Posts Tagged ‘Minimum Wage

11
Jul
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama visit La General Hospital in Accra, Ghana, July 11, 2009

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Today (All Times Eastern)

10:50: The President meets with company executives and their small business suppliers, Eisenhower Executive Office Building

12:45: Josh Earnest briefs the press

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Paul Waldman: Why The Border Crisis Is The Exact Opposite Of Katrina

If there’s one thing we’re good at, it’s taking a genuine policy crisis and turning into an inane discussion about “optics,” which is what’s happening now with regard to the situation at the southern border. Both Republicans and the media have become obsessed with the question of whether President Obama should go to the border for a photo opportunity, with the accompanying and bizarre assertion that this is “Obama’s Katrina.” In fact, it’s just the opposite. In that case, it was Bush’s failure of competence and his inability to go beyond photo ops that resulted in so much destruction. In this case, the president’s critics are actually demanding a photo op, while refusing to take any immediate practical steps to address the problem.

… One wonders exactly what all these people believe would happen if Obama went to the border. What sort of change would occur? Would he move closer to the Republican perspective on immigration policy? Are they under the impression that if the President had the opportunity to look into the face of a 9-year-old refugee from Honduras, he’d say, “By god, the Republicans are right. This here’s a terror baby! Get out of America, punk! USA! USA!” … If they had a plan for action, but Obama was the one refusing to do anything, maybe then Republicans could reasonably argue that this is his Katrina. But at the moment, it looks more like theirs. the Obama administration has made a request for funds from Congress and is actually trying to address the problem at the border, while Republicans are refusing to do anything at all. Instead, they’re complaining about Obama’s failure to stage a photo op.

More here

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Business Insider: Major New Study Says Obamacare Is Working – Even For Republicans

The Affordable Care Act has been successful at achieving some major goals in the first year of its full implementation, according to a new study from The Commonwealth Fund. There are three important findings from the study: The uninsured rate is dropping, most people like their new insurance plans (even Republicans!), and most people are finding it easy to visit a doctor. The study found the uninsured rate in the U.S. declined by one-quarter over the last nine months, which included the law’s first, six-month open-enrollment period in which individuals could sign up for private insurance plans through exchanges established by the law.

From the July-to-September 2013 period to the April-to-June 2014 period, the uninsured rate of people between the ages of 19-64 dropped from 20% to 15%, according to the study. The research found 9.5 million people gained insurance, either through the exchanges or through the law’s expansion of the federal Medicaid program. The decline in uninsured was seen across different age groups and races, though the drop was disproportionately high among the young (-10%) and Latinos (-13%).

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LA Times: Rate Of Uninsured Californians Is Halved Under Obamacare, Survey Finds

The percentage of Californians without health insurance was cut in half in the last nine months during the federal health law’s expansion of coverage, a new survey shows. Nationwide, an estimated 9.5 million adults under the age of 65 gained health insurance between late summer 2013 and last month, according to a survey the Commonwealth Fund released Thursday.

Those gains during the rollout of Obamacare dropped the nation’s rate of uninsured from 20% last year to 15% now. The change was even larger in California with the proportion of uninsured declining from 22% in late summer 2013 to 11% by early June, the survey found. .”… The findings suggest that the Affordable Care Act is beginning to achieve its central goal – reducing the number of Americans who are uninsured and improving access to healthcare,” said Sara Collins, the lead researcher and a vice president at the Commonwealth Fund.

More here

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ThinkProgress: The Most Creative Ways That People Are Protesting The Hobby Lobby Ruling

1. Making their own IUDs out of pipe cleaners. Since Hobby Lobby will no longer cover intrauterine devices (IUDs) for their female employees, one satirical video has some tips for workers who may need a new option. “Miss Sandy from Hobby Lobby” — an entirely fictional character — explains how to use pipe cleaners, glue guns, googly eyes, and glitter to create a homemade IUD. The video’s creators specify that all of those craft supplies were actually purchased from Michael’s, one of Hobby Lobby’s direct competitors. Some of the protesters who showed up to rally outside of their local Hobby Lobby stores this past week brought along their own IUDs fashioned out of craft supplies, too.

3. Handing out birth control. Protesters across the country are bringing condoms to Hobby Lobby stores and either handing them out to customers or leaving them on the shelves. Even religious leaders are getting in on the action. In Illinois, a group of clergy handed out condoms in front of a Hobby Lobby to make the point that not all people of faith are opposed to contraception, even though Hobby Lobby supporters claim that the right to drop coverage for birth control is a matter of religious liberty.

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And the Emmy goes to…..

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Veronica Toney: “Between Two Ferns With Zach Galifianakis”: President Barack Obama’s Segment Nominated For An Emmy

The 6 minute 30 second episode of “Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis,” featuring President Barack Obama was nominated for Outstanding Short-Format Live-Action Entertainment Program. Shout out to HeathCare.gov! The episode of the Funny or Die internet parody talk show, which published on March 11, has received 22 million views to date.

Only the executive producers of the segment (Scott Aukerman, Zach Galifianakis, BJ Porter and Mike Farah) were nominated for the award. But if The President had been nominated and won the trophy on August 25, it would have been his third entertainment award. President Obama won Grammy Awards for best spoken word album for 2008′s “The Audacity of Hope” and 2006′s “Dreams from My Father.”

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David Zucchino: Florida Redistricting Illegally Favors Republicans, Judge Rules

Florida judge ruled the state’s congressional district map invalid Thursday night, saying it violates constitutional provisions that require fair districts and instead favors Republicans. In a scathing opinion, Leon County Circuit Judge Terry P. Lewis ruled in Tallahassee that the Legislature’s Republican political consultants had “made a mockery” of the redistricting process, tainting it with “partisan intent.” Lewis said that the districts, drawn by the Republican-controlled Legislature after the 2010 census, flouted voter-passed constitutional amendments intended to eliminate gerrymandering – that is, often-bizarre and irregular lines that make a district safe for one party or the other.

Gerrymandering “has been criticized as allowing, in effect, the representatives to choose their voters instead of vice versa,” he wrote. Specifically, Lewis found that congressional districts 5 and 10 had been drawn to favor the GOP, and that neighboring districts had been affected as well. Those two districts, and any others affected, will need to be redrawn, he said. “I find the congressional redistricting plan adopted by the Legislature to be constitutionally invalid,” he wrote. The case goes “to the very foundation of our representative democracy.”

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SmartyPants: President Obama Plays Tortoise To The Media’s Hare. And We Know Who Wins That One!

I’ve often thought that the best metaphor for the Obama presidency is the fable about the tortoise and the hare. Of course – in the role of the hare is our linkbait-obsessed media that runs from one form of hysteria to another in a constant quest for “Obama’s Katrina,” only to tire almost immediately before the story’s conclusion. The role of the tortoise is played by our President, who is always focused on the long game (“slow and steady wins the race”). As FLOTUS once said: Here’s the thing about my husband: even in the toughest moments, when it seems like all is lost, Barack Obama never loses sight of the end goal.

He never lets himself get distracted by the chatter and the noise, even if it comes from some of his best supporters. He just keeps moving forward. And in those moments when we’re all sweating it, when we’re worried that the bill won’t pass or the negotiation will fall through, Barack always reminds me that we’re playing a long game here. He reminds me that change is slow — it doesn’t happen overnight. As we approach the finish line, we can begin to see who is going to reach the tape first. Here are some recent “long game” headlines:

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Tom Kludt: Pundits Collectively Lose It Over A Quote Obama Didn’t Even Say

Many pundits on Thursday were shocked by the gall of President Obama to say that he doesn’t “do photo-ops,” a mere day after glossy, White House-sanctioned shots surfaced of him sipping beer and shooting pool with the Colorado governor. Except he didn’t actually say that, manifold distortions notwithstanding. Here’s what Obama actually said Wednesday night when defending his decision to not visit the U.S.-Mexico border. This isn’t theater. This is a problem.

I’m not interested in photo-ops; I’m interested in solving a problem. And those who say I should visit the border, when you ask them what should we be doing, they’re giving us suggestions that are embodied in legislation that I’ve already sent to Congress. So it’s not as if they’re making suggestions that we’re not listening to. In fact, the suggestions of those who work at the border, who visited the border, are incorporated in legislation that we’re already prepared to sign the minute it hits my desk. “Gotcha,” the critics cried in unison.

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AP: House GOP Moves Ahead On Suing Obama

House Republicans took the initial step on Thursday to sue President Barack Obama over the administration’s decision to delay the employer mandate of the health care law. The office of Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, released a draft of the resolution that would authorize the House to file suit amid GOP criticism that the president has declined to faithfully execute the laws of the country. “In 2013, the president changed the health care law without a vote of Congress, effectively creating his own law by literally waiving the employer mandate and the penalties for failing to comply with it,” Boehner said in a statement. “That’s not the way our system of government was designed to work. No president should have the power to make laws on his or her own.”

White House press secretary Josh Earnest reiterated that position and linked it to economic initiatives, saying in a statement that “Republican leaders in Congress are playing Washington politics rather than working with the president on behalf of hardworking Americans.” Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, said the effort was a waste of taxpayer dollars. “This lawsuit is just another distraction from House Republicans desperate to distract the American people from their own spectacular obstruction and dysfunction,” Hamill said. Boehner’s actions on the lawsuit come as some Republicans are demanding a far more formidable step — impeachment.

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On This Day

La General Hospital in Accra, Ghana, July 11, 2009

President Obama finishes an address following a tour with his family of Cape Coast Castle in Ghana on July 11, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Sasha and Malia, Marian Robinson and a friend tour Cape Coast Castle in Ghana on July 11, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama tours Cape Coast Castle in Ghana, July 11, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

People wave to President Obama at a hotel in Accra, Ghana, upon his arrival back from Cape Coast July 11, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, along with Malia and Sasha, participate in a departure ceremony at Accra airport in Ghana, July 11, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama speaks to the crowd at the departure ceremony at Accra airport in Ghana, July 11, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama shakes hands at the departure ceremony at Accra airport in Ghana, July 11, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama greets members of the 1963 Loyola University Chicago Ramblers NCAA Championship men’s basketball team in the Oval Office, July 11, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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26
Jun
14

Rise and Shine

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

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Today

10:50 EDT: The President departs the White House

12:25 CT: Arrives Minneapolis

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

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

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The Week Ahead

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Needs Your Help —> OFA

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

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

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Steve Benen: Boehner Readies Frivolous Anti-Obama Lawsuit

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

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

More here

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BBC: Iraqi PM Welcomes Syria Air Strike On Border Crossing

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

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

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

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Charles Pierce: John Boehner And His Frivolous Lawsuit

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

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

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NYT: Ikea To Increase Minimum Hourly Pay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Adam Chandler: Army Clears Bergdahl Of Any Misconduct During Captivity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jonathan Capehart: Speaker Boehner’s Obama Impeachment Dress Rehearsal

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

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

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On This Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VP Biden in Independence, June 26, 2012

VP Biden in Waterloo, June 26, 2012

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

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28
May
14

News Of The Day

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White House: Statement By The President On The Passing Of Maya Angelou

When her friend Nelson Mandela passed away last year, Maya Angelou wrote that “No sun outlasts its sunset, but will rise again, and bring the dawn.”

Today, Michelle and I join millions around the world in remembering one of the brightest lights of our time – a brilliant writer, a fierce friend, and a truly phenomenal woman. Over the course of her remarkable life, Maya was many things – an author, poet, civil rights activist, playwright, actress, director, composer, singer and dancer. But above all, she was a storyteller – and her greatest stories were true. A childhood of suffering and abuse actually drove her to stop speaking – but the voice she found helped generations of Americans find their rainbow amidst the clouds, and inspired the rest of us to be our best selves. In fact, she inspired my own mother to name my sister Maya.

Like so many others, Michelle and I will always cherish the time we were privileged to spend with Maya. With a kind word and a strong embrace, she had the ability to remind us that we are all God’s children; that we all have something to offer. And while Maya’s day may be done, we take comfort in knowing that her song will continue, “flung up to heaven” – and we celebrate the dawn that Maya Angelou helped bring.

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President Obama greets Buffalo Soldiers Louis Coffield, 96, left, and Sanders Matthews, 93, at Stewart Air Base in Newbrugh, N.Y. today

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Brent Logiurato: In 3 Big Slides Here’s Why Mary Meeker Is Optimistic About The Future Of American Healthcare

Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner Mary Meeker has released her latest annual presentation. In it, she gives a bullish take on the future of the U.S. healthcare system, saying it looks like it may be at an “inflection point.” Some recent reforms perpetrated by the Affordable Care Act, though, give her reason for optimism. More than 8 million people have gained coverage through insurance exchanges established by the law,

and she writes that the law is aiding the “digitization of healthcare — 84% of hospitals and academic or institutional practices are now using a fully functioning electronic health record (EHR) system. Digital health venture investments are up almost 40% year over year. Meeker is also bullish because of the emphasis of moving toward quality care over quantity. By 2015, 60% of employers will offer price-transparency tools in their healthcare plans, she writes.

More here

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NYT: Maya Angelou, Lyrical Witness Of The Jim Crow South, Dies At 86

Maya Angelou, the memoirist and poet whose landmark book of 1969, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” — which describes in lyrical, unsparing prose her childhood in the Jim Crow South — was among the first autobiographies by a 20th-century black woman to reach a wide general readership, died on Wednesday in her home. She was 86 and lived in Winston-Salem, N.C. Long before that day, as she recounted in “Caged Bird” and its five sequels, she had already been a dancer, calypso singer, streetcar conductor, single mother, magazine editor in Cairo, administrative assistant in Ghana, official of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and friend or associate of some of the most eminent black Americans of the mid-20th century, including James Baldwin, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Afterward (her six-volume memoir takes her only to the age of 40), Ms. Angelou (pronounced AHN-zhe-lo) was a Tony-nominated stage actress; college professor (she was for many years the

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(Dr. Maya Angelou reading a poem at the Million Man March in 1995)

Reynolds professor of American studies at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem); ubiquitous presence on the lecture circuit; frequent guest on television shows, from “Oprah” to “Sesame Street”; and subject of a string of scholarly studies. In February 2011, President Obama presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor. Throughout her writing, Ms. Angelou explored the concepts of personal identity and resilience through the multifaceted lens of race, sex, family, community and the collective past. As a whole, her work offered a cleareyed examination of the ways in which the socially marginalizing forces of racism and sexism played out at the level of the individual. “If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat,” Ms. Angelou wrote in “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” Hallmarks of Ms. Angelou’s prose style included a directness of voice that recalls African-American oral tradition and gives her work the quality of testimony. She was also intimately concerned with sensation, describing the world around her — be it Arkansas, San Francisco or the foreign cities in which she lived — with palpable feeling for its sights, sounds and smells.

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Dr Angelou’s Final Tweet:

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Evan McMorris-Santoro: Obama: “American Influence Is Always Stronger When We Lead By Example

President Obama attempted to set a new course for American foreign policy Wednesday, laying out a plan for action on the world stage he said continues the country’s role as global superpower, but does so in a way that looks within before looking out. “I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being,” the president said in a prepared version of the commencement address he delivered at West Point. “But what makes us exceptional is not our ability to flout international norms and the rule of law; it’s our willingness to affirm them through our actions.” The president called on Congress to adopt the Law of The Sea convention, take action on climate change and close GITMO, efforts he said would go a long way to showing the world the United States practices what it preaches. The country’s number one threat “remains terrorism,” Obama said. But the changing nature of that threat means that the tools of the recent past should be scrapped, he added.

“A strategy that involves invading every country that harbors terrorist networks is naïve and unsustainable,” he said. “I believe we must shift our counter-terrorism strategy – drawing on the successes and shortcomings of our experience in Iraq and Afghanistan – to more effectively partner with countries where terrorist networks seek a foothold.” “Here’s my bottom line: America must always lead on the world stage. If we don’t, no one else will. The military that you have joined is, and always will be, the backbone of that leadership,” the president said. “But U.S. military action cannot be the only – or even primary – component of our leadership in every instance. Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail.”

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Greg Sargent: Grimes Hits Back: On Obamcare, Mitch McConnell Is In “Fantasyland”

Ever since Mitch McConnell’s comically absurd evasions on Obamacare began gaining attention from the press, people have wondered whether Alison Lundergan Grimes would make them an issue. McConnell’s refusal to say what should happen to Kentucky Kynect — even as he continues to call for repeal of the ACA – allows Grimes to point out that McConnell’s position would take health coverage away from hundreds of thousands of constituents who are benefitting from it, and he won’t admit it. Now the Grimes campaign is finally hitting McConnell over his gyrations on the issue, accusing him of “voting to destroy Kynect.” From Grimes senior adviser Jonathan Hurst: Mitch McConnell has been in the fantasyland that is Washington for so long that he cannot tell the difference between fact and fiction. McConnell has voted to destroy Kynect — and he has said he will do it again. In the U.S. Senate, Alison Lundergan Grimes will fix the law to ensure it is working for all Kentuckians.

This seems somewhat defensive. It again leans heavily on a vow to “fix” the law, and doesn’t state flatly that Kynect is a policy success. Some Dems, such as Rep. John Yarmuth and pollster Celinda Lake, have suggested Grimes go further. Lake told me the other day that her polling has showed that Kynect polls positively in Kentucky, even as the law known as “Obamacare” or the “Affordable Care Act” remains under water. Lake suggests this to Grimes: “She could say, `In Kentucky, we got it right. I’ll take Kentucky values to Washington.”As Joe Sonka points out in a good piece, McConnell is betting that press coverage won’t clearly explain to voters just how absurd his position really is. But perhaps now that Grimes is engaging on the issue — to some degree, at least — that could serve as a hook for top shelf reporter and commentator types to take a peek at what’s really going on here.

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Herald Leader: Say Again, Senator, ACA Unkynected?

Sen. Mitch McConnell has some explaining to do. What in the world did he mean last week when he told reporters that repeal of the Affordable Care Act — “root and branch,” as he has demanded many times — is “unconnected” to the future of Kynect, Kentucky’s health insurance exchange? Asked specifically if Kynect should be dismantled, McConnell said: “I think that’s unconnected to my comments about the overall question.” Huh? Nothing could be more connected — or should be more important to Kentucky’s senior senator — than the fates of the more than 400,000 Kentuckians who are getting health insurance, many for the first time, and the federal Affordable Care Act, which is making that possible. Repeal the federal law, which McConnell calls “Obamacare,” and the state exchange would collapse. Kynect could not survive without the ACA’s insurance reforms, including no longer allowing insurance companies to cancel policies when people get sick or deny them coverage because of pre-existing conditions,

as well as the provision ending lifetime limits on benefit payments. (Kentucky tried to enact such reforms in the 1990s and found out we were too small a market to do it alone.) Kentucky’s exchange also could not survive without the federal funding and tax credits that are helping 300,000 previously uninsured Kentuckians gain access to regular preventive medicine, including colonoscopies, mammograms and birth control without co-pays. As a result of a law that McConnell wants to repeal, one in 10 of his constituents no longer have to worry that an illness or injury will drive them into personal bankruptcy or a premature grave. Kynect is the Affordable Care Act is Obamacare — even if Kentuckians are confused about which is which. Kentuckians are waiting to learn if their five-term senator understands — or cares — how much is at stake.

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Kimberly Kindy: Father Of Victim In Santa Barbara Shootings To Politicians: ‘I Don’t Care About Your Sympathy.’

Richard Martinez grew up around guns, shooting birds out of the fruit trees on his family’s farm. He later served as a military police officer in the U.S. Army before going on to become a criminal-defense lawyer, at times representing the young and the violent. Now, Martinez is a grieving father. He’s asking members of Congress to stop calling him to offer condolences but nothing more for the death of his only child, Chris­topher Michaels-Martinez, who was killed in the rampage Friday in Santa Barbara, Calif. “I don’t care about your sympathy. I don’t give a s— that you feel sorry for me,” Richard Martinez said during an extensive interview, his face flushed as tears rolled down. “Get to work and do something. I’ll tell the president the same thing if he calls me. Getting a call from a politician doesn’t impress me.”

Saying that “we are all to blame” for the death of his 20-year-old son, Martinez urged the public to join him in demanding “immediate action” from members of Congress and President Obama to curb gun violence by passing stricter gun-

control laws. “Today, I’m going to ask every person I can find to send a postcard to every politician they can think of with three words on it: ‘Not one more,’ ” he said Tuesday. “People are looking for something to do. I’m asking people to stand up for something. Enough is enough.” Martinez is the latest tragic figure to raise the mantle of gun control. Previous massacres and spasms of violence have produced urgent calls for new restrictions.

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Laura Meckler: Some Democrats Talking Up Health Law

Democratic candidates have begun to take a more assertive stance on the Affordable Care Act, highlighting the most popular benefits of the law and attacking Republicans for trying to repeal them. Not long ago, many Democrats were in a defensive crouch when it came to health care, amid public anger about the botched rollout of the federal website to sign up for insurance and stories of people who lost existing coverage because it didn’t meet federal standards. Many focused on fixes they said should be made to the law rather than trying to convince voters of its benefits. Now, in at least half a dozen competitive Senate and gubernatorial races, Democrats and their allies are airing TV commercials that directly support the legislation, focusing on its guaranteed coverage for pre-existing conditions, preventive-care benefits and a ban on charging women more for insurance. In some cases, the ads talk up how the Democrat candidate has worked to guarantee these benefits; in others, they attack a Republican for wanting to take them away.

At a Senate hearing to consider the nomination of a new health secretary this month, Sen. Kay Hagan (D., N.C.), who is in a tough re-election race, hailed the Medicaid expansion available under the act and criticized her state’s leadership for declining the federal money that would allow North Carolina to add a half million people to the program. “These are some of the most vulnerable citizens in our society who will continue to seek care in emergency rooms and then will leave chronic conditions unmanaged,” she said. In Florida, Republican-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist, running for governor, has fully embraced the law. “I don’t shy away from it. I don’t back away from it. I don’t apologize for it. It’s the right thing to do,” he said in April, according to the Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale.

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AP: After Decades, Dirty Power Plant To Get Clean

Three years ago, the operators of one of the nation’s dirtiest coal-fired power plants warned of “immediate and devastating” consequences from the Obama administration’s push to clean up pollution from coal. Faced with cutting sulfur dioxide pollution blowing into downwind states by 80 percent in less than a year, lawyers for EME Homer City Generation L.P. sued the Environmental Protection Agency to block the rule, saying it would cause it grave harm and bring a painful spike in electricity bills. None of those dire predictions came to pass. Instead, the massive western Pennsylvania power plant is expected in a few years to turn from one of the worst polluters in the country to a model for how coal-fired power plants can slash pollution.

The latest regulation, the first proposal to curb earth-warming carbon dioxide from power plants, is due next week. But Homer City also shows how political and economic rhetoric sometimes doesn’t match reality. Despite claims by Republicans and industry critics that the Obama administration’s regulations will shut down coal-fired power plants, Homer City survived. The owners of the massive western Pennsylvania power plant — which releases more sulfur dioxide than any other power plant in the U.S. — have committed to install $750 million worth of pollution control equipment by 2016 that will make deeper cuts in sulfur than the rule it once opposed. Last month, the Supreme Court upheld the EPA’s rule in the case initiated by Homer City Generating Station. GE Energy Financial Services, the plant’s majority owner, now says it can do it — and without electricity bills increasing for the two million households it provides with power.

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Julie Bosman: Chicago Mayor Proposes Restrictions On Gun Sales

Calling gun violence Chicago’s “most urgent problem,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel outlined a proposal on Tuesday that would make it harder to buy firearms in the city. The proposal would restrict gun purchases for individuals to one a month and would mandate that all gun sales be videotaped, an effort to deter buyers from using false identification. Under the proposed ordinance, employees in gun stores would be required to undergo background checks and complete training to help them spot the common signs of gun traffickers. Retailers would be subject to a quarterly audit of inventory in an effort to reduce theft.

In addition, the plan would impose a 72-hour waiting period to buy handguns and a 24-hour waiting period to buy rifles and shotguns. Mr. Emanuel has tried to tamp down violence in Chicago since taking office in 2011, pushing for tougher rules on gun retailers and stronger federal laws on firearms. Chicago’s rate of gun-related violence is three times that of New York. The report blamed states with weaker gun laws for most of the illegal guns in Chicago, saying that from 2009 to 2013, 60 percent of guns used to commit crimes in the city were originally bought out of state, mainly in Indiana, Mississippi and Wisconsin.

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Washington Post: Michigan Hikes Minimum Wage, Led By GOP Governor Seeking Reelection

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) signed legislation Tuesday hiking his state’s minimum wage to $9.25 an hour over four years, dodging what could have been a political hurdle as he seeks re-election this year. Snyder had come under pressure from Democrats, led by his likely general election opponent, former representative Mark Schauer. He signed the wage increase one day before labor groups planned to turn in more than 300,000 signatures to get a minimum wage hike on November’s ballot. At a news conference Tuesday, Snyder sought to take some measure of credit for the increase.

Many Republicans in the legislature opposed the increase. A majority of House Republicans voted against the measure, though House Speaker Jase Bolger (R) helped shepherd it through to protect Snyder. All but two Democrats in each chamber voted for the increase, which also indexes the minimum wage to inflation. Several Republicans said they voted for the legislature’s version of the wage hike to avoid the possibility of a ballot initiative passing; the ballot initiative would have increased the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, for both regular and tipped-wage employees.

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AP: Top US Commander: Obama Ended Afghan Uncertainty

The top U.S. and coalition commander in Afghanistan said Wednesday that President Barack Obama’s decision to keep about 10,000 American troops in the country past 2014 has eliminated any uncertainty Afghans may have had about America’s commitment. Gen. Joseph Dunford told reporters the decision will allow an advisory force of 9,800 troops to remain in the country to finish training and equipping Afghan security forces. “I believe that this decision was good news for the Afghan people,” Dunford said. “It eliminates the uncertainty about the future here in Afghanistan, in the region and within the coalition.” He added that it “also sends a message to those who said that Afghanistan would be abandoned at the end of the year and that simply isn’t true. “

Obama announced plans Tuesday for keeping nearly 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan after this year, then quickly withdrawing nearly all of those forces by the end of 2016. NATO and other U.S. allies also are expected to commit troops, bringing the total to be around 12,000. Some American troops are also expected to play a counterterrorism role, chasing any elements of al-Qaida and other such groups still operating in Afghanistan. The commitment is conditional on Afghanistan’s government signing a stalled bilateral security agreement. While Afghan President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign it, both the candidates running to replace him — former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and ex-Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai — have said they will.

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Tracy Connor: Edward Snowden Tells Brian Williams The U.S. Stranded Him In Russia

Edward Snowden, in an exclusive interview with “Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams, blamed the State Department for stranding him in Russia, saying he “never intended” to wind up there. “I personally am surprised that I ended up here,” Snowden said in the interview, an excerpt of which aired on TODAY on Wednesday morning. “The reality is I never intended to end up in Russia,” he said. “I had a flight booked to Cuba onwards to Latin America and I was stopped because the United States government decided to revoke my passport and trap me in Moscow Airport. “So when people ask why are you in Russia, I say, ‘Please ask the State Department.” Secretary of State John Kerry hit back in a live interview on TODAY. “For a supposedly smart guy, that’s a pretty dumb answer, frankly,” Kerry said. “If Mr. Snowden wants to come back to the United States today, we’ll have him on a flight today.

“We’d be delighted for him to come back. He should come back. That’s what a patriot would do. A patriot would not run away and look for refuge in Russia or Cuba or some other country. A patriot would stand up in the United States and make his case to the American people,” Kerry added. “He can come home but he’s a fugitive from justice which is why he is not being permitted to fly around the world,” he said. Asked whether he had changed his mind about the nature of Snowden’s actions, Kerry said Snowden “stole” information and did “great damage” to the United States. “The fact is if he cares so much about America and he believes in America, he should trust in the American system of justice,” Kerry said. “But to be hiding in Russia, an authoritarian country, and to have just admitted he was really just trying to get to Cuba — what does that tell you?” he added. “I think he’s confused. I think it’s very sad.”

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Maya Angelou in 1991, dancing with another legendary poet Amiri Baraka, who died in January

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Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama and Vice President Biden escort Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the East Room of the White House where the President will introduce her as his nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court to replace retiring Justice David, May 26, 2009 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

9:15 AM: The President hosts a breakfast in the State Dining Room in honor of Memorial Day. The Vice President and Dr. Biden will also attend

11:0 The President and First Lady travel to Arlington National Cemetery where the President will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

11:20: The President delivers remarks

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The Week Ahead

Tuesday

The President will host the 2014 White House Science Fair and celebrate the student winners of a broad range of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) competitions from across the country. The President will also announce new steps as part of his Educate to Innovate campaign, an all-hands-on-deck effort to get more girls and boys inspired to excel and to provide the support they need to succeed in these vital subjects

Wednesday

The President travels to West Point, New York to deliver the commencement address at the United States Military Academy at West Point

Thursday

The President will host a summit at the White House on youth sports safety and concussions, where he will be joined by stakeholders, including young athletes, parents, coaches, experts, professional athletes, and military service members. At the White House Healthy Kids and Safe Sports Concussion Summit, the President will announce new commitments by both the public and private sectors to raise awareness about how to identify, treat and prevent concussions, and conduct additional research in the field of sports-related concussions that will help us better address these problems

Friday

The President will attend a hurricane preparedness meeting at FEMA Headquarters

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President Barack Obama waves as he returns from a surprise trip to Afghanistan

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Adrianna McIntyre: 21 Things Obamacare Does That You Didn’t Know About

1. Obamacare makes funds available for “training for adulthood.” True story. The law makes funds available for “personal responsibility” programs aimed at preparing young adults for being grown-ups. Per federal law, all of these programs must include efforts to educate young adults prevention of both pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Beyond that, they’re expected to touch on other “adulthood preparation subjects”, including but not limited to: financial literacy, healthy relationships, communication and interpersonal skills, educational and career success, body image, goal-setting, decision making, and stress management. 6. The law authorizes funding for grants that target postpartum depression. The Secretary of HHS is authorized to make grants available for treating individuals who have postpartum depression and psychosis (conditions that occur in women following childbirth). The law also encourages the National Institute of Mental Health to conduct long-term study from 2010-2019 on how pregnancy affects women’s mental health. This piece of the Affordable Care Act is called the Melanie Blocker Stokes CARE Act; it is named for a woman who tragically committed suicide in 2001 after suffering from postpartum depression despite three admissions to Chicago-area hospitals following her delivery.

10. Young adults who age out of the foster system at 18 receive benefits until they’re 26. Before the Affordable Care Act, states had the option — but not the requirement — of extending Medicaid coverage up to age 21 for kids who aged out of the foster system at 18. This is an incredibly vulnerable population that suffers from high rates of homelessness, poverty, and unemployment. Under reform, states have to offer these young adults Medicaid coverage until they turn 26. 13. Employers are required to provide reasonable break time for nursing mothers. Employers must provide a reasonable amount of break time — and a private place that isn’t a bathroom — for an employee to express breast milk for up to one year after giving birth. Breastfeeding the first six months, at a minimum, is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Prior to health reform, there was no federal law that protected nursing mothers; state laws on the issue tended to be very general.

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Bob Small: First Memorial Day Created By Blacks Here In Hampton Park

Memorial Day may signal the beginning of the summer for many. A time for cook-outs and being with friends and family, but few know that the first widely publicized event, then called “Decoration Day”, was held in Charleston to honor the Union dead and was put together by many of the newly freed Black men and women. On May 1, 1865, more than 10,000 black freedmen and women including 3,000 children gathered at the old Race Track now known as Hampton Park track to honor dead Union soldiers who were buried there. They cleaned up the area and placed flowers on the graves of the unknown soldiers. The event was highly publicized and covered by a number of newspapers nationally. To many of the white citizens it was looked upon more as an Emancipation for the newly freed black men and women. Preachers and white northern missionaries gave speeches and thanks to those who had lost their lives in the Civil War. A war that claimed over 600,000 lives on both sides.

Charleston had been a holding place for captured Union Soldiers and at least 257 soldiers died while in the custody of Confederate soldiers. They were buried in hastily dug unmarked graves around the race track as Confederates fled the city from advancing Union troops. Northern missionaries who helped organize the events for Decoration Day participated in songs and speeches. The response by the Black population was tremendous. Freedmen came from all over the state to participate. Many feeling that the Union soldiers had given their lives for their freedom rather than to bring the seceded states back into the Union. They cleaned up the burial grounds and erected an enclosure with an arch that read, “Martyrs of the Race Course.” Many of those in attendance brought flowers to lie on the graves. For the newly freed people it was their way of honoring those who had given their lives for their beliefs and the black population’s newfound freedom.

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Sahil Kapur: What Obama Can – And Cannot Do – On Immigration Reform By Executive Action

Amid fading prospects for immigration reform in Congress, President Barack Obama has signaled he’ll take executive action on enforcement to ease the burden for certain people in the country illegally who don’t have criminal records. On his order, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson is conducting a review of U.S. enforcement policies in order to determine how to implement the law in  the smartest and most humane way. One area where DHS feels confident in its authority to act is the prioritization enforcement resources, sources familiar with the matter say. Under the legal theory of “prosecutorial discretion,” the department could decide, for instance, to prioritize removal of dangerous criminals who pose serious safety threats, such as gang members, drug dealers and repeat offenders. It could in turn de-prioritize action against those who have not committed crimes, (or committed lower-level crimes like DUIs) and steer resources away from those who have family ties in the U.S. and have lived here for a certain period of time. Under this approach, undocumented immigrants would technically remain subject to deportation. They’d simply be less likely to get picked up by the system.

A second category of executive action is more contentious: to formally let certain subsets of immigrants temporarily live in the U.S. without fear of deportation and perhaps apply for employment authorization. This would build upon the Obama administration’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program which granted two-year relief to certain young people brought to the country as children, referred to as DREAMers. The Obama administration feels less comfortable with expanding DACA because the legal issues are trickier. Granting a reprieve to a narrow, specific population arguably falls within the realm of enforcement discretion. But applying it to broader populations becomes problematic and may backfire legally and politically, as some immigration law experts have cautioned. “Republicans may challenge his actions in Court saying that they constitute a violation of the Separation of Powers,” said Eli Kantor, an immigration lawyer based in Beverly Hills, California. The one thing the president certainly cannot do is grant legal status to anyone in the country without proper documentation. “That’s absolutely Congress’s authority,” Chen said. That means any executive action Obama takes would, by definition, be temporary and theoretically reversible by the next president.

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NYT: Insurers Once On the Fence Plan To Join Health Exchanges In ’15

In a sign of the growing potential under the federal health care law, several insurers that have been sitting on the sidelines say they will sell policies on the new exchanges in the coming year, and others plan to expand their offerings to more states. “Insurers continue to see this as a good business opportunity,” said Larry Levitt, a health policy expert at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “They see it as an attractive market, with enrollment expected to ramp up in the second year.” Eight million people have signed up for coverage in 2014, and estimates put next year’s enrollment around 13 million.

In New Hampshire, for example, where Anthem Blue Cross is the only insurer offering individual coverage on the state exchange, two other plans, both from Massachusetts, say they intend to offer policies next year. UnitedHealth Group and Cigna, which were notable in their caution about the exchanges last year, are expected to enter more markets this year. In Washington State, United is among four new insurers that have told state regulators they are interested in offering plans in 2015.

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NYT: After Revival In San Antonio, Washington Comes Calling

When Mayor Julián Castro of San Antonio and local officials traveled to Washington in 2012 to meet President Obama’s housing secretary, Shaun Donovan, the agenda was about housing policy. But for Mr. Castro, it was personal, too. The meeting was about revitalizing the Wheatley Courts public housing project on San Antonio’s impoverished Eastside, once the heart of the city’s black community. But it also hit home for Mr. Castro, who grew up near the low-rent projects in the Mexican-American barrio on the other side of town. His mother worked for the housing authority, and his father lived in the projects on the city’s Westside as a teenager. Two years after that meeting in Washington, the Eastside is now the focus of a public and private revival, fueled in part by a nearly

$30 million grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to demolish and redevelop Wheatley Courts as housing for a broader mix of incomes, including low- and moderate-income families and market-rate households. If he receives Senate confirmation, Mr. Castro, whose twin brother, Joaquin, is a Democratic congressman representing San Antonio, apparently would become the first housing secretary in the 48-year history of the position whose parents lived and worked in public housing projects. “It’s precisely because he’s lived out the American dream that he’ll work his tail off to make sure more people can travel that same path and earn their own dreams as well,” Mr. Obama said as Mr. Castro and Mr. Donovan stood next to him at the White House.

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AP: Far Right, Euroskeptics Make Big Gains In EU Vote

Far-right and Euroskeptic parties made sweeping gains in European Parliament elections Sunday — triggering what one prime minister called a political “earthquake” by those who want to slash the powers of the European Union or abolish it altogether. Voters in 21 of the EU’s 28 nations went to the polls Sunday, choosing lawmakers for the bloc’s 751-seat legislature. The other seven countries in the bloc had already voted in a sprawling exercise of democracy that began Thursday in Britain and the Netherlands. One of the most significant winners was France’s far-right National Front party, which was the outright winner in France with 26 percent support— or 4.1 million votes.

“The sovereign people have spoken … acclaiming they want to take back the reins of their destiny,” party leader Marine Le Pen said in a statement. She called the results “the first step in a long march to liberty.” The National Front like other far-right parties across Europe promote anti-immigrant and often anti-Semitic policies. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, in an impassioned televised speech, called the National Front win “more than a news alert … it is a shock, an earthquake.” French President Francois Hollande’s office announced he would hold urgent talks first thing Monday with top government ministers in what French media called a crisis meeting.

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Austin Frakt: Staying On Parents’ Plan May Lead To Healthier Paychecks

One of the earliest pieces of the health-care law to go into effect — and one of the easiest to understand — was the one that allowed adults under age 26 to remain on their parents’ insurance plan. It has long been clear that the policy has somewhat increased the insurance rate among young adults. Now a new study suggests the effects may be much broader, also leading to increases in educational attainment and the wages of young adults. The findings suggest that the health law has given young adults more flexibility to make decisions they think are best for them financially, rather than making decisions simply to obtain health insurance.

With coverage from their parents’ plans, they can remain in college or graduate school, rather than leaving to take a job that provides health insurance. With coverage in place, once students leave school, they can consider a broader range of jobs, including some that do not offer good health insurance or any health insurance. This finding is consistent with the academic literature on “job lock,” which has consistently shown that people who do not need to take a job with employer-based coverage have more flexibility, resulting in better employment matches with higher wages on average.

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Benjamin Goad: Administration Demands Equal Education For Ilegal Immigrants

Schools cannot require students or their parents to provide Social Security numbers, birth certificates or other documentation showing citizenship status as a condition of enrollment under formal Obama administration guidance issued. The directive to all public school districts, meant to ensure equal access to education for the nation’s illegal immigrants, comes amid reports that some children have wrongfully been denied enrollment. Attorney General Eric Holder said such policies “have a chilling effect on student enrollment, raising barriers for undocumented children and children from immigrant families who seek to receive the public education to which they are entitled.” “Public school districts have an obligation to enroll students regardless of immigration status and without discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin,”

Holder said. “We will vigilantly enforce the law to ensure the schoolhouse door remains open to all.” The new guidance from the departments of Justice and Education is an update of similar guidelines issued three years ago. The mandate to provide equal education to all children stems from the Supreme Court’s 1982 Plyler vs. Doe ruling, which prohibited a school district from charging illegal immigrants extra tuition fees. The new guidance makes clear that schools may request certain documentation showing the age and address of children in order to determine whether they are eligible to enroll. But they may not ask about a child or family’s citizenship status, or deny enrollment on grounds that a student is an illegal immigrant.

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Audrey Dutton: Idaho Medicaid Enrollment Climbs 

The number of people on Medicaid in Idaho rose almost 6 percent since the launch of Idaho’s health-insurance exchange last fall even though Idaho is one of the states that has not expanded Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act. The increase is sharper than usual. That’s partly because more people discovered they qualified for Medicaid during the process of shopping for health insurance to comply with the Affordable Care Act, which requires all Americans to be insured.

It’s also because Idaho is now using federal systems to check information for Medicaid renewals, making the process smoother for people already enrolled in the program, according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. “This is a positive change for Idaho, as it ensures that those who are eligible for Medicaid can maintain coverage without burdensome administrative processes that cause individuals to [lose Medicaid] unnecessarily, causing problems for families and providers,” said Tom Shanahan, spokesman for the department. He said the change also cuts down on administrative costs.

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TPM: Obama Administration Will Let Veterans Seek Care At Private Hospitals

The Obama administration’s decision to allow more veterans to get care at private hospitals could take some pressure off backlogged Veterans Affairs facilities struggling to cope with new patients from the wars on terrorism as well as old soldiers from prior conflicts. Agreeing to recommendations from lawmakers, the administration said Saturday it will allow more veterans to obtain treatment at private hospitals and clinics in an effort to improve care.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki also said VA facilities are enhancing capacity of their clinics so veterans can get care sooner. In cases where officials cannot expand capacity at VA centers, the Department of Veterans Affairs is “increasing the care we acquire in the community through non-VA care,” Shinseki said. Lawmakers from both parties have pressed for this policy change as the VA confronts allegations about treatment delays and falsified records at VA centers nationwide.

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Brian Beutler: Mitch McConnell’s Obamacare Spin Misleads Kentucky’s ACA Beneficiaries

Now that Mitch McConnell’s emancipated himself from the exigencies of the Republican primary process, he’ll need to figure out how to square his primary-friendly view that Obamacare should be wiped off the books with the complicating fact that over 400,000 Kentuckians obtained insurance through the Affordable Care Act over the past several months. He just took a new line of obfuscation for a test drive. Assuming it’s been accurately characterized, it’s incredibly misleading. “McConnell told reporters Friday that the fate of the state exchange is unconnected to the federal health care law,” according to the Associated Press.

“Yet the exchange would not exist, if not for the law that created it.” If McConnell successfully wipes Obamacare off the books next year (which he won’t), Kynect might not go away. But the Medicaid expansion will. And the private insurance subsidies will. And the rules allowing and requiring uninsured people of all health statuses to become customers will, too. Insurance carriers will follow. Or else they’ll replace the plans they currently offer with much less generous ones. And hundreds of thousands of people will lose their coverage anyhow.

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NYT: In Russia, Tune Changes About Leader In Ukraine

Petro O. Poroshenko, the billionaire businessman who won Ukraine’s presidential election on Sunday, was portrayed last month in a bilious campaign profile on Russian television here as money-grubbing, devious, a radical sympathizer — in short, a run-of-the-mill Ukrainian politician to Russian eyes. The program on NTV, a Kremlin ally, said he owned a mansion resembling the White House, clear evidence of dangerous Western sympathies. The report mocked him as “The Chocolate Rabbit,” twisting his usual nickname, “The Chocolate King,” from his confectionary fortune.

A scientist, or at least someone wearing a white coat, materialized on screen to denounce his popular Roshen chocolate brand as riddled with carcinogens. Then as Mr. Poroshenko emerged as the front-runner, a change occurred. The attacks ceased, and his chocolate factory in southern Russia, which government police had shuttered, was allowed to operate again. President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia even mentioned the chocolates in passing on TV as edible, and, in recent days, he has said on various occasions that he would work with whatever new leadership emerges in Kiev.

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Bryce Covert: Workers At This Giant Retail Company Are Really Happy With Their Pay

In an analysis of employee feedback shared on Glassdoor over the past year, just one retailer comes in the top 25 for top marks on pay and benefits: Costco. In fact, the company is ranked at number two on the list, although has the same rating — 4.4 — as the top rated company, Google. It also beats out some big tech companies, which are often thought of as paying well and giving workers good perks, like Facebook, Adobe, and Microsoft. Costco has become known for paying its workers more than is typical in the retail sector, where median pay is $10.29 an hour.

Its starting pay is $11.50 an hour and even the lowest paid positions report on Glassdoor that they make $11.80 on average. Across all positions, its average pay is nearly $22. It also offers benefits, with 88 percent of employees enrolled in company-sponsored health insurance. On top of that, it offers significant room for advancement: 70 percent of its warehouse managers, who can expect to make about $22 an hour on average, started in the company’s lower ranked positions. This engenders high levels of worker loyalty, as its turnover rate is just 5 percent for those who have been there for more than a year.

More here

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Future Obamacrats and proud of it. :)

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On This Day

President Obama meets with Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor, the nominee to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter, and Vice President Biden, prior to an announcement in the East Room, May 26, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama embraces Sen. Harry Reid during a Las Vegas fundraiser for the senator at Caeser’s Palace, May 26, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama arrive at Stansted Airport, May 26, 2011

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The President and members of the White House staff look out the window of Air Force One to view tornado damage over Moore, Oklahoma. May 26, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama greets Gov. Mary Fallin after arriving at Tinker Air Force base in Midwest City, Sunday, May 26, 2013

President Obama tours tornado damage along a block of Eagle Drive in Moore, Okla., May 26, 2013. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, and local officials accompany him (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

 

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23
May
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet Henry Healy, the President’s distant cousin, after arriving in Moneygall, Ireland, May 23, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today

10:30 AM CT: The President departs Chicago

1:30 EDT: Arrives White House

3:0 EDT: Signs H.R. 1209, an act to award a Congressional Gold Medal to the World War II members of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders for conducting the bombings of Tokyo, and H.R. 685, the American Fighter Aces Congressional Gold Medal Act

3:30 EDT: The President will make a personnel announcement (see below)

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Ah, memories:

And the very lovely news: the video will be in the new Barack Obama Visitor Center in Moneygall – thank you Henry Healy!

(Not sure if the video is watchable in all YouTube regions??)

Remember, if you would like to send any election/inauguration items to Henry for the Visitor Center, just email me and I’ll pass on his address – thanks a gazillion for the wonderful response so far.

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USA Today: Obama’s day: A new budget director, housing secretary

President Obama pulls a Cabinet switch on Friday.

The president will nominate Shaun Donovan, now the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, to be the new director of the Office of Management and Budget.

To replace Donovan as HUD secretary, Obama will nominate San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro.

Obama will make the announcements on Friday afternoon, after he returns to the White House from Chicago. The president spent Thursday night in the Windy City after headlining a pair of Democratic fundraisers.

More here

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Sun Times: Obama in Chicago: “I need a Democratic Senate” (Transcript)

At the first of two fundraisers in Chicago on Thursday, President Barack Obama told donors “I need a Democratic Senate” or else his agenda for the last two terms of his term – including immigration reform – will not succeed. Obama said he is worried about people not voting in November:

…… I need a Congress that works. And that means I need a Democratic Senate. And it would be helpful to have a Democratic House.  Now, you all know this so I’m preaching to the choir. But here’s the challenge we have: Democrats are not perfect and it turns out one of our great imperfections is we have a congenital tendency not to vote in midterm elections.

I don’t know what it is. Presidential elections, we’re all in. In 2008, you all went crazy; 2012, you still went crazy. High turnout, we’re motivated, donors are involved, people are active, folks are knocking on doors, people making phone calls.  And then the midterm comes and we fall asleep.

That cannot happen in this election because the stakes are too high. And I say this mindful that in every election somebody says how high the stakes are. But think about what’s at stake right now. Think about it.  If we do not hang on to the Senate and make gains in the House we may not get immigration reform done, which means we could have another three, four years in which we’re being deprived of talent we’re training here in the United States – they go back home and start businesses someplace else. There are Michael Polskys right now in universities that have the possibility of creating businesses here but may end up going back home because we have a broken immigration system. That’s what’s at stake.

More here

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NJ.com: Obamacare enrollment drives down NJ’s uninsurance rate by 38 percent

The first look at the Affordable Care Act’s impact on New Jersey reveals the percentage of uninsured people is on track to reach its lowest level in nearly a quarter of a century, according to a new report released Thursday by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The proportion of uninsured adults decreased 38 percent from September to early March, according to the foundation. That decline is likely to accelerate, knowing that many people waited until the last minute to beat the March 30 enrollment deadline.

“These findings suggest that uninsurance in New Jersey is at its lowest level since 1990,” according to the report produced by the foundation and the Rutgers Center for State Health Policy.

The survey results suggest that many concerns about the law — from Gov. Chris Christie hand-off approach to its implementation, to the Obama administration’s troubled launch of the HealthCare.Gov website — did not create insurmountable roadblocks.

More here

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Eugene Robinson: The GOP is still swallowing the tea

What’s happening in the Republican primaries is less a defeat for the tea party than a surrender by the GOP establishment, which is winning key races by accepting the tea party’s radical anti-government philosophy.

Anyone who hopes the party has finally come to its senses will be disappointed. Republicans have pragmatically decided not to concede Senate elections by nominating eccentrics and crackpots. But in persuading the party’s activist base to come along, establishment leaders have pledged fealty to eccentric, crackpot ideas.

More here

Similarly, from Charles Pierce:

This is a mutually co-opting dynamic that is becoming smoother. The “establishment” adopts uniformly extremist policies that would have been unthinkable for a national Republican party two decades ago. The “Tea Party wing” contents itself in the knowledge that the party declines any more to nominate raving loons for election to the national legislature. My guess is that this modus vivendi will provide some empty conflict entertainment over the next two election cycles, but it all will be moon pigeons for the punditocracy to marvel at. The radical conservative philosophy has captured the infrastructure of the Republican party, root and branch, local and national. It’s just wearing shoes again now.

Full post here

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Steve Benen: Why Guantanamo remains open

President Obama has received a fair amount of criticism from the left about the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. The president vowed to close the prison, but after five years in office, it remains open.

That’s not for lack of effort. Obama has tried, repeatedly, to pursue the policy that used to enjoy bipartisan support, but Congress – including members of both parties – have placed inflexible restrictions on the administration, preventing progress. In other words, the president hasn’t closed the prison because lawmakers simply won’t let him.

Every time there’s reason to think progress is possible, Congress does what it always does…..

… There’s certainly nothing wrong with being frustrated by the detention facility remaining open, but if you’re blaming the White House, you’re pointing the finger at the wrong end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

More here

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Cue Exploding Heads on the Right:

Bloomberg: Netanyahu Says Obama Got Syria Right

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has some uncharacteristically positive words for one of U.S. President Barack Obama’s most controversial foreign policy initiatives: the deal struck last year to remove chemical weapons from Syria.

I met Netanyahu last Friday afternoon in his bunkerlike office in Jerusalem. During the course of our discussion, I asked him about the famous “red line” crisis – Obama’s last-minute decision to abort a missile strike and instead negotiate the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile – that colors so much of foreign-policy commentary today.

Netanyahu issued what was for him a full-throated endorsement of an Obama initiative, calling it “the one ray of light in a very dark region.”

More here

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Greg Sargent: On immigration, the GOP is Steve King’s party

 It’s not often that GOP Rep. Steve King says anything usefully revelatory on immigration reform. Today, however, he went on to the House floor and, in just over a minute, unmasked the truth about the Republican Party’s position on immigration — a position that House Republican leaders have tried to obscure for months.

King cited Chuck Schumer’s recent claim that the Congressman from Iowa is an “extreme outlier” on the issue. King then helpfullly pointed out that in fact, his position is indistinguishable from the Republican Party position, while deriding the Democratic position as akin to socialism…

More here

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Fernando Espuelas: Boehner lies to Hispanics again

Yesterday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) published an orotund statement predicated on a lie, betting that Hispanic Americans are incapable of distinguishing between fact and fiction.

According to Boehner, President Obama’s recent designation of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks in New Mexico as a national monument — lands with deep historical and archeological significance to Hispanics and Native Americans — demonstrated “the president’s fondness for unilateral action [that] has created widespread doubt among the American people that he and his administration can be counted on to enforce any law he signs, particularly when it comes to securing our nation’s borders and reforming our immigration system.”

Now, to be fair, the Boehner-led House is so chaotic that it resembles more a gang of yammering ruffians than a serious legislative body. So there is a possibility, even a small chance, that Boehner doesn’t even know what is said in his name through his office’s communications office.

Even so, what is the best case scenario? Incompetence instead of deception? Rogue staff? After a litany of objectively dubious statements about immigration reform in the past, it’s hard to give Boehner the benefit of the doubt.

More here

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Text of the First Lady’s remarks here

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Harold Meyerson: The boost that comes from raising the minimum wage

 The standard argument — really, the only argument — against raising the minimum wage is that it will lead to job loss. The argument is beloved by die-hard opponents of raising the wage because it provides them with a veneer, however flimsy, of concern about the welfare of the working poor.

 Economic studies have repeatedly shown that argument to be spurious. Now the latest survey of 350,000 small businesses from Paychex, a payroll provider company, and IHS, a business analysis firm, provides strong indications that the exact opposite may be true.

 In April, the Paychex/IHS survey, which looks at employment in small businesses, found that the state with the highest percentage of annual job growth was Washington — the state with the highest minimum wage in the nation, $9.32 an hour. The metropolitan area with the highest percentage of annual job growth was San Francisco — the city with the highest minimum wage in the nation, at $10.74.

 This suggests that the relationship between a high minimum wage and job creation needn’t be inverse. If anything, it suggests that relationship is direct.

 More here

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi talks with President of the Harvey Milk Foundation Stuart Milk, next to U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, after they unveiled the Harvey Milk Forever Stamp at its dedication ceremony at the White House

 

 

 Deputy Postmaster General Ronald A. Stroman, fourth from right, and others, applaud during the unveiling ceremony of the Harvey Milk Forever Stamp in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

Joining Stroman, from left are, Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., Stuart Milk, Founder and President, Harvey Milk Foundation, UN Ambassador Samantha Power, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla. On the day he would have turned 84 years old, Harvey Milk, the San Francisco supervisor and gay activist gunned down at City Hall in 1978, had a postal stamp in his honor unveiled at the White House

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Michael Tomasky: The Roots of the GOP’s Race Problem

Thursday is the 50th anniversary of the Great Society and the civil rights push. But if conservative hero Barry Goldwater had had his way, government would have stayed out of it.

…. I like the way today’s conservatives rush to point out, as they will in this comment thread, that most of the opposition to the civil rights bill was Democratic, as I noted above. There’s no denying that. But the more relevant point for today is this: Over the next few years, those people left the Democratic Party. They knew there was no place for them there.

In today’s GOP, however, the successors to the Richard Russells and Harry Byrds have been welcomed with open arms. And Barry Goldwater is not merely one guy among many guys they kind of like from the past. He is conservatism’s great hero! And 1964 is thought of as a shining moment in their movement’s history! And here we are, 50 years later, with the Republican Party looking as if it just might nominate for president a guy (Rand Paul) who once admitted that he’d have opposed the Civil Rights Act and basically was still against it (and Paul is one of the better Republicans on race!). Half a century, and society has changed for the better in amazing ways. But one of our two parties is still dedicated to fighting it.

Full post here

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Three Years Ago Today

Arriving in Dublin, May 23, 2011

 President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama talk with Irish President Mary McAleese and Dr. Martin McAleese during a courtesy call in the Drawing Room at the President’s residence in Dublin, Ireland, May 23, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama holds a hurley as Taoiseach Enda Kenny looks on

Arriving in Moneygall (Photo by Pete Souza)

 First Lady Michelle Obama greets local residents on Main Street in Moneygall (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama greets local residents in Moneygall (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama poses for a photograph with a young girl during a walk along Main Street in Moneygall (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama watches as First Lady Michelle Obama draws a pint at Ollie Hayes’ Pub in Moneygall (Photo by Pete Souza)

 President Obama embraces Liz Sherwood-Randall, Senior Director for European Affairs, at College Green in Dublin, Ireland, May 23, 2011. Sherwood-Randall was blown over by strong winds earlier in the day and injured her wrist (Photo by Pete Souza)

Thousands of people gather at College Green in Dublin, Ireland, to welcome President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, May 23, 2011 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

People cheer as President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are introduced during an Irish celebration at College Green in Dublin (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama leave the stage with Taoiseach Enda Kenny and his wife, Fionnuala Kenny, at College Green in Dublin (Photo by Pete Souza)

 President Obama greets a little girl following his remarks at College Green in Dublin (Photo by Pete Souza)

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15
May
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder attend the 32nd Annual National Peace Officers Memorial Service at the West Front Lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC on May 15, 2013

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Today (All times Eastern)

9:40 AM: The President and First Lady tour the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, New York City

10:0 AM: The President delivers remarks

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Also at White House Live

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11:20 AM: Depart New York City

12:30 PM: Arrive White House

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A quote from Virgil seen during a press preview of the National September 11 Memorial Museum at the World Trade Center site May 14, 2014 in New York

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Morgan Whitaker: Obamacare Saved Consumers Billions, New Report Finds

A new analysis finds American consumers saved billions in 2011 and 2012 thanks to a key provision of the Affordable Care Act. The report from The Commonwealth Fund released Tuesday finds the medical loss ratio provision, which caps profits for health insurance companies, benefited consumers by about $3 billion over the past two years through a combination of rebates from insurance companies and reduced overhead spending. The law’s provision limits insurance companies to spending a minimum of 80-85% of premiums specifically on treatment and medical costs, rather than overhead and profits.

The rebate receipts sent to consumers hit $1 billion in 2011 and about $500 million in 2012, an indication that insurance providers successfully shifted business models to fit the new spending requirements. In addition to the rebates provided to consumers, insurers reduced profits and spending on general overhead by about $1.4 billion, the report finds. “The medical loss ratio requirement of the Affordable Care Act creates a higher-value insurance product for consumers,” said The Commonwealth Fund President David Blumenthal said in the report. “It ensures that a substantial portion of their premium dollar pays for medical care, as opposed to administrative costs and profits. It also encourages insurers to improve the care their customers receive, by investing in initiatives that will help achieve better outcomes for patients.”

More here

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ABC News: Obama Aide To Oversee VA Review

President Barack Obama is dispatching one of his closest White House advisers to oversee a review of the beleaguered Veterans Affairs Department as the agency grapples with allegations of treatment delays and preventable deaths at a Phoenix veterans hospital. White House deputy chief of staff Rob Nabors will be temporarily assigned to the VA to work on a review focused on policies for patient safety rules and the scheduling of patient appointments, officials said Wednesday. The move signals Obama’s growing concern over problems at the department, particularly recent reports that hospital administrators in Phoenix kept an off-the-books list to conceal long wait times as 40 veterans died waiting to get an appointment. Similar problems have since been reported in other states.

“While we get to the bottom of what happened in Phoenix, it’s clear the VA needs to do more to ensure quality care for our veterans,” Obama said in a statement. “I’m grateful that Rob, one of my most trusted advisers, has agreed to work with Secretary Shinseki to help the team at this important moment.” Despite calls for Shinseki to step down, the White House insists that Obama continues to have confidence in the secretary, a retired four-star Army general. Shinseki said he welcomed Nabors’ help in ensuring veterans have access to timely, quality health care. Though Nabors has kept a low public profile, he is one of Obama’s closest advisers and has played key roles in the president’s fiscal battles with congressional Republicans. Nabors, the son of an Army veteran, was appointed deputy chief of staff following Obama’s re-election and previously served as the president’s chief congressional liaison and deputy budget director.

More here

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Rick Ungar: Who Says Obamacare Is Turning Out To Be Good For The Economy? Goldman Sachs Does, That’s Who!

The news just keeps getting better and better for Obamacare. Marketwatch is reporting that an advisory issued by economic researcher Alec Phillips over at Goldman Sachs reports that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) boosted GDP in the first quarter of 2014 and projects that the same will occur in the second quarter. While Phillips—and other Goldman analysts—had initially been quite skeptical about the impact of the government subsidies provided to the many Americans who will now be able to purchase health insurance, the group has turned a corner and now views the subsidies as a major, beneficial contributor to first quarter numbers and what they project to be second quarter growth of 3.9 percent. Of even greater interest is the explanation provided by the Goldman analyst as to why healthcare spending rose 9.9 percent in the first quarter. Phillips pins the rise not on some undesired side-effect of Obamacare but on the fact that people had money in their pocket to spend on the health of their families as a result of $37 billion boost in personal income—something also projected to continue into the second quarter.

While the U.S. Bureau of Economics had predicted a higher spending figure on healthcare for the first quarter than what turned out to be the case, it is worth noting that the Congressional Budget Office—back when first reviewing the Senate bill to reform healthcare—predicted that we would see such a boost following the first enrollment period of Obamacare. Just because healthcare spending increased substantially in the first quarter does not mean that healthcare prices increased—a detail the GOP hopes you will miss. It simply means that more people were able to get the healthcare they were previously unable to afford; not that those of us who already had access to care had to pay more for that care. Phillips sees the trend continuing, suggesting that the positive effects of Obamacare will boost the economy in 2015 and 2016.

More here

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Katie Lobosco: Washington State Defies Minimum Wage Logic

Raising the minimum wage could lift hundreds of thousands of low-wage workers out of poverty, but it’s also a job killer. Right?
Not so fast. In Washington state, small businesses are adding jobs faster than any other state in the country, according to a report from Paychex and IHS. It’s also the state where minimum wage, at $9.32 per hour, is the highest. The federal minimum wage is just $7.25 an hour, and a battle is raging about whether it should be raised to $10.10. Small businesses, often called the engine of the U.S. economy, find themselves at the heart of the debate. Critics of a wage hike say that raising the minimum wage too high and too fast could put them out of business.

But the report from Paychex and IHS, which measured job additions and layoffs at 350,000 small businesses, could dispute that claim. Not only was Washington the strongest state, San Francisco — with a minimum wage of $10.74, the country’s highest — had the greatest job gains in the past year among cities measured. Washington state has been progressive on the issue for years. The state’s minimum wage rate has been tied to inflation since 1998, and the mayor of Seattle is currently pushing to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15.

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Russ Britt: Obamacare Is Good For The Economy, Goldman Sachs Researcher Says

Obamacare is good for the economy? That’s what one venerable Wall Street brokerage is saying. Alec Phillips, economic researcher at Goldman Sachs, said in a note issued late last week to clients that subsidies from the Affordable Care Act boosted gross domestic product during the first quarter and are likely to do the same during the second quarter. Phillips says that he now has a more optimistic view of the second quarter’s GDP growth, with a gain of 3.9% now estimated, and 4.5% annualized growth in real personal consumption.

“While we were initially skeptical of the large estimated effect of the new subsidies on personal income, these now look more reasonable to us in light of revisions, greater enrollment than expected several months ago, and the fact that states are likely contributing to the subsidies on top of the well-known estimates of federal costs,” Phillips said. But the health-care industry won’t be the only one to benefit, Phillips says, as subsidies will free up income for those who had no coverage before, as well as those who had insurance but were paying for it themselves. “Overall, around 40% of the subsidies should find their way to non-health consumption this year,” he wrote.

More here

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America’s Foremost Dumb Dumb

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William Douglas: McCain: Send U.S. Troops To Rescue Kidnapped Girls In Nigeria

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., wants to see more than hashtag messages voicing displeasure over the abduction of nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls by the terrorist group Boko Haram. He wants to see U.S. troops go into Nigera and rescue the girls, even if it means doing so without permission from the Nigerian government. ‘If they knew where they were, I certainly would send in U.S. troops to rescue them, in a New York minute I would, without the permission of the host country,’ McCain said Tuesday. Referring to Nigeria’s president, McCain added: ‘I wouldn’t be waiting for some kind of permission from some guy named Goodluck Jonathan.’

Thus far, the Obama administration has sent a team to Nigeria that includes FBI officials with hostage negotiation skills, five State Department officials, including a team leader, two strategic communications experts, a civiliam security expert and a regional medical support officer. There are also 10 Defense Department planners and advisers who were already in Nigeria and have been instructed to provide support to the kidnapping response, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters.

More here

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TPM: Federal Judge Denies Governor’s Motion To Put Idaho Gay Marriages On Hold

A federal magistrate judge has refused to put gay marriages on hold in Idaho pending an appeal from the state’s governor. U.S. District Magistrate Judge Candy Dale wrote Wednesday morning that Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s appeal isn’t likely to succeed, and so there’s no reason to keep same-sex couples from seeking marriage licenses or marrying on Friday. On Tuesday, Dale struck down Idaho’s same-sex marriage ban in response to a lawsuit from four Idaho couples.

Dale said Idaho’s law unconstitutionally denies gay and lesbian couples their fundamental right to marry and wrongly stigmatizes their families. She said the state must start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples Friday morning. Gay marriage is legal in 17 states and the District of Columbia.

More here

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Greg Sargent: Time To Revisit Conventional Wisdom About Politics Of Obamacare

The initial conventional wisdom about the Arkansas Senate race — that incumbent Mark Pryor is the nation’s preeminent Dead Dem Walking — is rapidly getting revised in the wake of new polls showing him ahead of GOP Rep. Tom Cotton. So perhaps, in the context of the Arkansas race, it’s also worth revisiting the conventional wisdom that Obamacare is nothing but a hideous liability for Democrats, and can only shower Republicans with political gold from now until election day. One of Senator Pryor’s senior campaign strategists tells me Pryor will not shy away from making the case that the state’s “private option” —

its version of the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare — represents Pryor’s brand of good governance, and that Cotton’s repeal stance is extreme and bad for the state. This is particularly relevant right now, as a fascinating new report from David Ramsey of the Arkansas Times demonstrates. Ramsey reports that the bipartisan private option — which uses Medicaid funds to expand private coverage to 150,000 Arkansans — has become a major issue in several state legislative Republican primaries.

More here

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Louise Radnofsky: A Washington State Health Insurer Plans To Cut Rates In 2015

An insurer in Washington state selling plans under the Affordable Care Act is proposing to lower customers’ health premiums next year in what appears to be one of the first such decreases proposed for 2015. The proposal by Molina Healthcare Inc. MOH +0.60% was part of a batch of state rate filings released Monday that included Washington and Indiana. While most carriers are seeking increases, Molina’s filing signals that insurers that priced cautiously for 2014 could face pressure to be more competitive in the second full year of the law’s insurance marketplaces. Molina proposed a decrease averaging 6.8% for Washington customers for 2015. It told state regulators in its rate filing that it was betting that people signing up through the insurance exchange were in better health than the carrier previously thought,

and that it anticipated new entrants when the law’s penalties for not carrying coverage grow next year. Molina, a company that historically has focused on managed Medicaid plans, offered some of the most expensive premiums among insurers selling on the Washington exchange in this year. It said it had only about 1,200 members in 2014. Ben Lynam, vice president for Molina’s actuarial pricing, said in an interview that the company had made conservative assumptions for 2014 about the medical claims likely to be incurred by its enrollees, in part because it hadn’t had much previous commercial experience. “With hindsight and looking at what’s going on across the country…we’ve improved those assumptions and lowered our rates in 2015,” he said.

More here

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Reuters: Jobless Claims Hit Seven-Year Low, Inflation Ticks Up

New applications for U.S. unemployment benefits hit a seven-year low last week while consumer prices recorded their largest increase in 10 months in April, pointing to a firming economy. The economy’s outlook was further brightened by other data on Thursday showing factory activity in New York state expanding at its quickest pace in nearly four years in May. “It conveys the message of solid economic activity. Labor conditions continue to improve and I expect this will be validated by payroll reports over the next few months,” said Anthony Karydakis, chief economic strategist at Miller Tabak in New York.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits declined 24,000 to a seasonally adjusted 297,000, the Labor Department said, offering fresh evidence the jobs market was strengthening. That was the lowest reading since May 2007 and brought claims back to their pre-recession level. Economists had forecast first-time applications ticking up to 320,000 last week. In a second report, the department said its Consumer Price Index increased 0.3 percent last month as food prices rose for a fourth consecutive month and the cost of gasoline surged. The rise in the CPI was the biggest rise since June last year and added to March’s 0.2 percent rise. The combination of a strengthening jobs market and an uptick in inflation pressures should give the Federal Reserve ammunition to continue scaling back its monetary stimulus. However, the U.S. central bank is not expected to start raising overnight interest rates, currently near zero, before the second half of 2015.

More here

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On This Day

President Obama takes a stroll through the White House Rose Garden, May 15, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama walks in the White House Rose Garden, May 15, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama meets with former Secretary of State, General Colin Powell, in the Oval Office, May 15, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins gives President Obama a Phillies jersey and autographed baseball while Obama welcomes the 2008 Major League Baseball World Series Champion Philadelphia Phillies at the White House, May 15, 2009

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First Lady Michelle Obama addresses Spelman graduates at their May 15, 2011 commencement.

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President Obama greets people in the audience at the National Peace Officers Memorial Service, an annual ceremony honoring law enforcement who were killed in the line of duty, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., May 15, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama presents a birthday cake to Admiral Jonathan Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations, during a dinner for Combatant Commanders and senior military leadership in the Blue Room of the White House, May 15, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama and Attorney General Holder attend the 32nd Annual National Peace Officers Memorial Service at the West Front Lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC on May 15, 2013

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President Obama poses with a souvenir jersey as he is flanked by players David Beckham and Landon Donovan, members of the LA Galaxy, Major League Soccer’s Championship team, at the White House, May 15, 2012

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13
May
14

Rise and Shine

President Obama addresses the recipients of the 2014 National Association of Police Organizations Top Cops lined up in the State Dining Room prior to a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, May 12, 2014 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today

12:30: Jay Carney briefs the press

3:0: The President awards Kyle J. White, U.S. Army, the Medal of Honor

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The Week Ahead

Wednesday: The President and the First Lady will travel to New York. While there, the President will host an event on the economy and attend DNC and DSCC events. More details will be forthcoming.

Thursday: The President and the First Lady will tour the National September 11th Memorial and Museum; the President will also deliver remarks at the dedication ceremony. Following his remarks, the President and the First Lady will return to Washington, DC.

Friday: The President will attend meetings at the White House.

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Yahoo: Turns Out Obamacare Premiums Aren’t More Expensive After All

When the cost of an employer-provided health insurance plan is compared to the cost of an Affordable Care Act plan bought on a state health insurance exchange, the ACA plan will be more affordable on average, a new analysis from PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Research Institute finds. “In 2014, the premiums for health plans offered on new state exchanges under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are comparable to — and in some cases lower than — those being offered by employers with similar levels of coverage,” the analysts concluded. “The data suggest the new exchanges are competitive with the current insurance market.”

The analysis is based on employer-sponsored premiums of 156 million people in 2013. But what about all those news stories about people whose premiums had shot way up? Those were often people whose pre-ACA insurance did not meet even the most basic standards set forth by the law. “Some of the sticker shock noted among enrollees in the new exchanges is due to more comprehensive insurance coverage in the exchange plans,” the PwC analysis notes, citing research in Health Affairs. “More than half the people in the individual market had coverage below the bronze level of 60%, the lowest level in the exchanges.”

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Steve Benen: Budget Deficit On Track For Six-Year Low

It was about a year ago when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) appeared on Fox News and told viewers that Congress should be “focused on trying to deal with the ultimate problem, which is this growing deficit.” There were a couple of glaring problems with the comment. For one thing, to prioritize the deficit as the “ultimate problem” – as opposed to, say, creating jobs and reducing unemployment – is to have a fairly warped sense of urgent policy needs. For another, the deficit, in reality, is most certainly not “growing.” The U.S. government ran a big surplus in April, thanks to a flood of tax payments that helped keep the budget on track for the lowest annual deficit in six years…. Through the first seven months of the 2014 budget year, which began Oct. 1, the deficit totals $306.4 billion. That’s down 37 percent from the same period last year. The Congressional Budget Office is forecasting a deficit of $492 billion for the full budget year.

That would be the narrowest gap since 2008. To be sure, none of this should come as a surprise, at least not to the policy mainstream. In recent years, the federal government has raised taxes and cut spending – and wouldn’t you know it, when Washington takes in more while spending less, the deficit gets smaller. This is a basic budgetary truism that Republicans continue to resist. Indeed, last year, when top marginal rates increased on households making more than $400,000 a year, a variety of GOP lawmakers argued that this would likely cause the deficit to go up – as they saw it, higher taxes on the wealthy would slow growth, which would mean fewer jobs, which would mean fewer people paying income taxes, which would mean a larger deficit. It appears on this, Republicans had it backwards, which will do nothing to shake the Beltway perception of the GOP as the “fiscally responsible” party. The fact remains, however, that the annual budget deficit is on track this year to have shrunk by about $900 billion since President Obama took the oath of office.

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NYT: Scientists Warn Of Rising Oceans From Polar Melt

A large section of the mighty West Antarctica ice sheet has begun falling apart and its continued melting now appears to be unstoppable, two groups of scientists reported on Monday. If the findings hold up, they suggest that the melting could destabilize neighboring parts of the ice sheet and a rise in sea level of 10 feet or more may be unavoidable in coming centuries. Global warming caused by the human-driven release of greenhouse gases has helped to destabilize the ice sheet, though other factors may also be involved, the scientists said. The rise of the sea is likely to continue to be relatively slow for the rest of the 21st century, the scientists added, but in the more distant future it may accelerate markedly, potentially throwing society into crisis. “This is really happening,” Thomas P. Wagner, who runs NASA’s programs on polar ice and helped oversee some of the research, said in an interview. “There’s nothing to stop it now. But you are still limited by the physics of how fast the ice can flow.”

The West Antarctic ice sheet sits in a bowl-shaped depression in the earth, with the base of the ice below sea level. Warm ocean water is causing the ice sitting along the rim of the bowl to thin and retreat. As the front edge of the ice pulls away from the rim and enters deeper water, it can retreat much faster than before. Those six glaciers alone could cause the ocean to rise four feet as they disappear, Dr. Rignot said, possibly within a couple of centuries. He added that their disappearance will most likely destabilize other sectors of the ice sheet, so the ultimate rise could be triple that. The effects will depend in part on how much money future governments spend to protect shorelines from a rising sea. Research published in 2012 found that a rise of less than four feet would inundate land on which some 3.7 million Americans live today. Miami, New Orleans, New York and Boston are all highly vulnerable.

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BBC: Woman To Lead UN Peacekeeping Mission For First Time In Cyprus

For the first time, a woman will command a UN peacekeeping force, after Norway’s Major General Kristin Lund was appointed to lead troops in Cyprus. Maj Gen Lund, 55, has a distinguished military career going back 34 years and including postings in Lebanon and Afghanistan, a UN statement said. She will replace China’s Major General Chao Liu on 13 August.In Cyprus, she will command 996 soldiers and police officers as well as 149 civilian staff. Maj Gen Lund was congratulated on her appointment by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at UN headquarters in New York.

Interviewed by the Associated Press news agency, she said she was looking forward to the challenges of her new job – maintaining the ceasefire and supporting efforts to deal with minefields, unaccounted people, property disputes and other issues. She also said she was proud to crack the glass ceiling in UN peacekeeping: “I think it’s time, and I think it’s important, that other women see that it’s possible also in the UN system to get up in the military hierarchy to become a force commander.”

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Alec MacGillis: Marco Rubio Denies Climate Change While His Hometown Drowns

Marco Rubio, as you may have heard, has issued yet another blunt rejection of the whole notion of man-made climate change. “Well, yeah, I don’t agree with the notion that some are putting out there, including scientists, that somehow there are actions we can take today that would actually have an impact on what’s happening in our climate,” he said yesterday on ABC’s “This Week.” He continued: “Our climate is always changing. And what they have chosen to do is take a handful of decades of research and say that this is now evidence of a longer-term trend that’s directly and almost solely attributable to man-made activities…I don’t know of any era in world history where the climate has been stable. Climate is always evolving, and natural disasters have always existed… I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it.

That’s what I—and I do not believe that the laws that they propose we pass will do anything about it, except it will destroy our economy.” For this, Rubio has been roundly ridiculed by reality-based commentators. But even their scorn seems to skip over what is perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Rubio’s evasion on climate change. It would be one thing if Rubio was trying to downplay man-made climate change if he was the senator from a state that is greatly dependent on drawing fossil fuels out of the earth and pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere—say, Oklahoma or West Virginia or North Dakota. But Rubio represents Florida, and is in fact from Miami. Which—how to say this nicely?—is in the process of drowning.

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Boston Globe: Vermont Legislators Agree On $10.50 Minimum Wage By 2018

The Vermont House has agreed with the Senate to raise the state’s minimum wage to $10.50 by 2018, as lawmakers adjourned for the year. The current state minimum wage is $8.73 per hour. ‘‘Any time we can put money in the hands of Vermonters who need it most, it’s a win,’’ said Representative Tom Stevens, a Waterbury Democrat, as he presented the bill to his colleagues Friday night. ‘‘Is it enough? It’s a start.’’ Governor Peter Shumlin issued a statement praising the bill. ‘‘I will be proud to sign it,’’ he said.

The State House was filled with frenetic activity Friday and Saturday, as conference committees met on budget and tax packages for fiscal 2015 and reached deals on several other bills, including one streamlining the process for medicating mentally ill patients against their will. Majority Democrats in the House in March had passed a minimum wage increase to $10.10 an hour to take effect in January, but the Senate called for a slower approach. The House was ready to pass a compromise Thursday evening, but a printer’s error — the wrong bill on the matter had been placed in the legislative calendar — caused it to be delayed.

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Morgan Whitaker: Most Americans Want Obamacare To Stay, But Tweaked: Poll

They may not love all of it, but most Americans want the president’s signature health reform policy to stay. A significant majority (61%) of Americans want the Affordable Care Act kept as-is or improved with changes, while a little more than a third (38%) want the law fully repealed or replaced, according to new polling released Sunday. A little less than half (49%) of all respondents said “make some changes” when asked what they thought Congress should do with respect to the law, according to the CNN/ORC poll. Another 12% want the law kept in place in its exact form. Among those supporting repeal, 18% said they wanted to repeal and replace the health reform law with a new law, and 20% said it should just be repealed.

Independent voters show a slightly more repeal-friendly breakdown, with 55% supporting a law in its original or improved form, and 45% supporting repeal either with or without replacement. Broken down across age groups, younger adults (ages 18-34) are most likely to support making minor changes to the law (50%). Seniors, many of whom already received health coverage from Medicare, are more likely than any other demographic to support a full repeal of the law with no replacement, at 25%. Across racial groups, nonwhites are more likely than whites to want the law kept as is or improved, 79% to 53%. While whites are slightly more likely than nonwhites to support repeal or repeal with replacement, 46% to 21%. Recent polling from Gallup found African-American and Latino Americans saw more significant decreases in the uninsured rate since the law’s health exchange open enrollment period began. The poll also finds a slight increase in the overall number of Americans who see the law as a success – a four-point jump since November 2013 from 8% to 12%.

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Jimmy Vielkind: Obama To Visit Tappan Zee Bridge As G.O.P. Convenes

President Barack Obama will visit the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project on Wednesday as part of an administration push for more infrastructure spending, a White House spokesman confirmed. Obama chose the Tappan Zee—which carries the New York State Thruway over the Hudson River, between Tarrytown and Nyack—to make a point about streamlined federal approval processes, White House spokesman Keith Maley said.

A $3.9 billion replacement structure is now under construction, spearheaded by Governor Andrew Cuomo and helped by a $1.6 billion federal loan that was approved in October. There is already visible progress on the replacement structure. “President Obama and his administration are focused every day on what we can do to expand opportunity for every American,” said Maley. “In today’s economy, that means building a first-class infrastructure that attracts first-class jobs and takes American businesses’ goods all across the world.”

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Steve Benen: A Law By Any Other Name Would Smell As Sweet

It’s been nearly a year since Jason Cherkis published it, but his health care anecdote out of Kentucky resonates because of its salience. As Cherkis reported last August, a middle-aged man in a red golf shirt shuffled up to a small folding table at the Kentucky State Fair to hear about Kynect, the state’s health benefit exchange established by the Affordable Care Act. The man liked what he heard. “This beats Obamacare I hope,” he said, apparently unaware that Kynect and Obamacare are the same thing. A year later, as NBC News’ First Read discovered, there’s a lot of this going around. When it comes to views of the new health care law, sometimes it’s all in a name. In Kentucky, our NBC-Marist poll found that 57% of registered voters have an unfavorable view of “Obamacare,” the shorthand commonly used to label the 2010 Affordable Care Act. That’s compared with only 33% who give it a thumbs up – hardly surprising in a state where the president’s approval rating hovers just above 30%.

By comparison, when Kentucky voters were asked to give their impression of kynect, the state exchange created as a result of the health care law, the picture was quite different. A plurality – 29% – said they have a favorable impression of kynect, compared to 22% who said they view the system unfavorably. I put together the above chart to help capture the difference, and while kynect is less well known – 27% of Kentuckians said they hadn’t heard of it, with another 21% saying they were unsure – the difference is hard to miss. It’s a timely reminder that polling on health care is tricky in this political climate. If you ask Americans whether they like “Obamacare.” in most cases, they do not. Ask them whether they support the policy provisions within the Affordable Care Act and suddenly the law looks very popular. What explains the discrepancy? Some of it’s based on lingering confusion – a lot of folks still don’t know much about the law – and some of it’s tribal, with those who hold the president in contempt rejecting the reform law, not on the merits, but because Obama signed it.

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Don Lee: After Decades of Exodus, Companies Returning Production To The U.S.

In 2001, Generac Power Systems joined the wave of American companies shifting production to China. The move wiped out 400 jobs in southeast Wisconsin, but few could argue with management’s logic: Chinese companies were offering to make a key component for $100 per unit less than the cost of producing it in the U.S. Now, however, Generac has brought manufacturing of that component back to its Whitewater plant — creating about 80 jobs in this town of about ‎14,500 people. The move is part of a sea change in American manufacturing: After three decades of an exodus of production to China and other low-wage countries, companies have sharply curtailed moves abroad. Some, like Generac, have begun to return manufacturing to U.S. shores.

Although no one keeps precise statistics, the retreat from offshoring is clear from various sources, including federal data on assistance to workers hurt by overseas moves. U.S. factory payrolls have grown for four straight years, with gains totaling about 650,000 jobs. That’s a small fraction of the 6 million lost in the previous decade, but it still marks the biggest and longest stretch of manufacturing increases in a quarter century. Harry Moser, an MIT-trained engineer who tracks the inflow of jobs, estimates that last year marked the first time since the offshoring trend began that factory jobs returning to the U.S. matched the number lost, at about 40,000 each. “Offshoring and ‘re-shoring’ were roughly in balance — I call that victory,” said Moser

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On This Day

 Sen. Barack Obama stops to speak with school kids from Holy Cross as he departs after a vote on amendments to S.2284, the “Flood Insurance Reform and Modernization Act of 2007,” on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 13, 2007

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President Obama walks to the podium to deliver a statement on the situation in Sri Lanka, May 13, 2009

President Obama enters the stage to give the commencement address at Arizona State University Commencement at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe Arizona May 13, 2009

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President Obama talks on the phone with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev about the final details of the START Treaty, in the Oval Office, Saturday, March 13, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron during a joint press conference in the East Room at the White House on May 13, 2013

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08
May
14

Rise and Shine

President Obama waits backstage before delivering the keynote address at the the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies 18th Annual Gala Dinner in Washington, D.C., May 8, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

11:00: First Lady Michelle Obama Presents The 2014 National Medal For Museum And Library Services

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Today (All Times Pacific)

9:30 AM: The President participates in a DNC fundraiser, The Beverly Hilton

11:10: Departs Los Angeles

11:50: Arrives San Diego

1:15: Delivers remarks at a fundraiser for congressional Democrats, private residence

2:30: Departs San Diego

3:50: Arrives San Jose

4:15: Participates in a DNC fundraiser, private residence

6:30: Speaks at a DNC fundraiser, Fairmont San Jose

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Tara Culp-Ressler: U.S. Women Saved $483 Million On Their Birth Control Pills Last Year

Women in the United States saved an estimated $483 million on their out-of-pocket costs for the birth control pill, according to new data from the IMS Institute on Healthcare Informatics. The health care data company found that Obamacare has “dramatically reduced” women’s out-of-pocket costs now that insurers are required to cover preventative care without charging an additional co-pay. Compared to the data from 2012, about 24 million more birth control pill prescriptions were filled without a co-pay in 2013. That means each of the women filling those prescriptions ended up saving an average of $269. Those savings can make all the difference for women who are struggling to afford the reproductive care they need.

According to the IMS Institute’s data, there was 4.6 percent increase in prescriptions for birth control between 2012 and 2013. One of the most common misconceptions about Obamacare’s contraceptive provision is the assumption that women are now getting birth control “for free.” In reality, however, these women are accessing birth control through their private, employer-sponsored health insurance plans. Women do pay for the benefits included in those plans, both by working at their job and by paying a monthly premium. Under Obamacare, the difference is that they don’t have to pay an additional out-of-pocket cost for the preventative health benefits specific to their gender.

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Chicago Tribune: Conan O’Brien Ribs President Obama Over Traffic: “Skype works”

President Obama was in Century City on Wednesday night to accept a serious award from the USC Shoah Foundation — but his warmup act, comedian Conan O’Brien, still wasn’t over what Angelenos were calling Wednesday’s #Obamajam on major routes around town. “As a resident of Los Angeles, I’m furious about what you do to traffic when you visit this city,” O’Brien said to laughter at the 20th anniversary gala of USC’s Shoah Foundation. “What the hell? I know you left Washington six hours ago, but I left Burbank seven hours ago.”

“Now I mean this with the greatest respect, Sir, but do you have to physically come here? We love you. This town loves you. You’ve got our vote. You’re good. Audience, what do you say to – next time we give President Obama a Los Angeles award, we mail it to him? And then we fly down the 405,” the comedian said. As the president laughed, O’Brien added that “Skype works” and that if he insisted on continuing to come to Los Angeles, he owed everyone a ride home on his helicopter.

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President Obama is presented with the USC Shoah Foundation’s Ambassador for Humanity Award by movie director Steven Spielberg at the USC Shoah Foundation’s 20th anniversary Ambassadors for Humanity gala in Los Angeles

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Michael Hiltzik: The Insurers Speak: Yes, People Are Paying Their Obamacare Premiums

Things continue to get tough for the Obamacare dead-enders, those increasingly lonely opponents whose only comeback against the flow of good news about the Affordable Care Act is to conjure up absurd arguments against it (I mean you, Cato’s Michael Cannon) or, if all else fails, make stuff up. That latter effort was put in the grave Wednesday by a panel of health insurance spokespersons summoned to Washington by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. The committee, fans will recall, recently issued an utterly bogus report claiming that of all enrollees on the federal ACA website, only 67% had paid their first month’s premiums. That’s important because health insurance coverage isn’t official until the first payment is made.

As we reported, experts jumped all over the figure, pointing out that it overlooked that the payment deadline for a huge percentage of enrollees hadn’t been reached by the cut-off date for the committee’s survey, April 15, and that the due date for many others hasn’t been reached to this day. The giant health insurer Wellpoint says the payment ratio of enrollees whose premium date has already passed is “ranging up to 90 percent.” –Health Care Service Corp., which operates Blue Cross/Blue Shield plans in Illinois, Montana, Oklahoma and Texas, says its payment ratio on exchange plans ranges from 85% to 88% for policies with effective dates from Jan. 1 through March 1. On policies effective April 1, the ratio was 83%. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Government, one of Washington’s most reliable deficit scolds, on Tuesday issued an analysis acknowledging that the ACA has helped to bring down projections of federal healthcare spending from 2011 to 2021 by $900 billion.

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Yahoo: Nigeria’s President At WEF Pledges To Free Kidnapped Girls

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan pledged on Thursday to find more than 200 schoolgirls abducted by Islamist rebels, as the hostage crisis overshadowed his opening address to a major conference designed to showcase investment opportunities in Africa’s biggest economy. Speaking at the World Economic Forum (WEF) being hosted in the capital Abuja, Jonathan thanked foreign nations including the United States, Britain, France and China for their support in trying to rescue the girls, who were kidnapped from a secondary school on April 14 by Boko Haram.

France became the latest nation to offer help on Wednesday, saying it was boosting intelligence ties with Nigeria and sending security service agents there to tackle Boko Haram, the militant group which claimed the mass kidnapping. With more than 4,000 troops operating between Mali to the west and Central African Republic to the east, Paris has a major interest in preventing Nigeria’s security from deteriorating and has warned that Boko Haram could spread north into the Sahel. In the latest big Islamist attack in Nigeria, 125 people were killed on Monday when gunmen rampaged through a town in the northeast near the Cameroon border.

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Jeanne Sahadi: Uncle Sam Runs $114 Billion Surplus In April

The U.S. Treasury Department booked a $114 billion surplus in April, the largest for that month since 2008, according to the latest estimates from the Congressional Budget Office released Wednesday. For the first seven months of this fiscal year, which began on Oct. 1, the CBO estimates the country has racked up a $301 billion deficit, which is $187 billion lower than it was for the same period last year. Federal coffers saw a 7% increase in individual income taxes and payroll taxes, a 15% increase in corporate income taxes, and a 37% increase in money paid to Treasury by the Federal Reserve.

Meanwhile, overall spending fell by 2%. Areas that saw the biggest drops included unemployment benefits and homeland security (both down 31%), agriculture (down 12%) and defense spending (down 5%). Much of the drop in overall spending is attributable to bigger payments from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to Treasury. According to the weird accounting rules of the federal budget, those payments are counted as “negative” spending.

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Alan Pyke: CEO Of Biggest Fast Food Chain Comes Out In Favor Of A Minimum Wage Increase

The founder and CEO of Subway says a minimum wage increase wouldn’t be such a bad thing for his stores and workers and believes it should be changed so that wages rise automatically with inflation. “I’m not concerned,” CEO Fred DeLuca said on Wednesday when CNBC asked him about minimum wage hikes. “Over the years, I’ve seen so many of these wage increases. I think it’s normal. It won’t have a negative impact hopefully, and that’s what I tell my workers.” DeLuca’s support is noteworthy in part because of the size of his business. Subway has the most locations of any fast food chain. While a majority of small business owners support a $10.10 wage hike, major corporations of that scale typically oppose raising wages. DeLuca had previously warned that raising the minimum wage too rapidly would be a “bad idea” that could damage businesses, while acknowledging that “minimum-wage workers deserve to make more.”

At the time that he offered that warning in 2013, President Obama was proposing a minimum wage hike from $7.25 to $9 an hour. Since then, Obama has joined congressional progressives in calling for a $10.10 hourly minimum, which would nearly recoup the purchasing power low-wage workers have lost to inflation over the past 40 years. In the 15 months since DeLuca criticized proposed wage hikes as too rapid, low-wage worker strikes have spread from a handful of New York fast food stores to a hundred cities in all parts of the country, ratcheting up the pressure on lawmakers to act on wages. On Wednesday, workers announced plans for strikes in 150 U.S. cities and protests in 30 other countries across six continents.

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CRFB: The $900 Billion Slowdown In Federal Health Care Spending

With April’s updated projections from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), spending on major federal health care programs (Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act’s exchange subsidies) has now been revised downward by $900 billion, or 0.4 percent of GDP, cumulatively from 2011 through 2021, just since their March 2011 projections. Buoyed by a 23 percent drop in the cost of Medicare Part D and a 15 percent decline in the projected costs of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) new coverage through Medicaid and the exchanges, this remarkable slowdown has been a bright spot amidst an otherwise still dim fiscal outlook.

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Another interesting comparison is to look at how much federal health care spending has changed since before the enactment of the Affordable Care Act. The last pre-ACA CBO baseline was in March 2010 and projected net spending on Medicare and Medicaid at $1.34 trillion in 2020. The April 2014 baseline, though, actually estimates spending on those programs plus the ACA’s exchange subsidies in 2020 will be $70 billion lower than before the ACA was even enacted, at $1.27 trillion.

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Ronan Keenan: Obamacare Will Be Vindicated By History: From JFK To FDR, Here’s How The Nation’s Memory Works

Not everyone viewed the introduction of Obamacare as cause for national celebration, but that doesn’t mean history won’t remember it as such. Time has a habit of changing the perception of presidential initiatives. The Gettysburg Address may be the most iconic speech made in America, but not everyone shared that sentiment in 1863. Far from being revered as an affirmation on human equality, Lincoln’s words were roundly criticized by the Democrats of the day, while the Chicago Times described the president’s efforts as “silly, flat and dishwatery utterances.” While seemingly difficult to imagine, decades from now history will note that the Affordable Care Act symbolized one of the great presidential efforts to fight inequality in America. Long forgotten will be today’s headlines of a temperamental website, deadline delays and mixed messages about keeping existing plans. Instead, it will be heralded that Barack Obama made a superior healthcare service available to the masses.

With more than 7 million enrolled, Obamacare is here to stay. Regardless of future modifications, of which there will be many, affordable healthcare has been instituted in the United States, dragging millions away from the threat of imminent bankruptcy and terminal illness. Obama will be appreciated as the first black president who also made healthcare a reality for everyone. It will define his legacy, with his political missteps whittled from his narrative. Republicans are on the wrong side of history, but their obstructionism will fade from public consciousness. We like to think that a time will return when the nation supported the conviction of its leader. But great achievements aren’t born from support from the masses, they happen when someone risks derision to surpass the status quo.

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Andrew Prokop: Study: On Economics, Obama’s Judges Are The Most Liberal In 50 Years

How liberal are President Obama’s judges? A new study by two political scientists tries to answer that question. Robert Carp and Kenneth Manning examine about 50,000 federal judicial opinions between 1932 and 2013, including 683 by Obama’s district court appointees, and code each opinion as liberal or conservative. Overall, Obama’s judges basically resemble nominees of other Democratic presidents — except on decisions about economic or labor regulation. There, Obama’s judges are the most liberal of any president studied (going back to John F. Kennedy). Note that the study only includes district court judges, not Supreme Court judges:

Note particularly the difference between Obama and Clinton’s judges — Obama’s made 66 percent liberal decisions, compared to 54 percent for Clinton’s. Carp and Manning code these opinions based on whether the judges sided with businesses. “In the area of government regulation of the economy, liberal judges would probably uphold legislation that benefited working people or the underdog,” they write. “A typical case might be a dispute between a labor union and a company — a worker alleging a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, or a petitioner challenging the right of a government regulator to circumscribe his activity.”

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On This Day

President Obama reacts to seeing speechwriter Cody Keenan outside the Oval Office on May 8, 2009. Keenan dressed up as a pirate for an Oval Office photo shot for use in the President’s speech to the White House Correspondents Association dinner May 9, 2010

President Obama talks on the phone in the Oval Office with President-elect Jacob Zuma of South Africa, May 8, 2009

President Obama is reflected in a mirror as he waits backstage before being introduced for remarks at a Latino Town Hall meeting on the H1N1 swine flu virus May 8, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama greets people in the audience after delivering the keynote address at the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies 18th Annual Gala Dinner in Washington, D.C., May 8, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama jokes with Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett backstage before delivering remarks on the economy at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering at the State University of New York in Albany, N.Y., May 8, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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First Lady Michelle Obama speaks at an awards ceremony in the East Room at the White House, May 8, 2013 in Washington, DC. The First Lady presented the 2013 National Medal for Museum and Library Service to 10 institutions from across the country.

President Obama talks with electric utility executives and trade association representatives before a meeting to discuss lessons learned and actions taken since Hurricane Sandy, at the Department of Energy in Washington, D.C., May 8, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

07
May
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: First Lady Michelle Obama greets guests during a Mother’s Day Tea in the State Dining Room of the White House, May 7, 2010 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

11:05 ET: President Obama departs the White House

1:35 ET: Arrives Arkansas

3:50 ET: Travels to central Arkansas to view the devastation from the recent tornadoes and severe storms and meet with the families affected by this disaster, as well as first responders and recovery workers. The President will deliver remarks.

4:35 ET: Departs Arkansas

8:0 ET: Arrives Los Angeles

9:55 ET: Delivers remarks and answers questions at a joint fundraiser for House and Senate Democrats, private residency, Los Angeles

11:10 ET: Attends USC Shoah Foundation dinner, Hyatt Regency Century Plaza, Los Angeles

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The Week Ahead

Thursday: Participates in a DNC roundtable in Los Angeles before traveling to San Diego to participate in a DCCC event. The President will then travel to San Jose where he will participate in two DNC events and remain overnight.

Friday: Participates in an event on energy in the San Jose area. Following the event the President will return to Washington, DC.

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USC: USC Shoah Foundation To Host President Obama As Featured Speaker At 20th Anniversary Gala

On May 7, 2014, USC Shoah Foundation – The Institute for Visual History and Education will gather in Los Angeles for its 20th Anniversary Ambassadors for Humanity Gala. To help mark this occasion, the Institute will have the great privilege of welcoming President Barack Obama, who will speak to common values and shared responsibilities in building a brighter future.

Institute founder and USC trustee Steven Spielberg will recognize President Obama with the Institute’s highest honor, the Ambassador for Humanity Award for his global efforts to protect human rights, his commitment to education and expanding educational technology, and his work advancing opportunities for all people.

“President Obama’s commitment to democracy and human rights has long been felt,” Spielberg said. “As a constitutional scholar and as president, his interest in expanding justice and opportunity for all is remarkably evident. The president’s recent appointment of the first special envoy for Holocaust Survivor Services in United States history demonstrates his staunch commitment to honoring the past while building a better future. I am extremely grateful to have President Obama join us on this significant milestone of the USC Shoah Foundation.”

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Bloomberg: Insurers Say Most Obamacare Customers Paid First Premiums

Three large health insurers including WellPoint Inc. (WLP) and Aetna Inc. (AET) say that a high percentage of their new Obamacare customers are paying their first premiums, undermining a Republican criticism of enrollment in the program.

As many as 90 percent of WellPoint customers have paid their first premium by its due date, according to testimony the company prepared for a congressional hearing today. For Aetna, the payment is in the “low to mid-80 percent range,” the company said in its own testimony. Health Care Service Corp., which operates Blue Cross Blue Shield plans in five states including Texas, said that number is at least 83 percent.

Making the first monthly payment is the last step to confirm enrollment in plans sold under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and Republicans have made the question of how many paid a line of attack on the law.

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Lucy McCalmont: Obama: Nigeria Kidnappings ‘Awful’

President Barack Obama called the kidnapping of nearly 300 girls in Nigeria “awful,” and added that the U.S. will “do everything we can” to help Nigeria. “Obviously, what’s happening is awful and, as a father of two girls, I can’t imagine what the parents are going through,” Obama said in an interview with CBS, one of a collection of interviews the president gave to local and national TV outlets on Tuesday afternoon. Coverage of the incident has grown since the kidnappings occurred three weeks ago, thanks in part to the social media hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, which has been trending worldwide, and has been tweeted more than a million times, according to BBC News.

Obama said in his interview with CBS that the White House is “sending in a team made up of our military, and law enforcement and other experts and we’re very glad that Nigeria’s accepted the help.” Obama called Boko Haram, the group that has claimed to have taken the girls as “one of the worst, regional or local terrorist organizations in the world.” Boko Haram, whose name roughly translates in English to “Western education is sinful,” is an Islamic terrorist group based in the Northeast region of Nigeria. ”We’ve long sought to work with Nigeria on dealing with them and we’re going to do everything we can to assist them in recovering these young women,” Obama said, adding that more work is needed in targeting the group. “More broadly though, we’re going to have to really tackle a pernicious problem inside that country — an organization that has carried out ruthless attacks and killed thousands of people over the last several years,” Obama said.

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Jonathan Cohn: See How Right-Wing Media “Covered” Obamacare’s Big News Day

Monday was a pretty big news day for Obamacare. But you wouldn’t know it by reading conservative media.

In the morning, Gallup reported that the percentage of adults without health insurance had dropped to 13.4 percent, at least according to its surveys. That’s the lowest rate the organization has recorded since it began asking the question in early 2008. Then, in the afternoon, the Annals of Internal Medicine published a major study, based on data from Massachusetts, suggesting that giving people health insurance makes people healthier—and that, by extension, the Affordable Care Act could end up saving more than 10,000 lives a year.

The news got lots of attention from the mainstream media and from health-care policy analysts. But on the right? Crickets.

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Brian Beutler: Democrats Should Absolutely Boycott the GOP’s Phony Benghazi Committee

Events are still unfolding, but everything that’s happened so far today points to the likelihood that House Democrats will protest the Select Committee on Benghazi, leaving Republicans to re-re-re-re-re-re-investigate the 2012 attacks, and their aftermath, in partisan fashion.

When initially contemplated, the idea was met with swift derision by some members of the commentariat. Ron Fournier, a tribune for bipartisan comity, thinks a boycott would be an error.

And the broader vibe is that a boycott wouldn’t be a sporting move. But that argument is incorrect. A boycott would be excellent politics, and Democrats have none other than Mitch McConnell to thank for the insight.

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AP: US To Let Some High-Skilled Immigrant Spouses Work

The Obama administration wants to allow some spouses of high-skilled immigrants to work in the United States, the departments of Homeland Security and Commerce announced Tuesday. The rule change, which is set to be published in the Federal Register later this week, would affect spouses of as many as 100,000 holders of H-1B high-skilled visas. “The proposals announced today will encourage highly skilled, specially trained individuals to remain in the United States and continue to support U.S. businesses and the growth of the U.S. economy,” said Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said the rule change would help the U.S. attract and keep “world-class talent” working in the United States. The new rule is the latest in a series of administrative actions President Barack Obama has announced as efforts to win broad immigration reform in Congress have failed. The H-1B visas for high-skilled workers are among the most sought-after by high-tech firms. Earlier this year the 85,000 H-1B visas available for 2015 were gobbled up in just a week. The same thing happened last year.

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The New Yorker: Ronald Reagan’s Benghazi

 If you compare the costs of the Reagan Administration’s serial security lapses in Beirut to the costs of Benghazi, it’s clear what has really deteriorated in the intervening three decades. It’s not the security of American government personnel working abroad. It’s the behavior of American congressmen at home.

The story in Beirut wasn’t over. In September of 1984, for the third time in eighteen months, jihadists bombed a U.S. government outpost in Beirut yet again. President Reagan acknowledged that the new security precautions that had been advocated by Congress hadn’t yet been implemented at the U.S. embassy annex that had been hit.

The problem, the President admitted, was that the repairs hadn’t quite been completed on time. As he put it, “Anyone who’s ever had their kitchen done over knows that it never gets done as soon as you wish it would.” Imagine how Congressman Issa and Fox News would react to a similar explanation from President Obama today.

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ThinkProgress: Here’s Why Nigeria Hasn’t Yet Found Its 300 Missing Girls

The world isn’t just aware of the plight of three hundred girls kidnapped from their boarding school in Nigeria now. It has become, finally, invested. Globally, people are demanding that the Nigerian government do more to find the 276 girls still missing, while a hashtag, #BringBackOurGirls, unites the web behind their cause.

The world is eager to see the girls, stolen away in the night three weeks ago, returned. But part of the reason why the girls remain abducted lies in just how the government has waged its war against the terrorists who carried out the kidnapping over the last half a decade. And the terrorists who hold them captive remain an unpredictable factor, leaving even experts unsure just how to bring about their freedom from the men determined to prevent them from gaining an education.

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BBC: Ukraine Crisis: Pro-Russian Troops Seize Back Mariupol City Hall

Pro-Russian separatists have seized back the city hall in the southern Ukrainian port of Mariupol, hours after being ousted by security forces. Government forces first raised the Ukraine flag on the building but later left – allowing the rebels who captured it last week to be back in control. Rebels have occupied official buildings in dozens of towns in eastern Ukraine in recent weeks. The Kiev government has sent troops to restore its authority. Shortly after the Russian and “Donetsk Peoples’ Republic” flags were hoisted over Mariupol’s city hall, the scene of tensions moved to the police station where 16 arrested pro-Russian activists were being held.

Heavily-armed police fired warning shots into the air as an angry crowd of friends and relatives gathered at the police gates concerned that the detainees would be moved to another province, the BBC’s Sarah Rainsford reports from the scene. Earlier on Wednesday, Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said government troops had taken over Mariupol’s city hall following a joint operation by ministry troops and the army. Russian President Vladimir Putin, meeting the chair of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Moscow, said he was ready to “seek ways out of this crisis”.

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President Obama returns to the Oval Office after giving interviews in the Rose Garden of the White House, May 6, 2014 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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TPM: Charlie Crist Says He Became A Democrat Because Of GOP Racism

Charlie Crist said once again Tuesday that racism motivates many of President Obama’s most hostile GOP adversaries.

It was partly for that reason that Crist, the former Republican governor of Florida who’s now trying to reclaim his old job as a Democrat, broke with his former party.

“I couldn’t be consistent with myself and my core beliefs, and stay with a party that was so unfriendly toward the African-American president, I’ll just go there,” Crist told Fusion’s Jorge Ramos. “I was a Republican and I saw the activists and what they were doing, it was intolerable to me.”

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Sam Baker: Another Obamacare Attack Goes Bust

Health insurance companies say the number of people who paid their Obamacare premiums will be higher than House Republicans implied. The House Energy and Commerce Committee said last week that, based on information it received from insurers, only 67 percent of people who signed up for private coverage through Obamacare’s exchanges had gone on to pay their first month’s premium. Conservatives have fixated on the number of unpaid premiums, arguing that the White House’s statistics—8 million people have selected a plan—are meaningless. Consumers aren’t truly enrolled until they pay their first premium, so the number of paid enrollments is indeed a more accurate picture of how many people the law’s exchanges are covering.

But this week, in written testimony to the same committee, insurers say the 67 percent figure was premature—and that they warned the committee not to draw sweeping conclusions from the information it requested. Energy and Commerce’s figure included people who signed up for coverage but whose first premium hadn’t come due at the time of the committee’s inquiry. And that’s a lot of people. Wellpoint, the largest insurer in the Obamacare exchanges, said the payment rate is closer to 90 percent among people who reached their first payment deadline. The company has given investors the same estimate. Health Care Service Corp., which administers Blue Cross Blue Shield plans in several states, told the committee the same thing: Of plans that have reached their payment deadlines, about 80 percent to 90 percent are paid enrollments.

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Michael Dunn: Nutter Raises Minimum Wage For Most City Contract Workers

Mayor Michael Nutter has decided to raise the minimum wage that companies doing business with the city must pay to their workers. And he extended that requirement to subcontractors as well. “This is something that’s been on my mind for a long, long time,” he said today. “I finally came to the conclusion that the unemployment rate is coming down, more and more people seem to be working, the city is doing a little better.

And I came to the conclusion that we cannot leave folks behind — that if people are doing better in this city, that we need to make sure that some of that benefit is being spread to those who need it the most.” And, with that, Nutter signed an executive order that does two things: it extends the living wage requirement to subcontractors, and secondly, effective next January, it raises the wage rate from $10.88 an hour to $12 an hour. The mayor said he was convinced to do this both by urgings to all mayors by President Obama, and by the local work of city councilman-at-large Wilson Goode Jr.

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Steve Benen: Following GOP Misstep, Senate Slowly Fills The Federal Bench

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) no doubt understands that his party’s majority status is in jeopardy and his eight-year run heading the chamber may be wrapping up at the end of this Congress. The question is what he intends to do with the next several months. Part of the focus will be on what Senate Democrats call their “Fair Shot” agenda. Republicans have already killed proposals on pay equity and the minimum wage, but Dems still have other policy measures in mind – including an upcoming fight on college affordability – that the party hopes will leave them better positioned for the midterm elections. But Reid is also thinking ahead when it comes to confirmation votes.

Yesterday, for example, the Senate confirmed Kansas Supreme Court Justice Nancy Moritz to fill a vacancy on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. There’s been a lot of these kinds of votes lately. On Thursday the Senate confirmed two district-court judges. The day before, six other district-court judges were confirmed, which followed an appeals-court confirmation the day before that. In late March, shortly before the Senate broke for its Spring recess, the chamber confirmed another appeals-court nominee and four other district-court nominees. All told, we haven’t seen a flurry of jurists fill vacancies on the federal bench like this in quite a long while. Had it not been for the so-called “nuclear option,” we almost certainly would not see all of this progress.

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Eugene Robinson: Time For Some Happy Talk From Democrats

Democrats, if you want to win in the fall, take some advice from Pharrell Williams: “Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth.” The Mountie-hat-wearing pop singer’s infectious “Happy” should be the Democratic Party’s theme song for the midterm election. Despite Republican claims to the contrary, things are definitely looking up. Democrats ought to be clicking their heels and spreading the good news. Friday’s announcement that unemployment fell to 6.3 percent was huge. The fact that the economy added 288,000 jobs in April — despite continued bad weather early in the month in parts of the country — suggests that the recovery has greater momentum than pessimists had feared. Economists were expecting decent numbers. These are great. The stock market, meanwhile, is flirting with an all-time high. The Dow has risen about 10 percent over the past year; the S&P 500, more than 16 percent; the Nasdaq, about 22 percent . During President Obama’s term in office, the Dow has more than doubled. If he were a socialist, as his harshest critics claim, he’d be a truly lousy one.

The numbers prove that Obama is, in fact, a skillful capitalist who guided the economy out of its worst slump since the Great Depression. He accomplished this feat despite being saddled with a Republican opposition in Congress that reflexively opposes his every initiative — even those based on policies the GOP supported in the past. Speaking of which, the Affordable Care Act — which is based, you’ll recall, on a framework developed in Republican think tanks — is clearly a success and may soon be seen as a triumph. More than 8 million people have signed up for insurance through the federal and state exchanges; Obama’s benchmark had been 7 million. Enough of these enrollees are young and healthy to ensure the program’s continued viability. Democrats now have a positive story they can tell in their campaign ads and speeches: “We promised you that these were the right policies to get the economy on track and reform health care. We said it would take time to see results and asked for patience. You gave us your trust, and now we’re seeing the benefits. This is just the beginning. Give us a mandate to keep moving forward on an agenda that is working.” Listen up, Democrats. You fixed the economy. You expanded access to health care. Oh, and you ended two wars. Show a little happiness. It’s contagious.

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On This Day

Sen. Obama on board his campaign plane at Midway Airport en-route to Washington DC, May 7, 2008 in Chicago

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First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden wait for the start of the Women’s Leadership Forum Issues Conference at the Washington Hilton in Washington, D.C., May 7, 2010 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)

First Lady Michelle Obama chats with a member of her mentoring program, as her mother Marian Robinson looks on at the State Dining Room of the White House May 7, 2010

President Obama arrives to discuss the April jobs numbers outside the Oval Office, May 7, 2010. With him are Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, Budget Director Peter R. Orszag, Secretary of Commerce Gary F. Locke and Chief of the National Economic Council Larry Summers

President Obama and First Lady Michelle leave Komi restaurant in the Dupont Circle neighborhood May 7, 2010 in Washington, DC

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First Lady Michelle Obama receives applause following her commencement address to the 2011 graduating class at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa, May 7, 2011 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama leave Tosca Restaurant in Washington, DC on May 7, 2011

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President Obama greets 2010 Fermi Award recipients Dr. Burton Richter, right, and his wife Laurose, and Dr. Mildred S. Dresselhaus, third from right, and her husband Gene, in the Oval Office, May 7, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Barack Obama and President Park Geun-hye of the Republic of Korea walk on the Colonnade of the White House before a working lunch in the Cabinet Room, May 7, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

First Lady Michelle Obama participates in a book signing, May 7, 2013, at the Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington, DC.




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