“Where the jazz makes you cry, the funerals make you dance, and the bayou makes you believe all kinds of things.”
President Barack Obama holds a child as he greets residents in the the Tremé neighborhood in New Orleans for the 10th anniversary since the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Tremé is one of the oldest black neighborhoods in America
President Barack Obama with Mayor Mitch Landrieu
President Barack Obama sits for lunch at Willie Mae’s restaurant with young men from My Brother’s Keeper initiative
President Barack Obama participates in a roundtable on Hurricane Katrina at the Andrew P. Sanchez Community Center in New Orleans
President Barack Obama speaks during an event to mark the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina on August 27, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana. President Obama spoke at the Andrew P. Sanchez & Copelin-Byrd Multi-Service Center located in the Lower 9th Ward, a largely African-American neighborhood that was one of the hardest hit by the storm
Noah McQueen used to spend more time fighting and getting arrested than getting good grades and listening to advice. He changed households and public schools 10 times before he landed at the Maryland Juvenile Justice Cheltenham Youth Center. But times have changed. “Do you need a ride back to the White House?” a presidential aide asked McQueen, 19, as he stood inside Eddie’s Hair Design in Adams Morgan on a recent day. “No, I have my own car now,” he responded. McQueen didn’t need a barber; he had a fresh haircut. He was there to work. McQueen was there with Broderick Johnson, head of the White House’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative, to be a role model to students from Marie Reed Elementary School.
The initiative was launched last year to improve educational and job opportunities for young men of color. White House officials, including President Obama, have worked hard to help McQueen. His life changed three years ago, when, as a student at Dr. Henry A. Wise Jr. High School in Upper Marlboro, he began mentoring children at nearby Barack Obama Elementary. “I get choked up . . . when I think about where I was,” McQueen said as he reflected on a troubled childhood that included several suspensions, arrests and other run-ins with the law. Now McQueen is a freshman at Morehouse College in Atlanta. He graduated in May from Wise, where he finished with a 3.25 grade-point average even though his freshman and sophomore years were academic disasters.
President Obama has quietly racked up a series of legislative victories during the past few months as lawmakers have enthusiastically embraced his calls for a higher minimum wage, paid sick leave and universal pre-kindergarten. Instead of Capitol Hill, those victories happened in city halls, state houses and county buildings far from Washington. At least six major cities — Chicago, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Tacoma, Wash., and Washington, D.C. — have passed paid sick leave laws in the four months since Obama called for state and local action in this year’s State of the Union Address. Since the 2013 address when Obama called for an increase in the minimum wage, 17 states and six major cities have taken action, including Los Angeles last week.
Obama’s state-and-local strategy may be unprecedented in its scope and ambition. Though previous administrations have appointed top advisers to listen to concerns of state and local officials, the Obama White House appears to be the first to aggressively use those same channels to encourage them to adopt Obama’s policies. The strategy has been more effective on some policies than others. Since last September, more than 200 mayors have signed on to the My Brother’s Keeper initiative, a commitment to help boys and young men of color. The state-and-local strategy effort has been particularly effective on paid leave policies, which Obama championed in his State of the Union Address this year. “Forty-three million workers have no paid sick leave — 43 million. Think about that,” Obama said. “So I’ll be taking new action to help states adopt paid leave laws of their own.” That pledge came with a $1 million budget from the Department of Labor to help fund feasibility studies for state and local governments, which will begin to be awarded this summer.
“At the annual State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol, Chuck Kennedy captured this poignant moment between the First Lady and U.S. Army Ranger Sgt. First Class Cory Remsburg. Cory first met the President in 2009 at a D-Day ceremony in Normandy. Four months later, Cory was badly injured in Afghanistan and in a coma for three months. In early 2010, shortly after Cory came out of his coma, the President happened to be visiting patients at Walter Reed Hospital. As he walked into one of the patient’s rooms, hanging on the wall was a photo I had taken of the President and Cory in Normandy. The President then realized that he had met this badly injured Army Ranger at Normandy. Two years later, we were visiting Arizona, where Cory had gone home to further recuperate. The President asked if Cory would be able to greet him backstage. Amazingly, Cory was able to salute the President and walk across the room aided by a walker to shake hands with the President.” (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
February 4, 2014
“Members of Congress vie for the President’s attention following a meeting with the House Democratic Caucus in the East Room of the White House.” (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
“The President talks with some of his national security advisors before a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the situation in Ukraine. I’m sure there will be people quick to comment about his wearing casual clothes and having his feet on his coffee table. Let’s keep perspective in mind: it was a Saturday, and a President is the President whether he’s wearing a suit on a weekday or casual clothes on a weekend. And a President, any President, isn’t disrespecting the office if he puts his feet on a table or a desk; he’s just being relaxed.” (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
The president of the United States has awesome powers and responsibilities. But being a superhero is not one of them. But you wouldn’t know that by listening to those demanding that President Obama do all sorts of questionable things in response to the tumult over the police killing of Michael Brown. They want Obama to act out in some visceral way. They want more emotion from him on the horrible actions in and images coming out of Ferguson, Missouri. They just want him to do something. All the while completely ignoring what he’s actually doing, what he actually can do and what he is actually capable of doing. Michael Eric Dyson, a professor at Georgetown University, said on “Face the Nation” on Sunday, “[W]e need presidential leadership. He needs to step up to the plate and be responsible.” White House officials tell me that personnel from the Department of Justice’s community relations service arrived in Ferguson on Aug. 10, the day after Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Brown.
Some won’t be satisfied until Obama bursts into East Room clad in Kente cloth brandishing a definable “black agenda” wapo.st/1pIlxL6
The level of attention has only ratcheted up from there. DOJ is conducting its own parallel federal investigation. FBI agents swarmed Ferguson over the weekend. A third autopsy of Brown’s body conducted by the federal government was done yesterday. Because of the ongoing investigation the last thing anyone should want is for the president to be rhetorically reckless in talking about the police killing of Michael Brown. deep in his second term, we know the president is no fan of the theater of politics, especially needless theatrics that might make people feel good in the short-term, but do nothing to advance a greater cause or achieve a worthwhile mission in the long run. Obama cares. Deeply. But if you’re expecting him to do seemingly heroic and showy things that make you feel good but do nothing to actually fix big, systemic problems in the long-term you will never be satisfied. All the energy being used to harangue the president should be directed at officials in Ferguson and St. Louis County who have refused to release key documents in the case.
A true measure of a president’s priorities lies hidden in plain sight in his budget proposals. Under that standard, Mr. Obama has been more committed to communities like Ferguson than any Democratic president in the past half century. Mr. Obama earmarked 17 percent of his budget for these needs, versus Mr. Clinton’s 12 percent and Jimmy Carter’s 8 percent. These presidents all faced economic challenges, although of different degrees and strength. Each was committed to the needs of the poor and the disadvantaged. But Mr. Obama made good on that commitment far more concretely. No president gets all he requests, but the outcomes speak well for Mr. Obama, too. Christopher Wimer of Columbia University found, for example, that tax and transfer policies lowered the poverty rate by only 1 percentage point in 1967, under President Lyndon B. Johnson, but by almost 13 points in 2012.
Did Mr. Obama plan to spend more simply because he had more mouths to feed? No. Even after accounting for the higher numbers of poor people caught in the Great Recession, Mr. Obama’s record outshines his predecessors’. His proposed first-term spending per poor individual was $13,731 to Mr. Clinton’s $8,310 and Mr. Carter’s $4,431, in 2014 dollars. Mr. Obama even exceeds Mr. Johnson, whose budget priorities amounted only to $111 per poor person. (Because Mr. Johnson was the first postwar president to tackle poverty issues with so many new programs, it is not surprising that his proposed funding levels were low at the start.) The same pattern shows up in spending per poor family. Mr. Obama allocated $67,132, Mr. Clinton $39,820, Mr. Carter $20,790, and Mr. Johnson $546, again using 2014 dollars.
THESE ARE the depressing facts about boys and young men of color: They are more likely to drop out of school, more likely to be in prison, more likely to be unemployed and more likely to die at an earlier age. That minority men are at disproportionate risk throughout their lives has largely been seen as unavoidable. The beauty of President Obama’s public-private initiative to create better futures for them is its refusal to accept these outcomes as inevitable.
My Brother’s Keeper, a five-year, $200 million effort focused on improving opportunities for black and Hispanic youth, was launched in February. It got a boost this week with the announcement of new commitments from the private sector. Equally important is the decision by 60 of the nation’s largest school districts to join the effort by implementing evidence-based strategies to improve outcomes. The country as a whole will gain when males of color are able to realize their potential, rather than ending up on the streets, in jail or in the morgue.
Rabbi David Saperstein claps as President Obama approaches to sign an executive order to protect LGBT employees from federal workplace discrimination
Surrounded by LGBT supporters, including Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, President Barack Obama signs executive orders to protect LGBT employees from federal workplace discrimination in the East Room of the White House. President Obama’s executive orders prohibit discrimination against gay and transgender workers in the federal government and its contracting agencies, without a new exemption that was requested by some religious organizations
President Obama arrives to make a statement on the situation in Ukraine and Gaza
President Obama attends a town hall meeting to discuss his My Brother’s Keeper initiative while at the Walker Jones Education Campus in Washington. President Obama announced that leaders of 60 of the largest school systems have pledged to expand minority boys’ access to better preschools and advanced classes and to try to prevent grade retention, suspensions and expulsions
President Obama bestows former Army Staff Sergeant Ryan M. Pitts with the Medal of Honor in the East Room of the White House. Pitts is the ninth living recipient of the nation’s highest decoration for battlefield valor for actions in Iraq and Afghanistan
• • •
Chips butting in on Nerdy’s post:
A year ago today, the weirdest thing happened: Manchester United and Chelsea teamed up.
Yup, it’s exactly 12 months since Chelsea Girl took over the running of TOD with me, and I don’t have to tell you how much she has contributed since then, or how much work she has put in to the site with wonderful posts like this, every single day. And without her, TOD honestly wouldn’t even exist any more.
Thank you for everything – your intelligence, your energy, your passion, your determination, your dedication, your friendship, and your support.
It was a very, very happy day when you came in to TOD’s life, and mine.
On This Day: Sen. Barack Obama listens as Gen. David H. Petraeus discusses security improvements in Baghdad while giving him and Sens. Jack Reed and Chuck Hagel an aerial tour of the city Monday, July 21, 2008
• • •
Today (all times Eastern)
10:30: The President signs an Executive Order that protects gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees from discrimination by companies that do federal government work, East Room
11:0: The President makes a statement on the situation in Ukraine
11:45: Participates in a town hall focusing on the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative; Walker Jones Education Campus, Washington
1:0: Josh Earnest briefs the press
3:10: The President awards Ryan M. Pitts, U.S. Army, the Medal of Honor, East Room
NYT: Obama to Issue Order Barring Anti-Gay Bias by Contractors
President Obama plans to sign an executive order on Monday that protects gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees from discrimination by companies that do federal government work….
The order will also, for the first time, explicitly protect federal employees from discrimination on the basis of gender identity, officials said. Federal workers are already protected based on their sexual orientation.
…. “With the stroke of a pen, the president will have a very real and immediate impact on the lives of millions of L.G.B.T. people across the country,” Chad Griffin, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement on Friday. “These actions from the president have the potential to be a keystone in the arch of his administration’s progress, and they send a powerful message to future administrations and to Congress that anti-L.G.B.T. discrimination must not be tolerated.”
MSNBC: Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative gets $104 million boost
Six months since the launch of My Brother’s Keeper – the president’s boldest effort since taking office to address the dire state of young minority men – Obama is set to announce that millions are being dedicated to expanding the initiative.
According to a White House official, Obama will announce Monday at the Walker Jones Education Center in Washington new partnerships with public and private groups to the tune of about $104 million in funding to help this demographic succeed at critical stages throughout their lives – from early education to college and career.
Young minority men generally faces some of the worst social, academic and economic outcomes in the country.
“Tomorrow’s announcements are an important next step in continuing to build ladders of opportunity for all and to highlight the President’s commitment to ensuring that all children have a fair shot to succeed in this country,” a White House official said.
BBC: Gaza crisis: UN calls for ceasefire as deaths pass 500
The UN Security Council has called for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza. It comes as US Secretary of State John Kerry heads to Cairo for talks on the crisis amid a mounting death toll.
Over 500 Palestinians, mainly civilians, have been killed since the Israeli offensive began two weeks ago, Gaza’s health ministry says.
Twenty Israelis – 18 of them soldiers – have died, Israel says, as it seeks to end rocket fire on the country.
On Sunday Gaza saw its deadliest day since the start of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, with 13 Israeli soldiers and more than 100 Palestinians killed. Israel says it has killed at least 120 militants since the ground offensive began on Thursday night.
Washington Post: Flight 17: U.S. builds case against rebels, Russia in downing of jet in Ukraine
The Obama administration expanded its case Sunday accusing Ukrainian separatists and Russian forces of working hand in hand to acquire and operate a missile battery believed to have shot down a Malaysia Airlines jetliner last week, killing nearly 300 people.
Citing an “enormous amount of evidence,” Secretary of State John F. Kerry accused Russia of providing SA-11 antiaircraft missiles to the pro-Russian rebels and training them how to fire the advanced weapons. He also said U.S. intelligence agencies “saw the launch” of a missile from rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine and recorded its trajectory at the moment the passenger plane vanished from radar.
Meanwhile, in Kiev, the U.S. Embassy said American intelligence analysts had confirmed the authenticity of recorded conversations in which rebel leaders bragged about shooting down what they thought was a Ukrainian military transport plane moments after the Malaysian jetliner was blown apart.
WH.gov: President Obama to Award the Medal of Honor
On July 21, 2014, President Barack Obama will award Ryan M. Pitts, a former active duty Army Staff Sergeant, the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry. Staff Sergeant Pitts will receive the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions while serving as a Forward Observer with 2nd Platoon, Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, during combat operations at Vehicle Patrol Base Kahler, in the vicinity of Wanat Village in Kunar Province, Afghanistan on July 13, 2008.
Staff Sergeant Pitts will be the ninth living recipient to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. He and his family will join the President at the White House to commemorate his example of selfless service.
U.S. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the Multi-National Force in Iraq, and Sen. Barack Obama at Baghdad International Airport, July 21, 2008
Sen. Obama shakes hands with a U.S. Soldier outside Multi-National Division South East Headquarters in Basra, Iraq July 21, 2008
Gen. David H. Petraeus gives an aerial tour of Baghdad to Sen.’s Obama, Jack Reed and Chuck Hagel Monday.
Sen. Obama looks on during a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Baghdad, July 21, 2008
• • •
President Obama tapes an interview before an event celebrating country music at the White House on July 21, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
The First Family listens to a performance during an event celebrating country music in the East Room of the White House on July 21, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
• • •
President Obama and Vice President Biden walk from the Oval Office to the motorcade on the South Lawn driveway, July 21, 2010. They traveled to the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., to sign the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and Vice President Biden ride in the motorcade from the White House to the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., July 21, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama shakes hands with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after signing the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., July 21, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
• • •
First Lady Michelle Obama colors props for a theater production with children during a visit to the Naval Air Station Oceana Summer Camp in Virginia Beach, Va., July 21, 2011 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)
10:55: President Obama meets with Prime Minister John Key of New Zealand
1:0 Josh Earnest briefs the press
Parade: The President and Michelle Obama on Work, Family, and Juggling It All
… On Monday, June 23, the President and Mrs. Obama will host a Working Families summit in Washington, D.C. to discuss the need for affordable childcare and paid family leave, raising minimum wage, and achieving equal pay for all. In an interview conducted by Parade, the Obamas opened up about their personal connection to these issues and what they hope to accomplish during their remaining time in the White House.
President Barack Obama and wife Michelle have never been your typical working stiffs. With four Ivy League degrees between them, they’ve enjoyed high incomes and strong job security. But before and during college, they each worked minimum-wage jobs. And there was a time when they felt the same kind of financial aches and marriage strains that today’s dual-income families know all too well. As a young married couple in Chicago, they were mired in student debt, juggling multiple jobs and two kids, and bickering over who did what housework. “I wouldn’t fold,” remembers the president. “I didn’t separate, and Michelle’s point was, that’s not laundry.”
TPM: Obama Administration To Extend Family Leave To Same-Sex Couples
The Obama administration announced that it would direct the Department of Labor to begin issuing regulations to extend the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to same-sex couples, according to a White House official.
After the Supreme Court’s struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act last year, Attorney General Eric Holder and other members of the administration began to reviewing relevant statutes and laws to extend federal benefits to same-sex couples. The administration said that its extension of FMLA is simply part of that process. The new regulations will clarify that an employee is eligible to take leave to care for a same-sex spouse in the instance of an illness, regardless of whether that employee lives in a state where same-sex marriage is legal.
Paul Krugman: Veterans and Zombies – The Hype Behind the Health Care Scandal
…. it’s important to understand that the Veterans Affairs scandal, while real, is being hyped out of proportion by people whose real goal is to block reform of the larger system.
…. A scandal is a scandal, and wrongdoing must be punished. But beware of people trying to use the veterans’ care scandal to derail health reform.
And here’s the thing: Health reform is working. Too many Americans still lack good insurance, and hence lack access to health care and protection from high medical costs — but not as many as last year, and next year should be better still. Health costs are still far too high, but their growth has slowed dramatically. We’re moving in the right direction, and we shouldn’t let the zombies get in our way.
Ukraine announced Friday that it has regained full control of its border with Russia, which the government has set as an important precondition for a unilateral ceasefire in its conflict with pro-Russian separatists in the east.
The sealing off of the border, which could not be independently verified, would be significant because it would rob the rebels of an important supply route for new fighters and weapons.
The announcement that troops had recaptured the border area near the village of Izvaryne in the Luhansk region comes as President Petro Poroshenko is set to unveil the details of his 14-point peace plan.
For years black academics criticized the Obama administration for not targeting programs to the African American community. Obamacare didn’t count – even though it has disproportionately affected people of color. All of his talk about income inequality didn’t matter, neither did his proposal for universal pre-K. What they wanted to see were initiatives that directly (and only) affected African Americans.
Then along came the announcement about President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” program targeting boys of color. It didn’t take long for many of the same critics to go after that one because it didn’t include girls. As I see it, this is what most efforts to target a specific community will eventually face…the “what about me?” syndrome.
That’s not to say that its wrong to initiate and promote targeted programs. Sometimes they’re needed. Its more about the fact that when they are proposed, we need to remember WHY they’re targeted and – by definition – will exclude.
ThinkProgress: Governor Scott Walker Accused Of ‘Criminal Scheme’
New federal court documents released Thursday reveal that Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) is the subject of a “Joe Doe” investigation. Prosecutors allege Walker was part of a “criminal scheme” to circumvent state election laws. While the courts are still mulling a motion by the dark money outside groups at the center of the allegations to stop the investigation, the facts of the case are yet another demonstration of the folly of the Supreme Court’s assumptions in the infamous Citizens United ruling.
The documents show that prosecutors believe illegal coordination occurred in the 2011 and 2012 Wisconsin Senate and Gubernatorial recall elections and that groups like the Wisconsin Club for Growth worked with Scott Walker’s campaign arm (“Friends of Scott Walker”) to arrange undisclosed spending by an array of pro-Walker tax-exempt organizations. They note that several individuals were working both for Friends of Scott Walker and Wisconsin Club for Growth at the time, and that Walker himself boasted of the coordination in an email to Karl Rove.
Esquire: Prosecutor Is Closing In on Gov. Christie
Indictments against four cronies are near certain, sources say. Only question is if David Samson, Christie’s longtime mentor, will flip.
“It’s over, it’s done, and I’m moving on.” – Chris Christie, reassuring potential donors in Utah on June 14th
Back on planet Reality, meanwhile, Paul Fishman, the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, wades through the sewage of Christie’s stewardship. Two sources with intimate knowledge of the case say Fishman’s pace is quickening – he has empaneled a second grand jury, and the U.S. Justice Department has sent assistant prosecutors and FBI agents to work the case.
“What’s taking the most time,” according to one source, “is separating what’s viable from all the bad stuff they’re finding that may not be viable.”
In an exclusive interview, the MSNBC anchor Lawrence O’Donnell reveals how he survived a head-on car crash, and why afterwards he cut himself off from the negative litany of the news cycle.
“What a stupid way to die,” Lawrence O’Donnell thought to himself.
A split-second earlier, the host of MSNBC’s 10 p.m. program, The Last Word, had been gazing down at a map on his iPhone, following the progress of his taxi, a Chevy van, as he and his older brother Michael rode to dinner on the resort island of Tortola. It was around 7:45 p.m., Saturday, April 12, the start of what promised to be a lovely vacation in the British Virgin Islands with his big brother, a Boston lawyer.
The vacation didn’t happen. Instead, O’Donnell, 62, underwent a life-altering crucible that he’s still trying to make sense of, while figuring out how to explain it to viewers when he returns to his show on Monday night after two-and-a-half months off the air.
President Obama and Vice President Biden meet with National Security Staff in the Situation Room of the White House, June 20, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama talks with Vice President Biden on the Colonnade of the White House outside the Oval Office, June 20, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and Vice President Biden meet with a bipartisan group of mayors to discuss the economy and local efforts to create jobs and spur economic growth, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, June 20, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
It was supposed to be so easy this election year for Republican congressional candidates. All they would have to do was shout “repeal Obamacare!” and make a crack about government doctors and broken websites, and they could coast into office on a wave of public fury. The failure of the Affordable Care Act was simply assumed. But it has not quite worked out that way. The government website was fixed, and 8.1 million people managed to sign up for insurance through the exchanges. An additional 4.8 million people received coverage through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Three million people under the age of 26 were covered by their parents’ plans. Though the law itself has never been widely popular, most people say they like its component parts, and a large majority now says it wants the law improved rather than repealed.
FOX NEWS: Emperor Obama unveils new plan to destroy America with clean air and water, and increased energy efficiency http://t.co/VuzD9lxV4t
That sentiment conflicts with the Republican playbook, which party leaders are suddenly trying to rewrite. The result has been an incoherent mishmash of positions, as candidates try to straddle a widening gap between blind hatred of health reform and the public’s growing recognition that much of it is working. Sometimes the dissonance reaches nearly comic levels. The Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, recently won his party’s primary for his Kentucky Senate seat in part by saying he wanted to repeal the health law “root and branch.” Last week, though, he was asked what repeal would mean for the 413,000 people who had signed up for insurance under Kynect, Kentucky’s state-run exchange. “I think that’s unconnected to my comments about the overall question,” he said. The good news is that some Democratic candidates, sensing the same change in the weather, are beginning to campaign on the law’s benefits. Improving access to health care was the right thing for the country, and supporting it may turn out to be good politics, too.
Dan Murphy (CS Monitor): Five Taliban Released For Sgt. Bergdahl? This Is How Wars End.
A prisoner swap with sworn enemies is never pleasant. But sometimes, it’s necessary. The prisoner swap that saw Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who had been held by the Taliban for five years, released in exchange for five Taliban leaders who had been held for over a decade at Guantanamo, has touched off a predictable array of complaints. Congress wasn’t consulted, President Obama had negotiated with terrorists, that US soldiers will be at greater risk in future because of the precedent.
Among the most strident of the critics has been Senator Ted Cruz, who said in response to the deal: “What does this tell terrorists, that if you capture a US soldier, you can trade that soldier for five terrorists we’ve gone after?… The reason why the US has had the policy for decades of not negotiating with terrorists is because once you start doing it, every other terrorist has an incentive to capture more soldiers.” But dealing with people you find odious – your enemies – is how most wars end. And with the US set for full withdrawal from Afghanistan at the end of 2016, the prospect of a crushing defeat for the Taliban is pretty much nil. Getting POWs back, whatever the circumstances of their capture, a crucial goal.
Matt Furber: Planned Celebration For Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl Just Got A Whole Lot Bigger
“It’s really, really amazing and incredible, fantastic news,” said Molly Goodyear, who was getting lunches at Atkinson’s Market for children playing soccer with Sawtooth United under-13 girls’ team on Saturday when she got a text with the news. “You can’t go anywhere in Hailey without thinking about it,” she said. “There was a sticker for Bowe at the deli counter. I remember thinking about how long it has been. Even in 2011, it seemed so long. It’s going to be a long, hard reintegration for him, I think. But this is such a great community for him to return to. People will do so much for him.”
“I encourage you to keep praying for Bowe and their family,” Mark Clementz, pastor of the Wood River Assembly of God, told congregants on Sunday morning. “Not too many of us have been kind of held captive for five years, we probably don’t know what that’s like, do we? I believe it’s going to take him some time and effort to assimilate back into, ‘O.K., what do I do now?’ So let’s keep praying for their family and keep lifting them up in prayer.”
Speculation about how and why Sergeant Bergdahl became a captive is largely absent for now. “Until Bowe is home and able to tell his own story, nobody knows what happened that day,” Debbie ONeill said. “However he got from A to B isn’t what’s important. He’s an American that needs to come home. I could not be happier that Jani is going to be able to hold her son in her arms again.”
Washington Post: EPA To Propose Cutting Carbon Dioxide Emissions From Coal Plants 30% By 2030
The Environmental Protection Agency will propose a regulation Monday that would cut carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal plants by up to 30 percent by 2030 compared with 2005 levels, according to individuals who have been briefed on the plan. Under the draft rule, the EPA would analyze four options that states and utilities would have to meet the new standard, with different approaches to energy efficiency, shifting from coal to natural gas, investing in renewable energy and making power plant upgrades, according to those who spoke on the condition of anonymity because it has not been formally announced. Other compliance methods could include offering discounts to encourage consumers to shift electricity use to off-peak hours.
The rule represents one of the most significant steps the federal government has ever taken to curb the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, which are linked to climate change, and the draft is sure to spark a major political and legal battle. Conscious of that, President Obama called a group of Senate and House Democrats on Sunday afternoon to thank them for their support in advance of the proposed rule. The proposal, which would cut 500 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually by 2030, ranks as one of Obama’s most far-reaching climate policies. His previous measures to limit carbon emissions in cars and light trucks produced between fleet years 2012 and 2025 will cut 6 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions over the lifetime of those vehicles.
NYT: Administration Defends Swap With Taliban To Free U.S. Soldier
Susan E. Rice, the president’s national security adviser, spoke a day after years of fitful negotiations had finally yielded the release in Afghanistan of the prisoner, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. The deal, brokered with Qatari help, also freed five high-level Taliban members from the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The release of the Taliban officials was sharply assailed by Republicans, including Representative Mike Rogers of Michigan, chairman of the intelligence committee, as a dangerous transgression of longstanding policy against negotiating with terror groups. The release of the Taliban officials was sharply assailed by Republicans, including Representative Mike Rogers of Michigan, chairman of the intelligence committee, as a dangerous transgression of longstanding policy against negotiating with terror groups.
.@AmbassadorRice responding to criticism of POTUS not telling Congress 30 days ahead of prisoner swap: We did not have 30 days to wait.
But Ms. Rice said: “Sergeant Bergdahl wasn’t simply a hostage; he was an American prisoner of war captured on the battlefield. We have a sacred obligation that we have upheld since the founding of our republic to do our utmost to bring back our men and women who are taken in battle, and we did that in this instance.” She was speaking on the ABC program “This Week.” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said while visiting troops in Afghanistan on Sunday said that he would not have agreed to the detainees’ release unless suitable security arrangements were in place. Asked whether the sergeant, who by some reports was captured after leaving his base without authorization, might be subject to military discipline, Mr. Hagel replied, “This is a guy who probably went through hell for the last five years, and let’s focus on getting him well,” according to NBC News.
The Obama administration struck a major blow for transgender rights by quietly ending a decades-long blanket ban that prevented Medicare from covering sex reassignment surgery. The Department of Health and Human Services’ Departmental Appeals Board, an internal review structure within the byzantine federal agency, issued a ruling that ended a ban on Medicare even considering covering sex reassignment surgery and related care because a fear of “serious complications” resulting from the “experimental” surgery. That language was issued in 1981, and most medical professional organizations now consider sex reassignment surgery a safe and accepted procedure. The DAB ruling noted the change in how sex reassignment surgery is understood 33 years after the Medicare ban was issued.
“Even assuming the [National Coverage Determination]’s exclusion of coverage at the time the NCO was adopted was reasonable, that coverage exclusion is no longer reasonable,” reads the ruling. “This record includes expert medical testimony and studies published in the years after publication of the NCO.” “Denying Medicare coverage of all transsexual surgery as a treatment for transsexualism is not valid under the “reasonableness standard” the Board applies,” the HHS board ruling continues. Experts say the change to Medicare could have far-reaching implications for American medicine, helping to drive more private insurers to offer coverage for sex reassignment surgery and related care.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Sunday the military operation to free Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from the Taliban in exchange for the release of five Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detainees was not relayed to Congress because officials believed the soldier’s life was in danger. In his first extensive public comments about Saturday’s operation, Hagel said intelligence the U.S. had gathered suggested that Bergdahl’s “safety and health were both in jeopardy, and in particular his health was deteriorating.” Taliban members handed Bergdahl over to special operations forces in eastern Afghanistan, and later in the day the detainees were flown from the Guantanamo detention center to Qatar. The Pentagon did not give Congress the required 30-day notice for the release of detainees.
When McCain was exchanged for other North Vietnamese POWS in 1973 by Nixon, many called McCain a traitor too. http://t.co/kOuT5ZFu3c
Hagel said it was the administration’s judgment the military had to move quickly to get Bergdahl out, “essentially to save his life.” He said it was the unanimous consensus of the National Security Council, and the president has the authority to order such a release under Article 2 of the Constitution. Only a handful of people knew about the operation and Hagel said “we couldn’t afford any leaks anywhere, for obvious reasons.” “No shots were fired. There was no violence,” said Hagel. “It went as well as we not only expected and planned, but I think as well as it could have …The timing was right. The pieces came together.”
Ian Millhiser: Pentagon Will Allow Some Undocumented Immigrants To Join The Armed Forces
The Pentagon approved a policy that will allow a small group of undocumented immigrants to join the military, potentially creating a path to citizenship for them. The new policy will affect immigrants currently enabled to remain in the country by the Obama Administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, a program that benefits certain law-abiding young undocumented immigrants who came to the United States before the age of sixteen. The new military policy, however, only extends to immigrants with certain specialized skills.
As a general rule, federal law provides that “no person shall be naturalized unless he has been lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residence,” a rule that excludes DACA beneficiaries. A program known as Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI), however, permits non-citizen members of the armed forces to “naturalize without first obtaining a Green Card.” On Saturday, the White House asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to hold off on the policy until August in order to give Congress more time to work on permanent immigration legislation.
Starting this fall, all students in Indianapolis public schools will get a free breakfast, lunch, and snack every school day under a federal program set up four years ago. “Hunger and having a healthy lunch and breakfast should not be a barrier to teaching and learning,” Indianapolis Public Schools superintendent Lewis Ferebee told the Indianapolis Star earlier this week. “We want to make sure our students are healthy and well fed so they can learn.” The federal program, which was set up by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, funds free meals for students in “Community Eligible” districts where 40 percent of kids at one or more schools already qualify for free lunches. In Indianapolis, 77 percent of students qualified for free meals and just 18 percent, 5,500 students out of over 30,000, were required to pay.
Indianapolis wasn’t the first to decide to join the program. Schools in Dallas, Boston, and Chicago already participate, and New York City may join. The free meal program cuts down child hunger in low-income areas. By eliminating the application process for free or reduced lunches, the free lunch program also lifts the hurdle of paperwork for low-income families, especially for parents whose native language is not English. And despite some concerns about the cost of making school lunches free for all students, making meals free can actually cut down on other costs. The bureaucracy associated with determining whether a child qualifies for free or reduced-price lunches can be complex and therefore expensive.
President Obama …. has tasked former basketball star and entrepreneur Earvin “Magic” Johnson with co-leading a private effort focused on supporting boys and young men of color. Johnson will join Joe Echevarria, chief executive of Deloitte, in captaining the effort, known as “My Brother’s Keeper.” A 90-day evaluation of the effort has generated a series of recommendations, including improving mentor programs, eliminating harsh disciplinary actions in preschool,
and making sure more boys of color can read at grade level by third grade. It also calls for increasing high school graduation rates, summer employment and apprenticeship programs for men to gain entry-level jobs. Finally, the group is working toward reducing racial and ethnic bias in the racial and criminal justice systems. Obama has already received commitments of $200 million to help fund the project from a range of philanthropies.
he still has the ability to raise millions of dollars for Democratic candidates in this fall’s midterm elections. He has held 23 fundraisers for his party’s four major campaign committees so far this year, and is expected to increase the number to 30 by the end of June. Obama also has authorized his former campaign team from 2012 to share lists and contact information about Obama supporters with Democratic congressional and gubernatorial committees.
This could be worth additional millions on the fundraising circuit and boost efforts to get out the vote. Public disclosure of the amounts raised aren’t due until later in the year, but the sums certainly run into the tens of millions of dollars. Last Thursday, Obama headlined two fundraisers in Chicago. At the home of Michael and Tanya Polsky, guests paid $1,000 to $35,000 to meet Obama and hear him speak, according to The Washington Post.
President Obama closes his eyes before he tapes his weekly Radio Address in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, June 2, 2009 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)
President Obama talks with (from left) Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest, Senior Advisor David Axelrod, and Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough in the Outer Oval Office June 2, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and former First Lady Nancy Reagan walk side-by-side through Center Hall in the White House, June 2, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama listens to a question from a reporter as he walks out of the White House toward Marine One in Washington on June 2, 2009. President Obama was traveling to Saudi Arabia.
President Obama waves as he boards Air Force One at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C. for the flight to King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, June 2, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama meets with the Democratic House Caucus in the East Room of the White House, June 2, 2011. Flanking the President are Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, left, and Rep. Steny Hoyer, Minority Whip (Photo by Pete Souza)
First Lady Michelle Obama speaks as she unveils a new food icon during an event June 2, 2011 at the Agriculture Department in Washington, DC
President Obama greets a group of Wounded Warriors in the Cross Hall of the White House, June 2, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Joe Paulsen, White House Advance Office site lead, holds the curtain for President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama as they are introduced during the Pritzker Architecture Prize award ceremony at the Andrew Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C., June 2, 2011 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the Pritzker Architecture Prize Event in Washington, DC, June 2, 2011
President Obama announces that he has accepted the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki during a press conference in the Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington
Deputy Veterans Affairs Secretary Sloan Gibson leaves the White House after being named by President Barack Obama to run the Veterans Affairs Department on an interim basis while President Obama searches for a replacement for Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki who resigned Friday.
President Barack Obama gives White House press secretary Jay Carney a hug after announcing that Carney will step down later next month, during a surprise visit to the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. The president announced Carney’s departure in a surprise appearance at in the White House press briefing room Friday. He said principal deputy press secretary Josh Earnest will take over the job
Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, share the stage and a laugh during the daily briefing at the White House
President Barack Obama, flanked by Attorney Holder Eric Holder, Education Secretary Arne Duncan,and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker; speaks about a report from “My Brother’s Keeper,” an initiative to expand opportunity for young men and boys of color
President Barack Obama attends a hurricane preparedness meeting at FEMA Headquarters in Washington, DC
On This Day: President Barack Obama lays a Presidential challenge coin on a grave in Section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., May 30, 2011. Section 60 is reserved for military personnel who have lost their lives while fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq (Photo by Pete Souza)
Today (all times Eastern)
* President Obama appears on Kelly and Michael – check your local listings here
10:15: President Obama meets with Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, Oval Office
11:0: The President meets with the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force
11:15 EDT: President Obama Makes a Statement
1:0: Jay Carney briefs the press
2:15: The President attends a hurricane preparedness meeting, FEMA Headquarters
…. Obama is battling a knee-jerk sentiment in Washington in which the only kind of international leadership that means anything is the use of military force. “Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail,” he said in his speech Wednesday at West Point.
A similar sentiment was expressed in the farewell address of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a strong leader who refused to intervene in the Suez crisis, the French collapse in Vietnam, two Taiwan Strait confrontations and the Hungarian uprising of 1956.
At the time, many critics blasted the president for his passivity and wished that he would be more interventionist. A Democratic Advisory Council committee headed by Acheson called Eisenhower’s foreign policy “weak, vacillating, and tardy.” But Eisenhower kept his powder dry, confident that force was not the only way to show strength. “I’ll tell you what leadership is,” he told his speechwriter. “It’s persuasion — and conciliation — and education — and patience . It’s long, slow, tough work. That’s the only kind of leadership I know — or believe in — or will practice.”
President Obama’s speech at West Point on Wednesday morning could be called a tribute to common sense, except that the sense it made is so uncommon. The ensuing cable pundits’ complaints—that it was insufficiently “muscular” or “robust”—only proved how necessary this speech was.
Obama’s point was not (contrary to some commentators’ claims) to draw a “middle-of-the-road” line between isolationism and unilateralism. That’s a line so broad almost anyone could walk it.
The president’s main point was to emphasize that not every problem has a military solution; that the proper measure of strength and leadership is not merely the eagerness to deploy military power; that, in fact, America’s costliest mistakes have stemmed not from restraint but from rushing to armed adventures “without thinking through the consequences, without building international support and legitimacy for our action, without leveling with the American people about the sacrifice required.”
Graduating cadets listen to President Obama deliver the commencement address at West Point, May 28, 2014 (Photo by Pete Souza)
NPR: Transcript And Audio: President Obama’s Full NPR Interview
NPR’s Steve Inskeep interviewed President Obama on Wednesday about foreign policy, including his approaches to Syria, Ukraine and China, as well as his remaining White House priorities and his effort to close Guantanamo Bay prison. A full transcript of the interview follows:
STEVE INSKEEP: I want to begin this way. You’re here at this historic place, trying to speak with a sense of history. And I was thinking of past presidents that I know you have studied and commented on. And a couple came to mind who were able to express what they were trying to do in the world in about a sentence. Reagan wanted to roll back communism by whatever means. Lincoln has a famous letter in which he says, I would save the union by the shortest means under the Constitution. As you look at the moment of history that you occupy, do you think you can put into a sentence what you are trying to accomplish in the world?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I’m not sure I can do it in a sentence because we’re fortunate in many ways. We don’t face an existential crisis. We don’t face a civil war. We don’t face a Soviet Union that is trying to rally a bloc of countries and that could threaten our way of life. Instead, what we have is, as I say in the speech, this moment in which we are incredibly fortunate to have a strong economy that is getting stronger, no military peer that threatens us, no nation-state that anytime soon intends to go to war with us. But we have a world order that is changing very rapidly and that can generate diffuse threats, all of which we have to deal with.
A new report this morning confirms that House Republicans are likely to delay plans to offer an alternative to Obamacare until after the elections; that multiple Republican candidates are retreating from repeal; and that they are increasingly mouthing support for the law’s general goals. Once again: There’s no real policy space for a meaningful alternative, but the base still sees repeal as its lodestar, yet everyone else opposes repeal, forcing Republicans to claim they’d scrap it and replace it with something or other doing all the popular things in it, without saying what.
Justin Wolfers (NYT): Deceptive Dip in G.D.P. Points to Perils of Election Forecasting
An economic report issued [yesterday] provides a good example of the hazards facing election forecasters. The Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that in the first quarter of this year, Gross Domestic Product, a broad indicator of the health of the economy, shrank at an annual rate of 1 percent. Even worse, an alternative and more accurate measure, called Gross Domestic Income, shrank at an annual rate of 2.3 percent. If that persisted, we’d call it a sharp recession.
But no one is using the R-word. Nor should they. Markets have taken the news in their stride, and few economists have changed their view that the economy is growing and will continue to through 2014. Likewise, consumers remain confident about their economic prospects. Their confidence rests partly on other indicators that suggested far better growth throughout the quarter, such as nonfarm payrolls, which grew by 569,000 over the same period.
The president is about to take a major step to fight global warming. Here’s what you need to know.
President Obama promised to take action on global warming with or without Congress’s permission. Next week, he’ll tell the world how he plans to do it.
The administration is preparing to release the central pillar of Obama’s climate-change agenda: a proposal for far-reaching rules that will require power companies to cut carbon emissions.
The rules will mark the most significant federal action on climate change since Democrats’ cap-and-trade bill died in the Senate four years ago, and they’re Obama’s best shot at adding broad action on global warming to his legacy.
The rules will also touch off a political war of the first order, offering battleground for environmentalists, industry groups, and politicians to fight over the nation’s energy future.
Here’s what to watch for when the administration pulls back the curtain.
ThinkProgress: Redskins’ Twitter Campaign To Defend Their Name Goes About As Well As You’d Expect
The Washington Redskins — desperate to defend the name that Native Americans, members of Congress, a majority of the United States Senate, religious leaders, civil rights groups, several current and former NFL players, United Nations Human Rights representatives, and even President Obama have said should be changed because it is a “dictionary-defined” racial slur — started a Twitter campaign to rally support Thursday afternoon.
It started with this tweet asking fans to tell Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has made a habit of chiding the team over its name, how they felt:
Bruce Japsen: Employer Health Cost Increases At 15-Year Low As ObamaCare Comes Into View
U.S. employers this year face their “smallest increases in health care costs in 15 years,” according to a new survey showing the latest evidence of health inflation slowing. The trend comes as employers move to higher deductible health care plans that make workers think twice about choosing expensive tests and procedures, forcing employees to become better health care shoppers. Employers are also installing additional new strategies to encourage wellness activities such as financial incentives to stop smoking.
Most respondents to the survey are “recalibrating their health strategy” with 18 percent having either adopted a new strategy or updated an existing one, the Towers Watson executive summary of the report said. Another 57 percent of respondents are “in process,” the summary added. Two in five respondents cite the Affordable Care Act as the primary driver of their health care strategy.
TPM: U.S. Employers Add 175K Jobs Despite Harsh Weather
U.S. hiring improved in February from the previous two months despite a blast of wintry weather, likely renewing hopes that growth will accelerate this year. The Labor Department said Friday that employers added 175,000 jobs last month, up from just 129,000 in January, which was revised up from 113,000. December’s gain was also revised higher. The unemployment rate rose to 6.7 percent from a five-year low 6.6 percent. More Americans started looking for work but didn’t find jobs. That’s still an encouraging sign because more job hunters suggest that people were more optimistic about their prospects.
Some recent reports hint that the economy will accelerate as the weather warms. The number of people who applied for unemployment benefits fell last week and is at about the same level as before the Great Recession. Applications essentially reflect layoffs. The decline suggests that companies are confident about future growth, because layoffs would rise if employers expected business to weaken. Instead, businesses advertised more jobsonline last month, according to the Conference Board. Online job ads rose 268,100 in February to 5.19 million.
Rep. Elijah Cummings said Thursday night that California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa called him and apologized for refusing to let Cummings speak during an IRS hearing. The Maryland Democrat said he accepted the apology. Issa abruptly adjourned a hearing of the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday. He instructed committee staff to turn off the microphone of the committee’s top Democrat, Cummings.
“This evening, Chairman Issa telephoned me and apologized for his conduct, and I accepted his apology,” Cummings said in a statement. “My sincere hope is that as we move forward, we will respect the opinions of all members of the committee, we will proceed in a deliberate and considered manner to obtain the facts, we will refrain from making accusations that have no basis in fact, and we will seek resolution rather than unnecessary conflict.”
Washington Post: Community Lenders’ Network Commits To Lend $1 Billion In Support Of ‘My Brother’s Keeper’
A network of community lenders is committing to lend $1 billion in support of President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative that aims to boost the life chances of young African and Hispanic men. The Opportunity Finance Network, which represents more than 225 community development financial institutions, will pledge Thursday it will expand financing for organizations and initiatives working to help young minority men.
Obama launched the initiative to help young minority men last week, saying this group of Americans are disadvantaged in today’s economy and deserve the nation’s attention. Obama’s solicited $200 million in financial commitments from foundations and companies to introduce programs aimed at keeping young men of color in the classroom and out of the criminal justice system. Mark Pinsky, chief executive of the Opportunity Finance Network, said his group was inspired by Obama’s commitment and decided to make their own.
Igor Bobic: Sen. Harkin: Senate Would Have Confirmed Obama’s Top Civil Rights Nominee If He Was White
The U.S. Senate would have confirmed President Obama’s top civil rights nominee if he was white, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) suggested on Wednesday. “Here’s the message we sent today,” Harkin said. “You young people listen up. If you are a young white person and you go to work for a law firm … and that law firm assigns you to a pro bono case to defend someone who killed eight people in cold blood … my advice from this, what happened today, is you should do that … Because if you do that, who knows? You might wind up to be the chief justice of the United States Supreme Court.
“However, if you are a young black person and you go to work for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund … and you’re asked to sign an appeal for someone convicted of murder, what the message said today is, ‘Don’t do it! Don’t do it.’ Because you know what? If you do that, in keeping with your legal obligations and your profession, you will be denied by the U.S. Senate from being an attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice,” Harkin said.
NBC News: White House Blocks Visas For Some Tied To Ukraine Crisis
The White House, toughening its response to the crisis in Crimea, said Thursday that it has revoked the U.S. visas of Russians and Ukrainians responsible for “threatening the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”
It also threatened financial sanctions against people or companies that the United States determines are responsible for undermining the Ukrainian government. A senior administration official said that the number or names of revoked visas would not be made public. The official also said that no people or companies have yet been sanctioned.
David Edwards: Paul Ryan At CPAC: Free School Lunches Means Poor Parents Don’t Care About Kids
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) asserted on Thursday that liberals did not understand that kids who got free lunches at school did not have parents who cared about them at home. Speaking to the Conservative Political Action Conference, the former Republican vice presidential nominee argued that conservatives should let Democrats be the “party of personality,” while “we will be the party of ideas.”
“I’m optimistic about our chances because the left, the left just isn’t out of ideas, they’re out of touch,” he explained. “Take Obamacare — not literally, but figuratively here, okay? We now know that this law will discourage millions of people from working. The left thinks this is a good thing.” Ryan insisted that liberals were only offering people “a full stomach and an empty soul.”
US hiring improved in February from the previous two months despite a blast of wintry weather, likely renewing hopes that growth will accelerate this year. The Labor Department says employers added 175,000 jobs last month, up from just 129,000 in January, which was revised up from 113,000.
The unemployment rate rose to 6.7 percent from a five-year low 6.6 percent. More Americans started looking for work, but didn’t find jobs. That’s still an encouraging sign because more job hunters suggest that people were more optimistic about their prospects.
Think Progress: Three More Abortion Clinics Forced To Close In Texas: ‘This Is A State Of Emergency’
Three more reproductive health care facilities in Texas have been forced to permanently close in the wake of a new state law that imposes stringent restrictions on abortion providers. The clinics are located in communities with high rates of poverty and uninsurance, leaving many vulnerable Texas women with no ready access to reproductive services. Two of the shuttered clinics are operated by Whole Woman’s Health, the largest independent abortion provider in Texas. That group used to operate five clinics in the state — but now, that number is shrinking to three. With the closure of another independently owned clinic in Harlingen, the Lone Star State is down to just 19 abortion clinics in the entire state. That’s a dramatic difference from where the reproductive health landscape stood just a few years ago. Back in 2011, there were 44 facilities in Texas that offered abortion care.
New restrictions on abortion providers went into effect at the beginning of November. Now, abortion doctors are required to obtain admitting privileges from a local hospital within 30 miles of their clinic, a medically unnecessary requirement that’s often impossible for doctors to meet. Nonetheless, the doctors who continue to practice without admitting privileges are at risk of getting their medical license suspended. So dozens of clinics — including Whole Women’s Health facility in McAllen — were forced to halt their abortion services in the fall. But that’s not the only burdensome restriction in Texas’ new law. Starting this September, abortion clinics will be required to bring their facilities in line with ambulatory surgical centers — which typically involves making expensive and unnecessary renovations, like widening hallways and installing water fountains.
Pro-Russian lawmakers in the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea sparked a showdown reminiscent of the Cold War on Thursday, accelerating their bid to leave Ukraine and join Russia in a move that President Obama, the new government in Kiev and European leaders described as provocative and illegal. Lawmakers in the autonomous region voted Thursday to join the Russian Federation and hold a referendum March 16 to validate the decision. The regional parliament, now led by Sergei Aksyonov — a businessman and politician known around Kiev as the “Goblin”
because of his alleged ties to organized crime, said it would nationalize Ukrainian state industries and begin setting up government ministries separate from Ukraine, which Crimea joined in 1954 when the nation was still a satellite of the Soviet Union. In Washington, Obama said the world was “well beyond the days when borders can be redrawn over the heads of democratic leaders,” as his administration imposed sanctions on Russians and Ukrainians involved in Russia’s military intervention in Crimea. European leaders also sounded alarms, denouncing the referendum plans as unacceptable.
Craigslist.org has always represented something of a virtual yard sale, but for many unemployed Americans it’s become something of a fire sale. You name it, they are selling it. Someone in Springfield, Ore., is selling a men’s watch for $100. “Unemployment is running out need money will sell for $100.00. Call before 8pm and after 8amplease be respectful. We can meet anywhere in public.”
And they are asking for it. Another worker in Kissimmee, Fla., whose post says lost benefits when Congress didn’t extend jobless payments Dec. 28, is asking for dog and cat food. “My dogs & cats are not picky,” the person wrote. Washington is wrangling with whether to extend long-term unemployment benefits, which ran out in North Carolina in July and in the other 49 states in late December as discussed in Monday’s Outlook column. But the financial pressures facing many Americans are much more complex than the Washington debate.
White House: Readout of President Obama’s call with President Putin of Russia
President Obama spoke for an hour this afternoon with President Putin of Russia. President Obama emphasized that Russia’s actions are in violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, which has led us to take several steps in response, in coordination with our European partners. President Obama indicated that there is a way to resolve the situation diplomatically, which addresses the interests of Russia, the people of Ukraine, and the international community. As a part of that resolution, the governments of Ukraine and Russia would hold direct talks, facilitated by the international community; international monitors could ensure that the rights of all Ukrainians are protected, including ethnic Russians; Russian forces would return to their bases; and the international community would work together to support the Ukrainian people as they prepare for elections in May. President Obama indicated that Secretary Kerry would continue discussions with Foreign Minister Lavrov, the government of Ukraine, and other international partners in the days to come to advance those objectives.
US auto sector added 3,400 jobs in February (seasonally adjusted) to 833,300, dealers added 1600 jobs to 1.16 million bls.gov/news.release/p…
James West: What The Ukraine Crisis Means For The Energy Industry
1. The United States is rushing to push more gas onto the market to undercut Putin’s power. Russia’s presence in Ukraine is prompting calls, especially among congressional Republicans, to loosen export restrictions on US natural gas in the hopes of diminishing Russia’s ability to use gas as a diplomatic weapon, like it did in 2006 and 2009. With America’s newfound dominance in gas production (in 2013, the United States surpassed Russia to become the biggest producer of oil and gas, thanks in part to fracking) comes greater power in energy diplomacy.
2. Russia isn’t as powerful as you might think. But for all the Russian posturing, and the canceled energy deal, Ukraine—and Europe more broadly—does have some leverage over Russia to prevent the situation from deteriorating further, says Edward Chow, an energy and security analyst at Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). “Interestingly, the gas pipelines, as well as critically important gas storage facilities, all go through Western Ukraine,” he says. “Until Russians build additional bypass pipelines…they are still highly dependent on Ukraine to transit gas exports to Europe.”
The United States and European Union are making energy reform central to their aid packages. Bill Gibbons, a spokesman for the US Energy Department, said on Tuesday that the Obama administration is directing part of the $1 billion loan guarantee that John Kerry delivered to Kiev this week to “energy security, energy efficiency and energy sector reform.” The European Union’s $15 billion package is also aimed, in part, at modernizing Ukraine’s gas transit system. With patrons of this much-needed aid linking their help to energy reform, there might well be a bigger chance of success, says Chow. “If you don’t do it now, when are you going to do it?” he asks. “Because Russia is not going to be interested in helping individuals from the new [Ukrainian] government extract rent like the previous government unless they can cooperate on other fronts. So this is quite a good opportunity to clean things up.”
The bad weather has done more than give people a case of cabin fever — it’s kept them out of work, which means there’s another reason to cheer for warmer days ahead. While some economists argue that consumer spending and hiring are down for reasons beyond Mother Nature’s control, it’s clear the below-average temperatures have had an impact. For instance, there were 142,000 jobs added to private payrolls in January, about 46,000 jobs short of the four-month average, says Michael Montgomery, a U.S. economist for IHS Global Insight. Some of those jobs were likely held back because of the weather, says Montgomery, adding they may push that hiring to the coming months as the weather gets back to normal.
“Because February stunk too, the makeup is deferred until March or later,” he says. Hiring also tends to pick up in the spring and summer anyway because more people are likely to shop, go out to eat and travel more often when the weather is nice, says Mark Hamrick, the Washington bureau chief for Bankrate.com. Those habits lead to higher demand for workers in the retail and tourism industries, he says. More homeowners also look for help with landscaping and painting the house after the weather warms up, adds Montgomery.
Sen. Barack Obama at a campaign rally Friday March 7, 2008 in Laramie, Wyoming (Photo by Ken Driese)
President Obama, Prime Minister Julia Gillard of Australia, and members of the Australian and American delegations look up at the presidential seal in the Oval Office ceiling following their bilateral meeting, March 7, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama practices passing a football with Prime Minister Julia Gillard of Australia in the Oval Office, March 7, 2011. Under Australian Football League rules, a player must hold the ball in front of them and punch it with a clenched fist in order to conduct a legal pass to another player (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama greets Davis Marsico, 6, and other supporters upon his arrival at Charlotte Douglas International airport, March 7, 2012
People line the motorcade route as President Obama makes his way to the Mount Holly Truck Manufacturing Plant in Charlotte, N.C, March 7, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama gives a thumbs up after signing the Violence Against Women Act as he is joined by Vice President Joe Biden and members of women’s organizations, law enforcement officials, tribal leaders, survivors, advocates and members of Congress, at the Interior Department on March 7, 2013. The law strengthens the criminal justice system’s response to crimes against women, including domestic violence, sexual assault and trafficking
On This Day: President Obama and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick listen as students from Orchard Gardens K-8 School in Roxbury, Mass., perform Dr. Marin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, Feb. 28, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Today (all times EST):
1:0: Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney
2:40: The White House Student Film Festival
3:45: President Obama delivers remarks at the White House Student Film Festival; East Room
4:50: Delivers remarks at a DNC meeting, Washington (Open to media)
5:20: Attends a DNC event, Washington (Closed press)
“My Brother’s Keeper” has a much nicer ring than “stop and frisk.” It also promises to be a more effective, less self-defeating way to address the interlocking social and economic crises afflicting young men of color. I’ll go out on a limb and predict that President Obama gets some heat for launching a program whose benefits are aimed solely at African American and Hispanic men and boys.
The nation’s first black president gets slammed by critics who accuse him of “playing the race card” every time he acknowledges that race and racism still play a role in determining opportunities and outcomes. But obviously they do. My Brother’s Keeper, which Obama announced Thursday, is the kind of targeted public-private initiative that might actually do some good, even without tons of new federal money thrown in.
LA Times: Obamacare Draws Younger Consumers Online As Deadline Looms, Report Says
The average premium paid for Obamacare coverage on a leading insurance website has dropped by nearly $100 a month since October as more young people sign up, a new industry report shows. The average age of people buying coverage at online broker EHealthInsurance.com dropped from 44 mid-October to 36 in late February, according to the company.
The average premium for 2014 health plans sold through EHealth tumbled from $370 a month to $273 over that period, which the company said reflects a higher proportion of younger applicants. Attracting enough younger and healthier customers is crucial to help offset the higher medical costs of older, sicker policyholders in the overall insurance pool. EHealth said last week when it announced fourth-quarter results that 40% of its applicants in the fall were between the ages 18 to 34.
AP: Obama Seeks More Federal Spending To Train Doctors
President Barack Obama will ask Congress to approve spending more than $5 billion on medical training to turn out some 13,000 primary care providers over the next 10 years. Obama will include the proposal in the budget he sends to Congress next week. The new funding is aimed at training more doctors who can work in underserved areas, including rural communities.
The president’s budget also will seek to expand the National Health Service Corps, a federal program that connects primary care physicians with communities in need. Obama wants to expand the corps from 8,900 providers to 15,000 over the next six years.
Molly Redden: This Program Is Helping Crush Childhood Obesity. Guess What Republicans Want To Do To It
Researchers are still exploring what factors caused the early childhood obesity rate to plummet43 percent over the last decade. But a group of health experts at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill think that they have found at least part of the answer: changes to the federally funded Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children that gave poor mothers the means to purchase more fresh produce for their children.
This program, which is better known as WIC, provides billions of dollars per year in nutritious food vouchers for low-income pregnant women, breast-feeding women, and children younger than five. WIC was created in the 1970s, but it wasn’t until 2009 that it provided mothers with vouchers for fruits and vegetables. That’s the change that the North Carolina researchers think may have contributed to the stunning decline in obesity rates. Republicans looking to slash federal spending have targeted WIC in recent years. In March 2012, for example, the GOP-controlled House of Representatives tried to cut $243 million from WIC.
ThinkProgress: Federal Government Expands Access To Healthy Food For Low-Income Moms And Babies
A government program that gives federal food assistance to an estimated 9 million women and children is getting revamped for the first time in more than three decades. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children — more commonly known as WIC — will now provide low-income Americans with more options for culturally specific food, as well as increase funding for some healthy options.
WIC is a nutritional assistance program intended to help women and their babies afford healthy food. It diverges from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps, because it’s specifically targeted at improving healthy pregnancies and birth outcomes. This year, the program marked its 40th anniversary.
Raw Story: US, NATO Warn Russia To Avoid ‘Miscalculation’ In Ukraine
US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel on Thursday joined NATO in warning Russia not to take any action that could lead to “miscalculation” amid rising tensions on Ukraine’s majority-Russian Crimea peninsula. Speaking after pro-Kremlin gunmen seized regional administration buildings in Crimea and Moscow ordered snap combat readiness drills near the border, Hagel warned: “I am closely watching the Russian military exercise.
“I expect them to be transparent about these activities,” he told a press conference at the close of a two-day NATO defence ministers meeting. “I urge them not to take steps that could be misinterpreted or lead to miscalculation.” The crisis in Ukraine dominated the gathering, with an emergency meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission added to the agenda at the last moment. Hagel said Washington was concerned about the latest developments, especially in Crimea, and was continuing “to talk to our Russian counterparts” about their intentions.
TPM: Newspaper Says Mysterious Phone Call With Dem Candidate Was Actually Wrong Number
A local Michigan paper on Thursday said a mysterious January interview with a Democratic congressional candidate was actually a misdial.
In January National Review highlighted a peculiar report from The Daily Mining Gazette about Democratic congressional candidate Jerry Cannon, who is running against Rep. Dan Benishek (R-MI).
The original Daily Mining Gazette report quoted Cannon as criticizing Obamacare. The paper later backtracked on the story and National Review suggested that someone else had perhaps answered the phone and been impersonating Cannon.
Now, in a story titled “Gazette Looks To Set The Record Straight,” the Daily Mining Gazette said the call for the complete interview was to a wrong number….
TPM: Jason Collins Visits Matthew Shepard’s Parents, Brings Gifts
Jason Collins had plenty of gifts for Matthew Shepard’s parents: a basket, a blowout, an autographed No. 98 jersey that he wears in honor of their son. They also shared some laughs.
Collins played the final eight minutes of the Brooklyn Nets’ 112-89 romp over the Denver Nuggets on Thursday night, and although his three points and four fouls weren’t much to look at in the boxscore, rarely has the 35-year-old center been this proud of a performance.
“I got them a bucket,” the center said.
After his cameo in Brooklyn’s recovery from a 44-point loss against the Trail Blazers 24 hours earlier, Collins, the first openly gay athlete in America’s four major sports, met with the parents of the slain Wyoming college student who was tortured and murdered in 1998 because he was gay.
President Barack Obama signs a Presidential Memorandum establishing My Brother’s Keeper
President Barack Obama reacts as he is introduced to speak by Christian Champagne, 18, from Chicago at the unveiling of Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative at the White House. The program aims to improve opportunities for boys from minority groups.
Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton (parents of Trayvon Martin)
Youth Guidance: President Obama Invites BAM Program Back To The White House
President Obama has invited Youth Guidance’s Becoming a Man (B.A.M.) program back to Washington D.C. to kick off a new White House initiative called “My Brother’s Keeper.” Three B.A.M. students from Hyde Park High School, along with B.A.M. Lead Supervisor, Marshaun Bacon, and Youth Guidance Board Member, Stuart Taylor, will visit the White House Thursday and Friday. The President’s initiative will support young male minorities by bringing foundations and companies together to find ways to keep young men in school and out of the criminal justice system.
USA Today: Obama Plans Program To Aid Minority Men
As part of the new effort, businesses and foundations would seek to develop strategies designed to help young men at critical and vulnerable parts of their lives. Goals range from helping boys get to school on time to avoiding problems with the criminal justice system. Ideas include promoting literacy, early childhood education and healthy lifestyles, as well as disrupting what one official called “the school-to-prison pipeline.” “My Brother’s Keeper” also involves a review of existing federal programs designed to address the challenges facing young men, discarding those that don’t work and improving those that do — “all within existing federal resources,” one official said. One official said the goal of “My Brother’s Keeper” is “to make sure that every young man of color who is willing to work hard and lift himself up has an opportunity to get ahead and reach his full potential.”
Yahoo: Obama Embraces A Lifelong Cause: Helping Minority Boys Succeed
“I never signed a Father’s Day card before,” the young man explained as the president opened the card. “I’ve never signed a Father’s Day card, either,” Obama replied, according to an aide, improbably closing the distance between the Chicago teens and the American president. It was an intimate, private moment that moved him. On Thursday afternoon, Obama will be addressing the same set of issues in a far more public way. Three of the BAM teens will return to the White House for Obama’s unveiling of a new initiative partly inspired by the Chicago program. As part of “My Brother’s Keeper,” as the new campaign is known, the White House will bring together nonprofits, foundations and private businesses to endorse and test out programs designed to help young minority men graduate from high school, stay out of juvenile detention centers and prisons, and train for and get good jobs.