U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: June 27, 2014

A Syrian rebel shows off his guns.
A Syrian rebel shows off his guns. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen, File)

The Week

Obama makes his first request to train and equip Syrian rebels, the U.S. advances in the World Cup, and more

1. Obama requests $500 million in military aid for Syrian rebels
President Obama on Thursday asked Congress for $500 million to “train and equip” Syrian opposition fighters — his first request for such direct military aid to rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government. Opposition groups receiving the aid will be vetted to make sure they have no ties to Islamist militants, and no decision has been made on specific weapons rebels will get if Congress approves the aid. [Los Angeles Times]


2. U.S. loses to Germany but still advances in World Cup
The U.S. men’s soccer team lost 1-0 to Germany on Thursday, but still advanced to the second round of the World Cup, thanks to Portugal’s 2-1 victory over Ghana. The results left the U.S. tied with Portugal at four points apiece, but the U.S. had the edge in goal differentials. Skeptics had doubted the U.S. would survive round one in a group with Germany and Portugal — both ranked in the world’s top four. Next the U.S. faces Belgium on Tuesday. [Star-Ledger]


3. Justices call Massachusetts abortion-clinic buffer zone unconstitutional
The Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously struck down a Massachusetts law setting a 35-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics, saying it violated protesters’ constitutional right to free speech. Massachusetts argued that the buffer zone allowed anti-abortion protesters to have their say while keeping patients and clinic staff safer. Chief Justice John Roberts said the zones “burden substantially more speech than necessary.” [MSNBC]


4. Ukraine and two other former Soviet republics sign trade pacts with Europe
Ukraine, along with fellow ex-Soviet republics Georgia and Moldova, signed historic free-trade agreements with the European Union on Friday. The deals tied the countries’ economic fortunes to the 28-nation bloc and risked widening a rift with Russia, which has demanded talks before any agreement between Europe and Ukraine. It previously vowed to respond if any deal threatened its economy, as it said this pact would. [Bloomberg]


5. High court slams Obama over recess appointments
The Supreme Court scolded President Obama on Thursday over his recess appointments during brief Senate breaks. The justices said Obama violated the Constitution in 2012 by using recess appointments to fill spots on the National Labor Relations Board even though the chamber was holding brief pro forma sessions every three days. The justices said such appointments were only justified during breaks of 10 or more days. [The New York Times]


6. Judge upholds Colorado gun laws
A federal judge on Thursday upheld gun laws Colorado’s Democratic-controlled legislature passed in 2013 following deadly shooting rampages. Sheriffs and gun-rights advocates sued to block the measures, which banned magazines with more than 15 rounds and required more background checks, calling them unconstitutional. U.S. District Chief Judge Marcia Krieger said civilians never fire more than 15 shots in self-defense. [Reuters]


7. U.S. drones hunt for insurgents as Iraqi leaders discuss a new government
Armed U.S. drones began flying over Iraq on Thursday as the Shiite-led government held meetings on who should head a new government and tackle a Sunni extremist insurgency. For the first time, even members of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s party are suggesting he should be replaced. Shiites are taking up arms across Iraq in a bid to halt advances by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. [The New York Times]


8. Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins picked first in NBA draft
The Cleveland Cavaliers snapped up Kansas small forward Andrew Wiggins as the first pick in the NBA draft Thursday night. It was the second year in a row the Cavs got first choice, and the second year in a row they picked a Canadian-born player (last year it was Anthony Bennett). The Milwaukee Bucks took Duke forward Jabari Parker as the No. 2 pick, and the Philadelphia 76ers chose Kansas center Joel Embiid at No. 3. [Los Angeles Times]


9. ABC fires two stars of The View
ABC executives cleaned house on the network’s morning talk show, The View, leaving co-host Whoopi Goldberg as the lone holdover. Network management gave co-host Sherri Shepherd the boot in an afternoon meeting. Sources also said that former Playboy Playmate Jenny McCarthy, who replaced Elisabeth Hasselbeck in July but never clicked with viewers, is also out, as is executive producer Bill Geddie. [New York Daily News]


10. Former Senate leader Howard Baker dies at 88
Former Senate majority leader Howard Baker — a key player in the Watergate hearings and once Ronald Reagan’s chief of staff — died on Thursday at age 88. The Tennessee Republican’s wife, former senator Nancy Kassebaum, and two children from his first marriage said this was a “time of sorrow and also a time for the celebration of a remarkable life.” President Obama said Baker’s role as the “Great Conciliator” won him admirers across party lines. [CNN]

Medicaid Expansion

Death on the Installment Plan

Politico Magazine

Now we know: Rejecting the Medicaid expansion could kill nearly 6,000 people each year.

Like many other liberal health-policy wonks, I’ve written a lot about the value of health reform in improving access to preventive care, protecting people against crippling medical debt and improving people’s physical and mental health.

I haven’t written much about how better access to health care can actually save lives. The argument for the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s signature health-care-law, doesn’t ride on this. Moreover, the connection between health insurance and mortality is really hard to pin down, even if insurance truly has strong protective effects. The uninsured in America are mainly non-elderly adults. Deaths are really rare in this population, on the order of 0.4 percent per year. according to an Urban Institute study. Real-world randomized clinical trials—even those with thousands of patients—are just too small and too brief to reliably determine how much we might reduce mortality by extending coverage to the uninsured.

On Monday, though, a beautiful study was published in Annals of Internal Medicine that provides some of the best data we have connecting health coverage to saved lives. It’s changed my thinking, too. I’m more confident than I was last week that the ACA will save many thousands of lives every year.

Ironically, the study examined the impact of the bipartisan insurance expansion enacted in Massachusetts in 2006—a.k.a. “RomneyCare,” which provided the basic model for the ACA. Three of the best researchers in the business—Benjamin Sommers, Sharon Long and Katherine Baicker examined a decade’s worth of mortality data in Massachusetts counties, comparing trends to those found in carefully chosen comparison counties in other states. This wasn’t a randomized trial, but it was the next best thing, tracking the experiences of hundreds of thousands of people for years before and after the enactment of Massachusetts’ reforms.

Here’s their bottom-line result: Insurance coverage reduced mortality rates by about 30 percent. For every 830 people newly insured, Massachusetts prevented one death per year.

The sheer craftsmanship of this study makes it a pleasure to read (at least, if you’re a health wonk like me). It includes several smart checks to rule out potential biases. For example, Sommers, Long and Baicker show that mortality rates among elderly Massachusetts residents were basically unaffected by the 2006 reforms—which makes sense because almost everyone in this group was already insured through Medicare. The authors also demonstrate especially strong mortality reductions for conditions that are actually amenable to medical intervention, such as strokes.

Do these results generalize to the national expansion of coverage under the Affordable Care Act? Nobody really knows. Massachusetts has done a better and more enthusiastic job implementing RomneyCare than many states (and the federal government) have done thus far with ACA.

On the other hand, Massachusetts experienced the strongest survival benefits in low-income areas that contain many uninsured people. These counties look more like those in less-prosperous states most affected by health reform. Massachusetts began its reform as a prosperous liberal state with effective public health polices and a strong infrastructure of safety-net care. Other states are starting with a much less favorable baseline, and thus hold more dramatic possibilities for improvement. A state like Kentucky, which just provided coverage for the first time to hundreds of thousands of very poor people, might well see larger effects.

One thing is for sure. If anything close to these results apply, the ACA is saving many lives every year. The new law is projected to cover more than 20 million adults who would otherwise go uninsured. The Massachusetts estimates imply that the ACA will prevent something in the neighborhood of 24,096 deaths every year (simply: 20 million divided by 830). That’s more than twice the number of Americans killed in gun homicides. It’s considerably more than the number of Americans who die from HIV/AIDS.

Continue reading here…

Kos' "Sunday Talk"

Kos’ Sunday Talk: Keep it in perspective

Sunday Kos

This week, the first official Obamacare enrollment numbers were released, and it was a big fucking deal.”How big was it?“… you asked him knowingly.

So big that it made Hurricane Katrina look like a day at the beach—and yet, so small.

Only 26,794 lucky duckies were able to navigate around healthcare.gov; another 79,391 got coverage through state-based exchanges; and 444,000 others found safety via Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.

Now, I know what you’re thinking.

You’re thinking, “That’s not so bad, all things considered. Only 123 people enrolled in Romneycare during its first month; but after just a few years, 98.1% of Massachusetts residents had health insurance!”

And that’s certainly true… to a point.

However, the fact also remains that once all of the minoritiesslutsstonersgeezers,veteranspoorsdweebieskidsLGBTs and immigrants have been purged from the Obamacare rolls, you end up with less than zero.

Morning lineup:

Meet the Press: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA); Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH); RoundtableTom Brokaw (NBC News), Kathleen Parker (Washington Post), Republican Strategist Mike Murphy and Chris Matthews (MSNBC).Face the Nation: LBJ’s Youngest Daughter Luci Baines JohnsonHugh Aynesworth(Dallas Morning News); Mike Cochran (Associated Press); Kennedy/Oswald Surgeon Dr. Ronald Jones; Author Thurston Clarke; Author/Professor Larry Sabato; AuthorDouglas BrinkleyPeggy Noonan (Wall Street Journal); Harvard University Prof. David Gergen.

This Week: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY); Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R);RoundtableGwen Ifill (PBS), Former White House Senior Adviser David Plouffe, Republican Strategist Matthew Dowd, Former DNC Chair/Vermont Gov. Howard Dean(D) and Bret Stephens (Wall Street Journal).

Fox News Sunday: US Senate Candidate Liz Cheney (R-WY); Former Maryland Lt. Gov.Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (D); Former Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI); Roundtable:Brit Hume (Fox News), Bob Woodward (Washington Post), George Will (Washington Post) and Judy Woodruff (PBS).

State of the Union: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; Sen. John Barrasso(R-WY); Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC); Roundtable: Former Green Jobs “Czar” Van Jones,Ross Douthat (New York Times) and Amy Walter Cook Political Report).

Evening lineup:

60 Minutes will feature: a report from inside Guantanamo Bay prison, where 164 accused terrorists have been locked up, most for 11 years without charge or trial (preview); a report on a group of billionaires who are pledging to give at least half their vast fortunes to charity in hopes of changing the world (preview); and, a report on an orchestra that’s raising spirits and providing hope in the poorest section of Paraguay’s capital (preview).


Ed Markey

Massachusetts Special Election Results: Ed Markey Beats Gabriel Gomez

massachusetts special election results

Well, there’s some good news today after all…

The Huffington Post

Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) defeated Republican businessman Gabriel Gomez in the Massachusetts special election, projects The Associated Press.

The result has been predictable, as Markey has had a solid lead in the polls since winning the April 30 primary and Gomez has struggled to gain much traction in the traditionally Democratic state. Markey embraced national Democrats including President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton, while Gomez got little help from national Republicans, who are unpopular in the state.

“Thank you Massachusetts!” tweeted Markey. “I am deeply honored for the opportunity to serve you in the United States Senate.”

The election featured low turnout, due to the unusual timing of in late June and the fact that the state is going through a heat wave.

Republicans had hoped that Gomez would replicate Scott Brown’s upset in 2010; however, Gomez faced a much more determined Democratic party and a less favorable national climate.

The ascension of Sen. John Kerry to the position of Secretary of State created the vacancy, which has been temporarily filled by the appointment of Sen. Mo Cowan (D-Mass.).

Click here for full returns.

Boston Marathon 2013 · Boston Marathon Bombings · New York Post

Bystanders wrongly pegged by New York Post as Boston ‘Bag Men’ file suit

New York Post fingers 17 year old kid as bombing suspect

Here’s hoping the two get a large pile of Murdoch money in exchange for this mess. A very, very large pile of money ~ Daily Kos on Facebook

Daily Kos

Here’s hoping the two get a large pile of Murdoch money in exchange for this mess. A very, very large pile of money.

I’m only surprised it took this long:

A Massachusetts teenager and his 24-year-old friend filed a defamation lawsuit against the New York Post Wednesday in Boston, accusing the tabloid of falsely portraying them as suspects in the deadly Marathon bombings by plastering their photograph on the front page under the headline, “Bag Men.”

As the picture above demonstrates, the Post wasn’t shy about it, calling them the “bag men” in large type even while their own story admitted that it wasn’t actually clear if the two pictured were the ones law enforcement were actually investigating. As it turns out, they weren’t—it was a picture that some online sleuths found suspicious, and that was all it took to make the Post front page, and to therefore make the two a conspicuous public target:

When Zaimi arrived at work that day, a company vice president called him into his office. Zaimi did not understand why until the office manager showed him a copy of the Post.“He immediately started shaking, his mouth went dry, and he felt as though he was having a panic attack,” the complaint said. […]

That night, the complaint said, as he waited for the train home, someone pointed him out as the person in the New York Post. Zaimi fled.

Given that we’re living in an age when would-be public heroes even fire shots at fleeing shoplifters, I’d say hightailing it out of a crowd that thinks you might be a terrorist based a front-page picture saying so was probably a very good idea. The Post should count themselves lucky no worse harm came to the two.

Here’s hoping the two get a large pile of Murdoch money in exchange for this mess. A very, very large pile of money. The crooked, reckless sensationalism of the Post was demonstratedthroughout the Boston story, but in this instance it could have gotten someone killed.

Gun Violence

Guns in the home proving deadly for kids


USA Today

While efforts at gun control are still being fought, children’s advocates are urging parents and communities to take their own steps to protect kids.

He didn’t know the gun was loaded.

The 14-year-old Massachusetts boy had recently found his mother’s handgun, which she kept hidden under her mattress for protection.

“Promise me you’ll never touch it,” his mother, a single mom, had asked him.

But the lure of the gun was irresistible. He decided to show it off to his neighbor, 12-year-old Brian Crowell.

“He was going, ‘Click, click, click,'” pretending to shoot the gun, says Brian’s mother, Ann Marie Crowell, who spoke to the child and his mother after the incident. “But there was one last bullet. It went into Brian’s neck.”

And just like that, Crowell’s son was gone.

Nearly 800 children under 14 were killed in gun accidents from 1999 to 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly one in five injury-related deaths in children and adolescents involve firearms.

Although mass shootings get more attention, children are far more likely to be killed at home.

Through homicide, suicide and accidents, guns cause twice as many deaths in young people as cancer, five times as many as heart disease and 15 times as many as infections, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Continue reading here

Elizabeth Warren · Financial Regulatory Reform

Elizabeth Warren Grills Financial Regulators: ‘People Want to Know’ (Video)

Senator Elizabeth Warren is seriously kicking financial regulators’ butt..


Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic Senator from Massachusetts, grilled two financial regulators this Thursday as to why the men were favoring big banks over families that are struggling.

The questioning took place during a Senate Banking Committee hearing where Warren took aim at Daniel P. Stipano of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and Richard Ashton of the Federal Reserve. The line of questioning centered around the Independent Foreclosure Review, which investigated foreclosure abuses that ended in January with a $8.5 billion settlement.

Warren claimed the two were withholding data obtained from the investigation. She asked whether they planned to disclose evidence of illegal activity to families who were in the middle if litigation with the banks for the wrongful disclosures, with Ashton responding that they had not made a decision.

“So I just want to make sure I get this straight,” Warren continued. “Families get pennies on the dollar in the settlement for having been the victims of illegal activities or mistakes in the banks’ activities. You now know individual cases where the banks violated the law and you’re not going to tell the homeowners, or at least it’s not clear if you’re going to do that?”  She added,

People want to know that their regulators are watching out for the American public, not for the banks, and the only way that we can evaluate whether or not you’re doing your job is if you make some of this information publicly available.

Watch Senator Warren in the video below.

Elizabeth Warren · Senator Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren’s First Senate Banking Committee Hearing

Pic of the Moment

Democratic Underground

Senator Warren: ‘Why aren’t more bank execs in jail?’

The Senator says, “I’m just concerned that too big to fail has become too big for trial.”

“Too big for trial,” that’s a powerful tagline to hit the Goldman Sachs crowd with. It’s a brilliant turn of phrase.

Gov. Deval Patrick · Rep. Barney Frank

Barney Frank Would Welcome Interim Appointment To Fill Kerry’s Senate Seat

I saw former Rep. Barney Frank talking about this on Morning Joe today.  I think it’s a great idea given the looming fiscal talks which will  take place in a few weeks.

The comments from this TPM’s article are pretty good…

What do you think?


Former Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), whose 32 year career in the House of Representatives came to an end yesterday, said Friday that he’s told Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) that he would welcome an interim appointment to the seat expected to be vacated by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA).

Frank said that the fiscal cliff deal that passed the House of Representatives earlier this week and set the stage for a return to the same legislative fight in a matter of months “means that February, March and April are going to be among the most important months” for the American economy. The outspoken Democrat indicated he would only hold the seat until the statewide special election and has no designs of carving out a career in the Senate, but he relishes the opportunity to be a part of the next fiscal battle on Capitol Hill.

“I’m not going to be coy. It’s not anything I’ve ever been good at,” Frank said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “I’ve told the governor that I would now like, frankly, to do that because I would like to be a part of that. It’s only a three-month period. I wouldn’t want to do anything more. I don’t want to run again.”

Kerry has been nominated by President Barack Obama to succeed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the longtime senator is expected to breeze through the confirmation process.

Regulatory Affairs

Meningitis outbreak: Massachusetts agencies ‘failed to enforce regulations’ on big pharma

Meningitis outbreak screenshot 100612

There seems to be little doubt in my mind that the Massachusetts agencies in question have a lot of explaining to do but my focus is on the corporations who have resisted regulatory oversight for a very long time.

One of the more vociferous  GOP talking points is less government intrusion and regulations on corporations.

Yet, this is just one small example of the consequence of such twisted logic.  A Laissez-Faire approach to government causes more problems, not less.

The real tragedy is that corporations have little sympathy for the  tragic results of their callousness toward rejecting regulations and it’s affect on the population.

The Raw Story

State agencies are facing questions over the enforcement of existing regulations covering compounding pharmacies like the New England Compounding Center

Authorities in Massachusetts have been accused of failing to properly enforce regulations aimed at protecting patients from contaminated drugs, after the death toll from an outbreak of meningitis linked to a medicine made in the state rose to 14.

The specialised compounding pharmacy at the centre of the escalating health scandal is being investigated for breaches of state and federal laws.

A patient from Minnesota, one of almost 14,000 patients at risk of contracting the disease after being injected with the potentially tainted steroid produced by New England Compounding Center, has filed what is expected to be the first of many lawsuits against the company.

Now state agencies are facing questions over their enforcement of existing regulations. On Friday, a congressional committee called on the state’s pharmacy regulator to provide information about its oversight of the company.

Massachusetts is one of just 17 states with regulations designed to protect patients from the sort of health scare which has now spread to 11 states. Two former compounding pharmacists who now work in the quality control industry told the Guardian that the risk to patients would have been minimal had the regulations, known as USP 797, been enforced.

“It’s abysmal that the local authorities are calling for greater oversight” said Eric Kastango, a committee member of US Pharmacopeia (USP), the industry body behind regulations governing compounding sterile drugs. “If someone just enforced Massachusetts law, these cases could have been avoided. They failed in their responsibility for enforcing what they already had.”

The scale of the outbreak makes it by far the worst of a series of fatal infections and overdoses connected to specialised “compounding” pharmacies.

Corporations are not “people too, my friend.”  They don’t get sick, or bleed or contract illnesses from their own callousness.

Continue reading here…