Posts Tagged ‘NSA

29
May
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Barack Obama consoles a woman at the Joplin Community Memorial Service at Missouri Southern University in Joplin, Mo., May 29, 2011. The President delivered remarks during the service for those impacted by the deadly tornado that struck Joplin on May 22, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

11:10: President Obama delivers remarks at the White House Healthy Kids & Safe Sports Concussion Summit, East Room

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12:30: Jay Carney briefs the press

2:55: The President participates in a clinic as part of the Concussion Summit, South Lawn

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E.J. Dionne Jr: Obama Outlines A Doctrine Where Restraint Makes Us Stronger

By laying out a long-term foreign policy vision in a speech at West Point on Wednesday, President Obama challenged his critics, at home and abroad, not to speak in vague terms about U.S. “decline” or “weakness” but to answer the question: Exactly what would you do differently? This is as close as we have gotten to an Obama Doctrine, and here it is: The United States “will use military force, unilaterally if necessary, when our core interests demand it — when our people are threatened; when our livelihoods are at stake; when the security of our allies is in danger.”

But in other cases, “when issues of global concern do not pose a direct threat to the United States . . . we should not go it alone.”…. the president’s critics [have] an obligation to answer his challenge. Those who believe that the United States should underwrite a world order friendly to our values and interests need to accept that the promiscuous deployment of U.S. troops abroad is the surest way to undermine support for this mission at home. In calling for restraint and realism — and by insisting on raising the threshold for wars of choice — Obama may yet prove himself to be the best friend American internationalists have.

More article here

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Thomas L. Friedman: Putin Blinked

There was a moment at the height of the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962 when Soviet ships approached to within just a few miles of a U.S. naval blockade and then, at the last minute, turned back — prompting then-Secretary of State Dean Rusk to utter one of the most famous lines from the Cold War: “We’re eyeball to eyeball, and I think the other fellow just blinked.”

The crisis in Ukraine never threatened a Cold War-like nuclear Armageddon, but it may be the first case of post-post-Cold War brinkmanship, pitting the 21st century versus the 19th. It pits a Chinese/Russian worldview that says we can take advantage of 21st-century globalization whenever we want to enrich ourselves, and we can behave like 19th-century powers whenever we want to take a bite out of a neighbor — versus a view that says, no, sorry, the world of the 21st century is not just interconnected but interdependent and either you play by those rules or you pay a huge price. In the end, it was Putinism versus Obamaism, and I’d like to be the first on my block to declare that the “other fellow” — Putin — “just blinked.”

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Hunter Walker: Maya Angelou’s Son Shares The Most Important Lesson His Mother Taught Him

According to writer Guy Johnson, his mother, the late poet and author Dr. Maya Angelou, never gave him advice about his craft. Though Angelou didn’t guide his writing, Johnson said he learned many other lessons from his mother.
Johnson shared some of the most important things Angelou taught him and discussed some of his final memories of her in a conversation with Business Insider hours after her death Wednesday, at age 86. Johnson said the main thing he learned from Angelou is that “life’s complexity cannot be taught in a classroom.”

Angelou’s final conversation with her son took place over the phone Tuesday. Johnson said she was “laughing” and in “good spirits.” Johnson described his mother’s “mission” as focused on spreading “respect” and combatting racism. “It had to do with teaching people that we have to give respect to each other and respect this planet … that we are more alike than we are unalike … and that racism is a foolish and divisive construct,” Johnson said.

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Steve Benen: Turning The Conventional Wisdom On Its Ear

It was just a few months ago that the political world took solace in a few obvious facts. The Affordable Care Act was failing; it stood no chance of meeting its enrollment projections; and Republicans would use “Obamacare” as a cudgel for the rest of the year, beating Democrats who would no doubt try to change the subject.

That was then; this is now. All of a sudden, the ACA looks like a great success; the system has already exceeded its enrollment projections; and Democrats are suddenly willing to take the offensive on the issue they were supposed to avoid…the GOP strategy to date — vow to repeal Obamacare and mumble platitudes about replacing it with something or other that does all the things in it that people like – is a bust…. The repeal crusade is over. The right lost. It’s heartening to see the conventional wisdom start to catch up.

More here

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Simon Maloy: GOP’s New Obamacare Strategy: Why Their “Repeal” Cries Have Suddenly Shifted

As benefits take hold, Republicans’ message falls victim to the inevitable onset of nuance. A moment of silence, if you please, for the Republican “repeal Obamacare” message. It’s not dead yet, but it has fallen victim to a deadly terminal illness: nuance. The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire blog delivered the diagnosis this morning, noting that the Republican candidate field, as it transitions out of primary season, is discovering that simply calling for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act is not the winning strategy that it was once assumed to be.

The millions of people who gained coverage through the ACA, and would stand to lose it were the law to be scuttled, obviously would like to know what comes next. “Republicans won’t back off their push to repeal the law,” Washington Wire notes, “but the message is likely to be more nuanced, said Bill McInturff, a Republican pollster who has long studied the politics of health care.” “Nuance” in this sense means that Republicans are going to start using terms like “fix” and “reform” alongside (or in place of) “repeal.”

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Michael Kelley: Edward Snowden Says The US Stranded Him In Russia – Here Are 4 Problems With That Claim

Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden told “Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams in Moscow that he “never intended to end up in Russia.” The 30-year-old asserts that the U.S. State Department stranded him in Moscow after he arrived from Hong Kong on June 23. There are several issues with the claim that the U.S. stranded Snowden in Russia. Here are the most glaring: 1. Snowden couldn’t have left Russia because he had no valid travel documents when he landed at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport.

The U.S. revoked Snowden’s passport the day before he left. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange then acquired an unsigned Ecuadorian travel document — ostensibly for safe passage to Latin America — that was void when Snowden landed in Moscow. 2. WikiLeaks told him to go to Russia and stay there. Assange told Janet Reitman of Rolling Stone magazine in December that he advised Snowden against going to Latin America because “he would be physically safest in Russia.” WikiLeaks, who advised Snowden in Hong Kong while paying for his lodging and travel, reiterated the statement on May 1.

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Michael Tomasky: Mitch McConnell’s Big Obamacare-Kynect Lie

The Senator’s latest election-trail mistake? Vowing to repeal Obamacare while disingenuously promising to protect his state’s own Obamacare-funded health-care exchange, which serves 413,000 Kentuckians. Here’s why all the super-smart insidery people privately say they think that in the end, Alison Lundergan Grimes will not beat Mitch McConnell in Kentucky. Her strategy, they say, is to keep it close, keep her distance from Obama, hold her own in debates, try to match him attack ad for attack ad, and just hope McConnell makes a mistake.

And the super-smart people agree: You may admire or loathe McConnell, but if he’s proven one thing in umpteen elections, it’s that he doesn’t make mistakes. That’s what the insiders say. There’s just one problem with it. McConnell has made about a mistake a week so far! He’s run an awful campaign. And he’s given anybody no reason at all to think he won’t just keep making them.

More here

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Brett Logiurato: Obama Gives Boehner One Last Deadline For Immigration Reform

President Barack Obama has provided House Speaker John Boehner with a final deadline of sorts for moving immigration reform legislation through the House of Representatives. A White House official confirmed Obama asked Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to delay his completion of a review of U.S. deportation policies until the end of the summer. The White House said this would give Boehner more time to act because Obama believes there is still a “window” of opportunity for immigration reform legislation to pass in the House. Some advocates believe the House could pass immigration reform legislation after the end of Republican primaries, in which immigration has become a thorny issue. “The President’s priority is to enact a permanent solution for people currently living in the shadows and that can only come with immigration reform,” a White House official said in an email.

“Legislation should also continue to strengthen our border security, modernize the legal immigration system, and hold employers accountable. He believes there’s a window for the House to get immigration reform done this summer, and he asked the Secretary to continue working on his review until that window has passed. There’s a bipartisan consensus. It’s time for them to act and the President didn’t want the discussion of the Secretary’s review to interfere with the possibility of action in the House.” In March, Obama directed Johnson to lead an administrative review of whether deportation policies could be made more “humane,” a move aimed at reassuring immigration activists. It is largely expected Obama will take unilateral action to lessen deportations if Congress doesn’t act. Potomac Research analyst Greg Valliere said Obama’s message was clear. “If you fail to act, deportation policy will be liberalized; if you want to negotiate, deportations are on the table — your choice,” Valliere wrote in a research brief this morning.

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Brian Beutler: Mitch McConnell’s Dangerous, Deceptive Retreat From Obamacare Repeal

It took the winding down of GOP primary season for the Republican Party’s increasingly incoherent position on the Affordable Care Act to attract national media attention, and nobody did more to thrust it under the press’ nose than Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — the original gangster of anti-Obamacare absolutism. This will only strike you as ironic if you ignored ACA’s stunning successes in Kentucky, and the uncompromising demands of McConnell’s primary, as they unfolded simultaneously.

Now as a general election candidate, he must square his root-and-branch repeal position with the inescapable fact that full repeal would reverse those successes and leave nearly a half a million newly covered Kentuckians without health insurance. On Friday, McConnell attempted to obscure this obvious conundrum by claiming the fate of Kynect — the state’s popular and prosperous online insurance exchange — is “unconnected” from the fate of the ACA statute itself. I surmised by implication that McConnell was actually playing a far more deceitful game.

More here

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Paul Krugman: Cheap Climate Protection

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce just came out with its preemptive strike against Obama administration regulations on power plants. What the Chamber wanted to do was show that the economic impact of the regulations would be devastating. And I was eager to see how they had fudged the numbers.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the diatribe. The Chamber evidently made a decision that it wanted to preserve credibility, so it outsourced the analysis. And while it tries to spin the results, what it actually found was that dramatic action on greenhouse gases would have surprisingly small economic costs.

More here

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First Lady Michelle Obama: The Campaign for Junk Food

When we began our Let’s Move! initiative four years ago, we set one simple but ambitious goal: to end the epidemic of childhood obesity in a generation so that kids born today will grow up healthy. To achieve this goal, we have adhered to one clear standard: what works. The initiatives we undertake are evidence-based, and we rely on the most current science. Research indicated that kids needed less sugar, salt and fat in their diets, so we revamped school lunch menus accordingly. When data showed that the lack of nearby grocery stores negatively affected people’s eating habits, we worked to get more fresh-food retailers into underserved areas. Studies on habit formation in young children drove our efforts to get healthier food and more physical activity into child care centers.

Today, we are seeing glimmers of progress. Tens of millions of kids are getting better nutrition in school; families are thinking more carefully about food they eat, cook and buy; companies are rushing to create healthier products to meet the growing demand; and the obesity rate is finally beginning to fall from its peak among our youngest children. So we know that when we rely on sound science, we can actually begin to turn the tide on childhood obesity. But unfortunately, we’re now seeing attempts in Congress to undo so much of what we’ve accomplished on behalf of our children.

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Chicago Tribune: First Lady To Appear At Keel-Laying Ceremony For USS Illinois

First Lady Michelle Obama will appear at a ceremony next week that recognizes the start of construction on a submarine named after her home state. At the June 2 keel-laying ceremony, the first lady will deliver remarks and meet the USS Illinois’ crew and their families, according to a release issued today from her office. Obama is also the “official sponsor” of the USS Illinois. She will chalk her initials on a metal plate that will later be mounted on the submarine, the release stated.

More here

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USA Today: White House Designates 12 ‘Manufacturing Communities’

The Obama administration named one dozen new “Manufacturing Communities” on Wednesday that will receive federal help for plans to try and attract global businesses. The Manufacturing Communities Partnership, launched in September, brings federal agencies together with local officials to develop strategies “that strengthen their competitive edge in attracting global manufacturers and their supply chains,” the administration said.

The 12 local communities are:

– Southwest Alabama led by the University of South Alabama

– Southern California led by the University of Southern California Center for Economic Development

– Northwest Georgia led by the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission

More here

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Perfect Snark Of The Day

Andy Borowitz: Obama Defends Controversial Policy Of Not Invading Countries For No Reason

President Obama raised eyebrows with his West Point commencement address Wednesday by offering a defense of his controversial foreign-policy doctrine of not invading countries for no reason. Conservative critics were taken aback by Obama’s speech, which was riddled with incendiary remarks about only using military force for a clearly identified and rational purpose.

Obama did not shy away from employing polarizing rhetoric, often using words such as “responsible” and “sensible” to underscore his message. Harland Dorrinson, a fellow at the conservative think tank the Center for Global Intervention, said that he was “stunned” to see Obama “defend his failure to engage the United States in impulsive and random military adventures.”

More here

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Coral Davenport: President Planning To Be Planning To Use Executive Authority On Carbon Rule

President Obama will use his executive authority to cut carbon emissions from the nation’s coal-fired power plants by up to 20 percent, according to people familiar with his plans, and will force industry to pay for the pollution it creates through cap-and-trade programs across the country. Mr. Obama will unveil his plans in a new regulation, written by the Environmental Protection Agency, at the White House on Monday. It would be the strongest action ever taken by an American president to tackle climate change and could become one of the defining elements of Mr. Obama’s legacy.

Cutting carbon emissions by 20 percent — a substantial amount — would be the most important step in the administration’s pledged goal to reduce pollution over the next six years and could eventually shut down hundreds of coal-fired power plants across the country. The regulation would have far more impact on the environment than the Keystone pipeline, which many administration officials consider a political sideshow, and is certain to be met with opposition from Republicans who say that Mr. Obama will be using his executive authority as a back door to force through an inflammatory cap-and-trade policy he could not get through Congress.

More here

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Greg Sargent: Mitch McConnell Effectively Abandons Obamacare Repeal

Today we have a big break in the Case of the Pathologically Dissembling Senate Minority Leader. As you know, Mitch McConnell has been struggling to articulate his position on the Affordable Care Act, ever since he laughably declared that the fate of Kentucky Kynect — the state exchange that has signed up over 400,000 people for coverage and is more popular than the hated Obamacare — is “unconnected” to his push to repeal the law.

His subsequent clarification only obfuscated matters more. Now, however, the McConnell campaign has issued a new statement to Post fact checker Glenn Kessler that, in effect, abandons his commitment to repeal. In the statement, a McConnell spokesman suggests he might largely retain the Medicaid expansion, which has expanded coverage to hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians.

More here

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On This Day

Sen. Obama speaks at the Medical Education and Biomedical Research Facility at the University of Iowa May 29, 2007 in Iowa City. Obama introduced his plan to reduce health care costs and ensure affordable health care for all Americans.

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NBC video and sound crews capture footage of the “First Dog” in the Rose Garden outside the Oval Office for their prime-time broadcast “Inside the Obama White House,” May 29, 2009 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)

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President Obama takes a walk down the street from his Chicago home accompanied by his daughter Sasha, May 29, 2010

…. accompanied by his mother-in-law Marian Robinson

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The President visited Joplin, Mo., following a devastating tornado. Here he greets Hugh Hills, 85, in front of his home. Hills told the President he hid in a closet during the tornado, which destroyed the second floor and half the first floor of his house. May 29, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama greets residents during a tour of neighborhoods impacted by the deadly tornado in Joplin, Mo., May 29, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama is greeted by Father Justin Monaghan at a memorial service on the campus of Missouri Southern State University during a visit to the community that was devastated by a tornado in Joplin, May 29, 2011

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First Lady Michelle Obama greets Sherri Shepherd of “The View” at the show’s studio in New York, N.Y., May 29, 2012 (Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)

President Obama talks with Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Toni Morrison in the Blue Room of the White House, May 29, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

Novelist Toni Morrison and President Obama share a moment after she was presented with a Presidential Medal of Freedom during an East Room event May 29, 2012 at the White House

Bob Dylan is presented with a Presidential Medal of Freedom

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President Obama talks to the pilots aboard Marine One after landing at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, May 29, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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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.

 More here

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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.

More 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.

More here

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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.

More here

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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.

More here

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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

25
Mar
14

Rise and Shine

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All times US Eastern:

4:15 AM: President Obama meets with President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan

4:55 AM: Participates in the Nuclear Security Summit

11:0 AM: Holds a joint press conference with Dutch Prime Minister Rutte

White House Live

12:0: Holds a bilateral meeting with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi

1:30 PM: Holds a trilateral meeting with President Park Geun-Hye of the Republic of Korea and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan

3:35 PM: Departs the Netherlands

4:15 PM: Arrives Brussels, Belgium

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President Obama looks at Rembrandt’s “Self-portrait as the Apostle Paul” during a tour of the Gallery of Honor at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, March 24, 2014 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Michael Hiltzik: Where Are The Positive Stories About Obamacare?

If there were fairness in this world, Rita Rizzo would be a media star. Rizzo, 60, owns a management consulting firm for nonprofit groups and government offices in Akron, Ohio, with her husband, Lou Vincent, 64. Vincent, who suffers from Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, has gone without health insurance for 10 years. “We got 30 denial letters,” Rizzo told me last week. Three years ago, Rizzo got a hip replacement. Her own insurance premiums were going to rise by $500 a month, to about $800, so she chose instead to triple her deductible to $6,000 to keep the increase to a mere $150 a month. The couple used a $5,000 tax-deductible health savings account to cover her out-of-pocket expenses; Vincent’s medication, which ran to $178 a month; and his blood work-ups, at $2,400 a year. In December, Rizzo signed up for Obamacare. She now has a policy that covers her and Vincent together, including all his meds and lab work, for $379 a month, with a $2,000 family deductible. “I feel like I died and went to insurance heaven,” she says.

While Rizzo was working her way to thousands of dollars in annual savings, for example, Southern California Realtor Deborah Cavallaro was making the rounds of NBC, MSNBC, CNBC, CBS, Fox and public radio’s Marketplace program, talking about how her premium was about to rise some 65% because of the “Unaffordable” Care Act. What her viewers and listeners didn’t learn was that she hadn’t checked the rates on California’s insurance exchange, where (as we determined for her) she would have found a replacement policy for less than she’d been paying. The millions of beneficiaries of the measure — families excluded from insurance because of high premiums or preexisting medical conditions, low-income individuals made newly eligible for Medicaid, seniors receiving a new subsidy for prescriptions, women granted the legal right to affordable maternity coverage for the first time — seem to be absent from the news media or political ad campaigns. But you can’t turn on your TV without seeing a well-produced 30- or 60-second spot featuring a purported tale of woe.

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 NYT: Obama To Call For End To N.S.A.’s Bulk Data Collection

The Obama administration is preparing to unveil a legislative proposal for a far-reaching overhaul of the National Security Agency’s once-secret bulk phone records program in a way that — if approved by Congress — would end the aspect that has most alarmed privacy advocates since its existence was leaked last year, according to senior administration officials. Under the proposal, they said, the N.S.A. would end its systematic collection of data about Americans’ calling habits. The bulk records would stay in the hands of phone companies, which would not be required to retain the data for any longer than they normally would. And the N.S.A. could obtain specific records only with permission from a judge, using a new kind of court order.

As part of the proposal, the administration has decided to ask the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to renew the program as it exists for at least one more 90-day cycle, senior administration officials said. But under the plan the administration has developed and now advocates, the officials said, it would later undergo major changes. The new type of surveillance court orders envisioned by the administration would require phone companies to swiftly provide records in a technologically compatible data format, including making available, on a continuing basis, data about any new calls placed or received after the order is received, the officials said. They would also allow the government to swiftly seek related records for callers up to two phone calls, or “hops,” removed from the number that has come under suspicion, even if those callers are customers of other companies.

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This is the BEST explanation of the cases, that I have seen. If you want to be educated on the issues, read it

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Jessica Mason Pieklo: The Hobby Lobby And Conestoga Wood Cases. Your Questions, Answered

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in two cases challenging the birth control benefit in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). It’s the second time in as many years that conservative business owners have argued to the Court that all or part of the health-care law is unconstitutional. While this challenge may look to be limited to just birth control, there is in fact a lot more at stake.The Supreme Court will hear in one hearing the legal challenges of two for-profit businesses, Hobby Lobby and the Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation. Hobby Lobby is a national arts-and-crafts retail chain, while Conestoga is a Pennsylvania-based furniture maker. Both companies object to providing health insurance coverage for some kinds of contraception, claiming that the ACA’s requirement that businesses provide employees equal health insurance coverage violates the companies’ religious beliefs.

Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood (and the myriad other for-profit businesses challenging the mandate) are arguing that the birth control benefit violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) of 1993. The RFRA is a federal law that says the government may not “substantially burden a person’s free exercise of religion,” unless that burden is “necessary to further a compelling government interest” and uses the “least restrictive means” necessary. Conestoga also claims that the mandate violates its religious exercise rights under the First Amendment generally, citing the Citizens United case for precedent. In plain English, that means the Court will be tasked with answering several distinct questions. The first is the most direct: Do secular, for-profit corporations fit the definition of “individual” under the statute? But to get to that answer, the Court will have to wade into the much more troubling question of whether individual business owners can transfer their religious beliefs to that of their business in a way that allows businesses to exercise religious rights.

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The First Lady in China

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Read about the First Lady’s visit here

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 First Lady Michelle Obama meets students as she visits an English language class at Chengdu No.7 High School in Chengdu in southwestern province of Sichuan, China

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Children wave as the First Lady leaves after her visit to School No.7 in Chengdu

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Rebecca Kaplan: Despite Tensions, No Sign Russia Has Backed Away From Nuclear Security

President Obama’s European trip, which is serving as a de facto background for international meetings around the Ukraine crisis, continues Tuesday with the second day of a Nuclear Security Summit.Though the news out of Monday’s meeting was a move by the Group of Seven (G-7) nations to further isolate Russia on the world stage, the U.S. announced the completion of projects with Belgium and Italy to remove nuclear material and reaffirmed a working relationship with Japan to dispose of highly-enriched uranium and separated plutonium stocks worldwide in order to prevent the materials from falling into the hands of criminals or terrorists.

Although Russia and the U.S. remain at odds – and trading sanctions – over the Russian incursion into the Crimean peninsula, National Security Advisor Susan Rice said Friday that the two countries continued to cooperate on the issue. “Nuclear security is an area where the United States has and continues to have an enduring interest in cooperation with Russia and other important countries where the security of nuclear materials remains of concern,” Rice said at a White House briefing last week. “We have every interest in continuing to cooperate with Russia and other countries, even where we have differences with them on other issues, on the issue of nuclear security.”

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Miami Herald: Enrollment Drives Kick Into High Gear As Deadline Approaches To Sign Up For President Obama’s Health Care Law

With a week to go before the March 31 deadline to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, South Florida enrollment efforts have surged. Organizers from elected officials to religious institutions are marshaling one last campaign to cover as many eligible consumers as possible. An army of volunteers and federally funded and trained counselors have fanned out across Miami-Dade, setting up shop in community rooms, public parks, local churches and health centers, hosting enrollment drives and health fairs nearly every day. At the Calle Ocho street festival in downtown Miami, a Liberty City health fair and the 93rd Street Community Baptist Church in West Little River, ambassadors for Obamacare have been signing people up for health insurance in South Florida.

Miami-Dade leads all Florida counties in sign-ups and has the nation’s second-highest enrollment rate among counties, according to April Washington, a regional government relations director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services who attended the Liberty City enrollment drive. Florida, with the second highest rate of uninsured residents in the nation, leads all 36 states in sign-ups on the federally run exchange, with more than 442,000 people selecting a health plan, and an additional 124,000 assessed eligible for Medicaid. Many, such as Makiesha Victor, 20, bought health insurance for the first time. “I didn’t know anything about health insurance,” said Victor, a server at a McDonald’s restaurant. “I feel good knowing I’m covered. Before, I felt I couldn’t see a doctor.’’ Karina Valdivia, 32, an uninsured single mother of two young children, signed up at the 93rd Street church, too. Valdivia, who lives in Miami’s Brickell area and works for a cleaning service six days a week, found a silver-level plan that she said will cost her $21.36 a month in premiums. “I can afford it now,” she said, a surprised tone in her voice. “I thought it was going to cost more, but it was less.”

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Eliza Thompson: American Nuns Announce Their Support For Obamacare Contraception Access

The National Coalition of American Nuns recently came out in support of the Affordable Care Act’s provision for contraception coverage. In a petition addressed to the U.S. Supreme Court (who will soon hear two cases where employers are denying their employees coverage because they don’t personally support contraception), the nuns wrote, “We want to make clear that the sin is not a person using birth control. The sin is denying women the right and the means to plan their families.” Well, that’s awesome.

Sister Donna Quinn, the head of NCAN, told ReligionDispatches.org that “it isn’t ‘faith and freedom’ when reproductive autonomy isn’t extended by the Catholic Church to women.” She added, “It isn’t freedom when a woman can be held hostage by the owner of a business.” The petition (which is extremely close to reaching its goal of 5,000 signatures) also had this to say about religious freedom: “We know that religious freedom means that each person has the right to exercise their own religious beliefs; religious freedom cannot mean that an individual or a corporation gets to impose their religious beliefs on their employees.”

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Ignore the Politico outside crap. Focus on the words of Rice, Ruemmler, and Monaco

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Carrie Budoff Brown: President Obama’s West Wing Power Trio

But the case of National Security Adviser Susan Rice, counsel Kathy Ruemmler and homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco — the three women on the couch — offers a unique counterpoint to the argument that only men carry influence in the Obama White House. Nobody in the West Wing outranks them on national security issues, marking the first time that women have occupied all three positions in what has traditionally been a male-dominated field. Rice and Monaco are the ones who wake up Obama when something bad happens overnight. Collectively, the three women handle the most sensitive issues that cross the president’s desk — including the administration’s drone policy, military actions and the review of government surveillance techniques, which was the topic of discussion when the photograph was taken.

“The notion that this is an all-male place is a joke,” Rice said, pointing out that women occupy half the seats at the senior adviser meetings. “I’m always struck by the disconnect between perception and reality.” Ruemmler said she had to be persuaded to do the interview, underscoring her point that women, more so than men, tend to shun the spotlight. “That, I think, is the general philosophy for most of the women here and that is just consistent with the way, to be candid, most of us were raised,” Ruemmler said. “It is about doing the work, getting the work done, and the work will speak for itself.” Rice chairs meetings in the Situation Room, where the people around the table are mostly men, including Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey and CIA Director John Brennan. But she said she’s generally not conscious about her status as one of a handful women in the room.

The women try to do dinner once a month with the female Cabinet secretaries and White House senior staff. The confabs — part mentoring, part venting — were started by Janet Napolitano, the Homeland Security secretary in the first term, and continued by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Ruemmler sometimes coaxes Jarrett and Mastromonaco out of the building for Friday afternoon lunches. They said they weren’t particularly struck by the photograph of the three of them sitting on the couch with Obama. That wasn’t an unusual moment, they said. It’s just what they do.

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Adelle M. Banks: Religious Groups Play Key Role In Obamacare Insurance Sign-Up

On one Friday earlier this month, more than 11,000 Muslims in mosques across the country heard a sermon about the Affordable Care Act. Hindu and National Baptist groups, meanwhile, are posting online announcements about the White House’s “Faith and Community ACA Days of Action”. Jewish women’s groups have visited college campuses to get students who think they’re “invincible” to sign up for health insurance. “What other time in our history will we be able to help our communities focus on wellness, to help every citizen access a means to be healthy and treat medical conditions, breaking the trend of making emergency rooms and ‘urgent care’ our primary care physicians?” asked Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker, director of the African Methodist Episcopal Church’s Social Action Commission.

The Rev. Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, has spearheaded information sessions at predominantly Latino churches around the country and radio spots on Hispanic Christian radio stations. Salguero noted that one in four persons who are eligible but uninsured are Latino. “It’s an urgent need in our community,” he said. “It’s a real service to that underserved community.” Salguero said he shares other evangelicals’ concerns about Obamacare’s coverage for what they consider to be abortifacients but nevertheless wants to make sure people have a chance to be educated about what the law does and does not include.

“My position is I’m a pro-life person so I don’t want anybody dying of preventable diseases if they can get health care,” he said. Likewise, in a rare move, the Roman Catholic bishop of San Bernardino, Calif., wrote a letter that was read at Masses in his diocese on March 15-16, noting that undocumented parents should “sign your child up for health insurance immediately” and that opting out could result in fines that will increase over time. “It is true that our Church has raised objection to elements of the law that relate to contraception and abortion services that might be provided through it,” Bishop Gerald R. Barnes wrote in the March 11 letter, “However, these factors do not mean that we, as Catholics, should disobey the new health care law. If we happen to have an insurance plan that includes services that are objectionable to our faith, which most plans in California do, our response is to not utilize these services.”

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On This Day

President Barack Obama rests his foot on a football during the Domestic Policy Council Meeting in the Oval Office, March 25, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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A young woman reacts after seeing President Barack Obama, during his visit to Prairie Lights, an independent bookstore in Iowa City, Iowa, March 25, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

President Barack Obama greets a boy, whose first name is also Barack, following the President’s remarks on health care at the University of Iowa Field House in Iowa City, Iowa, March 25, 2010. The President spoke about health insurance reform and how it will impact families and small businesses. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Barack Obama surprises Personal Secretary Katie Johnson with a gift and birthday cake in the Oval Office, March 25, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama gestures during a briefing with a bipartisan, bicameral group of members of Congress on the situation in Libya, in the Situation Room of the White House, March 25, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama talks with Rep. C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger, D-Md., following a briefing with a bipartisan, bicameral group of Members of Congress, in the Situation Room of the White House, March 25, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama greets Medal of Honor recipients on the South Lawn of the White House, March 25, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama visits with Archbishop Demetrios Trakatellis in the Green Room of the White House prior to a Greek Independence Day reception, March 25, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Barack Obama talks with Sung Kim, U.S. Ambassador to Republic of Korea, aboard Marine One during an early morning flight from Osan Air Base to the landing zone at U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan in Seoul, Republic of Korea, March 25, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama and President Lee Myung-bak of the Republic of Korea walk down the grand staircase following their bilateral meeting at the Blue House in Seoul, Republic of Korea, March 25, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Barack Obama meets with senior advisors in the Oval Office, March 26, 2013. Pictured, from left, are: Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett; Alyssa Mastromonaco, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations; Kathryn Ruemmler, Counsel to the President; Pete Rouse, Counselor to the President; Chief of Staff Denis McDonough; Rob Nabors, Deputy White House Chief of Staff for Policy; and David Simas, Deputy Senior Advisor for Communications and Strategy. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama host a Passover Seder Dinner for family, staff and friends, in the Old Family Dining Room of the White House, March 25, 2013.
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

13
Mar
14

Irony Just Guffawed

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TPM: Zuckerberg Calls Obama To Discuss ‘Frustration’ With NSA Surveillance

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said on Thursday that he phoned President Obama to urge reforms to the government’s surveillance practices. “The US government should be the champion for the internet, not a threat. They need to be much more transparent about what they’re doing, or otherwise people will believe the worst,”Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post. “I’ve called President Obama to express my frustration over the damage the government is creating for all of our future. Unfortunately, it seems like it will take a very long time for true full reform.”

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14
Feb
14

Rise and Shine

President Obama hugs students during a visit to a pre-kindergarten classroom at the College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center in Decatur, Ga., Feb. 14, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Presidential Daily Schedule (All Times Eastern):

9:45 EST: President Obama departs White House

10:40 EST: Delivers remarks at the House Democratic Issues Conference; Hyatt Regency, Cambridge, Maryland

12:15 EST: Departs Joint Base Andrews

5:30 ET: Arrives Fresno, California

6:15 ET: Takes part in a roundtable with community leaders; San Luis Water Facility, Firebaugh

7:15 ET: Tours a local farm; Private Residence, Los Banos

7:30 ET: Delivers remarks

8:35 ET: Departs Fresno

9:35 ET: Arrives Palm Springs

10:35 ET: Greets King Abdullah II of Jordan at the Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands, Rancho Mirage

10:50 ET: Holds meetings and dinner with Abdullah

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Steve Benen: Core Contradictions Drive ACA Criticism

As the Affordable Care Act continues to find its footing and the system grows stronger, its detractors are finding that their arguments are running into each other in unhelpful ways.

For example, for years, Republicans have argued that “Obamacare” redistributes wealth in such a way as to punish the wealthy. The party stuck to that line, right up until Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) argued the exact opposite:  ”[Obamacare] exacerbates income inequality. This is why the rich have gotten richer under President Obama.”

You can say the ACA goes too far to help the poor, or the ACA goes too far to help the rich, but you shouldn’t say both at the same time. The same is true of enrollment numbers – critics of the law tend to complain that enrollment totals to date are both too high and too low.

Likewise, the right has long believed the health care law goes too far to help bring coverage to the uninsured. Now, however, some conservatives are arguing it doesn’t go far enough.

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The People’s View: They Didn’t Even Put Up A Fight: How The GOP Came To Fear Obama

The last hurdle to a clean debt ceiling increase, Ted Cruz’s proposed second rendering of “Green Eggs and Hams”, was soundly defeated in the Senate today, though all the Republicans who voted to rob Cruz of the opportunity to filibuster then turned around and voted to default the United States. That latter vote was inconsequential, of course, as 55 Democrats voted to do the responsible thing and pay America’s bills.

The bill was already passed by the House with a smattering of Republicans joining the Democratic minority, as LL reported here earlier in the week, and the president will sign it. But this debt ceiling skirmish smelled and looked different from the ones Republicans have put up in the past two and a half years that they have been in charge of the US House. This one not only has a taste of bitter defeat for the Republicans, it has the hint of resignation. I can’t call it a fight, because they didn’t even put up a fight.

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Paul Waldman: Racial Fears, Gun Fantasies, And Another Dead Teenager

The basic facts are that Dunn and his fiancée pulled into a convenience store, where she went inside and he stayed outside. Dunn then got into an argument with four teenagers in another car over the volume of the music they were playing; the argument escalated, and eventually Dunn took out his gun and fired ten shots, killing Jordan Davis, one of the teens. Dunn claims that he saw a shotgun, or maybe a pipe, emerge from the teens’ car, so he had no choice but to defend himself. No such gun or pipe was ever found. That part of his story was also contradicted by his fiancée, who testified that afterward he said nothing to her about them having a gun.

While in jail awaiting trial, Dunn wrote letters to his family that said, among other things, “It’s spooky how racist everyone is up here and how biased toward blacks the courts are. This jail is full of blacks and they all act like thugs.” When he says “racist” in that letter, I’m pretty sure he wasn’t talking about bias against black people. He also wrote, “This may sound a bit radical but if more people would arm themselves and kill these **** idiots when they’re threatening you, eventually they may take the hint and change their behavior.” That doesn’t sound like a man who’s “crazy with grief,” as he testified he was over the shooting.

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NYT: Over 1.1 Million Added To Rolls Of Health Plan

More than 1.1 million people signed up for health insurance through federal and state marketplaces in January, according to the government, and the number of young people enrolling increased faster than that of any other group.  Most promising, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, is that 25 percent of those signing up for insurance from October through January were ages 18 to 34 — the young and presumably healthy people whom insurance companies need as customers in order to keep premiums reasonable for everyone.

“These encouraging trends show that more Americans are enrolling every day, and finding quality, affordable coverage in the marketplace,” said Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services. “The case for repeal is infinitely harder now that people actually have coverage,” said Dan Pfeiffer, a senior adviser to the president, who added that the increased momentum of enrollment documented in Wednesday’s report gives the advantage to Democrats. “A message of ‘elect me so I can take health care away from my soon-to-be constituents’ is a dead-bang loser.”

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AP: NSA: Co-Worker Provided A Digital Key To Snowden

A National Security Agency employee resigned from the agency after admitting to federal investigators that he gave former NSA analyst Edward Snowden a digital key that allowed him to gain access to classified materials, the NSA has told Congress. Snowden has previously said he did not steal any passwords.

The unnamed civilian employee who worked with Snowden resigned last month after the government revoked his security clearance, according to a letter that NSA legislative director Ethan L. Bauman sent this week to the House Judiciary Committee. A military employee and a private contractor also lost their access to NSA data as part of the continuing investigation by the FBI, Bauman said.

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SmartyPants: How Political Journalists Gave Up The Freakin’ Plot

As someone who loves looking at the big picture, I am particularly glad to see Jay Rosen write about this kind of thing. He zero’s in on that second article by Chris Cillizza in a piece aptly titled: Behold how badly our political journalists have lost the freakin’ plot. Nobody knows exactly when it happened. But at some point between Teddy White’s The Making of the President, 1960 and the Willie Horton ads in 1988, political journalism in this country lost the plot. When it got overly interested in the inside game, it turned you and me and everyone who has to go into the voting booth and make a decision into an object of technique, which it then tried to assess.

We became the people on whom the masters of politics practiced their craft. Then political journalism tried to recover an audience from the people it had turned into poll numbers and respondents to packaged stimuli. Tricky maneuver. In other words, political journalists turned their focus away from being the source of information to become analysts of the power game. Voters/citizens are objectified via the assumption that we are merely the field on which these games are played. This is why Chuck Todd can so blithely claim that its not his job to call out the lies being told about Obamacare. Its not because he is a tool of the GOP. Its because he literally doesn’t think its his job to provide the public with accurate information about policies. He thinks his job is to analyze what works/doesn’t work for the power players in politics.

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Washington Post: Federal Judge Strikes Down Va. Ban On Gay Marriage

A federal judge in Norfolk struck down as unconstitutional Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage Thursday night, saying the country has “arrived upon another moment in history when We the People becomes more inclusive, and our freedom more perfect.” U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen issued a sweeping 41-page opinion that mentioned at length Virginia’s past in denying interracial marriage and quoted Abraham Lincoln. She struck the constitutional amendment Virginia voters approved in 2006 that both bans same-sex marriage and forbids recognition of such unions performed elsewhere. She stayed her decision pending appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond, meaning same-sex marriages will be not be immediately available in the commonwealth.

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Think Progress: Minnesota Bill Would Provide 61,000 Free Lunches To Low-Income Students

Thanks to two state Congressman, Senator Jeff Hayden (D) and Representative Yvonne Selcer (D), thousands of Minnesota students may receive free lunches in the near future. In a state with inconsistent meal policies, a bill entitled No Child Turned Away would remedy stringent and humiliating practices currently affecting students who cannot afford to purchase school food.

No Child Turned Away aims to provide free lunches to 61,000 students who qualify for reduced-lunch programs but not free ones. At present, 250,000 students are eligible for free lunches, and 62,000 participate in reduced-price lunch policies. Nevertheless, research shows that schools across Minnesota consistently fail students in need of food assistance.

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Elissa Gomez: Report: 5.8 Million Lose Access To Medicaid Due To GOP Obstruction

According to an Urban Institute study, if all 50 states expanded Medicaid, “an estimated 10.3 million poor uninsured adults would have new options for insurance coverage.”  In the 25 states that have decided against expanding Medicaid as of January, the study finds that an estimated 5.8 million Americans – accounting for 27.2 percent of all uninsured adults nationwide — will not be eligible for health coverage through the program.

The reasons have overwhelmingly been tied to ideology and party politics. GOP lawmakers have argued that Medicaid expansion is “big government” intrusion and detrimental to state economies. According to the report, in many of these states, uninsured residents with incomes between 100 and 138 percent of the federal poverty level may qualify for subsidies to purchase coverage through the federally run exchanges. Uninsured adults with incomes below the poverty level will not have access to any new coverage options.

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Lynn Parramore: I’m Proud My Mother Was Arrested Fighting Extremism In North Carolina

It was a proud day for this Raleigh native. On Saturday, a crowd of riled-up citizens that the North Carolina NAACP estimated to number upwards of 80,000 — the largest such gathering in the South since the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march — headed to the state capitol to protest the extremist policies of North Carolina’s GOP-controlled legislature.

Black and white, young and old, gay and straight, the people gave voice to a full roster of outrages, from racist attacks on voting rights to the state government’s refusal to expand Medicaid to half a million vulnerable Tar Heels to limitations on women’s reproductive freedom. From a four-year-old girl carrying a sign that read “Nope to Pope!” (referring to Art Pope, the state’s multimillionaire budget director and Koch ally) to the indomitable Rosa Nell Eaton, a 92-year-old veteran of the Civil Rights movement, they were united with one message: “Forward together, not one step back.”

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On This Day:

President Obama visits Parkville Middle School and Center of Technology in Parkville, Maryland February 14, 2011. At left is teacher Susan Yoder.

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President Obama and Vice President Biden talk with Vice President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China and members of the Chinese delegation following their bilateral meeting in the Oval Office, Feb. 14, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Pete Souza: “The President genuinely enjoys being with kids. Here, he played a magnifying glass game with children during a visit to a pre-kindergarten classroom at the College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center in Decatur, Georgia.” Feb. 14, 2013

President Obama joins in a music program at the College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center in Decatur, Ga., Feb. 14, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)




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