Posts Tagged ‘Ohio

11
Apr
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: First Lady Michelle Obama participates in an interview with Stephen Colbert during a taping of “The Colbert Report,” at the Colbert Report Studio in New York, N.Y., April 11, 2012 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

11:0 President Obama announces the nomination of Sylvia Burwell to be HHS Secretary

12:15: First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden Host a Joining Forces Caregivers Event

1:55: The President and First Lady depart the White House

3:05 Arrive New York City

4:10 The President delivers remarks at the National Action Network’s 16th Annual Convention

11:30 The President and First Lady depart New York

12:40 Arrives White House

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 Caitlin Macneal: Arkansas Free Clinic Closing, Citing More Insured Through Obamacare

A medical clinic in Mena, Ark. announced that it would be closing, citing a large drop in need for the clinic as people have signed up for health insurance under Obamacare. “Because people are qualifying for insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, our free medical clinic will not be needed anymore,” Stacey Bowser, the director of the 9th Street Ministries Clinic, told the Mena Star.

“We’ve gone from seeing around 300 people a month on a regular basis, but as people were enrolling in Obamacare, the numbers we were seeing have dropped. We were down to 80 people that came through the medical clinic in February, all the way down to three people at the medical clinic in March. Our services won’t be needed anymore, and this will conclude our mission,” she continued.

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LA Times: Bank Of America To Pay $772 Million For Illegal Credit Card Practices

Bank of America Corp. has agreed to refund customers $727 million and pay $45 million in fines for illegal credit card practices, according to a settlement with federal regulators announced Wednesday. The refunds will go to as many as 2.9 million people who were deceived into signing up for products such as credit monitoring and identity theft protection or were improperly charged for such services, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said. The action was part of a crackdown by the bureau on deceptive marketing, enrollment and billing practices related to such so-called add-on products by credit card companies. Bank of America is the fifth financial services company to be hit with fines and refund orders.

“Bank of America both deceived consumers and unfairly billed consumers for services not performed,” said Richard Cordray, the bureau’s director. “We will not tolerate such practices and will continue to be vigilant in our pursuit of companies who wrong consumers in this market.” Bank of America agreed to the refunds and penalties without admitting or denying the allegations. In addition to the refunds, the bank will pay a $20-million civil penalty to the bureau and a $25-million civil penalty to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

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Judy Peres: How Obamacare Affects Women’s Health

Meg Finnegan thought she might never be able to afford to have a baby. Finnegan, who is self-employed and has a pre-existing medical condition, was having trouble finding health insurance at all, let alone a policy that would cover pregnancy and childbirth. So she was thrilled to discover that the plan she signed up for last fall under the Affordable Care Act includes maternity coverage. “When you don’t have insurance, you’re afraid of any life event that brings you to the hospital, for a good or a bad reason,” said Finnegan, 37, an Evanston resident. “If I didn’t have insurance, I wouldn’t have a baby. All those doctor’s appointments and tests, and possibly a high-risk delivery — how would you pay for it?” A guarantee of maternity coverage — all new insurance policies must provide it — is just one of a basket of provisions in the federal health law that specifically benefit women. Other guaranteed services include preventive care, which must be covered with no out-of-pocket cost. For most plans, preventive care includes at least one annual “well-woman” visit, breast-feeding support, contraceptives and contraceptive counseling, annual mammograms and cervical cancer screening.

Women’s health advocates also expect women to benefit more from some provisions in the law that apply to people of either sex. For example, the expansion of Medicaid, as well as financial assistance in the form of tax credits and cost sharing, is expected to disproportionately benefit women, who are more likely than men to have low incomes. Insurers also are required to cover mental health screening and treatment, and women have higher rates of depression and other types of mental illness. Kathy Waligora of EverThrive Illinois (formerly the Illinois Maternal and Child Health Coalition) said she considers the law “a huge victory for women.” Finnegan, who said she has a rare condition called Behcet’s disease, is one of 129 million Americans with pre-existing conditions, which private policies generally did not cover before the health overhaul. Now, by law, insurers may not deny coverage or charge higher premiums on the basis of health status. “I couldn’t get insurance,” said Finnegan, who owns TruFit Personal Training Studio in Evanston. “I tried five different companies. One offered me a policy for $850 a month with a huge deductible and terrible coverage — nothing related to my condition. But all my medical costs are related to that, so basically it meant no coverage.” At the same time, many insurance plans used to consider pregnancy, cesarean section, and even domestic violence and sexual abuse as pre-existing conditions.

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USA Today: Man Cleared Of NYC Murder After 25 Years In Prison

A man who spent almost a quarter-century behind bars for murder was freed Tuesday and cleared of a killing that happened when he was 1,100 miles away on a Disney World vacation. Jonathan Fleming was in tears as he hugged his lawyers and family in a Brooklyn courtroom. Relatives said, “Thank you, God!” after he was freed. “After 25 years, come hug your mother,” she said, and he did. Defense attorneys and prosecutors asked a Brooklyn judge to dismiss Fleming’s conviction in the 1989 shooting. A key eyewitness recanted, new witnesses have implicated someone else and a review by prosecutors turned up a hotel receipt putting Fleming in Florida hours before the killing, defense lawyers Anthony Mayol and Taylor Koss said.

“He is elated and stunned, while tempered by the fact that he realizes that this is just the first step in getting his life back,” Koss said before the hearing. Fleming had plane tickets, videos and postcards from his trip, his lawyers said, but authorities suggested he could have been in New York at the actual time of the shooting, and a woman testified that she had seen him shoot Rush. The exoneration, first reported by the New York Daily News, comes amid scrutiny of Brooklyn prosecutors’ process for reviewing questionable convictions — scrutiny that comes partly from the new DA Kenneth Thompson himself. He unseated longtime DA Charles “Joe” Hynes last year after a campaign that focused partly on wrongful convictions on Hynes’ watch. Hynes had created a special conviction integrity unit to review false-conviction claims, but some saw the effort as slow-moving and defensive.

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Jim Puzzanghera: Small-Business Optimism Rebounds As Winter Ends, Survey Says

Small-business owners were more optimistic about the economy last month and expected sales to increase as a winter marked by severe weather ended, according to survey results released Tuesday. The confidence index from the National Federation of Independent Business rose to 93.4 in March, from 91.4 the previous month. The measure is one of the few monthly barometers of the small-business sector, which is a key driver of the economy.

About 12% of the those surveyed said they expected higher sales volumes during the next three months, up 9 percentage points from the February survey. Hiring also improved last month. Small-business owners reported increasing their payrolls by an average of 0.18 workers in March, up from 0.11 the previous month. It was the sixth straight month the survey showed an increase in hiring.

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Igor Volsky: Kathleen Sebelius’ Biggest Achievement Is The One No One Is Talking About

Kathleen Sebelius wasn’t President Obama’s first choice to run the Department of Health and Human Services and oversee the passage and implementation of health care reform. But after Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD) dropped out, Obama tapped the two-term Kansas governor and former state insurance commissioner. Sebelius didn’t have much D.C. experience, but had an impressive track record of working across the aisle as a Democratic governor in a red state. And while the united GOP opposition to health legislation eventually overwhelmed any goodwill Sebelius had built up within the Republican party and the rocky rollout of Obamacare has come to dominate the discussion of her tenure as secretary, that bipartisan quality proved essential to the implementation of the law. Sebelius leaves the office having enrolled some 10 million people in health care coverage. This was only possible because she convinced numerous Republican lawmakers in bright red states to extended health care coverage to the poorest Americans. No one is talking about it, but it is her biggest and most impressive achievement as secretary.

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision invalidating Obamacare’s compulsory Medicaid expansion, most Republican-controlled states refused to extend health care coverage to residents below 133 percent of the poverty line. But Sebelius traveled the country, urging Republican governors to reconsider. As of today, eight GOP-controlled states have approved expansion — in no small part because of the flexibility Sebelius and her team provided. The flexibility extended beyond Medicaid. Sebelius and her team convinced red states to form partnership health care exchanges in which the federal government and the state would share responsibilities in running the marketplaces. They routinely presented GOP governors with information on all other state models and waivers, assuring them that they could customize reform to their specific state needs. As a result, several Republican-dominated states bucked the national party and chose to run their exchanges either on their own, or in collaboration with HHS.

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Josh Israel: Jindal Demands Congressman Resign Over Extramarital Kissing, But Defended Prostitute-Hiring Senator

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) called for Rep. Vance McAllister (R-LA) to resign his House seat, after a videotape surfaced of the freshman Congressman kissing a married woman who is not his wife. But in 2007, Jindal defended Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) when he was revealed to be a client of a DC prostitution service. Jindal released a statement on Thursday, calling McAllister’s behavior “an embarrassment” and suggesting that “the best way to get privacy and work on putting his family back together is to resign from Congress.” But seven years ago, then-Congressman Jindal made no such suggestion to the state’s U.S. Senator. After Vitter’s name appeared on the phone list for “D.C. Madam” Deborah Jeane Palfrey, he apologized for the “very serious sin in my past.” Yet Jindal’s response was to stand by Vitter

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Jonathan Cohn: Sebelius Resigns

On Thursday morning, Kathleen Sebelius testified before Congress and announced that Obamacare signups had reached 7.5 million people. On Thursday evening, news broke that Sebelius was stepping down as Secretary of Health and Human Services. Implementing Obamacare was never going to be easy. The law is full of compromises that, however politically necessary, weakened regulations and depleted funding that would have made introducing the new insurance system a lot easier. And Sebelius never had the kind of control a chief executive officer would. She was always dealing with a host of other players—from superiors at the White House to underlings at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to Democrats on Capitol Hill to lobbyists for the health care industry. And that’s to say nothing of her war with the congressional Republicans, who were trying actively to sabotage the law through repeal votes, funding cuts, and intimidation of would-be allies.

More important, the law seems to be working, despite all of those early problems. That 7.5 million figure she announced on Thursday is a genuinely big deal—particularly since, from what I hear, the final number is likely to be even higher. Sebelius can’t take all or even most of the credit for those successes, any more than she should take all or most of the blame for the law’s troubles. But her role in those achievements (and others, like improvements to Head Start and stronger regulations on child care safety) is also part of her record. To take one obvious example, Sebelius worked extensively with Republican governors who wanted to expand Medicaid in states with hostile conservative constituencies. Some of those efforts succeeded. The memories of Obamacare’s difficult start will certainly linger. But to the millions of people around the country who now have access to affordable medical care, I’m not sure that really matters.

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Fem Chat: 6 Things Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler Missed About The Gender Wage Gap

Glenn Kessler presents a very one-sided discussion of the wage gap in this April 9th “Fact Checker” post in which he increased President Obama’s rating on his use of wage gap statistics from one Pinocchio (in the 2012 campaign) to two—he should have lowered it from one to zero. President Obama has correctly used a long standing data series issued every year by the Census Bureau. The 77 percent wage ratio figure is an accurate measure of the inequality in earnings between U.S. women and men who work full-time, year-round in the labor market. Here are some other things to keep in mind about that statistic: 1) Kessler claims that President Obama uses the 77 percent wage ratio figure because it shows the biggest wage gap when other data series available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show slightly smaller gaps.

Leaving aside how Kessler could get inside the President’s head and know why he picked a certain series, everyone who writes about this issue should know that this figure based on median annual earnings is the historical headline figure that allows the longest comparison across time. 2) Kessler claims that the other series—weekly or hourly earnings—are more accurate, but there is simply no basis for saying so. The 77 percent figure actually includes the broadest range of kinds of earnings; for example annual bonus payments are a big part of remuneration in some fields and are included in the 77 percent figure, but are excluded from the weekly or hourly earnings figures.

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Brian Beutler: The Right Searches For Obamacare Alternative, Finds Obamacare

The Affordable Care Act’s enrollment comeback has confounded conservatives in many ways. The realization that there happens to be popular demand for something as self-evidently grotesque as Obamacare has given rise to a palpable cognitive dissonance on the right. A growing recognition among Republicans that they can’t bank on organizing the midterm campaign around relentless Obamacare opposition has party elders looking at contingency plans (even if they haven’t exactly gone back to the drawing board). But most importantly, it has thrown the conservative health policy community for a loop, and completely wrong-footed Republicans in Congress who were hoping — against considerable odds and a well-worn historical pattern — to craft an Obamacare alternative that both passes the laugh test and doesn’t create a significantly lower level of welfare.

If enrollment had sputtered, that task would have been considerably easier. The fact it surged in March, and continues to grow today, measurably limits their options. If you accept (or acquiesce) to the need for a large coverage expansion and don’t want a single payer or substantial expansion of existing public systems, you need to make sure private insurers cover the sick, which means you need guaranteed issue and community rating — so that nobody is closed out of the system, and so that risk is spread across large populations, not assigned to individuals. But if you have those two things then you need a coverage requirement, so you’re not just spreading risk among old, sick people. And if you have that mandate, you need substantial subsidies — means tested or otherwise — so people aren’t required to purchase insurance they can’t afford. Of course, that’s just Obamacare.

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Bill Schneider: An Election Democrats Can Win

Obamacare versus Ryanomics. That’s the battle line for 2014. It’s also a battle Democrats can win. Why? Because most Americans are pragmatists. Pragmatists believe that whatever works is right. Ideologues believe that if something is wrong, it can’t possibly work — even if it does work. That’s the Republican view of Obamacare: It’s wrong, so it can’t possibly work. But it now looks like Obamacare may work. More than 7 million people signed up for health insurance by the March 31 deadline, meeting the Obama administration’s original goal. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said, “The Affordable Care Act, whether my Republican friends want to admit it or not, is working.” On April 1, Ryan came out with a 10-year budget plan involving massive cuts in popular federal programs like Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, education, student loans and environmental protection.

Ryan’s proposal would eventually change Medicare — the most popular of all federal programs — from an insurance policy to a “premium support” program, where seniors would be given subsidies to purchase private insurance. GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney proposed doing that in 2012. Look where it got him.  Democrats will run against Ryanomics. Republicans will run against Obamacare. Remember the rule of pragmatism: Whatever works is right. If Americans come to believe Obamacare works, they will be reluctant to throw it out. Especially the millions who will already have a stake in Obamacare. On the other hand, Ryan is threatening to do away with programs like Medicare that people know are working. Why? Because he and his fellow Republicans think those programs are wrong. Attacking programs that work is pure ideological bloodlust. And a losing battle for sure.

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Ann Sanner: About 106,000 Ohioans Enroll In Expanded Medicaid

More than 106,000 Ohioans have signed up for Medicaid under an expansion of the taxpayer funded health program, while thousands of others are waiting to hear whether they are deemed eligible. Republican Gov. John Kasich’s administration moved forward with extending Medicaid eligibility last fall under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. Coverage took effect Jan. 1. The safety-net program for the poor and disabled provides coverage for one of every five Ohioans. The Medicaid expansion allows those earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level to gain health care coverage. For a single adult, that’s about $16,104 a year. Ohio’s monthly report on Medicaid caseloads shows that 106,238 residents had enrolled under the extension as of March 31.

That’s about 29 percent of the roughly 366,000 newly eligible people estimated to sign up by the end of June 2015. Residents have been enrolling in Medicaid through the state’s new benefits website. Potential enrollees can use the site instead of visiting county Job and Family Services offices, where many low-income residents apply for food stamps, cash assistance and other public programs. More than 345,000 people have sought Medicaid coverage through the state’s benefit site since Oct. 1. About 65 percent of the applications have been resolved, while roughly 120,000 are still pending. Many of those cases await eligibility determinations by the state’s largest counties.

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@Politics_PR

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LOL GOP: 5 Ways Paul Ryan’s Budget Screws Seniors

Republicans often point out that Obamacare cuts Medicare Advantage and reforms the program. But they fail to mention, as Democrats often do, the benefits the president’s health law has given to current Medicare beneficiaries. The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare reports: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently reported that since the passage of the ACA, over 7.9 million Medicare beneficiaries in the Medicare Part D donut hole have saved $9.9 billion on their prescription drugs, an average of $1,265 per person. Also, 37.2 million people with Medicare took advantage of at least one preventive service with no cost sharing, including an estimated 26.5 million people with traditional Medicare, and more than 4 million who took advantage of the Annual Wellness Visit. Ryan’s budget would repeal those benefits while keeping the cuts Republicans have been campaigning against for four years now.

Obamacare reforms have also lowered the growth of Medicare’s costs to zero. If this trend continues, the program would be solvent even through the peak of Baby Boomer retirements, protecting seniors from future benefit cuts. In an effort to balance the budget in 10 years while keeping tax cuts that mostly benefit the rich, Ryan would cut a slew of programs seniors have relied on. “Funding for Older Americans Act programs like Meals on Wheels, family caregiver support, job training, senior centers, and disease prevention programs, would suffer significant cuts when the need for these services is increasing,” the National Council on Aging (NCOA) reports. “Over time, these programs—which are NOT contributing to the federal budget deficit—would be cut by 22 percent below current levels.” Another $137 billion would be cut from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, aka food stamps. Currently, 9 million seniors and people with disabilities receive SNAP benefits.

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BBC: Hamid Aboutalebi: US Congress Passes Ban On Iran Envoy

The US Congress has sent a bill to the president that would bar Iran’s pick for ambassador to the UN from entering the country. The House of Representatives passed the measure unanimously two days after the Senate approved it. Hamid Aboutalebi was a part of the Muslim student group that seized the US embassy in Tehran in 1979. The White House has told Iran Mr Aboutalebi was “not viable” but has not taken a position on the bill. Fifty-two Americans were held for 444 days at the height of Iran’s Islamic revolution, which saw pro-American Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi sent into exile and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini take power.

Mr Aboutalebi, who previously served as Iran’s ambassador to Belgium, the European Union, Italy and Australia, told Iranian media his participation in the hostage crisis began only after the initial seizure of the embassy, and primarily involved translation. On Thursday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said, “We’ve made clear and have communicated to the Iranians that the selection they’ve put forward is not viable.” As the host country of the United Nations, the US has previously but rarely denied entry to an envoy or head of state. Those included a previous Iranian diplomat and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. In those cases the applications were withdrawn after the US signalled opposition, or the state department simply declined to process the visas. Those options are available in Mr Aboutalebi’s case.

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Paul Krugman: Health Care Nightmare

When it comes to health reform, Republicans suffer from delusions of disaster. They know, just know, that the Affordable Care Act is doomed to utter failure, so failure is what they see, never mind the facts on the ground. Thus, on Tuesday, Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, dismissed the push for pay equity as an attempt to “change the subject from the nightmare of Obamacare”; on the same day, the nonpartisan RAND Corporation released a study estimating “a net gain of 9.3 million in the number of American adults with health insurance coverage from September 2013 to mid-March 2014.” Some nightmare. And the overall gain, including children and those who signed up during the late-March enrollment surge, must be considerably larger. First, there was the amazing come-from-behind surge in enrollments.

Then there were a series of surveys — from Gallup, the Urban Institute, and RAND — all suggesting large gains in coverage. Taken individually, any one of these indicators might be dismissed as an outlier, but taken together they paint an unmistakable picture of major progress. But wait: What about all the people who lost their policies thanks to Obamacare? The answer is that this looks more than ever like a relatively small issue hyped by right-wing propaganda. RAND finds that fewer than a million people who previously had individual insurance became uninsured — and many of those transitions, one guesses, had nothing to do with Obamacare. It’s worth noting that, so far, not one of the supposed horror stories touted in Koch-backed anti-reform advertisements has stood up to scrutiny, suggesting that real horror stories are rare. Republicans clearly have no idea how to respond to these developments. They can’t offer any real alternative to Obamacare.Their political strategy has been to talk vaguely about replacing reform while waiting for its inevitable collapse. And what if reform doesn’t collapse? They have no idea what to do.

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On This Day

President Obama listens during a meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel at Blair House in Washington, D.C., before a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India, April, 11, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama meets with Director of Speechwriting Jon Favreau on the Colonnade outside the Oval Office, April 11, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama returns to the Oval Office through the Rose Garden after surprising students from Altona Middle School in Longmont, Colo., during their White House tour, April 11, 2011. President Obama received a letter from the mother of an Altona student who worried that her son’s trip to Washington, D.C., would be canceled if there was a government shutdown (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Sherman and Tammie Gillums look at their pictures with First Lady Michelle Obama as Mrs. Obama continues to greets guests at the Joining Forces Community Challenge event on the South Lawn of the White House, April 11, 2012 (Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)

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President Obama holds Chaplain (Captain) Emil Kapaun’s Easter stole in the Oval Office during a greet with Kapaun’s family in the Oval Office, April 11, 2013. The President and First Lady Michelle Obama met with members of Chaplain Kapaun’s family before awarding him the Medal of Honor posthumously during a ceremony in the East Room (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama talks on the phone with Nicole Hockley and families of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Conn., in the Oval Office, April 11, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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16
Mar
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama talks on the phone with Prime Minister Naoto Kan of Japan from the Treaty Room office in the White House Residence, Wednesday night, March 16, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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HHS.Gov: Making Health Care Coverage More Accessible And Equitable For Same-Sex Couples

Today, we are clarifying that, starting next year, if an insurance company offers coverage to opposite-sex spouses, it cannot choose to deny that coverage to same-sex spouses. In other words, insurance companies will not be permitted to discriminate against married same-sex couples when offering coverage. This will further enhance access to health care for all Americans, including those with same-sex spouses.

You can learn just how affordable coverage can be. Across the country, 6 out of 10 uninsured Americans can get covered for $100 per month or even less – some for a lot less.  And legally married same-sex couples are treated equally for purposes of financial assistance when purchasing coverage in the Marketplace, regardless of where they live.

Security and peace-of-mind are just a click or call away.  You can sign up 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at HealthCare.gov or 1-800-318-2596.  You can even get in-person help in your own community (just visit localhelp.healthcare.gov and punch in your zip code).

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Joshua Green: The Jeep Plant Mitt Romney Said Was Moving To China Is Hiring 1,000 Workers In Ohio

Remember the closing days of the 2012 presidential campaign when Mitt Romney ran that explosive ad suggesting Chrysler was going to stop building Jeeps in Ohio and move production to China? The one that got “Four Pinocchios” from the fact-checker at the Washington Post? Anyway, that Jeep plant? It didn’t move to China. And it’s actually doing quite well. No, scratch that: It’s going gangbusters. Demand for Jeeps is so high that Chrysler workers are clocking 60 hours a week and still can’t keep up. So according to the Toledo Blade, the company is planning on hiring up to 1,000 part-time workers—American workers, in Ohio—so they can crank out enough Jeeps to meet the demand.

These workers are even going to get health insurance. In case you’re wondering, hiring temp workers isn’t a maneuver to deny regular workers their hours. “You’ve gotta remember, these people [the regular workers] are working 10 hours a day, six days a week,” a UAW boss who helped negotiate the deal told the Blade. “It’s very important to have the day off you want with your family.” The Blade further reports that Chrysler has already hired 380 of these temp employees and converted 50 of them to full-time jobs.

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NYT: Under Watch Of Russian Troops, Crimea Votes On Secession

With thousands of heavily-armed Russian troops occupying this perenially embattled peninsula, the voters of Crimea went to the polls on Sunday to vote on secession from Ukraine in a public referendum that Western leaders have declared illegal and vowed to punish with economic sanctions. With the outcome of the vote virtually a foregone conclusion in a region that shares a language and centuries of history with Russia, the greater suspense lay in how swiftly and forcefully the United States and its European allies would levy threatened sanctions against allies of President Vladimir V. Putin, including senior Russian officials and business leaders. The answers were likely to depend to some degree on whether Mr. Putin showed any signs of acting quickly to annex Crimea or order further military incursion beyond Crimea’s borders, perhaps to seize vital infrastructure including water and energy supplies. “Our people must be united in Russia,” Yelena Parkholenko, 27, a manicurist with violet hair, said matter-of-factly after casting her vote at School No. 21 here in Simferopol, the Crimean capital.

It was a sentiment repeated over and over again at polling stations as citizens with misgivings about joining Mr. Putin’s Russian Federation, particularly Crimean Tatars, a Muslim Turkic people with a history of persecution by Russia, generally opted to stay home rather than participate in what they called a rigged vote. The referendum offered no option that would maintain Crimea’s current status of limited autonomy from the Ukrainian government in Kiev. The referendum asked voters: “Are you in favor of the reunification of Crimea with Russia as part of the Russian Federation?” or “Are you in favor of restoring the 1992 Constitution and the status of Crimea as a part of Ukraine?” The second choice would effectively grant Crimea independence without immediately breaking from Kiev, but such a break would be inevitable and the Ukrainian government, like the West, has rejected the vote as illegal.

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Timothy Egan: Paul Ryan’s Irish Amnesia

IN advance of St. Patrick’s Day, I went time traveling, back to the 1840s and Ireland’s great famine. On one side of the Irish Sea was Victorian England, flush with the pomp and prosperity of the world’s mightiest empire. On the other side were skeletal people, dying en masse, the hollow-bellied children scrounging for nettles and blackberries. A great debate raged in London: Would it be wrong to feed the starving Irish with free food, thereby setting up a “culture of dependency”? Certainly England’s man in charge of easing the famine, Sir Charles Trevelyan, thought so. “Dependence on charity,” he declared, “is not to be made an agreeable mode of life.”

And there I ran into Paul Ryan. His great-great-grandfather had fled to America. But the Republican congressman was very much in evidence, wagging his finger at the famished. His oft-stated “culture of dependency” is a safety net that becomes a lazy-day hammock. But it was also England’s excuse for lethal negligence. Ryan boasts of the Gaelic half of his ancestry, on his father’s side. “I come from Irish peasants who came over during the potato famine,” he said last year during a forum on immigration. BUT with a head still stuffed with college-boy mush from Ayn Rand, he apparently never did any reading about the times that prompted his ancestors to sail away from the suffering sod.

You can’t make these kinds of heartless remarks unless you think the poor deserve their fate — that they have a character flaw, born of public assistance. And there hovers another awful haunt of Irish history. In 2012, Ryan said that the network of programs for the American poor made people not want to work. On Wednesday, he went further, using the language of racial coding. You never hear Ryan make character judgments about generations of wealthy who live off their inheritance, or farmers who get paid not to grow anything. Nor, for that matter, does he target plutocrats like Romney who might be lulled into not taking risks because they pay an absurdly low tax rate simply by moving money around. Dependency is all one-way.

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Igor Volsky: Federal Judge Recognizes Marriages Of 3 Same-Sex Couples In Tennessee

A federal judge recognized the marriages of three same-sex Tennessee couples on Friday, issuing a preliminary injunction against the state’s same-sex marriage ban. “At this point, all signs indicate that, in the eyes of the United States Constitution, the plaintiffs’ marriages will be placed on an equal footing with those of heterosexual couples and that proscriptions against same-sex marriage will soon become a footnote in the annals of American history,”

Judge Aleta Trauger wrote in the order. The ruling only applies to the three couples who filed the lawsuit last year asking the state to recognize their marriages, which had been performed in New York or California. Tennessee outlawed same-sex marriage in 1998 and passed a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman in 2008.

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Think Progress: Federal Judge Strikes Down One Of The Strictest Abortion Laws In The Nation

A federal judge struck down on of the most restrictive abortion laws in the nation on Friday, ruling that that a measure in Arkansas restricting abortions starting at 12 weeks of pregnancy “impermissibly infringes a woman’s Fourteenth Amendment right to elect to terminate a pregnancy before viability” of the fetus.

The law cut off women’s access to legal abortion services well before the point of viability, which is typically around 24 weeks. However, U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright’s ruling “let stand the law’s requirement that a woman seeking an abortion first undergo an ultrasound to determine whether a fetal heartbeat is present.” The legislature overrode Gov. Mike Beebe’s (D) veto and enacted the law in March 2013, which had initially sought to ban abortions after just six weeks.

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Jonathan Cohn: Begala To Dems: Come Out Swinging On Obamacare

And with Republicans making Obamacare the focus of their midterm strategy, many Democrats have been responding with a mixed message: Acknowledge the Affordable Care Act has flaws, but vow to fix them rather than repeal them. That seems to be roughly consistent with polls, which suggest the majority of Americans don’t like the health care law but the majority also don’t want to get rid of it. But nuanced messages have problems, even if the nuances reflect public sentiments. A politician who starts with backpedaling (“Yes, the law has problems, but…”) is bound to sound weak. And weak politicians don’t generally make attractive candidates. But it appears at least one prominent Democratic strategist is thinking along the same lines.

The strategist is Paul Begala. In an interview with the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent, who has become the go-to source for insights into liberal political strategy, Begala gives Democrats some blunt advice: “We should flip the wording of how we talk about Obamacare. Open on offense, instead of defense.” That would mean starting the conversation by reminding voters what Republicans propose to take away—like guaranteed insurance, even for people with pre-existing conditions, and extra assistance on Medicare prescription drugs. One reason to think the argument might work is that it worked once before. In 2012, President Obama used a very similar set of arguments—and adopted a very similar posture—in his campaign against Mitt Romney. He attacked Romney and the Republicans relentlessly—pointing out that, if successful, repeal would mean more exposure to insurance company abuses and fewer people with insurance.

But the benefits of Obamacare are also a lot less hypothetical than they were when Obama was talking about them on the stump. People who could never get insurance have it for the first time. People who could barely afford premiums are getting financial help. People who had weak coverage, with major gaps, finally have comprehensive insurance. These are real constituencies, with stories that can resonate just as much as the ones on Fox News.

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On This Day:

Earl M. Bourdon Center, Claremont, NH, March 16, 2007

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President Obama has lunch with Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine in the Oval Office Private Dining Room, March 16, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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First Lady Michelle Obama hugs a young girl after she and local students planted in the White House Kitchen Garden on the South Lawn of the White House, March 16, 2011

March 16, 2011: The President meets with national security aides John Brennan, foreground, and Denis McDonough after talking on the phone with Prime Minister Naoto Kan of Japan a few days after the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The call was made near midnight from the Treaty Room office in the White House Residence. Most nights after dinner and time with his family, the President retreats to this office where he catches up on paperwork and reads his briefing material for the next day.” Photo by Pete Souza.

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First Lady Michelle Obama at the Air National Guard base in St. Paul, Minn. on March 16, 2012 for a roundtable discussion with military and other local community leaders dedicated to supporting military families

Neighbors and supporters wave to President Obama upon his arrival in an Atlanta, Ga., neighborhood for an event, March 16, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama greets neighbors and supporters upon his arrival to an Atlanta, Ga., neighborhood for an event, March 16, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

Audience members listen as President Obama delivers remarks at a reception in Atlanta, Ga., March 16, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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12
Mar
14

Rise and Shine

President Obama waits for a heavy rain to pass before crossing West Executive Avenue from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building to the West Wing of the White House, March 12, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (all times Eastern):

1:0: Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney

2:45: The President holds a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk; the Vice President also attends

4:0: First Lady Michelle Obama Speaks at a Special Screening of Disney’s Muppets Most Wanted

4:15: The President drops-by meeting with women Members of Congress, The Roosevelt Room

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Michael Hiltzik: New Data Show Obamacare Gaining Traction

The percentage of uninsured Americans is falling sharply, reaching 15.9% as of the end of February, according to Gallup. That’s the lowest rate the survey firm has measured since 2008. The greatest gains in insured status were shown by people earning less than $36,000 — a prime target for the act — and black Americans. Hispanics still lag. – The cost of health insurance and medical care came sharply down in January, according to number-crunchers at Goldman Sachs and the Commerce Department. Goldman Sachs attributed the slide to cuts in the reimbursement formulas for Medicare services, which are written into the law. The ACA is effectively putting more money in people’s pockets –

the Commerce Department estimated that the expansion of Medicaid benefits under the ACA amounted to $19.2 billion in January. – The grand total of Obamacare enrollees — including insurance exchanges, Medicaid members, and young persons kept on their parents plans — can be estimated as high as 13 million, according to independent statistician Charles Gaba, whose conclusions and methodology can be found here. The ACA is making increasingly deep inroads into the population of uninsured persons, not merely those who had insurance previously and have just switched over to exchange plans or Medicaid.

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Michael Hiltzik: High Deductibles And Obamacare Derangement Syndrome

We’ve remarked before on the tendency of businesses and others to use the Affordable Care Act as a scapegoat for changes in their healthcare benefits or in the healthcare landscape that have other causes — such as their own greed or long-term trends. Galen Benshoof, a guest contributor at theincidentaleconomist.com, identifies a good case of what we might call Obamacare derangement syndrome — the conviction that everything that happens in healthcare today must have been caused by the ACA. Benshoof’s example involves rising deductibles. His jumping-off point is a recent review of a book by Ezekiel Emanuel, one of the ACA’s architects, by David Goldhill in the Wall Street Journal.

Goldhill is a businessman who, judging from his earlier writings, is predisposed to expect the ACA to fail — in fact, prefers catastrophic coverage to almost all other forms of health insurance. In his review, Goldhill cites “the rapid spread of high-deductible insurance among employers and on the exchanges” as “one of the immediate unanticipated consequences of the ACA.” Benshoof calls him on this misstatement. The truth is that the rapid spread of “high-deductible” health plans (based on IRS regulations, that’s technically any plan with a deductible of $1,250 per person and $2,500 per family, or above) is very much an artifact of the pre-ACA healthcare landscape. Indeed, one of the goals of the ACA is to relieve the economic pressures that prompted employers to jack up deductibles on their employees toward this level every year.

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NYT: Titans In Russia Fear New Front In Ukraine Crisis

When Vladimir V. Putin returned to the Russian presidency in 2012, one of the first messages he sent to his political elite, many of them heads of banks and large corporations, was that the times had changed: Owning assets outside Russia makes you too vulnerable to moves by foreign governments, he told them. It is time to bring your wealth home. Nearly two years later, those words seem almost prophetic. After a week of escalating tensions between Russia and the United States, it has become clear that the conflict over Ukraine will move to the battlefield of finance. Those same business titans are now contemplating the damage that the crisis could inflict on Russia’s economy.

Financial sanctions, which the United States and the European Union have suggested they will impose if the conflict escalates, are intended to test the cohesion of the political system. Still, the prospect of losing access to Western finance is a frightening thought for Russian business leaders, whose voice in foreign policy decision-making is muted compared with the tight circle of Mr. Putin’s former K.G.B. colleagues, for whom economic factors may be secondary. Anxiety over possible economic fallout has begun to radiate from business circles, and some wondered whether Mr. Putin had been warned clearly about the magnitude of the possible damage to the economy. One analyst described their mind-set as one of “cognitive dissonance.”

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BBC: US Man Walks Free After 25 Years On Death Row

A man who spent more than 25 years on death row in the US state of Louisiana has walked free from prison after his murder conviction for the 1983 killing of a jeweller was overturned. Glenn Ford, 64, had been on death row since August 1988. He had been found guilty of killing 56-year-old Isadore Rozeman, a jeweller for whom Mr Ford occasionally worked. US media reports say that he is one of the longest-serving death row inmates in modern US history to be exonerated. Mr Ford had always denied killing Mr Rozeman. Asked by a reporter how he was feeling as he left the high security prison in Angola, Louisiana, Mr Ford said: “My mind is going in all kinds of directions but it feels good.”

He said that he did harbour some resentment because he had been locked up for almost 30 years “for something I didn’t do” and had lost years of his life. “Thirty years, 30 years of my life if not all of it. I can’t go back and do anything that I should’ve been doing when I was 35, 38 and 40 – stuff like that. My son when I left was a baby, now they’re grown men with babies.”  The many flaws in the case against Mr Ford have been listed by the US press: No murder weapon was ever found and there were no eyewitnesses to the crime Mr Ford was initially implicated in the killing by a woman who later testified she had lied Mr Ford’s original court-appointed lawyers had never tried a murder case. Mr Ford, a black man, was convicted by an all-white jury who recommended the death sentence

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NYT: Obama Will Seek Broad Expansion Of Overtime Pay

 President Obama this week will seek to force American businesses to pay more overtime to millions of workers, the latest move by his administration to confront corporations that have had soaring profits even as wages have stagnated.  On Thursday, the president will direct the Labor Department to revamp its regulations to require overtime pay for several million additional fast-food managers, loan officers, computer technicians and others whom many businesses currently classify as “executive or professional” employees to avoid paying them overtime, according to White House officials briefed on the announcement.  Under current federal regulations, workers who are deemed executive, administrative or professional employees can be denied overtime pay under a so-called white-collar exemption.

Under the new rules that Mr. Obama is seeking, fewer salaried employees could be blocked from receiving overtime, a move that would potentially shift billions of dollars’ worth of corporate income into the pockets of workers. Currently, employers are prohibited from denying time-and-a-half overtime pay to any salaried worker who makes less than $455 per week. Mr. Obama’s directive would significantly increase that salary level. In addition, Mr. Obama will try to change rules that allow employers to define which workers are exempt from receiving overtime based on the kind of work they perform. Under current rules, if an employer declares that an employee’s primary responsibility is executive, such as overseeing a cleanup crew, then that worker can be exempted from overtime.

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Yahoo: Ukraine Won’t Intervene In Crimea, President Says

Ukraine’s acting president said the country would not use its army to stop Crimea from seceding, the latest sign that a Russian annexation of the strategic peninsula may be imminent. Oleksandr Turchynov’s comments came after the Crimean parliament voted for independence ahead of a Sunday referendum on joining Russia, while Washington and Moscow locked horns in one of their fiercest clashes since the Cold War. The interim leader said intervening on the southeastern Black Sea peninsula, where Kremlin-backed forces have seized de facto control, would leave Ukraine exposed on its eastern border, close to Russia.

“We cannot launch a military operation in Crimea, as we would expose the eastern border and Ukraine would not be protected,” Turchynov told AFP. Describing the secession vote as a “sham”, he said: “What they call the referendum will not happen in Crimea but in the offices of the Kremlin.” The latest escalation in the crisis also saw Moscow lash out at Washington for promising “illegal” financial assistance to Kiev’s new leaders, who rose to power on the back of three months of deadly protests that toppled a Russia-friendly regime. Undeterred, the European Union announced trade breaks worth 500 million euros ($690 million) Tuesday that could ease Ukraine’s burden from restrictions that Russia has threatened in response to Kiev’s tilt toward the West.

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LA Times: Funny Thing Is, Barack Obama’s ‘Between Two Ferns’ Segment Works

Something historic happened in the early hours of Tuesday, March 11, 2014. The President of the United States was a guest on “Between Two Ferns With Zach Galifianakis,” a highly occasional semi-fake talk show that lives on the website Funny or Die.  Obama went to the Web to promote the Affordable Care Act to the people — the young people — who hang out there. The choice of “Between Two Ferns,” with its cable-access vibe, eight-bit graphics, halting pace and awkward, unprepared, inappropriate and antagonistic host seems an odd one, certainly, an unwelcoming or unseemly platform either for the president or his pitch. But that is part of what makes it funny. And being funny is what makes it good.

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Randy Ludlow: ‘Voters Bill Of Rights’ Gets One Step Closer To Ohio Ballot

Supporters of an effort to add an “Ohio Voters Bill of Rights” to the Ohio Constitution soon could begin collecting signatures in their bid to place the measure on the statewide ballot. The office of Attorney General Mike DeWine yesterday certified language for the petitions as acceptable after rejecting previous wording on Feb. 13. Black legislative leaders, clergy members and civil-rights advocates are behind the initiative, which would require gathering 385,247 valid petition signatures of registered voters by July 2 to make the Nov. 4 ballot.

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Time: G-7 Nations Won’t Recognize Crimea Referendum

The leaders of the G-7 countries issues a stern admonition Wednesday to Russia for its aggression in Ukraine, warning that it would not recognize the outcome of a referendum in Crimea and would take collective action if Russia moved to annex the region. Russia’s annexation of Crimea would be a violation of the United Nations charter, said the G-7 in a statement, as well as several treaties Russia is party to. Crimea’s referendum would be a “deeply flawed process” held under the intimidating presence of Russian troops, it said.

“In addition to its impact on the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, the annexation of Crimea could have grave implications for the legal order that protects the unity and sovereignty of all states,” said the G-7. “Should the Russian Federation take such a step, we will take further action, individually and collectively.”

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Fuel Fix: Judge Rejects BP Bid To Halt Gulf Spill Payments

BP’s bid to temporarily halt payments under its $9.2 billion oil-spill settlement so that heightened accounting and fraud safeguards can be established was rejected by a federal judge in New Orleans.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, in a three-sentence ruling Tuesday, denied BP’s request without an explanation. BP has said widespread fraud and a faulty interpretation of settlement terms have caused the claims administrator to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in unwarranted claims for damage from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the worst U.S. offshore spill.

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It’s good to be President

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Vanity Fair: The Game Of Thrones TV-Show Creator Already Know What Happens At The End Of The Book Series

Benioff and co-creator D. B. Weiss tell Windolf that the show has a lifespan, and they would like to wrap it up after seven or eight seasons. “It doesn’t just keep on going because it can,” Weiss says. “I think the desire to milk more out of it is what would eventually kill it, if we gave in to that.”

Windolf also asks Benioff and Weiss about the recent rumors that President Obama receives screeners of the show to watch before the general public. In an e-mail, they jointly reply, “One perk of being the most powerful man in the world: yes, you get to see episodes early.”

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Yes it is. Congratulations, GOP. Your Obama Derangement Syndrome is at full blast

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On This Day:

Sen. Barack Obama speaks during a news conference in Chicago on March 12, 2008

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President Obama looks through the Oval Office door peephole as his personal secretary Katie Johnson watches, March 12, 2009 (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

First Lady Michelle Obama speaks to soldiers and family members during a visit to the Iron Mike Dining Facility at Fort Bragg, N.C., March 12, 2009

President Obama arrives for the dedication of the Abraham Lincoln Hall at the National Defense University at Ft. McNair in Washington on March 12, 2009. Applauding are Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen

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President Obama has lunch with, from left: Lt. Gen. Doug Lute, Senior Director for Afghanistan and Pakistan; General John Allen, Commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan; National Security Advisor Tom Donilon; and Ryan Crocker, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, in the Oval Office Private Dining Room, March 12, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama talks with the 2011-2012 White House Fellows in the Oval Office, March 12, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama arrives at the U.S. Capitol to meet with members of the Senate Democratic Caucus, March 12, 2013




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