Posts Tagged ‘medicaid

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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11
Apr
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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14

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.

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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.

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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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06
Apr
14

Rise and Shine

President Obama talks to Coach Mike Krzyzewski, who led Duke to win the NCAA Men’s Division One Basketball Championship, in the Oval Office, April 6, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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The Week Ahead

Today: The President has no public events scheduled.

Monday: The President will travel to Prince George’s County, MD to host an event on the economy. Following this event, he will meet with the Commander-in-Chief and Executive Director of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Tuesday: The President  will host an event on the economy at the White House.

Wednesday: The President and the First Lady will travel to Houston, TX. The President will attend DCCC and DSCC events. More details regarding the President and First Lady’s travel to Houston will be forthcoming.

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

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

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KEYE Tv: President Obama To Attend Memorial At Ft. Hood

A White House aide says President Barack Obama plans to attend a memorial service Wednesday at Fort Hood — the site of last week’s shooting rampage. A Fort Hood spokesman confirms there will be a remembrance ceremony that day, and presidential adviser Dan Pfeiffer tells CBS’ “Face the Nation” that Obama will be there. Investigators say that an Army truck driver, Ivan Lopez, had an argument before opening fire at the Texas post last Wednesday, killing three soldiers and wounding 16 others before taking his own life.

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White House: Statement By The President On Elections In Afghanistan

On behalf of the American people, I congratulate the millions of Afghans who enthusiastically participated in today’s historic elections, which promise to usher in the first democratic transfer of power in Afghanistan’s history and which represent another important milestone in Afghans taking full responsibility for their country as the United States and our partners draw down our forces.

We commend the Afghan people, security forces, and elections officials on the turnout for today’s vote –- which is in keeping with the spirited and positive debate among candidates and their supporters in the run-up to the election.

These elections are critical to securing Afghanistan’s democratic future, as well as continued international support, and we look to the Afghan electoral bodies to carry out their duties in the coming weeks to adjudicate the results –- knowing that the most critical voices on the outcome are those of Afghans themselves.

Today, we also pay tribute to the many Americans –- military and civilian –- who have sacrificed so much to support the Afghan people as they take responsibility for their own future.

The United States continues to support a sovereign, stable, unified, and democratic Afghanistan, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with the new government chosen by the Afghan people on the basis of mutual respect and mutual accountability.

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Jim Kuhnhenn: Obama To Sign Executive Order With Equal Pay Rules For Federal Contractors

Lacking congressional backing to raise wages or end gender pay disparities, President Barack Obama is imposing his policies directly on federal contractors, following a long-established tradition of presidents exerting their powers on a fraction of the economy directly under their control. This week, the president will sign an executive order that would prohibit federal contractors from retaliating against employees who discuss their pay with each other. The prohibition on the wage “gag rules” is similar to language in a Senate bill aimed at closing a pay gap between men and women. That legislation is scheduled for a vote this week, though it is not likely to pass.

In addition, Obama on Tuesday will direct the Labor Department to adopt regulations requiring federal contractors to provide compensation data based on sex and race. The president will sign the executive order and the presidential memo during an event at the White House where he will be joined Lilly Ledbetter, whose name appears on a pay discrimination law Obama signed in 2009.Separately, on Monday, Obama will also announce the 24 schools that will share in more than $100 million in grants to redesign their schools to better prepare high school students for college or for careers. The awards are part of an executive order Obama signed last year. Money for the program comes from fees that companies pay for visas to hire foreign workers for specialized jobs.

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Michael Hiltzik: A Look At How Many Obamacare Enrollees Were Uninsured: 5.4 Million

As we observed earlier this week, one of the obsessions of opponents of the Affordable Care Act is the question of how many enrollees in Obamacare health plans already had insurance. The goal is to knock down the latest enrollment numbers by suggesting that most of the 7.1 million people enrolled through the individual insurance exchanges just moved from one insurance plan to another in a waste of time and effort. The real figure probably won’t be known for weeks, even months. But researchers at the Urban Institute’s Health Policy Center have weighed in with their own estimate. They’re figuring that the ACA has reduced the number of uninsured Americans by 5.4 million from the first quarter of 2013 through early March this year.

Their estimate is based on data from their March 2014 Health Reform Marketing Survey, which consists of public polling. Their finding is that the uninsurance rate for adults ages 18–64 was 15.2% for the nation in early March, a decline of 2.7 percentage points since September 2013, just before open enrollment on the exchanges began Oct. 1. “This represents a gain in coverage for about 5.4 million adults,” they write. Although the Urban Institute figures aren’t keyed to the enrollment figures, it’s worth observing that if all those newly insureds were among those who signed up on the individual exchanges, that would mean that of the 7.1 million enrollees, 77% were previously uninsured.

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AP: Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Over Drone Strikes

A federal judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit against Obama administration officials for the 2011 drone-strike killings of three U.S. citizens in Yemen, including an al-Qaida cleric. Permitting a lawsuit against individual officials “under the circumstances of this case would impermissibly draw the court into ‘the heart of executive and military planning and deliberation,’” said Collyer. She said the suit would require the court to examine national security policy and the military chain of command as well as operational combat decisions regarding the designation of targets and how best to counter threats to the United States. “Defendants must be trusted and expected to act in accordance with the U.S. Constitution when they intentionally target a U.S. citizen abroad at the direction of the president and with the concurrence of Congress,” said Collyer. “They cannot be held personally responsible in monetary damages for conducting war.” The lawsuit sought unspecified damages.

Anwar al-Awlaki’s classification as a key leader raises fundamental questions regarding the conduct of armed conflict, Collyer’s 41-page opinion stated. The Constitution commits decision-making in this area to the president, as commander in chief, and to Congress, the judge said. U.S.-born al-Qaida leader al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, an al-Qaida propagandist, were killed in a drone strike in September 2011. Al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman, was killed the following month.  Anwar al-Awlaki had been linked to the planning and execution of several attacks targeting U.S. and Western interests, including a 2009 attempt on Christmas Day on a Detroit-bound airliner and a 2010 plot against cargo planes. “The fact is that Anwar al-Awlaki was an active and exceedingly dangerous enemy of the United States, irrespective of his distance, location, and citizenship,” said Collyer. “As evidenced by his participation in the Christmas Day attack, Anwar al-Awlaki was able to persuade, direct, and wage war against the United States from his location in Yemen, without being present on an official battlefield or in a hot war zone.” She said that the U.S. government moved against al-Awlaki as authorized by the defendants and she said the officials acted in accordance with the Authorization for Use of Military Force, which was enacted by Congress after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

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Bruce Japsen: Medicare Seniors Like ObamaCare’s Team Approach

As the U.S. health care system moves away from fee-for-service medicine to more accountable care that uses a teamof health professionals, seniors covered by Medicare say they are okay with these new models that include nurses, social workers and other allied health professionals in the front lines of their treatment, according to a new analysis. Increasingly, the Medicare health insurance program for the elderly as part of the Affordable Care Act is moving to a system that rewards doctors and hospitals for working together to improve care. A new national survey of adults 65 and older from the John A. Hartford Foundation about “team care and the medical home” shows 27 percent say they get this kind of care right now, they like it and it has improved their health.

The openness to new models debunks theories by some in health care who think patients only want to see a doctor for all their health care needs. The bulk of the sample, or 73 percent say they want such care and 61 percent say they believe it would improve their health. Medicare, too, is moving aggressively toward more accountable models with success achieving savings. In the first year of the Medicare Shared Savings Program, almost half of the ACOs that started operations in 2012 had lower medical expenses than projected, exceeding their quality benchmarks, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. There were 29 ACOs that generated shared savings of more than $125 million.

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Bloomberg: Private U.S. Payrolls Top Pre-Recession Peak

Private employers in the world’s largest economy reached an important milestone in March: they have made up all the jobs lost as a result of the recession, and then some. The CHART OF THE DAY shows payrolls excluding government agencies climbed to 116.1 million, surpassing the prior peak of 116 million in January 2008. Winning industries include mining and logging, education and health care, and professional services. Manufacturing and construction have lagged behind.

“Private-sector employment has popped its head out of the hole, and finally replaced the headcount lost due to the recession,” said Ward McCarthy, chief financial economist at Jefferies LLC in New York. “The labor market is the heartbeat of the economy, so when it finally gets to the point where it’s growing again, good things happen.” The recovery in private payrolls signals better times ahead for Americans still looking for work and lays the ground for a gradual pickup in wages and consumer spending, according to McCarthy. Steady progress also will probably prompt Federal Reserve policy makers to continue trimming stimulus while keeping interest rates low.

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Cynthia Tucker: Irrational Hatred Of Obamacare Is Hard To Fathom

My friend Isatou has just received an invoice from Kaiser Permanente, testament to her new coverage through the Affordable Care Act — usually called “Obamacare.” She’s thrilled to finally have health insurance so she can get regular checkups, including dental care. A reasonably healthy middle-aged woman, she knows she needs routine mammograms and screenings for maladies such as hypertension. But before Obamacare, she struggled to pay for those things. She once had to resort to the emergency room, which left her with a bill for nearly $20,000. (She settled the bill for far less, but it still left her deeply in debt.) She is one of more than 7 million people who have signed up for health insurance through the ACA, stark evidence of the overwhelming market demand.

Now, young adults can stay on their parents’ health insurance policies until they are 26 years old — a boon in an economy where many young folks are struggling to find decent jobs. Now, patients with previously diagnosed illnesses (“pre-existing conditions,” in insurance lingo) can’t be denied coverage. Now, the chronically ill don’t have to worry about hitting a lifetime cap that would deny them essential procedures or pharmaceuticals. Now, working folks who don’t get insurance through their employers can purchase affordable policies. The GOP’s relentless opposition has been puzzling. Republicans have resorted to extreme measures to try to derail Obamacare, including an implicit threat to prevent the National Football League from participating in a marketing campaign to encourage people to sign up.It’s strange. Could it be that Republicans are simply furious that millions of Americans like Isatou finally have health insurance?

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Bloomberg: Cement Deals Lay Foundation For Building Boom

For signs that construction is on the mend, look no further than the cement industry. Money being spent to acquire suppliers of building materials worldwide is surging to the highest level since at least May 2008, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. After $22 billion of deals in the past 12 months, Holcim Ltd. (HOLN) and Lafarge SA (LG) — the world’s two biggest cement makers with a combined market value of more than $50 billion — are in advanced merger talks. “What we’re seeing is a recognition by these companies that the bottom is in and that the recovery is happening,” Todd Vencil, a Richmond, Virginia-based analyst at Sterne Agee Group Inc., said in a phone interview.

“Companies are feeling confident enough about that to have the buyers and sellers able to come together now.” In the U.S., construction spending increased 8.7 percent in the 12 months ended in February and 9.4 percent in the period ended in January, the fastest since 2006, data from the Census Bureau compiled by Bloomberg show. U.S. cement consumption will rise 8.1 percent this year to 86 million metric tons and will continue to increase through 2018, according to estimates from the Portland Cement Association.

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Tara McGuiness: While Marketplace Enrollment Ended, Medicaid Enrollment Continues

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has already provided coverage to millions of Americans. More than 7.1 million Americans signed up for coverage through the Marketplaces, 3 million additional young adults were covered under their parents’ insurance and millions more will have access through Medicaid. A new report shows that more people are gaining coverage through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) as a result of the health law. The analysis, produced by the Health and Human Services Department shows enrollment in Medicaid and CHIP in February was at least 3 million people higher than it was, on average, between July and September. That does not include March, which saw an enormous spike in Marketplace enrollment and traffic to HealthCare.gov.

While this is great progress, states where governors or legislatures refuse to implement the Medicaid expansion provisions of the law will leave 5.7 million Americans uninsured. States that have expanded Medicaid, such as Kentucky and New York, have seen particularly dramatic declines in their uninsured populations. Just take Kentucky, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal, Kentucky has seen a 40 percent drop in its rate of uninsured since October 1.While open enrollment for the Marketplaces closed on March 31st, Medicaid coverage enrollment continues year round. That means we are going to continue, working with partners, to sign people up for Medicaid. We have made improvements to our systems and we are ramping up the tactics and tools that are working to reach uninsured Americans. We have learned that Medicaid expansion had a positive impact in getting people covered, as enrollment growth in states that expanded Medicaid was over 5 times higher than in other states (8.3 percent versus 1.6 percent).

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AlJazeera America: Medicaid Boosted By 3 Million, Bringing ‘Obamacare’ Sign-Ups To 10 Million

Three million lower-income Americans have enrolled in the Medicaid program so far during the rollout of U.S. President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform law. That brings to more than 10 million the number of people who have signed up for both public and private health coverage since the Oct. 1 launch of the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. This week, the White House announced there were 7.1 million sign-ups as of March 31 for private health plans through new electronic insurance marketplaces now operating in all 50 states.

The current data includes people who qualify for Medicaid programs that have existed for decades, but it does seem as if the health care law is the reason behind many of the new enrollees: Medicaid enrollment has been brisker in states that are expanding the program – with a rate 8.3 percent higher than before Oct. 1. States that have not expanded Medicaid have seen enrollment rise by only 1.6 percent.

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Joe Conason: On Our Highest Court, A Former Lobbyist Guts Campaign Finance Reform

It was Kennedy who wrote the majority opinion in Citizens United, which dismissed the notion that corruption will arise from unlimited political campaign contributions because they will all be disclosed. “Citizens can see whether elected officials are ‘in the pocket’ of so-called moneyed interests …and disclosure permits citizens and shareholders to react to the speech of corporate entities in a proper way,” he wrote. “This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages.” But if any Supreme Court justice knows how ridiculous that sounds, it must be Kennedy – whose own background as a corporate lobbyist and son of a lobbyist has been forgotten in nearly three decades since his Senate confirmation in 1987. His father, Anthony “Bud” Kennedy, was a backslapping, hard-drinking partner in a powerful lobbying law firm run by one Arthur “Artie” Samish, “the “secret boss of California” who finally went to prison on tax charges in the mid-1950s, while young Tony was studying to enter law school.

Samish liked to brag that he had amassed more power than anyone else in the state, including the governor, that he could buy any legislator with “a baked potato, a bottle, or a broad,” and that he was able to “unelect” any lawmaker who didn’t vote his way. The major clients of Samish and Kennedy were racing, entertainment, and liquor interests, notably including Schenley Industries, then run by J. Edgar Hoover’s mobbed-up pal Lewis Rosenstiel. When Bud Kennedy died suddenly in 1963, young Tony was only two years out of law school. But he went into the family business and inherited his late father’s clientele. While Kennedy always insisted that lobbying was only a “sideline” in his law practice, his billings were substantial – the equivalent of hundreds of thousands or more in today’s dollars. In 1974, he pushed through a bill for Capitol Records that saved the company (and cost the state) millions in sales taxes. How did he do it? The same way that special interests work their will today – by doling out huge wads of cash to lawmakers on behalf of his clients.

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Washington Post: Facing Obamacare Deadline, More Young People Signed Up In March

Five state-based health insurance marketplaces and the District of Columbia’s exchange have so far provided an age breakdown of people who signed up for coverage through March 31, the official end of open enrollment. Compared against numbers reported by the Department of Health and Human Services in January and February, young adults in March signed up at higher rates.These numbers don’t tell the whole story of youth enrollment, though. HHS hasn’t reported March demographic data for the 36 states where it’s operating the marketplaces. Nine other state-based exchanges also haven’t yet provided an age breakdown for March enrollment.

People who struggled to sign up before March 31 can still enroll before April 15 through HealthCare.gov, the federal enrollment portal. HHS said it doesn’t have a reliable estimate of how many are still trying to enroll. State-run exchanges have also allowed some deadline leeway. The numbers also don’t account for young adults who enrolled in coverage outside the exchanges. The online Web broker eHealthInsurance, which sells off-exchange plans nationwide, recently reported that 45 percent of its shoppers since Jan. 1 are between 18 and 34 years old. Insurers must consider exchange customers and non-exchange customers as part of the same risk pool if they’re selling in both markets.

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Jonathan Cohn: Obamacare Is Helping People Via Medicaid – Except In States Where Officials Are Fighting It

Some new Obamacare information: As of the end of February, the number of Americans on Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) was 3 million higher than it was at the beginning of the Affordable Care Act’s open enrollment period. It’s one more sign that the health care law is reducing the number of Americans without insurance significantly—although it doesn’t tell us by how much or whether, at year’s end, the reduction will live up to original projections. It’s also one more window into our growing geopolitical divide—between the part of America where officials are trying aggressively to help poor people get health insurance, and the part where officials are not. taking advantage of flexibility following the 2012 Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare, a large swath of mostly conservative states have opted not to expand eligibility.

As a result, millions of low-income Americans living in these states remain with no viable source of comprehensive coverage. The story is different in states that have expanded Medicaid. That explains the new figures, which the Department of Health and Human Services released on Friday morning. In states expanding Medicaid, enrollment in the two programs rose by more than 8 percent. In states that haven’t expanded Medicaid, enrollment rose by just 1.8 percent. Presumably a lot of these people were already eligible for Medicaid but either didn’t know it or hadn’t decided to do it before they heard about Obamacare. Wonks call this the “woodworking” effect.

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 On This Day:

Sen. Barack Obama, D-IL, talks on his cell phone outside of the Senate chamber during a cloture vote on the immigration reform bill on April 6, 2006, on Capitol Hill in Washington

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President Obama speaks with National Security Advisor Gen. James Jones following a reception with Turkish President Abdullah Gul and heads of state attending the Alliance of Civilizations Dinner April 6, 2009, at Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul, Turkey (Photo by Pete Souza)

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The Mount Ennon Baptist Church Children’s Chorus, from Clinton, Md., perform at an Easter Prayer Breakfast with Christian leaders in the East Room of the White House, April 6, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama walks to an outdoor meeting with, from left, Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor, Dan Pfeiffer, communications director, Jim Messina, deputy chief of staff, and Bob Bauer, counsel to the President, in the Rose Garden of the White House, April 6, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama and Vice President Biden meet with staff in the Oval Office following a late night meeting with House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on the budget, April 6, 2011. Pictured, from left, are: Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew; Rob Nabors, Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs; Senior Advisor David Plouffe; and Director of Communications Dan Pfeiffer (Photo by Pete Souza)

First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, bottom right, meet with Members on Congress to discuss the Joining Forces military families initiative in the Map Room of the White House, April 6, 2011 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Filmmaker Spike Lee uses his iPad to photograph President Obama as he greets guests at the National Action Network’s Keepers of the Dream awards gala in New York, N.Y., April 6, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden greet participants during a roundtable meeting with military spouses, veterans, and volunteers to discuss the Joining Forces military families initiative in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, April 6, 2011 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden talk to AFPS reporter Elaine Sanchez about “Joining Forces,” the new White House initiative to raise awareness about the challenges facing military families, in the Map Room at the White House, April 6, 2011

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President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama host a Passover Seder Dinner for family, staff and friends, in the Old Family Dining Room of the White House, April 6, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama host a Passover Seder Dinner for family, staff and friends, in the Old Family Dining Room of the White House, April 6, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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23
Mar
14

Rise and Shine

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

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Today:

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

9:05: Departs Joint Base Andrews

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The Week Ahead:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sergei Seninsky: Crimea Annexation Threatens Already Weakened Russia Economy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sandra Chereb: Nevada Sees Surge In Medicaid Enrollments

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

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

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On This Day:

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

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