Posts Tagged ‘sanctions

04
Jul
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama watch the fireworks over the National Mall from the roof of the White House, July 4, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

11:0: The President speaks at a naturalization ceremony for active-duty service members and civilians

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6:0: The President and First Lady attend the “Salute to the Military” July 4th celebration at the White House; the President delivers remarks

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8:10: USO concert for troops and military families featuring recording artist Pitbull

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9:10: Fireworks show on the National Mall

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David Horsey: Unsung Civil Rights Heroes Fought And Died For Our Freedom

On the Fourth of July, as on all national holidays, we are encouraged to think about the men and women who have fought and died for our freedoms; the likes of Washington, Lincoln and all the soldiers who have fought in our wars. This standard roster of heroes is venerable, but it is far from complete. … in 1955, a weary black woman refused to give up the seat she had taken in the white section of a bus in Montgomery, Ala. In 1957, one lone black girl walked into Little Rock’s Central High School amid the jeers of a furious mob.

In 1958, a few young blacks sat down at the whites-only counter at the Dockum Drug Store in Wichita, Kan., and refused to leave. In 1961…. …. Rosa Parks, John Lewis, James Meredith, Fannie Lou Hamer, Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, Medgar Evers and so many others showed bravery as great as that of any soldier. They stood firm, sacrificed and, in many cases, died for our freedom. This Independence Day, think of them and stand in awe.

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Eugene Robinson: This July 4, Governing In The Spirit Of Revenge

As we celebrate the Fourth of July, who can argue that our democracy is working the way the Founders intended? And who can deny that most of the blame for dysfunction must fall to the Republican Party? … Whatever the motivation, Republicans have paralyzed our government in a way that would have shocked and depressed the Founders. Compounding the outrage, Republicans have the temerity to criticize Obama for using his executive powers in the national interest. This is dangerously close to nihilism.

Think about this for a moment. Urgently needed legislation has been passed by the Senate, is supported by the president and has enough votes in the House. Yet it goes nowhere, as chaos on the border worsens and thousands of children remain in limbo. Is this what the Founders had in mind? Today’s Republican Party opposes the Affordable Care Act, so it refuses to work with the Obama administration in legislating technical fixes that would make the law work more smoothly. Is this in any sense patriotic? the GOP cares more about ideology, reelection and opposing Obama’s every initiative than about the well-being of the nation. It is scant comfort, on Independence Day, to remember that the republic has survived worse.

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President Obama’s interview with Marketplace

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Full interview and transcript here

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Danny Vinik: Recovery Summer May Finally Have Arrived Finally, A Jobs Report Routs Expectations

For the past few years, it was like clockwork: A disappointing summer of job growth would give way to a much stronger winter. Economists would hesitantly forecast that the economy was about to kick into second gear. Then the summer would come and the disappointing data would return. But finally, it looks like we are ready to break that trend: The economy added 288,000 jobs in June, soundly beating economists’ expectations of 211,000, and the unemployment rate fell to 6.1 percent.

… Consumers, businesses and investors are all showing renewed confidence in the economy. On Monday, pending home sales hit a four-year high. Automakers also reported surprisingly high sales. Many economists even expect wage growth in the second half of the year. The June jobs report only adds further support for the recovery summer. … There are few commentators on Twitter who parse the jobs report better than economist Justin Wolfers. In recent years, it was often him who urged caution as the economy picked up in the winter and would shoot down any reporters showing too much optimism. But even he couldn’t find anything to be pessimistic about in this jobs report:

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NYT: Hiring Is Strong And Jobless Rate Declines To 6.1%

American companies are finally getting comfortable enough with the economy’s prospects to add new workers at a very healthy pace, after years of saying they lacked the confidence to hire people aggressively during a fitful recovery. Employers added 288,000 jobs in June, the Labor Department said Thursday, the fifth month in a row that hiring has topped the 200,000 mark. The unemployment rate dipped to 6.1 percent last month, the best reading since September 2008, when the collapse of Lehman Brothers turned what had been a mild recession into an economic rout. Factoring in June’s increase and upward revisions for estimated hiring in April and May, employers added an average of 231,000 workers a month in the first half of 2014, the best six-month run since the spring of 2006. “We’re clicking on all cylinders in terms of job growth,” said Dean Maki, chief United States economist at Barclays. Just as significant as the headline figures,

Mr. Maki said, is that June’s hiring was broad-based, as industries as varied as health care, manufacturing, financial services and retailing all added workers. “Every major sector showed job growth in June, including the private service sector, where the bulk of jobs in the U.S. are created,” Mr. Maki said. In an important turnabout, there were encouraging gains not just in well-paid white-collar professions, or in low-wage sectors like retail and restaurants, but also in the vast middle tier of jobs that enable workers to gain a foothold in the middle class. For example, manufacturers hired 16,000 workers, while transportation companies added 17,000 employees and the long-dormant public sector saw an addition of 26,000 positions.

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Sally Kohn: Hobby Lobby: Sex, Lies, And Craft Supplies

“Birth control is cheap.” Hobby Lobby was about four forms of contraception that are not cheap (PDF). Plan B costs $35 to $60. Ella costs around $55. An IUD costs anywhere from $500 to $1,000. As the Notorious RBG (known to some as Ruth Bader Ginsburg) pointed out in her scathing 35-page dissent, “the cost of an IUD is nearly equivalent to a month’s full-time pay for workers earning the minimum wage.” Similarly, for someone making $7 an hour — even if she’s lucky enough to get 40 hours of shifts in a week, which is rare — the cost of Plan B or Ella is roughly 10 percent of her take-home pay before taxes.

“Whatever, Hobby Lobby still covers 14 other kinds of contraception.” Funny thing, it actually provided all 20 until the lawyers behind the Hobby Lobby case contacted the company to see if they wanted to file suit. It was only then that the company discovered its insurance plan covered Plan B, and the two IUDs at issue—and then stopped covering them. And then Hobby Lobby sued the government for making it do something that up until that moment it had been doing on its own. Even today, Hobby Lobby’s 401(k) plan still invests not only in the manufacturers of these forms of birth control but also companies that make drugs used in medical abortions.

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Irin Carmon: Female Justices Issue Searing Dissent Over New Contraceptive Case

The fierce disagreements dividing the Supreme Court over this week’s Hobby Lobby decision were laid bare Thursday in a searing dissent from Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who said the Justices’ decision in a separate contraceptive case “undermines confidence in this institution.” The dissent was signed by all three female Justices. The dissent was in an order to grant an emergency request from Wheaton College, an evangelical college in Illinois. At issue is the “accommodation” the Obama administration worked out for religiously-identified non-profits: Sign a form certifying your objection, and the insurer will provide the coverage directly, without the objecting organization having to pay.

As of now, 122 non-profits have sued, claiming that signing the opt-out form for someone to get contraception violates their religious liberty. “Let me be absolutely clear: I do not doubt that Wheaton genuinely believes that signing the self-certification form is contrary to its religious beliefs,” Sotomayor wrote. “But thinking one’s religious beliefs are substantially burdened … does not make it so.” She added, “Not every sincerely felt ‘burden’ is a ‘substantial’ one, and it is for courts, not litigants, to identify which are.”

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Jeanna Smialek: Trade Gap In U.S. Shrinks More Than Forecast On Record Exports

The trade deficit in the U.S. narrowed more than forecast in May on record exports, signaling a pickup in global growth that will boost American manufacturers. The gap shrank by 5.6 percent, the biggest drop since November, to $44.4 billion from the prior month’s $47 billion, Commerce Department figures showed today in Washington. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of 69 economists called for a contraction to $45 billion.

Sales to foreign customers climbed 1 percent on growing demand for autos and parts, petroleum products and aircraft engines. Economic expansions abroad that are gaining traction will probably continue to invigorate demand for American goods. A narrowing deficit would mean trade becomes less of a drag on gross domestic product in the second quarter after the world’s largest economy contracted in the first three months of 2014.

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Lucia Graves: One Big Thing Everyone Is Missing In Hobby Lobby

The ruling is not just about sex, it’s about health. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in her scathing dissent of the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in the Hobby Lobby case this week, made an important point about women’s health that’s been almost entirely overlooked elsewhere: For many American women, the birth-control pill has nothing to do with controlling births. It’s a life-saving medicine. “The coverage helps safeguard the health of women for whom pregnancy may be hazardous, even life-threatening,” wrote Ginsburg. “And the mandate secures benefits wholly unrelated to pregnancy, preventing certain cancers, menstrual disorders, and pelvic pain.”

The decision, which found that closely held corporations may refuse for religious reasons to cover contraceptives in their health plans, may affect millions of women who suffer from a variety of medical conditions. These women depend on the pill to regulate their hormones and do everything from ease pain to reduce the risk of cancer. These medical benefits have nothing to do with sex or the prevention of pregnancy, which have become the sole focus of political debate around the decision. Even if these women never have sex once in their lives, they need to be on birth control.

More here

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The Nightmare Has Begun. Vote. Vote. Vote.

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ThinkProgress: Missouri Governor Vetoes 72-Hour Abortion Waiting Period: ‘This Is Insulting To Women’

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) rejected a measure on Wednesday that would have required women to wait three full days before being allowed to have an abortion procedure. His veto prevents Missouri from joining Utah and South Dakota, which are the only two states in the nation that currently have a 72-hour abortion waiting period on the books. But on Wednesday, Nixon explained that he couldn’t approve the bill because it’s unnecessary in light of his state’s existing 24-hour waiting period. “Lengthening the already extensive waiting period serves no demonstrable purpose other than to create emotional and financial hardships for women who have undoubtedly already spent considerable time wrestling with perhaps the most difficult decision they may ever have to make,” the governor said in a statement.

“Expanding the mandatory waiting period presupposes that women are unable to make up their own minds without further government intervention. This is insulting to women, particularly in light of what the law already requires.” Nixon also pointed out the measure demonstrates a “callous disregard” for women’s well being by failing to include an exception for victims of rape and incest — which means that women who become pregnant through those crimes would be put through a potentially emotionally damaging wait before they’re allowed to end the pregnancy. “It victimizes these women by prolonging their grief and their nightmare,” the governor noted.

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Yahoo: Putin Tells Obama He Wants Better Ties, Equal Treatment

President Vladimir Putin called for an improvement in ties between Russia and the United States on Friday in an Independence Day message to Barack Obama, urging Washington to treat Moscow as an equal partner. Relations between the two presidents and countries are at a low ebb following disagreements over the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, and over human rights, democracy and defence matters.

“The head of the Russian state expressed hope that … ties between the two countries will develop successfully on the basis of pragmatism and equality despite difficulties and disagreements,” the Kremlin said in a statement, outlining a telegram sent to Obama on the July 4 holiday. “Vladimir Putin also highlighted that Russia and the United States, as countries carrying exceptional responsibility for safeguarding international stability and security, should cooperate not only in the interests of their own nations but also the whole world.”

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Good Morning, my fellow Americans. Today, we laugh at the Brits and people who spell words using the letter “u!” :)

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On This Day

Senator Obama laughs with Sasha before speaking at a campaign stop in Des Moines, Iowa on July 4, 2007

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Senator Obama hugs Malia as they watch a Fourth of July parade in Butte, Mont., July 4, 2008

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President Obama kisses a baby while greeting military families at the White House on July 4, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet military families at the White House on July 4, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama watch the fireworks over the National Mall from the White House on July 4, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama pretend to march to music in the Blue Room of the White House, July 4, 2010, before delivering remarks to military families during a Fourth of July celebration (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama greets military families gathered for July 4th festivities on the South Lawn of the White House on July 4, 2010

President Obama greets guests during the Fourth of July celebration on the South Lawn of the White House, July 4, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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A young girl salutes President Obama as he shakes hands along a ropeline with members of the military and their families during the Fourth of July celebration on the South Lawn of the White House, July 4, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama watch fireworks from the roof of the White House, July 4, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama holds a baby while greeting guests during an Independence Day celebration on the South Lawn of the White House, July 4, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama watch from the White House roof as fireworks erupt over the National Mall, July 4, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama holds a baby as he greets members of the military and their families during a Fourth of July celebration on the White House’s South Lawn, July 4, 2013

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28
Apr
14

Rise and Shine

President Obama greets members of the audience following his remarks at the Oakley Lindsay Center in Quincy, Ill., April 28, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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The Philippines is 12 hours ahead of EDT

In the morning, President Obama delivers remarks at Fort Bonafacio

Later that morning, the President participates in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Manila American Cemetery

The President travels back to Washington, D.C.

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President Obama arriving at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, Philippines

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Amita O. Legaspi: US, PHL Sign Agreement For Increased US Troop Presence

Philippine and United States officials on Monday signed the agreement that will allow an enlarged rotational presence of American troops in the country, hours before the arrival of US President Barack Obama. Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and US Ambassador Philip Goldberg signed the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City. The ceremony lasted for not more than 15 minutes. The two officials left did not take questions after giving short statements. Finalized after eight rounds of talks that began in August 2013, the new accord grants US troops access to designated Philippine military facilities, the right to construct facilities, and pre-position equipment, aircraft and vessels. But the pact rules out permanent basing, as the Philippine Constitution bans foreign military bases in the country unless covered by a treaty.

According to a fact sheet provided by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the pact has an initial term of 10 years and was signed as an executive agreement within the scope of the Visiting Forces Agreement that had been ratified by the Philippine Senate in 1999. In his speech, Goldberg stressed that the agreement will not pave the way for permanent US military presence and the reopening their military bases in the country. “The US does not intend to establish permanent military presence in the Philippines…it will not reopen US bases to enhance our defense relationship,” he said. Goldberg said the agreement will support the long-term modernization of the Armed Forces and will help it “maintain and develop additional maritime security, maritime domain awareness and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief capability.”

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President Barack Obama and Philippines President Benigno Aquino III speak at a joint news conference at Malacanang Palace in Manila, the Philippines

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President Barack Obama signs a guestbook as Philippine President Benigno Aquino III stands by in the Malacanang Palace in Manila, the Philippines

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President Obama delivers a speech as Philippine President Benigno Aquino III smiles during a state dinner at Malacanang Palace in Manila, Philippines

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President Obama accepts the Order of the Sikatuna from President Benigno Aquino

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Robert Calandra: Once Opposed To ACA, Now A Convert

Dean Angstadt fells trees for a living. He’s a self-employed, self-sufficient logger who has cleared his own path for most of his 57 years, never expecting help from anyone. And even though he’d been uninsured since 2009, he especially wanted nothing to do with the Affordable Care Act. “I don’t read what the Democrats have to say about it because I think they’re full of it,” he told his friend Bob Leinhauser, who suggested he sign up. That refrain changed this year when a faulty aortic valve almost felled Angstadt. Suddenly, he was facing a choice: Buy a health plan, through a law he despised, that would pay the lion’s share of the cost of the life-saving surgery – or die. He chose the former. “A lot of people I talk to are so misinformed about the ACA,” Angstadt said. “I was, before Bob went through all this for me. I would recommend it to anybody and, in fact, have encouraged friends, including the one guy who hauls my logs.” Angstadt called Leinhauser. The political odd couple talked a bit before Angstadt mentioned he was having trouble breathing. Leinhauser, 55, a retired firefighter and nurse, drove him to a doctor’s office.

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“Dean only saw a doctor when he needed to because it made a big difference in his finances,” Leinhauser said. From time to time, Leinhauser would urge Angstadt to buy a plan through the ACA marketplace. And each time, Angstadt refused. “We argued about it for months,” Angstadt said. “I didn’t trust this Obamacare. One of the big reasons is it sounded too good to be true.” Leinhauser went to Angstadt’s house, and in less than an hour, the duo had done the application. A day later, Angstadt signed up for the Highmark Blue Cross silver PPO plan and paid his first monthly premium: $26.11. Angstadt’s plan kicked in on March 1. It was just in time. Surgery couldn’t be put off any longer. On March 31, Angstadt had life-saving valve-replacement surgery. “I probably would have ended up falling over dead” without the surgery, Angstadt said. “Not only did it save my life, it’s going to give me a better quality of life.” “For me, this isn’t about politics,” he added. “I’m trying to help other people who are like me, stubborn and bullheaded, who refused to even look. From my own experience, the ACA is everything it’s supposed to be and, in fact, better than it’s made out to be.”

More here

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Reuters: U.S. Sanctions Russia Over Ukraine

The United States froze assets and imposed visa bans on seven powerful Russians close to President Vladimir Putin on Monday and also sanctioned 17 companies in reprisal for Moscow’s actions in Ukraine. President Barack Obama said the moves, which add to measures taken when Russia annexed Crimea last month, were to stop Putin fomenting rebellion in eastern Ukraine. Obama added he was holding broader measures against Russia’s economy “in reserve”. Among those sanctioned were Igor Sechin, head of state energy firm Rosneft, and Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak. A Russian deputy foreign minister was quoted as expressing “disgust” at the White House announcement. The European Union, with more to lose than Washington from sanctions against Russia, a major energy supplier and trading partner for the EU,

is also expected to announce new penalties after member governments reached a deal, diplomats said. The United States will deny export licenses for any high-technology items that could contribute to Russian military capabilities and will revoke any existing export licenses that meet these conditions, the White House said. It was the third round of sanctions that the United States has imposed over Crime and troop build-up on the border. All the sanctions have been aimed at individuals and businesses. “Russia’s involvement in the recent violence in eastern Ukraine is indisputable,” a White House statement said.

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TPM: Obama Pledges Federal Help After Deadly Tornado

President Barack Obama is sending his deepest condolences to those affected by a deadly tornado that ripped through Arkansas. Obama says he wants everyone affected to know that the federal government is on the ground to help. He says the Federal Emergency Management Agency will work with local officials. Obama says, quote, “Your country will be there to help you recover and rebuild, as long as it takes.” The president is also praising the heroic efforts of first responders and neighbors. A broad tornado killed at least 11 when it sliced through suburbs in Arkansas on Sunday at the start of the U.S. tornado season. Another person died in Oklahoma.

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Washington Post: Ukraine Mayor Shot; US Announces New Sanctions

The mayor of Ukraine’s second-largest city was shot in the back and pro-Russia insurgents seized more government buildings Monday as the U.S. hit Russia with more sanctions for allegedly fomenting the unrest in eastern Ukraine. Armed insurgents tacitly backed by Moscow are seeking more autonomy in the region — possibly even independence or annexation with Russia. Ukraine’s acting government and the West have accused Russia of orchestrating the unrest, which they fear Moscow could use as a pretext for an invasion. Hennady Kernes, the mayor of Kharkiv, was shot in the back Monday morning, underwent surgery and “doctors are fighting for his life,” city hall said. Kernes was a staunch opponent of the pro-West Maidan movement that toppled President Viktor Yanukovych in February and

was widely viewed as the organizer of activists sent to Kiev from eastern Ukraine to harass those demonstrators. But he has since softened his stance toward the new Kiev government. At a meeting of eastern Ukrainian leaders and acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk earlier this month, Kernes insisted he does not support the pro-Russia insurgents and backed a united Ukraine. Kharkiv is in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russia gunmen have seized government buildings and police stations, set up roadblocks or staged protests to demand greater autonomy or outright annexation by Russia. But unlike the neighboring Donetsk region, Kharkiv has been largely unaffected by the insurgency and Kernes has been credited for this. Its regional administration building was briefly seized earlier this month but promptly cleared of pro-Russia protesters.

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Jonathan House: U.S. Pending Home Sales Rise 3.4% In March

A gauge of upcoming home sales ticked higher in March after eight straight months of declines, a sign the sector could be pulling out of its malaise. The National Association of Realtors said Monday that its seasonally adjusted index of pending sales of existing homes rose 3.4% in March from February to 97.4. That was more than the 1% increase forecast by economists and placed the index 2.6% below its 2001 benchmark level. The report showed home sales perking up after suffering in recent months from an unusually harsh winter weather as well as declining affordability.

The spring buying and selling season is crucial for the U.S. housing market because many families prefer to make a move to a new school district by the end of the summer. Pending home sales provide a more timely gauge of market conditions than some other indicators as they tally sales at the moment contracts are signed. Sales typically close one or two months later. “After a dismal winter, more buyers got an opportunity to look at homes last month and are beginning to make contract offers,” said National Association of Realtors Chief Economist Lawrence Yun.

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Greg Sargent: Scott Brown’s Obamacare Repeal Follies

Here’s another sign that the stance on Obamacare held by many GOP Senate candidates — whether you call it “repeal,” or “repeal and replace with something-or-other to be specified later” — is becoming increasingly unsustainable and could get harder and harder to explain as these campaigns intensify. In a weekend interview with WMUR, Scott Brown — who is running for Senate in New Hampshire — attempted to explain his stance on health care. He endorsed the general goals of protecting people with preexisting conditions and expanding coverage to those who need it. But he then denounced Obamacare as a “disaster,” citing the usual litany of Obama tyrannies and horror stories often hawked by Republicans. So, how would Senator Scott Brown go about accomplishing the goals he says he supports? Well, he urges reform on the state level.

New Hamsphire recently moved forward with its version of the Medicaid expansion. Brown supports repeal — which would do away with the expansion — and yet to my knowledge, he has not taken a position directly on the expansion when asked. Repeal would scrap Obamacare’s consumer protections and other efforts to expand coverage. Brown (who supported Romneycare in Massachusetts) appears to think federal reform should be repealed and replaced with state level reform. Until he says otherwise, that seems to mean he doesn’t envision a federal “replace” plan.

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On This Day

First Lady Michelle Obama watches as students from the Ron Clark Academy perform at the unveiling of the Sojourner Truth bust at the U.S. Capitol in Washington DC, April 28, 2009 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)

President Obama greets various 2009 State Teacher of the Year winners during a ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington on April 28, 2009

President Obama speaks to employees of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) at FBI headquarters in Washington on April 28, 2009

Students from the Ron Clark Academy perform for First Lady Michelle Obama and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi during the unveiling ceremony of abolitionist and suffragist Sojourner Truth in the Capitol Visitors Center in Washington on April 28, 2009

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President Obama greets workers and invited guests after speaking at POET Biorefining ethanol plant in Macon, Missouri on April 28, 2010

First Lady Michelle Obama jokes with participants in the Wounded Warrior Soldier Ride in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, April 28, 2010 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)

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President Obama talks with Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour about severe storms and tornados that moved across the southeast, during a phone call in the Oval Office Private Dining Room, April 28, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama greets cast members from ABC’s sitcom “Modern Family”, including Julie Bowen, center, and Sofia Vergara, right, in the Oval Office, Saturday, April 28, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

First Lady Michelle Obama arrives at the 2012 White House Correspondents Association Dinner

President Obama laughs during the 2012 White House Correspondents Association Dinner held at the Washington Hilton on April 28, 2012

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27
Mar
14

Rise and Shine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Paul Krugman: Data As Slogan. Data As Substance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Greg Sargent: Is Obamacare Repeal Fatigue Setting In?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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On This Day:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Continue reading ‘Rise and Shine’

20
Mar
14

“When Women Succeed, America Succeeds”

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President Barack Obama speaks during his visit to Valencia College in Orlando, Florida

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President Barack Obama talks to Valencia College student Carolyn Verno after she introduced him

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President Barack Obama is greeted upon his arrival at the Orlando International Airport in Orlando, Florida

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OBAMA-RUSSIA-SANCTIONS

President Barack Obama announces new U.S. sanctions on the Russian economy following Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula

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OBAMA-RUSSIA-SANCTIONS

OBAMA-RUSSIA-SANCTIONS

OBAMA-RUSSIA-SANCTIONS

18
Mar
14

Rise and Shine

President Obama laughs while walking with Senior Advisor David Axelrod following an event at the Costa Mesa Town Hall at OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa, Calif., March 18, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern):

3:40: President Obama awards 24 Army veterans the Medal of Honor in recognition of their valor during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War

5:20: Attends a DNC fundraiser, Washington DC

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HHS.gov: Marketplace Enrollment Hits 5 Million Milestone

As this historic open enrollment period enters its final weeks, millions of Americans are finding quality, affordable coverage thanks to the Affordable Care Act. Fernando Valdez and Denise Schroeder were part of a weekend wave of consumers signing up for new coverage and bringing enrollment nationwide to more than 5 million through the Federal and State-based Marketplaces since October 1st.

Fernando Valdez, 25, of El Paso, Texas woke up early on Saturday, after his mother insisted that he walk to an enrollment center and enroll in Marketplace coverage.  Now, he will pay $22 a month for his health insurance. Fernando said that he walked away knowing that if “I get into an accident I will not be in trouble with trying to find health care.”….

And Denise Schroeder says she now feels like “I have a whole new life” after enrolling in coverage in recent days. Denise, a small business owner in West Chester, Pennsylvania is also a cancer survivor. Because she had cancer, Denise knew she couldn’t let her health coverage lapse, but the $880 premium she was paying each month wiped out her savings account, and she said it was killing her. But after working with an enrollment navigator, she enrolled on Thursday in a Silver Plan for $22 a month.  When she saw the new premium, she cried.

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Des Moines Register: IowaCare Shift Shrinks Wait Time At Broadlawns, U Of I ERs

Not long ago, a trip to the emergency room at University of Iowa Hospitals was an exercise in frustration for people expecting immediate medical care. Unless they arrived with a life-threatening injury, most people often were forced to wait two hours or more in a crowded waiting room before seeing a doctor.

The federal Affordable Care Act has changed that, reducing congestion at the hospital and at Broadlawns Medical Center in Des Moines.

Today, Iowans once covered by IowaCare are no longer forced to choose between two public hospitals — U of I Hospitals and Broadlawns — when they need medical care. Under the new Iowa Health and Wellness Plan, they can seek medical care in their hometowns where physicians now are reimbursed for services they provide.

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Kathy Robertson: Covered California Hits Million Sign-Ups For Health Care Coverage

Covered California hit a milestone late Friday of one million people signed up for coverage in the state’s new health benefits exchange. By the end of Saturday, the figure was up to 1,018,315 people who have applied for coverage and selected a health plan.

There are two weeks left to sign up for individual coverage in the new insurance marketplace. Open enrollment started Oct. 1 and ends March 31. “This is a historic threshold for our exchange, for the state of California and for the nation,” Peter Lee, executive director at Covered California, said in a news release. “It speaks to the immense need for the Affordable Care Act and the millions of people who have been waiting for affordable coverage.”

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@petesouza: President Obama with President Abbas following meeting at the White House

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Reuters: Russian Government Admits Economy In Crisis As Ukraine Weighs

Russia’s government acknowledged for the first time on Monday that the economy was in crisis, undermining earlier attempts by officials to suggest albeit weakening growth could weather sanctions over Ukraine. Moscow markets wait to see the full scale of western measures over the seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea and support of its referendum to join Russia, after losing billions of dollars in recent weeks in state and corporate money.

For weeks, Russian officials have said the confrontation between Moscow and the West over Ukraine that threatens economic sanctions and asset freezes would “weigh on the economy”. Although not speaking directly about the impact from the conflict, Deputy Economy Minister Sergei Belyakov said on Monday the economy was in trouble. “The economic situation shows clear signs of a crisis,” Belyakov told a local business conference.

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Reuters: Defiant Putin Signs Treaty Making Crimea Part Of Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin, defying Ukrainian protests and Western sanctions, on Tuesday signed a treaty making Crimea part Russia but said he did not plan to seize any other regions of Ukraine. In a fiercely patriotic address to a joint session of the Russian parliament in the Kremlin, punctuated by standing ovations, cheering and tears, Putin lambasted the West for what he called hypocrisy. Western nations had endorsed Kosovo’s independence from Serbia but now denied Crimeans the same right, he said.

“You cannot call the same thing black today and white tomorrow,” he declared to stormy applause, saying Western partners had “crossed the line” over Ukraine and behaved “irresponsibly”. He said Ukraine’s new leaders, in power since the overthrow of pro-Moscow president Viktor Yanukovich last month, included “neo-Nazis, Russophobes and anti-Semites”. Putin said Crimea’s disputed referendum vote on Sunday, held under Russian military occupation, had shown the overwhelming will of the people to be reunited with Russia after 60 years as part of the Ukrainian republic.

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Paul Waldman: What The Obamacare Enrollment Numbers Mean

The Obama administration announced late yesterday that 800,000 people have signed up for new health insurance so far in March. That brings the total under the Affordable Care Act to over 5 million and makes it likely that 6 million will have enrolled by March 31, the last day to sign up before getting a fine. That 6 million number would meet a projection made by the Congressional Budget Office. So what are we to make of those numbers? To a degree, targets like these are arbitrary when we’re judging the law’s success. It isn’t as though we’ll say that if 5,999,999 people signed up by the end of the month then the law has failed, while if 6,000,001 sign up then it has succeeded.

Nor does that number include the millions of people who have been enrolled in Medicaid, many of whom are getting health coverage for the first time. And the number of people signed up will continue to rise, particularly since the fines are quite small in the first year but get larger over time. But it’s worth remembering that for all the time we spend gaming out the political winners and losers of Obamacare, there are real people’s lives at stake. The law isn’t going to be repealed, something Republicans know as well as Democrats. For all its complications and the difficulty of implementation, the ACA has already done an extraordinary amount of good for those millions of people. If Republicans took their newfound concern for (some) people’s access to health care and used it to actually work to make the law work as well as possible, millions more might be helped as well. If only.

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Antoni Slodkowski: Japan To Impose Sanctions On Russia For Crimea Move

Japan will suspend talks on investment pact and relaxation of visa requirements as part of sanctions against Russia after Moscow recognized Crimea as a sovereign state, top government spokesman said on Tuesday. “Japanese government does not recognize a referendum in Crimea,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, adding that the referendum had no legal force as it was in breach of Ukraine’s constitution. “The recognition of Crimean independence by Russia violates Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and is regrettable,” he told a regular news conference.

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Danny Vinik: Obama Is Cracking Down On For-Profit Colleges – And Liberals Should Applaud Him For It

The Department of Education released the final draft of its proposed rule on Friday to ensure that for-profit colleges offer post-graduation employment opportunities for their students that leave them capable of paying back their student loans. The rule, known as the “gainful employment” regulation, represents the culmination of a three-year fight with the industry, which successfully challenged a previous version of the rules in court.

The administration believes that the new regulation, which will first go through a 60-day public comment period, can now withstand a court challenge. And that’s a good thing once you understand what the changes will do and why they’re necessary. Students at for-profit colleges drop out at an alarming rate and those that do graduate have much higher levels of debt than students in public and private non-profit colleges. For-profits also receive a substantial share of their revenue—more than 80 percent to be exact—from loans and grants from the federal government.

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AP: Biden Says More Sanctions Coming For Russia

Denouncing Russia’s actions in Crimea as nothing more than a “land grab,” Vice President Joe Biden warned Russia on Tuesday that the U.S. and Europe will impose further sanctions as Moscow seeks to annex the Ukrainian territory. Meeting with anxious European leaders in neighboring Poland, Biden said the world sees through Russia’s actions. He said virtually the entire world rejects the referendum in Crimea that cleared the way for Russia to annex the peninsula in Ukraine.

“The world has seen through Russia’s actions and has rejected the flawed logic,” Biden said. Biden, who arrived Tuesday morning in Warsaw, said the U.S. joins Poland and the international community in condemning the continuing assault on Ukraine’s sovereignty, calling it a blatant violation of international law.

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AP: UK Suspends Military Cooperation With Russia

British Foreign Secretary William Hague says the U.K. is suspending military cooperation with Russia in light of the crisis over Ukraine. Speaking shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty to annex Crimea from neighboring Ukraine, Hague told British lawmakers on Tuesday that it is regrettable that Putin is choosing a path of isolation in the annexation of Crimea and denying Russian and Crimean citizens of a partnership with the international community. Hague said the U.K. is suspending military export licenses to Russia, has canceled naval exercises and suspended a proposed Royal Navy ship visit to Russia.

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Sahil Kapur: 45 Religious Orgs Back ‘Universal Access To Contraception’

Forty-five nationally known religious organizations want the Supreme Court to uphold Obamacare’s requirement that employer insurance plans cover birth control without co-pays, calling it a “moral good.” “As religious leaders, we support universal access to contraception,” leaders of the groups said in a joint statement Monday. “We believe that all persons should be free to make personal decisions about their reproductive lives, their health

and the health of their families that are informed by their culture, faith tradition, religious beliefs, conscience, and community.” “No single religious voice can speak for all faith traditions on contraception, nor should government take sides on religious differences,” they said. “We call on our government to respect the beliefs and values of everyone’s faith by safeguarding equal access to contraception for those whose conscience leads them to use it.”

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Six Years Ago Today:

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On This Day:

Sen. Barack Obama at a fundraising event in Denver on March 18, 2007

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President Obama signs books at the Costa Mesa Town Hall at the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa, Calif., March 18. 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama shakes hands with audience members following a town hall meeting in Costa Mesa, California on March 18, 2009

President Obama and Senior Advisor David Axelrod depart an event at the Costa Mesa Town Hall at OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa, Calif., March 18, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama arrives to sign the Hire Act in the Rose Garden of the White House, March 18, 2010

President Obama, backed my Members of Congress, signs the Hire Act in the Rose Garden of the White House, March 18, 2010

President Obama checks his BlackBerry as he walks along the Colonnade to the Oval Office, March 18, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama discusses health care reform during a meeting with senior advisors in the Oval Office, March 18, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and daughter Sasha Obama walk across Lafayette Park on their way to services at St. John’s Church on March 18, 2012

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President Obama arrives at the Women’s History Month Reception in the East Room of the White House with First Lady Michelle Obama, March 18, 2013

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