President Barack Obama announces his decision to reject the Keystone XL pipeline proposal. President Obama cited concerns about the impact on the environment, saying it would not serve the interests of the United States
President Barack Obama speaks while participating in a roundtable discussion on the impacts of climate change on public health with Vivek Murthy, U.S. surgeon general, left, Gina McCarthy, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), second from right, and Charlotte Wallace, sustainability coordinator at Anne Arundel Medical Center, third from right, at Howard University
I have no idea how much Starbucks pays their employees, but can you imagine having a job where you have to engage customers in conversations about race? You work two jobs just to keep a roof over your head and some billionaire with nothing to do sends down a fucking edict from on high forcing you to talk about something that he or she doesn’t have to worry about, let alone talk about.
@washingtonpost “There are three things in the world that deserve no mercy, hypocrisy, fraud, and tyranny.”
LOL. Ludacris was receiving recognition for his charity work and Jeb Bush tried to use him to look cool. After everything Luda has said, Jeb doesn’t seem to get it into his mind that he doesn’t like the Bush politicians
1. The private sector has added 10 million jobs over 54 straight months of job growth, extending the longest streak on record. Today we learned that total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 142,000 in August, mainly reflecting a 134,000 increase in private employment. Private-sector job growth was revised up for July and down for June for little total revisions. Over the past twelve months, private employment has risen by a total of 2.4 million.
3. The last time the economy added 10 million private-sector jobs over four-and-a-half years was November 1996 to April 2001. There are some notable differences between the current stretch of job gains and the one that began in 1996. In particular, the manufacturing sector has added more than 700,000 jobs over the last four-and-a-half years, while it lost more than 400,000 jobs during the 1996-2001 period. 4. On a not-seasonally-adjusted basis, local government educational services employment rose by more than 200,000 in August, continuing a recent trend that has seen an increasing number of these employees return to work before September.
MarketWatch: U.S. Manufacturers Surge Again In August, ISM Finds
U.S. manufacturing companies grew in August at the fastest pace since March 2011, a survey of executives found. The Institute for Supply Management said its manufacturing index climbed to 59% last month from 57.1% in July. That easily beat the 56.1% forecast of economists surveyed by MarketWatch. Readings over 50% indicate more companies are expanding instead of shrinking.
Bloomberg: Chrysler Luring Toyota Owners Helps Lift U.S. Share
Chrysler is on an unprecedented winning streak. As Jeep benefits from consumers’ renewed attraction to SUVs, the company also has been aided by strong demand for Ram pickups and Town & Country minivans. That helped propel its U.S. sales up 12 percent last month, the largest increase of any major automaker, according to the average of eight analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg. That would be Chrysler’s 53rd straight month of rising sales — about 4 1/2 years — after almost being given up for dead before its government-sponsored bankruptcy in 2009.
Bloomberg: Saudi Arabia Oil Sales To U.S. Imperiled By Shale Boom
After years of keeping the price of crude sold to the U.S. low enough to maintain market share, Saudi Arabia is losing ground as the shale boom leaves U.S. refiners with ample supplies of inexpensive domestic oil. Arab Light crude for sale in the U.S. averaged 48 cents a barrel less than Light Louisiana Sweet, a Gulf Coast benchmark, in August, the narrowest discount in data compiled by Bloomberg back to 1991.
The U.S. imported 878,000 barrels of Saudi crude a day in the first four weeks of August, the least since 2009. Shale drilling has boosted U.S. oil output to the highest level since 1986. As refineries turn to lower-priced domestic oil to make fuel at a record pace, the Saudis and other foreign suppliers are left with dwindling slices of the market. In June, imports from Saudi Arabia accounted for the smallest share of crude processed at U.S. refineries since February 2010.
Jeffry Bartash: U.S. Factory Orders Jump 10.5% In July On Aircraft Contracts
Orders for goods produced in U.S. factories leaped 10.5% higher in July, as expected, owing to a big surge in contracts for commercial aircraft, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had expected orders to climb nearly 11%. Factory orders also rose by a revised 1.5% in June instead of 1.1% as initially reported.
On This Day: President Obama reacts to a picture presented to him of a younger Robert Gibbs, who played soccer at North Carolina State, following a town hall meeting at Broughton High School in Raleigh, N.C. on July 29, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
• • •
Today (All Times Eastern)
11:15: The President meets with a group of House Democrats on economic issues, Roosevelt Room
12:0: White House press briefing
3:0: The President departs White House
3:25: Meets with wounded service members, Walter Reed Hospital
Reuters: Table For Five: Obama To Dine With Kansas City Penpals
Valerie, a single mom from Kansas City, Missouri, who owns a small business, wrote to President Barack Obama last week “in the middle of the night,” describing just how hard she works.
On Tuesday, she will get the chance to tell Obama in person as one of four people the president dines with in a visit to the midwestern city – part of a summertime White House campaign to rouse Democratic voters ahead of November midterm elections.
“Are you serious?” said Valerie – whose last name was not provided – to Josh Earnest, Obama’s press secretary, who phoned her to invite her to the dinner.
“Oh my God! I would love it!” she told Earnest in a video made by the White House.
Jesse Rosenfeld: Israel Creates ‘No Man’s Land’ In Gaza, Shrinking Strip By 40 Percent
To protect itself from Hamas rockets and tunnels, Israel is forcing tens of thousands of people out of their homes, turning their old neighborhoods into a no-man’s land.
BEIT HANOUN, Gaza — This narrow strip of land that used to be called “the Gaza Strip,” already one of the more densely populated places on earth, is growing dramatically smaller. The Israeli military, relentlessly and methodically, is driving people out of the three-kilometer (1.8 mile) buffer zone it says it needs to protect against Hamas rockets and tunnels. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the buffer zone eats up about 44 percent of Gaza’s territory.
What that means on the ground is scenes of extraordinary devastation in places like the Al Shajaya district approaching Gaza’s eastern frontier, and Beit Hanoun in the north. These were crowded neighborhoods less than three weeks ago. Now they have been literally depopulated, the residents joining more than 160,000 internally displaced people in refuges and makeshift shelters. Apartment blocks are fields of rubble, and as I move through this hostile landscape the phrase that keeps ringing in my head is “scorched earth.”
Michael Hiltzik: Here’s The Single Best Analysis Of The Halbig Anti-Obamacare Ruling
Northwestern University law and political science professor Andrew Koppelman moves past the absurd legal theory underlying the Halbig ruling on the Affordable Care Act — in which a federal appeals court invalidated subsidies provided to insurance buyers on federal, as opposed to state, insurance exchanges — to ask why the lawsuit’s backers brought the case in the first place. We know the consequences of the ruling: If it stands, about 4.8 million Americans will lose their subsidies and likely their health insurance, since it would be rendered unaffordable; there are residents of as many as 36 states that let the federal government establish their exchanges.
Are 4.8 million Americans losing their health insurance ‘collateral damage’? The Halbig lawyers don’t care: http://t.co/49zRzXG8YZ
But is that what the plaintiffs and their backers really desired? And if not, what was their real goal? Koppelman’s conclusion is that the lawsuit is a product of the “moral dysfunction” infecting the fight over Obamacare. “The opponents of Obamacare,” he writes in the New Republic, “have from the beginning found themselves driven by the logic of their position to make arguments that are increasingly morally repulsive.” In this case and others aimed at overturning the ACA, he writes, the argument is that “if you get sick and you can’t pay for it, that’s your tough luck.” Koppelman doesn’t think the plaintiffs really believe that. He thinks they’re merely out to make a narrow ideological point about government responsibility, and the 4.8 million possible victims of their campaign are merely collateral damage.
Business Insider: Israel Grants First Golan Heights Oil Drilling License To Dick Cheney-Linked Company
Israel has granted a U.S. company the first license to explore for oil and gas in the occupied Golan Heights, John Reed of the Financial Times reports.
A local subsidiary of the New York-listed company Genie Energy — which is advised by former vice president Dick Cheney and whose shareholders include Jacob Rothschild and Rupert Murdoch — will now have exclusive rights to a 153-square mile radius in the southern part of the Golan Heights.
That geographic location will likely prove controversial. Israel seized the Golan Heights in the Six-Day War in 1967 and annexed the territory in 1981. Its administration of the area — which is not recognized by international law — has been mostly peaceful until the Syrian civil war broke out 23 months ago.
Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban was ruled unconstitutional on Monday in the first such decision by a federal appellate court in the South. “We recognize that same-sex marriage makes some people deeply uncomfortable. However, inertia and apprehension are not legitimate bases for denying same-sex couples due process and equal protection of the laws,” Judge Henry F. Floyd wrote. The 2-1 ruling applies throughout the circuit that also includes West Virginia, Maryland, and the Carolinas, where the attorneys general split Monday on what they’ll do next. Virginians voted 57 percent to 43 percent in 2006 to amend their constitution to ban gay marriage.
Virginia laws prohibit recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states. Floyd said such measures “impermissibly infringe on its citizens’ fundamental right to marry.” The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond is the second federal appellate court to overturn gay marriage bans, and the first to affect the South, a region where the rising tide of rulings favoring marriage equality is testing concepts of states’ rights that have long held sway. Gay marriage proponents have won more than 20 legal decisions around the country since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act last year. Most are still under appeal. More than 70 cases have been filed in all 31 states that prohibit same-sex marriage. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia allow such marriages.
CNBC: US Confidence Jumps In July As Consumers See Better Days Ahead
Consumers grew more confident about the economy in July, The Conference Board reported on Tuesday, with stock markets perched near record highs and expectations building for the recovery. The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index rose to 90.9, higher than expectations and above the prior month’s showing of 86.4. That was the component’s highest since October 2007.
President Obama eats a peach following a town hall meeting at Kroger’s Supermarket in Bristol, Va. on July 29, 2009. Seconds later, the President handed a dollar bill to the CEO of Kroger’s, who attended the event (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama listens to a question at a town hall meeting at Broughton High School in Raleigh, N.C. on July 29, 2009 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
The hands of U.S. Secret Service agents as President Obama shakes hands along a rope line following a health care town hall meeting at Broughton High School in Raleigh, N.C on July 29, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
• • •
Crime victim Lisa Marie Iyotte gets emotional while introducing President Obama before he signed the Tribal Law and Order Act during a ceremony in the East Room at the White House, on July 29, 2010
• • •
First Lady Michelle Obama greets U.S. military families at Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England, July 29, 2012
• • •
President Obama greets former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Outer Oval Office, July 29, 2013 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
President Obama has lunch with former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on the patio outside the Oval Office, July 29, 2013 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
President Obama meets with Secretary of State John Kerry in the Oval Office, July 29, 2013 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
On This Day: President Obama greets departing Associate Counsel to the President Alison J. “Ali” Nathan, left, Meg Satterthwaite, and their twin sons Oliver and Nathan, in the Outer Oval Office, July 7, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Today (All Times Eastern)
11:30: Josh Earnest briefs the press
12:10: The President hosts a group of teachers for lunch
The Week Ahead
Tuesday: The President will welcome NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen to the White House, ahead of the NATO summit in Wales this September. In the evening, he will depart for Denver, Colorado, where he’ll spend the night.
Wednesday: In Denver, the President will attend a DSCC fundraising event. He will then travel to the Dallas, Texas area for a DCCC event. In the evening, he will travel to Austin, Texas, where he’ll attend a DNC event and remain overnight.
Thursday: While in Austin, the President will attend a DNC event, and will deliver remarks on the economy, before returning to the White House.
Friday: The President will attend meetings at the White House.
American auto industry added 463,100 jobs over 5 yrs; best growth since 90s. June also best auto sales since '06. http://t.co/EZWR5wKuvO
the Labor Department released the employment figures for June, and the jobs numbers blasted through market predictions. June saw an addition of 288,000 jobs, compared to the 215,000 predicted by analysts. The unemployment rate fell to 6.1%, the lowest since before the beginning of the Bush economic collapse in September of 2008 – that’s a 1.4 percentage point drop in the last 12 months, the sharpest decline in nearly 30 years. The economy under President Obama’s leadership – and despite the Great Wall of Republican obstructionism – is not only showing signs of completing recovery from the worst economic calamity in American history save for the Great Depression,
it is now showing signs of coming back to the life it had before the previous administration began to mess with it. June marks 52 straight months of private sector job growth, the longest ever on record, beating out Bill Clinton’s record of 51 continuous months of private sector job growth from February 1996 to April 2000. The economy has added more than 200,000 jobs for five months in a row now, the longest such streak since 1999. In the first half of this year alone the economy has added 1.4 million jobs, another accomplishment not seen since 1999.
First ladies typically avoid getting into public scraps, but Michelle Obama has jumped into perhaps her biggest battle yet. She’s fighting a House Republican effort to soften a central part of her prized anti-childhood obesity campaign and says she’s ready “to fight until the bitter end.” Mrs. Obama even mocked the GOP effort in an opinion column and argued her case on Twitter. “Remember a few years ago when Congress declared that the sauce on a slice of pizza should count as a vegetable in school lunches?” she wrote in The New York Times. “You don’t have to be a nutritionist to know that this doesn’t make much sense. Yet we’re seeing the same thing happening again with these new efforts to lower nutrition standards in our schools.” Mrs. Obama lobbied largely behind the scenes four years ago for the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which requires more fruit, vegetables and whole grains in school meals, along with less sodium, sugar and fat.
It was a major achievement, the first update to school lunch rules in decades designed to make school meals more nutritious. Mrs. Obama says the requirements are based on sound science and that 90 percent of schools are meeting them. The association says districts are unprepared to meet the newest standards. “I’m going to fight until the bitter end to make sure that every kid in this country continues to have the best nutrition that they can have in our schools,” the first lady said at a White House event where she showcased elementary school students preparing and then eating a salad lunch using vegetables they had planted in her garden on the South Lawn. The White House has threatened to veto the House bill. The Senate version does not include the one-year waiver.
Sally Kohn: Dear Speaker Boehner: Do Your Job Instead
President Theodore Roosevelt enacted 1,081 executive orders during his presidency. President Dwight Eisenhower had 484. President Ronald Reagan had 381. And President George W. Bush had 291. President Barack Obama has enacted 182 executive orders — yet the GOP accuses him of being an “imperial president,” and Republican members of the House of Representatives are preparing to sue him for violating the Constitution. With all due respect, Speaker Boehner, it’s as though the fog of extreme partisanship that has colored your dealings with President Obama since day one has suddenly turned into a full-on fever of irrationality. Think about this for just a second: House Republicans are using taxpayer dollars to fund a lawsuit against a President who has literally done not only what every president before him has done but has done it less often and is doing so now only because
House Republicans repeatedly refuse to even vote on legislation, let alone pass anything. And you have the gall to accuse the President of being the one in violation of the Constitution? Even more frustrating is how your repeated attacks on the President fall factually flat. In your essay for CNN, you write: “After years of slow economic growth and high unemployment under President Obama, they are still asking, ‘where are the jobs?’ ” This is a particularly laughable assertion given last week’s jobs report, which noted our economy added 288,000 jobs in June, marking 52 straight months of continuous job growth. Overall, under President Obama’s leadership, the private sector has added 9.7 million jobs and an economy that was in free fall when he was elected is now in a steady recovery.
Matt Apuzzo: Students Joining Battle To Upend Laws On Voter ID
Civil rights groups have spent a decade fighting requirements that voters show photo identification, arguing that this discriminates against African-Americans, Hispanics and the poor. This week in a North Carolina courtroom, another group will make its case that such laws are discriminatory: college students. Joining a challenge to a state law alongside the N.A.A.C.P., the American Civil Liberties Union and the Justice Department, lawyers for seven college students and three voter-registration advocates are making the novel constitutional argument that the law violates the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age to 18 from 21. The amendment also declares that the right to vote “shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of age.” Over the past decade, Republicans have campaigned to tighten rules for voters, including requirements for photo ID, in the name of preventing fraud. Democrats have countered that the real purpose of those laws is to make voting more difficult for people who are likely to vote Democratic.
In Ohio, legislators proposed a law that would have cost colleges millions of dollars for helping out-of-state students vote locally. The measure died amid criticism from state schools. In Maine, the Republican attorney general — at the behest of the state party chairman — investigated 200 students for fraud. After finding no evidence, he sent the students a letter warning them to register their cars in Maine or to cancel their voter registrations. In Texas, voters must show a photo ID. A state handgun license qualifies, but a state university identification card does not. North Carolina students have also complained of government efforts, distinct from the new voting law, to shut down voting sites at Appalachian State University and Winston-Salem State University.
Philip Rucker: Bloomberg’s Gun Group To Start 2014 Midterms Strategy By Surveying Candidates
The gun-control group founded by former New York mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (I) will begin surveying all federal candidates in the 2014 midterm elections on gun issues Monday as it tries to become a political counterweight to the National Rifle Association. Bloomberg’s group, Everytown for Gun Safety, is asking all Senate and House incumbents and candidates to complete a 10-part questionnaire stating publicly where they stand on issues such as expanding background checks for gun buyers, limiting the capacity of ammunition magazines and toughening gun-trafficking statutes.
Bloomberg has since started the new group, Everytown, merging the mayors coalition and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Everytown’s goal is to create a grass-roots movement to pressure not only Congress but also state legislatures. It is using data-driven organizing techniques from Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns to expand its network of supporters, which now totals nearly 2 million.
Grant Smith: U.S. Seen As Biggest Oil Producer After Overtaking Saudi Arabia
The U.S. will remain the world’s biggest oil producer this year after overtaking Saudi Arabia and Russia as extraction of energy from shale rock spurs the nation’s economic recovery, Bank of America Corp. said. U.S. production of crude oil, along with liquids separated from natural gas, surpassed all other countries this year with daily output exceeding 11 million barrels in the first quarter, the bank said in a report today. The country became the world’s largest natural gas producer in 2010. The International Energy Agency said in June that the U.S. was the biggest producer of oil and natural gas liquids.
“The U.S. increase in supply is a very meaningful chunk of oil,” Francisco Blanch, the bank’s head of commodities research, said by phone from New York. “The shale boom is playing a key role in the U.S. recovery. If the U.S. didn’t have this energy supply, prices at the pump would be completely unaffordable.” Oil extraction is soaring at shale formations in Texas and North Dakota as companies split rocks using high-pressure liquid, a process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The surge in supply combined with restrictions on exporting crude is curbing the price of West Texas Intermediate, America’s oil benchmark.
NBC News: Pope Francis Meets Abuse Victims, Begs Forgiveness For Church
Pope Francis begged forgiveness for the Church on Monday and cited the need for “reparation” as he met with victims who had suffered at the hands of Roman Catholic priests. The pontiff invited six victims of abuse from Ireland, Germany and Britain to attend an early-morning private Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the residence next to St. Peter’s Basilica where he lives. Francis called the abuse a “grave sin” decrying how it was hidden for “so much time” and “camouflaged with a complicity that cannot be explained.” “I ask for the grace to weep, the grace for the Church to weep and make reparation for her sons and daughters who betrayed their mission, who abused innocent persons,” the pope said in his homily. “I beg your forgiveness, too, for the sins of omission on the part of Church leaders who did not respond adequately to reports of abuse.”
NEW: Pope Francis meets abuse victims, begs forgiveness for sins of omission on part of Church leaders nbcnews.to/1r2MGb9
He said abusive priests’ actions “profane the very image of God” and are “more than despicable.” Francis strongly praised the victims’ courage in speaking up and shedding “light on a terrible darkness,” telling the mass he is deeply aware of their deep and unrelenting pain. The pope then met privately with the victims, spending at least half an hour with each. While Francis’ predecessor met with abuse victims several times during his pontificate, this was the first time a pope had received victims inside the Vatican. The meeting was first announced by the pope on his flight back from a visit to the Holy Land, when Francis noted called child sex abuse “very serious” and “like celebrating a satanic mass.”
The Denver Post: Colorado Claims Contraceptive Program Caused Big Drop In Teen Birth Rates
A state health initiative to reduce teen birth rates by providing more than 30,000 contraceptive devices at low or no cost has led to a 40 percent drop in five years, Gov. John Hickenlooper said Thursday. The Colorado Family Planning Initiative, funded by a private anonymous donor for five years, has provided intrauterine devices and other implants to low-income women at 68 family-planning clinics across Colorado since 2009. The clinics are in local health departments, hospitals and private nonprofit facilities. The program also provided training and technical assistance to family planning clinics statewide. “When families are planned and women have children when they’re ready and want them … it’s really a better situation for everyone,” Hickenlooper said during his state Capitol news conference. Seven of every 10 teen pregnancies in Colorado are unintended, officials said.
The decline in births among girls 15 to 19 years old served by the program accounted for three-quarters of the overall decline in the Colorado teen birth rate, the state said in a news release. That rate has fallen from 37 births per 1,000 girls in 2009 to 22 in 2013, officials said. The teen abortion rate dropped 35 percent from 2009 to 2012 in those counties where the initiative is in place, Hickenlooper said. The family-planning program has saved $5.68 in Medicaid costs for every dollar spent on the contraceptives, the state said. The state has saved millions in health care expenditures — $42.5 million in public funds in 2010 alone based on the latest available data.
On This Day: President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama talk backstage before an event for the “United We Serve” service project with at Fort McNair in Washington DC, June 25, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Today (All Times Eastern)
10:45: The President meets with HHS Secretary Burwell
11:45: Meets with Israeli President Shimon Peres, drops by a meeting with American Jewish leaders, Roosevelt Room
12:20: Lunch with Israeli President Peres
12:35: Josh Earnest briefs the press
1:25: The President meets with Israeli President Peres
2:55: Honors NASCAR Champion Jimmie Johnson, East Room
5:0: Meets with Senate Democrats, The State Floor
7:10: Delivers remarks to the League of Conservation Voters, Ronald Reagan Building
Spandan Chakrabati: Putin Completes Surrender To Obama: Syria Disarms, Russia Backing Off Ukraine
Yesterday, weapons inspectors confirmed that Syria handed over all declared chemical and biological weapons to an international inspection team for destruction, completing a major foreign policy coup for the Obama administration (or in the media version, a triumph for Vladimir Putin in a negotiation over Syria where Obama got everything and Putin got nothing) – disarming a middle eastern power of its weapons of mass destruction in the midst of a civil war without firing a single shot. ISIS – the Islamic militant group that is gaining ground in Iraq – many Americans will be surprised to learn stands for Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Incidentally, these were the same rebels McCain was urging US arms in Syria. The same media couldn’t get enough the “weak black guy” narrative then. But now that his strategy of strength, fairness and diplomacy has born major fruit? Nary a peep.
Russian lawmakers rescind resolution allowing the use of military in Ukraine on Vladimir Putin’s request: yhoo.it/1yMTQVt
Vladimir Putin has formally asked the upper house of the Russian parliament to rescind their March 1 authorization for Putin to attack Ukraine. President Obama spoke with Putin on this matter just yesterday. Putin is backing off, with his tail between his legs. This yet another crowning foreign policy achievement for this president. Ending two wars. Securing the world’s loose nukes. Killing Osama bin Laden. Bringing the last American POW home. Disarming a middle-eastern madman without firing so much as a water balloon. Dashing Putin’s hope of a new Soviet empire. If this were any other president – let me clarify, if this were any white president – the work of carving their face on Mount Rushmore would have already begun.
With an unusual assist from African-American voters and other Democrats who feared his opponent, Senator Thad Cochran on Tuesday beat back a spirited challenge from State Senator Chris McDaniel, triumphing in a Republican runoff and defeating the Tea Party in the state where the movement’s hopes were bright. “We all have a right to be proud of our state tonight,” Mr. Cochran said at his victory party in Jackson, Miss. “This is your victory.”
Mr. McDaniel, speaking in Hattiesburg, was angry, and he did not hesitate to say so. “There is something a bit strange, there is something a bit unusual about a Republican primary that’s decided by liberal Democrats,” he said. He accused Mr. Cochran of abandoning the conservative movement. “So much for principles,” he said. The 76-year-old senator ran a largely sleepy campaign until the primary on June 3, when he was edged out by Mr. McDaniel but won enough votes to keep his opponent from outright victory. Mr. Cochran, who is seeking his seventh term, used the past three weeks to turn out Democratic voters — especially African-Americans — to make up that deficit.
BBC: Iraq PM Nouri Maliki Rejects Calls For Unity Government
Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has rejected calls for a national salvation government to help counter the offensive by jihadist-led Sunni rebels. Such calls represented a “coup against the constitution and an attempt to end the democratic experience”, he warned. The US has led appeals to the country’s political leaders to rise above sectarian and ethnic divisions. Government forces have been unable to recapture the territory seized by the rebels this month. Almost half of the 300 US military advisers assigned to help the Iraqi security forces have arrived and are to start work on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the crisis in Iraq is being discussed by Nato leaders meeting in Brussels. They have been joined by US Secretary of State John Kerry, who has just returned from a two-day visit to Baghdad and Irbil.
In his weekly televised address, Mr Maliki called on “all political forces to reconcile” in the face of a “fierce terrorist onslaught”. But the Shia prime minister gave no promise of greater representation in government for the minority Sunni Arab community, whose anger at what they say are his sectarian and authoritarian policies has been exploited by jihadist militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis). Mr Maliki said forming an emergency administration that included all religious and ethnic groups would go against the results of April’s parliamentary elections, which were won by his State of Law alliance. “The dangerous goals of forming a national salvation government are not hidden,” he said. “It is an attempt by those who are against the constitution to eliminate the young democratic process and steal the votes of the voters.”
Ari Berman: Fifty Years After Freedom Summer, The Voting Rights Act Is Needed More Than Ever
Fifty years ago, Andrew Goodman, a 20-year-old anthropology major at Queens College, went down to Mississippi for Freedom Summer. His first stop was Philadelphia, Mississippi, where he and Mickey Schwerner, a 24-year-old graduate student in social work at Columbia University, and James Chaney, a 21-year-old volunteer with the Congress for Racial Equality from Meridian, Mississippi, were sent to investigate a church burning. Schwerner and Chaney had spoken at Mount Zion Methodist Church over Memorial Day, urging local blacks to register to vote. On June 21, 1964, the young civil rights activists were arrested by the Neshoba County police and then abducted by the Klan. Their bodies were found forty-four days later in an earthen dam. Goodman and Schwerner, both white, had been shot once. Chaney, who was African-American, had been mutilated beyond recognition. The fiftieth anniversary of Freedom Summer happens to coincide with the first anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder, where the Supreme Court’s conservative majority invalidated Section 4 of the VRA on June 25, 2013. As a result, states like Mississippi, with the worst history of voting discrimination, no longer have to clear their voting changes with the federal government.
Since the 2010 election, twenty-two states have passed new voting restrictions, according to the Brennan Center. This includes requiring strict voter ID to cast a ballot, cutting early voting, making it harder to register to vote and rescinding voting rights for non-violent ex-felons. New restrictions will be in place for the first time in fifteen states in the 2014 election. All across the country, we’re seeing the most significant push to restrict voting rights since Reconstruction. Partisanship is a strong motivating factor for the voting changes—GOP legislatures or governors enacted eighteen of the twenty-two new restrictions. So is race. According to the Brennan Center: “Of the 11 states with the highest African-American turnout in 2008, 7 have new restrictions in place. Of the 12 states with the largest Hispanic population growth between 2000 and 2010, 9 passed laws making it harder to vote.”
The wreckage of a Ukrainian helicopter downed near Sloviansk on Tuesday
BBC: West Warns Russia Of Sanctions Amid Ukraine Fighting
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in Berlin that new sanctions could be applied if efforts to stabilise the situation were not speeded up. UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said inaction by Russia would mean a stronger case for sanctions. President Petro Poroshenko warned he might end the truce due to violations. However, his foreign minister, Pavlo Klimkin, told reporters at a Nato meeting in Brussels on Wednesday that Ukraine would “stick to our unilateral ceasefire”. The ceasefire began on Friday. On Tuesday, a Ukrainian military helicopter was shot down with the loss of nine lives. There was also fighting overnight near the Russian border in Luhansk region. The Ukrainian military accused the rebels on Wednesday of breaking the ceasefire 44 times since it began. A separatist leader said there had “been no ceasefire”.
Putin demands upper house of Russian parliament to cancel resolution allowing use of military in Ukraine yhoo.it/1v5huYp
The truce is part of Ukraine’s plan to end two months of fighting between government troops and pro-Russian insurgents who control key buildings in towns and cities across the east. More than 420 people have been killed in the region since mid-April, the UN estimates. Mrs Merkel welcomed the surprise decision by Russian President Vladimir Putin to cancel a parliamentary resolution authorising him to use Russian forces in Ukraine. The cancellation was ratified by Russia’s upper house of parliament on Wednesday. While Mrs Merkel said the decision was “psychologically important”, she told German parliament that Ukrainian soldiers continued to die. “Progress is slow… Diplomatic solutions are always preferable but if nothing else works, sanctions can be put back on the agenda,” she said.
The U.S. economy shrank in the first quarter of the year, and new revisions by the Bureau of Economic Analysis show the decline was even deeper than reported. Gross domestic product — the broadest measure of economic growth — contracted at a 2.9% annual rate in January through March. That’s the weakest quarter for the U.S. economy since the first quarter of 2009, amid the Great Recession. But economists aren’t too worried, for three key reasons. 1) They blame the weather: Much of the downturn was due to a brutal winter. Blizzards slowed shipments both domestically and abroad and kept consumers away from shopping malls, car lots and open houses more than usual this winter.
2) It’s not a final number: Some economists take this GDP number with a grain of salt because it will be revised again next month when the Bureau of Economic Analysis makes historical revisions. 3) Last, but certainly not least, other data show the economy is improving. Hiring slowed in December, but it has since picked up again. In the last five months, the economy added 1.1 million jobs. Hiring at that level is consistent with an economy that is growing modestly around 2% to 3% a year — not an economy that is contracting.
NYT: Iran Secretly Sending Drones And Supplies Into Iraq, U.S. Officials Say
Iran is flying unarmed surveillance drones over Iraq from an airfield in Baghdad and is secretly supplying Iraq with tons of military equipment, supplies and other assistance, American officials said. Tehran has also deployed a unit there to intercept communications, the officials said. The secret Iranian programs are part of a broader effort by Tehran to gather intelligence and help Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s government in its struggle against Sunni militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the head of Iran’s paramilitary Quds Force, has paid at least two visits to Iraq to help Iraqi military advisers plot strategy. And Iran has deployed about a dozen other Quds Force officers to advise Iraqi commanders, and help mobilize more than 2,000 Iraqi Shiite militia members from the country’s south, American officials said. Iranian transport planes have also been making two daily flights of military equipment and supplies to Baghdad — 70 tons per flight — for Iraqi security forces.
Nigel Duara: Judge: People On No-Fly List Must Have Due Process
When it comes to its no-fly list, the U.S. government has a choice to make. More than a dozen Muslims sued after learning they were likely on the list — something the government still won’t confirm — and they found their only recourse was to fill out an online appeal form. Then on Tuesday, a federal judge in Oregon ruled that the Department of Homeland Security must give people a better avenue to pursue a claim that they were wrongly put on the list. Now, the government can seek some way around U.S. District Judge Anna Brown’s order. Or, they can do what she asked. But Brown didn’t want to dictate the rules. In fact, federal prosecutors specifically told her in court, “We urge you not to take over the policymaking.”
Instead, Brown set out a handful of guidelines that were issued by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in an unrelated case. She said the government must tell people what unclassified information was used to put them on the list. And if the information’s classified, at least tell them the nature and extent of it. She said it shouldn’t leave people without an option to challenge their status or make blanket rulings that ignore the specifics of people’s lives. “The (challenge) process falls far short of satisfying the requirements of due process,” Brown wrote in her ruling Tuesday. U.S. Justice Department spokeswoman Dena Iverson said government attorneys were reviewing the decision.
Philip Klein: Health Care Spending Actually Shrunk 1.4 Percent In First Quarter Of Obamacare, BEA Says
Health care spending actually shrunk 1.4 percent during the first quarter of the year, the Bureau of Economic Analysis now says, after previously saying it soared 9.1 percent — a massive revision that will shake up the debate over how President Obama’s health care law is affecting medical spending. To give an idea of the magnitude of the swing, the 9.1 percent growth rate would have been the fastest growth in health spending since 1980,
and now the BEA says it actually shrunk more than any quarter since the first quarter of 1982 — or 32 years. The revised data suggest medical spending slowed despite the expansion of coverage. So what explains the revision? The short and easy answer is that BEA gained access to more data.
Pretty much everyone was stunned to see Q1 GDP growth slashed to -2.9% from an earlier estimate of -1.0%.
The revision largely boils down to one thing: healthcare spending. “Two thirds of the revision is in consumption, cut to +1.0% from +3.1%,” said Pantheon Macroeconomics Ian Shepherdson. “Almost all of this huge hit is in the healthcare services component, cut to -1.4% from +9.1%.” According to the BEA, healthcare spending went from adding 1.01 percentage points to subtracting 0.16 from the headline GDP growth number. “So much for the BEA’s initial view that the start of Obamacare triggered a surge in spending on healthcare,” said Shepherdon.
Most economists and strategists are brushing this off. First of all, it reflects activity from Q1, which ended in March. Second, the bulk of the more recent data has been positive. “If GDP were truly so weak, we would not expect aggregate hours worked to climb 3.7% annualized through May, jobless claims to remain near cycle lows, consumer confidence to hit a cycle high, industrial production to climb 5.0% at an annual rate over the first five months of the year, core capital goods orders to be up 5.8%, ISM to be above 55, and vehicle sales to hit their strongest annualized selling pace for the year,” said Renaissance Macro’s Neil Dutta. “GDP is the outlier in these data points. I will roll my eyes and move on. Most of the data we just mentioned is consistent with underlying growth over 3.0%.”
Steve LeVine: How A US Decision To Allow Oil Exports Could Change The World’s Energy Balance
The Obama Administration has taken a bold step toward loosening the grip of tense geopolitics on oil prices, reports the Wall Street Journal (paywall), giving the first permission in four decades for the export of unrefined American oil. The decision—not made public but announced in the form of private letters from the US Commerce Department to two oil companies, according to the paper–seems certain to cause a stir in global oil markets and perhaps send prices lower. Global oil prices have surged because of the political turmoil in the Middle East and Africa–the march of Islamic militants in Iraq, the stoppage of oil exports from Libya, and the broad turbulence in Nigeria.
The US decision allows two Texas companies—Pioneer Natural Resources and Enterprise Products Partners—to export a form of extremely light oil called condensate. The Journal’s report does not provide the volume. US condensate production in 2012, the last year provided by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), was about 250,000 barrels a day. That is not much, relatively speaking, but the exports could have a dramatic impact if the Commerce Department provides a broader definition of what counts as condensate for export purposes.
President Obama meets with members of Congress for a roundtable discussion about immigration reform, June 25, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama with actress Reese Witherspoon in the Oval Office on June 25, 2009. The president was also joined by actors Paul Rudd and Jake Gyllenhaal; they are filming a movie in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama cheers on a child attempting to dunk Press Secretarty Robert Gibbs at the Congressional Luau on the South Lawn of the White House, June 25, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama shakes hands with attendees of the Congressional Luau on the South Lawn of the White House, June 25, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama laughs as First Lady Michelle Obama does a little dance while making remarks during a United We Serve event at Fort McNair June 25, 2009
President Obama talks with Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, before a meeting with African Outreach Leaders at the G8 Summit in Muskoka, Canada, June 25, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama greets guests before an event at Oyster River High School in Durham, N.H., June 25, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama eats a hot fudge sundae as he talks with patrons at the UNH Dairy Bar on the University of New Hampshire campus in Durham, N.H., June 25, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama waves to the audience after delivering remarks at Symphony Hall in Boston, Mass., June 25, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama’s signature on the health insurance reform bill at the White House, March 23, 2010. The President signed the bill with 22 different pens (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
8:50 PM EST: President Obama departs the White House
9:05: Departs Joint Base Andrews
The Week Ahead:
Amy Lynn Smith: Student Celebrates The ACA’s 4th Birthday With The Gift Of Coverage For $5.23/Month
On March 23, 2014, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) celebrates its fourth anniversary of being signed into law. Also known as Obamacare, the law has helped millions of Americans obtain affordable, quality coverage — many for the first time. Andreea Prundeanu, a 29-year-old doctoral candidate at Michigan State University in Lansing, is one of them. Concern about getting sick weighed heavily on her as she was working hard toward her future. She was uninsured for three years after she turned 26 and could no longer stay on her parents’ plan. Prundeanu enrolled in a Silver-level plan through Healthcare.gov. Because of her low income as a student, she was eligible for financial assistance — and now pays just $5.23 a month for coverage.
Vice President Joe Biden called employers’ ability in some states to fire employees because of their sexuality “barbaric” and “bizarre” during a keynote address at the Human Rights Campaign Gala dinner Saturday. “Hate can never be defended because it’s a so-called cultural norm,” he said. “I’ve had it up to here with cultural norms.” He called on Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, which would outlaw discrimination by most private employers against people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Yahoo: How Obama Crippled A Russian Bank With A Stroke Of A Pen
He may not take shirtless horseback rides across the steppes, or have a black belt in judo, but on Thursday, President Obama sent a message to Russian president Vladimir Putin about strength. Specifically, economic strength. The message was this: Whenever I decide to, I can pick up a pen, and kill a significant financial institution in your country. Obama’s victim was the St. Petersburg-based Bank Rossiya. In response to Russia’s takeover of the Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, Obama yesterday authorized the Treasury Department to add 20 members of Putin’s inner circle, as well as Bank Rossiya, to the Office of Foreign Asset Control’s list of “specially designated nationals.”
The designation makes the individuals named ineligible to do business with U.S. financial institutions, which is likely a major personal inconvenience. But for Bank Rossiya, the designation is something like the kiss of death. Bank Rossiya is not the largest bank in Russia by a long shot, but its significance lies in its clientele rather than its size. In announcing the sanctions, the Treasury Department noted that Bank Rossiya “is the personal bank for senior officials of the Russian Federation” including members of the Ozero Dacha Cooperative, an exclusive community where members of Putin’s inner circle live. In addition, it provides financial services to the single largest segment of the Russian economy – the oil, gas, and energy sector.
Capital flight from Russia reached $35 billion in the first two months of this year, Russian Economic Development Minister Aleksei Ulyukayev said this week. That outflow has only increased in recent weeks and by the end of the first quarter, it could exceed the $65 billion capital-flight figure recorded for all of 2013, analysts say.
This trend — and other factors including likely international sanctions, the falling value of the ruble, and the costs of integrating Crimea into the Russian economy — could tip the sluggish Russian economy into recession. “The sum of these factors — the decline in investment and a slowdown in consumer demand — in my view will mean that the economy is on the edge of a recession,” says Kirill Tremasov, an economist with Nomos-Bank in Moscow. “Although you can still hear predictions from government bureaucrats that the economy might grow by 2 or 3 percent, I think these predictions are completely unfounded.”
NYT: Russian Forces Take Over The Last Ukrainian Bases In Crimea
Russian forces pushed Saturday to complete their expulsion of the Ukrainian military from the disputed Crimean Peninsula, smashing through the gates of a base here with armored vehicles, firing weapons into the air and demanding that the cornered Ukrainian soldiers surrender. The operation to seize the base — one of the Ukrainian military’s last strongholds on the peninsula — was larger and more dramatic than at other installations where Ukrainian forces have capitulated steadily in recent days as Russia declared its formal annexation of the region.
By evening, Russian forces were fully in control of the base here, and most of the Ukrainian troops were dispatched to their barracks and homes to pack. In interviews before the takeover Saturday, soldiers expressed frustration with the lack of help from the their government in Kiev. Some troops said they were defending the base as a matter of honor, having sworn to serve the people and government of Ukraine. “I took an oath,” said one commander, adding that he felt no personal antipathy toward Russia or Russians. The sense of abandonment was echoed at other bases where soldiers and marines began to pack up their belongings last week, accepting that their cause was lost.
Jonathan Cohn: The Koch Brothers Are Accidentally Advertising The Benefits Of Obamacare
Some new advertisements attacking the Affordable Care Act actually show why the law is working. The ads are running in Colorado and Louisiana, two states where incumbent Democratic senators face difficult reelection fights. They come from Americans for Prosperity, the conservative organization backed by the Koch Brothers. In short, these stories may generate sympathy but they are rarely the stuff of tragedy. And that’s because of the protections Obamacare provides—which is to say, the very things that Koch-funded right-wingers want to gut.
After all, it’s Obamacare that sets a minimum standard for insurance, so that all policies include comprehensive benefits and set limits on out-of-pocket spending. It’s Obamacare that puts coverage within financial reach of many more people than before, by offering those subsidies and then, for some people, reducing out-of-pocket expenses even more. In the old days, it wasn’t so hard to find tear-jerker anecdotes: People without insurance or with inadequate insurance were filing for bankruptcy, losing their homes, and missing out on essential medicine. Now those stories are less common and, for the most part, they are among people who had these same problems previously. Telling the stories of these people would be a rationale for expanding the Affordable Care Act, not repealing it.
Christian Caryl: President Obama Takes A Big Risk And Scores A Big Win For Democracy — And No One Gives A Damn
President Obama pulled off a master stroke this week. He deployedU.S. military force in support of an infant democracy that desperately needs our help. The result was a resounding success, a vivid illustration of how the United States can put its unchallenged power to positive ends. He did it, once again, by sending in the SEALs, the U.S. Navy’s famous special forces. But this time they weren’t double-tapping a terrorist. Instead they seized a mysterious tanker that had skipped out of Libya with a shipment of oil that one of the country’s rogue militias was trying to sell on the open market. By doing it the SEALs foiled a potentially game-changing challenge to the authority of Libya’s hard-pressed government — one of the very few in the Arab world to have actually been elected by its own country’s people.
The reaction in Washington: a giant yawn. Deafening silence from Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who are always quick to demand U.S. military action in situations where it will usually make things worse. Fox News barely noticed. Nor was there a word of praise from the president’s liberal allies on Capitol Hill. Even theNew York Times ran a perfunctory report. And as for the rest of America: Well, hey, the NCAA tournament is getting under way, and there are big controversies from the world of reality TV that need attending to. The collective disinterest is even more appalling when you consider that the country we just helped is Libya. You remember, right — the place where our ambassador was killed by terrorists two years ago? The president’s critics never tire of bringing that up, since they can use it to score political points against him
Oil is Libya’s lifeblood. The economy entirely depends on it; turn off the taps and everything grinds to a halt. Make no mistake: This was not “leading from behind.” This was an act of daring from a president who’s often typecast as too passive for his own good. But it was also a smart, calculated move — a truly surgical operation of a kind that probably only the United States could have pulled off with such confidence. It sends exactly the message that needs to be sent: If you try freelancing with oil resources that rightfully belong to the Libyan people, you won’t get far.
Shake Shack, a burger chain with locations in Florida, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C. as well as international locations in the Middle East, Russia, Turkey, and the United Kingdom, pays starting workers $9.50 an hour outside of New York City and $10 an hour for New Yorkers, CEO Randy Garutti told ThinkProgress. It also offers full-time employees health, dental, vision, retirement, and disability benefits plus paid time off. But on average, workers get $10.70 an hour thanks to a program it calls Shack Bucks. Every month, it gives employees a percentage of the company’s top-line sales. The company pays about 70 percent of employees’ health care premiums and also matches contributions to their 401(k)s.
Michigan’s Moo Cluck Moo pays entry-level workers $15 an hour, a move its owners say leads to less turnover, better customer service, and more skilled employees. In-N-Out, a West Coast burger chain, pays $10.50 an hour for entry-level employees. Outside of the burger world, Boston-based burrito chain Boloco pays starting workers anywhere from $9 to $11 an hour, which the owner says increases loyalty and productivity and, in turn, profitability. In light of the conversation to raise the minimum wage, others have decided to join in. Two pizza companies in St. Louis will soon pay at least $10.10 an hour. It has also spread outside of the food industry: clothing retailer The Gap recently announced it will also raise its lowest wage to $10.
Sy Mukherjee: Insurance Giant Raises Its Profit Forecast Amid Surging Obamacare Enrollment
WellPoint, the insurance giant that encompasses the Anthem and Blue Cross Blue Shield brands, has raised its 2014 profit forecast after gaining more than a million new customers largely thanks to the Affordable Care Act. According to WellPoint CEO Joseph Swedish, the company now expects more than $8.20 per share in net income versus the $8.00 per share it was originally expecting, “driven by growth of 1.0 to 1.3 million net new medical members and mid-single digit percent increases in both operating revenue and operating gain.” Swedish even mentions Obamacare marketplaces specifically as a source of continuing growth.
“While it is early in 2014, we are encouraged by results thus far across our businesses and we believe [Obamacare] Exchanges are tracking our general expectations,” Swedish said in a press release. “As such, we are raising our 2014 earnings outlook… Our updated outlook reflects solid growth in membership, revenue and operating earnings. Our outlook also remains prudent in light of the dynamic nature of the marketplace, and we believe this is a point from which we will grow in the future.” WellPoint and its subsidiaries are selling policies in 14 states’ Obamacare marketplaces. Swedish has consistently been bullish about Obamacare enrollment — which surpassed five million private health plan signups earlier this week — both for this year and over the coming decade.
Nevada Medicaid enrollments under federal health care reform have surpassed initial projections and are on pace to reach 500,000 by summer, a mark initially not expected to be reached until the end of the 2015 fiscal year, a state official said. Mike Willden, director of the Department of Health and Human Services, said his agency has a backlog of 60,000 pending Medicaid applications, and he may need to speed up hiring to keep up with the demand. “We’ve doubled capacity. We really need to triple capacity,” Willden told the Board of Examiners on Tuesday. The Division of Welfare and Supportive Services began receiving electronic enrollments through Nevada’s health insurance exchange,
Nevada Health Link, in October. At the start, the agency was receiving about 121 applications per day electronically, representing about 40 percent of all Medicaid applications, Willden said. By December, “the floodgates opened” and enrollments jumped dramatically, sometimes reaching 3,000 per day, Willden said. “Since mid-December, the pipeline is wide-open and we are getting thousands of Medicaid applications each and every day,” he said. Under President Barack Obama’s health care law, states were given the option to expand Medicaid eligibility to include people up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. When the current fiscal year began July 1, Nevada had 320,000 enrolled in Medicaid. By February, that number spiked to 402,000.
On This Day: President Obama hugs first lady Michelle Obama after speaking at a memorial service at McKale Center on the University of Arizona campus, Jan. 12, 2011, in Tucson, Ariz
The Week Ahead:
Monday: The President will welcome the President of Spain, Mariano Rajoy Brey, to the White House
Tuesday: The President will hold a Cabinet meeting, and in the afternoon he will welcome the 2013 NBA Champion Miami Heat to the White House to honor the team on winning their second straight championship title
Wednesday: The President will travel to Raleigh, North Carolina, for an event on the economy
Thursday: The President and First Lady will host an event at the White House on expanding college opportunity
Friday: The President will make remarks about the outcome of the review that he has led on the issue of signal intelligence
If I didn’t have access to health care I couldn’t imagine what my life would be like. The health care technology we have today is a blessing. The idea that we’re not sharing that with as many people as possible is crazy to me.
How did it feel to learn about the new health care options available to you?
It made me feel relieved and a little bit more in control.
Getting covered means: a piece of mind to keep living my life.
@nycjim: What Chris Christie woke up to this morning.
Media Matters: How The Media Marketed Chris Christie’s Straight Shooter Charade
He’s been relentlessly and adoringly depicted as some sort of Straight Shooter. He’s an authentic and bipartisan Every Man, a master communicator, and that rare politician who cuts through the stagecraft and delivers hard truths. Christie’s coverage has been a long-running, and rather extreme, case of personality trumping substance. The truth is Christie was never the Straight Shooter that political reporters and pundits made him out to be. Not even close, as I’ll detail below. Instead, the Straight Shooter story represented appealing fiction for the press. They tagged him as “authentic” and loved it when he got into yelling matches with voters.
In August of 2010, the state was shocked to discover it had narrowly missed out on $400 million worth of desperately needed education aid from the federal government because New Jersey’s application for the grant was flawed. Christie initially tried to blame the Obama administration but that claim was shown to be false. Christie’s own Education Commissioner then publicly blamed Christie for the failure to land the money. He insisted the governor, who famously feuds with the state’s teacher unions, had placed that political battle and his right-wing credentials ahead of securing the federal funds and that Christie had told him the “money was not worth it” to the state if it meant he had to cooperate with teachers. In November 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice inspector general found that while serving as U.S. attorney, Christie routinely billed taxpayers for luxury hotels on trips and failed to follow federal travel regulations.
The dismissal of U.S. attorneys controversy of 2007 has been largely forgotten, but it was a very big deal at the time. It resulted in the resignations of the Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney General, the Acting Associate Attorney General, the chief of staff for the Attorney General, the chief of staff for the Deputy Attorney General, the Director of the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, the former acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, and the Department of Justice’s White House Liaison. It was a total disaster for the Bush administration that was the natural result of a conspiracy to deliberately politicize the Justice Department. The U.S. Attorneys who were fired were fired for insufficient partisan zeal. In some cases, they refused to open meritless voter fraud cases. In other cases, they wouldn’t open meritless investigations on Democratic politicians. In still other cases, they were actually investigating lawbreaking by Republicans.
So, one of the takeaways from the scandal was that the U.S. Attorneys who weren’tdismissed were incredibly suspect. The attorneys who were found acceptable to the Bush administration were the ones who would launch phony investigations against innocent people and who would cover up criminal activity if is was carried out by Bush’s allies. Chris Christie was a U.S. Attorney who passed that test. He was considered sufficiently corrupt (or corruptible) to remain a U.S. Attorney in Alberto Gonzales’s (and Karl Rove’s) Justice Department.
Adario Strange: 5 Hospitalized After West Virginia Water Contamination Crisis
Five people have been hospitalized following a major water-contamination crisis in West Virginia, according to local news reports. Although the exact reasons for the hospitalizations have yet to be confirmed, local reports suggest that the patients’ symptoms could have been caused by chemical contamination of the water supply. Government officials in West Virginia declared a state of emergency on Thursday in nine counties due to water contamination that has impacted over 300,000 local residents. Due to the contaminated supply, residents in the affected areas have been unable to drink tap water or use it to bathe, cook or even wash clothes for several days.
The situation reached a critical point Thursday when residents of Kanawha County reported smelling a licorice smell in the air, which was traced back to a 35,000-gallon chemical storage tank based near the Elk River. Operated by Freedom Industries, the storage tank reportedly overflowed and eventually contaminated the water supply maintained by the West Virginia American Water Co. plant, according to CNN. Freedom Industries president Gary Southern held a televised press conference Friday during which he answered questions about the accident, while sipping a bottle of Aquafina water. “At this point, Freedom Industries is still working to determine the amount of 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol, or Crude MCHM, a chemical used in processing coal, that has been released, as the first priority was safety, containment and cleanup.”
BP has lost an appeal to cancel the terms of its multi-billion-dollar settlement with businesses over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster. A US federal appeals court on Saturday upheld the terms of the original 2012 settlement. The UK oil giant has supported compensation for businesses harmed by the disaster.
But it argued that the terms of the existing deal meant that some huge sums were being paid for false claims. In 2012, BP agreed to make payments to those who suffered economic losses as a result of the disaster aboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, which triggered the worst offshore oil spill in US history. The blast killed 11 workers and released an estimated four million barrels of oil into the gulf.
FEW believed that John Kerry, the American secretary of state, would manage to haul the Israelis and Palestinians back into the negotiating room, let alone get them to discuss anything of substance. Yet six months since talks began, he may be able to present, within weeks, a “framework agreement”, after which final details must be hammered out. Diplomats who had mocked his dogged prophetic conviction now sound shocked by his progress. Rejectionists on both sides who quietly presumed that the process would collapse under its own weight now express alarm. Consternation and confusion are visible on the faces of some ministers in Binyamin Netanyahu’s Israeli government.
Mr Kerry’s methodical midwifery may be paying off. His team of 120, including four generals, has almost as great a command of detail as do the Israelis and Palestinians. He hugs the foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, a former firebrand who vilified Palestinians and was cordially detested by them in return, whereas his predecessor, Hillary Clinton, used to shun him. Mr Lieberman nowadays praises Mr Kerry for bringing peace closer than ever, and has turned the ten naysayers in his party’s parliamentary bloc into yes men. Yair Lapid, the finance minister, has come out strongly in favour, bringing onside his 19 parliamentarians, the second-biggest party in the 120-strong Knesset. Mr Kerry’s people have also courted the black-hatted Haredim, or ultra-Orthodox. All told, he has overseen a remarkable turnaround. After the election at the beginning of last year, a narrow majority in the Knesset would have shied from a negotiated two-state solution. Now, according to insiders, its members stand 85-35 or so in its favour.
Jonathan Chait: That Awkward Moment When Republicans Have To Hurt The Poor Before They Can Love Them
“Poverty,” reports the New York Times, “is suddenly the subject of bipartisan embrace.” Before poor people get too excited about this new development, some clarification may be in order. The parties are not embracing a shared program to alleviate poverty, nor even the goal of doing something at all about poverty anytime soon. There is merely shared agreement to discuss poverty as a subject. What hasn’t changed is the general shape of the Republican economic agenda in either the long run or the short run. Republicans agree that government takes too much from the rich and gives too much to the non-rich, and its domestic agenda is constructed largely as a corrective to what Republicans see as excessive redistribution.
Republicans also believe that nothing about the immediate labor market requires any changes to their general economic policies. (That is, they don’t believe high unemployment justifies temporarily relaxing their opposition to deficit spending or to worry less about coddling the unemployed.) The near-term agenda remains completely unaltered. Republicans remain unified in their desire to cut food stamps and end emergency unemployment benefits unless offset by other cuts to domestic spending. Nearly all support ongoing state-based campaigns to deny Medicaid coverage to uninsured people too poor to qualify for tax credits to buy private insurance.
Chris Geidner: Obama Administration To Recognize Utah Same-Sex Couples’ Marriages
The federal government will recognize the marriages of same-sex couples who married in Utah in recent weeks, the Justice Department announced Friday. Approximately 1,360 same-sex couples married between Dec. 20, 2013 — when U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby found the state’s ban on same-sex couples’ marriages to be unconstitutional — and this Monday, when the Supreme Court put new marriages of same-sex couples on hold pending the state’s appeal of Shelby’s ruling.
In a video released by the Justice Department on Friday, Attorney General Eric Holder announced, “I am confirming today that, for purposes of federal law, these marriages will be recognized as lawful and considered eligible for all relevant federal benefits on the same terms as other same-sex marriages.” Specifically, he noted, “In the days ahead, we will continue to coordinate across the federal government to ensure the timely provision of every federal benefit to which Utah couples and couples throughout the country are entitled — regardless of whether they are in same-sex or opposite-sex marriages.”
President Obama pauses in the Oval Office after making a series of telephone calls to Members of Congress, Dec. 1, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Jason Sattler: REMINDER: The Number Of Uninsured Americans Increased By 7.9 Million Under George W. Bush
The week President Obama took office, initial jobless claims, the statistic that immediately gauges layoffs, hit a 26-year high with 637,000 applying for unemployment insurance in one week. It was clear that the president was inheriting a record deficit, a cratering economy and two floundering wars. But buried in all those crises was an unspoken slow-motion disaster that people rarely mentioned: the steady crumbling of our health care system.
“When [former president Bill] Clinton left office, the number of uninsured Americans stood at 38.4 million,” Ron Brownstein wrote in 2009. “By the time [former president George W.] Bush left office that number had grown to just over 46.3 million, an increase of nearly 8 million or 20.6 percent.” The numbers were just as bad when you looked at the share of the uninsured. When Clinton left office, 13.7 percent of the population was uninsured. Bush left with 15.4 percent lacking coverage.
The New York Times‘ Paul Krugman calls the Affordable Care Act’s role in bringing health-cost growth to its lowest rate on record the law’s “secret success.” But the other secret success is how Obamacare is helping to reverse the growth of the uninsured population. This began in 2011 with children and young adults being able to stay on their parents’ plans until age 26, covering more than three million. And it continues this year with millions of Americans being added to the Medicaid rolls and millions likely to sign up for private plans, if the law’s health care exchanges begin working well enough.
At the federal level, one would think that Democrats might have some success actually passing an increase. After all, raising the minimum wage always polls extremely well, and with many state and local increases happening, it’s easy to imagine business lobbyists willing to accept a relatively modest national increase that could take a lot of steam out of those other initiatives. There’s plenty of precedent for Democrats forcing the issue by attaching a minimum wage hike to something Republicans want and managing to get it passed.
And while most Republicans in Congress surely oppose an increase, it’s not as if there’s some important principle violated by a $10 an hour minimum wage compared with $7 and change. Perhaps it will happen. But if not, the culprit is going to be, once again, the post-policy Republican Party. This just isn’t how the American political system is supposed to work. There really is an opportunity here for a deal that could enact popular policy ideas from both sides. But thanks to a dysfunctional Republican Party, it’s very hard to see it happening.
Media Matters: How Print And Broadcast Media Are Hiding Obamacare’s Success In Controlling Costs
Jason Furman: “ACA Is Contributing To The Recent Slow Growth In Health Care Prices.” In a November 20 report, economist Jason Furman, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors (CEA), highlighted several positive impacts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). According to Furman, the ACA has already helped reduce waste and overpayment in Medicare that is “contributing to the recent slow growth in health care prices and spending.” Furman argues that reduced spending in Medicare is having an effect across the health care sector
Print Media Devote Only Five Stories To ACA’s Role In Slowed Costs. Since the release of the CEA report on November 20, the five top newspapers in the United States – The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, and USA Today – issued only five articles that mentioned the ACA’s role in slowing the growth of health care costs. In the same time period, all print outlets combined issued 67 stories focusing on other aspects of the ACA rollout, including issues with the Healthcare.gov website and cancellations of individual policies. Only two outlets — USA Today and The New York Times — issued front page stories mentioning the CEA report.
However, a funny thing is happening. Conservatives have forgotten how to play the game. Or rather, what passes for conservative now is so to the right that it no longer bears any relation to reality. Thus D’Souza tweets his tweet about President Obama being a grown-up Trayvon, and that the US must “survive” him. Thus Rush Limbaugh compares the nuking of the filibuster to allowing rape. Thus every half-assed thing which comes out of a conservative’s mouth makes people who have some sense shake their heads in bewilderment.
At this point, it’s as if conservatives can’t help themselves. The fact that Obama has run rings around them in spite of their vigorous efforts has led to a psychotic break. Republicans fight Democrats with vile assertions. Republicans knife each other in purity contests. A strong, intelligent, black Democratic president who knows exactly what they’re up to, and times his attacks for maximum effect, has put them flat on their backs. They’re used to Democrats and liberals who are defensive. They’re used to the triangulations of a Bill Clinton. Barack Obama’s strength has sent them into a fugue state from which, as yet, they haven’t been able to awaken.
Reuters: Cayman Islands, Costa Rica Sign Tax Pacts With U.S.
The United States has signed agreements with the Cayman Islands and Costa Rica to help those countries’ banks comply with an anti-tax evasion law starting next year, the Treasury Department said on Friday. The deals are part of the US effort to enforce the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), which was enacted in 2010 and is set to take effect in July 2014. FATCA requires foreign financial institutions to tell the US Internal Revenue Service about Americans’ offshore accounts worth more than $50,000.
It was enacted after a Swiss banking scandal showed that 17,000 US taxpayers had hidden substantial fortunes overseas. On Thursday a former UBS banker, Raoul Weil, agreed to be extradited to the US to face charges arising from that scandal. With these two deals, both signed this week, the Treasury has now finished 12 FATCA “intergovernmental agreements” (IGAs), which help countries’ financial institutions comply with the law.
Timothy Garnder: U.S. Extends Iran Oil Sanctions Waivers To China, India, South Korea
The U.S. State Department extended six-month Iran sanctions waivers on Friday to China, India, South Korea and other countries in exchange for their reducing purchases of Iranian crude oil earlier this year. The waivers had been expected. Under a law governing sanctions imposed on Iran’s disputed nuclear program by the United States, the State Department is required to determine whether the Islamic Republic’s oil consumers have reduced their purchases.
The decision comes even after the United States and five other global powers, known as the P5+1, agreed in Geneva this month to ease Iran’s access to about $4.2 billion in foreign currency reserves for six months in exchange for Tehran’s taking steps to curb its nuclear program. The waivers, which the State Department calls exceptions, mean that banks in the consuming countries will not face being cut off from the U.S. financial system for the next six months.
Since the beginning of the sanctions regime in 2012, all 20 of Iran’s oil customers have qualified for the periodic waivers. But despite the Geneva agreement, the United States reserves the right to sanction any oil consuming country should it suddenly increase its purchases.
Mark Barabak: Kentucky Governor Sees Health Law As Chance To Heal An Ailing State
Relations between President Obama and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear have not always been friendly. But leading one of the nation’s poorest, sickest states, Beshear has improbably overseen one of the most successful rollouts of Obama’s troubled healthcare overhaul and become, deep in his long public career, a hero to Democrats grasping to find a redeeming figure amid the political wreckage. “I knew if I was going to make a huge difference in the health status of Kentucky, it was going to take some kind of transformational tool to do that, and that’s what the Affordable Care Act is for me,”
Beshear, white-haired and greyhound-lean, said as he sat behind a big maple desk in his office. “I think we’ve started something here,” he later added, “that a generation from now you’ll see a very different Kentucky than what you see today. The need for care in this pretty but hard-pressed state is unarguable. Kentucky leads the nation in cancer deaths and preventable hospitalizations and suffers some of the highest rates of diabetes, cardiovascular illness and premature death. Extending healthcare to as many as possible could make a difference, the 69-year-old Beshear said, long after he is gone. “To me,” he said, “it was the morally responsible and the right thing to do.”
LA Times:The Chalice That Helped Make Possible The Iran Nuclear Deal
Many paths led to the international agreement to temporarily curb Iran’s nuclear program: secret meetings in Oman, formal negotiations in Geneva, and a quiet encounter in New York involving two diplomats and an exquisite silver chalice in the shape of a mythical winged creature. The latter session led in September to the return of the chalice to Iran, where officials hailed it as a gesture of friendship by the United States.
When Rouhani announced plans to attend the U.N. General Assembly in New York in September, Obama’s advisors decided the moment was right for a gesture. A day after Obama delivered his annual address to the world body, the American diplomat received an email from Washington, which he read at his desk three blocks from U.N. headquarters. He was instructed to find a way to return the griffin chalice to the Iranians with no fanfare before Rouhani left in two days. Two days later, Rouhani accepted a telephone call from Obama, the first such high-level contact since 1979, when militants stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, taking hostages they held for 444 days.
Lisa Mascaro: GOP Promise Of Immigration Reform Fades A Year After Election
Earlier this year, as House Republicans began considering changes to the nation’s immigration laws after their party’s defeat in the presidential election, they were given a list of do’s and don’ts that updated GOP thinking on the issue. The suggestions seemed obvious to most but signaled a new tone for the Republican Party. “Don’t use the term’anchor baby’ or phrases like ‘send them all back,'” said the memo from a Republican-aligned advocacy group, the Hispanic Leadership Network.
“Do acknowledge that ‘our current immigration system is broken and we need to fix it.'” Changing the way the party talks about immigration is about all House Republicans have to show for their efforts over the last 11 months — and even that effort has notable exceptions. In fact, the House’s most visible immigration-related action was a measure to defund an Obama administration program to defer deportations of young immigrants, a vote that increased Latino animosity even though it failed to become law.
On December 1st, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus and her courageous act sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Civil Rights Movement that changed the course of history. We are forever grateful.
On This Day:
Pete Souza: “He and the Vice President were headed for the short walk from the White House to the Eisenhower Executive Office building to brief Congressional leaders on his new Afghanistan strategy that he would publicly unveil at West Point that night. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had just pulled up in her motorcade and the Vice President congratulated her that her daughter, Chelsea, had just gotten engaged.” Dec. 1, 2009
President Obama gestures while talking on the phone Oval Office prior to leaving for his speech at West Point, Dec. 1, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
An ornament hangs on the official White House Christmas Tree in the Blue Room of the White House, Dec. 1, 2009 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
President Obama jokes with Vice President Biden and former Secretary of State Colin Powell following their meeting in the Oval Office, Dec. 1, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
The President with Malia and the First Lady with Sasha wait backstage before the lighting of the National Christmas Tree in Washington, D.C., Dec. 1, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and his daughter Sasha at the lighting of the National Christmas Tree in Washington December 1, 2011
12:05: President Obama departs the White House en route Joint Base Andrews
12:20: Departs Joint Base Andrews en route Portsmouth, New Hampshire
1:35: Arrives in Portsmouth
2:05: Delivers remarks at a campaign event at Oyster River High School (live coverage)
4:05: Departs Portsmouth en route Boston, Massachusetts
4:30: Arrives in Boston
5:10: Attends a campaign event (closed press)
7:35: Delivers remarks at a campaign event (live coverage)
9:25: Delivers remarks at a campaign event (private residence)
Tuesday: The President will travel to Atlanta and Miami to attend campaign events. He will return to Washington in the evening.
Wednesday: Will meet with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed. In the evening, the President and First Lady will host a picnic for Members of Congress at the White House.
Thursday and Friday: The President will attend meetings at the White House.
Peter Cohan (Telegram): When he was running for President in 2008, Barack Obama struck me as a gifted orator. But now that he’s running for re-election, it feels to me that the messaging power of his political opponents is like Hurricane Katrina blowing against a chipmunk’s squeal.
So I am confident that a piece of excellent news for drivers resulting from a little-noticed policy from Mr. Obama will get no attention at all from the media.
In April, I predicted that President Obama’s $52 million plan to increase the margin requirements and otherwise tighten the screws on oil speculators — who borrow huge sums to bet on the direction of oil without taking delivery — would cut oil prices by 10 percent. He’s beaten that prediction, and the lowered price of gasoline has added $78.4 billion to its consumers’ spending power.
Michael Tomasky: Democrats Should Come Out Swinging Against the Court – If the Supreme Court overturns the health-care law, Democrats will be tempted to sulk and feel sorry for themselves. But that’s the last thing they should do.
I expect, as I think most of us do, an unfriendly decision (from the Democratic point of view) on the health-care law. Can’t yet say how unfriendly; at the very least, an overturning of the individual mandate, and maybe more. Assuming that’s correct, the question immediately becomes how the president and the Democrats should respond. There’s very little they can do legislatively. But I’ll be watching for rhetoric, tone, even body language. And on those counts, they had damn well better dispense with the usual liberal woe-is-me hand-wringing and shoulder slumping and come out swinging.
They had better communicate to their base that they stand for something, it’s important to them, and they’re pissed. And if they do it the right way, they can make the Supreme Court an issue this fall in a way that might even persuade some swing voters that the court overstepped its bounds. I’d go so far as to say that an aggressive response can reset and reframe the whole health-care debate, once Americans have had their minds focused on this by a blatantly partisan court.
Jonathan Cohn: Do you care how the Supreme Court rules on health care reform this week? I don’t mean in the political sense. I mean in the personal sense — because the law’s fate is a very personal matter for many millions of Americans.
They’re the Americans who have diabetes and Crohn’s disease, cancer and hay fever. They’re the Americans who don’t have access to health benefits and the Americans who have access to health benefits but can’t afford to pay for them…..
The Affordable Care Act won’t help all of these people. But it will help an awful lot of them. In fact, it’s already starting to make a difference….
….. by and large, the Affordable Care Act seems to be working …. Will the Supreme Court stop this progress? … a decision to strike down even part of the law would have grave consequences — for the court’s legitimacy and, perhaps, the norms that make our constitutional system function. It’d also have grave consequences for the people whose employment, financial, or medical status renders them vulnerable — a group that may someday include you, if it doesn’t already.
E.J. Dionne: Any day now, the U.S. Supreme Court may make possible something that has yet to happen: an honest and complete discussion of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).
And if it throws out all or part of the law now popularly known as “Obamacare,” we will need a fearless conversation about how a conservative majority of the court has become a cog in a larger right-wing project to make progressive political and legislative victories impossible.
… Maybe now, supporters of the ACA will find their voices and point to the 30 million people the law would help to buy health insurance, how much assistance it gives businesses, how it creates a more rational health insurance market, how it helps those 26 and under stay on their parents’ health plans, how it protects those with pre-existing conditions. “Obamacare” isn’t about President Obama. It’s about beginning to bring an end to the scandal of a very rich nation leaving so many of its citizens without basic health coverage…..
…. Were the health-care law to be eviscerated, those who battled so hard on its behalf might draw at least bittersweet comfort from what could be called the Joni Mitchell Rule, named after the folk singer who instructed us that “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”
Bloomberg: The U.S. Supreme Court should uphold a law requiring most Americans to have health insurance if the justices follow legal precedent, according to 19 of 21 constitutional law professors who ventured an opinion on the most-anticipated ruling in years.
Only eight of them predicted the court would do so.
“The precedent makes this a very easy case,” said Christina Whitman, a University of Michigan law professor. “But the oral argument indicated that the more conservative justices are striving to find a way to strike down the mandate.”
…. There was broad agreement that the ruling, barely four months before November’s presidential election, has the potential to hurt the Supreme Court’s reputation as an impartial institution.
Eighteen of the 21 professors said the court’s credibility will be damaged if the insurance requirement – which passed Congress without a single Republican vote – is ruled unconstitutional by a 5-4 majority of justices appointed by Republican presidents.
Steve Benen: Earlier this year, when Texas Gov. Rick Perry was still a presidential candidate, he took aim at Mitt Romney’s controversial private-sector background. Perry told voters, “There is something inherently wrong when getting rich off failure and sticking it to someone else is how you do your business.”
…. In several instances, even when Romney’s firm drove companies into bankruptcy, and even when Bain’s own investors lost, Romney made millions, thanks to fees he charged the companies has they spiraled towards collapse. Taking risks may be a key element to successful capitalism, but this Republican created a system in which risk taking wasn’t necessary.
As far as the election is concerned, Romney is telling voters this background helps prove his qualifications for the presidency. I still haven’t the foggiest idea why.