Philippine and United States officials on Monday signed the agreement that will allow an enlarged rotational presence of American troops in the country, hours before the arrival of US President Barack Obama. Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and US Ambassador Philip Goldberg signed the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City. The ceremony lasted for not more than 15 minutes. The two officials left did not take questions after giving short statements. Finalized after eight rounds of talks that began in August 2013, the new accord grants US troops access to designated Philippine military facilities, the right to construct facilities, and pre-position equipment, aircraft and vessels. But the pact rules out permanent basing, as the Philippine Constitution bans foreign military bases in the country unless covered by a treaty.
According to a fact sheet provided by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the pact has an initial term of 10 years and was signed as an executive agreement within the scope of the Visiting Forces Agreement that had been ratified by the Philippine Senate in 1999. In his speech, Goldberg stressed that the agreement will not pave the way for permanent US military presence and the reopening their military bases in the country. “The US does not intend to establish permanent military presence in the Philippines…it will not reopen US bases to enhance our defense relationship,” he said. Goldberg said the agreement will support the long-term modernization of the Armed Forces and will help it “maintain and develop additional maritime security, maritime domain awareness and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief capability.”
Dean Angstadt fells trees for a living. He’s a self-employed, self-sufficient logger who has cleared his own path for most of his 57 years, never expecting help from anyone. And even though he’d been uninsured since 2009, he especially wanted nothing to do with the Affordable Care Act. “I don’t read what the Democrats have to say about it because I think they’re full of it,” he told his friend Bob Leinhauser, who suggested he sign up. That refrain changed this year when a faulty aortic valve almost felled Angstadt. Suddenly, he was facing a choice: Buy a health plan, through a law he despised, that would pay the lion’s share of the cost of the life-saving surgery – or die. He chose the former. “A lot of people I talk to are so misinformed about the ACA,” Angstadt said. “I was, before Bob went through all this for me. I would recommend it to anybody and, in fact, have encouraged friends, including the one guy who hauls my logs.” Angstadt called Leinhauser. The political odd couple talked a bit before Angstadt mentioned he was having trouble breathing. Leinhauser, 55, a retired firefighter and nurse, drove him to a doctor’s office.
“Dean only saw a doctor when he needed to because it made a big difference in his finances,” Leinhauser said. From time to time, Leinhauser would urge Angstadt to buy a plan through the ACA marketplace. And each time, Angstadt refused. “We argued about it for months,” Angstadt said. “I didn’t trust this Obamacare. One of the big reasons is it sounded too good to be true.” Leinhauser went to Angstadt’s house, and in less than an hour, the duo had done the application. A day later, Angstadt signed up for the Highmark Blue Cross silver PPO plan and paid his first monthly premium: $26.11. Angstadt’s plan kicked in on March 1. It was just in time. Surgery couldn’t be put off any longer. On March 31, Angstadt had life-saving valve-replacement surgery. “I probably would have ended up falling over dead” without the surgery, Angstadt said. “Not only did it save my life, it’s going to give me a better quality of life.” “For me, this isn’t about politics,” he added. “I’m trying to help other people who are like me, stubborn and bullheaded, who refused to even look. From my own experience, the ACA is everything it’s supposed to be and, in fact, better than it’s made out to be.”
The United States froze assets and imposed visa bans on seven powerful Russians close to President Vladimir Putin on Monday and also sanctioned 17 companies in reprisal for Moscow’s actions in Ukraine. President Barack Obama said the moves, which add to measures taken when Russia annexed Crimea last month, were to stop Putin fomenting rebellion in eastern Ukraine. Obama added he was holding broader measures against Russia’s economy “in reserve”. Among those sanctioned were Igor Sechin, head of state energy firm Rosneft, and Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak. A Russian deputy foreign minister was quoted as expressing “disgust” at the White House announcement. The European Union, with more to lose than Washington from sanctions against Russia, a major energy supplier and trading partner for the EU,
is also expected to announce new penalties after member governments reached a deal, diplomats said. The United States will deny export licenses for any high-technology items that could contribute to Russian military capabilities and will revoke any existing export licenses that meet these conditions, the White House said. It was the third round of sanctions that the United States has imposed over Crime and troop build-up on the border. All the sanctions have been aimed at individuals and businesses. “Russia’s involvement in the recent violence in eastern Ukraine is indisputable,” a White House statement said.
TPM: Obama Pledges Federal Help After Deadly Tornado
President Barack Obama is sending his deepest condolences to those affected by a deadly tornado that ripped through Arkansas. Obama says he wants everyone affected to know that the federal government is on the ground to help. He says the Federal Emergency Management Agency will work with local officials. Obama says, quote, “Your country will be there to help you recover and rebuild, as long as it takes.” The president is also praising the heroic efforts of first responders and neighbors. A broad tornado killed at least 11 when it sliced through suburbs in Arkansas on Sunday at the start of the U.S. tornado season. Another person died in Oklahoma.
The mayor of Ukraine’s second-largest city was shot in the back and pro-Russia insurgents seized more government buildings Monday as the U.S. hit Russia with more sanctions for allegedly fomenting the unrest in eastern Ukraine. Armed insurgents tacitly backed by Moscow are seeking more autonomy in the region — possibly even independence or annexation with Russia. Ukraine’s acting government and the West have accused Russia of orchestrating the unrest, which they fear Moscow could use as a pretext for an invasion. Hennady Kernes, the mayor of Kharkiv, was shot in the back Monday morning, underwent surgery and “doctors are fighting for his life,” city hall said. Kernes was a staunch opponent of the pro-West Maidan movement that toppled President Viktor Yanukovych in February and
was widely viewed as the organizer of activists sent to Kiev from eastern Ukraine to harass those demonstrators. But he has since softened his stance toward the new Kiev government. At a meeting of eastern Ukrainian leaders and acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk earlier this month, Kernes insisted he does not support the pro-Russia insurgents and backed a united Ukraine. Kharkiv is in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russia gunmen have seized government buildings and police stations, set up roadblocks or staged protests to demand greater autonomy or outright annexation by Russia. But unlike the neighboring Donetsk region, Kharkiv has been largely unaffected by the insurgency and Kernes has been credited for this. Its regional administration building was briefly seized earlier this month but promptly cleared of pro-Russia protesters.
A gauge of upcoming home sales ticked higher in March after eight straight months of declines, a sign the sector could be pulling out of its malaise. The National Association of Realtors said Monday that its seasonally adjusted index of pending sales of existing homes rose 3.4% in March from February to 97.4. That was more than the 1% increase forecast by economists and placed the index 2.6% below its 2001 benchmark level. The report showed home sales perking up after suffering in recent months from an unusually harsh winter weather as well as declining affordability.
The spring buying and selling season is crucial for the U.S. housing market because many families prefer to make a move to a new school district by the end of the summer. Pending home sales provide a more timely gauge of market conditions than some other indicators as they tally sales at the moment contracts are signed. Sales typically close one or two months later. “After a dismal winter, more buyers got an opportunity to look at homes last month and are beginning to make contract offers,” said National Association of Realtors Chief Economist Lawrence Yun.
Here’s another sign that the stance on Obamacare held by many GOP Senate candidates — whether you call it “repeal,” or “repeal and replace with something-or-other to be specified later” — is becoming increasingly unsustainable and could get harder and harder to explain as these campaigns intensify. In a weekend interview with WMUR, Scott Brown — who is running for Senate in New Hampshire — attempted to explain his stance on health care. He endorsed the general goals of protecting people with preexisting conditions and expanding coverage to those who need it. But he then denounced Obamacare as a “disaster,” citing the usual litany of Obama tyrannies and horror stories often hawked by Republicans. So, how would Senator Scott Brown go about accomplishing the goals he says he supports? Well, he urges reform on the state level.
New Hamsphire recently moved forward with its version of the Medicaid expansion. Brown supports repeal — which would do away with the expansion — and yet to my knowledge, he has not taken a position directly on the expansion when asked. Repeal would scrap Obamacare’s consumer protections and other efforts to expand coverage. Brown (who supported Romneycare in Massachusetts) appears to think federal reform should be repealed and replaced with state level reform. Until he says otherwise, that seems to mean he doesn’t envision a federal “replace” plan.
First Lady Michelle Obama watches as students from the Ron Clark Academy perform at the unveiling of the Sojourner Truth bust at the U.S. Capitol in Washington DC, April 28, 2009 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)
President Obama greets various 2009 State Teacher of the Year winners during a ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington on April 28, 2009
President Obama speaks to employees of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) at FBI headquarters in Washington on April 28, 2009
Students from the Ron Clark Academy perform for First Lady Michelle Obama and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi during the unveiling ceremony of abolitionist and suffragist Sojourner Truth in the Capitol Visitors Center in Washington on April 28, 2009
President Obama greets workers and invited guests after speaking at POET Biorefining ethanol plant in Macon, Missouri on April 28, 2010
First Lady Michelle Obama jokes with participants in the Wounded Warrior Soldier Ride in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, April 28, 2010 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)
President Obama talks with Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour about severe storms and tornados that moved across the southeast, during a phone call in the Oval Office Private Dining Room, April 28, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama greets cast members from ABC’s sitcom “Modern Family”, including Julie Bowen, center, and Sofia Vergara, right, in the Oval Office, Saturday, April 28, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)
First Lady Michelle Obama arrives at the 2012 White House Correspondents Association Dinner
President Obama laughs during the 2012 White House Correspondents Association Dinner held at the Washington Hilton on April 28, 2012