Posts Tagged ‘NSA

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)

30
Jan
14

Rise and Shine

President Obama shakes hands with fans at the Georgetown-Duke college basketball game at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., Jan. 30, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Presidential Daily Schedule (All Times Eastern):

8:50AM: President Obama Departs White House

11:00AM:  President Obama arrives in Milwaukee

11:40AM: Tours General Electric’s Waukesha Gas Engines; Waukesha, Wisconsin

12:20PM: President Obama delivers remarks

2:55PM: President Obama departs Milwaukee

4:15 PM: President Obama arrives in Nashville

5:2oPM: President Obama delivers remarks at McGavock High School

6:05PM: Departs Nashville

7:45PM: President Obama arrives at the White House

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Bruce Japsen: Wellpoint Says ObamaCare Enrollment Ahead Of Expectations

Despite problems with the rollout of insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act, Wellpoint (WLP) Inc., one of the nation’s largest insurers, said enrollment in health plans it operates under the new health law is ahead of expectations. Wellpoint, which operates Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans across the country, said it expects to add more than one million new customers this year from across its private health plan business as well as insurance it offers to Americans covered by government programs like the expanded Medicaid insurance for the poor.

“We are encouraged by the sizable growth opportunities,” said Wellpoint chief executive Joe Swedish in an hour-long conference call with Wall Street analysts and investors. Of the half million new members Wellpoint said that have applied for coverage so far, more than 80 percent came through public exchanges and two-thirds of those were “subsidy eligible.” Under the law, those eligible can get subsidies of up to $5,000 to buy coverage on government run marketplaces known as exchanges.

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Rebecca Shabad: More Uninsured Plan To Get Health Insurance Through Exchanges

More than half of people who lack health insurance in the United States say they plan to get it through a government exchange, a Gallup poll released Thursday found. According to the poll, 56 percent of the uninsured plan to get health insurance through ObamaCare.

Among the entire public, 53 percent also plan to get health insurance. Thirty-eight percent, on the other hand, say they’re willing to pay a tax penalty. Uninsured people who fail to enroll in ObamaCare by the end of March will have to face that fine.

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NYT: Ukrainian President Goes On Sick Leave

Viktor F. Yanukovych, the president of Ukraine, went on sick leave on Thursday, leaving negotiated efforts to resolve the country’s political crisis uncompleted. A statement on the president’s website said Mr. Yanukovych is taking time off because of a respiratory illness and fever, and offered no indication of how long he was expected to be absent. The statement cited a deputy director of the presidential administration responsible for medical affairs. Mr. Yanukovych has faced pressure from Russia to take a harder line with protesters opposing his government rather than continue negotiations that could cede power to pro-Western members of the opposition.

Mr. Yanukovych went on sick leave before signing into law the repeal of harsh new rules against freedom of assembly and freedom of speech that was passed in Parliament with support from the pro-government party on Tuesday in a significant concession to the opposition but means little unless it is signed. Overnight Wednesday, two protesters were brought to a hospital with gunshot wounds and one died, Aleksei Davidenko, an opposition member of the Kiev City Council, told Ukrainian news websites. The death brings to four the number of protesters shot to death in recent days, all on Hrushevskovo Street, the site of a standoff with police.

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Carolyn Edgar: The Right’s Single-Mom Mistake: Why Their Latest Attacks Are Clueless And Doomed

Conservatives are now attempting to discredit Davis’s up-by-her-bootstraps story by questioning the period Davis spent as a single mother between her first and second marriages, and by casting her as a bad mother for supposedly putting her career before her children. These efforts rightly have been derided as sexist. But while the broadsides at Davis are rapidly approaching the point of parody, they also illustrate why Republicans have had such a hard time attracting unmarried women voters in recent elections. Given the GOP’s growing unpopularity with this group, attacking Davis’ single mother story looks like a losing strategy.

That Davis has made single motherhood such a prominent part of her story is significant because Davis doesn’t fit the conservative stereotype of a single mother. Conservatives often use “single mothers” as code for the more noxious term “welfare queen,” to evoke the specter of young, uneducated black women dependent on handouts from their “Uncle Sugar.” Davis puts a different face on single motherhood – a face that more closely resembles what single motherhood in America actually looks like.

Republicans maintain strong support among married white women, but unmarried women voters of all races and married women of color tend to vote Democrat. The reelection of President Obama in 2012 and the election of Terry McAuliffe as governor of Virginia in 2013 both were fueled by strong support among unmarried women and women of color, married and unmarried. Demonizing unmarried women and single mothers as sluts who want handouts may keep the GOP’s conservative base happy, but it is not a viable strategy for attracting them to the Republican Party.

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The People’s View: Dear Professional Left, Attacking The NSA While Giving Corporate Big Data A Pass Is NOT Progressive

I want to focus on a rather dumbfounding notion that the Left keeps convincing itself is true: that it is more dangerous for the government to have metadata than for private companies to have it because only the government is empowered to strip one of one’s liberty. Not only is this patently and provably false in today’s interconnected world, the reverse is closer to the truth. Let me explain. The same liberals who argue that Google having your information and the NSA having your information isn’t the same because Google doesn’t have the ability to physically harm you will turn right around and and walk picket lines against coal mines owned by private corporations that do physically harm people.

And by people, we aren’t even talking about just their employees but communities. Liberals protest fracking because of the possibility of corporations harming people, not the government. Liberals stand up for Americans’ right to be able to sue corporations for physical harm they have caused – whether through medical malpractice, unsafe food or water, mistreatment of employees or even mistreatment of prisoners. That corporations cannot do physical harm to people or rob them of their liberties has always been a bad joke. Health insurance companies, banks, credit card companies, payday lenders all have (or until recently have had) the power to strip an individual of their dignity, freedom and even life with zero consequence.

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Reuters: Households, Trade Keep U.S. Economy Humming In Fourth Quarter

Robust household spending and strong exports kept the U.S. economy on solid ground in the fourth quarter, but stagnant wages could chip away some of the momentum in early 2014. Gross domestic product grew at a 3.2 percent annual rate, the Commerce Department said on Thursday, in line with economists’ expectations. While that was a slowdown from the third-quarter’s brisk 4.1 percent pace, it was a far stronger performance than anticipated earlier in the quarter.

Earlier in the quarter many economists were expecting a growth pace below 2 percent given that an inventory surge accounted for much of the increase in the July-September period. Growth over the second half of the year come in at a 3.7 percent pace, up sharply from 1.8 percent in the first six months of the year. It was the biggest half-year increase since the second half of 2003.

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Krista Daly: Affordable Care Act Makes Impact On Imperial County Residents, Hospitals And Clinics

A brain tumor, a pre-existing medical condition to insurance companies, had prevented El Centro resident Eric Villanueva from qualifying for health coverage. Thirty-three-year-old Villanueva had been without health insurance for about eight years until the Affordable Care Act took effect for him Jan. 1. “I’m so happy now that I have insurance,” he said. “I can finally look at my family and tell them everything will be all right. I don’t have to worry about how I’m going to pay. That cloud is gone and there’s no more ‘what ifs.’ I’m covered.”

The Affordable Care Act, a plan for universal health care in the United States, is being implemented through Covered California for Imperial Valley residents and all Californians. The health plan, also known as Obamacare, has expanded coverage to people like Villanueva who were not previously eligible. This includes someone with a pre-existing medical condition, low-income individuals and families whose incomes are between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level, plus an expansion of Medi-Cal- and Medicaid-eligible persons.

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Pete Souza’s State of the Union photos:

President Obama reviews his speech one last time while waiting in a room at the U.S. Capitol prior to delivering the State of the Union address

President Obama waits with Sergeants at Arms and Members of Congress before entering the House Chamber to deliver the State of the Union address

President Obama signs copies of his speech for Members of Congress as he departs the House Chamber after he delivers the State of the Union address

President Obama kisses First Lady Michelle Obama following his State of the Union address

President Obama signs a copy of his speech for Rep. Frederica Wilson, (D-Fla.), in a hallway outside the House Chamber

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On This Day:

President Obama meets with labor leaders in the Blue Room of the White House following a signing of an Executive Order for a White House Task Force on Middle Class Working Families, Jan. 30, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama meets with labor leaders in the Blue Room of the White House and shows that his suit is made in the U.S.A., Jan. 30, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

First Lady Michelle Obama, Jill Biden and Michelle Fenty, wife of D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, leave Georgia Brown’s Restaurant in Northwest after having lunch, January 30, 2009

President Obama tries out different desk chairs in the Oval Office, Jan. 30, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama makes a phone call in the Oval Office, Jan. 30, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama welcomes Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) to the Oval Office, Jan. 30, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama meets with former President George H.W. Bush in the Oval Office, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama surprises a tour group outside the Oval Office, Sunday, Jan. 30, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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First Lady Michelle Obama shows NFL PLAY 60 Super Kid James Gale, 11, historical photos from previous administrations on display in the Booksellers Area during a NFL taping in the East Wing of the White House, Jan. 30, 2012. At right is James’ mother Lisa Gale. (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Jan. 30, 2012 – Pete Souza: “This is one of those rare instances where my presence indirectly became a part of this reaction from those pictured in the photograph. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had just accidentally dropped all of her briefing papers onto the Oval Office rug and she, the President and Vice President all reacted in a way that indicated that surely I wouldn’t get a photo of that to embarrass her.”

President Obama participates in an interview with YouTube and Google+ to discuss his State of the Union address, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Jan. 30, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama greets former Rep. Gabrielle “Gabby” Giffords and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, in the Oval Office after they testified at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence, Jan. 30, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Rise and Shine

President Obama talks on the phone with a foreign leader in the Oval Office, Jan. 26, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Sara Kliff: Don’t Look Now, But Obamacare Might Just Hit A Sign-Up Projection

Three million people have signed up for private insurance coverage through the health law marketplaces, according to Health and Human Services. Health and Human Services says that at least 800,000 people signed up for coverage through this week. So this new figure shouldn’t be seen as representing overall January enrollment–that number will likely inch up a bit, when the Obama administration releases a monthly enrollment report in February. Back in September, the Obama administration had projected 1.1 million people would sign-up in the first month of 2014–and these new figures suggest that enrollment could easily hit that number.

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Louise Radnosfky: Court Says Missouri Can’t Block Health-Law Helpers

A federal court has temporarily blocked Missouri officials from restricting organizations in the state from helping people sign up for health insurance as part of the federal health-overhaul law.

The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri granted an injunction Thursday blocking the Missouri insurance department from enforcing a state law passed last year that limited the activities of people seeking to enroll the uninsured through new insurance exchanges.

Judge Ortrie Smith granted a preliminary injunction on the grounds that the plaintiffs, St. Louis Effort for AIDS and Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, were likely to prevail in their argument that the state had improperly tried to override the federal government’s efforts to implement the health-care overhaul.

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Edward Lucas: Edward Snowden: Did The American Whistleblower Act Alone?

Spy agencies engage in espionage, an inherently disreputable trade: it involves stealing secrets. When details leak, they look shocking. But the hypocrisy of the Snowdenistas is as jarring as their naivety. Our enemies – notably Russia and China – are spying on us. So too are our allies. France runs a mighty industrial espionage service for the benefit of its big companies. Germany has an excellent signals intelligence agency, the Kommando Strategische Aufklärung. Germany’s spies were recently caught spying on their Nato ally, Estonia, using an official who was also spying for the Russians. Far from denigrating American intelligence, we should applaud it. It helps catch terrorists, gangsters and spies. Moreover, its oversight and scrutiny is the toughest in the world. America has taken the most elusive and lawless part of government and crammed it into a system of legislative and judicial control.

America is also part of the world’s only successful no-spy agreement, with its close allies – notably Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. A list of countries that would trust Germany or France not to spy on them would be rather shorter.  Instead, the great grievance of the Snowden camp is what they see as the arbitrary power of the NSA and GCHQ. Who gave these agencies the power to bug and snoop? The real answer to that is simple: the elected governments and leaders of those countries, the judges and lawmakers charged with supervising the intelligence services, and the directors of those agencies in the exercise of their lawful powers. The question deserves to be posed in the other direction. What gives the Snowdenistas and their media allies the right to leak our most closely guarded and expensive secrets?

The Snowden affair is a story of secrecy and deception – but not on the side of the intelligence agencies. Far too little attention has been paid to the political agendas of the most ardent Snowdenistas – people such as the bombastic Brazil-based blogger, Glenn Greenwald, hysterical “hacktivist” Jacob Appelbaum, and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. They cloak their extreme and muddled beliefs in the language of privacy rights, civil liberties and digital freedoms.

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Think Progress: Why Target’s Part-Time Employees Will Be Better Off Under Obamacare

Chain retailer Target announced on Wednesday that it will stop offering health insurance to employees who work less than 30 hours per week, instead sending these workers to Obamacare’s insurance marketplaces to buy new plans. Target will continue offering insurance to those who work for 30 hours or more per week, the threshold Obamacare sets for large employers with 50 or more employees. The company won’t be cutting anyone’s work week in order to save on its bottom line, will employ consultants to help workers sign up for new health plans, and will give them a one-time cash payment of $500 to help with the cost.

The sorts of plans that retailers and restaurants offer to part-time workers are nothing approaching comprehensive. By contrast, Obamacare’s marketplace plans have to offer comprehensive benefits, including for mental health services and prescription drugs, and cannot place annual or lifetime limits on coverage. A 27-year-old non-smoking Target employee named Jane makes $12 per hour and works 29 hours per week. Jane has a pre-tax annual income of about $16,704, meaning she is at about 145 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). The Kaiser Family Foundation’s (KFF) subsidy calculator shows that Jane would pay less than $52 per month for a mid-level “Silver” plan under Obamacare after getting her premium subsidy.

Since Jane makes less than 2.5 times the poverty level, she’d be eligible for even more Obamacare cost-sharing subsidies that would limit her yearly deductible and hold her maximum out-of-pocket medical expenses at $2,250 per year. An employee who made even less, like a 24-year-old non-smoker making $9 per hour, would qualify for Medicaid if he or she lived in a state that took place in Obamacare’s expansion of the program, or would have to pay just $20 per month for a Silver plan on the marketplaces.

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The Atlantic: Obamacare Is A Powerful New Crime-Fighting Tool

An astonishing two-thirds of the 730,000 men and women released from America’s lockups each year have either substance abuse problems, mental health problems, or both. Very often, those problems were largely responsible for getting them locked up in the first place. Most addicted and mentally ill prisoners receive little or no effective treatment while they’re incarcerated or after they’re turned loose, so it’s little surprise that, like Sanders, they soon wind up back in jail. But for some, that revolving door may stop spinning this year, thanks to a little-noticed side-effect of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Obamacare, it turns out, might be a crime-fighting tool.

Among many other reforms, the ACA is drastically expanding Medicaid, the federal insurance scheme for the poor. Previously, able-bodied childless adults were generally not covered by Medicaid, regardless of how impoverished they might have been. But starting this year, any American citizen under age 65 with a family income at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty line—about $25,000 for a family of three—is eligible for Medicaid (at least in the two dozen states that have so far agreed to participate in this aspect of Obamacare). Meanwhile, citizens and legal immigrants earning between 138 percent and 400 percent of the poverty line are now entitled to subsidies to help pay for private insurance. Taken together, those two provisions mean that tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of the inmates released every year are now eligible for health insurance, including coverage for mental health and substance abuse services.

Providing treatment to those former prisoners could yield enormous benefits for all of us. The average cost to incarcerate someone for a year is roughly $25,000. That means if only one percent of each year’s released inmates stay out of trouble, taxpayers will save nearly $200 million annually— “Success in implementing the Affordable Care Act has the potential to decrease crime, recidivism, and criminal justice costs, while simultaneously improving the health and safety of communities,” sums up a recent report by the federal Department of Justice.

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George Zornick: Justice Department Could Ease Regulations For Legal Weed Businesses ‘Very Soon’

Attorney General Eric Holder announced Thursday that the Obama administration will “very soon” issue some regulations that would make it easier for commercial banks to do business with legal marijuana operations—a seemingly small change, but one that could be seminal in launching legal marijuana into the mainstream. Currently, state-sanctioned marijuana outfits essentially have no access to normal venues for banking and finance. Banks worry that accepting deposits from legal marijuana operations, or giving them loans, could expose the bank to legal or regulatory action, given the patchwork set of laws that make marijuana illegal on the federal level, even if certain states have legalized it.

This is, naturally, a huge problem for commercial marijuana retailers—how can you launch and run a business without any loans? They also often have to pay bills and employees in cash, which is difficult from a logistical perspective. At the University of Virginia on Thursday, Holder cited the problem of undeposited cash and suggested changes are on the way. “You don’t want just huge amounts of cash in these places. They want to be able to use the banking system,” he said. “There’s a public safety component to this. Huge amounts of cash, substantial amounts of cash just kind of lying around with no place for it to be appropriately deposited, is something that would worry me, just from a law enforcement perspective.” Holder added that “we will be issuing some regulations I think very soon to deal with that issue.”

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Sam Polk: For The Love Of Money **(This piece is a MUST READ. 1% + Greed = Obscene)**

IN my last year on Wall Street my bonus was $3.6 million — and I was angry because it wasn’t big enough. I was 30 years old, had no children to raise, no debts to pay, no philanthropic goal in mind. I wanted more money for exactly the same reason an alcoholic needs another drink: I was addicted. After graduation, I got a job at Bank of America. At the end of my first year I was thrilled to receive a $40,000 bonus. Over the next few years I worked like a maniac and began to move up the Wall Street ladder. I became a bond and credit default swap trader, one of the more lucrative roles in the business. Just four years after I started at Bank of America, Citibank offered me a “1.75 by 2” which means $1.75 million per year for two years.

Now, working elbow to elbow with billionaires, I was a giant fireball of greed. I’d think about how my colleagues could buy Micronesia if they wanted to, or become mayor of New York City. They didn’t just have money; they had power. I wanted a billion dollars. It’s staggering to think that in the course of five years, I’d gone from being thrilled at my first bonus — $40,000 — to being disappointed when, my second year at the hedge fund, I was paid “only” $1.5 million. But in the end, it was actually my absurdly wealthy bosses who helped me see the limitations of unlimited wealth. I was in a meeting with one of them, and a few other traders, and they were talking about the new hedge-fund regulations. Most everyone on Wall Street thought they were a bad idea. “But isn’t it better for the system as a whole?” I asked. The room went quiet, and my boss shot me a withering look. I remember his saying, “I don’t have the brain capacity to think about the system as a whole. All I’m concerned with is how this affects our company.”

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From that moment on, I started to see Wall Street with new eyes. I noticed the vitriol that traders directed at the government for limiting bonuses after the crash. I heard the fury in their voices at the mention of higher taxes. These traders despised anything or anyone that threatened their bonuses. I had recently finished Taylor Branch’s three-volume series on the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement, and the image of the Freedom Riders stepping out of their bus into an infuriated mob had seared itself into my mind. I’d told myself that if I’d been alive in the ‘60s, I would have been on that bus. But I was lying to myself. There were plenty of injustices out there — rampant poverty, swelling prison populations, a sexual-assault epidemic, an obesity crisis. Not only was I not helping to fix any problems in the world, but I was profiting from them. During the market crash in 2008, I’d made a ton of money by shorting the derivatives of risky companies. As the world crumbled, I profited.

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On This Day:

Sen. Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama take the stage for his victory rally at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center January 26, 2008 after winning the South Carolina Democratic primary

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President Obama is briefed before the Swearing-in Ceremony for Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner at the U.S. Treasury Department, Jan. 26, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama is briefed prior to making phone calls to foreign leaders in the Oval Office, Jan. 26, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama and Rep. Ben Chandler (D-Ky.), call the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team from the Oval Office to thank them for raising over $1 million to help the relief efforts in Haiti through “Hoops for Haiti,” Jan. 26, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama exchanges greetings with a supporter after speaking at a UPS facility, Jan. 26, 2012, in Las Vegas




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