Posts Tagged ‘ryan

21
Jul
14

The President’s Day

@petesouza: Pres Obama and Medal of Honor recipient SSG Pitts during benediction as his wife and son watch

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Text of the President’s remarks here

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Rabbi David Saperstein claps as President Obama approaches to sign an executive order to protect LGBT employees from federal workplace discrimination

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Surrounded by LGBT supporters, including Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, President Barack Obama signs executive orders to protect LGBT employees from federal workplace discrimination in the East Room of the White House. President Obama’s executive orders prohibit discrimination against gay and transgender workers in the federal government and its contracting agencies, without a new exemption that was requested by some religious organizations

President Obama arrives to make a statement on the situation in Ukraine and Gaza

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Text of the President’s remarks here

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President Obama attends a town hall meeting to discuss his My Brother’s Keeper initiative while at the Walker Jones Education Campus in Washington. President Obama announced that leaders of 60 of the largest school systems have pledged to expand minority boys’ access to better preschools and advanced classes and to try to prevent grade retention, suspensions and expulsions

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Text of the President’s remarks here

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President Obama listens as he is introduced by the president of the NBA Players Association and Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul

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Text of the President’s remarks here

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President Obama bestows former Army Staff Sergeant Ryan M. Pitts with the Medal of Honor in the East Room of the White House. Pitts is the ninth living recipient of the nation’s highest decoration for battlefield valor for actions in Iraq and Afghanistan

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Chips butting in on Nerdy’s post:

A year ago today, the weirdest thing happened: Manchester United and Chelsea teamed up.

Well, me and Nerdy.

Yup, it’s exactly 12 months since Chelsea Girl took over the running of TOD with me, and I don’t have to tell you how much she has contributed since then, or how much work she has put in to the site with wonderful posts like this, every single day. And without her, TOD honestly wouldn’t even exist any more.

Nerdy?

Thank you for everything – your intelligence, your energy, your passion, your determination, your dedication, your friendship, and your support.

It was a very, very happy day when you came in to TOD’s life, and mine.

Thank you Chelsea Girl.

21
Apr
14

Let The Good Times “Egg And Roll”

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Colorful eggs await the throngs of children attending the annual White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington.

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President Barack Obama high fives his doubles partner as he plays tennis during the annual White House Easter Egg Roll

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First Lady Michelle Obama hugs actress Debby Ryan, from the television show “Jessie”, during a healthy cooking demonstration with chef Marc Murphy

Continue reading ‘Let The Good Times “Egg And Roll”’

11
Apr
14

Rise and Shine

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

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Today (All Times Eastern)

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

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

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

3:05 Arrive New York City

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

11:30 The President and First Lady depart New York

12:40 Arrives White House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Judy Peres: How Obamacare Affects Women’s Health

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jonathan Cohn: Sebelius Resigns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bill Schneider: An Election Democrats Can Win

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

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

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

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

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

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@Politics_PR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Paul Krugman: Health Care Nightmare

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

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

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On This Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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20
Mar
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and daughters Sasha and Malia, tour the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, March 20, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern):

11:0: President Obama Speaks on Ukraine

Times below now delayed:

11:0 President Obama departs White House

1:25: Arrives Orlando, Florida

2:0: Takes part in a roundtable with Valencia College students and local workers; Valencia College, Orlando

3:45: Departs Orlando

4:35: Arrives Miami

5:10: Attends a DNC fundraiser; private residence, Miami

7:35: Delivers remarks and takes questions at a fundraiser for House Democrats; private residence, Miami

8:50: Departs Miami

11:20: Arrives White House

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First Lady Michelle Obama, her mother Marian Robinson, her daughters Sasha and Malia arrive at Beijing Capital International Airport, March 20

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Information on the First Lady’s trip to China here

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Olga Khazan: For Women, The Benefits Of Insurance Outweigh Its Costs

For young women who qualify for subsidies, the free benefits of insurance offset the cost of paying for it, according to a new analysis from Nerdwallet, a consumer financial education site. The company calculated that for a 27-year-old who earns an income of $25,000, the cost of a silver insurance plan will be approximately $1,740 per year, and a bronze plan will cost approximately $1,116 per year.  But that cost is cancelled out by the range of women’s preventative health services that all insurance plans must now cover. For example, while a year’s supply of Yasmin birth control would normally have cost women $744, it’s now free for those with insurance under Obamacare.

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Andrew Sprung: The Satisfied Unsubsidized: Obamacare’s Hidden Winners

More than 80 percent of the people who have signed up for health plans through state or federal Affordable Care Act exchanges qualify for subsidies to help pay premiums and out-of-pocket medical expenses. But what about all the millions who don’t have access to employer-sponsored health insurance but also don’t qualify for subsidies? About half of the 12 million Americans buying health insurance on the individual market are subsidy-ineligible, according to the Urban Institute. Are they all fuming and lining up to appear in anti-Obamacare commercials? Chances are not. As veterans of the individual market, many are accustomed to its shocks and uncertainties. But many are finding their options much better and their status less precarious than in the pre-ACA market.

“Finally, in December, I was able to get on the site and look for plans in Georgia that included the doctors we used—most especially for my daughter and her preexisting condition. I found one for around $1,100 per month for my family, and being the capitalist I am, went to compare it to the private marketplace.” That turned out to be a wise idea. Brad found a Humana plan that included the family’s current doctors with a family deductible of $2,500, just half that of the plan he’d considered on the exchange. While the monthly premium was about $100 more expensive, he felt the tradeoff was worthwhile. “I was surprised the private market was so accommodating,” Brad says. “Before the ACA, I couldn’t find anything like this.”

Jonathan and Rose, forty-somethings in Washington State who are also subsidy-ineligible, viewed that option differently. Over the course of 20 years, the couple had cycled variously through employer policies, COBRA, two state high-risk pools (Rose has a preexisting condition) and individual policies. They compared plans on- and off-exchange and found those on the exchange marginally cheaper. But they could have bought the plan of their choice, available through the state exchange, directly from the insurer. Why not spare themselves the extra step as Karen and Brad did? “I chose to buy through the exchange because future income is never guaranteed and if I end up unemployed or with a lower-than-expected income in 2014, I can get the subsidies later when I file my taxes, if I’m eligible,” Jonathan explained.

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Jonathan Chait: Barack Obama, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Poverty, And Culture

Second, Coates argues (in yesterday’s column) that right-wing and liberal advocates of the cultural explanation have the same worldview. “What Ryan said here is not very far from what Bill Cosby, Michael Nutter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama said before him,” he writes, “The idea that poor people living in the inner city, and particularly black men, are ‘not holding up their end of the deal’ as Cosby put it, is not terribly original or even, these days, right-wing.” There are points of overlap, to be sure, but the Ryan argument is dramatically different. Ryan’s analysis — or, at least, the analysis that follows consistently from his remarks and his policy agenda — is that culture now represents the entirety of the problem with the black poor. He attributes that culture to incentives put in place by the government not to work, and believes that removing those harmful incentives, in the form of cutting benefit programs, would teach poor black people to fend for themselves.

Obama’s habit of speaking about this issue primarily to black audiences is Obama seizing upon his role as the most famous and admired African-American in the world to urge positive habits and behavior. Coates is equating exhortation with analysis when he cites Obama urging African-Americans to “get off the couch and stop watching SportsCenter and go register some folks and go to the polls.” Coates responds acidly that African-Americans “voted at higher rates than any other ethnic group in the country. They voted for Barack Obama. Our politics have not changed.” The Obama quote cited by Coates is from January 2008. Before then, black people turned out in presidential elections at lower rates than white people. Since, then, they have turned out at higher rates.

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Carrie Dann: Obama Rules Out ‘Military Excursion’ In Ukraine

President Barack Obama on Thursday ruled out a “military excursion” by the United States in Ukraine, saying that engaging Russia militarily “would not be appropriate.” “We are not going to be getting into a military excursion in Ukraine,” he said in an interview with KNSD in San Diego. “What we are going to do is mobilize all of our diplomatic resources to make sure that we’ve got a strong international coalition that sends a clear message, which is that Ukraine should decide their destiny.” “There is a better path, but I think even the Ukrainians would acknowledge that for us to engage Russia militarily

would not be appropriate and would not be good for Ukraine either,” he added. In a separate interview with KSDK in St. Louis, Obama reiterated that a military option is not on the table but that the United States and its allies are prepared to take “even more disruptive economic actions.” Obama granted interviews to six local television stations on Wednesday. In the interview with KNSD, the president insisted that Russian President Vladimir Putin “acted out of weakness, not out of strength,” saying that Putin is “not comfortable” with countries loosening their ties to the Kremlin in favor of more freedom to deal with the West.

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Breanna Edwards: Oprah To Headline At Virginia Democrat’s Fundraiser

All other Virginia Democrat campaigns, move aside: Oprah Winfrey is raising funds for Lavern Chatman, who is hoping to replace retiring Rep. Jim Moran, also a Democrat, New York’s Daily News reports. The talk-show icon will be the headliner at an April 5 fundraiser in Arlington.

Chatman, former president of the Northern Virginia Urban League, says she’s “delighted” that her “good friend” Oprah will be helping her with the campaign. “To win a race like this, you need a lot of support and a strong grassroots effort,” Chatman told The Hill, the Daily News notes. “Our campaign is off to a tremendous start. We have inspired new volunteers and re-engaged many voters.”

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NYT: Racing To Deadline, White House Plays To Young In Health Care Push

In the past three weeks, Mr. Obama has met with YouTube personalities in the Roosevelt Room, hosting some of the younger generation’s online favorites: a science geek, a drunken chef and an Obama impersonator. He dialed into Rickey Smiley’s hip-hop radio show and sat down in the Diplomatic Reception Room for separate interviews with the comedian Zach Galifianakis and a health care expert from WebMD. “We are going to leave no stone unturned,” said Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to the president and the leader of the White House public engagement office, which is coordinating the Affordable Care Act effort. “Our goal is to meet people where they are.”

Michelle Obama urged people to sign up in an appearance at a health center in a black neighborhood in Miami, and made the pitch on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. plugged the health care site at Mary Mac’s Tea Room in Atlanta. The final push comes at a time when the administration is juggling other priorities. On March 6, at the height of the crisis in Ukraine, Mr. Obama spoke on the phone with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia for an hour before going across town to urge Latinos to enroll during a town-hall meeting at a museum broadcast on three Spanish-language television networks. He returned to the White House a couple of hours later to announce the first sanctions on Russia.

On a conference call last week with almost 3,000 pastors, Mr. Obama declared it “crunch time” and asked them to do whatever they could do to urge members of their churches to sign up. At a small church in the Tampa, Fla., neighborhood of Sulphur Springs, the Rev. Timothy Wynn took up the challenge on Sunday. In front of about 50 parishioners, he delivered a sermon that combined his religious guidance with a pitch for insurance. Another YouTube star at the meeting was Hannah Hart, whose show “My Drunk Kitchen” is irreverent and hugely popular. An episode about making a grilled cheese sandwich while tipsy has gotten more than three million views, and a brunch episode, during which Ms. Hart repeatedly downs mimosas as she cooks pancakes and eggs, has gotten two million. In a video she made after leaving the White House meeting, Ms. Hart plugged the president’s website for her viewers.

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Milt Shook: Answering Charlie Pierce: Much Of The Democratic “Base” Isn’t Their Actual Base

In a blog post yesterday one of my favorite columnists, Charlie Pierce (he’s not just a liberal, but a hell of a sports columnist, too), posed a question that I have asked for many years. In fact, it’s a question that many progressives are getting sick of me asking, because they hate the answer: Somebody is going to have to explain to me why the Democratic “base,” which is presumably younger and more spry than the older and whiter Republican “base,” is nonetheless less likely to turn out for midterm elections than the That Sean Hannity Reminds Me Of My Grandson crowd. It is taken as a given, and past performance indicates clearly that it’s usually the case, but I’m not sure why it has to be. So, in the interest to changing this curious dynamic, let me take this red-hot poker and shove it up the base’s ass.

But let’s explain this to Charlie, since he asked: The easy answer, Charlie, is that many, if not most, of the people who proclaim themselves the Democratic “base” are actually anything but. Among these are a bunch of self-proclaimed (mostly white and not poor) progressives who complain about Democrats more than they complain about the current incarnation of the Republican Party. They seem to imagine themselves political experts, even though their actions show a profound ignorance of the real process. Many of them aren’t even registered Democratic, nor would they deign to set foot in a Democratic caucus of any kind. They’re not the “base,” by any stretch.

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Kobe Bryant talks Basketball, President Barack Obama, ObamaCare, and why everyone should get covered now. Begins at 9:00

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Washington Post: This Guy Knew When Obamacare Enrollment Would Hit 5M Before Anyone Else. Now He’s Predicting 6.2M

The Obama administration on Monday announced that 5 million people had signed up for Obamacare exchange plans. Hours earlier, a self-employed Web developer from Michigan had already predicted the milestone would be hit on Monday. Meet Charles Gaba: He’s not a professional statistician, heath care expert or a political operative. He’s a self-described “numbers geek” who just wants to know how the new health care law is actually doing.

He’s been tracking the most up-to-date enrollment information and offering his own projections on his blog, ACAsignups.net. On the same day he predicted the 5 million signups milestone, he accurately predicted California would hit the 1 million mark. For policy wonks and health care journalists who have clamored for more information about Obamacare enrollment, Gaba’s blog has become a must-read. His next big prediction: The final signup tally will hit 6.22 million.

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Ylan Mui: Federal Reserve Lays Groundwork For First Interest Rate Spike

The Federal Reserve spent the past five years driving home a single message: Zero percent interest rates are here to stay. Now it is preparing to change its tune. The nation’s central bank said Wednesday it will look at a broad swath of indicators – including job market data, inflation expectations and financial developments – as it determines when to raise rates for the first time since the recession hit. The deliberately vague wording is a retreat from the Fed’s concrete promise to leave rates untouched.

Though they disagree on when to act – targets range from this year to 2016 – the statement signals the moment has finally come within striking distance. The Fed has cast the shift as merely a change in semantics, not in official policy. In its statement, the central bank tried to assure investors that rates could remain below historical levels – even if they are no longer at zero.

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ESPN: MSU Honored That Obama Chose Spartans

Three weeks ago, the expectations for the Michigan State basketball team were pretty low. Riddled with injuries and unable to find any semblance of chemistry, it seemed as though the Spartans were a team destined for an early NCAA tournament exit. A few wins and Big Ten tournament title later, they’re the No. 4 seed in the East Region. The expectations soared as fans discussed how under-seeded the Spartans were, how they were no worse off than Michigan or Wisconsin, which both received No. 2 seeds.

Then, President Obama picked the Spartans to win it all in his annual “Barack-etology.” For Michigan State, it was fine to know that experts and analysts were picking the Spartans to cut down the nets, but when the president of the United States knew the names and stats and stories of the Michigan State team, it struck some members of the team.  “When I saw that it was just bizarre that Barack Obama picked us and he was talking aboutKeith [Appling] and injuries and us getting back and playing together as a team,” Branden Dawson said.

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On This Day:

President Barack Obama watches his wife, First Lady Michelle Obama, on TV as she breaks ground for the White House vegetable garden, March 20, 2009. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs watches with him in the Upper Press Office of the West Wing. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama drops by Vice President Joe Biden’s meeting with former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev in the Vice President’s Office in West Wing of the White House, March 20, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Barack Obama walks through the Outer Oval Office in between health care meetings, March 20, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama greets House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her grandson, following a meeting with Democratic Members of Congress to discuss the health insurance reform vote at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., March 20, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Barack Obama plays soccer with children at the Cidade de Deus (City of God) favela Community Center in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, March 20, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama watch a capoeira performance during their tour of the Ciudad de Deus Favela in Rio de Janeiro, March 20, 2011

President Barack Obama waves to people gathered on the street outside the Cidade de Deus (City of God) favela Community Center in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, March 20, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama fist bumps a young person reaching through the door at the Cidade de Deus (City of God) favela Community Center in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, March 20, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama acknowledges applause after he delivers a speech at the Teatro Municipal in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, March 20, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Barack Obama meets with Taoiseach Enda Kenny of Ireland in the Oval Office, March 20, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama is welcomed by Vice President Biden as he arrives for a reception for Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny in the East Room of the White House, March 20, 2012

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President Barack Obama walks across the tarmac with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 20, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Bo, the Obama family dog, waits for First Lady Michelle Obama on the South Lawn driveway before departing the White House, March 20, 2013. Bo accompanied Mrs. Obama during her visit to Maryland Fisher House IV at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

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Rise and Shine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Timothy Egan: Paul Ryan’s Irish Amnesia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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On This Day:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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14
Mar
14

President Obama Talks ObamaCare

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Sierra Marquina: President Barack Obama Talks Affordable Care Act, Zach Galifianakis, And Shopping At Gap

The Affordable Care Act was signed in to law by Obama in 2010 with the goal of increasing the quality, affordability, and attainability of health insurance and to date, over 4.2 million people have signed up. But President Obama stresses there are many more who need and should sign up for ObamaCare. However, for those who do not have health insurance, Obama stresses: “You should go to healthcare.gov and compare the prices that are available for various private plans. And they’re the same kind of plans that you’d get on the job that people are familiar with, things like Blue Cross and Aetna, depending on the state. And what healthcare.gov will show is the kinds of plans that are available, the prices that are available and whether you’re eligible for some sort of tax credit. And for a lot of people, they will find that for $100 or less, they can get really good health insurance – in some cases, it’s going to be less than the cost of their cellphone bill or their cable bill.” Why is it so important to make sure you’re covered? Obama explains it’s because “you never know what kind of curveballs life throws at you.”

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The president feels so strongly about the ACA, he even faced comedian Zach Galifianakis on his Funny or Die comedy series Between Two Ferns, where Zach called him a nerd, amongst other things. “Zach actually was pretty nervous,” Obama reveals with a laugh. “It was funny to watch because this whole Between Two Ferns schtick – which I wasn’t familiar with before my staff told me that we had been pitched to do this – his whole character is to go after the guest and I think he was looking around and seeing all these Secret Service guys with guns and thinking, ‘I wonder what happens here if I cross the line?’ But we had a great time.” “And as I said, I wasn’t familiar with this thing, but when I was at the dinner table with the girls and I said, ‘Well today I did something with Zach, it’s called Two Ferns I think?’ Malia was so excited! She had seen all the previous episodes, so I figured it was going to reach our target audience, which is a lot of young people and it turns out we’ve had close to 15 million hits. And the amazing thing is afterwards people actually did link to healthcare.gov and people actually signed up for health insurance, so it ended up working, but I think I have to keep my day job.”

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Yes Sir, you really, really, really, really do

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“I’ve been unfairly maligned about my jeans,” Obama jokes. “The truth is, generally I look very sharp in jeans. There was one episode like four years ago in which I was wearing some loose jeans mainly because I was out on the pitcher’s mound and I didn’t want to feel confined while I was pitching and I think I’ve paid my penance for that. I got whacked pretty good. Since that time, my jeans fit very well.”

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Sierra Marquina: Gap Employee Gives Details On Shopping With President Obama

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Mar
14

Rise and Shine

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)

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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

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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Jamelle Bouie: What Paul Ryan Gets Wrong About ‘Inner-City’ Poverty

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.

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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:

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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.

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Gabriel Arana: Ezra Klein’s Queer New Hire

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.”

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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.

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The Morning Call: Millennials Are More Liberal Than Other Generations

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.

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Ambrose Evans-Pritchard: Russia Counts Cost As West Tightens Sanctions

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.

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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.

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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.

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Your Laugh Of The Day

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On This Day:

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)

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14

Rise and Shine

President Barack Obama and National Security Advisor Tom Donilon walk along the Colonnade of the White House, March 7, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern):

11:05: The President and First Lady depart the White House en route Joint Base Andrews

11:20: Depart Joint Base Andrews

1:40: Arrive Homestead, Florida

2:25: The President and First Lady visit a Coral Reef High School classroom

2:40: The President delivers remarks

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Bruce Japsen: Employer Health Cost Increases At 15-Year Low As ObamaCare Comes Into View

U.S. employers this year face their “smallest increases in health care costs in 15 years,” according to a new survey showing the latest evidence of health inflation slowing. The trend comes as employers move to higher deductible health care plans that make workers think twice about choosing expensive tests and procedures, forcing employees to become better health care shoppers. Employers are also installing additional new strategies to encourage wellness activities such as financial incentives to stop smoking.

Most respondents to the survey are “recalibrating their health strategy” with 18 percent having either adopted a new strategy or updated an existing one, the Towers Watson executive summary of the report said. Another 57 percent of respondents are “in process,” the summary added. Two in five respondents cite the Affordable Care Act as the primary driver of their health care strategy.

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TPM: U.S. Employers Add 175K Jobs Despite Harsh Weather

 U.S. hiring improved in February from the previous two months despite a blast of wintry weather, likely renewing hopes that growth will accelerate this year. The Labor Department said Friday that employers added 175,000 jobs last month, up from just 129,000 in January, which was revised up from 113,000. December’s gain was also revised higher. The unemployment rate rose to 6.7 percent from a five-year low 6.6 percent. More Americans started looking for work but didn’t find jobs. That’s still an encouraging sign because more job hunters suggest that people were more optimistic about their prospects.

Some recent reports hint that the economy will accelerate as the weather warms. The number of people who applied for unemployment benefits fell last week and is at about the same level as before the Great Recession. Applications essentially reflect layoffs. The decline suggests that companies are confident about future growth, because layoffs would rise if employers expected business to weaken. Instead, businesses advertised more jobsonline last month, according to the Conference Board. Online job ads rose 268,100 in February to 5.19 million.

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AP: Cummings Says Issa Apologized And He Accepts

Rep. Elijah Cummings said Thursday night that California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa called him and apologized for refusing to let Cummings speak during an IRS hearing. The Maryland Democrat said he accepted the apology. Issa abruptly adjourned a hearing of the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday. He instructed committee staff to turn off the microphone of the committee’s top Democrat, Cummings.

“This evening, Chairman Issa telephoned me and apologized for his conduct, and I accepted his apology,” Cummings said in a statement. “My sincere hope is that as we move forward, we will respect the opinions of all members of the committee, we will proceed in a deliberate and considered manner to obtain the facts, we will refrain from making accusations that have no basis in fact, and we will seek resolution rather than unnecessary conflict.”

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Washington Post: Community Lenders’ Network Commits To Lend $1 Billion In Support Of ‘My Brother’s Keeper’

A network of community lenders is committing to lend $1 billion in support of President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative that aims to boost the life chances of young African and Hispanic men. The Opportunity Finance Network, which represents more than 225 community development financial institutions, will pledge Thursday it will expand financing for organizations and initiatives working to help young minority men.

Obama launched the initiative to help young minority men last week, saying this group of Americans are disadvantaged in today’s economy and deserve the nation’s attention. Obama’s solicited $200 million in financial commitments from foundations and companies to introduce programs aimed at keeping young men of color in the classroom and out of the criminal justice system. Mark Pinsky, chief executive of the Opportunity Finance Network, said his group was inspired by Obama’s commitment and decided to make their own.

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Igor Bobic: Sen. Harkin: Senate Would Have Confirmed Obama’s Top Civil Rights Nominee If He Was White

The U.S. Senate would have confirmed President Obama’s top civil rights nominee if he was white, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) suggested on Wednesday. “Here’s the message we sent today,” Harkin said. “You young people listen up. If you are a young white person and you go to work for a law firm … and that law firm assigns you to a pro bono case to defend someone who killed eight people in cold blood … my advice from this, what happened today, is you should do that … Because if you do that, who knows? You might wind up to be the chief justice of the United States Supreme Court.

“However, if you are a young black person and you go to work for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund … and you’re asked to sign an appeal for someone convicted of murder, what the message said today is, ‘Don’t do it! Don’t do it.’ Because you know what? If you do that, in keeping with your legal obligations and your profession, you will be denied by the U.S. Senate from being an attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice,” Harkin said.

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NBC News: White House Blocks Visas For Some Tied To Ukraine Crisis

The White House, toughening its response to the crisis in Crimea, said Thursday that it has revoked the U.S. visas of Russians and Ukrainians responsible for “threatening the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”

It also threatened financial sanctions against people or companies that the United States determines are responsible for undermining the Ukrainian government. A senior administration official said that the number or names of revoked visas would not be made public. The official also said that no people or companies have yet been sanctioned.

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David Edwards: Paul Ryan At CPAC: Free School Lunches Means Poor Parents Don’t Care About Kids

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) asserted on Thursday that liberals did not understand that kids who got free lunches at school did not have parents who cared about them at home. Speaking to the Conservative Political Action Conference, the former Republican vice presidential nominee argued that conservatives should let Democrats be the “party of personality,” while “we will be the party of ideas.”

“I’m optimistic about our chances because the left, the left just isn’t out of ideas, they’re out of touch,” he explained. “Take Obamacare — not literally, but figuratively here, okay? We now know that this law will discourage millions of people from working. The left thinks this is a good thing.” Ryan insisted that liberals were only offering people “a full stomach and an empty soul.”

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Thanks to the GOP

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Boston Globe: US Hiring Improved In February

US hiring improved in February from the previous two months despite a blast of wintry weather, likely renewing hopes that growth will accelerate this year. The Labor Department says employers added 175,000 jobs last month, up from just 129,000 in January, which was revised up from 113,000.

The unemployment rate rose to 6.7 percent from a five-year low 6.6 percent. More Americans started looking for work, but didn’t find jobs. That’s still an encouraging sign because more job hunters suggest that people were more optimistic about their prospects.

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Think Progress: Three More Abortion Clinics Forced To Close In Texas: ‘This Is A State Of Emergency’

Three more reproductive health care facilities in Texas have been forced to permanently close in the wake of a new state law that imposes stringent restrictions on abortion providers. The clinics are located in communities with high rates of poverty and uninsurance, leaving many vulnerable Texas women with no ready access to reproductive services. Two of the shuttered clinics are operated by Whole Woman’s Health, the largest independent abortion provider in Texas. That group used to operate five clinics in the state — but now, that number is shrinking to three. With the closure of another independently owned clinic in Harlingen, the Lone Star State is down to just 19 abortion clinics in the entire state. That’s a dramatic difference from where the reproductive health landscape stood just a few years ago. Back in 2011, there were 44 facilities in Texas that offered abortion care.

New restrictions on abortion providers went into effect at the beginning of November. Now, abortion doctors are required to obtain admitting privileges from a local hospital within 30 miles of their clinic, a medically unnecessary requirement that’s often impossible for doctors to meet. Nonetheless, the doctors who continue to practice without admitting privileges are at risk of getting their medical license suspended. So dozens of clinics — including Whole Women’s Health facility in McAllen — were forced to halt their abortion services in the fall. But that’s not the only burdensome restriction in Texas’ new law. Starting this September, abortion clinics will be required to bring their facilities in line with ambulatory surgical centers — which typically involves making expensive and unnecessary renovations, like widening hallways and installing water fountains.

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Washington Post: Crimea Sets Referendum On Joining Russia

Pro-Russian lawmakers in the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea sparked a showdown reminiscent of the Cold War on Thursday, accelerating their bid to leave Ukraine and join Russia in a move that President Obama, the new government in Kiev and European leaders described as provocative and illegal. Lawmakers in the autonomous region voted Thursday to join the Russian Federation and hold a referendum March 16 to validate the decision. The regional parliament, now led by Sergei Aksyonov — a businessman and politician known around Kiev as the “Goblin”

because of his alleged ties to organized crime, said it would nationalize Ukrainian state industries and begin setting up government ministries separate from Ukraine, which Crimea joined in 1954 when the nation was still a satellite of the Soviet Union. In Washington, Obama said the world was “well beyond the days when borders can be redrawn over the heads of democratic leaders,” as his administration imposed sanctions on Russians and Ukrainians involved in Russia’s military intervention in Crimea. European leaders also sounded alarms, denouncing the referendum plans as unacceptable.

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Damian Paletta: Unemployed Workers Stage Craigslist Fire Sale

Craigslist.org has always represented something of a virtual yard sale, but for many unemployed Americans it’s become something of a fire sale. You name it, they are selling it. Someone in Springfield, Ore., is selling a men’s watch for $100. “Unemployment is running out need money will sell for $100.00. Call before 8pm and after 8amplease be respectful. We can meet anywhere in public.”

And they are asking for it. Another worker in Kissimmee, Fla., whose post says lost benefits when Congress didn’t extend jobless payments Dec. 28, is asking for dog and cat food. “My dogs & cats are not picky,” the person wrote. Washington is wrangling with whether to extend long-term unemployment benefits, which ran out in North Carolina in July and in the other 49 states in late December as discussed in Monday’s Outlook column. But the financial pressures facing many Americans are much more complex than the Washington debate.

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White House: Readout of President Obama’s call with President Putin of Russia

President Obama spoke for an hour this afternoon with President Putin of Russia. President Obama emphasized that Russia’s actions are in violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, which has led us to take several steps in response, in coordination with our European partners. President Obama indicated that there is a way to resolve the situation diplomatically, which addresses the interests of Russia, the people of Ukraine, and the international community. As a part of that resolution, the governments of Ukraine and Russia would hold direct talks, facilitated by the international community; international monitors could ensure that the rights of all Ukrainians are protected, including ethnic Russians; Russian forces would return to their bases; and the international community would work together to support the Ukrainian people as they prepare for elections in May. President Obama indicated that Secretary Kerry would continue discussions with Foreign Minister Lavrov, the government of  Ukraine, and other international partners in the days to come to advance those objectives.

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James West: What The Ukraine Crisis Means For The Energy Industry

1. The United States is rushing to push more gas onto the market to undercut Putin’s power. Russia’s presence in Ukraine is prompting calls, especially among congressional Republicans, to loosen export restrictions on US natural gas in the hopes of diminishing Russia’s ability to use gas as a diplomatic weapon, like it did in 2006 and 2009. With America’s newfound dominance in gas production (in 2013, the United States surpassed Russia to become the biggest producer of oil and gas, thanks in part to fracking) comes greater power in energy diplomacy.

2. Russia isn’t as powerful as you might think. But for all the Russian posturing, and the canceled energy deal, Ukraine—and Europe more broadly—does have some leverage over Russia to prevent the situation from deteriorating further, says Edward Chow, an energy and security analyst at Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). “Interestingly, the gas pipelines, as well as critically important gas storage facilities, all go through Western Ukraine,” he says. “Until Russians build additional bypass pipelines…they are still highly dependent on Ukraine to transit gas exports to Europe.”

The United States and European Union are making energy reform central to their aid packages. Bill Gibbons, a spokesman for the US Energy Department, said on Tuesday that the Obama administration is directing part of the $1 billion loan guarantee that John Kerry delivered to Kiev this week to “energy security, energy efficiency and energy sector reform.” The European Union’s $15 billion package is also aimed, in part, at modernizing Ukraine’s gas transit system. With patrons of this much-needed aid linking their help to energy reform, there might well be a bigger chance of success, says Chow. “If you don’t do it now, when are you going to do it?” he asks. “Because Russia is not going to be interested in helping individuals from the new [Ukrainian] government extract rent like the previous government unless they can cooperate on other fronts. So this is quite a good opportunity to clean things up.”

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Market Watch: Why Job Hunters Should Cheer The End Of The Winter

The bad weather has done more than give people a case of cabin fever — it’s kept them out of work, which means there’s another reason to cheer for warmer days ahead. While some economists argue that consumer spending and hiring are down for reasons beyond Mother Nature’s control, it’s clear the below-average temperatures have had an impact. For instance, there were 142,000 jobs added to private payrolls in January, about 46,000 jobs short of the four-month average, says Michael Montgomery, a U.S. economist for IHS Global Insight. Some of those jobs were likely held back because of the weather, says Montgomery, adding they may push that hiring to the coming months as the weather gets back to normal.

“Because February stunk too, the makeup is deferred until March or later,” he says. Hiring also tends to pick up in the spring and summer anyway because more people are likely to shop, go out to eat and travel more often when the weather is nice, says Mark Hamrick, the Washington bureau chief for Bankrate.com. Those habits lead to higher demand for workers in the retail and tourism industries, he says. More homeowners also look for help with landscaping and painting the house after the weather warms up, adds Montgomery.

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On This Day:

Sen. Barack Obama at a campaign rally Friday March 7, 2008 in Laramie, Wyoming (Photo by Ken Driese)

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President Obama, Prime Minister Julia Gillard of Australia, and members of the Australian and American delegations look up at the presidential seal in the Oval Office ceiling following their bilateral meeting, March 7, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama practices passing a football with Prime Minister Julia Gillard of Australia in the Oval Office, March 7, 2011. Under Australian Football League rules, a player must hold the ball in front of them and punch it with a clenched fist in order to conduct a legal pass to another player (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama greets Davis Marsico, 6, and other supporters upon his arrival at Charlotte Douglas International airport, March 7, 2012

People line the motorcade route as President Obama makes his way to the Mount Holly Truck Manufacturing Plant in Charlotte, N.C, March 7, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Barack Obama gives a thumbs up after signing the Violence Against Women Act as he is joined by Vice President Joe Biden and members of women’s organizations, law enforcement officials, tribal leaders, survivors, advocates and members of Congress, at the Interior Department on March 7, 2013. The law strengthens the criminal justice system’s response to crimes against women, including domestic violence, sexual assault and trafficking




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