President Barack Obama, Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi, Natioanl Security Advisor Susan Rice, Secretary of State John Kerry and Samantha Power United States Ambassador to the United Nations, attend the “Leader’s Summit on Countering ISIL and Countering Violent Extremism” at the United Nations
First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama joins the “Let Girls Learn” Global Conversation at The Apollo Theater in New York City
Glamour’s Editor-in-Chief Cindi Leive (R) led a panel discussion with Former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Founder of Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project and U.N. Messenger of Peace Charlize Theron, First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama and Girl ambassador from Plan International Nurfahada during Glamour “The Power Of An Educated Girl” at The Apollo Theater
The UN has adopted a resolution aimed at identifying those behind chemical weapons attacks in Syria. UN chief Ban Ki-moon and the head of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) will be asked to prepare a plan for an inquiry. The vote came after the US and Russia agreed on the final text of the resolution. A mission to eliminate Syria’s chemical arsenal was set up after a deadly attack outside Damascus in August 2013.
Late last year, the OPCW declared it had removed or destroyed all 1,180 tonnes of declared toxic agents and precursor chemicals. After Friday’s vote, the US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, said it was a clear message that the perpetrators would not go unpunished. “Today’s resolution has been adopted with the council’s unanimous support,” she said. “This sends a clear and powerful message to all those involved in chemical weapons attacks in Syria. The joint investigative mechanism will identify you if you gas people.
President Barack Obama smiles as he arrives to deliver a speech at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit at the United Nations Compound in Nairobi. President Obama’s visit to Kenya is focused on trade and economic issues, as well as security and counterterrorism cooperation
President Barack Obama and Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta take part in a roundtable with young businesspeople at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit
President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit. He told African entrepreneurs in Kenya on Saturday they could help counter violent ideologies and drive growth in Africa, and said governments had to help by ensuring the rule of law was upheld and by tackling corruption
The Obama administration on Tuesday announced a series of moves aimed at cutting emissions of hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, powerful greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. The White House has secured voluntary agreements from some of the nation’s largest companies to scale down or phase out their use of HFCs, which are factory-made gases used in air conditioning and refrigeration. Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Red Bull, Kroger, Honeywell and DuPont, the company that invented fluorinated refrigerants, have agreed to cut their use and replace them with climate-friendly alternatives.
Over all, the administration estimated that the agreements announced on Tuesday would reduce cumulative global consumption of HFCs by the equivalent of 700 million metric tons of carbon dioxide through 2025. That is about 1.5 percent of the world’s 2010 greenhouse gas emissions, or the same as taking 15 million cars off the road for 10 years. “Every drumbeat in this symphony helps. It drives it along. This is part of that drumbeat,” said Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, a research organization. “The benefits from cutting non-CO2 come much faster,” he added. “CO2 is like a supertanker – you can stop it, but it keeps drifting for a long time. Cutting HFCs are like stopping a steamboat. You stop it and that’s that.”
The Obama administration is working to forge a sweeping international climate change agreement to compel nations to cut their planet-warming fossil fuel emissions, but without ratification from Congress. In preparation for this agreement, to be signed at a United Nations summit meeting in 2015 in Paris, the negotiators are meeting with diplomats from other countries to broker a deal to commit some of the world’s largest economies to enact laws to reduce their carbon pollution. But under the Constitution, a president may enter into a legally binding treaty only if it is approved by a two-thirds majority of the Senate. To sidestep that requirement, President Obama’s climate negotiators are devising what they call a “politically binding” deal that would “name and shame” countries into cutting their emissions. The deal is likely to face strong objections from Republicans on Capitol Hill and from poor countries around the world, but negotiators say it may be the only realistic path.
American negotiators are instead homing in on a hybrid agreement — a proposal to blend legally binding conditions from an existing 1992 treaty with new voluntary pledges. The mix would create a deal that would update the treaty, and thus, negotiators say, not require a new vote of ratification. Countries would be legally required to enact domestic climate change policies — but would voluntarily pledge to specific levels of emissions cuts and to channel money to poor countries to help them adapt to climate change. Countries might then be legally obligated to report their progress toward meeting those pledges at meetings held to identify those nations that did not meet their cuts. The strategy comes as scientists warn that the earth is already experiencing the first signs of human-caused global warming — more severe drought and stronger wildfires, rising sea levels and more devastating storms. In seeking to go around Congress to push his international climate change agenda, Mr. Obama is echoing his domestic climate strategy. In June, he bypassed Congress and used his executive authority to order a far-reaching regulation forcing American coal-fired power plants to curb their carbon emissions.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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  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.”
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.
President Obama addresses the recipients of the 2014 National Association of Police Organizations Top Cops lined up in the State Dining Room prior to a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, May 12, 2014 (Photo by Pete Souza)
12:30: Jay Carney briefs the press
3:0: The President awards Kyle J. White, U.S. Army, the Medal of Honor
The Week Ahead
Wednesday: The President and the First Lady will travel to New York. While there, the President will host an event on the economy and attend DNC and DSCC events. More details will be forthcoming.
Thursday: The President and the First Lady will tour the National September 11th Memorial and Museum; the President will also deliver remarks at the dedication ceremony. Following his remarks, the President and the First Lady will return to Washington, DC.
Friday: The President will attend meetings at the White House.
Yahoo: Turns Out Obamacare Premiums Aren’t More Expensive After All
When the cost of an employer-provided health insurance plan is compared to the cost of an Affordable Care Act plan bought on a state health insurance exchange, the ACA plan will be more affordable on average, a new analysis from PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Research Institute finds. “In 2014, the premiums for health plans offered on new state exchanges under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are comparable to — and in some cases lower than — those being offered by employers with similar levels of coverage,” the analysts concluded. “The data suggest the new exchanges are competitive with the current insurance market.”
The analysis is based on employer-sponsored premiums of 156 million people in 2013. But what about all those news stories about people whose premiums had shot way up? Those were often people whose pre-ACA insurance did not meet even the most basic standards set forth by the law. “Some of the sticker shock noted among enrollees in the new exchanges is due to more comprehensive insurance coverage in the exchange plans,” the PwC analysis notes, citing research in Health Affairs. “More than half the people in the individual market had coverage below the bronze level of 60%, the lowest level in the exchanges.”
It was about a year ago when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) appeared on Fox News and told viewers that Congress should be “focused on trying to deal with the ultimate problem, which is this growing deficit.” There were a couple of glaring problems with the comment. For one thing, to prioritize the deficit as the “ultimate problem” – as opposed to, say, creating jobs and reducing unemployment – is to have a fairly warped sense of urgent policy needs. For another, the deficit, in reality, is most certainly not “growing.” The U.S. government ran a big surplus in April, thanks to a flood of tax payments that helped keep the budget on track for the lowest annual deficit in six years…. Through the first seven months of the 2014 budget year, which began Oct. 1, the deficit totals $306.4 billion. That’s down 37 percent from the same period last year. The Congressional Budget Office is forecasting a deficit of $492 billion for the full budget year.
That would be the narrowest gap since 2008. To be sure, none of this should come as a surprise, at least not to the policy mainstream. In recent years, the federal government has raised taxes and cut spending – and wouldn’t you know it, when Washington takes in more while spending less, the deficit gets smaller. This is a basic budgetary truism that Republicans continue to resist. Indeed, last year, when top marginal rates increased on households making more than $400,000 a year, a variety of GOP lawmakers argued that this would likely cause the deficit to go up – as they saw it, higher taxes on the wealthy would slow growth, which would mean fewer jobs, which would mean fewer people paying income taxes, which would mean a larger deficit. It appears on this, Republicans had it backwards, which will do nothing to shake the Beltway perception of the GOP as the “fiscally responsible” party. The fact remains, however, that the annual budget deficit is on track this year to have shrunk by about $900 billion since President Obama took the oath of office.
NYT: Scientists Warn Of Rising Oceans From Polar Melt
A large section of the mighty West Antarctica ice sheet has begun falling apart and its continued melting now appears to be unstoppable, two groups of scientists reported on Monday. If the findings hold up, they suggest that the melting could destabilize neighboring parts of the ice sheet and a rise in sea level of 10 feet or more may be unavoidable in coming centuries. Global warming caused by the human-driven release of greenhouse gases has helped to destabilize the ice sheet, though other factors may also be involved, the scientists said. The rise of the sea is likely to continue to be relatively slow for the rest of the 21st century, the scientists added, but in the more distant future it may accelerate markedly, potentially throwing society into crisis. “This is really happening,” Thomas P. Wagner, who runs NASA’s programs on polar ice and helped oversee some of the research, said in an interview. “There’s nothing to stop it now. But you are still limited by the physics of how fast the ice can flow.”
The West Antarctic ice sheet sits in a bowl-shaped depression in the earth, with the base of the ice below sea level. Warm ocean water is causing the ice sitting along the rim of the bowl to thin and retreat. As the front edge of the ice pulls away from the rim and enters deeper water, it can retreat much faster than before. Those six glaciers alone could cause the ocean to rise four feet as they disappear, Dr. Rignot said, possibly within a couple of centuries. He added that their disappearance will most likely destabilize other sectors of the ice sheet, so the ultimate rise could be triple that. The effects will depend in part on how much money future governments spend to protect shorelines from a rising sea. Research published in 2012 found that a rise of less than four feet would inundate land on which some 3.7 million Americans live today. Miami, New Orleans, New York and Boston are all highly vulnerable.
BBC: Woman To Lead UN Peacekeeping Mission For First Time In Cyprus
For the first time, a woman will command a UN peacekeeping force, after Norway’s Major General Kristin Lund was appointed to lead troops in Cyprus. Maj Gen Lund, 55, has a distinguished military career going back 34 years and including postings in Lebanon and Afghanistan, a UN statement said. She will replace China’s Major General Chao Liu on 13 August.In Cyprus, she will command 996 soldiers and police officers as well as 149 civilian staff. Maj Gen Lund was congratulated on her appointment by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at UN headquarters in New York.
Interviewed by the Associated Press news agency, she said she was looking forward to the challenges of her new job – maintaining the ceasefire and supporting efforts to deal with minefields, unaccounted people, property disputes and other issues. She also said she was proud to crack the glass ceiling in UN peacekeeping: “I think it’s time, and I think it’s important, that other women see that it’s possible also in the UN system to get up in the military hierarchy to become a force commander.”
Alec MacGillis: Marco Rubio Denies Climate Change While His Hometown Drowns
Marco Rubio, as you may have heard, has issued yet another blunt rejection of the whole notion of man-made climate change. “Well, yeah, I don’t agree with the notion that some are putting out there, including scientists, that somehow there are actions we can take today that would actually have an impact on what’s happening in our climate,” he said yesterday on ABC’s “This Week.” He continued: “Our climate is always changing. And what they have chosen to do is take a handful of decades of research and say that this is now evidence of a longer-term trend that’s directly and almost solely attributable to man-made activities…I don’t know of any era in world history where the climate has been stable. Climate is always evolving, and natural disasters have always existed… I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it.
Would you believe climate-denying Sen. Marco Rubio is a member of the Senate Science Committee? He is on.msnbc.com/1guLkPs
That’s what I—and I do not believe that the laws that they propose we pass will do anything about it, except it will destroy our economy.” For this, Rubio has been roundly ridiculed by reality-based commentators. But even their scorn seems to skip over what is perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Rubio’s evasion on climate change. It would be one thing if Rubio was trying to downplay man-made climate change if he was the senator from a state that is greatly dependent on drawing fossil fuels out of the earth and pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere—say, Oklahoma or West Virginia or North Dakota. But Rubio represents Florida, and is in fact from Miami. Which—how to say this nicely?—is in the process of drowning.
Boston Globe: Vermont Legislators Agree On $10.50 Minimum Wage By 2018
The Vermont House has agreed with the Senate to raise the state’s minimum wage to $10.50 by 2018, as lawmakers adjourned for the year. The current state minimum wage is $8.73 per hour. ‘‘Any time we can put money in the hands of Vermonters who need it most, it’s a win,’’ said Representative Tom Stevens, a Waterbury Democrat, as he presented the bill to his colleagues Friday night. ‘‘Is it enough? It’s a start.’’ Governor Peter Shumlin issued a statement praising the bill. ‘‘I will be proud to sign it,’’ he said.
The State House was filled with frenetic activity Friday and Saturday, as conference committees met on budget and tax packages for fiscal 2015 and reached deals on several other bills, including one streamlining the process for medicating mentally ill patients against their will. Majority Democrats in the House in March had passed a minimum wage increase to $10.10 an hour to take effect in January, but the Senate called for a slower approach. The House was ready to pass a compromise Thursday evening, but a printer’s error — the wrong bill on the matter had been placed in the legislative calendar — caused it to be delayed.
They may not love all of it, but most Americans want the president’s signature health reform policy to stay. A significant majority (61%) of Americans want the Affordable Care Act kept as-is or improved with changes, while a little more than a third (38%) want the law fully repealed or replaced, according to new polling released Sunday. A little less than half (49%) of all respondents said “make some changes” when asked what they thought Congress should do with respect to the law, according to the CNN/ORC poll. Another 12% want the law kept in place in its exact form. Among those supporting repeal, 18% said they wanted to repeal and replace the health reform law with a new law, and 20% said it should just be repealed.
Independent voters show a slightly more repeal-friendly breakdown, with 55% supporting a law in its original or improved form, and 45% supporting repeal either with or without replacement. Broken down across age groups, younger adults (ages 18-34) are most likely to support making minor changes to the law (50%). Seniors, many of whom already received health coverage from Medicare, are more likely than any other demographic to support a full repeal of the law with no replacement, at 25%. Across racial groups, nonwhites are more likely than whites to want the law kept as is or improved, 79% to 53%. While whites are slightly more likely than nonwhites to support repeal or repeal with replacement, 46% to 21%. Recent polling from Gallup found African-American and Latino Americans saw more significant decreases in the uninsured rate since the law’s health exchange open enrollment period began. The poll also finds a slight increase in the overall number of Americans who see the law as a success – a four-point jump since November 2013 from 8% to 12%.
President Barack Obama will visit the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project on Wednesday as part of an administration push for more infrastructure spending, a White House spokesman confirmed. Obama chose the Tappan Zee—which carries the New York State Thruway over the Hudson River, between Tarrytown and Nyack—to make a point about streamlined federal approval processes, White House spokesman Keith Maley said.
A $3.9 billion replacement structure is now under construction, spearheaded by Governor Andrew Cuomo and helped by a $1.6 billion federal loan that was approved in October. There is already visible progress on the replacement structure. “President Obama and his administration are focused every day on what we can do to expand opportunity for every American,” said Maley. “In today’s economy, that means building a first-class infrastructure that attracts first-class jobs and takes American businesses’ goods all across the world.”
It’s been nearly a year since Jason Cherkis published it, but his health care anecdote out of Kentucky resonates because of its salience. As Cherkis reported last August, a middle-aged man in a red golf shirt shuffled up to a small folding table at the Kentucky State Fair to hear about Kynect, the state’s health benefit exchange established by the Affordable Care Act. The man liked what he heard. “This beats Obamacare I hope,” he said, apparently unaware that Kynect and Obamacare are the same thing. A year later, as NBC News’ First Read discovered, there’s a lot of this going around. When it comes to views of the new health care law, sometimes it’s all in a name. In Kentucky, our NBC-Marist poll found that 57% of registered voters have an unfavorable view of “Obamacare,” the shorthand commonly used to label the 2010 Affordable Care Act. That’s compared with only 33% who give it a thumbs up – hardly surprising in a state where the president’s approval rating hovers just above 30%.
By comparison, when Kentucky voters were asked to give their impression of kynect, the state exchange created as a result of the health care law, the picture was quite different. A plurality – 29% – said they have a favorable impression of kynect, compared to 22% who said they view the system unfavorably. I put together the above chart to help capture the difference, and while kynect is less well known – 27% of Kentuckians said they hadn’t heard of it, with another 21% saying they were unsure – the difference is hard to miss. It’s a timely reminder that polling on health care is tricky in this political climate. If you ask Americans whether they like “Obamacare.” in most cases, they do not. Ask them whether they support the policy provisions within the Affordable Care Act and suddenly the law looks very popular. What explains the discrepancy? Some of it’s based on lingering confusion – a lot of folks still don’t know much about the law – and some of it’s tribal, with those who hold the president in contempt rejecting the reform law, not on the merits, but because Obama signed it.
Don Lee: After Decades of Exodus, Companies Returning Production To The U.S.
In 2001, Generac Power Systems joined the wave of American companies shifting production to China. The move wiped out 400 jobs in southeast Wisconsin, but few could argue with management’s logic: Chinese companies were offering to make a key component for $100 per unit less than the cost of producing it in the U.S. Now, however, Generac has brought manufacturing of that component back to its Whitewater plant — creating about 80 jobs in this town of about 14,500 people. The move is part of a sea change in American manufacturing: After three decades of an exodus of production to China and other low-wage countries, companies have sharply curtailed moves abroad. Some, like Generac, have begun to return manufacturing to U.S. shores.
Although no one keeps precise statistics, the retreat from offshoring is clear from various sources, including federal data on assistance to workers hurt by overseas moves. U.S. factory payrolls have grown for four straight years, with gains totaling about 650,000 jobs. That’s a small fraction of the 6 million lost in the previous decade, but it still marks the biggest and longest stretch of manufacturing increases in a quarter century. Harry Moser, an MIT-trained engineer who tracks the inflow of jobs, estimates that last year marked the first time since the offshoring trend began that factory jobs returning to the U.S. matched the number lost, at about 40,000 each. “Offshoring and ‘re-shoring’ were roughly in balance — I call that victory,” said Moser
Sen. Barack Obama stops to speak with school kids from Holy Cross as he departs after a vote on amendments to S.2284, the “Flood Insurance Reform and Modernization Act of 2007,” on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 13, 2007
President Obama walks to the podium to deliver a statement on the situation in Sri Lanka, May 13, 2009
President Obama enters the stage to give the commencement address at Arizona State University Commencement at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe Arizona May 13, 2009
President Obama talks on the phone with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev about the final details of the START Treaty, in the Oval Office, Saturday, March 13, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron during a joint press conference in the East Room at the White House on May 13, 2013
On This Day: First Lady Michelle Obama participates in an interview with Stephen Colbert during a taping of “The Colbert Report,” at the Colbert Report Studio in New York, N.Y., April 11, 2012 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
Today (All Times Eastern)
11:0 President Obama announces the nomination of Sylvia Burwell to be HHS Secretary
12:15: First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden Host a Joining Forces Caregivers Event
1:55: The President and First Lady depart the White House
3:05 Arrive New York City
4:10 The President delivers remarks at the National Action Network’s 16th Annual Convention
11:30 The President and First Lady depart New York
12:40 Arrives White House
People insured under Kathleen @Sebelius: 10+ million
People insured by Republicans: 0 (or NEGATIVE 5M if you count blocking Medicaid)
Caitlin Macneal: Arkansas Free Clinic Closing, Citing More Insured Through Obamacare
A medical clinic in Mena, Ark. announced that it would be closing, citing a large drop in need for the clinic as people have signed up for health insurance under Obamacare. “Because people are qualifying for insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, our free medical clinic will not be needed anymore,” Stacey Bowser, the director of the 9th Street Ministries Clinic, told the Mena Star.
“We’ve gone from seeing around 300 people a month on a regular basis, but as people were enrolling in Obamacare, the numbers we were seeing have dropped. We were down to 80 people that came through the medical clinic in February, all the way down to three people at the medical clinic in March. Our services won’t be needed anymore, and this will conclude our mission,” she continued.
LA Times: Bank Of America To Pay $772 Million For Illegal Credit Card Practices
Bank of America Corp. has agreed to refund customers $727 million and pay $45 million in fines for illegal credit card practices, according to a settlement with federal regulators announced Wednesday. The refunds will go to as many as 2.9 million people who were deceived into signing up for products such as credit monitoring and identity theft protection or were improperly charged for such services, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said. The action was part of a crackdown by the bureau on deceptive marketing, enrollment and billing practices related to such so-called add-on products by credit card companies. Bank of America is the fifth financial services company to be hit with fines and refund orders.
“Bank of America both deceived consumers and unfairly billed consumers for services not performed,” said Richard Cordray, the bureau’s director. “We will not tolerate such practices and will continue to be vigilant in our pursuit of companies who wrong consumers in this market.” Bank of America agreed to the refunds and penalties without admitting or denying the allegations. In addition to the refunds, the bank will pay a $20-million civil penalty to the bureau and a $25-million civil penalty to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.
Meg Finnegan thought she might never be able to afford to have a baby. Finnegan, who is self-employed and has a pre-existing medical condition, was having trouble finding health insurance at all, let alone a policy that would cover pregnancy and childbirth. So she was thrilled to discover that the plan she signed up for last fall under the Affordable Care Act includes maternity coverage. “When you don’t have insurance, you’re afraid of any life event that brings you to the hospital, for a good or a bad reason,” said Finnegan, 37, an Evanston resident. “If I didn’t have insurance, I wouldn’t have a baby. All those doctor’s appointments and tests, and possibly a high-risk delivery — how would you pay for it?” A guarantee of maternity coverage — all new insurance policies must provide it — is just one of a basket of provisions in the federal health law that specifically benefit women. Other guaranteed services include preventive care, which must be covered with no out-of-pocket cost. For most plans, preventive care includes at least one annual “well-woman” visit, breast-feeding support, contraceptives and contraceptive counseling, annual mammograms and cervical cancer screening.
Women’s health advocates also expect women to benefit more from some provisions in the law that apply to people of either sex. For example, the expansion of Medicaid, as well as financial assistance in the form of tax credits and cost sharing, is expected to disproportionately benefit women, who are more likely than men to have low incomes. Insurers also are required to cover mental health screening and treatment, and women have higher rates of depression and other types of mental illness. Kathy Waligora of EverThrive Illinois (formerly the Illinois Maternal and Child Health Coalition) said she considers the law “a huge victory for women.” Finnegan, who said she has a rare condition called Behcet’s disease, is one of 129 million Americans with pre-existing conditions, which private policies generally did not cover before the health overhaul. Now, by law, insurers may not deny coverage or charge higher premiums on the basis of health status. “I couldn’t get insurance,” said Finnegan, who owns TruFit Personal Training Studio in Evanston. “I tried five different companies. One offered me a policy for $850 a month with a huge deductible and terrible coverage — nothing related to my condition. But all my medical costs are related to that, so basically it meant no coverage.” At the same time, many insurance plans used to consider pregnancy, cesarean section, and even domestic violence and sexual abuse as pre-existing conditions.
USA Today: Man Cleared Of NYC Murder After 25 Years In Prison
A man who spent almost a quarter-century behind bars for murder was freed Tuesday and cleared of a killing that happened when he was 1,100 miles away on a Disney World vacation. Jonathan Fleming was in tears as he hugged his lawyers and family in a Brooklyn courtroom. Relatives said, “Thank you, God!” after he was freed. “After 25 years, come hug your mother,” she said, and he did. Defense attorneys and prosecutors asked a Brooklyn judge to dismiss Fleming’s conviction in the 1989 shooting. A key eyewitness recanted, new witnesses have implicated someone else and a review by prosecutors turned up a hotel receipt putting Fleming in Florida hours before the killing, defense lawyers Anthony Mayol and Taylor Koss said.
“He is elated and stunned, while tempered by the fact that he realizes that this is just the first step in getting his life back,” Koss said before the hearing. Fleming had plane tickets, videos and postcards from his trip, his lawyers said, but authorities suggested he could have been in New York at the actual time of the shooting, and a woman testified that she had seen him shoot Rush. The exoneration, first reported by the New York Daily News, comes amid scrutiny of Brooklyn prosecutors’ process for reviewing questionable convictions — scrutiny that comes partly from the new DA Kenneth Thompson himself. He unseated longtime DA Charles “Joe” Hynes last year after a campaign that focused partly on wrongful convictions on Hynes’ watch. Hynes had created a special conviction integrity unit to review false-conviction claims, but some saw the effort as slow-moving and defensive.
Small-business owners were more optimistic about the economy last month and expected sales to increase as a winter marked by severe weather ended, according to survey results released Tuesday. The confidence index from the National Federation of Independent Business rose to 93.4 in March, from 91.4 the previous month. The measure is one of the few monthly barometers of the small-business sector, which is a key driver of the economy.
About 12% of the those surveyed said they expected higher sales volumes during the next three months, up 9 percentage points from the February survey. Hiring also improved last month. Small-business owners reported increasing their payrolls by an average of 0.18 workers in March, up from 0.11 the previous month. It was the sixth straight month the survey showed an increase in hiring.
Igor Volsky: Kathleen Sebelius’ Biggest Achievement Is The One No One Is Talking About
Kathleen Sebelius wasn’t President Obama’s first choice to run the Department of Health and Human Services and oversee the passage and implementation of health care reform. But after Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD) dropped out, Obama tapped the two-term Kansas governor and former state insurance commissioner. Sebelius didn’t have much D.C. experience, but had an impressive track record of working across the aisle as a Democratic governor in a red state. And while the united GOP opposition to health legislation eventually overwhelmed any goodwill Sebelius had built up within the Republican party and the rocky rollout of Obamacare has come to dominate the discussion of her tenure as secretary, that bipartisan quality proved essential to the implementation of the law. Sebelius leaves the office having enrolled some 10 million people in health care coverage. This was only possible because she convinced numerous Republican lawmakers in bright red states to extended health care coverage to the poorest Americans. No one is talking about it, but it is her biggest and most impressive achievement as secretary.
In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision invalidating Obamacare’s compulsory Medicaid expansion, most Republican-controlled states refused to extend health care coverage to residents below 133 percent of the poverty line. But Sebelius traveled the country, urging Republican governors to reconsider. As of today, eight GOP-controlled states have approved expansion — in no small part because of the flexibility Sebelius and her team provided. The flexibility extended beyond Medicaid. Sebelius and her team convinced red states to form partnership health care exchanges in which the federal government and the state would share responsibilities in running the marketplaces. They routinely presented GOP governors with information on all other state models and waivers, assuring them that they could customize reform to their specific state needs. As a result, several Republican-dominated states bucked the national party and chose to run their exchanges either on their own, or in collaboration with HHS.
Josh Israel: Jindal Demands Congressman Resign Over Extramarital Kissing, But Defended Prostitute-Hiring Senator
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) called for Rep. Vance McAllister (R-LA) to resign his House seat, after a videotape surfaced of the freshman Congressman kissing a married woman who is not his wife. But in 2007, Jindal defended Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) when he was revealed to be a client of a DC prostitution service. Jindal released a statement on Thursday, calling McAllister’s behavior “an embarrassment” and suggesting that “the best way to get privacy and work on putting his family back together is to resign from Congress.” But seven years ago, then-Congressman Jindal made no such suggestion to the state’s U.S. Senator. After Vitter’s name appeared on the phone list for “D.C. Madam” Deborah Jeane Palfrey, he apologized for the “very serious sin in my past.” Yet Jindal’s response was to stand by Vitter
On Thursday morning, Kathleen Sebelius testified before Congress and announced that Obamacare signups had reached 7.5 million people. On Thursday evening, news broke that Sebelius was stepping down as Secretary of Health and Human Services. Implementing Obamacare was never going to be easy. The law is full of compromises that, however politically necessary, weakened regulations and depleted funding that would have made introducing the new insurance system a lot easier. And Sebelius never had the kind of control a chief executive officer would. She was always dealing with a host of other players—from superiors at the White House to underlings at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to Democrats on Capitol Hill to lobbyists for the health care industry. And that’s to say nothing of her war with the congressional Republicans, who were trying actively to sabotage the law through repeal votes, funding cuts, and intimidation of would-be allies.
More important, the law seems to be working, despite all of those early problems. That 7.5 million figure she announced on Thursday is a genuinely big deal—particularly since, from what I hear, the final number is likely to be even higher. Sebelius can’t take all or even most of the credit for those successes, any more than she should take all or most of the blame for the law’s troubles. But her role in those achievements (and others, like improvements to Head Start and stronger regulations on child care safety) is also part of her record. To take one obvious example, Sebelius worked extensively with Republican governors who wanted to expand Medicaid in states with hostile conservative constituencies. Some of those efforts succeeded. The memories of Obamacare’s difficult start will certainly linger. But to the millions of people around the country who now have access to affordable medical care, I’m not sure that really matters.
Fem Chat: 6 Things Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler Missed About The Gender Wage Gap
Glenn Kessler presents a very one-sided discussion of the wage gap in this April 9th “Fact Checker” post in which he increased President Obama’s rating on his use of wage gap statistics from one Pinocchio (in the 2012 campaign) to two—he should have lowered it from one to zero. President Obama has correctly used a long standing data series issued every year by the Census Bureau. The 77 percent wage ratio figure is an accurate measure of the inequality in earnings between U.S. women and men who work full-time, year-round in the labor market. Here are some other things to keep in mind about that statistic: 1) Kessler claims that President Obama uses the 77 percent wage ratio figure because it shows the biggest wage gap when other data series available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show slightly smaller gaps.
Leaving aside how Kessler could get inside the President’s head and know why he picked a certain series, everyone who writes about this issue should know that this figure based on median annual earnings is the historical headline figure that allows the longest comparison across time. 2) Kessler claims that the other series—weekly or hourly earnings—are more accurate, but there is simply no basis for saying so. The 77 percent figure actually includes the broadest range of kinds of earnings; for example annual bonus payments are a big part of remuneration in some fields and are included in the 77 percent figure, but are excluded from the weekly or hourly earnings figures.
Brian Beutler: The Right Searches For Obamacare Alternative, Finds Obamacare
The Affordable Care Act’s enrollment comeback has confounded conservatives in many ways. The realization that there happens to be popular demand for something as self-evidently grotesque as Obamacare has given rise to a palpable cognitive dissonance on the right. A growing recognition among Republicans that they can’t bank on organizing the midterm campaign around relentless Obamacare opposition has party elders looking at contingency plans (even if they haven’t exactly gone back to the drawing board). But most importantly, it has thrown the conservative health policy community for a loop, and completely wrong-footed Republicans in Congress who were hoping — against considerable odds and a well-worn historical pattern — to craft an Obamacare alternative that both passes the laugh test and doesn’t create a significantly lower level of welfare.
If enrollment had sputtered, that task would have been considerably easier. The fact it surged in March, and continues to grow today, measurably limits their options. If you accept (or acquiesce) to the need for a large coverage expansion and don’t want a single payer or substantial expansion of existing public systems, you need to make sure private insurers cover the sick, which means you need guaranteed issue and community rating — so that nobody is closed out of the system, and so that risk is spread across large populations, not assigned to individuals. But if you have those two things then you need a coverage requirement, so you’re not just spreading risk among old, sick people. And if you have that mandate, you need substantial subsidies — means tested or otherwise — so people aren’t required to purchase insurance they can’t afford. Of course, that’s just Obamacare.
Obamacare versus Ryanomics. That’s the battle line for 2014. It’s also a battle Democrats can win. Why? Because most Americans are pragmatists. Pragmatists believe that whatever works is right. Ideologues believe that if something is wrong, it can’t possibly work — even if it does work. That’s the Republican view of Obamacare: It’s wrong, so it can’t possibly work. But it now looks like Obamacare may work. More than 7 million people signed up for health insurance by the March 31 deadline, meeting the Obama administration’s original goal. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said, “The Affordable Care Act, whether my Republican friends want to admit it or not, is working.” On April 1, Ryan came out with a 10-year budget plan involving massive cuts in popular federal programs like Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, education, student loans and environmental protection.
Ryan’s proposal would eventually change Medicare — the most popular of all federal programs — from an insurance policy to a “premium support” program, where seniors would be given subsidies to purchase private insurance. GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney proposed doing that in 2012. Look where it got him. Democrats will run against Ryanomics. Republicans will run against Obamacare. Remember the rule of pragmatism: Whatever works is right. If Americans come to believe Obamacare works, they will be reluctant to throw it out. Especially the millions who will already have a stake in Obamacare. On the other hand, Ryan is threatening to do away with programs like Medicare that people know are working. Why? Because he and his fellow Republicans think those programs are wrong. Attacking programs that work is pure ideological bloodlust. And a losing battle for sure.
Ann Sanner: About 106,000 Ohioans Enroll In Expanded Medicaid
More than 106,000 Ohioans have signed up for Medicaid under an expansion of the taxpayer funded health program, while thousands of others are waiting to hear whether they are deemed eligible. Republican Gov. John Kasich’s administration moved forward with extending Medicaid eligibility last fall under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. Coverage took effect Jan. 1. The safety-net program for the poor and disabled provides coverage for one of every five Ohioans. The Medicaid expansion allows those earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level to gain health care coverage. For a single adult, that’s about $16,104 a year. Ohio’s monthly report on Medicaid caseloads shows that 106,238 residents had enrolled under the extension as of March 31.
That’s about 29 percent of the roughly 366,000 newly eligible people estimated to sign up by the end of June 2015. Residents have been enrolling in Medicaid through the state’s new benefits website. Potential enrollees can use the site instead of visiting county Job and Family Services offices, where many low-income residents apply for food stamps, cash assistance and other public programs. More than 345,000 people have sought Medicaid coverage through the state’s benefit site since Oct. 1. About 65 percent of the applications have been resolved, while roughly 120,000 are still pending. Many of those cases await eligibility determinations by the state’s largest counties.
Republicans often point out that Obamacare cuts Medicare Advantage and reforms the program. But they fail to mention, as Democrats often do, the benefits the president’s health law has given to current Medicare beneficiaries. The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare reports: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently reported that since the passage of the ACA, over 7.9 million Medicare beneficiaries in the Medicare Part D donut hole have saved $9.9 billion on their prescription drugs, an average of $1,265 per person. Also, 37.2 million people with Medicare took advantage of at least one preventive service with no cost sharing, including an estimated 26.5 million people with traditional Medicare, and more than 4 million who took advantage of the Annual Wellness Visit. Ryan’s budget would repeal those benefits while keeping the cuts Republicans have been campaigning against for four years now.
Obamacare reforms have also lowered the growth of Medicare’s costs to zero. If this trend continues, the program would be solvent even through the peak of Baby Boomer retirements, protecting seniors from future benefit cuts. In an effort to balance the budget in 10 years while keeping tax cuts that mostly benefit the rich, Ryan would cut a slew of programs seniors have relied on. “Funding for Older Americans Act programs like Meals on Wheels, family caregiver support, job training, senior centers, and disease prevention programs, would suffer significant cuts when the need for these services is increasing,” the National Council on Aging (NCOA) reports. “Over time, these programs—which are NOT contributing to the federal budget deficit—would be cut by 22 percent below current levels.” Another $137 billion would be cut from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, aka food stamps. Currently, 9 million seniors and people with disabilities receive SNAP benefits.
BBC: Hamid Aboutalebi: US Congress Passes Ban On Iran Envoy
The US Congress has sent a bill to the president that would bar Iran’s pick for ambassador to the UN from entering the country. The House of Representatives passed the measure unanimously two days after the Senate approved it. Hamid Aboutalebi was a part of the Muslim student group that seized the US embassy in Tehran in 1979. The White House has told Iran Mr Aboutalebi was “not viable” but has not taken a position on the bill. Fifty-two Americans were held for 444 days at the height of Iran’s Islamic revolution, which saw pro-American Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi sent into exile and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini take power.
Mr Aboutalebi, who previously served as Iran’s ambassador to Belgium, the European Union, Italy and Australia, told Iranian media his participation in the hostage crisis began only after the initial seizure of the embassy, and primarily involved translation. On Thursday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said, “We’ve made clear and have communicated to the Iranians that the selection they’ve put forward is not viable.” As the host country of the United Nations, the US has previously but rarely denied entry to an envoy or head of state. Those included a previous Iranian diplomat and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. In those cases the applications were withdrawn after the US signalled opposition, or the state department simply declined to process the visas. Those options are available in Mr Aboutalebi’s case.
When it comes to health reform, Republicans suffer from delusions of disaster. They know, just know, that the Affordable Care Act is doomed to utter failure, so failure is what they see, never mind the facts on the ground. Thus, on Tuesday, Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, dismissed the push for pay equity as an attempt to “change the subject from the nightmare of Obamacare”; on the same day, the nonpartisan RAND Corporation released a study estimating “a net gain of 9.3 million in the number of American adults with health insurance coverage from September 2013 to mid-March 2014.” Some nightmare. And the overall gain, including children and those who signed up during the late-March enrollment surge, must be considerably larger. First, there was the amazing come-from-behind surge in enrollments.
Then there were a series of surveys — from Gallup, the Urban Institute, and RAND — all suggesting large gains in coverage. Taken individually, any one of these indicators might be dismissed as an outlier, but taken together they paint an unmistakable picture of major progress. But wait: What about all the people who lost their policies thanks to Obamacare? The answer is that this looks more than ever like a relatively small issue hyped by right-wing propaganda. RAND finds that fewer than a million people who previously had individual insurance became uninsured — and many of those transitions, one guesses, had nothing to do with Obamacare. It’s worth noting that, so far, not one of the supposed horror stories touted in Koch-backed anti-reform advertisements has stood up to scrutiny, suggesting that real horror stories are rare. Republicans clearly have no idea how to respond to these developments. They can’t offer any real alternative to Obamacare.Their political strategy has been to talk vaguely about replacing reform while waiting for its inevitable collapse. And what if reform doesn’t collapse? They have no idea what to do.
President Obama listens during a meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel at Blair House in Washington, D.C., before a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India, April, 11, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama meets with Director of Speechwriting Jon Favreau on the Colonnade outside the Oval Office, April 11, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama returns to the Oval Office through the Rose Garden after surprising students from Altona Middle School in Longmont, Colo., during their White House tour, April 11, 2011. President Obama received a letter from the mother of an Altona student who worried that her son’s trip to Washington, D.C., would be canceled if there was a government shutdown (Photo by Pete Souza)
Sherman and Tammie Gillums look at their pictures with First Lady Michelle Obama as Mrs. Obama continues to greets guests at the Joining Forces Community Challenge event on the South Lawn of the White House, April 11, 2012 (Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)
President Obama holds Chaplain (Captain) Emil Kapaun’s Easter stole in the Oval Office during a greet with Kapaun’s family in the Oval Office, April 11, 2013. The President and First Lady Michelle Obama met with members of Chaplain Kapaun’s family before awarding him the Medal of Honor posthumously during a ceremony in the East Room (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama talks on the phone with Nicole Hockley and families of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Conn., in the Oval Office, April 11, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)
First Lady Michelle Obama at Parklawn Elementary School in Alexandria, Va., Jan. 25, 2012 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
The President has no public events scheduled for this weekend
Reuters: Obamacare Coverage Enrollment Hits Three Million
The number of people enrolled in private health insurance under Obamacare has soared by more than one-third in recent weeks to around 3 million, according to government data released on Friday. It also shows that officials might still reach their initial goal of signing up 7 million people for private coverage by the time enrollment ends on March 31.
Analysts say Obama could highlight the 3 million number as a sign of progress when he addresses the topic of healthcare reform in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday. Earlier this week, the administration also announced that the number of people eligible for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) rose to 6.3 million this month as a result of the enrollment effort.
Alex Wigglesworth: Vice President Joe Biden Donates $50K To Pennsylvania’s Women’s Abuse Advocacy Groups
Vice President Joe Biden donated $50,000 to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Philadelphia-based Women Against Abuse Tuesday, a month after winning the money at Pennsylvania’s biggest annual political gathering. The Pennsylvania Society during its 115th annual black-tie dinner last month presented Biden with the Gold Medal for Distinguished Achievement. The award, which recognizes the leadership and philanthropic accomplishments of prominent figures with Pennsylvania ties, comes with a $50,000 contribution to be directed to charities of the recipient’s choice.
The two selected nonprofits will use the money to increase advocacy and awareness efforts and support intervention for victims of domestic violence, which they described as a public health epidemic that affects one in three women and one in seven men worldwide. As Vice President, Biden appointed the White House’s first Advisor on Violence Against Women and launched the “1is2many” initiative. an outreach campaign that uses technology to reduce date rape and domestic violence among teens and college students. Biden was the first sitting vice president chosen to receive the Pennsylvania Society’s Gold Medal for Distinguished Achievement. Past recipients have included Andrew Carnegie, Dwight Eisenhower and Bill Cosby.
TPM: 60% Of KY GOPers Buck McConnell, Support Medicaid Expansion
A solid majority of Kentucky Republicans support the state’s decision to expand Medicaid under Obamacare, according to a new poll, standing in stark contrast to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s opposition to the provision. The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky poll, reported by NPR-affiliated WFPL, found that 60 percent of self-identified Republicans said they support expansion.
In total, 79 percent of Kentuckians agree with Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear’s decision to expand coverage to low-income people under the health care reform law. More than 120,000 Kentuckians have enrolled in Medicaid through the state’s Obamacare website since it launched in October
President Obama announced a new task force that will combat sexual assault, particularly on college campuses, he said in his weekly address. The White House Task Force on Protecting Students from Sexual Assault “will help schools do a better job of preventing and responding to sexual assault,” he declared, adding that the crime affects one in five women on college campuses. “That’s totally unacceptable,” he added.
BBC: Syria Foes Briefly Meet In Same Room At Geneva II Talks
Syria’s opposition and government have met briefly face to face in what is being hailed a small but significant step in talks aimed at “saving Syria”. The initial gathering in Geneva lasted half an hour mediated by the UN’s Lakhdar Brahimi. Delegates in Geneva are aiming at small concessions, not a full peace deal. “Ending terrorism and violence” is the top priority, Syrian officials say. They insist it is too early to discuss President Bashar al-Assad’s position. The BBC’s Bridget Kendall, in Geneva, says another meeting at 15:00 GMT will follow same carefully choreographed format as the first.
The two delegations filed in through separate doors into one room in the UN Geneva Headquarters, and sat down at the same U-shaped table, but said nothing to each other. Mr Brahimi spoke for half an hour. Then they all filed out again. Ahead of the next face-to-face meeting, Mr Brahimi will shuttle between the delegations, trying to build confidence with small achievements like localised ceasefires, release of detainees and the opening of humanitarian corridors. This is cumbersome, slow diplomacy, our correspondent adds. But as one diplomat put it, small steps are better than no steps.
City council members in Columbia, South Carolina, concerned that the city was becoming a “magnet for homeless people,” passed an ordinance giving the homeless the option to either relocate or get arrested. The council later rescinded the ordinance, after backlash from police officers, city workers, and advocates. Philadelphia took a somewhat different approach, with a law banning the feeding of homeless people on city parkland. Religious groups objected to the ban, and announced that they would not obey it. Raleigh, North Carolina took the step of asking religious groups to stop their longstanding practice of feeding the homeless in a downtown park on weekends. Religious leaders announced that they would risk arrest rather than stop.
In eight years, Utah has quietly reduced homelessness by 78 percent, and is on track to end homelessness by 2015. Utah solved homelessness by giving people homes. In 2005, Utah figured out that the annual cost of E.R. visits and jail stays for homeless people was about $16,670 per person, compared to $11,000 to provide each homeless person with an apartment and a social worker. So, the state began giving away apartments, with no strings attached. Each participant in Utah’s Housing First program also gets a caseworker to help them become self-sufficient, but they keep the apartment even if they fail. The program has been so successful that other states are hoping to achieve similar results with programs modeled on Utah’s.
Eric Lach: Port Authority Refuses To Pay Christie Pal’s Legal Bills
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey will not pay the legal bills for the former agency executive at the center of the George Washington Bridge lane closings scandal, The Bergen Record reported on Friday. The notification to Wildstein reportedly said his request to have his legal bill picked up “would not be warranted” under the agency’s bylaws. Those bylaws state that current and former employees will be provided with legal representation if the action in question fell within their job duties, but not if there was fraud, malice, misconduct, or intentional wrongdoing.
The simple answer is that they can’t help themselves, but more specifically, it’s a combination of ignorance, contempt, and Puritan morality that inevitably leads to these eruptions. And it’s going to keep happening. Let’s look at the particulars: Ignorance: These kinds of statements tend to come from older conservative men who have no idea how ladyparts work, and really don’t want to know. That extends to contraception, which as far as they’re concerned is something that is women’s responsibility and therefore there’s no need to understand it.
Beliefs about sin: The conception of sex as inherently sinful drives pretty much every conservative policy position that touches on sex, perhaps most notably the support for abstinence-only sex education. The fact that abstinence-only sex education has been shown over and over to fail is of only passing concern to them, because what they want out of sex education isn’t so much practical things like a reduction in teen pregnancy and the spread of STDs, but a moral statement: sex is bad.
Jon Hurdle: Nonprofit Clinic Offers ‘Bridges of Health’ To Philadelphia’s Illegal Immigrants
Like many other immigrants, Mery Martinez has no legal status in the United States, no health insurance and no money. But she does have leukemia, and has been struggling to find treatment for the disease, first in New York and more recently in Philadelphia. Here, a hospital emergency room rejected her on New Year’s Day because she had not yet qualified for the state assistance that could have paid for the medical attention she needed. With rising anxiety, and a rash that she attributed to her illness, Ms. Martinez walked into a clinic last week run by Puentes de Salud, a nonprofit group of doctors, nurses and medical students that provides primary care to Philadelphia’s undocumented, uninsured and impoverished Latino immigrants.
Puentes de Salud, which in English means “bridges of health,” was founded to provide low-cost but quality health care and social services to the growing Latino population in South Philadelphia and began treating patients in 2006. Daphne Owen, 26, a third-year medical student at the University of Pennsylvania and a clinic volunteer, sees the low-cost, holistic approach practiced by Puentes as a model, not just for underserved community medicine but for the country’s health system over all. “Here, I’m learning things that we don’t learn in medical school,” Ms. Owen said. “The way we provide care has to change. By the time I’m done in medical school, there is no way the system is still going to work the way it does.”
Gloria Goodale: California Drought: Scientists Puzzled By Persistence Of Blocking ‘Ridge’
While much of the United States has experienced a weather year with fewer extremes and an easing drought, the record-breaking California drought – the worst since 1895 – is not leaving the region anytime soon, according to climatologists. The unseasonal balmy but dry weather is the result of an equally unprecedented high pressure ridge lurking offshore and blocking the typical winter storms needed to drop precipitation all along the West Coast.
This ridge has persisted for 13 months and the longer it lingers, the less likely it is to leave, points out climatologist Brian Fuchs, from the National Drought Mitigation Center in Lincoln, Nebraska. This high pressure ridge system is feeding on itself, “creating a sort of perfect environment for perpetuating the dry conditions” it creates, he says. On Friday, California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency, calling for a 20-percent voluntary conservation effort state-wide.
President Obama hugs retiring White House butler James Ramsey, as First Lady Michelle Obama looks on, in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, Jan. 25, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama listens during a meeting with senior advisors in the Oval Office, Jan. 25, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
First Lady Michelle Obama hugs Roxanna Green as she enters the House Chamber prior the State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Jan. 25, 2011. John and Roxanna Green are the parents of eleven-year-old Dallas and the late Christina Taylor, the nine-year-old girl killed when a gunman opened fire on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson earlier this month. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
President Obama stands with Members of Congress in House Speaker John Boehner’s ceremonial office as Bill Livingood, House Sergeant at Arms, left, and Terrance Gainer, Senate Sergeant at Arms, right, prepare to escort them onto the floor of the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol, Jan. 25, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama greets Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., as he enters the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., for the State of the Union address, Jan. 25, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet the Green family after the State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Jan. 25, 2011. John and Roxanna Green are the parents of eleven-year-old Dallas and the late Christina Taylor, the nine-year-old girl killed when a gunman opened fire on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson earlier this month (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama holds two-month-old Emme Bernstein, of Scottsdale, after arriving on Air Force One at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport in Mesa, Ariz, Jan. 25, 2012
President Obama runs along the Colonnade of the White House with Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough’s children, Jan. 25, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)
MARTIN LUTHER King Jr. preached nonviolence, practiced it and led a great movement guided by its principles. Yet surely he knew, as did most of his followers, that what they were doing would lead to violence. One need only look at the old black-and-white photos of civil rights protests, at the hatred, scorn and, perhaps most important, fear on the faces of some of the white people there to confront the demonstrators to understand how such simple acts as sitting down in a bus or entering a restaurant, seeking the right to vote or go to a better school, could lead to the worst sorts of violence — a bitter truth that followed King to the day of his death.
Yet out of that violence came new understanding of a sort: People who had been all but invisible to much of the United States came to be seen through the newspapers and television as individual human beings : women and children being firehosed; war veterans returning home to be subjected to all the humiliations and restrictions of the time (or to be murdered, like Medgar Evers); polite young men trying to get a sandwich at a lunch counter; a dignified woman who refused to give up her seat on a bus; the children killed by a bomb in a Birmingham church. For many Americans, this marked the first time they had come face to face, or had allowed themselves to come face to face, with the cruelty of racial separation and oppression, a century after the official end of slavery.
‘Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community’ King’s fifth book was published in 1967 Why it’s important: This is King’s last — and most radical — book. By 1967, he was organizing a “Poor People’s Campaign,” a plan to dispatch an interracial army of poor people to occupy Washington and force the U.S. government to address poverty.
What he said: He takes on black nationalists who ridiculed nonviolence. He says the passage of civil rights laws is not enough. The country must institute a “massive, new national program” to attack poverty. He predicts the civil rights movement will go international as oppressed peoples in other countries adopt nonviolent tactics to combat America’s “economic colonialism.”
Signature lines: “White Americans must recognize that justice for black people cannot be achieved without radical changes in the structure of our society. The comfortable, entrenched, the privileged cannot continue to tremble at the prospect of change of the status quo. … This is a multiracial nation where all groups are dependent on each other. … There is no separate white path to power and fulfillment, short of social disaster, that does not share power with black aspirations for freedom and human dignity.”
What others say: “I get so tired of people turning Dr. King into a dreamer,” says Doreen Loury, a sociology professor at Arcadia University in Pennsylvania, who says she was blown away by the book when she first read it in the 1960s. “They made him safe. He was a revolutionary.”
AP: MLK Discusses Kennedy In Rediscovered 1960 Tape
As the nation reflects on the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., an audiotape of an interview with the civil rights leader discovered in a Tennessee attic sheds new light on a famous phone call John F. Kennedy made to King’s wife more than 50 years ago. Historians generally agree that Kennedy’s phone call to Coretta Scott King expressing concern over her husband’s arrest in October 1960 — and Robert Kennedy’s work behind the scenes to get King released — helped JFK win the White House that fall.
King himself, while appreciative, wasn’t as quick to credit the Kennedys alone with getting him out of jail, according to a previously unreleased portion of the interview with the civil rights leader days after Kennedy’s election. “The Kennedy family did have some part … in the release,” King says in the recording, which was discovered in 2012. “But I must make it clear that many other forces worked to bring it about also.”
“I think Dr. King was aware in the tape that he probably did more for John F. Kennedy than perhaps John F. Kennedy did for him,” said Keya Morgan, a New York-based collector and expert on historical artifacts. John Kennedy didn’t actually commit to the movement until a few months before his assassination when civil rights leader Medgar Evers was gunned down by a Klansman outside his Jackson, Miss., home just after midnight on June 12, 1963. “There were a lot of black folks who … weren’t fully committed to his campaign,” said Winbush, who is also a historian and psychologist. “That call he made to Coretta moved black folks.”
Martin Luther King Jr., registering African-Americans to vote in Greenwood, Miss. on July 21, 1964
Ned Resnikoff: Four Ways Martin Luther King Jr. Wanted To Battle Inequality
1. Ratify an economic bill of rights: In 1968, members of King’s premier civil rights group, the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC), drafted a letter demanding “an economic and social bill of Rights” that would promise all citizens the right to a job, the right to an adequate education, and the right to a decent house, among others.
“It cannot take more than two centuries for it to occur to this country that there is no real right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for people condemned by the accident of their birth to an existence of hereditary economic and social misery,” wrote the letter’s drafters. While the SCLC was specifically concerned with the ways in which economic inequality perpetuates racial inequality, they made clear that the rights they proposed would apply to all citizens. It sounded radical at the time.
In fact, the effort echoed a proposal made by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt during his 1944 State of the Union Address, when he called for a “second Bill of Rights,” to guarantee all citizens a “useful and remunerative job” and “adequate medical care.
The New Jersey mayor who publicly claimed this weekend that Gov. Chris Christie’s administration tried to withhold hurricane relief funds met Sunday in private with the U.S. attorney for the state of New Jersey. “This afternoon I met with the U.S. Attorney’s office for several hours at their request and provided them with my journal and other documents,” Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer said in a statement Sunday. “
As they pursue this investigation, I will provide any requested information and testify under oath about the facts of what happened when the Lieutenant Governor came to Hoboken and told me that Sandy aid would be contingent on moving forward with a private development project.”
Zimmer said Saturday in an interview with MSNBC that she would be willing to sign a sworn statement and testify under oath that she had been threatened by the governor’s staff to approve a development project or risk hurricane relief funding for her town of Hoboken, which was devastated by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon has invited Iran to take part in preliminary Syrian peace talks this week in Switzerland, an offer Tehran has accepted. Mr Ban said he had received assurances that Iran would play a positive role in securing a transitional government. The preliminary talks will open in Montreux on Wednesday and then continue in Geneva two days later.
Syria’s government and the main political opposition group earlier agreed to attend the meeting. The three-year conflict in Syria has claimed the lives of more than 100,000 people. An estimated two million people have fled the country and some 6.5 million have been internally displaced.
White House: Statement by NSC Spokesperson Caitlin Hayden on Ukraine
We are deeply concerned by the violence taking place today on the streets of Kyiv and urge all sides to immediately de-escalate the situation. The increasing tension in Ukraine is a direct consequence of the government failing to acknowledge the legitimate grievances of its people. Instead, it has moved to weaken the foundations of Ukraine’s democracy by criminalizing peaceful protest and stripping civil society and political opponents of key democratic protections under the law. We urge the Government of Ukraine to take steps that represent a better way forward for Ukraine, including repeal of the anti-democratic legislation signed into law in recent days, withdrawing the riot police from downtown Kyiv, and beginning a dialogue with the political opposition. From its first days, the Maidan movement has been defined by a spirit of non-violence and we support today’s call by opposition political leaders to reestablish that principle. The U.S. will continue to consider additional steps — including sanctions — in response to the use of violence.
Finally got around to reading the New Republic article on Snowden, Greenwald and Assange – ironically written by a character who has ‘Obama Derangement’ issues himself.
Not sure there’s anything new in it, but the section on Snowden says it all about his agenda and motivation:
…. by the end of Bush’s second term, Snowden certainly held the president in low esteem. But not, apparently, his intelligence policies. Nor, it seems, was he drawn to insiders who exposed details of these programs. Quite the opposite: Snowden vilified leakers and defended covert intelligence ops.
In January 2009, Snowden lambasted The New York Times and its anonymous sources for exposing a secret Bush administration operation to sabotage Iran’s nuclear capabilities. Such infuriating breaches had occurred “over and over and over again,” Snowden complained. The Times, he railed, was “like wikileaks” and deserved to go bankrupt; sources who leaked “classified shit” to the Times ought to “be shot in the balls.” When an online interlocutor suggested that it might be “ethical” to report “on the government’s intrigue,” Snowden replied emphatically: “VIOLATING NATIONAL SECURITY? No.” He explained, “that shit is classified for a reason.”
… nearly as soon as Obama took office, Snowden developed a deep aversion to the new president …. he became furious about Obama’s domestic policies on a variety of fronts. For example, he was offended by the possibility that the new president would revive a ban on assault weapons. “See, that’s why I’m goddamned glad for the second amendment,” Snowden wrote, in another chat. “Me and all my lunatic, gun-toting NRA compatriots would be on the steps of Congress before the C-Span feed finished.”
And this from the ‘progressive’ hero:
At the time the stimulus bill was being debated, Snowden also condemned Obama’s economic policies as part of a deliberate scheme “to devalue the currency absolutely as fast as theoretically possible.” (He favored Ron Paul’s call for the United States to return to the gold standard.) The social dislocations of the financial collapse bothered him not at all. “Almost everyone was self-employed prior to 1900,” he asserted. “Why is 12% employment [sic] so terrifying?” In another chat-room exchange, Snowden (TheTrueHOOHA) debated the merits of Social Security:
<TheTrueHOOHA> save money? cut this social security bullshit
<TheTrueHOOHA> Somehow, our society managed to make it hundreds of years without social security just fine
….. Later in the same session, Snowden wrote that the elderly “wouldn’t be fucking helpless if you weren’t sending them fucking checks to sit on their ass and lay in hospitals all day.”
What a classy guy.
Snowden’s disgruntlement with Obama, in other words, was fueled by a deep disdain for progressive policies …. Contrary to his claims, he seems to have become an anti-secrecy activist only after the White House was won by a liberal Democrat who, in most ways, represented everything that a right-wing Ron Paul admirer would have detested.