Ed Neufeldt vowed to wear three green bracelets until unemployment rates fell below 7 percent. He told The Elkhart Truth in 2012, “I may be wearing them to my casket,” but on Thursday they came off. “I thought that would never happen,” he said looking at the bracelets in his hand. Unemployment rates posted this week prompted Neufeldt to symbolically remove his three bracelets, which represented unemployment rates in the U.S., Indiana and Elkhart County. Rates in all three are now below seven percent.
Neufeldt began speaking about unemployment to media outlets especially after he introduced President Obama during his visit to Elkhart County in 2009. Neufeldt said he thinks he has had 80 media interviews since. The future of Elkhart County, he said, is optimistic. “Elkhart County has hope for the future,” he said. His 18-year-old daughter recently started her first job. “Five years ago,” he said, “you couldn’t event go out and get a job.” “I think Elkhart County is blessed,” he said. “We have recovered.”
David Lat: How Did Two Young Lawyers Get To Have Dinner With The Obamas?
Caleb Ballew and Kourtney Ballew. They’re a pair of twenty-something, small-firm lawyers from Huntsville, Alabama. Say what? Did the Obama White House get Salahi’d again? Actually, no. The Ballews came as honored guests of President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. Because the Obamas have had so few state dinners, invitations to the ones they do host are in especially high demand. How did two recent law school graduates score one of the most coveted invites in the country? Near the end of 2010, out of financial necessity, the Ballews allowed Kourtney’s health insurance to lapse. She hadn’t had any major health issues up until that point, and they expected that it would be a temporary measure. But during that time period when she was uninsured, Kourtney got diagnosed with a medical condition that could require multiple — and expensive — surgical procedures. Luckily, as a result of health care reforms initiated by President Obama, Kourtney was able to avail herself of a government-run Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan. This allowed Kourtney to have her two surgical procedures — which went smoothly, thankfully — at a fairly minimal cost. Had the Ballews had to pay out of pocket for the surgeries, it would have been crippling.
In November 2012, shortly after President Obama won re-election, Caleb sent a heartfelt letter of gratitude to the president. In the letter, which Caleb described to AL.com as “a pretty emotional letter,” he congratulated the president on his reelection, praised him for delivering on his campaign promises, and thanked him for making such a huge difference in the Ballews’ lives. On Monday, February 3, Caleb received an email inviting him to the State Dinner for President Hollande taking place on Tuesday, February 11. When they reached President Obama, a White House functionary announced the Ballews to the president. As they shook hands, the president said to Caleb, without any prompting, “I really enjoyed your letter. Thank you so much for that.” “I was very impressed,” Caleb said. “There were a number of us ordinary citizens at the dinner, and I was so impressed that the president remembered me and my letter.” After Caleb and President Obama exchanged some pleasantries, the president said to Caleb, “You’re sitting at my table.” “I thought he just used that line on everyone,” Caleb told me. “So I said to him, ‘Mr. President, I don’t believe they’d seat me at your table.” “I’m pretty sure,” President Obama said to Caleb. “I’ll see you in there.” When they arrived, Caleb asked one of the honor guards where he could find the Ballews’ table, table 19. Caleb expected it to be a table somewhere off in a corner. The guard, without even having to look around, directed Caleb towards the large rectangular table directly in front of the stage. “I said a four-letter word to Kourtney,” Caleb recalled, “then said, ‘We are sitting with the president tonight!’”
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama await the arrival of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India and his wife, Mrs Gursharan Kaur, for the State Dinner at the White House, Nov. 24, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Obama/Kerry = best policy team since Bush I/Jim Baker. Congress is finally becoming embarrassed by Netanyahu’s efforts to dictate US policy.
Washington Post: World Powers Reach Nuclear Deal With Iran To Freeze Its Nuclear Program
Iran and six major powers agreed early Sunday on a historic deal that freezes key parts of Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for temporary relief on some economic sanctions. The agreement, sealed at a 3 a.m. signing ceremony in Geneva’s Palace of Nations, requires Iran to halt or scale back parts of its nuclear infrastructure, the first such pause in more than a decade.
The deal, intended as a first step toward a more comprehensive nuclear pact to be completed in six months, freezes or reverses progress at all of Iran’s major nuclear facilities, according to Western officials familiar with the details. It halts the installation of new centrifuges used to enrich uranium and caps the amount and type of enriched uranium that Iran is allowed to produce.
Iran also agreed to halt work on key components of a heavy-water reactor that could someday provide Iran with a source of plutonium. In addition, Iran accepted a dramatic increase in oversight, including daily monitoring by international nuclear inspectors, the officials said. The concessions not only halt Iran’s nuclear advances but also make it virtually impossible for Tehran to build a nuclear weapon without being detected, the officials said. In return, Iran will receive modest relief of trade sanctions and access to some of its frozen currency accounts overseas, concessions said to be valued at less than $7 billion over the six-month term of the deal. The sanctions would be reinstated if Iran violates the agreement’s terms.
Deputy Secretary of State William Burns has led a secret U.S. back channel to Iran going back to before the June election of Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, U.S. officials told Al-Monitor. Burns was tapped to lead the US diplomatic effort to establish a bilateral channel with Iran, which gained momentum after the exchange of letters between US President Barack Obama and Iranian President Rouhani in early August, US officials said.
Led by Burns, the US’s second highest ranking diplomat and a former lead US Iran nuclear negotiator, the US effort to form direct diplomatic contacts with Iran also includes two officials from the Obama White House: Jake Sullivan, the national security advisor to Vice President Joe Biden, and Puneet Talwar, the National Security Staff senior director for Iran, Iraq, and Persian Gulf affairs, US officials confirmed. Talwar’s role in back channel discussions with Iran was previously reported by the Wall Street Journal.
LA Times: Iran’s Leaders Call Nuclear Deal A Success
Iran’s leadership Sunday hailed the interim nuclear deal brokered in Geneva between Iranian envoys and representatives of the United States and five other world powers. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, thanked President Hassan Rouhani and his negotiating team in a message that called the Geneva talks a “success,” a crucial sign of support from the nation’s ultimate arbiter of national security issues.
The Iranian president, meantime, gave a nationally televised address labeling the agreement a breakthrough that could eventually help eliminate the vise of international sanctions, which have put a stranglehold on Iran’s economy in recent years. Rouhani, a soft-spoken cleric and longtime government insider, was elected in June on a pledge to work toward alleviating the crippling sanctions and heighten Tehran’s engagement with the world. The deal brokered in Geneva represents a major political victory for the new president, who faces opposition at home from hard-liners opposed to any perceived compromise with the West.
After feverishly trying to derail the international community’s nuclear deal with Iran in recent weeks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu now has little choice but to accept an agreement that he has derided as deeply flawed.
Netanyahu believes the six-month deal leaves Iran’s military nuclear capabilities largely intact, while giving Iran relief from painful economic sanctions, undermining negotiations on the next stage. At the same time, Israel’s strongest piece of leverage, the threat of a military strike on Iran, seems to be out of the question despite Netanyahu’s insistence it would remain on the table.
U.S. officials said Sunday’s deal was just a first step and further negotiations aim for a final agreement that would prevent any threat from Iran’s nuclear program. They said the relief from sanctions was minimal and that the most biting economic measures, including sanctions on Iran’s vital oil industry, remained in place and more could be imposed if Iran fails to follow through.
The United States and Iran secretly engaged in a series of high-level, face-to-face talks over the past year, in a high-stakes diplomatic gamble by the Obama administration that paved the way for the historic deal sealed early Sunday in Geneva aimed at slowing Tehran’s nuclear program, The Associated Press has learned.
The discussions were kept hidden even from America’s closest friends, including its negotiating partners and Israel, until two months ago, and that may explain how the nuclear accord appeared to come together so quickly after years of stalemate and fierce hostility between Iran and the West. President Barack Obama personally authorized the talks as part of his effort – promised in his first inaugural address – to reach out
The talks were held in the Middle Eastern nation of Oman and elsewhere with only a tight circle of people in the know, the AP learned. Since March, Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and Jake Sullivan, Vice President Joe Biden’s top foreign policy adviser, have met at least five times with Iranian officials.
Government of the People. That’s what Abraham Lincoln said at Gettysburg one hundred and fifty years ago this week. Government of the People, by the People, and for the People. Lincoln was, of course, referring to the Preamble of the United States’ Constitution, the bit that goes “We the People of the United States…”
More, Lincoln’s speech reached directly back to the fundamental principles outlined by the grievances in the Declaration of Independence, i.e. the Founder’s demand for a government that does the business of its people first and foremost, one that operates with the consent of the governed, and a government that is directly answerable to its citizens.
That’s the idea, right? That’s how America is supposed to work. We can all of us, left and right, republican and democrat, moderate and progressive, whateverside of America we’ve chosen to plant our flag on, surely we can all at least agree to that basic principle. Right? Right. Government of the people, by the people, and for the people. And sure, that sounds good. In theory. As a sound bite. There’s just one problem. The people.
Washington Post: In Rural Kentucky, Health-Care Debate Takes Backseat As Long Uninsured Sign Up
in a state where the rollout has gone smoothly, and in a county that is one of the poorest and unhealthiest in the country, Courtney Lively has been busy signing people up: cashiers from the IGA grocery, clerks from the dollar store, workers from the lock factory, call-center agents, laid-off coal miners, KFC cooks, Chinese green-card holders in town to teach Appalachian students.
Now it was the beginning of another day, and a man Lively would list as Client 375 sat across from her in her office at a health clinic next to a Hardee’s. “So, is that Breathitt County?” she asked Woodrow Wilson Noble as she tapped his information into a laptop Thursday morning. “Yeah, we live on this side of the hill,” said Noble, whose family farm had gone under, who lived on food stamps and what his mother could spare, and who was about to hear whether he would have health insurance for the first time in his 60-year-old life. “All right,” she said. “We’ve got you eligible for Medicaid.”
“Okay, Woodrow, now you get to shop a little bit,” she said, explaining options he’d never had before. “If you go to the doctor, all you’re going to pay is $1,” she began. “If you’re in the hospital for an extended period, you should only be billed $5. . . . If you get medicine, generics are $1 and brand is $4. . . . You can go to the dentist once a month — exams, X-rays and cleanings are covered. . . . Now for your teeth, the plan does take care of having them pulled and does take care of fillings,
Chicago Sun-Times: Affordable Care Act Counselor Tries Health Insurance Marketplace For First-Hand Knowledge
As one of those people who is supposed to help Illinoisans find new options for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, Joann Boblick figured she should check out healthcare.gov and see how it works. Glitches with the website have kept many Americans from viewing insurance plans available. But Boblick was able to get through to Illinois’ marketplace on healthcare.gov. She also found an insurance plan that will be cheaper than the one she has.
“The first time, I got nowhere. The site just said come back later. The second time, I decided to come back later because I was waiting too long,” said Boblick, 36, of Western Springs. “The third time was the charm.” Boblick currently pays a premium of $340 a month with a deductible of $6,000. The Blue Choice Bronze PPO 006 that she enrolled in on Oct. 7 costs $185 a month with the same deductible and offers the same doctors, dentists and hospitals she has now. That’s even though Boblick made too much money — about $65,000 — to qualify for a subsidy to pay for a new insurance plan.
For those still waiting to log on at HealthCare.gov, Boblick suggested people think of getting insurance as they would think of getting a new iPhone the first day. “People wait days for an iPhone. Care about it that much,” she said. “Realize it’s more important than the iPhone.”
So how should we rate the interim deal? At first sight it appears to be a good one – certainly from the big powers’ perspective, going further than perhaps many commentators had expected. The chief goal was to prevent Iran from forging ahead with its nuclear activities even as talks were continuing. If fully implemented the deal seems to do just that: All uranium enrichment above 5% is to be halted. The entire stockpile of 20% enriched material to be diluted or converted to a form not suitable for further enrichment. This 20% enriched uranium is the feedstock that Iran could use to “dash” towards weapons grade material.
No more centrifuges (the machines used to enrich material) are to be installed, and large numbers of the existing banks of centrifuges are to be left inoperable. Iran’s stockpile of 3.5% enriched uranium is to remain the same between now and the end of the six-month period. So any excess material will have to be converted to oxide form. In broad terms there will be no further construction or experimental work for the Arak reactor which Western experts fear could be used – once it is commissioned – for its plutonium, giving Iran a second route towards a nuclear bomb
In return Iran has received what the White House insists is “limited, temporary and reversible relief” in terms of economic sanctions.. For a start if Iran abides by the deal there will be no new economic sanctions over the coming six months. Certain sanctions on gold, precious metals, Iran’s auto sector and Iran’s petrochemical exports are to be suspended, providing Iran with about $1.5bn of revenue. Safety-related repairs and inspections are to be sanctioned for some of Iran’s civil airliners. Some $4.2bn from Iranian oil sales will be allowed to be transferred to Iran. Some $400m of Iranian funds can be transferred to educational institutions in third countries to pay the fees of Iranian students studying there
First Lady Michelle Obama meets with Mrs. Gursharan Kaur in the Yellow Oval Room of the White House, Nov. 24, 2009 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)
First Lady Michelle Obama claps during the entertainment portion of the State Dinner for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India (Photo by Pete Souza)
The President and First Lady wait for Indian Prime Minister Singh’s motorcade to depart the White House at the conclusion of the first official state dinner for the Obama administration, Nov. 24, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama greets the Sinkfield family in the Outer Oval Office, Nov. 24, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama talks with a young customer as he packs and delivers bags of food to area residents at Martha’s Table, November 24, 2010
Nov. 24, 2011 – Pete Souza: “I photograph a lot of presidential phone calls from the Oval Office. But rarely is the light like this, backlit and reflecting back from a briefing paper. On Thanksgiving Day, the President made phone calls to 10 U.S. military service members — two each from the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Navy — to thank them for their service in Iraq and Afghanistan and wish them a Happy Thanksgiving.”
President Obama arrives at ‘One More Page Books’ on Small Business Saturday, Arlington, Virginia, November 24, 2012