(1) Golfing at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe
(2) First Lady Michelle Obama tapes a “Let’s Move!” public service announcement with 2013 NBA Champion Miami Heat players LeBron James, left, and Dwyane Wade, in the Map Room of the White House (Photo by Amanda Lucidon)
(3) President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and Personal Secretary Anita Decker react to a video on Decker’s computer monitor in the Outer Oval Office (Photo by Pete Souza)
(4) President Obama waits with Sergeants at Arms and Members of Congress before entering the House Chamber to deliver the State of the Union address. Standing with the President are, from left: Paul Irving, House Sergeant at Arms; House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.; Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.; and Terrance Gainer, Senate Sergeant at Arms (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama listens as Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom offers a toast during the State Dinner on the South Lawn of the White House, March 14, 2012. Samantha Cameron is seated at right (Photo by Pete Souza)
Today (All Times Eastern)
10:30: President Obama meets with Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny of Ireland
1:30: Jay Carney briefs the press
12:0: President Obama attends a St Patrick’s Day lunch at the U.S Capitol with PM Kenny. The Vice President also attends.
5:10: The President and First Lady host a St Patrick’s Day reception, East Room
Examiner: Affordable Care Act Recovers Record Amount From Healthcare Fraud
In a report released on Wednesday in Washington, D.C. by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the agencies announced that in the 2013 fiscal year the Affordable Care Act, also known as ‘Obamacare,’ was in part responsible for the record-breaking $4.3 billion recovery of funds lost due to Medicare and Medicaid fraud.
Over the past four years approximately $16.61 billion has been recovered from such fraud, a 219% increase over the previous four- year period’s recovery of $7.57 billion. The savings is a return of $8.10 for every dollar used to fight Medicare and Medicaid fraud.
Elias Isquith: Canadian Doctor Makes Anti-Obamacare Senator Look Like A Buffoon
Speaking before a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday, Dr. Danielle Martin, vice president at the Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, masterfully showed how to smack down a disingenuous politician’s misleading and misinformed questions with courtesy, intelligence and, well, facts. In this instance, the role of disingenuous and ill-informed politician was played by North Carolina’s GOP Sen. Richard Burr, who decided to use his question time to imply that the Canadian healthcare system was bad because it led to Canadian doctors moving to America and rich people going to the U.S. to get complicated and expensive surgery. These were both good points — except for the fact that they were, as Martin made clear, completely wrong.
“Dr. Martin, in your testimony, you note that Canadian doctors exiting the public system for the private sector has had the effect of increasing waiting lists for patients seeking public health care,” Burr began. “Why are doctors exiting the public system in Canada?” “Thank you for your question, Senator,” Martin responded. “If I didn’t express myself in a way that made myself understood, I apologize. There are no doctors exiting the public system in Canada; and in fact we see a net influx of physicians from the United States into the Canadian system over the last number of years.”
AP: Obama Orders Review Of US Deportation Practices
Seeking to pacify frustrated immigration advocates, President Barack Obama is directing the government to find more humane ways to handle deportation for immigrants in the U.S. illegally, the White House said Thursday. With prospects for an immigration overhaul in Congress appearing ever dimmer, immigration advocates have been ramping up pressure on Obama to halt all deportations — a step Obama has insisted he can’t take by himself. By announcing he’s open to changing how the U.S. enforces its current laws, Obama is signaling he may be growing more inclined to test the limits of his authority in the face of congressional inaction.
Obama’s announcement came Thursday in a meeting with Latino lawmakers who are seeking ways to resuscitate an immigration overhaul despite resistance from Republicans and election-year politics that have confounded their efforts. The White House said Obama told the lawmakers — all Democrats — that he’s deeply concerned about the pain that families suffer when they are separated due to a broken immigration system. “He told the members that he has asked Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson to do an inventory of the Department’s current practices to see how it can conduct enforcement more humanely within the confines of the law,” the White House said in a statement.
Olexiy Haran: Don’t Believe The Russian Propaganda About Ukraine’s ‘Fascist’ Protesters
The Kremlin uses many kinds of falsifications to justify its aggression against Ukraine and plans to annex Crimean peninsula. One of which is that the mass protests of Ukrainians against the corrupt and bloody regime of Viktor Yanukovych, called the Euromaidan, was a gathering of far-right extremists intent on imposing nationalist rule over all other ethnic groups in Ukraine. But the Euromaidan was anything but this.
Although many Ukrainian nationalists passionately joined in the protests in central Kiev against Yanukovych’s plans to get Ukraine into a Moscow-led customs union instead of signing a forward-looking association agreement with the EU, the maidan was a place of multi-ethnic national solidarity in the face of repression. One shouldn’t forget that Sergey Nigoyan, the first victim of police ruthlessness in the Maidan, was an ethnic Armenian who came to support the protest from the Russian-speaking Dnipropetrovsk region in eastern Ukraine. Jews actively joined the ranks of protesters and a religious Jew headed one of the maidan self-defence units, passing command status to his Ukrainian deputy every Friday after the beginning of sabbath.
Ryan’s target isn’t “the poor”—a broad category that includes a large swath of Americans—as much as it’s the “inner city poor,” which for most people, translates to the black poor. Inner-city poverty didn’t just happen, it was built. It’s the job of a policymaker to understand the full scope of what that means, from the blueprints of past policies, to their implementation, to the forces that drove the issues to begin with. And in the case of urban poverty, the issue was racism. If the industrial cities of the Midwest and Northeast are heavily segregated—places like Milwaukee, Chicago, Cleveland, and Philadelphia—
it’s because they were made that way, through law, policy, and violence. Starved of public and private investment—from schools and libraries to home loans and business development—they collapsed into the same dysfunction we see whenever we isolate a community from general prosperity, and punish its members for trying to escape. And if Ryan would look closer at the communities he’s trying to reach, he’d see countless people participating in the “culture of work.” He doesn’t have to look far, either. In Washington D.C., he could ride an 80 bus to the Capitol, early on a weekday morning. There, he’d be packed next to men and women coming from the other side of the city to work crappy jobs at long hours for the sake of their families. They don’t need lectures about the “value of work”; they need material support for their livelihoods.
Tara Culp-Ressler: 3 States Trying To Follow In Texas’ Footsteps And Shut Down Abortion Clinics
Texas isn’t the first state to shut down abortion clinics, and it won’t be the last. A stringent new law in the Lone Star State requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges with a local hospital, a medically unnecessary requirement that’s often impossible for doctors to comply with. Since hospitals are often wary to make partnerships with abortion providers, these state laws are effective tools to drive clinics out of business. Texas’ law has forced dozens of clinics to close, particularly in rural and underserved areas.
After the most recent round of closures, the second-largest state in the country now has a 400-mile swath without a single reproductive health facility that performs abortion services. This past summer, the fight over Texas’ law captured national headlines — and inspired anti-choice lawmakers in other states to adopt the same strategy. Here are the other places that are currently advancing Texas-style restrictions to shutter abortion clinics:
Danny Vinik: The Senate Has A Deal On Unemployment Benefits. Here’s What You Need To Know
We have a deal. Five Senate Democrats and five Senate Republicans have agreed upon legislation to extend emergency unemployment insurance for five months, retroactive to December 28. Here’s everything you need to know: Pension smoothing? It’s an accounting technique that allows companies to backload their pension contributions. This increases their profits in the near-term and increases revenues the government collects from them. But over the long-term, companies have to contribute the full amount to employee pensions. And that means less revenue for the government later on. So it’s a trick designed to pay for something today by running up higher bills in the future.
OK. That’s the back story. What happened today?
Today, a bipartisan group of senators (five Democrats, five Republicans) agreed to a five-month extension of unemployment insurance, retroactive to its expiration on December 28. To pay for it, the senators included the “pension smoothing” gimmick and extended customs fees through 2024. The legislation also includes reforms, from Senators Tom Coburn and Jon Tester, that prevent people who earned more than $1 million in the previous year from collecting unemployment benefits.
In English, what does that really mean?
It means people who have been out of work more than 26 weeks and less than 73 would receive a big check from the government for unemployment benefits they would’ve been collecting over the past 10 weeks. If you were out of work 70 weeks as of December 28, you’d receive three weeks of unemployment insurance. If you were unemployed 50 weeks as of then, you’d receive 10 weeks of benefits now and continue receiving them until the five month extension expires. Oh, that’s assuming you didn’t make more than a million dollars last year. If you did, then you wouldn’t get anything.
On Tuesday, former Washington Post pundit (and Prospect alum) Ezra Klein sent a shock wave through the gay community by announcing he had hired gay anti-gay apologist Brandon Ambrosino to join him at Vox Media, the much-hyped digital venture that’s aiming to remake journalism for the Internet age. Liberal watchdog group Media Matters was the first to sound the alarm, but within a day, gay-rights supporters—from Mark Stern at Slate to John Aravosis at AmericaBlog—had joined the chorus of voices asking Klein:What were you thinking?
In an interview on Wednesday evening, Klein told me he hadn’t read the pieces that had kicked up so much dust before bringing Ambrosino on but did so once he began facing criticism for the hire. “I don’t want to pretend that I have the context and the background to perfectly or authoritatively judge this debate,” Klein said. “But when I read his pieces, I didn’t come away with the impression that he holds an iota of homophobia.” Klein has come under fire for the lack of racial and gender diversity among Vox’s announced hires, and his decision to hire Ambrosino shows how much he has to learn about genuine diversity. While he has a number of female hires in the pipeline, Klein said he is struggling to find racial minorities for the venture, adding: “I also want to say, other kinds of diversity are important—ideological diversity.”
Bloomberg: Americans Stick With Obamacare As Opposition Burns Bright
President Barack Obama’s health-care law is becoming more entrenched, with 64 percent of Americans now supporting it outright or backing small changes. “Things definitely seem to be getting better,” said Paul Attard, 50, a political independent in Evergreen, Colorado and a program manager for a cell-phone company who wants the law modified rather than repealed. “It seems like they are getting a lot more people to join. It’s a sign that the system is working.”
Through March 1, 4.2 million Americans had enrolled in health plans via the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges, the government said this week. The deadline for enrollment is March 31, and the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that 6 million people will sign up this year for private plans.
Members of the huge millennial generation are less religious, less likely to call themselves “patriotic” and significantly more liberal than older generations, new research shows. Although adults aged 18-33 are more likely to call themselves political independents than their elders are, they are also more likely to vote Democratic. Their views favoring activist government, as well as their stands on social issues such as gay rights, reinforce that voting behavior, an extensive study by the Pew Research Center shows.
The youngest generation of adults, born after 1980, has the most optimism about the country. That comes despite the economic difficulties that a large share of them have experienced since entering the workforce. And it stands in contrast with some previous generations: Baby boomers, for example, born between 1946 and 1964, were less optimistic than their elders at this stage of their lives. The millennials are also the only generation of adults with more people who identify themselves as liberals than as conservatives. Just less than one-third of millennials call themselves liberals while about one-quarter identify as conservative.
Russia risks a wave of capital flight and a shattering economic crisis as the West prepares a package of sanctions over the seizure of Crimea. German Chancellor Angela Merkel spelled out the danger for Russia in a speech that silenced pro-Kremlin voices in her own coalition and left no doubt that Europe is now fully behind the US on punitive measures. Russia has threatened to retaliate with “symmetrical sanctions” but Tim Ash, from Standard Bank, said it is a one-sided contest that Moscow cannot win. “Russia is facing the entire West. Its economy is already very weak and this could end up being as bad as 2008-2009, when GDP contracted by 9pc,” he said.
Russia cannot suspend oil and gas exports without cutting off its own source of foreign revenue. Any such move would destroy its credibility as a supplier of energy, accelerating Europe’s long-term switch to other sources. Standard Bank said Washington is determined to make Russia pay for tearing up the post-Cold War settlement and undermining the architecture of nuclear non-proliferation. It is drawing up stealth sanctions to freeze Russia out of global finance. These will be spearheaded by the US Securities and Exchange Commission, which will enforce compliance of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The next step is to place Russia on the “grey list” for money laundering. “This would prevent global banks from dealing with Russian counterparts. Washington is tightening the noose. No bank is going to mess with the SEC,” said Mr Ash.
Alec Macgillis: Florida Special Election Result Shows Democrats Need More Obamacare
So how to get more Democratic voters out? Well, this is where the more Obamacarecomes in. To the extent that the new law has not created a groundswell of enthusiasm for Democratic candidates among the law’s intended beneficiaries it is surely in part because…so many of the law’s intended beneficiaries are not being helped by the law. Fully one half of the expansion of health coverage under the law was supposed to occur through the expansion of Medicaid, to cover all people under 138 percent of the poverty line. And in Florida and nearly two dozen other states, that expansion is not happening, thanks to the Supreme Court ruling that made the expansion optional and the opposition of Republican governors and state legislators.
So what are Democratic candidates to do? Well, for one, argue for the Medicaid expansion. Make sure lower-income voters understand what’s at stake and why they have so far been denied any of the law’s benefits. No, not every voter who gets covered by the Medicaid expansion is going to vote for the Democrats as a result—stories from states that have expanded Medicaid, such as Kentucky and West Virginia, are replete with anecdotes of voters who are grateful for their new coverage without necessarily making the connection to Obamacare and Barack Obama. But enough lower-income voters will make the connection that it could help Democratic candidates like Allison Lundergan Grimes, Mitch McConnell’s Senate challenger, who is making a strong push for downscale, Democratic-leaning voters by stressing her support for raising the minimum wage.
Jason Millman: Understanding The Latest Fight Over The Individual Mandate
In the latest war over Obamacare, the GOP is essentially trying to encourage Americans everywhere to seek out an exemption from the individual mandate, the health law provision that requires everyone to get insurance by March 31 or face a penalty. The Obama administration says exemptions to the mandate are much more limited than the GOP and opponents of the law would have you believe.
Separately, Republicans controlling the House vote today on a bill that would delay the individual mandate until 2018. The impact of this legislation would mean 13 million fewer people would have insurance in 2018 than if the mandate were kept in place, the Congressional Budget Office said this week. Behind these renewed attacks are the GOP’s hatred of the mandate.
President Obam, First Lady Michelle Obama, PM David Cameron and his wife Samantha Cameron greet the crowd on the White House South Lawn after a formal arrival ceremony for the British prime minister, March 14, 2012
President Obama and PM Cameron walk together as they begin a press conference in the Rose Garden of the White House, March 14, 2012
President Obama walks PM Cameron to his motorcade following their meetings at the White House, March 14, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)
PM David Cameron and Samantha Cameron arrive at the White House for a State Dinner in their honor, March 14, 2012
The White House is seen through the window of a tent on the South Lawn during the State Dinner in honor of PM David Cameron and Samantha Cameron, March 14, 2012. The interior of the tent is reflected in the window (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, along with PM Cameron and Samantha Cameron, talk with guests during the State Dinner on the South Lawn of the White House, March 14, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama visit with PM Cameron and Samantha Cameron during a State Dinner reception on the Truman Balcony of the White House, March 14, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Reporting that House Republicans are investigating whether Attorney General Eric Holder lied to Congress during his recent testimony about Justice Department seizures of communications records in connection with a national security leak investigation, CNN’s Dana Bash misstated key facts of the controversy. In so doing, CNN helped bolster the hollow claims of Republicans – wildly hyped by Fox News – that Holder may have perjured himself….
Greg Sargent: A new Quinnipiac poll finds that an overwhelming majority of Americans – 73-22 – thinks we should be placing a higher priority on the economy and unemployment than on the “scandals” gripping Washington. That includes 72 percent of independents, who are critical in midterm elections. At the same time, a variety of indicators, from rising home prices to buoyed consumer confidence to falling gas prices, suggest that the economy is improving at a stronger clip than previously anticipated.
If the recovery is strong next year, it could help Dems hold the Senate….
TPM: The White House has received more than 120 applications from health insurance plans looking to sell on the new federal health care exchange …. The success of the Affordable Care Act partially hinges on competition in order to keep premiums low, and, according to the memo, “the early signs are promising and demonstrate a significant increase in competition and an array of options for consumers everywhere.”
One out of four insurers that have applied to sell insurance in the marketplace is new to the individual insurance market and at least one new provider has been added in 75 percent of states with a federally run marketplace…..
Jonathan Chait: Pete Wehner, former Minister of Propaganda for the Bush administration, sees the excitement of the Obama scandals receding, and he knows just how to explain this. Not a lack of evidence to date that anybody in the administration has done anything wrong. It’s media bias ….. Yeah, that sounds right….
USA Today: The pro-Obama group Organizing for Action will hold 39 “founders events” across the country this weekend as part of an effort to build separate state chapters.
“OFA supporters, volunteers, campaign alumni and donors will come together to discuss what OFA has already accomplished as well as our goals and the path forward,” said an announcement from the group….
The Illinois State Founders Summit will be held Friday and Saturday in Obama’s hometown of Chicago, and will feature remarks by OFA Chairman Jim Messina and Executive Director Jon Carson.
They plan to discuss “how OFA plans how to continue to ensure the American people’s voices are heard by lawmakers as we fight to tip the scales of power back to the American people and away from the special interests to advance the issues the American people voted for in November,” said the statement.
President Barack Obama greets Minority Whip Steny Hoyer and ceremony participants backstage before the signing of the Export-Import Bank Reauthorization Act of 2012 in the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, May 30, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
BREAKING: US economy grew 2.4 percent in January-March quarter, helped by strong consumer spending.
Tom Kludt: An overwhelming majority of Americans said that the economy and unemployment should take precedence over the Congressional investigations into the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups, the Justice Department’s subpoena of Associated Press phone records and last year’s deadly attack in Benghazi, Libya, according to a new poll from Quinnipiac University released Thursday.
The poll found that 73 percent of American voters nationwide believe that dealing with the economy and unemployment should be a higher priority than the investigations. Fewer than a quarter of Americans — 22 percent — believe that the investigations should be the higher priority.
Washington Post: President Obama plans to nominate James B. Comey, a former senior Justice Department official in the George W. Bush administration, to replace Robert S. Mueller III as FBI director, according to two people with knowledge of the selection process. Comey was famously involved in a 2004 hospital-room confrontation with White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and the president’s chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr. The two White House officials were attempting to persuade Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, who was recovering from emergency surgery to remove his gallbladder, to reauthorize a controversial warrantless domestic eavesdropping program.
Comey, who was acting attorney general in Ashcroft’s absence, had refused to agree to extend the program. When he learned that the White House was attempting to go around him and get the ill Ashcroft to sign off on an extension, Comey rushed to George Washington University Medical Center, arriving just before Gonzales and Card. Comey explained to Ashcroft what was happening and, when the White House officials arrived, the attorney general raised himself up and said he never should have authorized the program. He gestured at Comey and said, “There is the attorney general,” according to an account by former Washington Post reporter Barton Gellman.
Steve Benen: Comey isn’t exactly your typical Republican. We are, after all, talking about a Republican attorney who balked at the legality of the Bush/Cheney warrantless wiretap program, signed a legal brief endorsing marriage equality, believes terrorist suspects should be tried in America’s criminal-justice system, and even endorsed Eric Holder’s Attorney General nomination in 2009. For some of the rabid partisans on Capitol Hill, I suspect Comey will be seen as a RINO (Republican In Name Only).
U.S. pending home sales rise to the highest level in three years: National Association of Realtors #breaking
But there’s one other angle that’s worth thinking about as the process unfolds: if Obama had any reason to worry about ongoing investigations casting the White House in a negative light, the president would not have chosen a Republican with a history of independence to lead the FBI. On the contrary, if Obama were the least bit concerned about the so-called “scandals,” he’d be eager to do the opposite — choosing a Democratic ally for the FBI. With this in mind, by selecting Comey, the president not only sends a bipartisan signal, but also one of great confidence.
President Obama’s first trip abroad – greeted at Ottawa airport by Governor General Michaelle Jean
Canada * United Kingdom * France * Germany* Czech Republic * Turkey * Iraq * Mexico * Trinidad and Tobago * Saudi Arabia * Egypt * Germany * France * Russia * Italy * Vatican City * Ghana * Mexico * Denmark * Japan * Singapore * China * South Korea * Norway * Denmark