Posts Tagged ‘stimulus

31
Jul
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: First Lady Michelle Obama salutes during the singing of the national anthem at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., July 31, 2009

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Today (All Times Eastern)

10:55: The President meets with members of Congress on foreign policy, Cabinet Room

12:0: White House press briefing

1:20: The President delivers remarks and signs an executive order on workplace safety, South Court Auditorium

3:40: Delivers remarks, Department of Housing and Urban Development

7:25: The President and First Lady host ‘A Celebration of Special Olympics and A Unified Generation’, East Room

8:25: Attend a concert commemorating the Special Olympics, State Dining Room

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Times Colonist: Obama To Sign Executive Order Cracking Down On Labor Violations By Federal Contractors

President Barack Obama is preparing to sign an executive order cracking down on labour violations by companies that contract with the federal government, the White House said Wednesday. Obama’s order will require companies seeking federal contracts valued at more than $500,000 to make public any labour law violations in the last three years, a step the Obama administration hopes will incentivize companies to resolve labour disputes such as back wage claims.

Federal agencies will be given more guidance on how labour violations should factor into their decision-making as they award lucrative contracts, officials said, with an eye toward pushing the most egregious violators into remediation agreements before new contracts are granted. Under the order, workers will also be given information each pay period to allow them to determine whether their paychecks are accurate.

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Spandan Chakrabarti: BFD: “Incompetent” Black Man Leads US Economy To Solid, Sustained Growth

The economy grew at a strong 4% rate in the second quarter of 2014, outpacing analyst estimates by almost a full point. The news that is even more encouraging than the topline GDP growth number is where it came from: consumer spending, business investment, and exports. Consumer spending growth doubled since the first quarter, business investment growth grew by more than a factor of 3, and exports saw a near-20-point swing. The reason these particular numbers are so encouraging is that they all point to strong jobs growth.

In an economy that is 2/3rds consumer spending, growth in that area is the predominant factor in creating demand, and therefore, jobs. We have come here in less than six short years after the greatest economic calamity this country has ever seen, save for one. We have arrived here not only without creating a war bubble but while actually deflating the war bubble by ending wars. This is because while nearly everyone else has been busy trying to generate clicks, the President has worked day and night to generate jobs. This is because while the media has been busy looking for poutrage, this president has used his blood, sweat and tears to look for solutions.

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Somini Sengupta: U.N. Says ‘Evidence’ Points To Israel In Gaza School Attack

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Wednesday that “all available evidence” suggested that Israeli artillery had hit a United Nations school in Gaza full of civilians who thought they were in a safe zone. “Nothing is more shameful than attacking sleeping children,” the secretary general told reporters in San Jose, Costa Rica, according to a transcript provided by his office.

It was Mr. Ban’s strongest comments to date on attacks on United Nations installations in Gaza, where Palestinians have been taking shelter. Six United Nations staff members have been killed in the current conflict so far. United Nations officials said that they had informed Israel 17 times of the precise location of the school and that there were civilians sheltering there, including once at 8:50 p.m., just hours before the attack on Wednesday.

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SmartyPants: Chuck Todd Is Finally Embarrassed

Oh…so I see that Chuck Todd is finally embarrassed by Washington because of all the impeachment talk. I have a few questions for Mr. Todd:

Were you embarrassed by the fact that our first African American President was required to produce a birth certificate?

Were you embarrassed when Rep. Joe Wilson shouted “You lie” to President Obama during a SOTU speech?

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Justin Wolfers: What Debate? Economists Agree The Stimulus Lifted The Economy

Here’s a simple case study making the point that our political debates about economics have become largely unhinged from those among actual economists. Take the Obama stimulus plan, known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. If you took your cues from the political rhetoric in Washington — or even from the occasional virulent debate in the economics blogosphere — you would think the whole question of fiscal stimulus is highly contested. But it’s not. There’s widespread agreement among economists that the stimulus act has helped boost the economy. The Initiative on Global Markets at the University of Chicago — hardly a hotbed of liberal or Keynesian thought — regularly surveys a number of the leading American economists about a variety of policy issues.

Recently each of these eminent economists was asked whether the unemployment rate was lower at the end of 2010 than it would have been without the stimulus bill. Of the 44 economists surveyed, 37 responded, yielding a healthy response rate of 84 percent. Among those who responded, 36 agreed that the stimulus bill had lowered the unemployment rate, while one disagreed. That lone disagreeing economist, Harvard’s Alberto Alesina (who was one of my thesis advisers), has been a virulent opponent of the stimulus, although the research that he’s based this upon has come under sustained criticism, particularly from the International Monetary Fund, which views the study as flawed.

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OFA

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Sahil Kapur: House Votes To Sue President For The First Time In History

House Republicans officially gave Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) their seal of approval on Wednesday to sue President Barack Obama, marking the first time in U.S. history that a chamber of Congress has endorsed a lawsuit against a president. The House adopted the resolution by a vote of 225-201. Five Republicans joined a unanimous Democratic conference to vote against the measure. They were Reps. Thomas Massie (R-KY), Walter Jones (R-NC), Paul Broun (R-GA), Steve Stockman (R-TX) and Scott Garrett (R-NJ). The resolution authorizes Boehner to challenge Obama in court for exceeding his authority by unilaterally delaying deadlines under Obamacare.

Although he has said he’ll target the one-year delay of the health care reform law’s employer mandate penalties, the text of the GOP resolution gives the Speaker room to legally challenge implementation tweaks to other provisions of the law. It’s a politically awkward one for his party given that Republicans despise the employer mandate, and have voted to eliminate and delay it. “Republicans want to sue the president for not enforcing a law they want to repeal,” said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD). “It is wrong. It is a waste of time. It is a waste of money. It is a distraction from the important issues so important to our people. This lawsuit is nothing more than a partisan bill to rally the Republican base.”

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Jesse Rosenfeld: Israel Is Minting The Next Generation Of Hate

The bombs continue falling, more and more people are running for their lives with fewer places to go and as the screams from beneath the wreckage of Israel’s assault become more frequent, a generation of Gaza’s children are being shaped by what they see. And yet, as kids often do, they can still surprise you. Inside a Gaza City UNRWA school that’s been turned into a shelter, children pack the courtyard. Ten-year-old Yasmine al Attar stares at me from under her dark curled bangs. Yasmine’s aunt, Hula al Attar, tells me her son can’t sleep amid the nightly air strikes. Instead he howls and shakes.

“My 11-year-old son saw bodies in the street in the [2008] war and he still can’t forget those images,” says the veiled 29-year-old mother. Yasmine speaks up. She tells me she can’t sleep either, and waits out the attacks by clinging to her mother in a corner classroom. I ask her what she wants to be when she grows up. “I don’t know if I will live,” she says flatly. When pressed for what she would like to be if she does survive, she becomes excited thinking about the possibilities. “I’ll be a doctor,” she says at first. Then she changes her mind. “I’ll be a journalist,” she says, pulling on her brown curls. “I just want to do something that helps people and tells the world what’s happening.”

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Josh Marshall: The Wealth Gap Across Race, Gender And Marriage Status

The chart illustrates a pattern that most of us probably do not find surprising. But the sheer chasm separating single white men from Black and Hispanic single women is still shocking to see visualized so clearly. Single white men have 438 times the assets as single Black women and 365 times that of single Hispanic women. As we can see, marriage is a huge determinant of wealth – but mainly if you’re not white, and especially if you’re a woman.

As the report notes, owning a car is an important way to access more employment opportunities among other things. But that wealth is not easily accessible in dollar terms, which is highly relevant for the following reason. Great disparities of wealth not only have a huge impact on life opportunities and the prospects for wealth accumulation. They are hugely important factor in the precariousness of economic life experienced by different demographic groups.

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On This Day

President Obama talks with Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel outside of the Oval Office on July 31, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

Continue reading ‘Rise and Shine’

07
Mar
14

Rise and Shine

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

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Today (All Times Eastern):

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

11:20: Depart Joint Base Andrews

1:40: Arrive Homestead, Florida

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

2:40: The President delivers remarks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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AP: Cummings Says Issa Apologized And He Accepts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thanks to the GOP

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Boston Globe: US Hiring Improved In February

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

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

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

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

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

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Washington Post: Crimea Sets Referendum On Joining Russia

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

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

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Damian Paletta: Unemployed Workers Stage Craigslist Fire Sale

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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On This Day:

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

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

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

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

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

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

23
Feb
14

Rise and Shine

President Obama greets audience members after delivering remarks on the economy at the University of Miami Field House in Coral Gables, Fla., Feb. 23, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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The Week Ahead:

Sunday: In the evening, the President and First Lady will host the Governors in town for the winter meeting for a dinner at the White House.

Monday: The President will meet with the National Governors Association.

Tuesday: The President will hold an event on the economy at the White House. In the evening, he will attend an OFA event in Washington DC.

Wednesday: The President will travel to the Minneapolis–Saint Paul area for an event on the economy.

Thursday: The President will host an event on his ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ initiative.

Friday: The President will attend a DNC event in Washington.

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Kathleen O’Brien: Obamacare In NJ: Four Out Of Five Enrollees Have Paid Their Premiums

At least three-quarters of the New Jerseyans who have selected health insurance through the federal marketplace website have followed through by paying their first month’s premium, according to the three companies selling the policies. The state’s rate of paying customers is in line with figures reported across the nation. The figures are seen by some as an important barometer of success in the opening months of coverage.

In New Jersey, an early reading shows the percentage of those who have paid ranges from 75 percent to 90 percent.m”To date, more than 80 percent of enrollees from the federal marketplace have paid their first month’s premiums, said Thomas Vincz, spokesman for Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey. “We expect that number to increase in coming weeks.”

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NYT: What The Stimulus Accomplished

Of all the myths and falsehoods that Republicans have spread about President Obama, the most pernicious and long-lasting is that the $832 billion stimulus package did not work. Since 2009, Republican lawmakers have inextricably linked the words “failed” and “stimulus,” and last week, five years after passage of the Recovery Act, they dusted off their old playbook again. it prevented a second recession that could have turned into a depression.

It created or saved an average of 1.6 million jobs a year for four years. (There are the jobs, Mr. Boehner.) It raised the nation’s economic output by 2 to 3 percent from 2009 to 2011. It prevented a significant increase in poverty — without it, 5.3 million additional people would have become poor in 2010. Government spending worked, helping millions of people who never realized it. And it can work again, whenever lawmakers agree that putting people to work is more important than winning ideological fights.

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Leonard Pitts Jr.: White Fear Trumps Black Life

“You can get killed just for living in your American skin.” — Bruce Springsteen. On Aug. 7, 1930, two young black men were lynched in Marion, Ind. A photographer named Lawrence Beitler had a studio across the street from the lynching tree. He came out and snapped what became an iconic photo, which he made into a postcard and sold. It shows Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith hanging dead and their executioners, faces clearly visible, milling about as if at a picnic. Though authorities possessed this damning photographic evidence, they never arrested anyone for the crime. It was officially attributed to “persons unknown.”

This was not a unique thing. To the contrary, it happened thousands of times. And African-Americans carry this knowledge deep, carry it in blood and sinew, the understanding that the justice system has betrayed us often, smashed our hopes often, denied the value of our lives, often. This knowledge lent a certain tension and poignancy to the wait for a verdict in the Jordan Davis trial last week. Mr. Davis was the black kid shot dead by a white man, Michael Dunn. A guilty verdict would seem to have been a foregone conclusion. It wasn’t. Indeed, the verdict was mystifying.

Mr. Dunn was found guilty on three counts of attempted murder — meaning the three other young men in the SUV with Mr. Davis — but the jury deadlocked on the murder charge. It makes no sense: If Mr. Dunn is guilty of the three charges, how can he not be guilty of the fourth? The jury’s inability to hold him accountable for Mr. Davis’ death only validates African-Americans’ grimmest misgivings about the “just us” system. Brittney Cooper, an assistant professor at Rutgers University, put it as follows on Twitter: “This is not just about jail time. This is about whether white fear legally means more than black life.”

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Catherine Thompson: Federal Court Rules Against Notre Dame’s Birth Control Appeal

A federal court ruled against the University of Notre Dame on Friday in a lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate, the Associated Press reported. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago upheld a federal judge’s previous ruling that denied Notre Dame’s request for an injunction to prevent it from complying with the birth control mandate. The court noted in its decision that Notre Dame already notified the administrator of its employee plan as well as the insurer for students that the university would not pay for contraception coverage.

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Chicago Tribune: Chicago Wins Bid For $320 Million Manufacturing Hub

Chicago will be the site of a digital manufacturing institute backed by $70 million in government money and another $250 million of private funding, giving the city, once a factory town, a better chance to re-establish its credentials as a modern maker of things. The decision, to be announced officially Tuesday by President Barack Obama, was hotly anticipated by city and state officials who recognized the opportunity to jump start high-tech manufacturing as a core component of Chicago’s economic vision. The city today, while still home to some manufacturing, is better known for its financial markets and convention business. The idea behind the institute is that manufacturing is being transformed by digital design, which replaces the draftsman’s table with the capacity to work and create in a virtual environment.

The city envisions the institute would focus on such projects as the faster and cheaper production of a next-generation aircraft engine; drastically reducing the amount of scrap material associated with small manufacturing runs; and speeding the design process among spread-out suppliers. “This is clearly, without a doubt, one of the most significant things to secure Chicago’s long-term economic future,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a Saturday interview. “It is the best insurance policy you can buy, which is major research capacity.” The $70 million grant will come from the Defense Department. Obama will officially announce the Chicago hub on Tuesday at the White House. The manufacturing initiative follows Obama’s new playbook for dealing with an oppositional Congress unlikely to enact any part of his economic vision. The announcement also delivers on the President’s pledge in his 2013 State of the Union address to set up three new manufacturing institutes from existing government programs.

In the spring of last year, the administration launched the competition. In addition to Chicago’s “Digital Manufacturing and Design Institute,” Obama will announce that Detroit has won an institute of its own focused on lightweight and modern metals manufacturing. The administration set up a pilot site in Youngstown, Ohio, in 2012, and a few weeks ago announced a new institute in Raleigh, N.C. Obama has also pledged to launch four more competitions for new institutes in the coming year in hopes of setting eight institutes in motion without any action by Congress. But Obama’s broader plan is to spur Congress to support the concept. His blueprint calls for a full national network of up to 45 institutes funded in part with new resources approved by lawmakers.

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Adam Searing: How NC (Surprisingly) Became A Leader In ACA Enrollment

While North Carolina has refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and many politicians continue to complain about the federal health exchange, the roll-out of Obamacare in N.C. tells a far more positive story. North Carolina is enrolling uninsured people at a rate at least twice that of any other state that has refused to set up its own health exchange and refused to expand Medicaid. In short, among states that are dragging their feet on the Affordable Care Act – no advertising campaigns, no speeches by the governor on how important it is for everyone to have access to health care, no Medicaid expansion that guarantees the lowest income workers coverage – North Carolina is by far leading the pack in private plan enrollment. Even with the federal health exchange’s shaky start, N.C. has already enrolled 107,778 uninsured people in private health plans.  So what’s going on?

There are several answers. Our success starts with North Carolina’s excellent Medicaid managed-care program, Community Care of North Carolina. Even though Gov. Pat McCrory and legislative leaders declined the federal opportunity to expand Medicaid, N.C. Community Care has provided a natural framework to enroll uninsured people in private health plans. Under Community Care, local doctors, hospitals, health centers, health departments, social service offices, legal service providers and other community leaders have been quietly working together every day, every month and every year for a decade to help people access and use health care. Because of this, North Carolina’s Medicaid program is already a huge success both in delivering great care and containing costs. So, when the Affordable Care Act’s health exchange opened for business, there were already networks with proven records of success in helping people get health care. These organizations jumped right in to the enrollment effort because they work with uninsured families every day and know what a huge benefit this is.

More here

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The Globe And Mail: How Putin’s Sochi Dream Was Shattered By Ukraine’s Nightmare

Vladimir Putin has a dream – and for the past two weeks, the world has been helping him to live it. In this dream, Russia is rich again, a place where the reported $51-billion cost of the Winter Olympics in Sochi is no object. It’s a nation of impressive architecture and smiling volunteers who speak English but think like Russians. “Russia – Great, New, Open!” brag the billboards around the Olympic city. (“Open”? Sochi has high fences, surveillance balloons and warships off the coast; every phone call and e-mail is monitored.) Mr. Putin sees a Russia that is once more a global centre of gravity, indispensable on the world stage. Soon, if his plans come to fruition, Moscow will stand as the leader of a new bloc of nations – the Eurasian Union – with borders that look a lot like those of the Soviet empire, whose fall he has openly mourned.

Vladimir Putin also has a nightmare. And this week, it looked a lot like the burning heart of Kiev, the Ukrainian capital where tens of thousands of protesters battled police to bring down their Kremlin-backed, authoritarian government. Dozens died before a tentative truce Friday interrupted the hostilities, but anger remains so high that there is no guarantee it will hold. It’s not just that Mr. Putin fears the fall of President Viktor Yanukovych and the rise of a pro-Western government in Kiev, although that would be a heavy geopolitical blow. He needs Ukraine to take part if his Eurasian Union – currently set to launch next year with only Russia, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Belarus as members – is to look like anything more than a tiny dictators’ club.

More here

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Venezuela Protests

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AP: Venezuelan Government Cuts Internet Access, Blocks Websites In War Against Student Protesters

The battle for Venezuela is being fought as vigorously online as in the streets, with authorities cutting off the Internet to a clash-torn university city and blocking selected websites and a “walkie-talkie” service widely used by protesters. A local TV reporter in San Cristobal, capital of the western border state of Tachira, said Thursday night that she could hear gunshots as teargas-firing police broke up protests just as they had the night before when Internet service was cut. “We’re still without Internet. And some people don’t have water or electricity either,” said the reporter, Beatriz Font. San Cristobal, home to one private and three public universities, is where the current wave of anti-government demonstrations began on Feb. 2, the fiercest unrest since President Hugo Chavez died last March began.

Later Thursday, the U.S. company Zello told The Associated Press that Venezuela’s state-run telecoms company, CANTV, had just blocked access to the push-to-talk “walkie-talkie” app for smart phones and computers that has been a hugely popular organizing tool for protesters from Egypt to Ukraine. Zello supports up to 600 users on a single channel, and company CEO Bill Moore said it became the No. 1 app in Ukraine on Thursday for both the iOS and Android operating systems. In one day this week, Zello reported more than 150,000 downloads in Venezuela. Some believe Venezuela’s information war, which escalated last week as the government blocked images on Twitter after violence in Caracas claimed three lives, is only just beginning. The protesters are fed up with a catalogue of woes that include rampant inflation, food shortages and one of the world’s highest murder rates.

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Douglas Alexander: This Crisis Is About What’s Best For Ukraine, Not Russia

If a week is a long time in British politics, 24 hours has proven to be a long time in this Ukrainian political crisis. The priority must be to prevent further killing, and all sides must play their part in achieving this. The Ukrainian government has in recent months routinely ignored the democratic aspirations of the Ukrainian people. So it will take time for trust to be rebuilt across Ukrainian society and it will be hard for that progress to be made even after this crisis ends. That is why it is so important that the EU should continue to support Ukraine as the turmoil in Kiev continues. We must remember that this crisis began in November, when President Yanukovych walked away from an agreement with Europe that would have granted Ukraine access to the EU’s single market.

The UK government has had a noticeably low profile as the crisis unfolded. But we must recognise that the number of people killed in Ukraine last week is a tragic expression of the gravity of the crisis. The streets of Kiev have revealed a geopolitical fault line between Russia and the West. President Obama was right to say that Ukraine can no longer be seen as part of a “Cold War chess board”. More than 20 years after the Berlin Wall fell we should not see a new era of 20th-century satellite states take hold on the 21st-century European continent. President Putin is known for his zero-sum approach to foreign affairs – but what happens in Ukraine cannot just be about judging what makes sense for Russia. It must be about what works for the people of Ukraine.

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Gunner Goz: Out Of Hell, A New Hope For A Proud People

Like many of you, our friends, my wife and I have been literally rooted to our chairs as we watched events in our beloved Ukraine roll out, ever since those terrible days in Kyiv last November when Ukrainians began to die because of the brutality of Yanukovych’s Berkut. Since then, many, many more innocents have sacrificed themselves to protest injustice, tryanny and corruption. Ukrainians have been incredibly brave throughout all this. They have withstood freezing cold, Militia attacks, titushki beatings, kidnappings, torture, murder, Berkut Molotov cocktails and finally, an ultimate horror, the cold-blooded, merciless snipers of their own government’s security forces

One little known fact most Americans are not aware of is that Ukraine’s 40 million citizens legally possess more than 2 million private firearms: 400,000 of them are in Kyiv alone. And yet, even in the face of murderous provocation and killings by the police and Berkut, very few of those privately owned firearms were ever raised in anger, even against their tormentors: the ratio of citizens killed to police casualties was over 10 to 1. It tells us that Ukrainians are a people possessing extraordinary restraint and respect for life, because if every private gun in Ukraine had been fired in anger, the dead would be in the many thousands by now.

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On This Day:

President Obama meets with actor George Clooney in the Oval Office, Feb. 23, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama listens to staff during a meeting in the Oval Office, Feb. 23, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden discuss the Military Families Campaign with spouses of U.S. military leadership in the Map Room of the White House, Feb. 23, 2011 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)

President Obama poses for a photograph with Ambassador Jacinth Lorna Henry-Martin of St. Kitts and Nevis during an ambassador credentialing ceremony in the Oval Office, Feb. 23, 2011. Chief of Protocol Capricia Marshall and members of Henry-Martin’s family watch from the edge of the room (Photo by Pete Souza)

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First Lady Michelle Obama views the Slave Pen exhibit while touring the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, Feb. 23, 2012. Pictured, from left, are: Dina Bailey, Associate Curator of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center; Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory; Verna Williams; and Allison Singleton (Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)

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17
Feb
14

Happy 5th Birthday, Stimulus!

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Jason Sattler: 5 Ways The Stimulus Saved And Remade America

It Reversed America’s Layoff Crisis. What happened in mid-2009 that suddenly boosted America out of recession and reversed the escalating trend of layoffs, which is measured here with the four-week moving average of initial unemployment claims that simply averages the number of Americans applying for jobless benefits? Was it the uptick of people buying tricorn hats or purchasing signs to call Obama a socialist/fascist/corporate cronyist?

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Or maybe it was the result of markets calmed by government intervention infused with the sudden burst of spending via the only place from which it could come in such a crisis, the federal government? It Led To The Creation Or Saving Of 9 Million Jobs. The most untold part of the untold story of the stimulus is the dramatic way it nearly conjured a vibrant green energy industry that barely existed five years ago.

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Pete Danko: More Wind Power Equals Lower Electricity Prices

The price of electricity has dropped in states that have developed extensive wind power over the past five years. It’s just a slight drop, but here’s the kicker: the other states have seen a hefty rise.  The AWEA pointed to 11 states that had produce more than 7 percent of their electricity from wind power – Texas, Wyoming, Oregon, Oklahoma, Idaho, Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa. In those states, the price of electricity fell 0.37 percent in the past five years. Meanwhile, in the rest of the states, electricity went up by 7.79 percent.

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Igor Volsky: Republicans Slam Stimulus On Fifth Anniversary – But Most Took Credit For It Back Home

Monday marks the five-year anniversary of the passage of the American Recovery Act, President Obama’s $800 billion stimulus stimulus package that invested in everything from infrastructure projects to electronic medical health care records and alternative energy sources. Every single Republican in the House and almost every Republican in the Senate — with the exception of Former Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Arlen Specter (R-PA), and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) — voted against the measure and today the GOP continues to deride the law as wasteful an ineffective.

But as ThinkProgress reported throughout 2009, over half of the GOP caucus praised the effects of the stimulus or took credit for the federal dollars in their home districts and states — despite repeatedly voting against it in Washington D.C. The Wall Street Journal reported “Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican who called the stimulus a ‘wasteful spending spree’ that ‘misses the mark on all counts,’ wrote to Labor Secretary Hilda Solis in October in support of a grant application from a group in his district which, he said, ‘intends to place 1,000 workers in green jobs.’” Ryan also wrote letters to the Secretary of Energy requesting stimulus funds for a local energy company in 2009. Ryan repeatedly voted against the stimulus.

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Steve Benen: The Recovery Act, Five Years Later

It seems like ages ago, but in late 2008 and early 2009, the global economic crisis had reached terrifying levels, and U.S. policymakers had to choose a direction for the nation’s future. Democrats rallied behind a stimulus package called the Recovery Act, while Republicans called for a five-year federal spending freeze. First, if the nation had followed the GOP’s preferred course at the height of the crisis – David Brooks described the Republican prescription at the time as “insane” – the Great Recession would have been far worse, making their complaints now rather laughable. Second, if GOP lawmakers are convinced the stimulus failed, why’d they take credit for its investments back home? And third, public relations notwithstanding, the Recovery Act was a great success.

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Michael Grunwald: Five Years After Stimulus, Obama Says It Worked

Five years ago Monday, President Barack Obama visited the Denver Museum of Nature and Science to sign the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, his $800 billion stimulus bill. At the time, the U.S. economy was losing 800,000 jobs a month. In the fourth quarter of 2008, it had contracted at an 8% annual rate, a Depression-level free fall. “Today does not mark the end of our economic problems,” Obama said on Feb. 17, 2009. “But it does mark the beginning of the end.” And so it did. the Recovery Act increased U.S. GDP by roughly 2 to 2.5 percentage points from late 2009 through mid-2011, keeping us out of a double-dip recession. It added about 6 million “job years” (a full-time job for a full year) through the end of 2012. If you combine the Recovery Act with a series of follow-up measures, including unemployment-insurance extensions, small-business tax cuts and payroll tax cuts, the Administration’s fiscal stimulus produced a 2% to 3% increase in GDP in every quarter from late 2009 through 2012, and 9 million extra job years, according to the report.

 The report also estimates that the Recovery Act’s aid to victims of the Great Recession — in the form of expanded food stamps, earned-income tax credits, unemployment benefits and much more — directly prevented 5.3 million people from slipping below the poverty line. It also improved nearly 42,000 miles of roads, repaired over 2,700 bridges, funded 12,220 transit vehicles, improved more than 3,000 water projects and provided tax cuts to 160 million American workers. The Recovery Act jump-started clean energy in America, financing unprecedented investments in wind, solar, geothermal and other renewable sources of electricity. It advanced biofuels, electric vehicles and energy efficiency in every imaginable form. It helped fund the factories to build all that green stuff in the U.S., and research into the green technologies of tomorrow. It’s the reason U.S. wind production has increased 145% since 2008 and solar installations have increased more than 1,200%. The stimulus is also the reason the use of electronic medical records has more than doubled in doctors’ offices and almost quintupled in hospitals. It improved more than 110,000 miles of broadband infrastructure. It launched Race to the Top, the most ambitious national education reform in decades.

More here

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David Danelski: MOJAVE DESERT: High-Profile Solar Plant Dedicated With Fanfare

Amid the glow of 173,000 mirrors capturing the sun’s power, more than 100 government officials and energy executives Thursday celebrated the opening of the Ivanpah solar plant in northeast San Bernardino County and declared their intention to build more of them to combat global warming. “We will continue to work across the board to advance these projects. So bring them on,” U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in his keynote. His address, given in a large tent next to the mirror fields, came during a luncheon that offered squash ravioli and a salad of baby greens. Moniz said Ivanpah is the world’s largest thermal solar project and part of a strategy to expand carbon-free sources of energy.

The Obama administration is looking to provide as much as $40 billion in additional loan guarantees for energy projects, Moniz said. The plant is expected to provide enough electricity for as many as 140,000 homes through contracts with Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas and Electric. It has been hailed by President Barack Obama, who said in his State of the Union address that America is a global leader in solar development. The government has backed such projects with investment tax credits that run through 2016, though it is not clear how much the Ivanpah investors have benefited. The tax breaks were part of Obama’s first-term economic stimulus package. Ivanpah is one of the first commercial-scale solar developments initiated during Obama’s recession-fighting stimulus effort. It is the first large-scale plant to use power-tower technology — at Ivanpah, the mirrors focus solar energy onto boilers mounted on three, 460-foot towers. Heat in the boilers creates steam, which powers turbines that generate electricity.

More here

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17
Feb
14

Rise and Shine

President Obama reads from a tablet computer during a flight aboard Marine One en route to Everett, Wash., Feb. 17, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today:

2:0 PST: President Obama departs Palm Springs, California

9:0 EST: Arrives Joint Base Andrews

9:15 EST: Arrives the White House

The Week Ahead:

Tuesday: The President will deliver remarks at an event on the economy in the Washington, DC area.

Wednesday: The President will travel to Toluca, Mexico, to participate in the North American Leaders Summit.

Thursday: The President will return from Mexico and attend the Democratic Governors Association dinner.

Friday: The President will meet with the Democratic governors in town for the annual National Governors Association Winter Meeting to discuss his Opportunity for All agenda and the Year of Action.

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Tonyaa Weathersbee: The Extermination Of Jordan Davis: An Empty Verdict, A Hollow Victory

So it looks like Michael Dunn, a white man who fatally shot black teenager Jordan Davis for refusing to turn down his “thug music,” may be going to prison for the rest of his life. But that’s a consolation prize. Not a real victory. It’s not a real victory because the jury that convicted Dunn, 47, didn’t convict him for killing the 17-year-old Davis. They convicted him for almost killing Davis’ three friends who were riding in the Dodge Durango with him. It’s hollow because it underscores what seems to be a scary trend. I guess now any random white man can confront a black teenager whose style of dress or music he doesn’t like or views as suspect.

And when that teenager doesn’t submit to him, or responds to him in a confrontational manner, or in a way that any rebellious teenager is apt to respond, then it’s perfectly fine to exterminate him. What the verdict says is that in this nation, in the 21st century, some white men still believe they have the right to intrude into the space of young black men and make demands. And if the black man is unarmed — with no weapon except his words — those white men can still kill him. And call it self-defense. All they need is a jury to buy it.

More here

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Michael Grunwald: Five Years After Stimulus, Obama Says It Worked

Five years ago Monday, President Barack Obama visited the Denver Museum of Nature and Science to sign the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, his $800 billion stimulus bill. At the time, the U.S. economy was losing 800,000 jobs a month. In the fourth quarter of 2008, it had contracted at an 8% annual rate, a Depression-level free fall. “Today does not mark the end of our economic problems,” Obama said on Feb. 17, 2009. “But it does mark the beginning of the end.”And so it did. The Recovery Act increased U.S. GDP by roughly 2 to 2.5 percentage points from late 2009 through mid-2011, keeping us out of a double-dip recession. It added about 6 million “job years” (a full-time job for a full year) through the end of 2012. If you combine the Recovery Act with a series of follow-up measures, including unemployment-insurance extensions, small-business tax cuts and payroll tax cuts, the Administration’s fiscal stimulus produced a 2% to 3% increase in GDP in every quarter from late 2009 through 2012, and 9 million extra job years, according to the report.

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The report also estimates that the Recovery Act’s aid to victims of the Great Recession — in the form of expanded food stamps, earned-income tax credits, unemployment benefits and much more — directly prevented 5.3 million people from slipping below the poverty line. It also improved nearly 42,000 miles of roads, repaired over 2,700 bridges, funded 12,220 transit vehicles, improved more than 3,000 water projects and provided tax cuts to 160 million American workers. The Recovery Act jump-started clean energy in America, financing unprecedented investments in wind, solar, geothermal and other renewable sources of electricity. It advanced biofuels, electric vehicles and energy efficiency in every imaginable form. It helped fund the factories to build all that green stuff in the U.S., and research into the green technologies of tomorrow. It’s the reason U.S. wind production has increased 145% since 2008 and solar installations have increased more than 1,200%. The stimulus is also the reason the use of electronic medical records has more than doubled in doctors’ offices and almost quintupled in hospitals. It improved more than 110,000 miles of broadband infrastructure. It launched Race to the Top, the most ambitious national education reform in decades.

More here

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Dahlia Lithwick: How The Moral Mondays Movement Is Redefining The Left

I spent most of this past weekend answering two questions: “Why are you so interested in what happens in North Carolina?” (Posed mainly by people not from North Carolina.) And: “Why doesn’t anyone care what’s happening here in North Carolina?” (Posed largely by folks rallying in North Carolina.) As state governments limit reproductive rights, gerrymander voting districts, harm workers and the environment, and suppress the vote, we are all North Carolina now. The answer to the second question is that I don’t really know why the major national media, with a few notable exceptions, keeps ignoring this story.

GOP-controlled redistricting and a truly nasty voter suppression bill attempt to ensure that this remains the permanent state of affairs in North Carolina. The legislature promptly raised taxes on the bottom 80 percent, eliminated the earned-income tax credit for 900,000 people, slashed education spending, passed radical gun legislation, declined the Medicaid expansion (leaving 500,000 of its poorest citizens without health insurance), and passed a draconian abortion bill that was tacked onto a motorcycle safety law. The state, in short, turned on its own workers, its own minorities, its own teachers, its own doctors, its poor, its women, and its prisoners, with what has looked like unbridled glee.

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Washington Post: Obamacare’s Sign-Up Period Is Ending. Here’s How Enroll America Is Getting Ready

Enroll America is gearing up for its own version of March Madness — one that has nothing to do with basketball. The pro-health law group has spent months now honing its outreach techniques and developing data-intensive maps meant to help their 18,000 volunteers and 2,000 partner organizations reach as many uninsured people before open enrollment on the exchanges ends March 31.

“We’re at this moment now, six weeks out from the end of open enrollment, and we’re looking at every tool that we have at our disposal about how we should be focusing our efforts,” Enroll America president Anne Filipic says. One new tool that the group has begun rolling out to partner organizations are a set of maps that show where, down to the census tract, uninsured Americans live — and how well that does, or doesn’t, line up with where people meant to help them enroll in Obamacare are based.

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Mike Lillis: House Democrats Seek To Force GOP’s Hand On Minimum Wage Hike

House Democrats are launching an effort to force Republicans’ hand on the minimum wage. The Democrats will introduce a discharge petition later this month designed to force a floor vote on a proposal to hike the minimum wage, even in the face of entrenched opposition from GOP leaders. The discharge petition faces a high bar, as it would require at least 18 Republicans to buck their leadership and endorse the measure – a scenario the Democrats readily acknowledge is unlikely.

Still, the Democrats are hoping the extra political pressure will amplify the Democrats’ economic message this election year, while highlighting the stark differences between the parties when it comes to strategy for helping the working class amid an ongoing jobs crisis. “It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s about time to do it,” Rep. Xavier Becerra (Calif.), head of the House Democratic Caucus, told reporters. Public opinion polls show overwhelming support for a minimum wage hike; even if the discharge petition fails, it puts Republicans in the tough position of rejecting a popular economic policy in a still-fragile jobs market.

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Alyssa Gerace: Obama Scorecard: Foreclosures Keep Trending Down, Home Sales Strong

The housing market recovery has continued into 2014, indicated by an ongoing downtrend in foreclosures, home sales remaining strong, and home prices notching annual gains, notes the Obama Administration in its January Scorecard. “The January Housing Scorecard shows that the Obama Administration’s efforts continue to have a positive effect on the housing market,” said HUD Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic Affairs Kurt Usowski in a statement. “With foreclosures down, home sales up, and equity continuing to grow, the housing market continues to make slow, but steadily improving progress.”

 The number of properties in foreclosure dropped 33% in 2013 compared to the previous year, said the scorecard citing RealtyTrac, with foreclosure starts at their lowest annual level since 2005. Through the third quarter of 2013, the number of underwater borrowers dropped from nearly 7.2 million in the previous quarter to less than 6.4 million, with homeowners’ equity gaining $3.4 trillion since the beginning of 2012.

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Americans waste 33M tons of food each year. Ben decided to change that.

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NPR: For Lower-Income Students, Snow Days Can Be Hungry Days

For many Americans it’s been a harsh, disruptive winter, from the country’s Northern edges to the Deep South. When cold snaps and blizzards shutter schools, kids miss more than their daily lessons. Some miss out on the day’s nutritious meal as well. This recently became apparent to school administrators in rural Iowa, where extreme cold delayed openings two days in a row at Laurens-Marathon Community School, where 59 percent of students who eat school lunch qualify for free or reduced-price meals. On the first day, some students arrived on empty stomachs because parents thought breakfast would still be served that day.

“Two students were found in our lunchroom waiting to be fed,” says Meredith Allen, a teacher at the school. “Several co-workers had stockpiles of food,” but it wasn’t enough.  Last year, more than 21 million children nationwide ate free or reduced-price lunches, according to data from the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service. That’s 70 percent of the total students who ate school lunches, not counting those who brought meals from home. In the same year, more than 23 million households received SNAP benefits, known as food stamps.

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CBS News: John Kerry Accuses Syria Leader Bashir Assad Of Stonewalling Geneva Peace Talks

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday accused Syrian President Bashar Assad of stonewalling in peace talks and called on Russia to push its ally to negotiate with opposition leaders. “Right now, Bashar al-Assad has not engaged in the discussions along the promised and required standard that both Russia spoke up for and the regime spoke up for,” Kerry said during a press conference in Jakarta with Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa. He said Assad’s team “refused to open up one moment of discussion” of a transitional government to replace Assad’s regime.

“It is very clear that Bashar Assad is trying to win this on the battlefield instead of coming to the negotiating table in good faith,” Kerry said Peace talks last week in Geneva ended with no progress toward breaking the impasse in the nearly 3-year-old conflict in Syria. Kerry also had harsh words for Assad’s allies in Moscow. “Russia needs to be a part of the solution and not be contributing so many more weapons and so much more aid that they are in fact enabling Assad to double down,” he said. Russia has told the U.S. it was committed to helping create a transitional government, Kerry said, but has not delivered “the kind of effort to create the kind of dynamic by which that could be achieved.”

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Molly K. Hooper: GOP Flocks To Bill Curbing Obama’s Power

Dozens of House Republicans have recently backed legislation that calls for legal action against President Obama. Forty-three Republicans have cosponsored the resolution since Obama’s State of the Union address, where he threatened to enact policies if Congress didn’t act. The “Stop This Overreaching Presidency (STOP)” measure, introduced by Rep. Tom Rice (S.C.), now has 104 co-sponsors, Rice explained that STOP resolution is aimed at reversing Obama’s delay of the employer mandate, enactment of the DREAM Act, extension of “substandard” health insurance plans and ending work requirements for welfare.

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Celeste Katz: De Blasio Administration Cuts First Labor Contract – With Environmental Officers

The de Blasio administration has settled its first labor contract, a quick deal with 200 environmental officers that could signal a smoother period of labor relations after the cold war between the unions and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The officers, whose duties include patrolling the city’s watershed upstate, had been working without a contract for an astounding nine years.

Under the new agreement, they will receive an average of more than $50,000 each in back pay. Kenneth Wynder, who represents the officers as head of the Law Enforcement Employees Benevolent Association, praised the de Blasio administration for its “fairness.” “We got treated with respect,” he said. “We felt much better compared to the nine-year battle we had with the old administration,” he told the Daily News.

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On This Day:

Close-up detail of President Obama’s signature on a bill, and a pen used for the signing, aboard Air Force One on a flight from Buckley Air Force Base, Denver, Col. to Phoenix, Ariz., Feb. 17, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama meets with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar aboard Air Force One during a flight to Denver, Col., Feb. 17, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama salutes, departing Andrews Air Force Base for Denver, Col., Feb. 17, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama with Vice President Biden speaks with CEO of Namaste Solar Electric, Inc., Blake Jones, while looking at solar panels at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science in Denver, Col., Feb. 17, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

A toe marker for President Obama as he prepares to make remarks at the Signing of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Denver, Col., Feb. 17, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama welcomes King Juan Carlos I of Spain to the White House, just outside the Oval Office, before their lunch in the President’s private dining room, Feb. 17, 2010. At left is Chief of Protocol Capricia Marshall (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama meets with his national security team on Afghanistan and Pakistan in the Situation Room of the White House, Feb. 17, 2010. General Stanley McChrystal, U.S. Commander in Afghanistan, was among those joining the discussion via videoconference (left screen) (Photo by Pete Souza)

Vice President Biden’s personal aide Fran Person holds the door for President Obama as he waits to make remarks during the one-year Recovery Act Anniversary event in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the White House, Feb. 17, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama gestures during a phone call in the Oval Office, Feb. 17, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama talks with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as Vice President Biden talks with Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., after a lunch with the Democratic House leadership in the Oval Office Private Dining Room, Feb. 17, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama talks with Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg before a dinner with Technology Business Leaders in Woodside, California, Feb. 17, 2011. Also pictured, left to right, are Carol Bartz, Yahoo! President and CEO; Art Levinson, Genentech Chairman and former CEO; Steve Westly, Founder and Managing Partner, The Westly Group; and Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman and CEO of Google (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama joins a toast with Technology Business Leaders at a dinner in Woodside, California, Feb. 17, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama sits in the cockpit of a 767 during his tour of the Boeing Plant production facility in Everett, Wash., Feb. 17, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama exits a 787 Dreamliner to greet workers and deliver remarks at the Boeing-Everett Production Facility in Everett, Wash., Feb. 17, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama greets students from Medina Elementary School in Medina, Wash., Feb. 17, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

…. greeting Beth Hamilton, principal of Medina Elementary School

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Chips: D’you wanna know how awesome Nerdy is? I just had the photos done for R&S last night, then I go back to it this morning and she’s added a whole bunch of wonderful articles, tweets and links. If the woman didn’t love Chelsea, she’d be perfect. Thank you so much legend – and moooOOOooorning everyone!

19
Sep
13

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet the family of Senior Master Sergeant Roland Paramore (not pictured) aboard Air Force One prior to departure en route to New York, Sept. 19, 2011(Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern):

10:45 House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi holds her weekly briefing with members of the press (C-Span)

11:0: The President delivers remarks at a meeting of his Export Council, Eisenhower Executive Office Building

1:0: Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney

4:25: The President attends a DNC event, Capital Hilton Hotel (Closed Press)

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Esquire: Aliens in Their Own Nation

For the Republican Party, what began as a tactic — vilification of its opponents — became a habit that became a conviction. Its anger and distrust have become the dominant political fact of our time.

We have a problem with our Republicans. They don’t much want to govern anymore, and we can’t govern without them. This has been a long time coming, but at some point in recent years, America’s Republicans, especially elected officials but also a large part of the rank and file, stopped seeing Democrats and many other Americans as their political opponents and started viewing them instead as the enemy, a nemesis bent on destroying the country.

Certainly a significant factor underlying this phenomenon is white insecurity in a changing world, especially in the old Confederacy, in which the 21st-century Republican party has bunkered itself. But whatever the reason, given the symbiosis between the only two political parties we have allowed ourselves, this extremism endangers the governing arrangement that has held for the last century or so — and by and large worked spectacularly well…

More here

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Jamelle Bouie: The Obamacare Swindle (It’s Not What You Think)

Health-care reform isn’t going anywhere. But that hasn’t stopped Republicans from using it to raise money from gullible Tea Partiers who want it defunded.

House Republican leadership does not want a government shutdown over Obamacare, but the agitation of conservative activists might make one inevitable.

….. Conservatives must know they have nothing to gain politically from taking this stance, which raises the question: why do it? One answer, as suggested by the National Review’s Robert Costa in August, is money. Tea party organizations, he writes, “aren’t worried about the establishment’s ire. In fact, they welcome it. Business has boomed since the push to defund Obamacare caught on. Conservative activists are lighting up social media, donations are pouring in, and e-mail lists are growing.”

More here

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Carol E. Lee: Obama Administration Weighs Iran Talks At U.N.

The Obama administration is preparing for high-level meetings next week with the Iranian government on its nuclear ambitions and is open to a direct exchange between President Barack Obama and Iran’s new president, Hasan Rouhani, at the United Nations, according to senior U.S. officials.

The recent softening between Washington and Tehran gained new momentum with the release by Iran in recent days of 11 political prisoners, including a prominent human-rights lawyer freed on Wednesday. The releases were seen as a signal to Washington of a desire for better relations on the eve of Mr. Rouhani’s first visit as president to the annual gathering of world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly.

More here

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Greg Sargent: If We Get A Debt Ceiling Crisis, It’s Because Republican Voters Want One

If we are going to have a debt ceiling and default crisis — with all of the havoc it may well entail — it may well be because Republican voters want such a crisis, even if it causes serious economic harm. No, really. That’s what a new poll shows. The new Washington Post/ABC News poll on the debt ceiling tells us something remarkable: Among Republicans who believe that not raising the debt ceiling would cause serious harm to the economy, a majority of them wants Congress not to raise it anyway. By contrast, Americans overall see it in the opposite way.

Meanwhile, the poll also finds that 73 percent think not raising the debt limit would “cause serious harm to the U.S. economy,” versus only 22 percent who say it wouldn’t. How to explain the divergence? It turns out it’s largely driven by Republicans. By contrast, among Americans overall who say not raising it would cause serious harm, they tilt in favor of raising it by 54-35. Independents who say not raising it would cause serious harm also tilt in favor of raising it by 58-36.

More here

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Steve Benen: Bernanke Stuns With Ongoing Stimulus

One of the day’s biggest stories was also one of the day’s most pleasant surprises. The Federal Reserve postponed any retreat from its long-running stimulus campaign Wednesday, saying that it would continue to buy $85 billion a month in bonds to encourage job creation and economic growth. [...]

But let’s not overlook why Bernanke came to this conclusion. There were, of course, multiple factors, but The Hill reported, “The Fed said one of the primary reasons for the decision was the fiscal fight in Washington, which it said is ‘restraining economic growth.'” The political world tends to ignore this for reasons I find endlessly frustrating, but the chairman of the Federal Reserve has repeatedly told Congress, in fairly explicit terms, that Republicans are hurting the economy. Bernanke has drawn direct, unambiguous connections between weak economic growth and the specific policies pursued by Republican lawmakers.

GOP officials ignore Bernanke because he tells them what they don’t want to hear, and many in the media ignore his assessments because Americans aren’t supposed to hear about Republican responsibility for the struggling economy.

More here

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Greg Sargent: The Conservative Alternative To ObamaCare Isn’t An Alternative To ObamaCare

So House conservatives are planning to roll out their long awaited alternative to Obamacare, some three years after they first promised to do so — and after more than three dozen votes to repeal it. The conservative alternative wouldn’t do nothing at all.

“Individuals who purchase coverage approved for sale in their state could claim a deduction of $7,500 against their income and payroll taxes, regardless of the cost of the insurance. Families could deduct $20,000.” The trouble with this, Leavitt says, is that deductions disproportionately benefit the rich. By contrast, Levitt notes, Obamacare gives low income folks subsidies in the form of tax credits, which disproportionately benefit the poor.

More here

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I love the smell of GOP infighting in the morning

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Brian Beutler: GOP Deludes Itself On Shutdown Threat

it’s easier to remember that what we’re hearing on the right is the din of 275 Republicans and thousands of movement conservatives caterwauling at each other. It’s a fascinating story. It’s genuinely newsworthy that John Boehner and company were cowed into giving Ted Cruz and his boosters on the right a vote on the doomed strategy they’ve been demanding. Assuming the defund Obamacare bill passes the House — not a given! — it’ll be extremely revealing to watch Senate Republicans figure out what to do with it, and hear what they say when it inevitably fails.

More here

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On This Day:

President Barack Obama and Burmese Opposition Leader Aung San Suu Kyi pet Bo at the conclusion of their meeting in the Oval Office, Sept. 19, 2012. Danny Russel, Senior Director for Asian Affairs, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton watch at left (Pete Souza)

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First Lady Michelle Obama speaks to a crowd of over 6000 at Minges Coliseum on the East Carolina University campus, Sept 19, 2012

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First Lady Michelle Obama greets students from the East Durham Children’s Initiative upon arrival at Raleigh-Durham Airport in Morrisville, N.C., Sept. 19, 2012 (Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)

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