Posts Tagged ‘Nigeria



13
May
14

Rise and Shine

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)

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Today

12:30: Jay Carney briefs the press

3:0: The President awards Kyle J. White, U.S. Army, the Medal of Honor

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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.

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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.”

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Steve Benen: Budget Deficit On Track For Six-Year Low

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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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.

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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.

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Morgan Whitaker: Most Americans Want Obamacare To Stay, But Tweaked: Poll

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%.

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Jimmy Vielkind: Obama To Visit Tappan Zee Bridge As G.O.P. Convenes

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.”

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5.12.14

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Steve Benen: A Law By Any Other Name Would Smell As Sweet

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.

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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

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On This Day

 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

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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

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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

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08
May
14

Rise and Shine

President Obama waits backstage before delivering the keynote address at the the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies 18th Annual Gala Dinner in Washington, D.C., May 8, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

11:00: First Lady Michelle Obama Presents The 2014 National Medal For Museum And Library Services

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Today (All Times Pacific)

9:30 AM: The President participates in a DNC fundraiser, The Beverly Hilton

11:10: Departs Los Angeles

11:50: Arrives San Diego

1:15: Delivers remarks at a fundraiser for congressional Democrats, private residence

2:30: Departs San Diego

3:50: Arrives San Jose

4:15: Participates in a DNC fundraiser, private residence

6:30: Speaks at a DNC fundraiser, Fairmont San Jose

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Tara Culp-Ressler: U.S. Women Saved $483 Million On Their Birth Control Pills Last Year

Women in the United States saved an estimated $483 million on their out-of-pocket costs for the birth control pill, according to new data from the IMS Institute on Healthcare Informatics. The health care data company found that Obamacare has “dramatically reduced” women’s out-of-pocket costs now that insurers are required to cover preventative care without charging an additional co-pay. Compared to the data from 2012, about 24 million more birth control pill prescriptions were filled without a co-pay in 2013. That means each of the women filling those prescriptions ended up saving an average of $269. Those savings can make all the difference for women who are struggling to afford the reproductive care they need.

According to the IMS Institute’s data, there was 4.6 percent increase in prescriptions for birth control between 2012 and 2013. One of the most common misconceptions about Obamacare’s contraceptive provision is the assumption that women are now getting birth control “for free.” In reality, however, these women are accessing birth control through their private, employer-sponsored health insurance plans. Women do pay for the benefits included in those plans, both by working at their job and by paying a monthly premium. Under Obamacare, the difference is that they don’t have to pay an additional out-of-pocket cost for the preventative health benefits specific to their gender.

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Chicago Tribune: Conan O’Brien Ribs President Obama Over Traffic: “Skype works”

President Obama was in Century City on Wednesday night to accept a serious award from the USC Shoah Foundation — but his warmup act, comedian Conan O’Brien, still wasn’t over what Angelenos were calling Wednesday’s #Obamajam on major routes around town. “As a resident of Los Angeles, I’m furious about what you do to traffic when you visit this city,” O’Brien said to laughter at the 20th anniversary gala of USC’s Shoah Foundation. “What the hell? I know you left Washington six hours ago, but I left Burbank seven hours ago.”

“Now I mean this with the greatest respect, Sir, but do you have to physically come here? We love you. This town loves you. You’ve got our vote. You’re good. Audience, what do you say to – next time we give President Obama a Los Angeles award, we mail it to him? And then we fly down the 405,” the comedian said. As the president laughed, O’Brien added that “Skype works” and that if he insisted on continuing to come to Los Angeles, he owed everyone a ride home on his helicopter.

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President Obama is presented with the USC Shoah Foundation’s Ambassador for Humanity Award by movie director Steven Spielberg at the USC Shoah Foundation’s 20th anniversary Ambassadors for Humanity gala in Los Angeles

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Michael Hiltzik: The Insurers Speak: Yes, People Are Paying Their Obamacare Premiums

Things continue to get tough for the Obamacare dead-enders, those increasingly lonely opponents whose only comeback against the flow of good news about the Affordable Care Act is to conjure up absurd arguments against it (I mean you, Cato’s Michael Cannon) or, if all else fails, make stuff up. That latter effort was put in the grave Wednesday by a panel of health insurance spokespersons summoned to Washington by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. The committee, fans will recall, recently issued an utterly bogus report claiming that of all enrollees on the federal ACA website, only 67% had paid their first month’s premiums. That’s important because health insurance coverage isn’t official until the first payment is made.

As we reported, experts jumped all over the figure, pointing out that it overlooked that the payment deadline for a huge percentage of enrollees hadn’t been reached by the cut-off date for the committee’s survey, April 15, and that the due date for many others hasn’t been reached to this day. The giant health insurer Wellpoint says the payment ratio of enrollees whose premium date has already passed is “ranging up to 90 percent.” –Health Care Service Corp., which operates Blue Cross/Blue Shield plans in Illinois, Montana, Oklahoma and Texas, says its payment ratio on exchange plans ranges from 85% to 88% for policies with effective dates from Jan. 1 through March 1. On policies effective April 1, the ratio was 83%. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Government, one of Washington’s most reliable deficit scolds, on Tuesday issued an analysis acknowledging that the ACA has helped to bring down projections of federal healthcare spending from 2011 to 2021 by $900 billion.

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Yahoo: Nigeria’s President At WEF Pledges To Free Kidnapped Girls

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan pledged on Thursday to find more than 200 schoolgirls abducted by Islamist rebels, as the hostage crisis overshadowed his opening address to a major conference designed to showcase investment opportunities in Africa’s biggest economy. Speaking at the World Economic Forum (WEF) being hosted in the capital Abuja, Jonathan thanked foreign nations including the United States, Britain, France and China for their support in trying to rescue the girls, who were kidnapped from a secondary school on April 14 by Boko Haram.

France became the latest nation to offer help on Wednesday, saying it was boosting intelligence ties with Nigeria and sending security service agents there to tackle Boko Haram, the militant group which claimed the mass kidnapping. With more than 4,000 troops operating between Mali to the west and Central African Republic to the east, Paris has a major interest in preventing Nigeria’s security from deteriorating and has warned that Boko Haram could spread north into the Sahel. In the latest big Islamist attack in Nigeria, 125 people were killed on Monday when gunmen rampaged through a town in the northeast near the Cameroon border.

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Jeanne Sahadi: Uncle Sam Runs $114 Billion Surplus In April

The U.S. Treasury Department booked a $114 billion surplus in April, the largest for that month since 2008, according to the latest estimates from the Congressional Budget Office released Wednesday. For the first seven months of this fiscal year, which began on Oct. 1, the CBO estimates the country has racked up a $301 billion deficit, which is $187 billion lower than it was for the same period last year. Federal coffers saw a 7% increase in individual income taxes and payroll taxes, a 15% increase in corporate income taxes, and a 37% increase in money paid to Treasury by the Federal Reserve.

Meanwhile, overall spending fell by 2%. Areas that saw the biggest drops included unemployment benefits and homeland security (both down 31%), agriculture (down 12%) and defense spending (down 5%). Much of the drop in overall spending is attributable to bigger payments from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to Treasury. According to the weird accounting rules of the federal budget, those payments are counted as “negative” spending.

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Alan Pyke: CEO Of Biggest Fast Food Chain Comes Out In Favor Of A Minimum Wage Increase

The founder and CEO of Subway says a minimum wage increase wouldn’t be such a bad thing for his stores and workers and believes it should be changed so that wages rise automatically with inflation. “I’m not concerned,” CEO Fred DeLuca said on Wednesday when CNBC asked him about minimum wage hikes. “Over the years, I’ve seen so many of these wage increases. I think it’s normal. It won’t have a negative impact hopefully, and that’s what I tell my workers.” DeLuca’s support is noteworthy in part because of the size of his business. Subway has the most locations of any fast food chain. While a majority of small business owners support a $10.10 wage hike, major corporations of that scale typically oppose raising wages. DeLuca had previously warned that raising the minimum wage too rapidly would be a “bad idea” that could damage businesses, while acknowledging that “minimum-wage workers deserve to make more.”

At the time that he offered that warning in 2013, President Obama was proposing a minimum wage hike from $7.25 to $9 an hour. Since then, Obama has joined congressional progressives in calling for a $10.10 hourly minimum, which would nearly recoup the purchasing power low-wage workers have lost to inflation over the past 40 years. In the 15 months since DeLuca criticized proposed wage hikes as too rapid, low-wage worker strikes have spread from a handful of New York fast food stores to a hundred cities in all parts of the country, ratcheting up the pressure on lawmakers to act on wages. On Wednesday, workers announced plans for strikes in 150 U.S. cities and protests in 30 other countries across six continents.

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CRFB: The $900 Billion Slowdown In Federal Health Care Spending

With April’s updated projections from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), spending on major federal health care programs (Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act’s exchange subsidies) has now been revised downward by $900 billion, or 0.4 percent of GDP, cumulatively from 2011 through 2021, just since their March 2011 projections. Buoyed by a 23 percent drop in the cost of Medicare Part D and a 15 percent decline in the projected costs of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) new coverage through Medicaid and the exchanges, this remarkable slowdown has been a bright spot amidst an otherwise still dim fiscal outlook.

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Another interesting comparison is to look at how much federal health care spending has changed since before the enactment of the Affordable Care Act. The last pre-ACA CBO baseline was in March 2010 and projected net spending on Medicare and Medicaid at $1.34 trillion in 2020. The April 2014 baseline, though, actually estimates spending on those programs plus the ACA’s exchange subsidies in 2020 will be $70 billion lower than before the ACA was even enacted, at $1.27 trillion.

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Ronan Keenan: Obamacare Will Be Vindicated By History: From JFK To FDR, Here’s How The Nation’s Memory Works

Not everyone viewed the introduction of Obamacare as cause for national celebration, but that doesn’t mean history won’t remember it as such. Time has a habit of changing the perception of presidential initiatives. The Gettysburg Address may be the most iconic speech made in America, but not everyone shared that sentiment in 1863. Far from being revered as an affirmation on human equality, Lincoln’s words were roundly criticized by the Democrats of the day, while the Chicago Times described the president’s efforts as “silly, flat and dishwatery utterances.” While seemingly difficult to imagine, decades from now history will note that the Affordable Care Act symbolized one of the great presidential efforts to fight inequality in America. Long forgotten will be today’s headlines of a temperamental website, deadline delays and mixed messages about keeping existing plans. Instead, it will be heralded that Barack Obama made a superior healthcare service available to the masses.

With more than 7 million enrolled, Obamacare is here to stay. Regardless of future modifications, of which there will be many, affordable healthcare has been instituted in the United States, dragging millions away from the threat of imminent bankruptcy and terminal illness. Obama will be appreciated as the first black president who also made healthcare a reality for everyone. It will define his legacy, with his political missteps whittled from his narrative. Republicans are on the wrong side of history, but their obstructionism will fade from public consciousness. We like to think that a time will return when the nation supported the conviction of its leader. But great achievements aren’t born from support from the masses, they happen when someone risks derision to surpass the status quo.

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Andrew Prokop: Study: On Economics, Obama’s Judges Are The Most Liberal In 50 Years

How liberal are President Obama’s judges? A new study by two political scientists tries to answer that question. Robert Carp and Kenneth Manning examine about 50,000 federal judicial opinions between 1932 and 2013, including 683 by Obama’s district court appointees, and code each opinion as liberal or conservative. Overall, Obama’s judges basically resemble nominees of other Democratic presidents — except on decisions about economic or labor regulation. There, Obama’s judges are the most liberal of any president studied (going back to John F. Kennedy). Note that the study only includes district court judges, not Supreme Court judges:

Note particularly the difference between Obama and Clinton’s judges — Obama’s made 66 percent liberal decisions, compared to 54 percent for Clinton’s. Carp and Manning code these opinions based on whether the judges sided with businesses. “In the area of government regulation of the economy, liberal judges would probably uphold legislation that benefited working people or the underdog,” they write. “A typical case might be a dispute between a labor union and a company — a worker alleging a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, or a petitioner challenging the right of a government regulator to circumscribe his activity.”

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On This Day

President Obama reacts to seeing speechwriter Cody Keenan outside the Oval Office on May 8, 2009. Keenan dressed up as a pirate for an Oval Office photo shot for use in the President’s speech to the White House Correspondents Association dinner May 9, 2010

President Obama talks on the phone in the Oval Office with President-elect Jacob Zuma of South Africa, May 8, 2009

President Obama is reflected in a mirror as he waits backstage before being introduced for remarks at a Latino Town Hall meeting on the H1N1 swine flu virus May 8, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama greets people in the audience after delivering the keynote address at the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies 18th Annual Gala Dinner in Washington, D.C., May 8, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama jokes with Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett backstage before delivering remarks on the economy at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering at the State University of New York in Albany, N.Y., May 8, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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First Lady Michelle Obama speaks at an awards ceremony in the East Room at the White House, May 8, 2013 in Washington, DC. The First Lady presented the 2013 National Medal for Museum and Library Service to 10 institutions from across the country.

President Obama talks with electric utility executives and trade association representatives before a meeting to discuss lessons learned and actions taken since Hurricane Sandy, at the Department of Energy in Washington, D.C., May 8, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

07
May
14

#BringBackOurGirls

@FLOTUS

07
May
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: First Lady Michelle Obama greets guests during a Mother’s Day Tea in the State Dining Room of the White House, May 7, 2010 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

11:05 ET: President Obama departs the White House

1:35 ET: Arrives Arkansas

3:50 ET: Travels to central Arkansas to view the devastation from the recent tornadoes and severe storms and meet with the families affected by this disaster, as well as first responders and recovery workers. The President will deliver remarks.

4:35 ET: Departs Arkansas

8:0 ET: Arrives Los Angeles

9:55 ET: Delivers remarks and answers questions at a joint fundraiser for House and Senate Democrats, private residency, Los Angeles

11:10 ET: Attends USC Shoah Foundation dinner, Hyatt Regency Century Plaza, Los Angeles

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The Week Ahead

Thursday: Participates in a DNC roundtable in Los Angeles before traveling to San Diego to participate in a DCCC event. The President will then travel to San Jose where he will participate in two DNC events and remain overnight.

Friday: Participates in an event on energy in the San Jose area. Following the event the President will return to Washington, DC.

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USC: USC Shoah Foundation To Host President Obama As Featured Speaker At 20th Anniversary Gala

On May 7, 2014, USC Shoah Foundation – The Institute for Visual History and Education will gather in Los Angeles for its 20th Anniversary Ambassadors for Humanity Gala. To help mark this occasion, the Institute will have the great privilege of welcoming President Barack Obama, who will speak to common values and shared responsibilities in building a brighter future.

Institute founder and USC trustee Steven Spielberg will recognize President Obama with the Institute’s highest honor, the Ambassador for Humanity Award for his global efforts to protect human rights, his commitment to education and expanding educational technology, and his work advancing opportunities for all people.

“President Obama’s commitment to democracy and human rights has long been felt,” Spielberg said. “As a constitutional scholar and as president, his interest in expanding justice and opportunity for all is remarkably evident. The president’s recent appointment of the first special envoy for Holocaust Survivor Services in United States history demonstrates his staunch commitment to honoring the past while building a better future. I am extremely grateful to have President Obama join us on this significant milestone of the USC Shoah Foundation.”

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Bloomberg: Insurers Say Most Obamacare Customers Paid First Premiums

Three large health insurers including WellPoint Inc. (WLP) and Aetna Inc. (AET) say that a high percentage of their new Obamacare customers are paying their first premiums, undermining a Republican criticism of enrollment in the program.

As many as 90 percent of WellPoint customers have paid their first premium by its due date, according to testimony the company prepared for a congressional hearing today. For Aetna, the payment is in the “low to mid-80 percent range,” the company said in its own testimony. Health Care Service Corp., which operates Blue Cross Blue Shield plans in five states including Texas, said that number is at least 83 percent.

Making the first monthly payment is the last step to confirm enrollment in plans sold under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and Republicans have made the question of how many paid a line of attack on the law.

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Lucy McCalmont: Obama: Nigeria Kidnappings ‘Awful’

President Barack Obama called the kidnapping of nearly 300 girls in Nigeria “awful,” and added that the U.S. will “do everything we can” to help Nigeria. “Obviously, what’s happening is awful and, as a father of two girls, I can’t imagine what the parents are going through,” Obama said in an interview with CBS, one of a collection of interviews the president gave to local and national TV outlets on Tuesday afternoon. Coverage of the incident has grown since the kidnappings occurred three weeks ago, thanks in part to the social media hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, which has been trending worldwide, and has been tweeted more than a million times, according to BBC News.

Obama said in his interview with CBS that the White House is “sending in a team made up of our military, and law enforcement and other experts and we’re very glad that Nigeria’s accepted the help.” Obama called Boko Haram, the group that has claimed to have taken the girls as “one of the worst, regional or local terrorist organizations in the world.” Boko Haram, whose name roughly translates in English to “Western education is sinful,” is an Islamic terrorist group based in the Northeast region of Nigeria. ”We’ve long sought to work with Nigeria on dealing with them and we’re going to do everything we can to assist them in recovering these young women,” Obama said, adding that more work is needed in targeting the group. “More broadly though, we’re going to have to really tackle a pernicious problem inside that country — an organization that has carried out ruthless attacks and killed thousands of people over the last several years,” Obama said.

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Jonathan Cohn: See How Right-Wing Media “Covered” Obamacare’s Big News Day

Monday was a pretty big news day for Obamacare. But you wouldn’t know it by reading conservative media.

In the morning, Gallup reported that the percentage of adults without health insurance had dropped to 13.4 percent, at least according to its surveys. That’s the lowest rate the organization has recorded since it began asking the question in early 2008. Then, in the afternoon, the Annals of Internal Medicine published a major study, based on data from Massachusetts, suggesting that giving people health insurance makes people healthier—and that, by extension, the Affordable Care Act could end up saving more than 10,000 lives a year.

The news got lots of attention from the mainstream media and from health-care policy analysts. But on the right? Crickets.

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Brian Beutler: Democrats Should Absolutely Boycott the GOP’s Phony Benghazi Committee

Events are still unfolding, but everything that’s happened so far today points to the likelihood that House Democrats will protest the Select Committee on Benghazi, leaving Republicans to re-re-re-re-re-re-investigate the 2012 attacks, and their aftermath, in partisan fashion.

When initially contemplated, the idea was met with swift derision by some members of the commentariat. Ron Fournier, a tribune for bipartisan comity, thinks a boycott would be an error.

And the broader vibe is that a boycott wouldn’t be a sporting move. But that argument is incorrect. A boycott would be excellent politics, and Democrats have none other than Mitch McConnell to thank for the insight.

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AP: US To Let Some High-Skilled Immigrant Spouses Work

The Obama administration wants to allow some spouses of high-skilled immigrants to work in the United States, the departments of Homeland Security and Commerce announced Tuesday. The rule change, which is set to be published in the Federal Register later this week, would affect spouses of as many as 100,000 holders of H-1B high-skilled visas. “The proposals announced today will encourage highly skilled, specially trained individuals to remain in the United States and continue to support U.S. businesses and the growth of the U.S. economy,” said Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said the rule change would help the U.S. attract and keep “world-class talent” working in the United States. The new rule is the latest in a series of administrative actions President Barack Obama has announced as efforts to win broad immigration reform in Congress have failed. The H-1B visas for high-skilled workers are among the most sought-after by high-tech firms. Earlier this year the 85,000 H-1B visas available for 2015 were gobbled up in just a week. The same thing happened last year.

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The New Yorker: Ronald Reagan’s Benghazi

 If you compare the costs of the Reagan Administration’s serial security lapses in Beirut to the costs of Benghazi, it’s clear what has really deteriorated in the intervening three decades. It’s not the security of American government personnel working abroad. It’s the behavior of American congressmen at home.

The story in Beirut wasn’t over. In September of 1984, for the third time in eighteen months, jihadists bombed a U.S. government outpost in Beirut yet again. President Reagan acknowledged that the new security precautions that had been advocated by Congress hadn’t yet been implemented at the U.S. embassy annex that had been hit.

The problem, the President admitted, was that the repairs hadn’t quite been completed on time. As he put it, “Anyone who’s ever had their kitchen done over knows that it never gets done as soon as you wish it would.” Imagine how Congressman Issa and Fox News would react to a similar explanation from President Obama today.

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ThinkProgress: Here’s Why Nigeria Hasn’t Yet Found Its 300 Missing Girls

The world isn’t just aware of the plight of three hundred girls kidnapped from their boarding school in Nigeria now. It has become, finally, invested. Globally, people are demanding that the Nigerian government do more to find the 276 girls still missing, while a hashtag, #BringBackOurGirls, unites the web behind their cause.

The world is eager to see the girls, stolen away in the night three weeks ago, returned. But part of the reason why the girls remain abducted lies in just how the government has waged its war against the terrorists who carried out the kidnapping over the last half a decade. And the terrorists who hold them captive remain an unpredictable factor, leaving even experts unsure just how to bring about their freedom from the men determined to prevent them from gaining an education.

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BBC: Ukraine Crisis: Pro-Russian Troops Seize Back Mariupol City Hall

Pro-Russian separatists have seized back the city hall in the southern Ukrainian port of Mariupol, hours after being ousted by security forces. Government forces first raised the Ukraine flag on the building but later left – allowing the rebels who captured it last week to be back in control. Rebels have occupied official buildings in dozens of towns in eastern Ukraine in recent weeks. The Kiev government has sent troops to restore its authority. Shortly after the Russian and “Donetsk Peoples’ Republic” flags were hoisted over Mariupol’s city hall, the scene of tensions moved to the police station where 16 arrested pro-Russian activists were being held.

Heavily-armed police fired warning shots into the air as an angry crowd of friends and relatives gathered at the police gates concerned that the detainees would be moved to another province, the BBC’s Sarah Rainsford reports from the scene. Earlier on Wednesday, Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said government troops had taken over Mariupol’s city hall following a joint operation by ministry troops and the army. Russian President Vladimir Putin, meeting the chair of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Moscow, said he was ready to “seek ways out of this crisis”.

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President Obama returns to the Oval Office after giving interviews in the Rose Garden of the White House, May 6, 2014 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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TPM: Charlie Crist Says He Became A Democrat Because Of GOP Racism

Charlie Crist said once again Tuesday that racism motivates many of President Obama’s most hostile GOP adversaries.

It was partly for that reason that Crist, the former Republican governor of Florida who’s now trying to reclaim his old job as a Democrat, broke with his former party.

“I couldn’t be consistent with myself and my core beliefs, and stay with a party that was so unfriendly toward the African-American president, I’ll just go there,” Crist told Fusion’s Jorge Ramos. “I was a Republican and I saw the activists and what they were doing, it was intolerable to me.”

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Sam Baker: Another Obamacare Attack Goes Bust

Health insurance companies say the number of people who paid their Obamacare premiums will be higher than House Republicans implied. The House Energy and Commerce Committee said last week that, based on information it received from insurers, only 67 percent of people who signed up for private coverage through Obamacare’s exchanges had gone on to pay their first month’s premium. Conservatives have fixated on the number of unpaid premiums, arguing that the White House’s statistics—8 million people have selected a plan—are meaningless. Consumers aren’t truly enrolled until they pay their first premium, so the number of paid enrollments is indeed a more accurate picture of how many people the law’s exchanges are covering.

But this week, in written testimony to the same committee, insurers say the 67 percent figure was premature—and that they warned the committee not to draw sweeping conclusions from the information it requested. Energy and Commerce’s figure included people who signed up for coverage but whose first premium hadn’t come due at the time of the committee’s inquiry. And that’s a lot of people. Wellpoint, the largest insurer in the Obamacare exchanges, said the payment rate is closer to 90 percent among people who reached their first payment deadline. The company has given investors the same estimate. Health Care Service Corp., which administers Blue Cross Blue Shield plans in several states, told the committee the same thing: Of plans that have reached their payment deadlines, about 80 percent to 90 percent are paid enrollments.

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Michael Dunn: Nutter Raises Minimum Wage For Most City Contract Workers

Mayor Michael Nutter has decided to raise the minimum wage that companies doing business with the city must pay to their workers. And he extended that requirement to subcontractors as well. “This is something that’s been on my mind for a long, long time,” he said today. “I finally came to the conclusion that the unemployment rate is coming down, more and more people seem to be working, the city is doing a little better.

And I came to the conclusion that we cannot leave folks behind — that if people are doing better in this city, that we need to make sure that some of that benefit is being spread to those who need it the most.” And, with that, Nutter signed an executive order that does two things: it extends the living wage requirement to subcontractors, and secondly, effective next January, it raises the wage rate from $10.88 an hour to $12 an hour. The mayor said he was convinced to do this both by urgings to all mayors by President Obama, and by the local work of city councilman-at-large Wilson Goode Jr.

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Steve Benen: Following GOP Misstep, Senate Slowly Fills The Federal Bench

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) no doubt understands that his party’s majority status is in jeopardy and his eight-year run heading the chamber may be wrapping up at the end of this Congress. The question is what he intends to do with the next several months. Part of the focus will be on what Senate Democrats call their “Fair Shot” agenda. Republicans have already killed proposals on pay equity and the minimum wage, but Dems still have other policy measures in mind – including an upcoming fight on college affordability – that the party hopes will leave them better positioned for the midterm elections. But Reid is also thinking ahead when it comes to confirmation votes.

Yesterday, for example, the Senate confirmed Kansas Supreme Court Justice Nancy Moritz to fill a vacancy on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. There’s been a lot of these kinds of votes lately. On Thursday the Senate confirmed two district-court judges. The day before, six other district-court judges were confirmed, which followed an appeals-court confirmation the day before that. In late March, shortly before the Senate broke for its Spring recess, the chamber confirmed another appeals-court nominee and four other district-court nominees. All told, we haven’t seen a flurry of jurists fill vacancies on the federal bench like this in quite a long while. Had it not been for the so-called “nuclear option,” we almost certainly would not see all of this progress.

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Eugene Robinson: Time For Some Happy Talk From Democrats

Democrats, if you want to win in the fall, take some advice from Pharrell Williams: “Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth.” The Mountie-hat-wearing pop singer’s infectious “Happy” should be the Democratic Party’s theme song for the midterm election. Despite Republican claims to the contrary, things are definitely looking up. Democrats ought to be clicking their heels and spreading the good news. Friday’s announcement that unemployment fell to 6.3 percent was huge. The fact that the economy added 288,000 jobs in April — despite continued bad weather early in the month in parts of the country — suggests that the recovery has greater momentum than pessimists had feared. Economists were expecting decent numbers. These are great. The stock market, meanwhile, is flirting with an all-time high. The Dow has risen about 10 percent over the past year; the S&P 500, more than 16 percent; the Nasdaq, about 22 percent . During President Obama’s term in office, the Dow has more than doubled. If he were a socialist, as his harshest critics claim, he’d be a truly lousy one.

The numbers prove that Obama is, in fact, a skillful capitalist who guided the economy out of its worst slump since the Great Depression. He accomplished this feat despite being saddled with a Republican opposition in Congress that reflexively opposes his every initiative — even those based on policies the GOP supported in the past. Speaking of which, the Affordable Care Act — which is based, you’ll recall, on a framework developed in Republican think tanks — is clearly a success and may soon be seen as a triumph. More than 8 million people have signed up for insurance through the federal and state exchanges; Obama’s benchmark had been 7 million. Enough of these enrollees are young and healthy to ensure the program’s continued viability. Democrats now have a positive story they can tell in their campaign ads and speeches: “We promised you that these were the right policies to get the economy on track and reform health care. We said it would take time to see results and asked for patience. You gave us your trust, and now we’re seeing the benefits. This is just the beginning. Give us a mandate to keep moving forward on an agenda that is working.” Listen up, Democrats. You fixed the economy. You expanded access to health care. Oh, and you ended two wars. Show a little happiness. It’s contagious.

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On This Day

Sen. Obama on board his campaign plane at Midway Airport en-route to Washington DC, May 7, 2008 in Chicago

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First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden wait for the start of the Women’s Leadership Forum Issues Conference at the Washington Hilton in Washington, D.C., May 7, 2010 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)

First Lady Michelle Obama chats with a member of her mentoring program, as her mother Marian Robinson looks on at the State Dining Room of the White House May 7, 2010

President Obama arrives to discuss the April jobs numbers outside the Oval Office, May 7, 2010. With him are Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, Budget Director Peter R. Orszag, Secretary of Commerce Gary F. Locke and Chief of the National Economic Council Larry Summers

President Obama and First Lady Michelle leave Komi restaurant in the Dupont Circle neighborhood May 7, 2010 in Washington, DC

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First Lady Michelle Obama receives applause following her commencement address to the 2011 graduating class at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa, May 7, 2011 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama leave Tosca Restaurant in Washington, DC on May 7, 2011

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President Obama greets 2010 Fermi Award recipients Dr. Burton Richter, right, and his wife Laurose, and Dr. Mildred S. Dresselhaus, third from right, and her husband Gene, in the Oval Office, May 7, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Barack Obama and President Park Geun-hye of the Republic of Korea walk on the Colonnade of the White House before a working lunch in the Cabinet Room, May 7, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

First Lady Michelle Obama participates in a book signing, May 7, 2013, at the Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington, DC.

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Rise and Shine

President Barack Obama walks across the tarmac with Vice President Joe Biden prior to departure from Fort Campbell, Ky., May 6, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

12:30: Jay Carney briefs the press

2:45: President Obama is interviewed by local and national meteorologists participating in “Weather from the White House”

4:15: Meets with Secretary of State Kerry

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The Week Ahead

Wednesday: Travels to Los Angeles to participate in a joint DSCC/DCCC event. In the evening, the President will be honored at a dinner hosted by the USC Shoah Foundation. He will remain overnight in Los Angeles.

Thursday: Participates in a DNC roundtable in Los Angeles before traveling to San Diego to participate in a DCCC event. The President will then travel to San Jose where he will participate in two DNC events and remain overnight.

Friday: Participates in an event on energy in the San Jose area. Following the event the President will return to Washington, DC.

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Kathleen O’Brien: Final Tally Is 162K For New Jersey Obamacare Enrollment

The number of New Jersey residents who enrolled in Affordable Care Act insurance plans more than doubled in the final month before the deadline, bringing the total who signed up from the Garden State to roughly 162,000. More than 80 percent received a federal subsidy to help pay for their policies, according to numbers released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services today.

Another 98,000 New Jersey residents selected coverage through the newly expanded state Medicaid program. One New Jersey health policy expert called the last-minute surge “nothing less than astounding.” It meant the state exceeded the goal set by public-health experts, said Jon Whiten, deputy director of New Jersey Policy Perspective, a think tank that supports health care reform.

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Juliet Eilperin: For President Obama, A Renewed Focus On Climate

The satellite images viewed by President Obama before a meeting with eight Western governors were stark, showing how snowpack in California’s mountains had shrunk by 86 percent in a single year. “It was a ‘Houston, we have a problem’ moment,” recalled White House counselor John D. Podesta, one of two aides who briefed the president that February day. Obama mentioned the images several times as he warned the governors that political leaders had no choice but to cope with global warming’s impact. He is regularly briefed on scientific reports on the issue, including a national climate assessment that he will help showcase Tuesday. He is using his executive authority to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and other sources, and is moving ahead with stricter fuel-efficiency standards for the heaviest trucks. And while he routinely brings up climate change in closed-door meetings with world leaders, according to his aides, he also discusses it in his private life, talking about global warming’s implications with his teenage daughters. “This is really real for him, in terms of what he’s leaving,” said Cecilia Muñoz, who directs the White House Domestic Policy Council and has helped coordinate federal investment in climate-resilient infrastructure projects. “This is personal for him.”

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As president, Obama enacted the first carbon limits for cars and light-duty trucks and helped push through a House bill that would have imposed a national limit on greenhouse gas emissions. Obama has remained wary of some of the risks stemming from hydraulic fracturing, including the release of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. When the subject of natural gas came up during a Nov. 30, 2012, meeting of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, Obama turned to Holdren and his deputy assistant for energy and climate change, Heather Zichal. “Do we have an accurate accounting of methane emissions, and do we have a problem there?” Zichal recalled the president asking. The White House announced a new methane strategy — which will include additional federal regulations — in March. After his reelection, Obama told chief speechwriter Jon Favreau to make climate change “one of the big sections” in his second inaugural address, Favreau recalled. The move surprised even some of his closest aides.

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Tara Culp-Ressler: New Study Confirms That Health Reform Can Save Lives

The mortality rate in Massachusetts dropped significantly after the state enacted health care reform in 2006, according to a new study published this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Since Massachusetts’ health law relies on many of the same policies as the Affordable Care Act, the findings suggest that Obamacare could help save thousands of lives once it’s fully implemented. That suggests that for every 830 people who gained insurance, one death was prevented.

And perhaps unsurprisingly, the researchers found that that health reform had a particularly significant impact in the areas of Massachusetts with previously high rates of poverty and uninsurance; the mortality rate decline was steepest there. Although life expectancy for Americans as a whole has been on the rise, widening income inequality and deepening health disparities have ensured that poor people’s lives are actually getting shorter. This study suggests that Obamacare has the potential to help reverse that trend — but that’s only possible in the states that agree to fully implement the law.

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Brian Beutler: The D.C. Press Corps Is Suffering From Benghazi Stockholm Syndrome

Last week, after Republicans pivoted to Benghazi in unison, The Huffington Post’s Sam Stein observed an interesting phenomenon. When it came time to put White House press secretary Jay Carney in the hot seat, reporters for smaller outlets—whose correspondents are consigned to the back rows of the briefing room—were interested in real, unfolding dramas: Ukraine, the Affordable Care Act, the Snowden disclosures, and so on. But when Carney moved to the big-name journalists at the front of the room, the only thing anyone seemed to care about was Benghazi And that raises an interesting question, because in covering the story as a political scandal, just as Republicans want them to, the only scalps the media has really collected are their own.

 CBS suspended Lara Logan after “60 Minutes” aired, and later had to retract, her Benghazi feature; Sharyl Attkisson resigned from the same network, charging her former colleagues with liberal bias—reportedly because they didn’t adequately promote her Benghazi coverage; and ABC’s Jonathan Karl had to apologize last year after he passed along an inaccurate summation of then-unreleased White House Benghazi emails. The administration had granted members of Congress access to the emails in classified briefings, and the source who provided Karl the summary (presumably a Republican) had either taken poor notes, or intentionally misconstrued their contents, to make it appear as if the White House had thumbed the scales in the inter-agency dispute over how to address the attacks publicly.

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Terence McCoy: The Man Behind The Nigerian Girls’ Kidnappings And His Death-Defying Mystique

No one knows how old he is. Some say 35. Some say 36. Others think he’s 44. Twice he was believed dead, and twice he reemerged to conduct an even broader campaign of killing and terror that made him one of the most wanted men in the world.
His name is Abubakar Shekau. He is the leader of Boko Haram. And he has your girls. “I abducted the girls at a Western education school,” Shekau proclaimed on Monday in a video, clutching a rifle among several masked men.

“And you are disturbed. I said Western education should end. … I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah. There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell; he commands me to sell. I will sell women. I sell women.”
Shekau, who has a $7 million bounty on his head, grinned a mouth of white teeth.

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Sabrina Tavernise: Mortality Drop Seen To Follow ’06 Health Law

The death rate in Massachusetts dropped significantly after it adopted mandatory health care coverage in 2006, a study released Monday found, offering evidence that the country’s first experiment with universal coverage — and the model for crucial parts of President Obama’s health care law — has saved lives, health economists say. The study tallied deaths in Massachusetts from 2001 to 2010 and found that the mortality rate — the number of deaths per 100,000 people —

fell by about 3 percent in the four years after the law went into effect. The decline was steepest in counties with the highest proportions of poor and previously uninsured people. In contrast, the mortality rate in a control group of counties similar to Massachusetts in other states was largely unchanged. A national 3 percent decline in mortality among adults under 65 would mean about 17,000 fewer deaths a year.

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Peter Schroeder: Holder: No Bank Is ‘Too Big To Jail’

Attorney General Eric Holder said Monday he is personally overseeing investigations into major banks, and is working with regulators as those probes enter a “key” stage. The Obama administration’s top attorney emphasized that no institution or individual is powerful or influential enough to escape capture, and that the notion of “too big to jail” is a myth. “There is no such thing as ‘too big to jail,’” he said in a video message posted on the Justice Department’s website. “To be clear, no individual or company, no matter how large or how profitable, is above the law.” Holder said in his new message that his team is working closely with financial regulators to mitigate those potential risks, clearing the way for criminal charges if the case can be made.

Holder said Monday that there are times when an institution’s behavior was wrong, but not necessarily illegal. Furthermore, sometimes it can appear that a bank broke the law, but is not backed by evidence permissible in court. Nonetheless, Holder underlined that when banks do break the law, his department will not hesitate to bring forward the case. On that front, he said the Justice Department has made “great strides” in coordinating with financial regulators to address potential economic risks from criminal charges, including the revocation of a bank’s charter to do business in the United States. The Justice Department is reportedly examining BNP Paribas for evading U.S. sanctions, and Credit Suisse for helping Americans evade taxes.

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Noam N. Levey: Health Insurance Reduces Deaths, New Massachusetts Study Shows

Giving more people health insurance could save tens of thousands of lives nationwide in the coming years, a new analysis of data from Massachusetts, whose trailblazing reforms became the model for President Obama’s health law, suggests. Throughout the national debate over the Affordable Care Act, critics of the law have questioned whether expanding coverage actually results in better health. The new analysis by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Urban Institute adds to the growing evidence that health coverage does make people healthier.

Mortality rates in Massachusetts measurably improved compared with similar places around the country after the state began guaranteeing its residents health coverage in 2006, the researchers found. A similar trend is emerging nationally, as surveys indicate millions have gained coverage since state marketplaces created by the federal law opened in October. A nationwide Gallup poll released Monday showed the percentage of working-age adults without coverage dropped from 18% last fall to 13.4% in April.

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Steven Dennis: Obama Backs Shinseki Amid Calls To Resign

The White House is backing Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki after he faced calls to resign Monday over allegations that veterans died waiting for care in Phoenix and other problems in his department. “As the President said last week, we take the allegations around the Phoenix situation very seriously,” said Shin Inouye, a White House spokesman. “That’s why he immediately directed Secretary Shinseki to investigate, and Secretary Shinseki has also invited the independent Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General to conduct a comprehensive review,” he said.

“We must ensure that our nation’s veterans get the benefits and services that they deserve and have earned. The President remains confident in Secretary Shinseki’s ability to lead the Department and to take appropriate action based on the IG’s findings.” Earlier Monday, the American Legion called on Shinseki to resign, although the Veterans of Foreign Wars declined to do so. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., the chairman of the House Veterans’ Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, called on Shinseki to resign “due to chronic mismanagement and systemic failures of the VA under his leadership, ranging from dramatic cost overruns in major construction projects to glaring patient safety problems,” according to a press release.

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Isaac Chotiner: Ron Fournier Attacks Paul Krugman, Embarrasses Self

I know it’s cruel to pick on people who are ill, but in Ron Fournier’s case an exception must be made. Fournier is currently ailing from a condition known as bipartisanship (medical name: vacuousness), which manifests itself when another person expresses a thought that can be deemed partisan. For example, on Monday Paul Krugman wrote a column castigating Republicans for releasing a biased report on whether people were paying their Obamacare premiums. (TPM: “Nearly 40 percent of Obamacare enrollees signed up after March 15—which means their first premium wasn’t due until after the committee finished collecting its data.”) Krugman scolded the GOP and expressed outrage that the Party was so dishonest.

The effect of this was to trigger one of Fournier’s symptoms: writing silly responses to people like Krugman. Fournier begins by agreeing with Krugman’s contention that the GOP is dishonest. Fournier provides no evidence that the White House could get accurate figures, and in any case it’s failure to do so is not an example of “skewing the truth.” Moreover, there will presumably be accurate figures after the end of May, which is when people who enrolled will have to pay up

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Danny Vinik: Republicans Still Don’t Have A Jobs Plan, But Americans Think They Do

A Pew Research-USA Today survey released on Monday finds that Americans’ number one priority remains jobs. And yet, while Democrats have fought for increased government spending to boost the recovery, Americans are planning to reward Republicans in November—even though they have still not offered a credible jobs plan. And while the recovery certainly could be much stronger, its weakness is the result of Republican obstruction, not the Democratic agenda.

In the debate over whether to apply fiscal or monetary stimulus, the GOP chooses neither. Facing a massive hole in aggregate demand, Republicans have offered the same supply-side agenda as always: tax cuts, spending cuts, and deregulation. These are not macroeconomic policies for filling a short-term hole in demand and spurring a recovery. Only after the economy returns to sustainable, full employment—something we haven’t achieved in nearly 20 years—should we look at supply-side policies to boost growth.

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Jonathan Cohn: More Good News For Obamacare: It May Be Saving Lives After All

It also suggests the health care law, implemented effectively, could save thousands of lives a year. The subject of the new paper is the Massachusetts health care reform scheme, signed into law by then-Governor Mitt Romney, that took effect in 2007. It is an obvious subject for research, because it looks just like Obamacare and it succeeded in reducing the number of uninsured, just as Obamacare seems to be doing. The change made a big difference. Subsequent studies showed that, as more people got insurance, fewer people struggled with medical bills and more people got regular medical care. But while hospitalizations for preventable conditions came down and people reported that they felt better, those findings didn’t fully address the question of how insurance was affecting health. Enter three well-credentialed, well-respected health care economists—Benjamin Sommers (who’s also a physician) and Katherine Baicker, from the Harvard School of Public Health; and Sharon Long, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute.

The trio obtained figures on mortality and, better still, they were able to isolate causes of mortality “amenable to health care.” In other words, they were able to get data on cancers, various cardiac problems, and other conditions that, with better medical care, people should be more likely to survive. Then they compared how the people in Massachusetts fared relative to groups of people from around New England, who were similar in almost every meaningful way—age, income, and so on—except that they lived in states where similar expansions of health insurance were not underway. The results were clear. In those other places, outside of Massachusetts, the death rate from “amenable” causes went down by only a little bit and the overall death rate actually increased a tad. But in Massachusetts, deaths overall and deaths from “amenable” causes both went down—significantly. The authors calculated that, for every 830 people who got insurance in Massachusetts, about one person avoided a premature death.

That’s a big payoff and it suggests Obamacare might have one, too. If millions of additional Americans end up with health insurance because of the law, as now seems likely, it would mean that at least a few thousand are going to live longer. And the number could get pretty high. A story in the New York Times suggested 17,000 would be a good guess. Harold Pollack has done some back-of-the-envelope math for healthinsurance.org and concluded the number could be as high as 24,000.

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On This Day

Sen. Barack Obama and his wife Michelle wave to the crowd after Obama delivered election night remarks after winning the North Carolina Primary at a rally at the North Carolina State University in Raleigh on May 6, 2008

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President Obama with Afghan President Karzai and Pakistan President Zardari walk along the Colonnade following a US-Afghan-PakistanTrilateral meeting in Cabinet Room May 6, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama meets in the Rose Garden of the White House with, from left, Susan Davies, deputy counsel to the President, Phil Schiliro, assistant to the President for legislative affairs, Ron Klain, chief of staff to the Vice President, and Bob Bauer, counsel to the President, regarding the pending Supreme Court nomination, May 6, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Dr. Jill Biden walks down the Cross Hall en route to a Mother’s Day Tea in the East Room of the White House, May 6, 2011. First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Biden hosted the tea for military spouses, relatives, and friends (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

President Obama and Vice President Biden shake hands with the troops following the President’s remarks at Fort Campbell, Ky., May 6, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama disembarks Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, following his trip to Fort Campbell, Ky., May 6, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama plays golf with Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) and Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) at left at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on May 6, 2013

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02
May
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama listens during a briefing on the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, aboard Air Force One en route to New Orleans, La., Sunday, May 2, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

9:55 AM: President Obama holds a bilateral meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel

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11:40: Holds a joint press conference with Chancellor Merkel, Rose Garden

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12:15: The First Lady Speaks at College Signing Day at the University of Texas at San Antonio

White House Live

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12:45: The President holds a working lunch with Chancellor Merkel

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3:50: Meets with Asian American Business and Faith Leaders to discuss common sense Immigration Reform, Roosevelt Room

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AP: Health Law: 8 Million Chose New Plan Under Law

Blue or red, a majority of states have exceeded their health care sign-up targets under President Barack Obama’s law. strong state-by-state performance indicates that the health care law is making inroads around the country, even as Republicans insist repealing “Obamacare” will be a winning issue in the fall congressional elections. An Associated Press analysis of the government numbers found that 31 states met or exceeded enrollment targets set by the administration before the insurance exchanges opened. Twenty of those are led by Republican governors, many of whom were hostile to the program. The Health and Human Services Department said 8 million Americans chose a health plan through the new insurance markets in the first year of the historic health care overhaul. Some 4.8 million more gained coverage through Medicaid and children’s insurance programs.

A surge in enrollments since March 1 doubled sign-ups in some states, including Texas, Georgia and Florida. Blacks and Asians signed up at higher-than-expected rates. Blacks make up 13.3 percent of those eligible for marketplace coverage, but represented 16.7 percent of those who chose a health plan and disclosed their race. Asians make up 3.3 percent of the eligible pool, but were 7.9 percent of enrollees who volunteered racial information. -Nearly a third of people who chose a health plan on the federal exchanges didn’t report their race or ethnicity, or chose “Other.” The next enrollment period for private health insurance coverage for 2015 under the health law is scheduled to run Nov. 15 through Feb. 15.

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5.2.14

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Steve Benen: Where Are The Jobs? They’re Right Here

The new report from Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the U.S. economy added 288,000 jobs in April, well ahead of expectations, and one of the highest totals of any month in several years. The overall unemployment rate, meanwhile, dropped to 6.3% – its lowest point since September 2008, nearly six years ago. For the third consecutive month, public-sector layoffs did not drag down the overall employment figures. Though jobs reports over the last few years have shown monthly government job losses, in April, the private sector added 273,000 while the public sector added 15,000.

The latter may not sound like much, but when you get used to that total being negative, it’s a breath of fresh air. Better yet, the job totals for both February and March were both revised up, pointing to an additional 36,000 jobs that had been previously unreported. All told, over the last 12 months, the U.S. economy has added over 2.36 million jobs overall and 2.37 million in the private sector. What’s more, April was the 50th consecutive month in which we’ve seen private-sector job growth.

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Reuters: U.S. Says 13 Million Enrolled In Private/Public Health Plans

Nearly 13 million people signed up for public and private health coverage during Obamacare’s open enrollment period. The total includes 8 million people who selected private plans through state and federal insurance marketplaces and another 4.8 million who enrolled in the Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program, two government programs that serve lower income Americans.

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Ari Berman: ACLU Lawsuit: Ohio Early Voting Cuts Violate Voting Rights Act

Voting rights advocates, after successfully challenging Wisconsin’s voter ID law this week, filed suit today challenging early voting restrictions in Ohio. The GOP-controlled Ohio legislature, after repeatedly attempting to cut early voting in 2012, earlier this year eliminated the state’s first week of early voting—the “Golden Week” when voters could also register at the polls. In addition, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted issued a directive abolishing the last two days of early voting before Election Day and eliminating early voting hours on weeknights and Sundays, when African-American churches traditionally organize “Souls to the Polls” drives. In 2012, 157,000 Ohioans cast ballots during early voting hours eliminated by the Ohio GOP, according to a lawsuit filed by the ACLU on behalf of groups including the Ohio NAACP and the League of Women Voters.

As in Wisconsin, the lawsuit contends that such cuts violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) by disproportionately burdening black voters. Blacks in Ohio were far more likely than whites to vote early in 2008 and 2012. “In the November 2008 election in [Cleveland’s] Cuyahoga County, African Americans voted early in person at a rate over twenty times greater than white voters,” according to the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights. In cities like Cincinnati, Columbus and Dayton blacks voted early in numbers far exceeding their percentage of the population. In the 2004 election, before Ohio adopted early voting, there were extremely long lines in large urban counties and African-American voters waited nearly three times as long as white voters to vote. One survey estimated that 130,000 Ohioans left the polls without casting a ballot. George W. Bush won the state by only 119,000 votes.

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Alan Pyke: Seattle Announces $15 Minimum Wage, Highest In The U.S.

Seattle will raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour over the coming years under a deal brokered by Mayor Ed Murray and blessed by labor and business groups alike, city leaders announced Thursday afternoon. The new pay floor will phase in at different speeds for businesses of different sizes, but all employers will have to meet the $15 minimum wage by the end of the decade. Businesses with more than 500 employees nationwide will have a three-year phase-in period, while smaller employers get five years to ratchet up their pay scales. After reaching $15 an hour, the city’s minimum wage will automatically climb by 2.4 percent each year regardless of the rate of inflation. Even among states with relatively strong minimum wage laws, automatic increases are uncommon. Thursday’s deal will make Seattle the national leader on municipal minimum wage laws.

Washington currently has the highest pay floor of any state at $9.32 per hour. The deal was a long time coming, with Murray first indicating he wanted to establish a $15 floor back in September during the mayoral campaign. Murray created the 24-member advisory group that crafted the compromise package back in December, and the group of local business owners, restaurateurs, and labor leaders has been grinding toward an agreement for the past four months. Approval from restaurant owners is especially noteworthy given the deal’s provisions for tipped workers. Tips can only be counted toward worker minimum pay for the next five years. After that, the separate minimum hourly pay rates for tipped and non-tipped workers will disappear, and all employees citywide will have to be paid $15 hourly or more.

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MarketWatch: Shifting Employees To Exchanges Could Save Firms $3 Trillion

Obamacare presents an opportunity for businesses to cut more than $3 trillion in costs over the next decade by shifting more health-care responsibility over to employees, according to a report issued Thursday from S&P Capital IQ. The financial information provider says in its findings that as much as $3.25 trillion could be saved by companies with 50 or more employees through 2025 as a result of costs shifting to the government under the Affordable Care Act, or ACA. S&P 500 companies could save $700 billion in that same time frame, the report says.

The ACA requires companies with 50 employees or more to offer coverage or pay a tax — with the option that they can shift administration of plans over to the exchanges. It stands to reason that many companies would want to move their employees to exchanges — either private or public — that could save them the cost of maintaining insurance coverage for employees. Employees would then be more involved in the administration of their health program. “Over the long run, the ACA may eventually come to be historically recognized as the starting point of the reconstruction of the U.S. health care benefit industry and a catalyst for how companies provide health care insurance for their employees,” the report said.

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BBC: Ukraine Reinstates Conscription As Crisis Deepens

Ukraine’s acting President Olexander Turchynov has reinstated military conscription to deal with deteriorating security in the east of the country. The move, announced in a decree, came as pro-Russia militants seized the regional prosecutor’s office in the eastern city of Donetsk. Ukraine blames Russia for organising the seizures of a number of offices in the east, a claim Moscow denies. Some 40,000 Russian troops are stationed near the Ukrainian border. Mr Turchynov admitted on Wednesday that his forces were “helpless” to quell the unrest in some parts of the east, saying the goal was now to prevent it from spreading. He also said Ukraine was on “full combat alert”, amid fears that Russian troops could invade.

On Thursday, his office said in a statement that conscription was being introduced “given the deteriorating situation in the east and the south… the rising force of armed pro-Russian units and the taking of public administration buildings… which threaten territorial integrity”. BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus says Kiev’s decision is, in the short-term at least, a symbolic step as the Ukrainian military has been starved of cash for years and is no match for what Russia has on its borders. The real battle for control of Ukrainian territory is already under way and Kiev is losing ground, he adds. Analysts say Ukraine has 130,000 personnel in its armed forces that could be boosted to about one million with reservists. Kiev scrapped compulsory military service for young men in late 2013 under a law introduced by then President Viktor Yanukovych.

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Esther Yu-Hsi Lee: Florida Senate OKs In-State Tuition For Undocumented Immigrants

A bevy of undocumented immigrants and advocates dressed in caps and gowns burst into loud applause and cheers in the gallery of the Florida State Senate when 26 state senators out of 39 members moved to pass a bill Thursday evening that would give undocumented immigrants a chance to pay in-state tuition at state colleges. The bill, which just last week seemed certain to die in the Republican-controlled Senate Appropriations Committee, will now move on to the state House and later to Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) desk, where he has already promised to sign into law.

Florida will likely become the 21st state to pass an immigration-related tuition bill that allows undocumented immigrants a chance to further their educations and contribute more to the state economy. Like many other state-level DREAM Act bills, this Florida tuition equity bill would allow undocumented immigrants, who attended high school for three years and graduated or are already in college, to qualify for in-state tuition at public colleges.

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Josh Israel: Kentucky Store Refuses To Print LGBT Content After State Passes ‘License To Discriminate’ Law

In March, Kentucky’s state legislature overrode Gov. Steve Beshear’s (D) veto and enacted an Arizona SB 1062-style bill to protect the rights of those with “sincerely held religious beliefs” to ignore non-discrimination laws unless there was a “compelling governmental interest.” Now, an Oak Grove embroidery company has posted a notice that it will not print messages that contradict their consciences — including anything promoting “homosexuality, freemasonry, the use of foul language,” or “immodesty.” The Advocate reported Wednesday that, after “public confusion” about a sign on the door of Herald Embroidery featuring a crossed-out rainbow flag in a red circle and a citation of a Bible verse in a green circle,

the business has replaced it with a new sign explicitly explaining the company’s discriminatory policies. It reads: “While we will serve all customers who treat our place of business with respect, we reserve the right to refuse to produce promotional products that promote ideas that are not in keeping with our consciences. This includes, but is not limited to content promoting HOMOSEXUALITY, FREEMASONRY, the use of FOUL LANGUAGE, and imagery which promotes IMMODESTY.”

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ABC News: WellPoint Helps Investors Breathe Easy On Overhaul

Investors pushed WellPoint shares closer to their all-time high price on Wednesday after the company raised its 2014 forecast again and became the latest health insurer to ease some worry about a key health care overhaul coverage expansion. The Blue Cross Blue Shield insurer estimates that it will add more than 600,000 customers through state-based public insurance exchanges that started accepting enrollment last fall, and it said it still expects to make money from that business. The federal overhaul set up these exchanges to help millions of people buy coverage, many with help from income-based tax credits. WellPoint officials said Wednesday they saw a “substantial” surge in applications toward the end of the open enrollment period for these exchanges that lowered the average age of the applicants. “Applications especially near the end of the quarter were robust,”

WellPoint CEO Joseph Swedish told analysts during a Wednesday morning conference call. Swedish also told analysts that about 90 percent of the people who signed up for coverage through the exchanges paid their first month’s premium. That provides another bit of reassurance to investors, who are wondering whether overhaul enrollment totals were inflated by people who never wound up paying. Last week, Hartford, Conn.-based Aetna Inc., the nation’s third-largest insurer, said about 80 percent of its exchange customers followed through with a premium payment. It expects to add about 450,000 paying customers through the exchanges, and company officials said the risk of that business appeared manageable so far.

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Bloomberg: Medicare May Raise Pay To Health Clinics By $1.3 Billion

The U.S. Medicare program said it would increase payments to nonprofit community health clinics by as much as $1.3 billion over the next five years under a new reimbursement system ordered by Obamacare. About 3,830 of the clinics stand to benefit from the change, which may raise their payments from Medicare by about a third, according to a rule published today by the government. The clinics serve mostly low-income patients in communities with few other options for health care and are supported by about $3.6 billion in federal grants.

Elderly and disabled Medicare patients — who generally can go to any doctor they choose — were the fastest growing segment of the clinics’ business in 2008, according to the National Association of Community Health Centers, even though they comprise less than 10 percent of patients nationally. The association lobbied the government for increased Medicare reimbursement, arguing the clinics lost at least $51 million a year because of limits on their payments from the program. The clinics “are essential to countless patients in local communities who depend on them for getting their primary and preventive care,” Marilyn Tavenner, the administrator of the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said in a statement.

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Rob Wile: Nonfarm Payrolls Report, April 2014

The jobs report crushed expectations, coming in at 288,000. Expectations were for 218,000. Last month’s figure was revised upward to 203,000 from 192,000. More: Private payrolls hit 273,000, also well above the 215,000 estimate and up from the revised 202,000. There were gains in most major industries. The unemployment rate fell to 6.3%, the lowest print in more than five years. The labor force participation rate fell to 62.8% from 63.2%. The number of long-term unemployed dropped by 287,000 to 3.5 million. Average hourly earnings growth fell 10 bps to 0% from the prior month. Weekly hours were unchanged at 34.5. On the plus side, we’re quite close to recovering all the jobs we lost in the recession. It probably took too long though.

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Bloomberg: Payrolls In U.S. Rise Most Since 2012, Unemployment At 6.3%

Employers boosted payrolls in April by the most in two years and the jobless rate plunged to 6.3 percent as companies grew confident the U.S. economy was emerging from a first-quarter slowdown. The 288,000 gain in employment was the biggest since January 2012 and followed a revised 203,000 increase the prior month, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for a 218,000 advance. Unemployment dropped to the lowest level since September 2008. Households spent more freely as the first quarter drew to a close and manufacturing accelerated, helping explain why companies such as Ford Motor Co. are taking on more workers. The figures corroborate the Federal Reserve’s view that the expansion is perking up after stagnating last quarter, indicating it will keep trimming stimulus.

“The economy is gathering momentum after the bad winter,” said Michael Gapen, senior U.S. economist at Barclays Plc in New York, whose firm’s projection was among the closest in the Bloomberg survey. “The unemployment rate will stay in its downward trend, which means tapering will continue.” The increase in employment was broad-based, with construction companies adding the most workers in three months and retailers taking on the most this year. Manufacturing, temporary help services and health care were among other industries boosting payrolls. Private payrolls, which don’t include government agencies, increased 273,000 in April after a 202,000 gain. Last month, hiring by companies surpassed the pre-recession peak for the first time. Americans are the most upbeat about finding a “quality job” than at any time since January 2008, according to Gallup data released April 25.

Such optimism extends to Ford. Boosted by record profits in North America, the second-largest automaker said it will probably hire more than the 12,000 new workers it promised in its 2011 contract with the United Auto Workers. “The business has grown faster than we predicted it would in 2011,” Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of the Americas, said in an interview on April 30. The company said it hired 2,000 new workers at its factory in Claycomo, Missouri, and that it’s completed about 75 percent of its commitment to hire 12,000 workers by 2015.

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NPR: Unemployment Drops To 6.3 Percent, Lowest In 5 Years

The nation’s economy added a robust 288,000 jobs in April, far more than forecast, and the unemployment rate fell to 6.3 percent, its lowest level in five years, according to the Labor Department. The rate, which is the lowest since September 2008, was down from 6.7 percent in March. Economists had forecast just 210,000 new jobs for the month, citing severe winter weather for the sluggish growth. April represents the largest burst of hiring in months. Figures for February and March were revised upward, giving an average for each of the 3 months of 238,000. “We may be seeing an acceleration in job growth,” Gus Faucher, senior economist with PNC Financial Services, Pittsburgh, was quoted by Reuters as saying. “It’s sustainable to have a 200,000-plus job growth over the next 6 to 9 months,” he says.

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MarketWatch: U.S. Adds 288,000 Jobs In April; Unemployment 6.3%

The U.S. generated 288,000 jobs in April – the biggest increase in more than two years – and the unemployment rate fell to 6.3%, a strong performance that suggests the economy is accelerating after tepid first-quarter growth. The unemployment rate is the lowest since September 2008. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had expected an increase of 215,000 nonfarm jobs. Employment gains for March and February were also revised up by a combined 36,000, the Labor Department said Friday. The job growth in April was broad based. Professional jobs surged by 75,000 and retail, bars and restaurants and construction all posted big gains.

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Yahoo: U.S. Payrolls Surge, Jobless Rate Hits 5-1/2 Year Low

U.S. job growth increased at its fastest pace in more than two years in April, suggesting a sharp rebound in economic activity early in the second quarter. Nonfarm payrolls surged 288,000 last month, the Labor Department said on Friday. That was the largest gain since January 2012 and beat Wall Street’s expectations for only a 210,000 increase. March and February’s data was revised to show 36,000 more jobs than previously reported. While the unemployment rate dived 0.4 percentage point to a 5-1/2 year low of 6.3 percent. The unemployment rate was last at this level in September 2008. “The economy really has strong underlying fundamentals supporting its growth. Temporary headwinds such as the bad weather can be certainly managed,” said Russell Price, senior economist at Ameriprise Financial in Troy, Michigan.

U.S. Treasury debt yields soared after the report, while the dollar jumped to session highs against the euro and the yen. U.S. stock index futures turned higher. The employment report joins other upbeat data such as consumer spending and industrial production in suggesting the first quarter’s 0.1 percent annual growth pace was an aberration and is not a reflection of the economy’s otherwise sound fundamentals. Employment gains in April were broad based, with the private sector adding 273,000 jobs and government payrolls rising 15,000. Manufacturing employment increased 12,000 after rising by 7,000 in March. Construction payrolls gained 32,000. That followed an increase of 17,000 jobs in March.

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Justin Sink: Celebs Celebrate O-Care Enrollment

Celebrities, athletes, healthcare advocates, and liberal activists gathered Thursday night at the White House to celebrate the release of final data from the first ObamaCare open enrollment period. According to data released by the administration, a surge of 3.8 million consumers in the final weeks helped push the total enrollment numbers past 8 million — above initial projections for the law. Nashville star Connie Britton and actor and former White House official Kal Penn. University of North Carolina men’s basketball coach Roy Williams, former NFL player Eddie George, and University of Connecticut women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma also enjoyed the champagne-fueled party.

Celebrities and athletes were a key part of the final push for ObamaCare. According to the White House, celebrity advocates conducted interviews reaching roughly 400 radio stations nationwide in the final month of enrollment. Celebrity tweets reached nearly 350 million followers, and stars including Zach Braff, Donald Faison, Eva Longoria, Zach Galifinakis, Olivia Wilde, Jennifer Hudson, Adam Scott, and Elizabeth Banks created YouTube videos to promote enrollment.

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TIME: Obama Hosts Obamacare Enrollment Party

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama feted about 300 people at the White House on Thursday to celebrate the close of the Affordable Care Act’s maiden enrollment period. According to attendees, the President highlighted the success of the initial enrollment period, but said more work needed to be done — both when enrollment reopens later this year and in states that have not accepted federal dollars to expand Medicaid.

Obama gave a special shout-out to the “tech team,” which fixed the troubled HealthCare.gov website that threatened to derail the enrollment process. He was followed by the First Lady, who expressed how proud she was of her husband for pushing the health care law through even when it was politically inexpedient. Attendees said Obama got “pretty emotional” as his wife retold stories of those who have been helped by the law.

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On This Day

Pete Souza: “Washington had its first big snowstorm and I knew the girls were home from school. I suspected the girls might try to sled or make a snowman, so I asked the Usher’s Office to call me if the girls headed outside. I got there just in time to catch the First Lady helping the girls sled down a hill on the South Lawn. This picture now hangs on the wall of the President’s study.” March 2, 2009

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President Obama talks with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal after arriving at Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans, La., Sunday, May 2, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama talks with U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen, who is serving as the National Incident Commander, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, aboard Marine One as they fly along the coastline from Venice to New Orleans, La., May 2, 2010. John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, is in the background (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama listens during a briefing about the situation along the Gulf Coast following the BP oil spill, at the Coast Guard Venice Center, in Venice, La., Sunday, May 2, 2010. Pictured, from left, are U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen, John Brennan, assistant to the President for homeland security and counterterrorism, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson (Photo by Pete Souza)

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First Lady Michelle Obama welcomes young runners participating in LIVE with Regis and Kelly’s Run Across America with Dean Karnazes at the South Lawn of the White House, May 2, 2011

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President Obama celebrates the birthday of Bloomberg White House correspondent Julianna Goldman aboard Air Force One during the flight from Ramstein, Germany, to Joint Base Andrews, Md., May 2, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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The President tastes a sip of tequila at the urging of President Enrique Pena Nieto of Mexico prior to a working dinner at Los Pinos in Mexico City. May 2, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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01
May
14

Nigeria’s abducted Girls: A Democracy Under Siege

by @zizii2

The world is slowly waking up to a 2 week old horror, the gut-wrenching story of 234+ teenage girls abducted by a band of terrorists from their boarding school just as they were in the midst of taking their High School Certification exams. A horror that was no less eased when it was reported that some of the traumatized girls who had managed to escape their captors, the Boko Haram, recently told grim news of their fellow captives being sold into “marriage” to terrorists within and without Nigeria’s Northern borders.

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Within the 2 wks since the girls were kidnapped public anger inside Nigeria rose and spilled out into the streets in the last 24-48 hours in demonstrations against government impotence to grapple with the terrorist menace that its victims call Boko Haram, which means “Western education Forbidden” (See further below for more on history of Boko Haram). Social media relayed that anger to a wider global public under the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. Petition drives have accelerated to galvanize awareness and demand action, including one from Change.org currently gathering steam in the US.

Video of when abduction happened 2 weeks ago:

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However the indignation captured in the hashtag bumps up against a very messy and complicated reality, one that lifts the scab off the virulent canker metastasizing in several 21st century fledgling democracies and in some mature ones as well, gashing open threadbare societies. Democracy itself is rendered naked. And so:

1) #BringBackOurGirls. But from where?

2) Who do we ask to #BringBackOurGirls?

3) And if we are able to identify captors, who, if anyone, are they answerable to?

4) When a fledgling democracy is faced with a lawless group linked to a global terrorist franchise that fights an asymmetric war, how is security of anyone, let alone children to be guaranteed?

5) Who is bankrolling and profiting from arming a group that is not directly seeking political inclusion/representation but instead wants dissolution of the modern pluralist state itself and modern life?

6) What strategy to deal with Boko Haram? Crush them? Under what rules? Negotiate with them? Contain them? Abdicate democratic governance altogether? Can Nigeria or any young democracy survive a Boko Haram menace and remain intact?

Nigeria Female Literacy RatesSource: BBC.com

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Continue reading ‘Nigeria’s abducted Girls: A Democracy Under Siege’

01
May
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama listens during one in a series of meetings discussing the mission against Osama bin Laden, in the Situation Room of the White House, May 1, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

11:30: Jay Carney briefs the press

2:25: President Obama honors the 2014 National Teacher of the Year and finalists

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Clara Ritger: 3 Reasons Why Obamacare’s Outlook Is Rosy For Insurers

WellPoint reported better earnings than expected Wednesday for the first quarter of 2014, adding to the growing list of health insurers showing positive outlooks for the future of the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges. The Blue Cross Blue Shield health insurance company, which offers plans on Obamacare’s exchanges in 14 states, upped its annual earnings per share projections by 20 cents to $8.40. On a call with investors Wednesday about the company’s outlook, WellPoint CEO Joe Swedish identified three reasons that the Affordable Care Act is panning out as insurers expected. 1. The vast majority of people are paying their premiums.

The rate of people who select a WellPoint plan and then pay the premium to begin coverage is hitting about 90 percent, Swedish said. That could change, because the customers who purchased coverage at the end of the open-enrollment period aren’t included in Wednesday’s earnings report. But the company said 400,000 people signed up for its exchange plans through Feb. 15, and it anticipates its total to top 600,000. 2. WellPoint is seeing an overall bump in its number of customers. “We’re winning a lot of new members, and whether they had insurance previously or not, we do not know,” Swedish said. WellPoint covered an additional 1.3 million people in the first quarter and predicts that it could double that by year’s end.” The age of our applicants decreased the further we got into the open enrollment,” Swedish said, “indicating that young people signed up later in the open-enrollment period.”

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Elise Vebeck: Insurer Backs Away From Dire O-Care Rate Hike Prediction

A major health insurer failed to embrace a prediction from one of its executives that premiums on ObamaCare’s exchanges would rise by double digits next year. Officials with Wellpoint, the biggest insurer in the new marketplaces, delivered an upbeat message about ObamaCare enrollment on a conference call with analysts Wednesday. Chief Financial Officer Wayne DeVeydt said the company met or exceeded expectations when it came to how many people signed up on the exchanges and their mix of ages. He predicted “less volatility in pricing” for Wellpoint members relative to people covered by other insurance companies.

“We’re really pleased with our strategy and the affirmation of our pricing strategy,” DeVeydt said. “If you were to talk to our actuarial team, we fell really good about moving into the new market. We think we hit our sweet spot.” The call focused on the company’s results in the first quarter of this year. Wellpoint raised its 2014 forecast again on Wednesday, pushing shares closer to their all-time high. Wellpoint reported Wednesday that it expects 600,000 customers on the exchanges this year. A total of 90 percent have paid their first premium, DeVeydt said.

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Alexandra Schuster: Desmond Tutu Responds To John Kerry’s ‘Apartheid’ Controversy

The Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town Desmond Tutu doesn’t object to Secretary of State John Kerry’s use of the word “apartheid” to describe the future of Israel if a peace agreement is not reached. Kerry has since apologized for his remarks while remaining strongly in support of a two-state resolution. In a HuffPost Live interview Tuesday, however, Tutu likened his own experience under apartheid in South Africa to that of Israel.

“I go and I visit the Holy Land and I see things that are a mirror image of the sort of things that I experienced under the apartheid,” Tutu told HuffPost Live host Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani. “How can you stop me from the right to describe as I feel. You go anywhere in the world and if I see things that mirror the kind of experience that I know first-hand, I think it’s cheek in a way for someone else to tell you, ‘no, you are wrong in feeling as you feel about what you have seen.'”

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AP: GOP: Health Signups Lagging

House Republicans issued a report Wednesday saying that one-third of people who signed up for health insurance through new federal exchanges hadn’t paid their first month’s premium as of mid-April, which could undermine the Obama administration’s claims of robust enrollment under the new health law. But administration officials, outside experts and even the health insurance industry immediately questioned the report, offering the latest skirmish over questionable claims and counterclaims that have come to characterize debate over President Barack Obama’s signature health law.

The report by House Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans said 67 percent of people who had signed up for health insurance through federal marketplaces had paid their first month’s premiums as of April 15. That was far lower than the numbers emerging from individual insurance companies, which have been reporting payment numbers in the range of 85 percent and above. Wellpoint reported on an earnings call Wednesday that some 90 percent of people signing up for insurance actually had paid. Administration officials, insurers and others were quick to point out that because the GOP data cut off in mid-April, it didn’t capture a surge of health law sign-ups in March prior to the end of the first open enrollment period.

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Alexis Okeowo: Nigeria’s Stolen Girls

“I thought it was the end of my life,” Deborah Sanya told me by phone on Monday from Chibok, a tiny town of farmers in northeastern Nigeria. “There were many, many of them.” Boko Haram, an Islamist terrorist group, kidnapped Sanya and at least two hundred of her classmates from a girls’ secondary school in Chibok more than two weeks ago. Sanya, along with two friends, escaped. So did forty others. The rest have vanished, and their families have not heard any word of them since. Sanya is eighteen years old and was taking her final exams before graduation. Many of the schools in towns around Chibok, in the state of Borno, had been shuttered. Boko Haram attacks at other schools—like a recent massacre of fifty-nine schoolboys in neighboring Yobe state—had prompted the mass closure.

It was noon when her group reached the terrorists’ camp. She had been taken not far from Chibok, a couple of remote villages away in the bush. The militants forced her classmates to cook; Sanya couldn’t eat. Two hours later, she pulled two friends close and told them that they should run. One of them hesitated, and said that they should wait to escape at night. Sanya insisted, and they fled behind some trees. The guards spotted them and called out for them to return, but the girls kept running. They reached a village late at night, slept at a friendly stranger’s home, and, the next day, called their families. In the meantime, as in so many other ways in Nigeria, each community has to fend for itself. For a while after the abduction, girls trickled back into town—some rolled off trucks, some snuck away while fetching water. That trickle has stopped. “Nobody rescued them,” a government official in Chibok said of the girls who made it back. “I want you to stress this point. Nobody rescued them. They escaped on their accord. This is painful.”

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Michael Grunwald: The Huge Obama Transportation Bill You Heard Nothing About

“Infrastructure spending is popular on both sides,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said. “Infrastructure investment is an area where we should work together,” House Majority Whip Eric Cantor once tweeted. And Republican-friendly business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Alliance for American Manufacturing are huge supporters of public works. Republicans have urged the Obama Administration to propose a major transportation bill, calling America’s crumbling infrastructure a natural issue for bipartisan cooperation. Well, on Tuesday, the Administration unveiled a four-year, $300-billion transportation bill. It included a 22% increase in highway funding, a 70% increase in transit funding, and a provision allowing states to put tolls on interstates. At a time when one in nine U.S. bridges are rated “structurally deficient,” and nearly half the public lacks access to public transit, it’s a pretty ambitious piece of legislation. And this is probably the first you’re hearing of it, because it got virtually no media attention.

This is partly because Washington reporters are more interested in politics than the nitty-gritty details of policy. They opposed his $50 billion “roads, rails and runways” proposal in 2010, and then again when it was expanded and incorporated into his American Jobs Act in 2011. They’ve blocked Obama’s plans for an infrastructure bank and a national high-speed rail network. They’ve also blocked Obama’s proposals for corporate tax reform, which is relevant, because the new GROW AMERICA Act depends on tax reform for much of its financing. Infrastructure advocates often complain that Obama hasn’t used his bully pulpit enough to push for an investment program. But he barnstormed the country for the American Jobs Act. He has talked about rebuilding America in every State of the Union address. His problem is not a lack of will or poor messaging. His problem is that he doesn’t have the votes. Republicans control the House, and they can block legislation in the Senate. If they were willing to pass an Obama infrastructure bill, then an Obama infrastructure bill might make news.

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KyivPost: Kyiv Ousts Russian Diplomat For Espionage

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry has declared Russia’s navy attaché in Kyiv persona non grata in connection with his “activities (that are) incompatible with a diplomatic status under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961,” its statement said, cited by BBC Ukraine and Radio Free Liberty and Radio Europe. The Foreign Ministry stated that Ukraine’s spy agency – Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) – had detained the Russian diplomat “as a result of a successfully conducted counterintelligence operation on April 30…at the place (where he was conducting) intelligence actions.” No further details were provided.

Russia’s naval attaché in Ukraine, according to the Russian embassy in Ukraine website, is Kirill Koliuchkin. According to Ukrainian military expert and blogger, Dmitry Tymchuk, Koliuchkin arrived in Ukraine on Feb. 20 as part of a Kremlin delegation that included Federal Security Service agents, military personnel, including intelligence, border guards, as well as other officials. Their arrival coincided with the bloodiest days of the EuroMaidan revolution during which dozens of anti-government protesters were killed, most of whom from sniper fire, on Feb. 20-22.

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PBS Newshour: Former Justice Stevens: Campaign Money Isn’t Speech

Campaign donations pay for more than political ads and should not be protected as free speech, former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens told a Senate panel Wednesday in urging them to rein in the billions of dollars shaping elections. The retired justice reminded lawmakers that political donations funded the burglary at the Watergate office complex under President Richard Nixon. That break-in at the Democratic National Committee is not speech, Stevens argued in a rare appearance of a former justice in the Senate.

“While money is used to finance speech, money is not speech. Speech is only one of the activities that are financed by campaign contributions and expenditures. Those financial activities should not receive precisely the same constitutional protections as speech itself,” Stevens said. “After all, campaign funds were used to finance the Watergate burglary, actions that clearly were not protected by the First Amendment.” Stevens has been a critic of his former colleagues’ decisions that have opened the floodgates for unlimited donations and super PACs.

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Igor Volsky: Health Care Spending Is On The Rise, And That’s A Good Thing

New federal data finds that health care spending increased by 9.9 percent in the first quarter of 2014, representing somewhat of a turnaround in the four-year slowdown in health care spending. Some critics are already spinning the news as an indictment of the health care law, pointing out, as Phil Klein does in The Washington Examiner, that health care costs are now spiking at the “fastest rate since 1980.” But let’s be very clear about what’s happening here: an improving economy is allowing Americans to now spend more on health care, while people who have previously been uninsured are finally getting insurance and are using their care. In the meantime, health care prices are still continuing to grow at low rates, reducing Americans’ health costs.

All of this was fully expected. When the Congressional Budget Office analyzed the Senate’s health care bill in 2009, it found that while spending would increase after the uninsured first obtain health care coverage, “during the decade following the 10-year budget window, the increases and decreases in the federal budgetary commitment to health care stemming from this legislation would roughly balance out, so that there would be no significant change in that commitment.” This month, the office released a report that included a graph showing this trend: a spike of health spending in 2014 and then an evening out, as growth comes down to below what it would have been without enacting reform

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Reuters: Obamacare Puts A Floor Under U.S. Economy In First Quarter

As the U.S. economy teetered on the brink of contraction in the first quarter, one thing stood out. Healthcare spending increased at its fastest pace in more than three decades. That surge is attributed to the implementation of President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law, the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Because of Obamacare, the nation narrowly avoided its first decline in output in three years. “GDP growth would have … been negative were it not for healthcare spending,” said Harm Bandholz, chief economist at UniCredit Research in New York. Healthcare spending increased at a 9.9 percent annual rate, the quickest since the third quarter of 1980, and it contributed 1.1 percentage points to GDP growth.

The economy expanded at only a 0.1 percent rate in the first quarter, held back by a drop in exports and business investment, which economists attributed to a harsh winter. White House economic adviser Jason Furman said the increase should not be a cause for alarm. “Any upward pressure on healthcare spending growth from expanding insurance coverage will cease once coverage stabilizes at its new, higher level, so it does not affect the longer-term outlook for spending growth,” he said in a statement. Government transfers, including health insurance premium subsidies, boosted personal income in the first-quarter.

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Danny Vinik: Republicans Love Big Business So Much, They Forget About Reducing The Deficit

Whenever Democrats propose new legislation that requires additional spending, Republicans demand a spending offset. But the GOP has finally found something they covet so much that they’re willing to break that rule: tax breaks for big business. Two bills working their way through Congress address the more than 50 tax breaks—known as “tax extenders”—that expired at the end of 2013. These tax deductions and credits are primarily for big business. Congress has typically renewed them at the end of each year, but failed to do so at the end of 2013. Both parties are eager to extend them once again, thanks to an intense lobbying effort. The legislation would increase the deficit by $310 billion over the next decade, plus an additional $68 billion in interest costs.

While the Democratic position is difficult to justify given their supposed concerns about the deficit, the Republican one blatantly conflicts with the party’s years-long obsession with austerity. Farm Bill negotiations dragged on for months and ended with $8.6 billion in cuts over a decade. The Ryan Budget cuts $135 billion from food stamps alone. Even President Obama’s plan to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit—which Republicans support in policy, but disagree on the offset—costs only $60 billion over a decade. The Republican position on unemployment insurance is even more hypocritical. The same day that Ways and Means passed the six tax extenders, Republican Senator Dean Heller called House Speaker John Boehner to lobby him on the Senate UI bill. The cost of the extension is just $9.7 billion and even includes a spending offset, although most of it ($6.1 billion) comes from a budget gimmick. But Boehner said the deal needs a full offset and a job-creation measure—despite a Congressional Budget Office finding that a UI extension would help the economy.

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Mary Tuma: First Lady Michelle Obama To Stop In San Antonio

First Lady Michelle Obama is expected to make a stop in the Alamo City this week to help promote higher education. On Friday, Obama will join Mayor Julián Castro for Destination College Week’s ‘College Signing Day,’ an event that allows high school seniors to publicly display their college or university plans. The mid-morning event is expected to draw more than 2,100 attendees. The week-long (free) citywide program is geared toward empowering children to seek higher ed opportunities and reminds the public SA is a prime spot for collegiate education in Texas, with around 150,000 students enrolled at area colleges or universities.

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This marks College Week’s fourth annual event. Obama will be speaking at The University of Texas at San Antonio and is slated to discuss the administration’s “North Star” education plan (as she’s been doing recently) which aims to make the U.S. once again, have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.

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Reuters: Sprint Moves Ahead With T-Mobile Bid Plan

Sprint Corp is meeting with banks to work out funding for its bid for smaller rival T-Mobile US Inc, a source familiar with the situation said, as the mobile carrier works to ease regulatory concerns that the deal would hurt competition. The source said that Sprint, which is owned by Japan’s SoftBank Corp, is hoping to fund the bulk of T-Mobile’s estimated $50 billion price tag with corporate bonds and cover the rest with syndicated loans and convertible bonds. Sprint is currently talking to at least five banks, the source told Reuters, including JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank. Sprint is facing a battle ahead with U.S. regulators who oppose consolidation in the wireless market on the basis it would inhibit competition.

The company is aware it may have to give up some of its spectrum holdings to win over critics, the source said. Two of the most vocal opponents to the deal are Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler and U.S. antitrust chief William Baer, who have pointed to T-Mobile’s success since U.S. authorities rejected a 2011 merger between AT&T Inc and T-Mobile on the grounds the market needs at least four major players to be competitive. The failure of that deal cost AT&T a $6 billion break-up fee, a penalty Sprint feels confident it can avoid, the source said, adding that it is leaning towards having Deutsche Telekom, which currently owns 67 percent of T-Mobile, retain part of that stake.

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MarketWatch: U.S. Consumer Spending Jumps In March

Consumer spending accelerated in March, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. Consumer spending rose 0.9%, the largest increase since August 2009. Personal income rose a solid 0.5%. Wall Street economists had expected a 0.5% gain for incomes and a 0.7% gain in spending. The savings rate fell to 3.8% from 4.2% in February, the smallest level since January 2013. Excluding inflation, real disposable incomes rose 0.3% for the third straight month in March. Adjusted for inflation, spending rose 0.7%, also the biggest gain since August 2009.

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Josh Rogin: Obama Confidant To Be Next Ambassador To South Korea

Mark Lippert currently serves as chief of staff to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. Obama will announce as soon as Thursday that he is nominating Lippert to replace Sung Kim as America’s top diplomat in South Korea, the officials said. The nomination comes at a tense time on the Korean peninsula, with North Korea threatening further provocations including a possible fourth nuclear test. Lippert is one of Obama’s oldest and closest advisors on foreign policy, having served in Obama’s Senate office and then as a top advisor in Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. Lippert was the National Security Council Chief of Staff, a position resurrected by the Obama White House in 2009 for 10 months. Lippert spent some time deployed abroad as a Naval Reserve intelligence officer before returning to the Obama administration in 2011 as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Affairs.

There is not expected to be any fight this time over Lippert’s nomination to be Ambassador to South Korea, although it could be a while before he gets confirmed due to the bitter Senate fight over confirmations following Democratic leadership’s elimination of the filibuster for executive appointments last fall. In retaliation, Republicans have slowed the confirmations process to a trickle and dozens of ambassadors are waiting in line for confirmation. But the South Korean government enthusiastically endorsed the Lippert choice because he is close personally to Obama and has had an extensive working relationship with Seoul during his time at the Pentagon. Lippert played an important role in crafting the Pentagon’s part of the Asia pivot policy, as codified in then Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s June 2012 speech at the Shangri-La conference in Singapore. He worked to bolster missile defense capabilities against the North Korean threat, has a good relationship with U.S. Forces Korea Commanders General Thurman and General Scaparrotti, and led two separate U.S. delegations to the Defense Trilateral Talks between the U.S.-Japan-Korea on a range of key security issues.

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Three Years Ago Today

Pete Souza: “This is a composite of several images of the President and his national security team during a series of meetings in the Situation Room of the White House discussing the mission against Osama bin Laden on Sunday, May 1, 2011. We put this together so in addition to the now iconic image of this day, people might have a better sense of what it’s like in presidential meetings of historic significance.”

President Obama talks with members of the national security team at the conclusion of one in a series of meetings discussing the mission against Osama bin Laden, in the Situation Room of the White House, May 1, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama edits his remarks in the Oval Office prior to making a televised statement detailing the mission against Osama bin Laden, May 1, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

May 1, 2011: “The President was ready to announce the news about the mission against Osama bin Laden and was putting the finishing touches on his statement in the Outer Oval Office. As he did so, the networks broke in with bulletins confirming that bin Laden had been killed and a photograph of him appeared on the television screen in the background near the Vice President and Press Secretary Jay Carney.” (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama talks on the phone in the Oval Office before making a statement to the media about the mission against Osama bin Laden, May 1, 2011. The President made a series of calls, including to former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton and others, to inform them of the successful mission (Photo by Pete Souza)

Senior administration officials listen as President Obama delivers a statement in the East Room of the White House on the mission against Osama bin Laden, May 1, 2011. Seated, from left, are: James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence; National Security Advisor Tom Donilon; CIA Director Leon Panetta; Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; and Vice President Joe Biden. (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama shakes hands with Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in the Green Room of the White House following his statement detailing the mission against Osama bin Laden, May 1, 2011. CIA Director Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton are pictured at left (Photo by Pete Souza)

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On This Day

Members of the military raise their hands during a naturalization ceremony for active duty service members in the East Room of the White House, May 1, 2009 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

President Obama during the playing of the national anthem at a Naturalization Ceremony in the East Room of the White House Friday, May 1, 2009 ( Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

President Obama in the outer Oval Office following a Homeland Security Council meeting in the Cabinet Room May 1, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama touches the sign above the locker room door at Michigan Stadium, before giving the commencement address to University of Michigan graduates in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, May 1, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama exits the stage with University of Michigan president Mary Sue Coleman after delivering the commencement address to University of Michigan graduates at Michigan Stadium, in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, May 1, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wait in a hallway at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C., moments before taking the stage at the White House Correspondents Association dinner, Saturday, May 1, 2010 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

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First Lady Michelle Obama speaks to a group of supporters and volunteers at The Springs Preserve May 1, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada

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08
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11

good luck, jonathan

President Barack Obama meets with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, June, 8, in the Oval Offic

02
Jan
11

paying it forward




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