Posts Tagged ‘chris



11
Mar
14

Rise and Shine

President Obama waits in the Green Room prior to signing an Executive Order for the White House Council on Women and Girls in the East Room of the White House, March 11, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern):

10:0: President Obama receives the Presidential Daily Briefing

11:30: Designates the Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands as a national monument

2:15: Departs White House

3:25: Arrives New York City

5:15: Attends a DNC fundraiser; private residence; New York City

2:15: Delivers remarks and answers questions at a DSCC Event; private residence; New York City

9:10: Departs New York

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Freaking Hilarious. Watch Here

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LA Times: Obamacare Meeting Goal Of Reducing Number Of Uninsured, Data Indicate

Evidence has begun to resolve one of the odder controversies surrounding Obamacare: The new law appears to be achieving its top goal of reducing the number of Americans who lack health insurance. The dispute over that question is a strange one because the answer would seem to be fairly obvious: Under the Affordable Care Act, the government will spend hundreds of millions of dollars to subsidize families who decide to buy insurance, a product that the vast majority of Americans value highly. Basic economics would seem to say that those subsidies would have to increase the number of people buying insurance. Gallup, which surveyed about 28,000 Americans concerning their health insurance from Jan. 2 to Feb. 28, found that the percentage who say they lack any form of insurance has dropped significantly, from 18% of the U.S. adult population to 15.9%.

That would translate to between 4 and 5 million fewer people without insurance. As the unemployment rate has dropped, some people may have gained coverage at work, but Gallup’s numbers indicate that employer coverage has ticked downward by about 2 percentage points. Increases have come in the share of Americans buying their own insurance and the share covered by Medicaid, which the new law expanded. Those trends are all consistent with what the new law was expected to do. The other new piece of data comes from the McKinsey Co., which has conducted four surveys of people who are eligible to sign up for insurance under Obamacare. McKinsey found that 27% of those who signed up on the law’s new marketplaces in February were previously uninsured, up from 11% in its earlier surveys.

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NYT: Little Know Health Act Fact: Prison Inmates Are Signing Up

In a little-noticed outcome of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, jails and prisons around the country are beginning to sign up inmates for health insurance under the law, taking advantage of the expansion of Medicaid that allows states to extend coverage to single and childless adults — a major part of the prison population. State and counties are enrolling inmates for two main reasons. Although Medicaid does not cover standard health care for inmates, it can pay for their hospital stays beyond 24 hours — meaning states can transfer millions of dollars of obligations to the federal government. But the most important benefit of the program, corrections officials say, is that inmates who are enrolled in Medicaid while in jail or prison can have coverage after they get out.

People coming out of jail or prison have disproportionately high rates of chronic diseases, especially mental illness and addictive disorders. Few, however, have insurance, and many would qualify for Medicaid under the income test for the program — 138 percent of the poverty line — in the 25 states that have elected to expand their programs. Health care experts estimate that up to 35 percent of those newly eligible for Medicaid under Mr. Obama’s health care law are people with histories of criminal justice system involvement, including jail and prison inmates and those on parole or probation. “For those newly covered, it will open up treatment doors for them” and potentially save money in the long run by reducing recidivism, said Dr. Fred Osher, director of health systems and services policy for the Council of State Governments Justice Center. He added that a 2009 study in Washington State found that low-income adults who received treatment for addiction had significantly fewer arrests than those who were untreated.

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The Detroit News: Dexter Cancer Patient Who Called Health Care ‘Unaffordable’ Will Save More Than $1K

A Dexter cancer patient featured in a conservative group’s TV ad campaign denouncing her new health care coverage as “unaffordable” will save more than $1,000 this year. Julie Boonstra, 49, starred last month in an emotional television ad sponsored by Americans for Prosperity that implied Democratic U.S. Rep. Gary Peters’ vote for the Affordable Care Act made her medication so “unaffordable” she could die. Peters of Bloomfield Township is running for an open U.S. Senate seat against Republican Terri Lynn Land.

The Detroit News and fact checkers last month cast doubt on the accuracy of the TV ad. On Monday, Boonstra acknowledged which health plan she chose, offering the first evidence of cost savings. Boonstra’s old plan cost $1,100 a month in premiums or $13,200 a year, she previously told The News. It didn’t include money she spent on co-pays, prescription drugs and other out-of-pocket expenses. By contrast, the Blues’ plan premium costs $571 a month or $6,852 for the year. Since out-of-pocket costs are capped at $5,100, including deductibles, the maximum Boonstra would pay this year for all of her cancer treatment is $11,952.

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Washington Post: Senate Easily Passes McCaskill’s Military Sexual Assault Bill

A bipartisan plan to overhaul the way sexual-assault cases are handled in the military was easily approved by the Senate Monday evening.  The measure written by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) was approved 97 to 0 — a rare unanimous vote. But Congress has been quick to respond to the rising rate of assault and rape in the ranks. Last year lawmakers voted to revamp the military’s legal system, ending the statute of limitations on assault and rape cases, making it a crime to retaliate against victims who report assaults and requiring the dishonorable discharge or dismissal of anyone convicted of sexual assault or rape.

McCaskill’s proposal goes further by eliminating the “good soldier” defense that takes irrelevant factors such as the service record of the accused into account. In cases where there is a dual jurisdiction because the crime occurred off of a military base, the victim would get a say in whether the case would be handled in a civilian or military court. The proposal would extend protections to students in service academies. It also would require that in every decision on every promotion in the military, that commander’s record on the handling of sexual-assault cases would have to be taken into account. Although it passed easily in the Senate, the proposal’s fate remains unclear in the House.

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Simon Shuster: Putin’s Man In Crimea Is Ukraine’s Worst Nightmare

A month ago, when Ukraine’s old regime was just starting to crack under the pressure of a revolution, few people in the country had ever heard of Sergei Aksyonov. He was then a marginal figure even in the local politics of the region of Crimea. His Russian Unity party had only three seats in the regional legislature and no representation anywhere else. But that has not stopped him from taking charge. In late January, as the protesters in Kiev began seizing government buildings, Aksyonov started to form an army on the Crimean peninsula. Now he is the de facto leader of the entire region, a post that has thrust him into the center of the most dire political crisis Europe has confronted in years. From the beginning, the stated aim of his paramilitary force was to defend against the revolutionary wave that was sweeping across Ukraine and, ultimately, to break away from the country entirely.

Its first battalion of 700 men came from the youth group of Aksyonov’s political party, and as he continued calling in the proceeding weeks for a “full scale mobilization,” hundreds of others joined his Crimean self-defense brigades. By Feb. 21, the day the Kiev uprising toppled the Ukrainian government, Aksyonov was in command of several thousand troops. “All of them,” he says, “answer to me.” His rise to power has made him a valuable ally to Moscow and a serious threat to Ukraine and its Western partners. His written appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin is what opened the door for the Russian occupation of Crimea at the beginning of this month, and on March 4, Putin recognized Aksyonov as the legitimate leader of Crimea, apparently without ever having met the man.

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Bloomberg: Ukraine Starts Military Exercises As Russia Warns On East 

Ukraine began military drills as Russian forces tightened their hold on the Crimean peninsula and the Foreign Ministry in Moscow warned of “lawlessness” in the former Soviet republic’s eastern provinces. Ukraine’s armed forces are testing the combat-readiness of troops, the Defense Ministry said today on its website, reiterating the government’s desire for a peaceful end to the standoff in Crimea. Russia, which has vowed to defend the ethnic Russians that dominate Crimea after an uprising in Kiev, accused Ukraine of ignoring radicals in the nation’s east.

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I. LOVE. THE. OBAMA. WHITE. HOUSE.

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Think Progress: Why Obama’s Appearance On ‘Between Two Ferns’ Worked

Usually, Galifianakis is the one making his guests feel incredibly uncomfortable (“I just have never interviewed a 7-year-old before,” he told Justin Bieber when the young star appeared on the show), but that dynamic was mostly flipped with Obama. Yes, Galifianakis did stumble over Obama’s name in the way he does for most guests (‘Bieber’ became ‘Beevers’), but almost immediately Obama was the one making Galifianakis feel awkward. “If I ran a third time, it’d be sort of like doing a third hangover movie,” Obama dug. “It didn’t really work out very well, did it?”

Obama took a risk going on a show as weird as Between Two Ferns; it could have made him look weird and awkward and bumbling. But he hacked it, flipping that dynamic back around on his host. This also made it easy for Obama, who is clearly trying to enroll the youth stoner demographic though his signature health care law, to make his plug for Healthcare.gov. Obama’s presidency has overlapped with the rise of the meme, and both he and Michelle have taken advantage of this. They have both made frequent appearances on late night shows (Obama is one of the politicians who’s slow jammed the news), and his administration is responsible for the pajama boy meme and the McKayla Maroney ‘not impressed’ face picture. Obama even embraced the existing meme of his ‘Not Bad’ faceduring a Reddit “ask me anything.”

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Katie Valentine: Neil DeGrasse Tyson To Science Deniers: ‘Science Is Not There For You To Cherry Pick

Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and host of National Geographic and Fox’s new show Cosmos, said Sunday that he thinks the media needs to stop providing false balance in stories on scientific subjects like climate change. Host of CNN’s Reliable Sources Brian Stelter asked Tyson whether he thought the media had a responsibility portray science correctly, particularly when discussing climate change. “The media has to sort of come out of this ethos that I think was in principle a good one, but it doesn’t really apply in science,” Tyson said. “The ethos was, whatever story you give, you have to give the opposing view. And then you can be viewed as balanced.”

Stelter showed a clip of President Obama’s climate speech last year, in which he decried climate deniers by saying the country didn’t have time for a “meeting of the flat Earth society.” Tyson said the president’s reference was a good example of how the idea of “balance” in scientific stories doesn’t make sense. “In the clip you showed of the president — you don’t talk about the spherical Earth with NASA, and then say ‘now let’s give equal time to the flat Earthers,” he said. “Plus, science is not there for you to cherry pick…You can decide whether or not to believe in it but that doesn’t change the reality of an emergent scientific truth.”

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Philly Mag: NYT: Christie Turned Twin Towers Wreckage Into “Politically Motivated Gifts”

The New York Times reports this morning that Chris Christie’s administration used wreckage from 9/11 as “politically motivated gifts,” part of a politicization of the Port Authority that is coming under increasing scrutiny from federal prosecutors in the wake of the Bridgegate scandal. For a state that lost hundreds of lives on Sept. 11, the gifts were emotionally resonant: pieces of steel from the ruins of the World Trade Center. They were presented by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to 20 carefully chosen New Jersey mayors who sat atop a list of 100 whose endorsements Gov. Chris Christie hoped to win. At photo opportunities around the mangled pieces of steel, Bill Baroni, Mr. Christie’s top staff appointee at the Port Authority, told audiences how many people wanted a similar remnant of the destroyed buildings, and how special these mayors were.

Mayors lower on the list of 100 — such as Mark Sokolich, of Fort Lee, at No. 45 — received other Port Authority perquisites: an intimate tour of the National September 11 Memorial, or the new World Trade Center construction site, or Port Authority money for jobs programs or new firefighting equipment, even in towns far from the port. Turning wreckage of the twin towers into politically motivated gifts before Mr. Christie’s 2013 re-election was only one example. The authority became a means to reward friends (or hire them) and punish adversaries, and a bank to be used when Mr. Christie sought to avoid raising taxes. Major policy initiatives, such as instituting a large toll and fare increase in 2011, were treated like political campaigns to burnish the governor’s image.

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Zach Johnson: Aretha Franklin On President Obama’s “Respect” Flub: “Spelling And Giving It Is A Huge Difference”

Aretha Franklin realizes everyone make mistakes—even the President of the United States. After Barack Obama botched the spelling of “Respect” during the White House’sWomen of Soul Event last week, the Queen of Soul herself released a statement regarding the politician’s flub. “I’m sure the President had much on his agenda and was just a little tired,” Franklin told E! News. “However, spelling and giving it, is a huge difference. The President and I are mutual when it comes to R-E-S-P-E-C-T.”

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On This Day:

President Barack Obama greets members of the U.S. Senate youth program at the South Portico of the White House, March 11, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama meets with the Congressional Black Caucus to discuss health care reform in the State Dining Room of the White House, March 11, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama delivers remarks before a screening of the HBO ten-part World War II miniseries “The Pacific” in the Family Theater of the White House, March 11, 2010. Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, the two executive producers of “The Pacific”, sit in the front row (Photo by Pete Souza)

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First Lady Michelle Obama participates in a “Let’s Move!” and NHL partnership event with Chicago Blackhawks and Washington Capitals players on the South Lawn of the White House, March 11, 2011 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)

President Obama talks with members of the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks following a ceremony to honor the team’s 2009-10 championship season on the South Lawn of the White House, March 11, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama talks on the phone with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai from his vehicle outside the Jane E. Lawton Community Center in Chevy Chase, Maryland, Sunday, March 11, 2012. The President called to express his shock and sadness over the reported killing of Afghan civilians. (Photo by Pete Souza)

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First Lady Michelle Obama participates in a “Let’s Move!” Twitter Office Hour in the First Lady’s East Wing Office of the White House, March 11, 2013 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

20
Feb
14

Rise and Shine

President Obama speaks while standing in front of a printed version of a stained glass window known as the Sun Man, from the Cosmovitral Botanical Garden, at a news conference at the state government palace in Toluca, Mexico

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Presidential Schedule (All Times Eastern):

5:35PM EST: President Obama delivers remarks and answers questions at the Democratic Governors Association dinner, Washington

12AM EST: First Lady Michelle Obama will be a guest on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon

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USA Today: California Exceeds 2014 Exchange Enrollment Goals

Well before the March 31 deadline to buy insurance, California announced Tuesday it has already exceeded its 2014 enrollment goals for its health care exchange.

By the end of January, 728,410 people had enrolled in private health plans through Covered California, and 100,000 more signed up in the first two weeks of February. About 26% are 34 and younger.

“These enrollment numbers mean that with six weeks to go, California has already exceeded its projected base enrollment for the 2014 open-enrollment period,” said Covered California executive director Peter Lee. “While this is a strong showing, our goal is not pinned to meeting projections, but to making sure every Californian gets covered.”

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NYT: Gap To Raise Minimum Hourly Pay

In a surprising move, Gap Inc. informed its employees on Wednesday that it would set $9 as the minimum hourly rate for its United States work force this year and then establish a minimum of $10 next year. Gap said this move would ultimately raise pay for 65,000 of its 90,000 American employees, including those at Banana Republic, Old Navy and other stores.

Gap is making this move as many states consider raising their minimum wage, and as Republicans and Democrats debate a bill that includes a proposed increase in the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2016. President Obama has endorsed the increase, and has campaigned for it at stops around the country.

In explaining the wage increases, Mr. Murphy told employees: “We work for a company with a strong set of values, which can be directly linked to our founders, Doris and Don Fisher. They invented specialty apparel retail, but Don also challenged us to live up to our promise to ‘do more than sell clothes.’ ”

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Sun Times: Michelle Obama on “Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon” Thursday

A year ago, First Lady Michelle Obama and Jimmy Fallon created a YouTube hit with their dance skit, “Evolution of Mom Dancing.” On Thursday, Mrs. Obama teams up again with Fallon, guesting during his inaugural week of hosting the “Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.”

Mrs. Obama marks this month the fourth anniversary of her signature “Let’s Move” anti-obesity, healthy eating drive and it would not be a surprise to see another high-energy sketch with Fallon.

Mrs. Obama hits New York for Fallon and a high-dollar Democratic National Committee fundraiser at the home of Obama “bundler” Maneesh Goyal. The funder is billed as a roundtable with the tab ranging from $10,000 to $15,000 per person. Mrs. Obama did a California swing for the DNC last month and more DNC events are in her pipeline.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates: Black Boy Interrupted

I think of dying at 17, in my loudness, in my vanity, which is to say in my human youth, and I tremble. I was barely anything. I understood barely anything. When Michael Dunn killed Jordan Davis, he obliterated a time-stream, devastated an open range of changes. And somewhere on that American jury, someone thought this was justice, someone believed in the voodoo of shotguns and teleportation. Michael Dunn killed a boy, and too robbed a man of his chance to be.

And this will happen again, must happen again, because our policy is color-blind, but our heritage isn’t. An American courtroom claiming it can be colorblind denies its rightful inheritance. An American courtroom claiming it can be colorblind is a drug addict claiming he can walk away after just one more hit. Law and legacy are at war. Legacy is winning. Legacy will always win. And our legacy is to die in this land where time is unequal, and deeded days are unequal, and blessed is the black man who lives to learn other ways, who lives to see other worlds, who lives to bear witness before the changes.

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Jenna Portnoy: Former Christie Staffer Under Subpoena Takes Job With Port Authority

A former aide to Gov. Chris Christie who has been subpoenaed in the George Washington Bridge scandal, recently took a high-level job at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, The Star-Ledger learned today.

Nicole Crifo, who served as the liaison from the governor’s office to the Port Authority for three years, was named chief of staff to Deb Gramiccioni, the deputy director of the bi-state agency, last month. Christie selected Gramiccioni to replace Bill Baroni, who has been implicated in the scandal over the closing of access lanes to the bridge in September.

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White House: Statement by the President

In my State of the Union Address, I asked more businesses to do what they can to raise their employees’ wages.  Today, I applaud Gap, Inc. for announcing that they intend to raise wages for their employees beginning this year – a decision that will benefit about 65,000 workers in the U.S.  As a chief executive, I’ve required federal contractors to pay their employees a wage of at least $10.10 an hour, and more states are taking steps to raise their minimum wage as well.  But only action from Congress can make a difference nationwide.  Right now, there is a bill in front of both the House and the Senate that would boost America’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, and lift wages for more than 16 million workers – all without requiring a single dollar in new taxes or spending.  It’s time to pass that bill and give America a raise.

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The Atlantic: A Question For Obama’s Syria Critics: What Are The Alternatives?

McCain and others like Anne-Marie Slaughter, formerly of Hillary Clinton’s State Department policy planning staff, have called for more boldness in America’s Syria policy. Slaughter has advocated establishing humanitarian zones, or corridors, inside Syria—but these zones could require U.S. or international forces to establish no-fly zones and use force to halt Syrian military incursions against those seeking refuge in such zones.  

But most of those urging the U.S. to intervene more aggressively in Syria are woefully short on details and shrug off the risks of blowback and escalation. If a strategy existed that would tip the scales toward the rebels with little likelihood of blowback, then skeptics like me might be turned into supporters.

It’s emotionally wrenching to watch killing on the scale that the world is witnessing now in Syria. But the depressing likelihood is that the country will be convulsed with conflict for years to come. Obama is not to blame for that. In fact, he should be commended for the abundant caution he has shown during this tragedy.

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Frida Ghitis: Venezeulan Opposition Tries New Strategy Of Confrontation

The Venezuelan opposition has shifted gears and is steering down a new path, carrying a message that the country is crumbling and there is no time to wait for change. The decision to take a much more confrontational approach comes in an environment of growing popular discontent, with an accelerating downward economic spiral and increasingly harsh living conditions under the rule of the late Hugo Chavez’s hand-picked successor, President Nicolas Maduro. The move by the opposition is a calculated gamble. It could provoke a much harsher crackdown from the regime, creating an even deeper chasm between the two sides of Venezuela’s already profound political divide. It could trigger a wave of violence that would be difficult to control. And it could also lead to a splintering of the opposition. But it might just have a chance of bringing an end to Maduro’s presidency. The call to take the fight to the streets came from the charismatic and photogenic hard-liner Leopoldo Lopez, a Harvard-educated local mayor who is now under arrest after leading massive anti-government protests.

Economic mismanagement and ad hoc socialist policies are unraveling the economy of oil-rich Venezuela. Yearly inflation is approaching 60 percent. Foreign investment has dried up in the face of the government’s capricious confiscation of private businesses. Currency controls have stoked a red-hot black market for hard currency, with the illegal dollar rate now at 13 times the official exchange rate. Venezuelans who can afford it are buying dollars and taking them out of the country to preserve what they can of their assets. Hard currency shortages are destroying manufacturing by making it virtually impossible for businesses to buy raw materials. Newspapers are shutting down because they cannot find enough foreign exchange to buy newsprint. Car manufacturers are stopping assembly lines, and staples of daily life are disappearing from the shelves amid chronic shortages of basic consumer goods. The government’s response has been to blame the shortages on speculators and saboteurs.

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Washington Post: Truce Fails, 22 More Die In New Kiev Clashes

Fearing that a call for a truce was a ruse, protesters tossed firebombs and advanced upon police lines Thursday in Ukraine’s embattled capital. Government snipers shot back and the almost-medieval melee left at least 22 people dead. Video footage on Ukrainian television showed shocking scenes Thursday of protesters being cut down by gunfire, lying on the pavement as comrades rushed to their aid, trying to protest themselves with shields. Protesters were seen leading apparently captured policemen around the sprawling protest camp in central Kiev, or carrying bodies away on sheets of plastic or planks of wood.

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An AP cameraman saw snipers shooting at protesters in Kiev. Video footage showed that at least one sniper wearing the uniform of Ukraine’s riot police. President Viktor Yanukovych and the opposition protesters who demand his resignation are locked in an epic battle over the identity of Ukraine, a nation of 46 million that has divided loyalties between Russia and the West. Parts of the country— mostly in its western cities — are in open revolt against Yanukovych’s central government, while many in eastern Ukraine favor strong ties with Russia, their former Soviet ruler. At least 50 people have died this week in the clashes in Kiev, a sharp reversal in the three-month, mostly peaceful political crisis.

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Steven Lee Myers: Violence In Ukraine Creates Deepening Clash Between East And West

Russian officials denouncing what they called a coup by right-wing extremists, even as the United States and Europe threatened to impose sanctions on those responsible for the violence that has erupted in the capital, Kiev, and spread to other cities. The starkly divergent reactions underscored the deepening confrontation between Russia and the West over Ukraine’s fate, with each side accusing the other of interference and disputing even the facts of what was happening. Expressing alarm at the escalating death toll, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President François Hollande of France blamed the security forces of President Viktor F. Yanukovych and made it clear that they supported a political transition that would allow Ukrainians to elect a new government. Russia, by contrast, vowed to use all its influence to support Ukraine’s government and joined Mr. Yanukovych in accusing his opponents of trying to seize power in what amounted to a coup.

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President Obama, on a visit to Mexico, interrupted his opening meeting with President Enrique Peña Nieto to tell reporters that “the United States condemns in the strongest terms” the violence that has claimed lives in the last two days. He pointedly warned the Ukrainian military on Wednesday to stay out of the political crisis that has already ravaged the streets of Kiev and said the United States would hold the government responsible for further violence. The substance of that threat became clear on Wednesday evening, when the Obama administration said it had imposed a visa ban on 20 senior Ukrainian officials whom it accused of playing a role in the government’s crackdown on Tuesday. The State Department declined to say which officials were on the list, but a senior State Department official said it included “the full chain of command responsible for ordering the violence last night.”

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NYT: The Clear Benefits Of A Higher Wage

What Republicans fail to mention is that Tuesday’s report from the budget office, a federal nonpartisan agency, was almost entirely positive about the benefits of raising the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2016, as President Obama and Congressional Democrats have proposed. More than 16 million low-wage workers, now making as little as $7.25 an hour, would directly benefit from the increase, the report said. Another eight million workers making slightly more than the minimum would probably also get raises, because of the upward “ripple effect” of an increase.

That would add $31 billion to the paychecks of families ranging from poverty level to the middle class, significantly increasing their spending power and raising the nation’s economic output and overall income. In fact, the report said, 900,000 people would be lifted from poverty with a wage increase. The income of those below the poverty line would increase by a total of $5 billion, or 3 percent, at no cost to the federal budget. The vast majority of those getting raises would not be teenagers with part-time jobs. Nearly 90 percent of them are adults 20 and older, and 53 percent of them work full time. Women represent 56 percent of them.

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On This Day:

Sen. Barack Obama speaks to supporters during a rally, February 20, 2008, at Reunion Arena in Dallas

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President Obama and Vice President Biden wait in the Green Room of the White House prior to a meeting with U.S. Mayors, Feb. 20, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

First Lady Michelle Obama arrives at the Department of Transportation February 20, 2009 in Washington to speak with employees about working with President Obama’s administration.

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First Lady Michelle Obama speaks about her campaign to end the childhood obesity called “Let’s Move” at the National Governors Association’s winter meeting in Washington February 20, 2010

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@ImAngelaBassett: Hail to OUR chief! @BarackObama @SheilaEdrummer @AlfreWoodard @SandraFluke. Feb 20, 2013

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07
Feb
14

News Of The Day

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Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (D-OH) clasp hands as President Barack Obama signs the farm bill into law at Michigan State University in Lansing, Michigan

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NYT: In Signing Farm Bill, Obama Extols Rural Growth

President Obama signed the $956-billion farm bill on Friday at Michigan State University, where he extolled the benefits of a thriving agricultural sector for the nation’s overall economy. In his remarks, Mr. Obama announced a new “Made in Rural America” initiative that he said would help rural businesses market their goods abroad. White House officials also announced five regional forums on rural exports and an “investing in rural America” conference. Mr. Obama directed the White House Rural Council to host sessions in all 50 states to train Department of Agriculture staff members on how to promote rural exports.

The White House released a report Friday from Mr. Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers that said farm income had risen significantly since the president took office in the depths of the recession. The report says that farm income is expected to total $131 billion in 2013, a 46 percent increase since 2008. Most of the increase is attributed to improved productivity, and the report notes that the values of livestock and crops are rising. One of the most contentious elements of the farm bill was the elimination of $5 billion in direct subsidies to farmers for their crops, whether they grew them or not. The subsidies were replaced by an insurance program that will help farmers only when they need it.

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White House: You Can Say This Better Than We Ever Could

JoAnn S., Florida

“I haven’t had insurance in years and my husband had a shared insurance junk-type policy. The day I signed up on Dec 10, I actually cried when the application went through. I got my first premium notice in the mail yesterday and was never so happy to see a bill before.”

Gayla W., New Hampshire

“I lost my job last April. My partner and I both have pre-existing conditions so our only option was to COBRA my employer-provided plan — at a cost of $1,676 a month. It was a good plan, but now we have a comparable plan through the ACA for $87 a month. I can’t describe just how life changing this is for us. We can afford to live again.”

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Fred Kaplan: Barack Obama Isn’t Disengaged: The President’s Foreign Policy Is Just Smarter

There’s a strange notion out there that the dreary outcomes of the two wars this country fought all through the past decade—and the savage sectarian violence erupting across much of the Middle East and surrounding regions today—are due to President Obama’s “disengagement” from the world. It’s a strange notion because the United States is more engaged with the world than at any time in recent memory. There are nuclear talks in Iran (after 34 years of no talking whatsoever), an internationally supervised dismantling of chemical weapons in Syria What many of these critics don’t like about Obama—what they mistakenly, or misleadingly, call “disinterest”—is his disinclination to go to war.

And who can blame him? Obama seems to realize this. He too has an unsentimental outlook on the world. His views have been tempered by Iraq and scorched by Afghanistan. He’s not shy about using military force, but insists, when possible, to grip it tightly. “Escalation” is a suspect term; “uncontrolled escalation,” is an unacceptable one. As evidence, see Libya, Syria, drone strikes, and Stuxnet. One can admire or criticize the actions he’s taken, or not taken, in those crises or with those precision instruments. But they’re all preferable to sending in 100,000 troops in pursuit of a mission that we have no power to accomplish, even with all those men and women in arms. And if going into such conflicts lightly, or not at all, is the emblem of disengagement, let him wear it proudly.

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Tom Joyner: Michelle Obama Discusses Health Care And Black History Month

Michelle Obama just turned 50 and she’s looking great. The First Lady is a prime example of how health can help keep you looking and feeling great. With her Let’s Move campaign, Mrs. Obama wants to help all Americans become more aware of the importance of eating healthy and staying fit. This morning she joined the Tom Joyner Morning Show to talk about the Affordable Care Act, one of the most important pieces of legislation in her husband’s time in the White House. The Affordable Care Act makes it possible for millions of uninsured Americans to have affordable health insurance, but there are still some misconceptions about it. The best way for you to start to get more information about how the ACA can work for you is to head to the website, www.healthcare.gov and check out the options for yourself. Here’s why Mrs. Obama thinks it will be the best move you and your family can make this year.

Michelle Obama: We’re talking about education, because as Barack said in his State of the Union address, you know, what we have to focus on, particularly as we celebrate Black History Month, is not just the progress we’ve made but remember how much more work we have left to do. And we need to focus on increasing opportunity for everybody. And for this administration, it means healthcare through the Affordable Care Act. It means economic mobility. It means helping our young men of color. It means making sure more kids have access to college and it’s affordable. So that’s what we’re going to be focusing on, not just this month, but for the rest of this administration, and making sure that people are signing up for healthcare is critical.

More here (audio at link)

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Derek Thompson: The Spectacular Myth Of Obama’s Part-Time America – In 5 Graphs

If you’ve been paying attention to a certain slice of the financial media—see:ForbesThe Wall Street Journal, CNBC, and Fox News—you know for a fact that Obama and his health care law have tag-teamed with global economic trends to drive America inexorably toward a part-time economy. This is a testable claim. So let’s test it.

The first thing you would expect to see from a Part-Time America is that the number of part-time jobs added would rival the number of full-time jobs added. But in the last year, new full-time jobs outnumbered part-time jobs by 1.8 million to 8,000. For every new part-time job, we’re creating 225 full-time positions.

More here

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Washington Post: Democratic Mayors Who Backed Christie Struggled To Weigh Politics Vs. Local Needs

In September, Adam Schneider, the liberal mayor of the New Jersey shore town of Long Branch, was having trouble with the state utility board. After repeatedly getting the run-around, Schneider decided to instead try his luck with the office of Gov. Chris Christie. “I’m not talking to any more underlings, and I’m not being delegated to,” Schneider said he told Christie’s aides. In the end, he said, it worked. “I got what I needed.”

Schneider’s call came four months after he crossed party lines to endorse the 2013 reelection of Christie (R), whose performance he admired after Hurricane Sandy. Schneider said that the governor never promised him anything but that he believes he has received “enhanced” access to state officials since the endorsement. Schneider’s experience is typical of many Democratic mayors, who made clear that they thought endorsing Christie’s reelection bid likely directly benefited their towns in the pursuit of Sandy recovery aid and other state support.

More here

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Steve Benen: GOP Ignores Bill Signing Invitations

Since early 2011, President Obama hasn’t been able to host many bill-signing ceremonies. After two years in which the White House made arguably historic progress on its agenda in 2009, Congress hasn’t achieved any major legislative accomplishments since Republicans claimed the House majority. But some bills still manage to get through both chambers, and though the farm bill hasn’t always risen to the level of major legislative breakthroughs, Obama and his team nevertheless decided to host a big event in East Lansing, Michigan, today to sign the new $956 billion farm bill into law.

The president won’t be joined today by any Republicans, though it’s not for lack of effort. The White House press secretary, Jay Carney, said that about 50 lawmakers — including many Republicans — had been invited to the bill signing, but that no Republicans had accepted the invitation. […] the fact that every Republican invitee declined the White House’s offer should send a pretty loud signal to those Beltway pundits who still believe Obama would thrive in Washington if only he schmoozed more.

More here

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Dylan Scott: Cruz, Rubio, Other GOPers Urge Court To Stop Obamacare Subsidies

Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, along with other top congressional GOPers, have urged a federal court to block Obamacare subsidies for people who signed up for coverage through HealthCare.gov. The group of eight — which includes Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn, Sens. Orrin Hatch (UT), Mike Lee (UT) and Rob Portman (OH) along with Reps. Dave Camp (MI) and Darrell Issa (CA) —

filed an amicus brief Thursday on behalf of businesses and individuals who sued to stop the subsidies from flowing through the federal website, the Washington Times reported. The case, being heard in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit next month, centers on whether people can receive tax subsidies through the federal website, HealthCare.gov. A federal district judge rejected that argument in January, ruling that subsidies should continue to be delivered through HealthCare.gov, which sent the case to the appeals court.

More here

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Think Progress: Texas Man Pays Off Students’ School Lunch Debts So They Can Keep Eating

After he heard about the children in Utah whose school lunches were thrown out because their parents were behind on payments, Kenny Thompson was worried about the elementary school kids he tutored and mentored in Houston, Texas. So he went in to check whether they were getting the proper nutrition. “I’m like, ‘Wow. I know that’s probably a situation at my school, and the school my son goes to, and the other schools I mentor at.’ So I came in and inquired about it,” Thompson told local station KSDK.

What he found disappointed him: Dozens of students were on “reduced” lunches, receiving cold peanut butter and jelly or cheese sandwiches instead of the full hot meals they used to receive, all because their parents had fallen behind on lunch payments that amounted to mere 40 cents a day. So Thompson took action. He forked over $465 of his own money and zeroed out the balances on over 60 students’ accounts. “These are elementary school kids. They don’t need to be worried about finances. They need to be worried about what grade they got in spelling,” Thompson told station KPRC.

More here

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President Barack Obama signs the farm bill at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich. Watching, from left are, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., Senate Agriculture Committee member Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Senate Agriculture Committee member Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio Rep. Gary Peters, D-Mich. and Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich.

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02
Feb
14

Rise and Shine

Feb. 2, 2009 – Pete Souza: “The light was streaming through the windows behind his Oval Office desk as the President talked with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.”

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Washington Post: Life After Jan. 1: Kentucky Clinic Offers Early Glimpse At Realities Of Health-Care Law

The envelopes began arriving in December across eastern Kentucky, one of the sickest and poorest corners of the country. “Dear member . . . We want you to be healthy . . .” read the letter to Mary Combs, and with it came a plastic card representing the first insurance she ever had: a Medicaid plan made possible by the nation’s new health-care law, effective Jan. 1. Nine days into the new year, the 41-year-old call-center worker headed to the health clinic on Highway 15. She saw a doctor about her chronic stomach ulcers, had her blood drawn for tests and collected referrals for all the specialists she had been told she needed but could never afford. The next week, she saw a neurologist, who found lesions on her brain and prescribed medicine for the cluster headaches, which are also called “suicide headaches” for pain that is far more intense than a migraine and which Combs had been treating with an alcohol-soaked cloth wrapped around her head.

“That’s the big question — does getting insurance bend the cost curve or the health outcomes curve?” said Karen Ditsch, the executive director of Juniper Health, which runs the nonprofit Breathitt clinic. Life since Jan. 1: The number of uninsured has dropped by 520 people, which represents about 21 percent of the those without coverage. Of that 520, 472 qualified under the health-care law’s expanded income parameters for Medicaid, which is aimed at the working poor. Here and there, for-profit clinics that never accepted the uninsured have hung “Welcome new patients!” signs on doors. A new blue billboard hovering above the Hardee’s advertises surgery to treat acid reflux.

More here

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Michael Hiltzik: What’s Behind Anthem’s Huge Premium Increase? Not Obamacare

Insurance companies, bless their hearts, seem determined to remind us why we need the Affordable Care Act. The latest example comes from Anthem Blue Cross, which has just hit 306,000 customers in California with premium increases of up to 25%. As reported by my colleague Chad Terhune, the increases average 16% and are scheduled to kick in April 1, unless the state Department of Insurance jawbones Anthem into backing down.

Here’s the kicker: No one can blame these increases on the mandates of the Affordable Care Act, a popular argument among critics of the act. That’s because the increases are for grandfathered policies exempt from the act.

“It’s a rich irony,” says Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access, a leading California consumer advocacy group. “The insurers can’t have it both ways — they can’t blame the increases on the ACA while increasing rates on their non-ACA-compliant plans as well.” Luckily, Anthem customers have a choice this time around. They can check the state’s insurance exchange at coveredca.com to see if they can replace their old plan with a new one that might well be better, at lower cost.

More here

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Sandra Fluke: What Mike Huckabee Wants To Take Away From Women

Memo to former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and the bosses at for-profit corporations who think they belong in every doctor’s office and that they should be able to decide whether their employees have access to birth control: Women who use birth control do not have an “overactive libido.” We are not looking for a handout from “Uncle Sugar” to score a contraceptive fix. We are not sluts. This is not the reality for women — it never has been and never will be.

In fact, women who use birth control are your mother, partner, sister, and daughter. Ninety-nine percent of sexually active American women have used birth control at some point in their lives. We are just regular people trying to take care of ourselves medically and financially. That’s why seven in ten Americans believe that health insurance companies should be required to cover the full cost of birth control, just as they do for other preventive services.

More here

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Jonathan Cohn: Farewell To Henry Waxman, A Liberal Hero

One of America’s most accomplished lawmakers—a crusader responsible for cleaner air, safer food, and healthier kids—is calling it a career. On Thursday, Congressman Henry Waxman announced that he would retire at the end of this term, 40 years after he first came to Congress. The list of laws for which he deserves substantial credit is simply staggering—not only for its length, but also for its breadth. Waxman was behind the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, the Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments, plus laws regulating lead, greenhouse gas emissions, and formaldehyde. That arguably makes him his generation’s most influential lawmaker on environmental issues.

He was also behind a series of Medicaid expansions, the Ryan White Care Act, the Orphan Drug Act, the Waxman-Hatch Generic Drug Act, and, of course, the Affordable Care Act. That almost certainly makes him the most influential living lawmaker on health care issues. Other major accomplishments include the Food Quality Protection Act and the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act—and, somewhere along the way, he found time to modernize the postal service. How has Waxman done it? For one thing, Waxman recognizes that lawmaking requires patience and persistence—that you have to build the case for legislation, through investigations and stagecraft, even if that takes years or even decades.

More here

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Hannah Allam: Kerry’s First Year As Top U.S. Diplomat Yields Breakthroughs On Thorny Issues

A year ago, John Kerry succeeded Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, joking on one of his first days at work that he had “big heels to fill.” Now a year into his role as America’s top diplomat, Kerry has proven that any trepidation about following such a high-profile figure was misplaced. Kerry’s anniversary this week – he assumed office on Feb. 1, 2013 – finds him, in the opinion of foreign policy analysts, with more significant, concrete breakthroughs than Clinton had in her entire four-year term. As showpieces they hold up the nuclear deal with Iran and the chemical weapons pact with Syria.

A year into Kerry’s tenure, Ross said, the picture from Asia is brighter. Ross, who’s in Beijing for six months, said U.S. diplomacy has brought about improved cooperation with China on North Korea, including landmark banking and other sanctions. And while there are still no U.S.-Chinese military agreements, he said, there are deeper military contacts so that American officials can “pick up the phone and call them if there’s an escalation.” “Secretary Kerry speaks with a quieter voice and made real policy adjustments,” Ross said. “The quiet approach has been more useful than his predecessor’s.”

More here

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Robert McCoppin and Lolly Bowean: Low Wage Workers Struggle To Get By

In the bitter cold, dark hours of the night, as many others are sleeping, Rocio Caravantes begins her hourlong journey on public transportation from her home in Logan Square to one of her two jobs downtown. Once she arrives at work, Caravantes spends hours vacuuming and scrubbing floors, polishing sinks and toilets, cleaning the bar areas and event spaces and tidying up the rugs in an upscale luxury hotel where she can’t afford to spend a night. Panic at times grips her as she thinks about how she will pay all her bills, she said.

“It is impossible to live on $8.25 an hour,” Caravantes said in Spanish, through an interpreter. “Not even three jobs are enough. I earn $495 biweekly. The first check goes to rent — it’s $500 a month. The second is for transportation, food, (phone) and education.” Caravantes, 40, is one example of the minimum wage workers who have become the focus of a national conversation about salaries for the working poor. It’s a political debate in the Illinois governor’s race, and Gov. Pat Quinn used his State of the State address last week to renew his push for an increase in the state minimum wage. President Barack Obama weighed in on the issue too when he asked Congress to increase the federal wage to $10.10.

But the Economic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan research organization in Washington, D.C., paints a broader portrait of low-wage workers. “People tend to think of low-wage workers as teenagers who are working on the weekends for extra spending money,” said David Cooper, an analyst with the institute. “While that is a portion of these workers, the vast majority don’t fit that stereotype.” According to the institute’s research, more than half of low-wage workers are older than 30.

More here

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Jacob J. Lew: MyRA: A Start To A Secure Retirement

As President Barack Obama made clear in his State of the Union address, it is time to focus on restoring opportunity for all. That means helping to make sure more Americans can take part in our growing economy and build some economic security for the long term. To get that done, we are putting forward real, concrete solutions to our most pressing problems – from college affordability and job training to fair wages and a stable retirement.  This program, which will begin later this year, is called myRA or My Retirement Account. This account is designed to help low- and middle-income workers, who are too often overlooked or ignored, begin saving for retirement. We are talking about the waitress who is holding down two part-time jobs to support her kids; the recent graduate who landed a job but is grappling with student loans; the janitor who has never been given the chance to invest in a retirement account.

Here is how myRA, which is simple, safe and affordable, will work. You will be able to start saving with an initial deposit of as little as $25 and contribute as little as $5 each payday. If an employer chooses to participate, contributions are made through automatic payroll deductions, making them hassle-free. There are no fees – 100 percent of any contribution goes into the account and is invested in a Treasury security. That means it will be backed by the full faith and credit of the United States, will earn the same interest rate that is available to federal employees for their retirement savings, and the balance will never go down. Finally, myRA is not tied to any one employer – it belongs to the worker, not the workplace. In other words, the account is portable and can be easily rolled into a Roth IRA. And if myRA savers ever need to, they can withdraw their contributions tax-free, at any time.

More here

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Brian Murphy: Well, That Escalated Quickly

It is utterly irrelevant if Chris Christie ‘wins the day’ or the weekend or the next 5 minutes or the next week. Irrelevant. The bottom line is that he is in serious trouble, politically and legally. On the legal front, the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey is probing allegations by the mayor of Hoboken that a member of Christie’s cabinet and the lieutenant governor linked federal Hurricane Sandy relief funds to the the mayor’s support for a redevelopment project in Hoboken that would exclusively benefit one of Christie’s closest allies – whom he appointed to chair the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

This morning on his MSNBC show Steve Kornacki discussed reporting he and I (and producer Jack Bohrer) did showing that those federal Hurricane Sandy funds have not been monitored by the Christie Administration as required by a law that Christie himself signed last March. Furthermore, relief funds have been extremely hard to account for because Christie vetoed a bill that would have created a single website to track Sandy funding and contract information. Based on the reactions of two congressmen who watched the report with me, officials in Washington will be loath to trust Christie with the next round of federal funds and we should not be surprised if an investigation is on the horizon.

More here

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Chicago Tribune: Push To Bring Obama Library To Chicago Begins

The push to build Barack Obama’s presidential library officially got underway Friday with the establishment of a foundation managed by three of his longtime supporters. “The president’s future library will one day serve as an important part of our nation’s historical record, and our mission is to build a library that tells President Obama’s remarkable story in an interactive way that will inspire future generations to become involved in public service,” Nesbitt said.

The foundation is responsible for developing a library that reflects Obama’s values and priorities, according to Nesbitt. He said it will focus on economic opportunity, inspiring an ethic of American citizenship and promoting peace, justice and dignity around the world, among other things.

More here

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Happy Super Bowl Sunday!

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On This Day:

St Louis, Feb. 2, 2008

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Pete Souza: “White House valets had moved the sofas in the Oval Office to accommodate the large number of press photographers that were covering the President’s meeting with Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas. When the photo-op ended, the President said to Gov. Douglas, ‘let’s move the sofas back in place.’ Gov. Douglas didn’t quite know what to do as the President did the heavy lifting. The valets now good-naturedly cringe when they look at this picture because it was their responsibility to move the sofas back in place.” Feb. 2, 2009

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President Obama walks to the Oval Office after returning to the White House following a trip to Nashua, N.H., Feb. 2, 2010 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

First Lady Michelle Obama speaking alongside Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Democratic Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, on childhood obesity during a meeting with Cabinet and Congressional members in the Old Family Dining Room of the White House, February 2, 2010

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Vice President Joe Biden talks with Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., after President Barack Obama signed the New START Treaty in the Oval Office, Feb. 2, 2011. Behind them, the President talks with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama is updated on the severe winter storm currently moving across the country during a phone call with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate in the Oval Office, Feb. 2, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Vice President Joe Biden snaps a photo of President Barack Obama and keynote speaker Eric Metaxas during the National Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C., Feb. 2, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

31
Jan
14

News Of The Day

Pete Souza: President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden provide encouragement to Erick Varela, who was about to introduce the President, prior to an event to outline new efforts to help the long-term unemployed, in the Green Room of the White House

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Chicago Sun-Times: Foundation Launched To Pick Site For Obama Presidential Library

The first steps toward building President Barack Obama’s library and museum were announced on Friday with the launch of a foundation to oversee the competitive selection process with the target date of picking a site early in 2015. Martin Nesbitt, Obama’s close friend who will run the effort with two other Obama associates, told me in an interview they are committed to a “thoughtful, consistent, fair and transparent” process with the ultimate choice left to Obama and first lady Michelle. “We have no preconceived idea about what these proposals will look like. We want to create a blank canvass, create sort of a white canvas with some guiding principles that allow people to respond in a thoughtful and creative way and we will evaluate them when they come in,” Nesbitt said.

Incorporation papers for the newly created Barack H. Obama Foundation were filed Friday in Washington, D.C. The foundation is led by Chicagoan Nesbitt, the co-CEO of The Vistria Group and treasurer of Obama’s two White House campaigns; Julianna Smoot, a co-chair of the 2012 re-election bid and the 2008 National Finance Director and J. Kevin Poorman, the Wilmette businessman who took over several companies run by Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker when she stepped down to join Obama’s cabinet. Obama asked Nesbitt to take on the duty of running the foundation last summer, and I broke the news that Nesbitt and Smoot would helm a foundation last July.

More here

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Terry Tang: Tape Of Martin Luther King Jr. Ariz. Speech Found

Mary Scanlon had no idea a $3 purchase from a Goodwill store in Phoenix would turn out to be a rare link to the civil rights movement’s most revered leader. Last April, Scanlon was at the thrift store when she spotted a pile of 35 vintage reel-to-reel tapes, including one labeled with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s name. Despite the moldy and torn packaging, she snapped up all of them. “I didn’t really necessarily have any expectation that this tape would be rare,” Scanlon said. Arizona State University archivists have found that tape is the only known recording of speeches the slain civil rights leader gave at ASU and at a Phoenix church in June 1964.

The hour-long audio has since been digitized and is now available for listening on ASU’s website through June 30. The tape illustrates that King had been eager to visit supporters in Arizona, a state that would draw criticism more than 20 years later for rescinding the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Scanlon, who donated all the tapes to the school, said the find is one of the high points of her life. “To have anything about myself connected in any way to Martin Luther King, what more could a person ask for? I’m so proud,” Scanlon said.

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NYT: Ex-Port Authority Official Says ‘Evidence Exists’ Christie Knew About Lane Closings

The former Port Authority official who personally oversaw the lane closings at the George Washington Bridge, central to the scandal now swirling around Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, said on Friday that “evidence exists” the governor knew about the lane closings when they were happening. In a letter released by his lawyer, the former official, David Wildstein, a high school friend of Mr. Christie’s who was appointed with the governor’s blessing at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which controls the bridge, described the order to close the lanes as “the Christie administration’s order”

and said “evidence exists as well tying Mr. Christie to having knowledge of the lane closures, during the period when the lanes were closed, contrary to what the governor stated publicly in a two-hour press conference” three weeks ago. During his news conference, Mr. Christie specifically said he had no knowledge that traffic lanes leading to the bridge had been closed until after they were reopened. “I had no knowledge of this — of the planning, the execution or anything about it — and that I first found out about it after it was over,” he said. “And even then, what I was told was that it was a traffic study.”

More here

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Chris Geidner: Edith Windsor’s Lawyer Seeks To Argue In Utah Marriage Appeal

Three same-sex couples — represented by the New York lawyer who represented Edith Windsor in her successful challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act — have asked the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals to allow them to intervene in the pending lawsuit challenging Utah’s marriage laws.

In a Friday filing at the court, Roberta Kaplan argued on behalf of the couples that they should be allowed to intervene in the appeal — a move they acknowledge would be an “exceptional case” — in order to raise questions about other portions of Utah law that prevent recognition of same-sex couples.

More here

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TPM: Keystone XL Oil Pipeline Clears Major Hurdle For Construction

The proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada has cleared a significant hurdle after the State Department raised no major environmental objections to its construction. The department’s report was released Friday. It says Canadian tar sands are likely to be developed regardless of U.S. action on the pipeline and other options to get the oil from western Canada to Texas Gulf Coast refineries are worse for the environment. The latest environmental review stops short of recommending approval of the project. State Department approval of the project is needed because it crosses a U.S. border. A decision is not expected before the summer.

More here

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Jonathan Chait: Six Reasons Chris Christie Is Probably Guilty

1. Wildstein is claiming evidence exists that Christie knew. He would look bad if such evidence does not come to light. 2. Wildstein spent time with Christie while the lanes were closed. If you had been ordered to close traffic lines for punitive reasons, and you saw the governor, wouldn’t you either tell him about it, or else already know he approved?

Undertaking an action like that without knowing the governor approved it, and without having any desire to take credit, seems like an implausible motivation. 3. Christie has changed his story about when he knew about the lane closings. Having first asserted he learned on October 1, Christie later claimed he learned earlier, though would not say when. 4. His campaign manager is pleading the fifth.

More here

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Dylan Scott: Study: Thousands Of People Will Die In States That Don’t Expand Medicaid

As many as 17,000 Americans will die directly as a result of states deciding not to expand Medicaid under Obamacare, according to a new study. Researchers from Harvard University and City University of New York have estimated that between 7,115 and 17,104 deaths will be “attributable to the lack of Medicaid expansion in opt-out states” in a study published in Health Affairs.

“The results were sobering,” Samuel Dickman, one of the authors, said, according to theMorning Call. “Political decisions have consequences, some of them lethal.” They projected that 423,000 fewer diabetics would receive medication to treat their disease. If opt-out states had expanded Medicaid, 659,000 women who are in need of mammograms and 3.1 million women who should receive regular pap smears would have become insured, the study found.

More here

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Powerful commercial. Native Americans are human beings and the NFL is disgusting for not treating them as such

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Sahil Kapur: Boehner Promises GOP No Path To Citizenship In Immigration Reform

Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told House Republicans that the immigration blueprint his leadership team released on Thursday was “as far as we are willing to go” to make reform happen, according to a source in the room.

The blueprint supports legal status for undocumented immigrants, which is already further than many conservatives want to go. If Democrats demand the promise of citizenship for people living in the U.S. illegally, as the bill passed by the Senate would do, the Speaker said the House would block reform.

More here

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OFA: What Does Health Insurance Mean To This 20-Something?

In 2009, I was healthy, preparing to graduate from college, and getting ready to start on a career that I love with an exciting opportunity at a new startup in an emerging field. And when I say startup, I mean startup. Shoe-string, even. There were only two of us. It was pretty risky, but I was beyond excited.

But then—out of the blue—I was diagnosed with a chronic condition that nearly derailed it all. Luckily, I was able to get treatment and was soon back to being myself. But I had two things added to my life: daily medicine to keep the condition in check, and a “pre-existing condition.” That’s when I really got why this whole health insurance thing matters.

thanks to the Affordable Care Act, it’s going to stay that way. When it was time for me to shop on the marketplace for my own coverage this winter, I was protected: No plan could deny me because of my pre-existing condition. I found one that is really comprehensive and is still within my budget. Now, I’m healthy, and I’ve got my own plan that I can afford and rely on.

More here

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Reuters: Two Obamacare Exchanges See More Health Insurer Competition

At least two U.S. states running their own Obamacare health insurance exchanges expect new insurers to enter their marketplaces and bolster competition in 2015, officials said on Friday.

Kynect, which is Kentucky’s marketplace, and the Rhode Island Health Benefits Exchange have had separate talks about 2015 with health insurers that could opt to join the online marketplaces set up under President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform law. Kentucky also expects an expansion of physician networks available within current plans.

Increased competition would increase consumer choices and tend to put downward pressure on health insurance cost trends. It could also help ensure the future of Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which depends on the success of new online marketplaces.

More here

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Pete Souza: POTUS during Google+ hangout today

25
Jan
14

Rise and Shine

First Lady Michelle Obama at Parklawn Elementary School in Alexandria, Va., Jan. 25, 2012 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

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The President has no public events scheduled for this weekend

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Reuters: Obamacare Coverage Enrollment Hits Three Million

The number of people enrolled in private health insurance under Obamacare has soared by more than one-third in recent weeks to around 3 million, according to government data released on Friday.  It also shows that officials might still reach their initial goal of signing up 7 million people for private coverage by the time enrollment ends on March 31.

Analysts say Obama could highlight the 3 million number as a sign of progress when he addresses the topic of healthcare reform in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday. Earlier this week, the administration also announced that the number of people eligible for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) rose to 6.3 million this month as a result of the enrollment effort.

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Alex Wigglesworth: Vice President Joe Biden Donates $50K To Pennsylvania’s Women’s Abuse Advocacy Groups

Vice President Joe Biden donated $50,000 to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Philadelphia-based Women Against Abuse Tuesday, a month after winning the money at Pennsylvania’s biggest annual political gathering. The Pennsylvania Society during its 115th annual black-tie dinner last month presented Biden with the Gold Medal for Distinguished Achievement. The award, which recognizes the leadership and philanthropic accomplishments of prominent figures with Pennsylvania ties, comes with a $50,000 contribution to be directed to charities of the recipient’s choice.

The two selected nonprofits will use the money to increase advocacy and awareness efforts and support intervention for victims of domestic violence, which they described as a public health epidemic that affects one in three women and one in seven men worldwide. As Vice President, Biden appointed the White House’s first Advisor on Violence Against Women and launched the “1is2many” initiative. an outreach campaign that uses technology to reduce date rape and domestic violence among teens and college students. Biden was the first sitting vice president chosen to receive the Pennsylvania Society’s Gold Medal for Distinguished Achievement. Past recipients have included Andrew Carnegie, Dwight Eisenhower and Bill Cosby.

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TPM: 60% Of KY GOPers Buck McConnell, Support Medicaid Expansion

A solid majority of Kentucky Republicans support the state’s decision to expand Medicaid under Obamacare, according to a new poll, standing in stark contrast to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s opposition to the provision. The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky poll, reported by NPR-affiliated WFPL, found that 60 percent of self-identified Republicans said they support expansion.

In total, 79 percent of Kentuckians agree with Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear’s decision to expand coverage to low-income people under the health care reform law. More than 120,000 Kentuckians have enrolled in Medicaid through the state’s Obamacare website since it launched in October

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Rachel Huggins: Obama Takes Action To End Sexual Assault

President Obama announced a new task force that will combat sexual assault,  particularly on college campuses, he said in his weekly address. The White House Task Force on Protecting Students from Sexual Assault “will help schools do a better job of preventing and responding to sexual assault,” he declared, adding that the crime affects one in five women on college campuses. “That’s totally unacceptable,” he added.

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BBC: Syria Foes Briefly Meet In Same Room At Geneva II Talks

Syria’s opposition and government have met briefly face to face in what is being hailed a small but significant step in talks aimed at “saving Syria”. The initial gathering in Geneva lasted half an hour mediated by the UN’s Lakhdar Brahimi. Delegates in Geneva are aiming at small concessions, not a full peace deal. “Ending terrorism and violence” is the top priority, Syrian officials say. They insist it is too early to discuss President Bashar al-Assad’s position. The BBC’s Bridget Kendall, in Geneva, says another meeting at 15:00 GMT will follow same carefully choreographed format as the first.

The two delegations filed in through separate doors into one room in the UN Geneva Headquarters, and sat down at the same U-shaped table, but said nothing to each other. Mr Brahimi spoke for half an hour. Then they all filed out again. Ahead of the next face-to-face meeting, Mr Brahimi will shuttle between the delegations, trying to build confidence with small achievements like localised ceasefires, release of detainees and the opening of humanitarian corridors. This is cumbersome, slow diplomacy, our correspondent adds. But as one diplomat put it, small steps are better than no steps.

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Nation Of Change: Utah Is Ending Homelessness By Giving People Homes

City council members in Columbia, South Carolina, concerned that the city was becoming a “magnet for homeless people,” passed an ordinance giving the homeless the option to either relocate or get arrested. The council later rescinded the ordinance, after backlash from police officers, city workers, and advocates. Philadelphia took a somewhat different approach, with a law banning the feeding of homeless people on city parkland. Religious groups objected to the ban, and announced that they would not obey it. Raleigh, North Carolina took the step of asking religious groups to stop their longstanding practice of feeding the homeless in a downtown park on weekends. Religious leaders announced that they would risk arrest rather than stop.

In eight years, Utah has quietly reduced homelessness by 78 percent, and is on track to end homelessness by 2015. Utah solved homelessness by giving people homes. In 2005, Utah figured out that the annual cost of E.R. visits and jail stays for homeless people was about $16,670 per person, compared to $11,000 to provide each homeless person with an apartment and a social worker. So, the state began giving away apartments, with no strings attached. Each participant in Utah’s Housing First program also gets a caseworker to help them become self-sufficient, but they keep the apartment even if they fail. The program has been so successful that other states are hoping to achieve similar results with programs modeled on Utah’s.

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Eric Lach: Port Authority Refuses To Pay Christie Pal’s Legal Bills

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey will not pay the legal bills for the former agency executive at the center of the George Washington Bridge lane closings scandal, The Bergen Record reported on Friday. The notification to Wildstein reportedly said his request to have his legal bill picked up “would not be warranted” under the agency’s bylaws. Those bylaws state that current and former employees will be provided with legal representation if the action in question fell within their job duties, but not if there was fraud, malice, misconduct, or intentional wrongdoing.

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Paul Waldman: Why Republicans Keep Calling Women Sluts

The simple answer is that they can’t help themselves, but more specifically, it’s a combination of ignorance, contempt, and Puritan morality that inevitably leads to these eruptions. And it’s going to keep happening. Let’s look at the particulars: Ignorance: These kinds of statements tend to come from older conservative men who have no idea how ladyparts work, and really don’t want to know. That extends to contraception, which as far as they’re concerned is something that is women’s responsibility and therefore there’s no need to understand it.

Beliefs about sin: The conception of sex as inherently sinful drives pretty much every conservative policy position that touches on sex, perhaps most notably the support for abstinence-only sex education. The fact that abstinence-only sex education has been shown over and over to fail is of only passing concern to them, because what they want out of sex education isn’t so much practical things like a reduction in teen pregnancy and the spread of STDs, but a moral statement: sex is bad.

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Jon Hurdle: Nonprofit Clinic Offers ‘Bridges of Health’ To Philadelphia’s Illegal Immigrants

Like many other immigrants, Mery Martinez has no legal status in the United States, no health insurance and no money. But she does have leukemia, and has been struggling to find treatment for the disease, first in New York and more recently in Philadelphia. Here, a hospital emergency room rejected her on New Year’s Day because she had not yet qualified for the state assistance that could have paid for the medical attention she needed. With rising anxiety, and a rash that she attributed to her illness, Ms. Martinez walked into a clinic last week run by Puentes de Salud, a nonprofit group of doctors, nurses and medical students that provides primary care to Philadelphia’s undocumented, uninsured and impoverished Latino immigrants.

Puentes de Salud, which in English means “bridges of health,” was founded to provide low-cost but quality health care and social services to the growing Latino population in South Philadelphia and began treating patients in 2006.  Daphne Owen, 26, a third-year medical student at the University of Pennsylvania and a clinic volunteer, sees the low-cost, holistic approach practiced by Puentes as a model, not just for underserved community medicine but for the country’s health system over all. “Here, I’m learning things that we don’t learn in medical school,” Ms. Owen said. “The way we provide care has to change. By the time I’m done in medical school, there is no way the system is still going to work the way it does.”

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Gloria Goodale: California Drought: Scientists Puzzled By Persistence Of Blocking ‘Ridge’

While much of the United States has experienced a weather year with fewer extremes and an easing drought, the record-breaking California drought – the worst since 1895 – is not leaving the region anytime soon, according to climatologists. The unseasonal balmy but dry weather is the result of an equally unprecedented high pressure ridge lurking offshore and blocking the typical winter storms needed to drop precipitation all along the West Coast.

This ridge has persisted for 13 months and the longer it lingers, the less likely it is to leave, points out climatologist Brian Fuchs, from the National Drought Mitigation Center in Lincoln, Nebraska. This high pressure ridge system is feeding on itself, “creating a sort of perfect environment for perpetuating the dry conditions” it creates, he says. On Friday, California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency, calling for a 20-percent voluntary conservation effort state-wide.

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On This Day:

President Obama hugs retiring White House butler James Ramsey, as First Lady Michelle Obama looks on, in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, Jan. 25, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama listens during a meeting with senior advisors in the Oval Office, Jan. 25, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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First Lady Michelle Obama hugs Roxanna Green as she enters the House Chamber prior the State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Jan. 25, 2011. John and Roxanna Green are the parents of eleven-year-old Dallas and the late Christina Taylor, the nine-year-old girl killed when a gunman opened fire on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson earlier this month. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

President Obama stands with Members of Congress in House Speaker John Boehner’s ceremonial office as Bill Livingood, House Sergeant at Arms, left, and Terrance Gainer, Senate Sergeant at Arms, right, prepare to escort them onto the floor of the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol, Jan. 25, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama greets Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., as he enters the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., for the State of the Union address, Jan. 25, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet the Green family after the State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Jan. 25, 2011. John and Roxanna Green are the parents of eleven-year-old Dallas and the late Christina Taylor, the nine-year-old girl killed when a gunman opened fire on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson earlier this month (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama holds two-month-old Emme Bernstein, of Scottsdale, after arriving on Air Force One at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport in Mesa, Ariz, Jan. 25, 2012

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President Obama runs along the Colonnade of the White House with Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough’s children, Jan. 25, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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22
Jan
14

Rise and Shine

President Obama and Vice President Biden in the Oval Office, Jan. 22, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Presidential Daily Schedule (All Times Eastern):

10:00AM: President Obama and Vice President Biden receive the Presidential Daily Briefing

10:45AM: President Obama and Vice President Biden meet with the President’s Commission on Election Administration

11:30AM: President Obama and Vice President Biden convene a meeting with select Cabinet Secretaries of the Council on Women and Girls

12:30PM: President Obama and Vice President Biden meet for lunch

12:45PM: Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney

2:05PM: President Obama and Vice President Biden host an event for the Council on Women and Girls 

4:30PM: President Obama and Vice President Biden meet with Secretary of the Treasury Lew

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John Ostapkovich: Philadelphia Church Hosts Dual-Focused Health Event

North Philadelphia’s Bright Hope Baptist Church hosted a health event Monday in honor of Martin Luther King Day that offered free flu shots as well as help signing up for Obamacare. Patricia Coulter rolled up her sleeve for her flu shot provided by Walgreen’s, but the President and CEO of the Urban League of Philadelphia also had her eye on sign-ups for Obamacare elsewhere in the room: “When people are healthy, they are energized,” she tells KYW Newsradio.

“They can work. They can provide for their families. You can’t separate health and well-being from economic and jobs and businesses.” Levana Layendecker from Equality, Pennsylvania: “Health insurance companies would often discriminate against LGBT people, charging more, basically treating being a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender person as a pre-existing condition and that is no longer allowed.”

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Public Integrity: Small Donors Boost Pro-Obama Organizing For Action

When President Barack Obama’s campaign machine restructured itself as a politically active nonprofit in 2013, one goal was to keep attracting the legions of small-dollar donors who had twice helped catapult Obama into the White House. Now the numbers are in for 2013, and they show that Organizing for Action, as the pro-Obama nonprofit is known, has been wildly successful. During its first year, Organizing for Action raised $26.3 million, with 57 percent of that sum coming from people who gave less than $250, according to the Center for Public Integrity’s analysis of records released by the group.

Donors who gave between $250 and $1,000 accounted for another 14 percent of the total. Katie Hogan, an Organizing for Action spokeswoman, said the group was “proud” of its support from more than 421,000 grassroots donors who have helped the nonprofit work to “tip the scales back towards the American people and away from special interests in Washington.” During its inaugural year, the group advocated for Obama’s signature health care reform law, for action to curb climate change and for gun safety legislation. It has not contributed to candidates’ political campaigns or run advertisements boosting or opposing specific politicians. Obama’s presidential campaigns in 2008 and 2012 broke records for the enormous sums they collected from individual donors who gave small-dollar amounts.

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Washington Post: Democrats Win State Senate Seat In Northern Virginia – And Perhaps Control Of The Chamber

Democrats remained on course to take control of the Virginia Senate after winning a key special election Tuesday, as thousands of Northern Virginia voters braved snow and bitter winds to cast ballots in an unusual, three-way contest. In the race to fill the seat vacated by Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D), Democrat Jennifer Wexton prevailed over Republican John Whitbeck and independent Joe T. May, a former Republican delegate running as an independent, according to unofficial election results. The district encompasses a slice of Fairfax County and a hefty portion of eastern Loudoun County, a region that has leaned toward Democrats in recent elections but remains battleground territory.

With the Virginia Senate previously split 20-20, Democrats must hold the two seats vacated by Herring and Lt. Gov. Ralph S. Northam (D) so they don’t lose control to Republicans. If the chamber remains evenly divided, Northam would act as a tie-breaking vote, giving Democrats control of the chamber. The race to replace Northam in his former Senate district, which is based in Norfolk and also leans Democratic, remains undecided. Del. Lynwood W. Lewis (D-Accomack) was certified the winner of a special election by just nine votes, prompting Republican Wayne Coleman on Thursday to request a recount.

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The Independent: Pope Francis Tells Davos Business Leaders: ‘Ensure Humanity Is Served By Wealth, Not Ruled By It’

Pope Francis has challenged the world’s business leaders to put their wealth to good use in serving humanity, and to oversee the “better distribution of wealth”. In a message addressing more than 2,500 participants at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland yesterday, he said more must be done to promote the “growth of equality” alongside an economic recovery.

The Pope’s comments came as a report released by Oxfam found that the 85 richest people in the world have as much wealth as the poorest half of the entire international population, around 3.5 billion people. “I ask you to ensure that humanity is served by wealth and not ruled by it,” Pope Francis said in the message read at the opening ceremony by Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Peace and Justice.

“The growth of equality demands something more than economic growth, even though it presupposes it. It demands first of all ‘a transcendent vision of the person’,” he said in the message. “It also calls for decisions, mechanisms and processes directed to a better distribution of wealth, the creation of sources of employment and an integral promotion of the poor which goes beyond a simple welfare mentality.”

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Eugene Robinson: Washington Is Silent On W.Va.’s Chemical Spill

The drinking water in nine West Virginia counties has finally been declared safe, or mostly safe. But many people say they can still smell the licorice-like odor of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol — in the sink, in the shower, in the air, especially in neighborhoods close to the Elk River. I say “mostly” because so little is known about the toxicity of the chemical, known as MCHM, that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised pregnant women in the affected area not to drink the water, at least for now. Unfortunately, this warning came after the CDC had already told residents the water was safe for everyone.

More than a week since the chemical spill in Charleston, the state capital, contaminated the water supply for 300,000 people, there has been little solid information about the danger to human health — and little outrage from officials in Washington, who seem to expect West Virginians to take the whole thing in stride. I can’t help but wonder what the reaction would be if this had happened on the Upper East Side of Manhattan or in one of the wealthier Zip codes of Southern California. Imagine living for a week without tap water for drinking, cooking, bathing, even washing clothes. Imagine restaurants having to shut down, hotels putting sinks and showers off-limits, nursing homes trying to care for patients with only bottled water at their disposal. Imagine learning that there was essentially no information on the long-term health effects of a chemical you could smell everywhere you went.

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Washington Post: Former VA Gov. McDonnell And Wife Charged In Gifts Case

Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, were charged Tuesday with illegally accepting gifts, luxury vacations and large loans from a wealthy Richmond area businessman who sought special treatment from state government. Authorities allege that for nearly two years, the McDonnells repeatedly asked executive Jonnie R. Williams Sr. for loans and gifts of money, clothes, golf fees and equipment, trips, and private plane rides. The gifts and loans totaled at least $165,000.

In exchange, authorities allege, the McDonnells worked in concert to lend the prestige of the governor’s office to Williams’s struggling company, Star Scientific, a former small cigarette manufacturer that now sells dietary supplements. McDonnell, 59, is the first governor ever to face criminal charges in Virginia, a state that has prided itself on a history of clean and ethical politics, and the charges will probably accelerate a push for the legislature to tighten state ethics laws. The criminal prosecution marks a stunning crash for a politician who was considered for the Republican vice presidential nomination in 2012 and who, just a year ago, was considered a credible prospective candidate for president.

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Jon Terbush: The Sleeper Issue That Could Help Democrats In 2014

However, there is one crucial piece of ObamaCare that may well become a big winner for Democrats by the end of the year: The dramatic expansion of Medicaid. Unlike the overall law, the expansion of Medicaid is actually quite popular with voters of all political stripes. Even in the Deep South, more than six in ten support expanding Medicaid, according to one survey last year; conservatives split almost evenly on the issue. This presents the GOP with two interconnected problems.

First, it undermines part of the party’s “repeal” crusade, since nixing ObamaCare would mean ending a popular policy that has already extended benefits to millions of Americans, many of them previously uninsured. In red West Virginia, some 75,000 people have already enrolled in Medicaid, far higher than expected, according to The New York Times. As a result, the number of uninsured people in the state has plummeted by about a third. That’s a perfect 2014 Democratic ad campaign right there: People are happy now that they’re covered by Medicaid, and Republicans want to take it away.

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Michael Tomasky: How Bad Does The GOP Need Chris Christie? Really Bad

Without the scandal-engulfed New Jersey governor, Republicans don’t have a candidate who could even come close to the votes needed to win the presidency in 2016. I trust you’re enjoying the Christie panic among Republican establishment types as much as I am. That New York Times story on Sunday, with big boosters like Home Depot’s Kenneth Langone fretting publicly that he really must surround himself with better people (so it’s their fault!), combined with the cable damage-control efforts by the likes of Rudy Giuliani, really shows the extent to which the party big shots have been counting on Christie to save them.

The fact that the GOP establishment needs to come face-to-face with is that they have no one to blame for this but themselves. They’ve reached the point where they almost have to have a Northeasterner like Christie to run for president, just as they had to settle for Romney last time. They’ve let their party go so far off the deep end that practically no Republican officeholder from any other region of the country could appeal to enough moderates in enough purple and blue states to win back the territory the party ceded to the Democrats in the last two elections. Remember: the Republicans come into the next presidential election with 206 reliable electoral votes from states their nominees have won at least four of the last six elections. The Democrats’ corresponding number is 257 (just 13 shy of the victory threshold).

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Jamelle Bouie: No, Obama Didn’t Play The ‘Race Card’

In his long interview with David Remnick in the latest issue of The New Yorker, President Obama gave a few thoughts on the dynamics behind his job approval rating. For anyone who studies public opinion, and the intersection of politics and race, they were banal: “There’s no doubt that there’s some folks who just really dislike me because they don’t like the idea of a black President,” Obama said. “Now, the flip side of it is there are some black folks and maybe some white folks who really like me and give me the benefit of the doubt precisely because I’m a black President.”

Naturally, this led to an explosion of sputtering outrage from the right-wing, which was shocked that Obama would even mention race, much less in the context of his approval rating. This isn’t a coincidence. What political scientists call “racial resentment”—the intersection of anti-black sentiments and traditional American views on hard work and individualism—is one of the most reliable predicators of partisan affiliation. And according to a 2010 paper by political scientists Michael Tesler and David Sears, voters high on the racial resentment scale became more partisan in their attachment to the Republican Party.

Indeed, according to another paper from researchers at the University of Michigan, Stanford, and the University of Chicago, there’s been a marked increase in the number of voters with explicit anti-black attitudes in the last five years, which rose from 47.6 percent in 2008 to 50.9 percent in 2012. What’s more, anti-black attitudes are heavily distributed on the right side of the political divide, though they exist among Democrats and independents as well.

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Covered California Daily News: Milestone Enrollment Numbers Released By Covered California And Department Of Healthcare Services

Covered California™ and the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) announced today that 500,108 Californians enrolled for health insurance and selected plans through the end of 2013 under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, while 584,000 applicants were determined likely eligible for Medi-Cal coverage. DHCS also transitioned 630,000 individuals into the Medi-Cal program from the state’s Low Income Health Program. The statistics, reflecting enrollment activity from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, 2013, show that the demand for health care coverage in California remains strong. And the preliminary total of enrollments in Covered California health insurance plans from Oct. 1, 2013, through Jan. 15, 2014, has increased to more than 625,000, demonstrating continued vigor in the new insurance marketplace.

“We’re encouraged by the outpouring of interest and participation in the state insurance exchange,” said Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee. “While our objective is to insure all eligible Californians over time, independent estimates for Covered California’s subsidy-eligible enrollment by the March 31 deadline range between 487,000 and 696,000. These impressive numbers for the first half of open enrollment and the continued momentum in January tell us we are on track to meeting, if not beating, those enrollment estimates as we continue to pick up steam.” Lee noted that of those enrolled so far, 424,936 are eligible for subsidies. “We are pleased that Californians — many for the first time — are getting quality, affordable health insurance to protect themselves and their families,” Lee added.

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On This Day:

… with 98-year-old Charles Raynor at Smitty’s Place, Elyria, Ohio, Jan. 22, 2010

…. with 16-month-old Dyllan Schneider and her mother Crystal

…. holding a roundtable discussion at Lorain County Community College in Elyria

President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Biden and Dr Jill Biden attend the inaugural National Prayer Service at Washington National Cathedral, Jan. 22, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and Bo greet visitors during an inaugural open house in the Blue Room of the White House, Jan. 22, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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20
Jan
14

Rise and Shine

Five Years Ago Today

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Today:

1:30 EST: The President and First Lady participate in a service project, Washington, DC area

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Washington Post: Martin Luther King Jr. And The Catalyst Of Change

MARTIN LUTHER King Jr. preached nonviolence, practiced it and led a great movement guided by its principles. Yet surely he knew, as did most of his followers, that what they were doing would lead to violence. One need only look at the old black-and-white photos of civil rights protests, at the hatred, scorn and, perhaps most important, fear on the faces of some of the white people there to confront the demonstrators to understand how such simple acts as sitting down in a bus or entering a restaurant, seeking the right to vote or go to a better school, could lead to the worst sorts of violence — a bitter truth that followed King to the day of his death.

Yet out of that violence came new understanding of a sort: People who had been all but invisible to much of the United States came to be seen through the newspapers and television as individual human beings : women and children being firehosed; war veterans returning home to be subjected to all the humiliations and restrictions of the time (or to be murdered, like Medgar Evers); polite young men trying to get a sandwich at a lunch counter; a dignified woman who refused to give up her seat on a bus; the children killed by a bomb in a Birmingham church. For many Americans, this marked the first time they had come face to face, or had allowed themselves to come face to face, with the cruelty of racial separation and oppression, a century after the official end of slavery.

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John Blake: The Greatest MLK Speeches You Never Heard

‘Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community’ King’s fifth book was published in 196Why it’s important: This is King’s last — and most radical — book. By 1967, he was organizing a “Poor People’s Campaign,” a plan to dispatch an interracial army of poor people to occupy Washington and force the U.S. government to address poverty.

What he said: He takes on black nationalists who ridiculed nonviolence. He says the passage of civil rights laws is not enough. The country must institute a “massive, new national program” to attack poverty. He predicts the civil rights movement will go international as oppressed peoples in other countries adopt nonviolent tactics to combat America’s “economic colonialism.”

Signature lines: “White Americans must recognize that justice for black people cannot be achieved without radical changes in the structure of our society. The comfortable, entrenched, the privileged cannot continue to tremble at the prospect of change of the status quo. … This is a multiracial nation where all groups are dependent on each other. … There is no separate white path to power and fulfillment, short of social disaster, that does not share power with black aspirations for freedom and human dignity.”

What others say: “I get so tired of people turning Dr. King into a dreamer,” says Doreen Loury, a sociology professor at Arcadia University in Pennsylvania, who says she was blown away by the book when she first read it in the 1960s. “They made him safe. He was a revolutionary.”

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AP: MLK Discusses Kennedy In Rediscovered 1960 Tape

As the nation reflects on the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., an audiotape of an interview with the civil rights leader discovered in a Tennessee attic sheds new light on a famous phone call John F. Kennedy made to King’s wife more than 50 years ago. Historians generally agree that Kennedy’s phone call to Coretta Scott King expressing concern over her husband’s arrest in October 1960 — and Robert Kennedy’s work behind the scenes to get King released — helped JFK win the White House that fall.

King himself, while appreciative, wasn’t as quick to credit the Kennedys alone with getting him out of jail, according to a previously unreleased portion of the interview with the civil rights leader days after Kennedy’s election. “The Kennedy family did have some part … in the release,” King says in the recording, which was discovered in 2012. “But I must make it clear that many other forces worked to bring it about also.”

“I think Dr. King was aware in the tape that he probably did more for John F. Kennedy than perhaps John F. Kennedy did for him,” said Keya Morgan, a New York-based collector and expert on historical artifacts. John Kennedy didn’t actually commit to the movement until a few months before his assassination when civil rights leader Medgar Evers was gunned down by a Klansman outside his Jackson, Miss., home just after midnight on June 12, 1963. “There were a lot of black folks who … weren’t fully committed to his campaign,” said Winbush, who is also a historian and psychologist. “That call he made to Coretta moved black folks.”

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Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr., registering African-Americans to vote in Greenwood, Miss. on July 21, 1964

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Ned Resnikoff: Four Ways Martin Luther King Jr. Wanted To Battle Inequality

1. Ratify an economic bill of rights: In 1968, members of King’s premier civil rights group, the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC), drafted a letter demanding “an economic and social bill of Rights” that would promise all citizens the right to a job, the right to an adequate education, and the right to a decent house, among others.

“It cannot take more than two centuries for it to occur to this country that there is no real right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for people condemned by the accident of their birth to an existence of hereditary economic and social misery,” wrote the letter’s drafters. While the SCLC was specifically concerned with the ways in which economic inequality perpetuates racial inequality, they made clear that the rights they proposed would apply to all citizens. It sounded radical at the time.

In fact, the effort echoed a proposal made by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt during his 1944 State of the Union Address, when he called for a “second Bill of Rights,” to guarantee all citizens a “useful and remunerative job” and “adequate medical care.

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ZDF German news interview with President Obama from Friday

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Steve Kornacki: US Attorney Inquiry Into Christie Widens

The New Jersey mayor who publicly claimed this weekend that Gov. Chris Christie’s administration tried to withhold hurricane relief funds met Sunday in private with the U.S. attorney for the state of New Jersey. “This afternoon I met with the U.S. Attorney’s office for several hours at their request and provided them with my journal and other documents,” Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer said in a statement Sunday. “

As they pursue this investigation, I will provide any requested information and testify under oath about the facts of what happened when the Lieutenant Governor came to Hoboken and told me that Sandy aid would be contingent on moving forward with a private development project.”

Zimmer said Saturday in an interview with MSNBC that she would be willing to sign a sworn statement and testify under oath that she had been threatened by the governor’s staff to approve a development project or risk hurricane relief funding for her town of Hoboken, which was devastated by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.

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BBC: UN Invites Iran To Syria Peace Talks

UN chief Ban Ki-moon has invited Iran to take part in preliminary Syrian peace talks this week in Switzerland, an offer Tehran has accepted. Mr Ban said he had received assurances that Iran would play a positive role in securing a transitional government. The preliminary talks will open in Montreux on Wednesday and then continue in Geneva two days later.

Syria’s government and the main political opposition group earlier agreed to attend the meeting. The three-year conflict in Syria has claimed the lives of more than 100,000 people. An estimated two million people have fled the country and some 6.5 million have been internally displaced.

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White House: Statement by NSC Spokesperson Caitlin Hayden on Ukraine

We are deeply concerned by the violence taking place today on the streets of Kyiv and urge all sides to immediately de-escalate the situation. The increasing tension in Ukraine is a direct consequence of the government failing to acknowledge the legitimate grievances of its people. Instead, it has moved to weaken the foundations of Ukraine’s democracy by criminalizing peaceful protest and stripping civil society and political opponents of key democratic protections under the law.  We urge the Government of Ukraine to take steps that represent a better way forward for Ukraine, including repeal of the anti-democratic legislation signed into law in recent days, withdrawing the riot police from downtown Kyiv, and beginning a dialogue with the political opposition.  From its first days, the Maidan movement has been defined by a spirit of non-violence and we support today’s call by opposition political leaders to reestablish that principle. The U.S. will continue to consider additional steps — including sanctions — in response to the use of violence.

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Finally got around to reading the New Republic article on Snowden, Greenwald and Assange – ironically written by a character who has ‘Obama Derangement’ issues himself.

Not sure there’s anything new in it, but the section on Snowden says it all about his agenda and motivation:

…. by the end of Bush’s second term, Snowden certainly held the president in low esteem. But not, apparently, his intelligence policies. Nor, it seems, was he drawn to insiders who exposed details of these programs. Quite the opposite: Snowden vilified leakers and defended covert intelligence ops.

In January 2009, Snowden lambasted The New York Times and its anonymous sources for exposing a secret Bush administration operation to sabotage Iran’s nuclear capabilities. Such infuriating breaches had occurred “over and over and over again,” Snowden complained. The Times, he railed, was “like wikileaks” and deserved to go bankrupt; sources who leaked “classified shit” to the Times ought to “be shot in the balls.” When an online interlocutor suggested that it might be “ethical” to report “on the government’s intrigue,” Snowden replied emphatically: “VIOLATING NATIONAL SECURITY? No.” He explained, “that shit is classified for a reason.”

Surprise, surprise:

… nearly as soon as Obama took office, Snowden developed a deep aversion to the new president …. he became furious about Obama’s domestic policies on a variety of fronts. For example, he was offended by the possibility that the new president would revive a ban on assault weapons. “See, that’s why I’m goddamned glad for the second amendment,” Snowden wrote, in another chat. “Me and all my lunatic, gun-toting NRA compatriots would be on the steps of Congress before the C-Span feed finished.”

And this from the ‘progressive’ hero:

At the time the stimulus bill was being debated, Snowden also condemned Obama’s economic policies as part of a deliberate scheme “to devalue the currency absolutely as fast as theoretically possible.” (He favored Ron Paul’s call for the United States to return to the gold standard.) The social dislocations of the financial collapse bothered him not at all. “Almost everyone was self-employed prior to 1900,” he asserted. “Why is 12% employment [sic] so terrifying?” In another chat-room exchange, Snowden (TheTrueHOOHA) debated the merits of Social Security:

<TheTrueHOOHA> save money? cut this social security bullshit

<TheTrueHOOHA> Somehow, our society managed to make it hundreds of years without social security just fine

….. Later in the same session, Snowden wrote that the elderly “wouldn’t be fucking helpless if you weren’t sending them fucking checks to sit on their ass and lay in hospitals all day.”

What a classy guy.

Snowden’s disgruntlement with Obama, in other words, was fueled by a deep disdain for progressive policies …. Contrary to his claims, he seems to have become an anti-secrecy activist only after the White House was won by a liberal Democrat who, in most ways, represented everything that a right-wing Ron Paul admirer would have detested.

Full article here

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On This Day:

Jan. 20, 2009 – Pete Souza: “President-elect Barack Obama was about to walk out to take the oath of office. Backstage at the U.S. Capitol, he took one last look at his appearance in the mirror.”

Continue reading ‘Rise and Shine’

19
Jan
14

Rise and Shine

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama volunteer at Burrville Elementary School during the 2013 National Day of Service in Washington, January 19

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The Week Ahead:

Today: The President has no public events scheduled.

Monday: The President and the First Lady will participate in a community service project in the Washington, DC area in celebration of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service and in honor of Dr. King’s life and legacy. (1:30 EST).

Tuesday: The President and the Vice President will meet with members of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration.

Wednesday: The President and the Vice President will host an event for the Council on Women and Girls at the White House.

Thursday: The President will host a reception for mayors at the White House.

Friday: The President will attend meetings at the White House.

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All Voces: California Hospital Aggressive Approach To Obamacare, Enlists ‘Uninsured’ In ER

California Covered is one of the most successful health insurance exchanges in country and it is no accident the state exchange has enrolled the largest number of “uninsured” in the country. 2.2 million have enrolled for private health plans across the country as of Dec. 31, 2013. Covered California is a commitment by the leadership in California, Governor Jerry Brown, who has been committed to the success of the Affordable Care Act since its inception. Of those 2.2 million, nearly 500 thousand residents of California are covered. Which means that the state has enrolled 22 percent of all the new enrollees, according to the California Healthline.

It is no accident that California is highly successful in a state that has its own health care exchange and has opted into the “Medicaid expansion.” Hundreds of thousands have qualified for Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program. The options for Californians are plentiful. There is this example at O’Connor Hospital in San Jose, Calif. nothing like a captive audience. Araceli Martinez works in the building at the Hospital and runs the Health Benefits Resource Center just down the hall from the ER at the hospital. The Center has beefed up staffing and hours in response to the Affordable Care Act, says a report from NPR on enrolling “insured” patients in emergency rooms.

Seems the department pays for itself because 5,000 “uninsured” people come into O’Connor Hospital’s emergency department each year. It is the job Martinez and others that work at the Center to help the “uninsured” find health care coverage. The state of California has the highest number of “uninsured” in the country, with 7,106,100 residents according to the Kaiser Foundation, without coverage before Obamacare went into full swing and one of the highest percentages of “uninsured” at 19 percent of the population.

More here

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AP: Horse Slaughter Blocked By Federal Law

The resumption of commercial horse slaughter in the U.S. was blocked Friday as President Barack Obama signed a budget measure that withholds money for required federal inspections of the slaughtering process. Although the measure provides temporary funding for the federal government, it stops the Agriculture Department from spending money for inspections necessary for slaughterhouses to ship horse meat interstate and eventually export it to overseas consumers.

“This clear message from Washington echoes the opinions of an overwhelming number of Americans from coast to coast: horse slaughter is abhorrent and unacceptable,” said Matt Bershadker, president and CEO of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The president’s action came as a New Mexico judge granted a preliminary injunction against a Roswell company from moving forward with its plans to start slaughtering horses.

More here

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TPM: Hoboken Mayor: Christie Team Shook Us Down For Sandy Relief

You may have already seen Mayor Zimmer in the news this week. Hoboken received only 1% of the aid they had requested for Hurricane Sandy relief and planning funds even though it was one of the hardest-hit communities in the state during the storm. At one point, 80% of the 50,000 person city was flooded. If you remember the footage of water gushing through an underground subway station, that was in Hoboken; it has, in fact, the highest per-capita use of public transit of any city in America. Yet so far the state of New Jersey has given the city about $350,000 from the billions of dollars in federal disaster relief and planning aid that it is charged with administering. That’s about $6 per resident. It has been enough to pay for one major planning study and to buy one backup generator for an $18 million emergency storm water pump. 50,000 people. 80% flooded. $6 a head.

This Hoboken story and the Fort Lee/GWB story might seem like separate tales. But they’re not. Moreover, these latest revelations put to rest the notion that Hoboken’s Sandy aid or the Fort Lee/GWB story have anything to do with local Democratic officials’ endorsement of the governor during his reelection campaign. Forget about the endorsements. It never really added up anyway. The subpoenaed documents in Bridgegate show that the Christie administration used the Port Authority as an extension of their political operation, although we do not yet know to what end. And the Hoboken story clearly demonstrates the Christie administration took steps to aid the material interest of a client of the chairman of that agency.

More here

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Washington Post: How Aetna’s CEO Thinks About Obamacare

Aetna chief executive Mark Bertolini spoke Wednesday at the J.P. Morgan Health Care Conference — and he had a lot to say about the health-care law’s rollout. 1. The early exchange demographics are actually better than expected. Bertolini’s take on the age-breakdown of marketplace enrollees was really interesting — and different from the reaction in Washington. While most of us journalists pointed out that the Obama administration is falling short of its young adult enrollment target, that doesn’t really matter to Aetna. What matters to a health plan is who they expected to sign-up, and what type of age mixed they used to set their premium prices.

“Given the general demographics that CMS released yesterday, I’m not alarmed,” Bertolini says. “They’re better than I thought they would have been.” This is, incidentally, an idea that other insurance executives brought up this week: They don’t really care what goal the White House set for young adults. What matters to them — and what will determine if rates need to increase next year — is who they expected to sign up. “Things aren’t necessarily way out of whack with our expectations,” Wellpoint’s chief financial officer Wayne DeVeydt said at a separate presentation. “It’s not about whether or not you’re getting a sicker book. It’s whether you priced for it.”

More here

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Cosmopolitan: A Male Escort’s Perspective: What It’s Really Like Outside An Abortion Clinic

At least three Saturdays of every month, Chris Hill, 45, shows up at the Philadelphia Women’s Center, a privately funded abortion provider, to escort women past the protesters who assemble there. His job is to make women feel safe. Although there is a barricade in front of the clinic, and police lines that demarcate an area that the protesters are not supposed to cross over, there is no statewide buffer zone law in Pennsylvania. Hill, who has escorted hundreds if not thousands of women into the clinic over the last decade, wishes there were, as he has witnessed incidents of verbal assaults, threats and even physical contact. As a result of his personal experience, shared here, he cannot understand how the Supreme Court — now considering McCullen vs Coakley — could possibly overturn the 35-foot buffer zone law in Massachusetts.

I was 23 when I encountered my first protester. My then-girlfriend was 20 when she got pregnant. I was in college in New Orleans, and we knew it was not the right time for either of us to be parents. We went to a clinic, and after she checked in, I walked outside and ran into another guy who had also accompanied his girlfriend that day. Suddenly, these protesters came at us — they were shouting, and it felt like they were going to get physical. I was ready to start brawling when someone from the clinic intervened. “That’s what they want,” she said, ushering us back inside. I was fuming.

Ten years later, I had moved to Philadelphia and was walking with my then-wife who was six months pregnant. Suddenly, this guys starts shouting, “baby killers!” at us. I had no idea what he was talking about. He got up in my face and continued to shout that we were going to hell. I wanted to punch him, but my wife pulled me away. She realized that we were in front of a Planned Parenthood and that he was a protester. I was so pissed that I called the clinic to say, “What can I do to combat this?” They suggested calling the state attorney to register a complaint — and to consider being a male escort. I signed up that day. I joined the army at 17 because I believe in protecting people’s rights. I believe in reproductive rights, but the reason I do this work is to stop these mostly older white men from bullying women who are choosing what is best for them.

More here

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CNN: Barbara Bush Hopes Jeb Won’t Run For President

If former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush makes a bid for the White House, he may not have his mother’s blessing. Former First Lady Barbara Bush said in an interview with C-SPAN on Thursday that the United States needs to expand the number of families holding the nation’s highest political office beyond her own, as well as the Clintons and Kennedys.

“I think this is a great American country, great country, and if we can’t find more than two or three families to run for high office, that’s silly, because there are great governors and great eligible people to run,” she said. Though her son is certainly qualified to run for president, the former first lady said, “I hope he won’t.”

More here

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Joe Conason: Straightforward? Not The Best Description Of Chris Christie – Or His Pal Karl Rove

When Karl Rove praises a politician’s “straightforward” approach to an erupting scandal, it seems wise to expect that something very twisted will instead emerge in due course – and to consider his real objectives. In this instance, the former Bush White House political boss – and current Republican SuperPAC godfather – was discussing Chris Christie’s response to “Bridgegate,” as the events surrounding the vengeful closure of part of the George Washington Bridge by the New Jersey governor’s aides is now known.

“I think his handling of this, being straightforward, taking action — saying, ‘I’m responsible’ — firing the people probably gives him some street cred with some Tea Party Republicans, who say that’s what we want in a leader, somebody who steps up and takes responsibility,” said Rove. Pandering to the Fox audience, he went on to contrast the righteous Christie with Bill and Hillary Clinton as well as Barack Obama, and to note that the IRS and Benghazi “scandals” hadn’t gotten nearly enough attention compared with Bridgegate.

While Rove sticks a halo on the man his old boss Dubya used to call “Big Boy,” everyone else might want to wait for the documents and testimony forthcoming from investigations at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the bridge, in both houses of the New Jersey legislature, in the Department of Justice and in the United States Senate.

More here

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On This Day:

President Obama visits sixth grade students at the Graham Road Elementary School in Falls Church, Virginia, January 19, 2010

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President Barack Obama and President Hu Jintao of China greet guests on the South Lawn of the White House, Jan. 19, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

First daughter Sasha Obama went on a field trip – to her own home. The nine-year-old attended the arrival ceremony at the White House that began Chinese President Hu Jintao’s state visit.

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama welcome President Hu Jintao at the North Portico of the White House for the State Dinner, Jan. 19, 2011 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

President Obama, President Hu Jintao, and First Lady Michelle Obama descend the Grand Staircase of the White House (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama watch as President Hu Jintao greets daughters Sasha and Malia before the start of the State Dinner reception (Photo by Pete Souza)

Dee Dee Bridgewater performs during the State Dinner reception in the East Room of the White House, Jan. 19, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama speaks about tourism and travel, Jan. 19, 2012, along Main Street USA at the Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla

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President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama volunteer at Burrville Elementary School during the 2013 National Day of Service in Washington, January 19

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Vice President Biden helps package care kits for troops for the National Day of Service, Washington, January 19, 2013

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First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden participate in an interview prior to the Kids Inaugural Concert at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013 (Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)

First Lady Michelle Obama and her daughters Sasha and Malia at the Kids’ Inaugural concert in Washington on January 19, 2013

18
Jan
14

Rise and Shine

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama stand together in the Blue Room of the White House, before a brunch celebrating the Inauguration, Jan. 18, 2013 (Photo: Pete Souza)

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The Week Ahead:

Saturday and Sunday: The President has no public events scheduled.

Monday: The President and the First Lady will participate in a community service project in the Washington, DC area in celebration of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service and in honor of Dr. King’s life and legacy. (1:30 EST).

Tuesday: The President and the Vice President will meet with members of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration.

Wednesday: The President and the Vice President will host an event for the Council on Women and Girls at the White House.

Thursday: The President will host a reception for mayors at the White House.

Friday: The President will attend meetings at the White House.

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BREAKING NEWS

Steve Kornacki: Christie Camp Held Sandy Relief Money Hostage, Mayor Alleges

Two senior members of Gov. Chris Christie’s administration warned a New Jersey mayor earlier this year that her town would be starved of hurricane relief money unless she approved a lucrative redevelopment plan favored by the governor, according to the mayor and emails and personal notes she shared with msnbc. The mayor, Dawn Zimmer, hasn’t approved the project, but she did request $127 million in hurricane relief for her city of Hoboken – 80% of which was underwater after Sandy hit in October 2012. What she got was $142,000 to defray the cost of a single back-up generator plus an additional $200,000 in recovery grants.

In an exclusive interview, Zimmer broke her silence and named Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and Richard Constable, Christie’s community affairs commissioner, as the two officials who delivered messages on behalf of a governor she had long supported. Two days later, Zimmer got a call from the Lieutenant Governor, Kim Guadagno, who wanted to come to town to do an event at a ShopRite to spotlight businesses that had recovered from the storm.

On May 13, Guadagno and Zimmer met at the Hoboken ShopRite. That is where, Zimmer said, Guadagno delivered the first message about the relief aide. Zimmer shared this diary entry which she said she wrote later that day. “At the end of a big tour of ShopRite and meeting, she pulls me aside with no one else around and says that I need to move forward with the Rockefeller project. It is very important to the governor. The word is that you are against it and you need to move forward or we are not going to be able to help you. I know it’s not right – these things should not be connected – but they are, she says, and if you tell anyone, I will deny it.”

The second warning, according to Zimmer, came four days later. She and Constable, who now led Christie’s department of community affairs, were seated together on stage for a public television special on Sandy recovery. Again, Zimmer provided this diary entry from May 17, which she said captured the incident. “We are mic’ed up with other panelists all around us and probably the sound team is listening. And he says “I hear you are against the Rockefeller project”. I reply “I am not against the Rockefeller project; in fact I want more commercial development in Hoboken.” “Oh really? Everyone in the State House believes you are against it – the buzz is that you are against it. If you move that forward, the money would start flowing to you” he tells me.

More here

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USA Today: What A Shocker! Young People Like Obamacare

First it was, we think we are invincible. Then it was that the penalty was too low, or that we would be turned off by website glitches. After the Department of Health and Human Services released its initial age breakdown enrollment data Monday, it is time to finally put the pessimism to rest. Young people are enrolling in health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act, and for good reason — being covered is essential to their economic security.

Department of Health & Human Services announced that 30% of Obamacare’s 2.2 million private insurance enrollees are under the age of 35. More specifically 24% of enrollees are between the ages of 18- and 34-years-old. In other words, the exchanges have a percentage of young adult enrollees that is comparable to their proportion of the overall population. All the evidence suggests that youth enrollment will only go up as we get closer to the deadline.

More here

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“I’ve got to get back because somebody is having a birthday today…I’m going to go ahead and sign this bill.”

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Ari Berman: Members Of Congress Introduce A New Fix For The Voting Rights Act

The Sensenbrenner-Conyers-Leahy bill strengthens the VRA in five distinct ways: 1: The legislation draws a new coverage formula for Section 4, thereby resurrecting Section 5. States with five violations of federal law to their voting changes over the past fifteen years will have to submit future election changes for federal approval. This new formula would currently apply to Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Local jurisdictions would be covered if they commit three or more violations or have one violation and “persistent, extremely low minority turnout” over the past fifteen years.

The formula is based on a rolling calendar, updated with a current fifteen-year time period to exempt states who are no longer discriminating or add new ones who are, creating a deterrent against future voting rights violations. It’s based on empirical conditions and current data, not geography or a fixed time period—which voting rights advocates hope will satisfy Chief Justice John Roberts should the new legislation be enacted and reach the Supreme Court.

The new Section 4 proposal is far from perfect. It does not apply to states with an extensive record of voting discrimination, like Alabama (where civil rights protests in Selma gave birth to the VRA), Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, which were previously subject to Section 5. Nor does it apply to states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin that have enacted new voting restrictions in the past few years. Moreover, Department of Justice objections to voter ID laws will not count as a new violation.

More here

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David Cay Johnston: Willful Blindness Worsens Inequality

The rich really are getting richer, while the vast majority is getting poorer. All you have to do is look at the official government data to know this. Sadly, though, most of our nationally prominent journalists, especially David Brooks of The New York Times and PBS, do not know this because they neglect to do a basic journalistic task. It’s called reporting. The first and overwhelming problem is that his scale is wrong, probably because Brooks just conjured up the only hard number in that passage. Brooks writes about “the growing wealth of the top 5 percent.”

The threshold to be in the top 5 percent income group in 2012 was $161,000, analysis of tax return data by economists Emanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty shows. That is a lot of money to most people, but it is pocket change for top Wall Streeters, the group whose pay Brooks properly calls perverse. Lloyd Blankfein, who runs Goldman Sachs, was paid $23 million in 2012. That is 142 times the threshold to be in the top 5 percent. Looked at another way, had Blankfein been paid weekly, his first paycheck would have shown almost 3 times the gross pay that those at the top 5 percent threshold labored all year to make.

Goldman’s 32,400 employees made $12.6 billion last year, which is as much money as the lowest-earning 6.2 million American workers made the year before. To put that in another inequality perspective, in 2012 America had 23.3 million workers, all of them part-time or seasonal, who made less than $5,000. They averaged $2,025 each. Ponder that for a moment. About one worker in six made only $2,000.

More here

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Think Progress: Governor Of State With Highest Minimum Wage Says It’s Still Too Low

Washington Governor Jay Inslee (D), whose state has the highest minimum wage of any in the country at $9.32 an hour, proposed raising it to between $10.82 and $11.82 in his State of the State address on Tuesday. “There are tens of thousands of jobs that people depend on that don’t provide a living wage in our state,” he said. “An increase in minimum wage means more money being spent in our economy.”

Republicans in the sate House and Senate expressed concerns that a higher wage could hurt small businesses, farmers, and businesses along the border with Idaho, which has a minimum wage at the federal level of $7.25. Democrats control the House but Republicans effectively control the Senate. Washington has lately become home to demands for even higher minimum wages. In the town surrounding the Seattle-Tacoma airport, voters approved a $15 minimum wage, although a court recently narrowed its impact to just those who work outside the airport. The group that organized support for the higher wage is fighting that decision.

More here

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TIME: Harvey Weinstein To Take Aim At NRA In New Movie

Film executive Harvey Weinstein said Wednesday he plans to make an anti-gun movie starring Meryl Streep that will take a direct shot at the National Rifle Association. 

“We’re going to take this issue head on, and they’re going to wish they weren’t alive after I’m done with them,” Weinstein said on Howard Stern’s radio show. “I never want to have a gun,” Weinstein said. “I don’t think we need guns in this country, and I hate it, and I think the NRA is a disaster area.”

More here

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On This Day:

The “We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration At The Lincoln Memorial” on January 18, 2009 at the National Mall

President Obama shoots hoops with his personal aide, Reggie Love, at the White House Basketball Court, Jan. 18, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama meets with civil rights movement leader Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery and his family in the Oval Office, Jan. 18, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)




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