Posts Tagged ‘sanctions

27
Mar
14

Rise and Shine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Paul Krugman: Data As Slogan. Data As Substance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Greg Sargent: Is Obamacare Repeal Fatigue Setting In?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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On This Day:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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23
Mar
14

Rise and Shine

President Obama’s signature on the health insurance reform bill at the White House, March 23, 2010. The President signed the bill with 22 different pens (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

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Today:

8:50 PM EST: President Obama departs the White House

9:05: Departs Joint Base Andrews

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The Week Ahead:

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Amy Lynn Smith: Student Celebrates The ACA’s 4th Birthday With The Gift Of Coverage For $5.23/Month

On March 23, 2014, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) celebrates its fourth anniversary of being signed into law. Also known as Obamacare, the law has helped millions of Americans obtain affordable, quality coverage — many for the first time. Andreea Prundeanu, a 29-year-old doctoral candidate at Michigan State University in Lansing, is one of them. Concern about getting sick weighed heavily on her as she was working hard toward her future. She was uninsured for three years after she turned 26 and could no longer stay on her parents’ plan. Prundeanu enrolled in a Silver-level plan through Healthcare.gov. Because of her low income as a student, she was eligible for financial assistance — and now pays just $5.23 a month for coverage.

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The Judge who declared Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional

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Hunter Schwarz: Joe Biden Calls LGBT Workplace Discrimination “Barbaric”

Vice President Joe Biden called employers’ ability in some states to fire employees because of their sexuality “barbaric” and “bizarre” during a keynote address at the Human Rights Campaign Gala dinner Saturday. “Hate can never be defended because it’s a so-called cultural norm,” he said. “I’ve had it up to here with cultural norms.” He called on Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, which would outlaw discrimination by most private employers against people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

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Yahoo: How Obama Crippled A Russian Bank With A Stroke Of A Pen

He may not take shirtless horseback rides across the steppes, or have a black belt in judo, but on Thursday, President Obama sent a message to Russian president Vladimir Putin about strength. Specifically, economic strength. The message was this: Whenever I decide to, I can pick up a pen, and kill a significant financial institution in your country. Obama’s victim was the St. Petersburg-based Bank Rossiya. In response to Russia’s takeover of the Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, Obama yesterday authorized the Treasury Department to add 20 members of Putin’s inner circle, as well as Bank Rossiya, to the Office of Foreign Asset Control’s list of “specially designated nationals.”

The designation makes the individuals named ineligible to do business with U.S. financial institutions, which is likely a major personal inconvenience. But for Bank Rossiya, the designation is something like the kiss of death. Bank Rossiya is not the largest bank in Russia by a long shot, but its significance lies in its clientele rather than its size. In announcing the sanctions, the Treasury Department noted that Bank Rossiya “is the personal bank for senior officials of the Russian Federation” including members of the Ozero Dacha Cooperative, an exclusive community where members of Putin’s inner circle live. In addition, it provides financial services to the single largest segment of the Russian economy – the oil, gas, and energy sector.

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Sergei Seninsky: Crimea Annexation Threatens Already Weakened Russia Economy

Capital flight from Russia reached $35 billion in the first two months of this year, Russian Economic Development Minister Aleksei Ulyukayev said this week. That outflow has only increased in recent weeks and by the end of the first quarter, it could exceed the $65 billion capital-flight figure recorded for all of 2013, analysts say.

This trend — and other factors including likely international sanctions, the falling value of the ruble, and the costs of integrating Crimea into the Russian economy — could tip the sluggish Russian economy into recession. “The sum of these factors — the decline in investment and a slowdown in consumer demand — in my view will mean that the economy is on the edge of a recession,” says Kirill Tremasov, an economist with Nomos-Bank in Moscow. “Although you can still hear predictions from government bureaucrats that the economy might grow by 2 or 3 percent, I think these predictions are completely unfounded.”

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NYT: Russian Forces Take Over The Last Ukrainian Bases In Crimea

Russian forces pushed Saturday to complete their expulsion of the Ukrainian military from the disputed Crimean Peninsula, smashing through the gates of a base here with armored vehicles, firing weapons into the air and demanding that the cornered Ukrainian soldiers surrender. The operation to seize the base — one of the Ukrainian military’s last strongholds on the peninsula — was larger and more dramatic than at other installations where Ukrainian forces have capitulated steadily in recent days as Russia declared its formal annexation of the region.

By evening, Russian forces were fully in control of the base here, and most of the Ukrainian troops were dispatched to their barracks and homes to pack. In interviews before the takeover Saturday, soldiers expressed frustration with the lack of help from the their government in Kiev. Some troops said they were defending the base as a matter of honor, having sworn to serve the people and government of Ukraine. “I took an oath,” said one commander, adding that he felt no personal antipathy toward Russia or Russians. The sense of abandonment was echoed at other bases where soldiers and marines began to pack up their belongings last week, accepting that their cause was lost.

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Jonathan Cohn: The Koch Brothers Are Accidentally Advertising The Benefits Of Obamacare

Some new advertisements attacking the Affordable Care Act actually show why the law is working. The ads are running in Colorado and Louisiana, two states where incumbent Democratic senators face difficult reelection fights. They come from Americans for Prosperity, the conservative organization backed by the Koch Brothers. In short, these stories may generate sympathy but they are rarely the stuff of tragedy. And that’s because of the protections Obamacare provides—which is to say, the very things that Koch-funded right-wingers want to gut.

After all, it’s Obamacare that sets a minimum standard for insurance, so that all policies include comprehensive benefits and set limits on out-of-pocket spending. It’s Obamacare that puts coverage within financial reach of many more people than before, by offering those subsidies and then, for some people, reducing out-of-pocket expenses even more. In the old days, it wasn’t so hard to find tear-jerker anecdotes: People without insurance or with inadequate insurance were filing for bankruptcy, losing their homes, and missing out on essential medicine. Now those stories are less common and, for the most part, they are among people who had these same problems previously. Telling the stories of these people would be a rationale for expanding the Affordable Care Act, not repealing it.

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Christian Caryl: President Obama Takes A Big Risk And Scores A Big Win For Democracy — And No One Gives A Damn

President Obama pulled off a master stroke this week. He deployedU.S. military force in support of an infant democracy that desperately needs our help. The result was a resounding success, a vivid illustration of how the United States can put its unchallenged power to positive ends. He did it, once again, by sending in the SEALs, the U.S. Navy’s famous special forces. But this time they weren’t double-tapping a terrorist. Instead they seized a mysterious tanker that had skipped out of Libya with a shipment of oil that one of the country’s rogue militias was trying to sell on the open market. By doing it the SEALs foiled a potentially game-changing challenge to the authority of Libya’s hard-pressed government – one of the very few in the Arab world to have actually been elected by its own country’s people.

The reaction in Washington: a giant yawn. Deafening silence from Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who are always quick to demand U.S. military action in situations where it will usually make things worse. Fox News barely noticed. Nor was there a word of praise from the president’s liberal allies on Capitol Hill. Even theNew York Times ran a perfunctory report. And as for the rest of America: Well, hey, the NCAA tournament is getting under way, and there are big controversies from the world of reality TV that need attending to. The collective disinterest is even more appalling when you consider that the country we just helped is Libya. You remember, right — the place where our ambassador was killed by terrorists two years ago? The president’s critics never tire of bringing that up, since they can use it to score political points against him

Oil is Libya’s lifeblood. The economy entirely depends on it; turn off the taps and everything grinds to a halt. Make no mistake: This was not “leading from behind.” This was an act of daring from a president who’s often typecast as too passive for his own good. But it was also a smart, calculated move — a truly surgical operation of a kind that probably only the United States could have pulled off with such confidence. It sends exactly the message that needs to be sent: If you try freelancing with oil resources that rightfully belong to the Libyan people, you won’t get far.

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Think Progress: The Burger Chain That Pays $10 An Hour With Benefits

Shake Shack, a burger chain with locations in Florida, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C. as well as international locations in the Middle East, Russia, Turkey, and the United Kingdom, pays starting workers $9.50 an hour outside of New York City and $10 an hour for New Yorkers, CEO Randy Garutti told ThinkProgress. It also offers full-time employees health, dental, vision, retirement, and disability benefits plus paid time off. But on average, workers get $10.70 an hour thanks to a program it calls Shack Bucks. Every month, it gives employees a percentage of the company’s top-line sales. The company pays about 70 percent of employees’ health care premiums and also matches contributions to their 401(k)s.

Michigan’s Moo Cluck Moo pays entry-level workers $15 an hour, a move its owners say leads to less turnover, better customer service, and more skilled employees. In-N-Out, a West Coast burger chain, pays $10.50 an hour for entry-level employees. Outside of the burger world, Boston-based burrito chain Boloco pays starting workers anywhere from $9 to $11 an hour, which the owner says increases loyalty and productivity and, in turn, profitability. In light of the conversation to raise the minimum wage, others have decided to join in. Two pizza companies in St. Louis will soon pay at least $10.10 an hour. It has also spread outside of the food industry: clothing retailer The Gap recently announced it will also raise its lowest wage to $10.

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Sy Mukherjee: Insurance Giant Raises Its Profit Forecast Amid Surging Obamacare Enrollment

WellPoint, the insurance giant that encompasses the Anthem and Blue Cross Blue Shield brands, has raised its 2014 profit forecast after gaining more than a million new customers largely thanks to the Affordable Care Act. According to WellPoint CEO Joseph Swedish, the company now expects more than $8.20 per share in net income versus the $8.00 per share it was originally expecting, “driven by growth of 1.0 to 1.3 million net new medical members and mid-single digit percent increases in both operating revenue and operating gain.” Swedish even mentions Obamacare marketplaces specifically as a source of continuing growth.

“While it is early in 2014, we are encouraged by results thus far across our businesses and we believe [Obamacare] Exchanges are tracking our general expectations,” Swedish said in a press release. “As such, we are raising our 2014 earnings outlook… Our updated outlook reflects solid growth in membership, revenue and operating earnings. Our outlook also remains prudent in light of the dynamic nature of the marketplace, and we believe this is a point from which we will grow in the future.” WellPoint and its subsidiaries are selling policies in 14 states’ Obamacare marketplaces. Swedish has consistently been bullish about Obamacare enrollment — which surpassed five million private health plan signups earlier this week — both for this year and over the coming decade.

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Sandra Chereb: Nevada Sees Surge In Medicaid Enrollments

Nevada Medicaid enrollments under federal health care reform have surpassed initial projections and are on pace to reach 500,000 by summer, a mark initially not expected to be reached until the end of the 2015 fiscal year, a state official said. Mike Willden, director of the Department of Health and Human Services, said his agency has a backlog of 60,000 pending Medicaid applications, and he may need to speed up hiring to keep up with the demand. “We’ve doubled capacity. We really need to triple capacity,” Willden told the Board of Examiners on Tuesday. The Division of Welfare and Supportive Services began receiving electronic enrollments through Nevada’s health insurance exchange,

Nevada Health Link, in October. At the start, the agency was receiving about 121 applications per day electronically, representing about 40 percent of all Medicaid applications, Willden said. By December, “the floodgates opened” and enrollments jumped dramatically, sometimes reaching 3,000 per day, Willden said. “Since mid-December, the pipeline is wide-open and we are getting thousands of Medicaid applications each and every day,” he said. Under President Barack Obama’s health care law, states were given the option to expand Medicaid eligibility to include people up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. When the current fiscal year began July 1, Nevada had 320,000 enrolled in Medicaid. By February, that number spiked to 402,000.

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On This Day:

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President Obama talks with National Economic Council Director Larry Summers and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner following a meeting in the Oval Office, March 23, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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