First Lady Michelle Obama addresses the Summit of the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders
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Remarks by the First Lady at the Summit of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders
“…. no matter where you all work, no matter what issue you focus on – whether it’s health or microfinance, human rights or clean energy – women’s equality must be a central part of your work. It must. Because make no mistake about it, the work of transforming attitudes about women, it now falls on your shoulders. And it’s up to you all to embrace the future, and then drag your parents and grandparents along with you.
And I know this won’t be easy. I know that you will face all kinds of obstacles and resistance – you already have. But when you get tired or frustrated, when things seem hopeless and you start thinking about giving up, I want you to remember the words of the man whom your fellowship is now named – and I know these words have been spoken many times.
As Madiba once said, “It always seems impossible until it is done.”
And I, oh, I know the truth of those words from my own history and from the history of my country.
My ancestors came here in chains. My parents and grandparents knew the sting of segregation and discrimination. Yet I attended some of the best universities in this country. I had career opportunities beyond my wildest dreams. And today, I live in the White House, a building — (applause) — but we must remember, we live in a home that was constructed by slaves.
Today, I watch my daughters – two beautiful African American girls – walking our dogs in the shadow of the Oval Office. And today, I have the privilege of serving and representing the United States of America across the globe.
So my story and the story of my country is the story of the impossible getting done. And I know that can be your story and that can be Africa’s story too. But it will take new energy, it will take new ideas, new leadership from young people like you.
We’ve done this because we believe in Africa, and we believe in all of you. And understand we are filled with so much hope and so many expectations for what you will achieve. You hold the future of your continent in your hands, and I cannot wait to see everything you will continue to accomplish in the years ahead.
White House: Medicare Trustees Report Shows Significant Improvements For Seniors And Taxpayers
Today’s annual report from the Medicare program’s Boards of Trustees brings good news about the program’s financial future: Its Trust Fund will last four more years, to 2030, and projected Part B premiums for 2015 will not increase for the second year in a row. As we celebrate Medicare’s 49th birthday this week, we will recommit to ensuring that the program continues providing health and economic security for the nation’s elderly and people with disabilities through the 21st century and beyond. Today’s news shows that we are on the right track, and we are optimistic that the promising results we’ve seen in recent years can continue into the future. In 2009, the Trustees projected the Hospital Insurance Trust Fund would not be able to pay its bills in 2017 – just three years from now. Today’s new date is 2030, 13 years later than that projection – an improvement that is thanks in part to reforms in the Affordable Care Act (Chart 1).
The law implemented changes to promote value-based payments, reduce waste and fraud, and strengthen the program’s benefits. These changes, for example, have reduced hospital spending on preventable readmissions, helping to lower hospital costs, which constitute a significant portion of trust fund spending. Lower Medicare spending means lower cost sharing and lower premiums for Medicare beneficiaries. For the second year in a row, premiums in Part B are projected to stay the same in 2015 as in 2013 and 2014. This means seniors are expected to keep more of their annual Social Security cost of living adjustment. In fact, the last six years have seen some of the slowest premium growth in the program’s history. Moreover, the Affordable Care Act has saved millions of beneficiaries over $10 billion in prescription drug costs by improving prescription drug benefits and closing the “donut hole.”
Sahil Kapur: Obamacare Will Help Medicare Remain Solvent Even Longer, Trustees Report Says
The Medicare insurance trust fund will be solvent until 2030, four years longer than projected last year, according to a trustees report released Monday. The trustees report chalked up the new projection to the recent slowdown in health spending growth and various cost-saving reforms enacted under Obamacare. “In recent years U.S. national health expenditure (NHE) growth has slowed relative to previous historical patterns,” the report read.
It added: “The Board assumes that the various cost-reduction measures … will occur as the Affordable Care Act requires.” (Obamacare has been credited in recent years with extending the life of Medicare beyond 2016, the year it was projected to go in the red prior to the ACA’s enactment.)
Amy Goldstein: Medicare Finances Improve Partly Due To ACA, Hospital Expenses, Trustee Report Says
Medicare’s financial stability has been strengthened by the Affordable Care Act and other forces that have been subduing health-care spending, according to a new official forecast that says the fund covering the program’s hospital costs will remain solvent until 2030 — four years later than expected a year ago. The trustees’ forecast said that the trust fund that pays for hospital care — Medicare Part A — has been strengthened significantly,
with the date when it is predicted to start running short of money extended by 14 years since the Affordable Care Act was enacted in 2010. The report also predicted that the insurance premiums that older Americans pay for the portion of Medicare that covers doctors’ visits and other outpatient care would probably remain the same for a third year in a row.
DIANE REHM: Thanks for joining us. I’m Diane Rehm. Legendary singer Linda Ronstadt has sold more than 100 million records in her 40-year career. She’s best known for chart-topping hits like “You’re No Good,” “Blue Bayou,” and “When Will I Be Loved?” Ronstadt was the first female artist in popular music history to release four consecutive platinum albums. But last year, a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease forced her to stop singing. She’s in Washington D.C. this week, where yesterday she received the National Medal of Arts from President Obama.
…. Tell us about that ceremony yesterday and how you felt.
LINDA RONSTADT: Well, I think most artists always will say, I don’t know if you agree with this or not, but I felt like a fraud. You know? I felt surely they’d made a mistake and they would be telling me any minute that, you know, I needed to go home. I was on the wrong list.
….. But otherwise I was delighted. And I am a great fan of President Obama and think he has been a fine president. And I’m very pleased that we’ve got to have someone of his grace and his dignity, which is rare in American culture these days.
REHM: Do you think, in part, it comes from his Hawaiian upbringing?
RONSTADT: Well, he — there’s a beautiful, beautiful ancient culture in the Hawaiian Islands and an old tradition of a lot of diversity. You know, there are Japanese, Chinese, Hawaiian, Portuguese, Okinawan, and they all had to get along. And so there’s a high level of lovely, beautiful manners, you know? People treat each other with respect and courtesy in the islands that you don’t find in the mainland. And I think — and there’s a real gentleness, you know?
Of course people stand up for themselves too. You don’t want to get into a fight with a Hawaiian. Because if you want to push him, he’s a tough guy, you know? But he’ll give you an out before. And I think that he reflects a lot of that. Maybe his background in the Hawaiian Islands…
REHM: He was very warm.
RONSTADT: He was very genuine and he was very present. And I liked that. He was very aware of what was going on around him. We’ve had so many people that have just been, you know, so egotistical or so completely full of themselves they can’t tell what’s going on around them. And I don’t think that’s the case with him. And his wife Mrs. Obama couldn’t be more impressive. My god, she’s beautiful. She’s very beautiful in the photographs…
REHM: Absolutely gorgeous.
RONSTADT: …but she’s 50 times as pretty.
REHM: Totally gorgeous.
RONSTADT: And little looks going back and forth between them, you know? You can tell that that’s a strong relationship. I was very impressed. I expected to be impressed and I was very much more impressed…
By any measure, the U.S. economy was unusually weak in the first quarter of the year (January through March), though most in the economic, financial, and political sectors were untroubled by the data. Indeed, for most, the winter drop was something of a fluke, caused by unusually harsh weather conditions and an unexpected drop in health spending.
Still, the first-quarter report made the second-quarter data all the more important. Would the economy bounce back? This morning, we received an answer – and for those rooting for economic success, the results were even better than expected.
…. today’s report showing 4% growth is terrific and reinforces the perception of an economy picking up speed.
Bloomberg: Economy in U.S. Grows More Than Forecast
Gains in consumer spending and business investment helped the U.S. economy rebound more than forecast in the second quarter following a slump in the prior three months that was smaller than previously estimated.
Gross domestic product rose at a 4 percent annualized rate after shrinking 2.1 percent from January through March, Commerce Department figures showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 80 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a 3 percent advance. Consumer spending, the biggest part of the economy, rose 2.5 percent, reflecting the biggest gain in purchases of durable goods such as autos in almost five years.
New Republic: McDonald’s Workers Were Just Handed a Huge Victory by the Obama Administration
The news for America’s low-wage workers has been pretty bleak these past, oh, 30 or 40 years or so. Their pay has stagnated and their bargaining power has atrophied, even as their corporate overlords have seen their own profits and compensation soar. But there are signs of a brightening underway, and the latest one arrived Tuesday in the form of a possibly consequential finding against one of the most iconic low-wage employers of all, McDonald’s.
The general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board, Richard Griffin Jr., ruled that he would include McDonald’s as a “joint employer” in the 43 unfair labor practice complaints filed by McDonald’s workers over the past 20 months that Griffin deemed had merit (the complaints mostly involve retaliation against workers who engaged in organizing efforts). In the past, McDonald’s and other big fast-food chains have avoided responsibility in such cases, on the premise that their thousands of franchisees are the real employers, not the corporate giant in whose name they operate….
NYT: 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.
…. I am a Zionist because the story of my forebears convinces me that Jews needed the homeland voted into existence by United Nations Resolution 181 of 1947, calling for the establishment of two states — one Jewish, one Arab — in Mandate Palestine…
What I cannot accept, however, is the perversion of Zionism that has seen the inexorable growth of a Messianic Israeli nationalism claiming all the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River; that has, for almost a half-century now, produced the systematic oppression of another people in the West Bank … that blockades Gaza with 1.8 million people locked in its prison and is then surprised by the periodic eruptions of the inmates; and that responds disproportionately to attack in a way that kills hundreds of children.
…. Hamas is vile. I would happily see it destroyed. But Hamas is also the product of a situation that Israel has reinforced rather than sought to resolve.
This corrosive Israeli exercise in the control of another people, breeding the contempt of the powerful for the oppressed, is a betrayal of the Zionism in which I still believe.
…. the president announced that new and harsher sanctions would be placed on Russia. The European Union finally came around and joined him, which means, I guess, that knocking a civilian airliner out of the sky is what gets the EU’s attention.
…. the president was right in knocking down the notion that this represents a new Cold War.
First of all, there’s no Russian bloc this time. There’s just Vladimir Putin, who is a Russian nationalist and an autocrat, but not a Tsar or a General Secretary, who fights his proxy wars on his own borders, and not around the world. And, like any autocrat, he is theoretically most vulnerable to other autocrats, either individually or in combination.
Like any nationalist, he is most vulnerable to pragmatists who like to hold onto the lifestyles the country has provided them. As nearly as I can tell, beyond a desire to re-establish Russia as a world power, and to establish himself as a world leader, Putin’s not motivated by any ideology that isn’t vulnerable to financial pressure.
Derek Thompson highlighted an interesting economic trend that Republicans very likely find discouraging: “In the 70 years, the U.S. economy has been better, across many metrics, when a Democrat has been the president.” In particular, Thompson noted a “fantastically interesting” paper from Princeton professors Alan Blinder and Mark Watson, who reported that from 1947 to 2013, in literally every category, Democratic presidents outperformed Republican presidents.
…. it’s a democracy and partisan bragging rights matter, too. Why Democrats don’t run around boasting about reports like these is a mystery to me – if Republicans had a talking point like this at their disposal, I suspect we’d never hear the end of it.
ThinkProgress: Obama To Issue Series Of Executive Actions Tackling Methane Leaks From Pipelines
President Obama will announce a series of executive actions on Tuesday designed to tackle the increasing problem of methane leaks from natural gas pipelines, which are significantly contributing to global warming, according to a White House press call.
White House Director of Energy and Climate Change Dan Utech told reporters on Monday that the actions would be part of President Obama’s strategy to cut methane emissions, a key directive under his Climate Action Plan announced last summer. Under the plan, Obama vowed to combat climate change despite inaction from Congress by using his executive powers to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
DPCC: Despite Speaker’s Claims to the Contrary, Dozens of Republicans Irresponsibly Float Impeachment
HOUSE SPEAKER BOEHNER SAYS REPUBLICAN TALK OF IMPEACHMENT IS “ALL A SCAM”
Speaker John Boehner (R-OH): “This whole talk about impeachment is coming from the president’s own staff and coming from Democrats on Capitol Hill. Why? Because they are trying to rally their people to give money and to show up in this year’s election,” Boehner told reporters Tuesday morning. “We have no plans to impeach the president. We have no future plans.” [Washington Post, 7/29/14]
…BUT RECKLESS COMMENTS MADE BY HIS OWN PARTY PROVE OTHERWISE
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK): Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in an interview Thursday with “The Rusty Humphries Show” that impeachment would become an issue soon over the “greatest cover-up in American history.” “People may be starting to use the I-word before too long,” Inhofe said. “The I-word meaning impeachment?” Humphries asked. “Yeah,” Inhofe responded. [The Hill, 5/10/13]
ThinkProgress: Appeals Court Saves Mississippi’s Only Abortion Clinic
On Tuesday, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a law that would have closed down Mississippi’s only abortion clinic, invalidating a 2012 measure requiring abortion doctors to obtain admitting privileges at local hospitals. The state’s only two abortion providers fly in from out of state to serve patients and were repeatedly denied partnerships with local hospitals.
The three-judge panel ruled that since the U.S. Supreme Court established a constitutional right to abortion, “Mississippi may not shift its obligation for established constitutional rights of its citizens to another state,” the Associated Press reports.