Posts Tagged ‘pope

20
Aug
14

Laughter Can Help

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07
Jul
14

Rise and Shine

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)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

11:30: Josh Earnest briefs the press

12:10: The President hosts a group of teachers for lunch

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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.

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Spandan Chakrabarti: Barack Obama Bests Bill Clinton’s Private Sector Job Creation Record

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.

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Darlene Superville: First Lady Bucks GOP On School Lunch Rules

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.

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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.

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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.

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BBC with the “DUH!” question of the day. But, a very interesting article nonetheless.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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.”

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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.

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On This Day

First Lady Michelle Obama hugs an elderly nurse while holding a traditional Russian matreshka nesting doll during a visit to the Sisters of Mercy St. Dmitry Nursing College in Moscow, July 7, 2009

President Obama meets with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin at his dacha outside Moscow, Russia, July 7, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama meets with Mikhail Gorbachev, former leader of the Soviet Union, in Gostinny Dvor, Russia, Tuesday, July 7, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama greets attendees, including Oksana Yurievna the top graduating student, at the New Economic School graduation in Gostinny Dvor, Russia, July 7, 2000 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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First Lady Michelle Obama leaves the Department of Treasury, in Washington, D.C., July 7, 2010, following her 20th agency visit to thank employees for their public service (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

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29
Mar
14

Rise and Shine: The Week at TOD

Photo of the Week? First Lady Michelle Obama, Sasha and Malia visit the Great Wall of China, March 23 (Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

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And another photo of the week:

Pope Francis and President Obama smile as they exchange gifts at the Vatican, March 27

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Sunday

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The First Lady in China

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Rise and Shine

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Life Can Get Crazy ➞ Get Covered

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ObamaCare Means: Affordable And Comprehensive Coverage

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A Tweet or Two #GetCovered

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Chat Away

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Travels with the First Lady and First Daughters

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Monday

President Obama stands in front of Rembrandt’s The Night Watch during a flying visit to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam

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Early Bird Chat

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Rise and Shine: The Netherlands and China

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Take the #100Challenge

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The President’s Day

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Happy Birthday, Aretha

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Chat Away

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Chat On

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Tuesday

@petesouza: Pres Obama w young girl during an event at the US Embassy in The Netherlands today

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Early Bird Chat

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Rise and Shine

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President Obama’s News Conference

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Wherein I Go On A Little Rant

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ObamaCare: Not Numbers But People

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The President’s Day

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@PeteSouza: Pres Obama talks on phone to Washington Gov Jay Inslee about mudslide in Oso. Alyssa Mastromonaco is in foreground

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Night Owl Chat – MUSIC MUSIC MUSIC! (and a poem)

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Flanders Fields

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Continue reading ‘Rise and Shine: The Week at TOD’

27
Mar
14

The President’s Day

@dougmillsnyt: President Obama meets with Pope Francis, March 27, at the Vatican

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10:15 AM: The President had an audience with Pope Francis

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11:25 AM: Met with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin

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12:15 PM: Arrived the Quirinal Palace

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12:25 PM: Participated in a bilateral meeting with President Giorgio Napolitano of Italy, Quirinal Palace

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1:05 PM: Attended a working lunch with President Giorgio Napolitano of Italy

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2:20 PM: Arrived Villa Madama

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2:25 PM: Participated in a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of Italy, Villa Madama

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3:35 PM: Held a joint press conference with Prime Minister Renzi

Text of remarks here

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4:40 PM: Toured The Colosseum

@dougmillsnyt

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6:30 PM: Met with employees and families of the U.S. Tri-Mission to Italy, The Holy See, and the UN Agencies in Rome

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27
Mar
14

Chat Away

Chat on!

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12:40 EDT: Live Streaming: President Obama Tours the Colosseum – see here

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27
Mar
14

Rise and Shine

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President Barack Obama and Pope Francis laugh while exchanging gifts after their meeting at the Vatican

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President Barack Obama shakes hands with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano at Quirinal Palace in Rome

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USA Today: Obama’s Gift To Pope Francis: A Seed Chest

President Obama presented Pope Francis with a custom-made seed chest on Thursday, containing fruit and vegetable seeds used in the White House Garden. The gift was inspired by the pope’s decision to grant public access to the gardens of the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo, the pope’s summer residence, according to a White House statement. Obama and Pope Francis met for 52 minutes at Vatican City.

Pope Francis, meanwhile, presented the president with a plaque of some kind, and an encyclical. “I will treasure this,” Obama said. “I actually will probably read this (encyclical) in the Oval Office when I’m deeply frustrated. I’m sure it will give me strength and calm me down.” The seed chest from Obama is made from American leather and wood reclaimed from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, one of the oldest Catholic cathedrals built in the United States.

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Jason Millman: Young Adults Signing Up At Higher Rates Off Obamacare Exchanges

A higher rate of young adults and uninsured people are signing up for coverage through a private insurance website as next week’s enrollment deadline approaches, according to information released by the company Tuesday. The enrollment data, issued by eHealthInsurance, provides a snapshot of how some customers are shopping for insurance away from Obamacare exchanges during the law’s first enrollment period. EHealth, a national online insurance broker predating the health care law, operates similar to the Obamacare exchanges, offering customers a selection of health plans from competing insurers.

However, shoppers on eHealth’s website can’t access federal subsidies to help purchase insurance, though the company says it has helped people enroll in subsidy-eligible plans by telephone. Since Jan. 1, about 45 percent of those picking new health plans through eHealth were between 18 and 34 years old, the company says. By comparison, the all-important demographic accounted for 27 percent of signups on Obamacare exchanges the past couple of months. EHealth says its rate of youth enrollment has increased from 39 percent of signups between October and December.The rate of eHealth customers who identified themselves as previously uninsured has also increased since the first three months of the enrollment, the company says. Since January, 51 percent of the website’s shoppers say they were previously uninsured, up from 34 percent between October and December.

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America Blog: They Stole Her Photo, Then Claimed She Hated Obamacare. She Doesn’t

Helene isn’t having the best week. The Texas blogger was visiting Las Vegas for a bachelorette party this past weekend, and woke up on Saturday to find that she’d become the latest anti-Obamacare poster child. The thing is, Helene never signed up for the job. In fact, she told me yesterday that she’s quite happy with the Affordable Care Act (ACA),

and with the “affordable” health care it helped her find. “Not only do I not agree with what the image is portraying,” Helene wrote me, “I actually have Affordable Healthcare!” So, if anything, Helene is an Obamacare success story. But that didn’t stop over 17,000 people on Facebook from sharing an image of her face, posted just days ago, with a caption complaining about Obamacare. To add insult to injury, the people who stole her image couldn’t even spell “conspiracy” right.

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SmartyPants: President Obama’s Speech In Brussels – One Of The Most Important Of His Presidency

One of the things we know from reading about President Obama’s life story is that while he was practicing law in Chicago, he taught classes on the topic of “power.” I’ve always wished that either he or someone who attended one would outline the content of what he taught. Perhaps the President will do that once his second term is over.

He doesn’t tend to speak directly about the topic, but from listening to him refer to it in other contexts, what I’ve deduced is that he embraces the power of partnership as the alternative to our more traditional concept of the power of domination. Today the President began his speech in Brussels with a history lesson on the power of partnership vs the power of domination.

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Paul Krugman: Data As Slogan. Data As Substance

Noah Smith has the definitive piece on what’s wrong, so far, with the new FiveThirtyEight. For all the big talk about data-driven analysis,what it actually delivers is sloppy and casual opining with a bit of data used, as the old saying goes, the way a drunkard uses a lamppost — for support, not illumination.So what would real data-driven reporting look like (beyond what goes on at the sites Noah mentions, and also at the Times)? Well, here’s an example: Charles Gaba’s ACASignups.net.

Gaba, a website developer, realized that nobody was systematically keeping track of enrollment data for Obamacare, and has turned himself into one-stop shopping on the law’s progress. And he really fills a need: when you read news reports on Obamacare, you can tell right away which reporters have been reading Gaba and know what’s happening and which reporters are relying solely on official announcements — or, worse, dueling political spin.

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NYT: Obama Juggles Itinerary In Bid To Ease Tensions Between Two Allies

When President Obama brings together the estranged leaders of Japan and South Korea for a peacemaking session in The Hague on Tuesday evening, it will be the culmination of three months of intense behind-the-scenes American diplomacy. The unusual effort included a phone call from Mr. Obama to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan; a follow-up lunch that the American ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy, had with Mr. Abe; a decision to put both Tokyo and Seoul on Mr. Obama’s itinerary when he visits Asia next month; and a plan to resolve this neighborhood quarrel on the ultimate neutral ground: a stately Dutch city accustomed to litigating international disputes.

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In this case, Mr. Abe and President Park Geun-hye of South Korea have barely been on speaking terms since coming to power just over a year ago. Their antagonism is complex and deeply personal, rooted in World War II history as well as their own conservative and nationalist political leanings, which make old animosities even harder to overcome. Convinced the two were not going to mend relations on their own, the White House proposed a “trilateral” meeting with Mr. Obama at the nuclear security summit in the Netherlands. The European locale and nonproliferation theme made sense. “It’s a multilateral meeting not in Asia,” said a senior administration official, “and a multilateral meeting about the one thing Japan and South Korea are in agreement on.” Mr. Obama’s participation was critical: In a call on March 6, the president told Mr. Abe he wanted to bring his two allies together. At a lunch that day, Ambassador Kennedy fleshed out the idea.

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Sy Mukherjee: Anti-Obamacare Governor Now Encouraging Residents To Enroll Under Health Law

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), an ardent Affordable Care Act critic, is now encouraging residents to transition into new health plans under the very reform law that he once refused to help implement. Walker told the Washington Examiner’s Philip A. Klein that he has instructed state agencies to work with individuals who are transitioning into plans offered on Wisconsin’s Obamacare marketplace. That includes both the previously uninsured and poor residents just above the poverty level who are being siphoned out of the state’s Medicaid program, BadgerCare,

and into private ACA plans under Walker’s conservative alternative to Obamacare’s optional Medicaid expansion.  Just two years ago, Walker was singing a very different tune. He had refused to create a statewide ACA marketplace — thereby also forgoing significant federal funding for Obamacare outreach efforts — and said he wouldn’t lift a finger to help implement the law until the Supreme Court decided the law’s fate. In fact, Wisconsin’s spending on ACA outreach is the lowest in the nation at just 46 cents per capita.

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Bloomberg: WTO Panel Sides With U.S. In Dispute Over China Minerals

The World Trade Organization backed the U.S. in a dispute with China, agreeing that limits on exports of rare-earth elements used in hybrid-car batteries and wind turbines violate trade rules. A Chinese industry group said it regrets the ruling against China. A dispute-settlement panel at the Geneva-based trade arbiter yesterday determined that China, the world’s largest producer of the minerals, didn’t adequately justify imposing export duties and quotas on the goods, as well as the elements tungsten and molybdenum. China’s export limits “have been putting American manufacturers at a disadvantage and preventing full and fair competition,” U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman told reporters yesterday on a conference call.

The WTO decision follows a 2011 ruling in which the trade arbiter sided with the U.S. in determining that China’s export limits on raw materials for steel and chemical production, such as bauxite, magnesium and zinc, broke trade law. The U.S., the 28-nation EU and Japan in 2012 filed complaints with the WTO, saying that China’s restrictions on exports of rare-earth minerals — a group of 17 chemically similar elements used in electronics, autos, helicopter blades and other goods — disrupted trade flows and caused global prices to jump, in some cases as much as three times as much as what Chinese companies pay.

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Tara Culp-Ressler: Hobby Lobby Inspired New York Lawmakers To Fight To Protect Birth Control In Their State

If the craft chain Hobby Lobby and the furniture company Conestoga Wood Specialties successfully win their Supreme Court challenges, it could open the door to allow businesses across the country to compromise their workers’ access to reproductive health care. In response to that potential future, New York lawmakers are taking the opportunity to reaffirm their state’s commitment to providing insurance coverage for essential preventative health services like birth control.

Earlier this month, New York Sen. Liz Krueger (D) and Assemblymember Ellen Jaffee (D) introduced the so-called “Boss Bill,” which would close a loophole in the state’s existing workplace anti-discrimination laws to protect women’s access to birth control. Under the legislation — which was written in direct response to the multiple lawsuits against the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive provision — New York’s labor law would be amended to prevent employers from discriminating against workers on the basis of their reproductive health care decisions, even if those employers are trying to cite their religious beliefs.

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Owen Matthews: Sanctions Will Work, All Right. Just Ask The Oligarchs

President Barack Obama, who has supposedly taken the toughest line in condemning Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “aggression,” has merely declared banking sanctions on a dozen Russian businessmen personally close to Putin. But in truth, there’s some deep thinking behind Washington’s sanctions regime, and they could ultimately prove deadly to Putin’s future. The key to the sanctions strategy is to drive a wedge between Putin’s shrinking inner circle and the wider Russian elite. “People aren’t ready to sacrifice their holidays in the Alps and in Antalya for the sake of an idea of a Great State,” says Nina Khrushcheva, a historian at New York City’s New School and a granddaughter of Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet leader who ceded Crimea to Ukraine in 1954. “That was fine in Stalin’s time, but it’s not fine in Putin’s time.”

In other words, the sanctions are smart because they so precisely target Kremlin insiders and personal friends of Putin—men such as such as billionaire Gennady Timchenko, whose Gunvor company trades most of Russia’s oil and who has major interests in gas pipe-building companies, and Arkady Rotenberg, Putin’s former judo partner, whose construction company hugely benefited from the $50 billion Sochi Olympics. The share prices of companies associated with the sanctioned billionaires have been badly hit, and Visa and Mastercard suspended operations with two banks linked to those on Washington’s list. In other words, Putin has become a liability for Russia’s rich—and they’re getting nervous.It’s easy to see why Putin’s moves worry them. Even without direct personal sanctions, all of Russia’s businesspeople will pay a price for the Crimea annexation in the form of steeply higher borrowing costs. Most international ratings agencies have downgraded Russia’s outlook from stable to negative. The ruble has slid further; capital is fleeing Russia fast.

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Brian Beutler: Republicans Losing It Over New Obamacare Data: Why Their Position Is Collapsing

It’s a complete accident of legislative and administrative history that the fourth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act should fall the week before the end of the law’s first ever, six-month-long open-enrollment period. But it’s a great coincidence for those of us in the business of cutting through all the hyperbole that accompanies each ACA anniversary, because, for the first time since the law passed, there are real data, and real beneficiaries, to hold up against the spin.

And as I’ve been arguing for months now, the GOP’s position on the law can’t actually withstand on-the-ground realities. Case in point: Terri Lynn Land — Michigan’s one-time Republican secretary of state, turned Senate candidate — held a first-ever conference call with reporters to trash the ACA on its fourth birthday. But confronted with the question of what happens to people with preexisting medical conditions if the GOP repeals the law (and thus eliminates the individual mandate) — Land’s press aide, Heather Swift, commandeered the call, and tried to take the whole thing off the record.

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Coral Davenport: Obama Turns To Web To Illustrate The Effects Of A Changing Climate

President Obama wants Americans to see how climate change could deluge or destroy their own backyards — and to make it as easy as opening a web-based app. As part of an effort to make the public see global warming as a tangible and immediate problem, the White House on Wednesday inaugurated a website, climate.data.gov, aimed at turning scientific data about projected droughts and wildfires and the rise in sea levels into eye-catching digital presentations that can be mapped using simple software apps. The project is the brainchild of Mr. Obama’s counselor, John D. Podesta, and the White House science adviser, John P. Holdren.

The effort comes as Mr. Obama prepares to announce a set of aggressive climate change regulations aimed at limiting emissions from coal-fired plants.“Localizing this information gives a sense of how this affects people and spurs action,” Mr. Podesta told a small group of reporters at the White House on Wednesday. “If you’re thinking about this from the perspective of how your local community will be affected, it’s likely to change that question of salience.”

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Sahil Kapur: Kagan Throws Scalia’s Own Religious Liberty Arguments Back In His Face

During oral arguments Tuesday about the validity of Obamacare’s birth control mandate, Justice Elena Kagan cleverly echoed Justice Antonin Scalia’s past warning that religious-based exceptions to neutral laws could lead to “anarchy.” “Your understanding of this law, your interpretation of it, would essentially subject the entire U.S. Code to the highest test in constitutional law, to a compelling interest standard,” she told Paul Clement, the lawyer arguing against the mandate for Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood. “So another employer comes in and that employer says, I have a religious objection to sex discrimination laws;

and then another employer comes in, I have a religious objection to minimum wage laws; and then another, family leave; and then another, child labor laws. And all of that is subject to the exact same test which you say is this unbelievably high test, the compelling interest standard with the least restrictive alternative.” Kagan’s remarks might sound familiar to the legally-trained ear. In a 1990 majority opinion in Employment Division v. Smith, Scalia alluded to the same examples of what might happen if religious entities are permitted to claim exemptions from generally applicable laws. He warned that “[a]ny society adopting such a system would be courting anarchy.”

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The Bump: A Message From Michelle Obama For The Bump Moms (Really!)

Back when Barack and I were expecting our first daughter, we were overwhelmed with so many emotions: excitement, wonder, hope… and occasional moments of panic at the prospect of bringing this little person into the world. We had all the usual first-time parent worries: How would we balance the needs of our growing family with the demands of our jobs? How would the stresses of caring for a new baby affect our marriage? Would our little girl be able to tell that we had no idea what we were doing? But there was one thing we never worried about: ensuring that I would have a healthy pregnancy and delivery. That’s because, while we were still struggling to pay off our student loans and pay down our mortgage, we both had jobs that provided health insurance.

So while our finances weren’t perfect, we had the security of knowing that I could get the maternity care I needed. Every mother and every father in this country deserves this kind of peace of mind – and that’s what the Affordable Care Act is all about.Every plan on HealthCare.gov covers maternity care, pediatrician’s visits, preventive care (things like flu shots, mammograms and vaccines for kids), birth control and more. And these plans are affordable – the majority of people without insurance today will be able to get covered for $100 a month or less, and many young adults will be able to get covered for as little as $50 a month. Also, if you’re pregnant now, and you get signed up by March 31st, when your baby is born, you’ll both be covered.

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Greg Sargent: Is Obamacare Repeal Fatigue Setting In?

Views of the ACA remain unfavorable, but the gap is narrowing. The new poll finds that in March, 38 percent viewed the law favorably, versus 46 percent who saw it unfavorably. That’s a substantial narrowing from the 34-50 spread during the dark days of January, and a return almost to where opinion was in September (39-43), before the rollout disaster began. – Support for repeal continues to shrink. Only 18 percent want to repeal the law and not replace it, while all of 11 percent want to repeal and replace it with a GOP alternative — a grand total of 29 percent. Meanwhile, 49 percent want to keep the law and improve it, and another 10 percent want to keep it as is — a total of 59 percent.

Among indys, that keep/improve versus repeal/replace spread is 52-31. Republicans are all alone here, with their spread at 31-58. That overall keep-versus-repeal spread has improved for the law since February (when it was 56-31), and even more so since December and October, suggesting a clear trend. – Crucially, a majority, 53 percent, say they are tired about hearing about the law and want to move on to other issues. Only 42 percent think the Obamacare debate should continue. A majority of independents has had enough (51-45). Even 47 percent of Republicans are done with it. – Most of the ACA’s individual provisions are wildly popular. Virtually every one of them — the Medicaid expansion; the preexisting conditions piece; subsidies for low income people’s coverage – has overwhelming majority support, and all of those are even backed by a majority of Republicans.

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Pope Francis takes a picture with President Barack Obama and his delegation after his meeting at the Vatican with the President

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Jonathan Cohn: John Bohener’s Hypocritical Griping About The Obamacare Deadline Delay. Conservatives’ Real Beef: That People Want To Sign Up

The Obama Administration has made another adjustment to the Affordable Care Act and the critics are making another fuss. The adjustment, first reported (I think) by Amy Lotven for Inside Health Policy, is an extension of the open enrollment period for buying private insurance through the new Obamacare marketplaces. Officially, most people have until March 31 to sign up for a plan. (The exception are people who lose a job or have some other, similar life-altering experience. They can sign up throughout the year.) But on Wednesday, the administration announced that it will be offering some extra time to consumers who don’t finish their applications in time. They’ll be able to use the websites, just like they can now, only they’ll have to check a box attesting to the fact that they started the application process before April 1.

“What the hell is this? A joke?” House Speaker John Boehner said at a press conference. “Another deadline made meaningless. If he hasn’t put enough loopholes in the law already, the administration is now resorting to an honor system to enforce it.”For each one of these extensions or delays, the ultimate question is whether they change the law’s ability to realize its basic goals—which, in this case, means encouraging people to buy new private health plans while maintaining a stable insurance market. Giving people a little extra time to enroll wouldn’t seem to impede this kind of progress. If anything, it would seem to enhance it. And maybe that’s what really bothers some of the law’s fiercer critics.

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Market Watch: Jobless Claims Fall To 4-Month Low Of 311,000

The number of people who applied for U.S. unemployment benefits fell by 10,000 to 311,000 last week to mark the lowest level in four months, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch expected claims to total 320,000 on a seasonally adjusted basis in the week ended March 22. The average of new claims over the past month declined by 9,500 to 317,750. That was the lowest level since last September, when claims fell sharply because of a major errors related to a computer upgrade in California’s system for processing claims. The four-week average is the lowest since 2007 if the reports distorted by California’s computer problems are excluded. The monthly figure smooths out the jumpiness in the weekly report and offers a better look at the underlying trend.

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On This Day:

Presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-IL, listens to testimony before the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs about the health care needs of returning service members on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 27, 2007

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President Obama makes a point during an interview in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, March 27, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

 President Obama preps with staff in the Cabinet Room of the White House before interviews, March 27, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama laughs as U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder jokes about his basketball skills during his ceremonial installation at George Washington University on March 27, 2009

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President Obama travels aboard Air Force One en route to Afghanistan, March 27, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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 First Lady Michelle Obama helps to plant a cherry blossom tree during an event celebrating the centennial anniversary of the 1912 gifts of cherry blossom trees to the United States from Japan, in Washington, D.C. on March 27, 2012

President Obama participates in a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani of Pakistan during the Nuclear Security Summit at the Coex Center in Seoul, Republic of Korea, March 27, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

 President Obama talks with National Security Advisor Tom Donilon during a break in the Nuclear Security Summit at the Coex Center in Seoul, Republic of Korea, March 27, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama talks with President Viktor Yanukovych of Ukraine during a pull aside at the Nuclear Security Summit at the Coex Center in Seoul, Republic of Korea, March 27, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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 President Obama watches as Vice President Biden administers the oath of office to Julia Pierson, as she is sworn-in as the new director of the U.S. Secret Service, March. 27, 2013, in the Oval Office

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