Scott Walker

Republican Obamacare replacement plans: A gift to the wealthy, a hit to the poor. As usual.

U.S. Republican presidential candidate and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker waves a U.S. one dollar bill as he formally announces his campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination during a kickoff rally in Waukesha, Wisconsin, July 13, 2015.   R

attribution: REUTERS

DAILY KOS

For people who’ve been paying attention, it pretty much goes without saying that the healthcare “reform” proposals by Republican presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Scott Walker would hurt the poor and help the wealthy. That’s what they do, they’re Republicans. But not everyone has been paying attention, and not everyone is aware of how much Obamacare has actually done to level the economic playing field, at least in health care. So it’s definitely worth taking a look at what repealing that law would mean, and the New York Times’s Margot Sanger-Katz did just that.

One of Obamacare’s main effects has been to redistribute income. The law taxes wages, health insurance and medical devices, and raises insurance prices for wealthy, healthy people. It uses the money to subsidize insurance for people who are poor or whose health history made them poor insurance risks in the old system. As my colleague Kevin Quealy and I wrote last year, the law has had the effect of pushing back against income inequality. In addition to lowering the cost of buying insurance, federal dollars also reduce the out-of-pocket costs that low-income Americans now pay when they use those plans. […]Governor Walker’s plan appears to be less generous for many poor Americans. It would roll back the Medicaid expansion that has provided free insurance to low-income adults. It would distribute tax credits to those with private coverage on the basis of age, not income. […] [F]or people without a lot to spend on insurance, a comprehensive health plan may slip back out of reach. For others, an affordable plan might be so bare-bones that it wouldn’t kick in before a major health catastrophe.

Wealthier people, on the other hand, could fare better under this plan, as long as they’re healthy. They would get more federal money to buy insurance plans, and they would have the choice of buying cheaper, less comprehensive plans than those offered under Obamacare rules.

The Rubio plan, less detailed than Walker’s since it’s just an op-ed rather than a white paper, would do the same—provide some sort of tax credit for health insurance. But what it would also do is sweep away everything existing in Obamacare—all of the regulations that help keep prices down for the not-rich. That includes ending lifetime caps for how much insurance companies will pay out to keep you covered, or the provision that lets adult children stay on family plans up to age 26, or requiring all plans provide for preventive care services without any additional copays from patients. All of these things help keep healthcare costs down. The idea of getting rid of it all, as Sanger-Katz explains it, is that “[w]ithout all the rules, and without as many sick people in the system, insurance would be expected to become less expensive, and perhaps more inventive.” The problem is that we’ve tried that already, in the pre-Obamacare system. It didn’t work.

When you factor the massive cuts all Republican plans would make to Medicaid and the inevitable cuts that Medicare would experience once privatized (in Rubio’s plan and the Republican House budget), the hit to low- and moderate-income people is even bigger. That’s a feature, not a bug, in these Republican plans. Because, after all, there’s always the emergency room for those people.

Scott Walker Gets Punk’d At New Hampshire Campaign Event (PHOTO)

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TPM LIVEWIRE

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) is no stranger to blunders on his presidential campaign trail.

First, it was Philly — where he made some serious cheesesteak gaffes. On Monday, the candidate got punk’d by a man who appeared to be holding a sign supporting Walker — until he flipped it around.

A reporter at The Guardian got the photo:

wALKER pUNKED

Those behind the trick were Tyler McFarland, 23, and Giselle Hart, 20, who wanted to talk to Walker about climate change, according to The Washington Post.

Walker attended an event this weekend, hosted by the conservative brothers Charles and David Koch, where many conservative voters were expected to give $1 billion to campaigns.

But Walker’s bad day didn’t stop there. As the governor took questions from the press outside the event, a man, described by The Washington Post, as wearing a blacktop hat and carrying a white flower, approached Walker with a sign that read, “How can we make the world better.”

Several staffers stood in front of the man, the Post reported, but he eventually jumped on a rock and screamed, “Scott Walker will do anything to get elected! Because that’s what politicians do!”

SARA JERDE

10 things you need to know today: July 3, 2015

AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File

THE WEEK

1. BP agrees to $18.7 settlement for Gulf oil spill
BP has agreed to pay $18.7 billion to settle all claims against it in connection with the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, officials saidThursday. The settlement, which still must be approved by a federal judge, would be the largest environmental settlement ever. States and cities along the Gulf Coast have said the spill chased off tourists and fish, and cost them a fortune in taxes. The payments would include $5.5 billion under the Clean Water Act, $7.1 billion for environmental harm, $5 billion to the states, and $1 billion to local governments.

Source: The New York Times

2. Ex-Senator Jim Webb of Virginia launches bid for Democratic presidential nomination
Former Virginia Senator Jim Webb announced Thursday that he wouldrun for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. Webb is a former Republican who served as secretary of the navy under Ronald Reagan. He offers voters a more conservative option to Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, who has appealed to liberals since launching her second bid for the White House in April. Webb has an uphill battle ahead, as he lacks the former secretary of state’s name recognition.

Source: The Washington Post

3. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker takes step toward entering presidential race
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on Thursday took the first step toward officially joining the 2016 presidential race by filing papers with the Federal Election Commission. Walker is expected to formallyannounce his candidacy for the Republican nomination on July 13 with a speech in his hometown of Waukesha, Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee. Walker, who won over many conservatives by taking on unions in his state, led a 16-candidate GOP pack in the latest Quinnipiac poll in Iowa.

Source: CBS News

4. Aetna to buy Humana for $37 billion
Health insurer Aetna said Friday that it would buy smaller rival Humana for $37 billion in the insurance industry’s biggest deal ever. Antitrust regulators will have to review how the acquisition would affect competition. If the deal goes through, the combined company will have about $115 billion and 33 million members, nearly as many as No. 2 carrier Anthem. The deal could be the start of a wave of consolidation that was on hold before last week’s Supreme Court ruling upholding ObamaCare subsidies nationwide.

Source: Reuters

5. Thousands evacuated after train carrying toxic chemicals derails in Tennessee
Five thousand people in Tennessee were ordered to evacuate their homes on Thursday after a CSX train carrying toxic chemicals partly derailed outside of Knoxville. Fifty-two people sought treatment at local hospitals; 25 of them were admitted. The train was carrying acrylonitrile, which authorities said was a “highly flammable and toxic gas.” The crash ignited a fire, which firefighters rushed to extinguish so 30 mph winds would not cause the blaze to spread.

Source: NBC News

6. Alleged terrorist mastermind killed by U.S. airstrike in Tunisia 
U.S. officials said Thursday that Tunisia’s most wanted jihadist — Seifallah Ben Hassine, also known as Abu Ayadh — was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Libya last month. The strike targeted another al Qaeda leader. Ben Hassine’s death, if confirmed, would mark a major success for Tunisia, which has been battling insurgents in its western border region. Last Friday militants massacred 38 people, most of them British, in an attack on a beach resort. Ben Hassine was suspected of masterminding several terrorist attacks and assassinations.

Source: The New York Times

7. Navy Yard report of gunman proves to be a false alarm
A shooting scare at the Washington Navy Yard ended Thursday with no shots fired. D.C. police and federal law enforcement agents swarmed the facility. They were already on alert for terrorist threats ahead of the Fourth of July weekend. The Navy Yard and the surrounding area were closed for three hours, but investigators found no evidence of a gunman. Authorities said the search was a good test of lessons learned in a 2013 massacre at the Navy Yard.

Source: The Washington Times

8. ISIS militants destroy ancient statues in Syria
Islamic State militants smashed artifacts from the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, the Islamist group said in a statement posted on social media sites Thursday. ISIS militants captured a man smuggling at least six ancient statues through Aleppo province and took him to a self-proclaimed Islamic court in the ISIS-controlled city of Manbij. The court ruled the relics violated ISIS’ interpretation of Islam. Militants then destroyed them with sledgehammers, and publicly lashed the smuggler.

Source: CNN

9. Van carrying fireworks explodes, closing freeway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas
A van filled with fireworks exploded Thursday in California five miles from the Nevada state line, shutting down a freeway connecting Los Angeles and Las Vegas. The Chevrolet box van caught fire on the shoulder of the highway. “The fireworks were exploding inside,” San Bernardino County Fire Department spokeswoman Tracey Martinez said. “The truck burned to the ground.” Southbound traffic was stopped for an hour as firefighters tried to extinguish the blaze. It was not immediately clear whether the fireworks were legal.

Source: Los Angeles Times

10. Washington woman dies of measles in first death from the disease since 2003
U.S. health officials revealed Thursday that a Washington woman recently died of measles — the first death from the disease in the U.S. since 2003. Measles is highly contagious, but it is extremely rare for a patient to die from it. Officials did not immediately say whether the woman had been vaccinated, although they said her immune system was compromised due to medications she was taking. Over the last year, measles cases have soared to an all-time high of 644 since the U.S. was declared to be measles-free in 2000.

Source: The Associated Press

Harold Maass

“Scott Walker, Please Come Home” says Major Wisconsin Editorial

Gov. Scott Walker speaks during the North Carolina Republican Party convention in Raleigh, N.C., earlier this month | Associated Press

DAILY KOS

The headline just says it all. Things are so bad here in the Legislature that the newspaper is begging Scott Walker to come home, if only for a short time.This isn’t from The Onion, but from the most highly read Wisconsin newspaper, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. One that has endorsed Scott Walker, tends to ignore his bad news, and prints his talking points like Gospel.

But here in Wisconsin, the budget he proposed last winter is foundering, and not because of Democratic opposition but because his Republican colleagues can’t come to terms. Last week, Republican leaders were sniping at each other over whether Assembly Republicans wanted to delaythe reconstruction of the Zoo Interchange to build pressure for increasing the gas tax or vehicle registration fees.The impasse is apparently over how to pay for the transportation budget and how to finance a deal for a new arena in downtown Milwaukee. These are big issues, and they deserve Walker’s attention. In addition, as an editorial on Friday on this page noted, there are a host of items in the budget that simply shouldn’t be there. Mainly, they’re non-budget items sneaked into the budget with little discussion or public input, a practice that candidate Walker decried in 2010. In an informal Journal Sentinel poll last week, readers overwhelmingly were giving the Legislature an F grade on its handling of the budget.

(bolding is mine)I’ve also written about the mayhem that Republican Legislators brought to the budget process while Walker has been out campaigning (unannounced) for President. And, in an editorial last week, the newspapers’ editorial staff seemed to agree.

But there’s another problem with this budget: It’s so full of non-budget dead weight that it’s kind of amazing it doesn’t just sink of its own accord.On their own, many of these items are worthy of discussion and may be even worthy of passage. But most are policy matters that have little or nothing to do with the state’s fiscal books. They deserve full and separate consideration — including public hearings and a healthy public debate — before they become law. Instead, they’ve been quietly inserted into the budget, often in the wee hours, to avoid public scrutiny. Citizens should demand they be removed from the budget; legislators should have the decency to do so.

(bolding is mine)

It’s bad enough that Walker has not only completely flip flopped on his 2010 campaign promise to not use the budget for non-budgetary items, but crammed his policy agenda into each and every budget (starting with busting the unions of all public employees in Wisconsin in his infamous Budget Repair Bill).  Now Republican Legislators have followed Walkers’ lead inserting every item on their policy wish list into the budget this year.

For example, in 2010, Gov. Scott Walker’s  campaign website proclaimed he would “Strip policy and pork projects from the state budget. The budget process should be about funding essential government services based on the taxpayers’ ability to pay. It should not be about horse trading for special interest groups or establishing talking points for the next campaign.”The governor was right then, but his office turned its back on that sound good government philosophy by loading up this budget with policy items, including items on education, long-term health care and natural resources. And then the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee got into the act.

Walker has found it to be a great strategy for getting policy items passed since there are so many of them that most go unnoticed in an 1800 page budget. And even those that do get noticed, like his recent attempt to change the mission statement of our State University system, are only occasionally removed when lame excuses (“the University requested the change” – lie) and placing blame elsewhere (“it was a drafting error” – lie) don’t work. The rest simply pass right on through with no debate and no discussion.

Loading up the budget with non-budgetary items is no way to run a government. Walker acknowledged that in 2010.

Yes, he acknowledged that in his campaign. By now, however, we know that Walker says one thing during a campaign and then does something else after he’s elected;  and this should serve as a warning to Republican primary voters. He doesn’t keep his promises.What you get with Walker is government by surprise. Well, not so much “governing” either. It become more like imperial “ruling” than governing. Using his elected office to repay donors and batter real or imagined enemies.

Walker has serious problems back home which have worsened with him away. WEDC, his “job creation agency” is awash in corruption, the budget has turned into a carnival side show, and Republicans, who dominate the State Legislature, are bickering like toddlers over who gets to toss more goodies into the State Budget.

As terrible as Scott Walker has been as Governor of Wisconsin, his absence has created a leadership vacuum that far too many Republicans are fighting to fill. And that chaos is being noticed.

In the Sunday editiorial, they’ve finally remembered Walkers’ campaign pledge last year that he “only wants to be Governor”.

When he was running for re-election last year, he told a group of Journal Sentinel opinion writers and reporters that he really wanted to be Wisconsin’s governor, and that he would act as such in his second term. He would actually govern. I don’t think he’s doing that; and that’s certainly the perception of many in the public, who think he’s running for president full-time. Maybe he’s working behind the scenes, but if he is, it’s so far back that no one knows he’s there.

Walker wants the Presidency so badly that he’s not even pretending to be Governor anymore. And when your media pals and supporters notice that, it isn’t good.Your media pals need you so come on back home, Governor. Fluffing you up is hard enough already considering how much damage you’ve done to the state. And the current evident corruption and mayhem make your media poodles have to work even harder.

Sue

Republican “Survivor”: A Proposal for Culling the G.O.P. Field

Voters (and viewers) can’t be expected to take fifteen or twenty Republican primary candidates seriously.

Voters (and viewers) can’t be expected to take fifteen or twenty Republican primary candidates seriously. CREDIT PHOTOGRAPH BY ANDREW HARRER/BLOOMBERG VIA GETTY

THE NEW YORKER

A couple of weeks ago, I was driving along the Belt Parkway, listening to Sean Hannity’s radio show, when the right-wing commentator said something that surprised me about the ever-expanding field of Republican primary candidates. This is getting ridiculous, Hannity complained—how are they all supposed to fit on the same stage for a debate?

Hannity’s fears have proved to be well grounded. On Wednesday, the former senator Rick Santorum, who had been the runner-up to Mitt Romney in the 2012 G.O.P. primary, announced his candidacy. On Thursday, it will be the turn of George Pataki, the former governor of New York. Who knows whom Friday will bring? Lindsey Graham? Rick Perry? Donald Trump? Herman (999) Cain? Ted Nugent?

Here, in alphabetical order, are the eight Republican candidates who, by Thursday, will be officially running: Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Pataki, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Santorum. Then there are Jeb Bush and Scott Walker, two front-runners who have all but announced that they are in. Currently in the “exploratory” stage, we have Graham, Trump, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, and the benighted Chris Christie. That makes fifteen, with other outlying possibilities, too.

The number turns out to be too high for Roger Ailes, Hannity’s boss at Fox News. The network (along with Facebook) is set to host the first televised G.O.P. debate, in Cleveland, on August 6th, and it has said that it intends to limit participation to the top ten candidates in the polls, plus those who are tied. “It was a difficult call based on political necessity,” Howard Kurtz, the veteran media reporter, who now works for Fox, explained in a post on Tuesday. “With 17 or 18 Republicans gearing up to run, you simply can’t have a viable debate with all of them. Each candidate would receive a miniscule amount of time. No sustained questioning would be possible. And it would be bad television.”

Not everyone associated with the Republican Party is happy about Fox’s decision. Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Wednesday, Bill Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard, accused Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, of colluding with Fox to cull the field prematurely. “There are fourteen candidates who are serious people,” Kristol said (doubtless prompting a protest call from Trump). “I think they all deserve to be on the stage.” He proposed that they have two debates, with the candidates split up randomly. “Republicans would be interested. They wouldn’t turn off the TV halfway through.”

Kristol raises a good point. If Fox applied its proposed criteria on the basis of current polling data collated by Real Clear Politics, Santorum, who won eleven state primaries in 2012, would barely make the cut. Fiorina, the only female candidate, who has reportedly impressed Republican audiences in Iowa and New Hampshire, would miss out. So would Graham, Jindal, and Kasich, all experienced elected officials. That doesn’t seem fair, or even particularly democratic. So what to do?

The G.O.P. needs a procedure that affords all of the candidates an opportunity to impress while also acknowledging that voters (and viewers) can’t be expected to take all fifteen or twenty candidates seriously. One solution might be to turn the early stages of the G.O.P. primary into a version of “Survivor,” the long-running reality-television series.

Here’s how it could work. Following Kristol’s suggestion, Fox and Facebook would hold two debates on August 6th, with the candidates drawing lots to decide whether they appeared on the first or the second one. Each would receive the same amount of airtime, and the questions in the two debates would be broadly similar.

For the second debate, which CNN is scheduled to host from the Reagan Library, in Simi Valley, on September 16th, things would be different. A limit of twelve candidates would be imposed. Rather than follow the “Survivor” template literally, and have the candidates themselves decide who gets to appear at the debate and who doesn’t, it would be best to rely on surveys of likely Republican voters. The top dozen candidates in the poll of polls on September 9th, a week before the debate, would make the cut; everybody else would miss out. I’d leave it to the network executives and the R.N.C. to decide whether this debate would need to be split in two, like the first one. (CNN has suggested an alternative format for its event, using the full slate of candidates, in which the top ten candidates appear in one debate and the rest in another.)

The winnowing process wouldn’t end there. For the third debate, which will take place in October, there would be another cut, to ten candidates, with the poll of polls again deciding who is invited. And for the fourth debate, in November, there would be a final cut, to eight candidates.

By that stage, the G.O.P.’s Iowa caucus would be on the horizon—it’s now slated for February 2nd, but may well move up a bit—and the field might be starting to narrow of its own accord, regardless. But for now, and for the next few months, there are too many candidates, and some way of treating them equitably needs to be found.

My solution perhaps isn’t the best. Quite probably, it would favor candidates who have raised enough money to launch advertising campaigns and boost their poll numbers—but the current system does that anyway. Another possible objection is that focussing attention on the minor players would blur the message of the front-runners. I doubt that would happen. Bush, Rubio, and Walker would still get the bulk of the media’s attention.

On the upside, shifting to the “Survivor” model would afford everyone an opportunity, and it would inject a bit of excitement into the race early on. Over to you, Reince!

John Cassidy

Scott Walker: Mandatory Ultrasounds Are ‘Just A Cool Thing’ For Women

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AP Photo / Gerald Herbert

Such an uninformed clown…

TPM LIVEWIRE

During the interview with conservative radio host Dana Loesch, Walker defended a bill he’d signed in 2013 that required women get the ultrasounds.

“The thing about that, the media tried to make that sound like that was a crazy idea,” Walker said. “Most people I talk to, whether they’re pro-life or not, I find people all the time who’ll get out their iPhone and show me a picture of their grandkids’ ultrasound and how excited they are, so that’s a lovely thing. I think about my sons who are 19 and 20, and we still have their first ultrasounds. It’s just a cool thing out there.”

He also lauded the bill’s effects.

“We just knew if we signed that law, if we provided the information, that more people if they saw that unborn child would make a decision to protect and keep the life of that unborn child,” Walker said.

Listen to the audio below, from Right Wing Watch:

AHIZA GARCIA

Scott Walker Epically Fails At Math And History In One Single Tweet (IMAGE)

ADDICTING INFO

This week, potential 2016 presidential contender and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker demonstrated how little knowledge he had of history and basic mathematical skills – all at once. Observing the arrival of the first settlers to Jamestown in 1607, this gem of a tweet was released from Walker’s account:

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 4.13.59 PM

There’s just one little (or glaring) problem: the settlers really arrived 408 years ago – not 505, as the tweet states. Walker’s “team” eventually realized they were 97 years ahead of themselves, and sent out a correction 50 minutes later. Walker basically threw his so-called team under the bus for the error.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 4.14.08 PM

The president of Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation, James Horn, responded to the tweet with humor:

“It’s always gratifying to hear our politicians referencing the early history of our country and, in this case, the founding of Jamestown. I am sure that on reflection Governor Walker will recall that Jamestown was founded in 1607 which is 408 years ago.”

Eric Walker, the western regional press secretary for the Democratic Party, also thought the erroneous tweet was comical and posted this, eluding to the fact that Walker had never earned a college degree.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 5.32.28 PM

The mathematical flub is hilarious, but the tweet attracted criticism for another, more serious reason. Walker was called out for being a hypocrite, since the tweet was commemorating the nation’s first immigrants. Recently, the Wisconsin governor has been developing a track record for opposing undocumented immigrants gaining citizenship in the United States. Just two months ago, Walker stated that he didn’t “believe in amnesty.” In April, it appeared that he wanted to limit legal immigration when he said:

“In terms of legal immigration, how we need to approach that going forward is saying, we will make adjustments. The next president and the next Congress need to make decisions about a legal immigration system that’s based on, first and foremost, on protecting American workers and American wages, because the more I’ve talked to folks — I’ve talked to Senator Sessions and others out there, but it is a fundamentally lost issue by many in elected positions today —is what is this doing for American workers looking for jobs, what is this doing to wages, and we need to have that be at the forefront of our discussion going forward.”

It seems that Walker’s Twitter feed has nothing to do with facts, or anything he actually believes in.

~

Scott Walker’s plan for Wisconsin education: Slash it to the bone

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker talks with other governors before the arrival of U.S. President Barack Obama to address the National Governors Association at the White House in Washington February 23, 2015. .REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) | (Reuters)

Daily Kos

As Gov. Scott Walker ramps up his 2016 presidential campaign, he’s using Wisconsin to show what he’d like to do to the entire United States of America. Right now, his budget—the one that would cut $300 million from universities while including $220 million in bonds for a professional basketball arena—is being debated, and Alice Ollstein takes a look at its effects on education:

Funding at UW-Rock County would be stripped back to levels not seen since 1998, and the school’s dean has said faculty layoffs are almost certain. The situation appears even more dire at UW-Eau Claire, where administrators have offered buyouts to a record 325 faculty and staff members — about a quarter of the campus’ employees. These so-called “go away packages” have been offered to nearly half of the school’s political science department. UW-Stevens Point reports they willeliminate several entire majors, even for studentscurrently enrolled in them.And it’s not just higher education feeling the pain.

Public primary schools across Wisconsin will lose about $127 million in education aid next year, largely by scrapping a special $150 per-student fund that Wisconsin school districts received over the past two years.

The struggling Milwaukee public schools are set to lose more than $12 million.

Prediction: After cutting $12 million from the Milwaukee public schools, Walker will grandstand about how the schools are failing the children, using that to push privatization.

This is looming widespread disaster. In higher education, we’re talking about a significant number of jobs, including both faculty and staff. Students will be affected, too, and not just by bigger classes and less advising and support: If you eliminate entire majors, the students currently in those majors are going to have to scramble to graduate. It may take some longer to put together the courses needed for a new major, meaning they’ll accumulate more student loans. If the students had career plans based on a specific major, they’ll be graduating and looking for jobs at a disadvantage. In K-12 schools, already hit hard by Walker’s 2011 budget, another round of cuts could mean fewer guidance counselors, less art and music education, bigger classes, scantier classroom supplies—generally a barebones, second-class education.

Which Scott Walker would like to export to the rest of us starting in 2017. At least where Republican governors and state legislatures haven’t already beat him to it.

10 things you need to know today: March 10, 2015

The Week

1.Obama criticizes GOP senators over letter to Iran
President Obama on Monday accused Republican senators of “interfering” in nuclear negotiations by writing a letter to Iran warning that any deal could be modified or revoked by Congress after Obama leaves office in 2017. The letter came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the invitation of GOP leaders, told a joint session of Congress that a deal would “pave Iran’s path to the bomb.” Obama said the 47 senators who signed the letter were forming an “unusual coalition” with hardline Iranian leaders.

Source: BBC News

2.Missouri puts state judge in charge of Ferguson municipal court
The Missouri Supreme Court assigned a state appeals court judge to oversee municipal cases in Ferguson, saying “extraordinary action” was needed to restore trust in the court system there. The move came days after a scathing Justice Department report accusing the police and municipal court of unfairly targeting African Americans, and using court cases to raise money. The current municipal judge, Ronald J. Brockmeyer, announced his resignation after being cited repeatedly in the report.

Source: The New York Times

3.HBO unveils new stand-alone streaming service
HBO announced at Apple’s big Monday product announcement that it was launching HBO Now, a stand-alone subscription streaming video service that would be available exclusively on Apple products starting in early April. The $14.99 per month service will include full access to HBO TV shows as well as films available for viewing on its premium cable service. Subscribers will be able to view the programming on iPads, iPhones, and Apple TVs. HBO chairman and CEO Richard Plepler called the move a “transformative moment for HBO.”

Source: PC World

4.CBO lowers estimate of ObamaCare’s cost
The Congressional Budget Office released a forecast on Monday estimating that the Affordable Care Act would cost 11 percent less than previously expected. President Obama’s signature health-care law is now projected to cost $142 billion less that predicted in January, mainly due to a 20 percent decline in the expected cost of premium subsidies. The subsidy spending revisions were the result of “projections of slower growth in premiums and, to a lesser extent, slightly lower exchange enrollment,” according to the CBO.
5.Gov. Scott Walker signs Wisconsin “right to work” legislation
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on Monday signed a law banning labor contracts requiring employees of private businesses to pay union dues. The so-called right to work law was backed by manufacturers, while organized labor fought it. Wisconsin is the 25th state to approve such a law. Walker, who is considered a potential GOP president candidate in 2016, said the legislation would be “one more big tool” to attract businesses to the state.

Source: Journal Sentinel

6.Obama sanctions Venezuela over human rights abuses
President Obama on Monday signed an executive order increasing sanctions on Venezuela over alleged human rights abuses. “We are deeply concerned by the Venezuelan government’s efforts to escalate intimidation of its political opponents,” the White House said in a statement, calling for the country to respect rights such as freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly.” The move, which builds on the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014, includes sanctions on seven Venezuelan officials.

Source: USA Today

7.Oklahoma loses a top recruit over racist video
A top University of Oklahoma football recruit, offensive tackle Jean Delance, reversed a decision to play for the Sooners on Monday. He cited “personal reasons,” but later acknowledged that the driving factor was a racist video in which members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity chanted about lynching and said no black person would ever join the frat. Also on Monday, the school severed ties with the fraternity and shut it down, a day after the national fraternity closed the campus chapter.

Source: Yahoo Sports, Chicago Tribune

8.59 injured in North Carolina Amtrak wreck
At least 59 people were injured Monday when an Amtrak train slammed into a tractor-trailer that was stuck on the tracks in North Carolina. The truck driver, who had been trying to make a difficult left, jumped out before impact. The New York-bound train’s locomotive and baggage car derailed when the engine hit the truck’s oversized flatbed trailer, which was carrying a modular home. It was the third major train crash in less than two months, following deadly wrecks in New York and California.

Source: NBC News

9. Three top French athletes among 10 killed in helicopter crash
Three French sports stars, including Olympic gold-medal-winning swimmer Camille Muffat, were among 10 people killed in a helicopter crash in Argentinaon Monday. Two other top French athletes — yachtswoman Florence Arthaud and Olympic boxer Alexis Vastine — were also among the dead. They were traveling with a TV production crew to shoot part the reality TV showDropped for French TV station TF1 when two helicopters collided. Both pilots and several members of the production company also died.

Source: Reuters

10.Simpsons co-creator Sam Simon dies at 59
Sam Simon, co-creator of The Simpsons, died Monday after battling colon cancer for more than two years. He was 59. Simon, who left The Simpsons in 1993 but remained an executive producer, was diagnosed in late 2012. Doctors told him then that he had three to six months to live. Simon decided to give away the bulk of his fortune, and, mostly through his Sam Simon Foundation, focused on feeding hungry families with vegan fare, and rescuing stray and abused dogs.

Source: Los Angeles Times

10 things you need to know today: February 22, 2015

Kutluhan Cucel / Getty Images

The Week

1.Sec. Kerry threatens Russia with more sanctions
Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday said the U.S. could impose more sanctions on Russia should Moscow violate the latest truce in Ukraine and continue with its “land-grabbing” in the region. Though a delicate cease-fire aimed at ending the year-old conflict between Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists went into effect last weekend, both sides accused the other of continued aggressions. “If this failure continues, make no mistake there will be further consequences including consequences that will place added strains on Russia’s already troubled economy,” Kerry said.

Source: The Guardian

2.Turkey evacuates soldiers, remains from Syrian tomb
The Turkish Army on Saturday rescued about 40 military guards from a shrine in northern Syria that had been encircled by ISIS. The Turkish Foreign Ministry said more than 500 troops, aided by tanks and armored vehicles, retrieved the soldiers from the Tomb of Suleyman Shah, which lies within Syria but is considered part of Turkey. Turkey also temporarily relocated the tomb’s remains to prevent ISIS from obtaining or desecrating them. “The ongoing conflict and state of chaos in Syria posed serious risks to safety and security of the tomb,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Source: CNN

3.Defense Secretary says U.S. may slow Afghan withdrawal
Making an unannounced visit to Kabul on Saturday, new Defense Secretary Ash Carter suggested that the United States’ troop withdrawal from Afghanistan may be slowed to ensure that “progress sticks” in the war-torn nation. “President Obama is considering a number of options to reinforce our support for President [Ashraf] Ghani’s security strategy, including possible changes to the timeline for our drawdown of U.S. troops,” Carter said. The current schedule would wind the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan down to about 5,000 by the end of 2015, with a target of lowering that to a “normal” troop presence at the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan by the end of 2016.

Source: Reuters

4.Scott Walker: ‘I don’t know’ if Obama loves America, is a Christian
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R ) on Saturday declined to answer basic questions about President Obama’s faith and commitment to the nation. “I don’t know,” Walker said when The Washington Post asked him if the president is Christian. “I’ve actually never talked about it or I haven’t read about that.” In a separate interview with The Associated Press, the prospective 2016 candidate also shrugged off a question about Rudy Giuliani’s claim Obama does not love America, saying, “I’ve never asked him so I don’t know.” A Walker spokesperson later clarified the governor thinks Obama is indeed Christian, and that he was simply trying to avoid answering “gotcha questions.”

Source: The Washington Post

5.Bangladesh ferry capsizes, kills at least 30
More than two dozen people died Sunday after a ferry carrying more than 100 passengers collided with a cargo ship on the Padma River. Early estimates put the death toll between 30 and 40, though that could change as rescue divers search for people trapped inside the submerged vessel.

Source: The Los Angeles Times

6.Chris Bosh out for season with blood clots in lung
Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh will miss the remainder of the 2014-15 season after developing blood clots in one of his lungs, the team announced Saturday. Bosh had been dealing with pain in his side for days before doctors discovered the clots, which can be fatal; former NBA player Jerome Kersey died Wednesday of a blood clot in his lung. “His health will be restored,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Saturday. “That’s the most important thing. That’s bigger than basketball.”

Source: ESPN

7.Study: India’s polluted air cutting short 660 million lives
More than half of India’s population may be facing a shortened life expectancy due to filthy air, according to a study published Saturday in the journal Economic & Political Weekly. Using previous research on China’s air pollution, the study found that 660 million people were breathing in unsafe levels of fine particulate matter and losing at least 3.2 years of their lives as a result. “The extent of the problem is actually much larger than what we normally understand,” Anant Sudarshan, one of the study’s co-author’s and the India director of the Energy Policy Institute of Chicago, said.

Source: The New York Times

8.Sprawling storm brings fatal snow, ice to South and East
Yet another weekend storm dumped snow, sleet and, and ice across the South and East from Saturday into Sunday. At least 21 people died in Tennessee from storm-related fatalities, including hypothermia, as Gov. Bill Haslam (R) upgraded the state of emergency there to Level 2. Further north, Washington, D.C., and New York City each saw about five inches of snow, while snowed-in Boston received about another inch of powder.

Source: USA Today, CBS

9. NASCAR driver Kurt Busch loses final appeal
NASCAR driver Kurt Busch on Saturday lost the final appeal of his indefinite suspension from racing. NASCAR suspended Busch on Fridayafter a Delaware judge ruled he choked and beat his ex-girlfriend. The ruling means Busch will miss Sunday’s season-opening Daytona 500.

Source: The Chicago Tribune

10.Academy Awards to crown best in film Sundaynight
The 87th Academy Awards will be held tonight as Hollywood’s award season culminates with its most prestigious event. Birdman and Boyhoodare expected to take home the night’s top honors. Neil Patrick Harris will host the show for the first time.

Source: ABC

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