was obvious. Max Baucus, the newly appointed US ambassador to China, tasked with introducing the First Lady to Chinese students at Peking University, offered, “She’s so devoted to her mother, Mrs Robinson.” Her children have said she has built a busy social life, but she still remains a go-to person for ensuring her granddaughters, who’ve grown up as household names, maintain some normality. It was this role she played in China, walking with her granddaughters as their mother drew the world’s attention, or taking them to dinner when the First Lady had other obligations. It is a space in which Robinson has grown comfortable. She smiled brightly at China’s president, Xi Jinping, and outstretched her hand to him during a brief, formal meeting between the two first families. She greeted China’s First Lady, Peng Liyuan, with a wave, and she strolled along as their group toured the Forbidden City, where emperors once dwelled. She chatted with Baucus while walking through the Summer Palace, an enchanting park of gardens, lakes and pavilions in Beijing.

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Susan K. Livio: Most NJ Residents Want To Keep Obamacare Law, Poll Says

Now that Obamacare is here and the first enrollment period has closed, a growing majority of New Jerseyans say want to keep the health care law and fix its flaws, according to a Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press Poll released today. About 60 percent of the poll’s participants said they want the law improved, while 7 percent said Obamacare, formally known as the Affordable Care Act, is fine as it is, but all of them, 67 percent, would oppose an effort to repeal it, according to the poll’s findings.

That’s 8 points higher than the response from a national poll by Kaiser Health poll last month.According to February statistics from the Obama administration, 74,000 New Jerseyans signed up for private health insurance through the online exchange and 123,000 enrolled through Medicaid. Enrollment closed March 31 for 2014, but will reopen in November for the following year.

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President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama walk on the South Lawn of the White House before boarding the Marine One helicopter, for a short trip to Andrews Air Force base, Md., then onto Fort Hood, Texas for a memorial service in honor of those who died

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President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama walk with Col. William M. Knight from the Marine One helicopter to board Air Force One

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On This Day:

Children from Bancroft Elementary School help First Lady Michelle Obama plant the White House Vegetable Garden April 9, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton) 

President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speak together sitting at a picnic table April 9, 2009, on the South Lawn of the White House (Photo by Pete Souza)

Children from Bancroft Elementary School in Washington, D.C. help First Lady Michelle Obama plant the White House Vegetable Garden, April 9, 2009 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)

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President Obama talks on the phone with Associate Justice John Paul Stevens, in the Oval Office, after announcing that he would be retiring from the Supreme Court, April 9, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama waves to tourists at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., April 9, 2011. The President made an unannounced stop to thank people for visiting the memorial a day after he and Congressional leaders agreed on a bill to keep the government open (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama plays basketball with former NBA player Bruce Bowen on April 9, 2012, during the annual White House Easter Egg Roll

President Obama does push-ups on the White House Basketball Court after a member of the Harlem Globetrotters made a shot, April 9, 2012. The President participated in “Shoot for Strength”, a game where children did push-ups for every basketball shot made by the pros, during the 2012 White House Easter Egg Roll festivities (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama acts out a part of the story while reading from the book Where The Wild Things Are“ with first lady Michelle Obama and his daughter Sasha during the White House Easter Egg Roll, April 9, 2012

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First Lady Michelle Obama introduces Justin Timberlake at a workshop, “Soulsville, USA: The History of Memphis Soul,” in the State Dining Room of the White House, April 9, 2013

“Oh, watching all your faces — priceless. Priceless!” she told the excited group. “Okay, let’s breathe. Come on,” she teased. “Everyone, let’s breathe – even the moms.”

Mavis Staples and Justin Timberlake listen to the First Lady at the “Soulsville, USA: The History of Memphis Soul” workshop

President Obama and Chief of Staff Denis McDonough walk along the South Lawn driveway at the White House, April 9, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama talks with Justin Timberlake in the Blue Room of the White House prior to the “In Performance at the White House: Memphis Soul” concert in the East Room, April 9, 2013. At left, First Lady Michelle Obama talks with Queen Latifah and her grandmother, Katherine Viola Bray (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, along with daughters Malia and Sasha, listen as Eddie Floyd sings “Knock On Wood” during the “In Performance at the White House: Memphis Soul” concert in the East Room of the White House, April 9, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama join musicians on stage during the finale of the “In Performance at the White House: Memphis Soul” concert in the East Room of the White House, April 9, 2013. The program included performances by Alabama Shakes, William Bell, Steve Cropper, Eddie Floyd, Ben Harper, Queen Latifah, Cyndi Lauper, Joshua Ledet, Sam Moore, Charlie Musselwhite, Mavis Staples, Justin Timberlake, and Booker T. Jones (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

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