Usually when the Obama administration is discussing doctors and health issues, Obamacare is on the table. Thursday, however, the White House threw a curve by linking health to climate change. In a new blog post, the White House declares that "7 out of 10 Doctors [say] Climate Change Is Already Harming Patients’ Health." While often the White House has been a source of upbeat reports on recent health improvements attributed in part to the Affordable Care Act, the language of this post stands in sharp contrast. For example:
"Already, 1 in 10 children in the U.S. suffers from asthma. Heat-related health problems are growing. Pollen concentrations are up. Rising temperatures are only going to bring more smog, more asthma, and longer allergy seasons that put more Americans at greater risk of landing in the hospital."
"...increases in air pollution due to climate change are worsening the severity of illnesses in their patients, and they expect these health impacts will further increase in the future."
"...their patients are experiencing other climate-related health problems — including injuries due to severe weather, allergic reactions, and heat-related impacts."
The survey cited by the White House was conducted by the American Thoracic Society, a group of over 15,000 doctors, researchers, nurses, and other health professionals with a focus on "research, clinical care, and public health in respiratory disease, critical illness, and sleep disorders." Although 5,500 members were randomly selected for invitations to participate in the survey, only 17 percent responded. Of the 915 respondents, 65 percent (rounded to 7 in 10 by the White House) agreed that climate change is 'relevant to patient care" either "a great deal" or "a moderate amount."
The White House also cites, but does not link to, a survey of the National Medical Association's membership whose results are said to be in line with the American Thoracic Society survey. (The National Medical Association, according to its website, "promotes the collective interests of physicians and patients of African descent", and is distinct from the more well known American Medical Association.) The survey to which the White House apparently refers can be found at climatechangecommunication.org and indeed reports that respondents felt that "climate change is affecting the health of their own patients a great deal or a moderate amount (61 percent)." This survey had a response rate of 30 percent, or 284 respondents.
On January 6, less than a week after Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas signed the treaty to join the International Criminal Court (ICC), United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon announced the PA will become a member of the international tribunal on April 1. As a member, the PA would be able to prosecute Israel for allegedly committing “war crimes”, such as Israel’s actions in Gaza this past summer.
Ban’s announcement drew heat from Congress. Kentucky senator Rand Paul introduced the “Defend Israel by Defunding Palestinian Foreign Aid Act of 2015,” which would halt aid to the Palestinian Authority until it withdraws its attempt at becoming a member of the court.
South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham, during a visit to Israel last month as part of a seven-member delegation of senators, called the PA maneuver “incredibly offensive,” adding that United States law demands an end to funding if the PA brings a case against Israel. The Appropriations Act of 2015, after all, states that funding the PA must be suspended if “the Palestinians initiate an International Criminal Court judicially authorized investigation, or actively support such an investigation, that subjects Israeli nationals to an investigation for alleged crimes against Palestinians.”
Though the aid must be suspended in that circumstance, Secretary of State John Kerry may waive that restriction if he attests to the Committee on Appropriations that he is doing so “in the national security interest of the United States.” Whether or not Kerry will exercise that course of action is unknown. “As we have said, we continually evaluate our assistance to ensure that it supports our policy, and will make adjustments as necessary. We will also of course continue to comply with U.S. legislation on assistance, and remain in close touch with Congress on this,” says a State Department official.
If the restriction is waived, it would not be the first time the Obama administration has taken such action. In 2012, President Obama bypassed a Congressional prohibition on aid and signed a waiver declaring that aid to the PA is “important to the security interests of the United States.” This move was supported by the State Department, which expressed concerns that not enough aid was provided to address the dire economic and humanitarian hardship facing the Palestinians.
A letter to Kerry composed by Florida senator Marco Rubio and New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand, dated January 29, calls for a suspension of aid to the PA. The letter refers to the prohibition of aid to the PA if it initiates an ICC investigation and states, “Although we believe it is in the interest of the United States for urgent humanitarian assistance to continue to be provided to the Palestinian people, we will not support assistance to the Palestinian Authority while you undertake a review of this matter.” The letter was signed by 51 Republican and 24 Democratic senators, representing 94 percent and 52 percent of each caucus, respectively.
The Washington Post is up with a doozy of a story showing some serious and troubling financial conflicts of interest during Hillary Clinton's time as Secretary of State. Read the whole thing, but here are some key paragraphs:
The Clinton Foundation accepted millions of dollars from seven foreign governments during Hillary Rodham Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, including one donation that violated its ethics agreement with the Obama administration, foundation officials disclosed Wednesday. ...
In one instance, foundation officials acknowledged they should have sought approval in 2010 from the State Department ethics office, as required by the agreement for new government donors, before accepting a $500,000 donation from the Algerian government. ...
The contribution coincided with a spike in the North African country’s lobbying visits to the State Department. That year, Algeria spent $422,097 lobbying U.S. government officials on human rights and U.S.-Algerian relations, according to filings made under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Data tracked by the Sunlight Foundation shows that while the Algerian government’s overall spending on lobbying in the United States remained steady, there was an increase in 2010 in State Department meetings held with lobbyists representing the country — with 12 visits to department officials that year, including some visits with top political appointees. In the years before and after, only a handful of State Department visits were recorded by Algeria lobbyists.
The country was a concern for Clinton and her agency.
This is great work by the Washington Post, but it's something of a rarity. After weeks of the media blasting GOP figures for their opinions (or lack thereof) on the origin of life as we know it or demanding to know whether every Republican candidate agrees with the private and largely inconsequential remarks of the former mayor of New York -- it would be nice if a real story with serious repercussions for a prominent Democrat were actually covered thoroughly by the media before any attempts to dismiss or downplay it. Hopefully this Washington Post piece is the start of a trend.
ISIS continues its war on civilization by burning:
Thousands of ancient and irreplaceable manuscripts [from] the Mosul library in Iraq. One Mosul library official believes that up to 112,000 books were destroyed – spanning centuries of learning, and including books registered on a UNESCO rarities list.
Meanwhile, we learn the identity of the man – known colloquially as "Jihad John” – who beheads the helpless captives of ISIS. He is reportedly:
… Mohammed Emwazi, a Briton from a well-to-do family who grew up in West London and graduated from college with a degree in computer programming. He is believed to have traveled to Syria around 2012 and to have later joined the Islamic State, the group whose barbarity he has come to symbolize.
Rich and well-educated, Emwazi certainly should have been able to find a job and a life. But he took another path and one awaits Marie Harf’s explanation for why. One also wonders just what the Brits will do with him, should they take him alive. Lord Haw-Haw was hanged and he merely made propaganda broadcasts for the Nazis. But the Brits don’t do that any longer. And, anyway ... hanging would be too good for Emwazi.
Next Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on whether the Obama administration has been illegally providing taxpayer-funded subsidies in 36 states under the guise of implementing Obamacare, and there’s been much debate about what Congress should do if the Court rules that the administration’s actions have been lawless. A new McLaughlin & Associates poll, commissioned by the 2017 Project, finds that a majority of likely voters — 51 percent — wants Congress to propose a conservative alternative in response to such a ruling, while only 20 percent want Congress to negotiate fixes to Obamacare. Moreover, the clear majority of those who favor the fix-it approach are Democrats.
The poll, which included 38 percent Democrats and 32 percent Republicans, asked, “If the Supreme Court rules that the Obama administration has been illegally paying out Obamacare subsidies in 36 states, what do you think Congress should do in response?” The most popular response — picked by 26 percent of likely voters — was, “Propose to effectively repeal and replace Obamacare in those 36 states with a conservative alternative that aims to help people get coverage and reduce costs.”
The runner-up response — picked by 25 percent of voters — was, “Give the states a choice between Obamacare and switching to a conservative alternative that aims to help people get coverage and reduce costs.”
In other words, 51 percent of respondents favored having Congress propose a conservative alternative that deals with both costs and coverage — whether in the 36 states in question, or in every state that chooses the conservative alternative.
Meanwhile, only 20 percent of voters’ response was, “Negotiate fixes to Obamacare with the Obama White House in exchange for turning the subsidies back on.”
Among independents and Republicans, support for a conservative alternative, and opposition to fixes, was even stronger. In all, 55 percent of independents and 64 percent of Republicans said Congress should propose a conservative alternative, while only 12 percent of independents and 10 percent of Republicans said Congress should negotiate fixes in exchange for turning the subsidies back on.
Across the political spectrum, however, voters were united on one thing. When asked to name “the worst thing that Congress could do in response to such a ruling by the Supreme Court,” by far the most popular answer among Republicans (46 percent), Democrats (34 percent), and independents (38 percent) alike was, “Do nothing.”
Jobless claims increased by 31,000 to 313,000 in the week ended Feb. 21 from a revised 282,000 in the prior period, a Labor Department report showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 49 economists surveyed by Bloomberg saw claims little changed at 290,000.
Amid reports that a nuclear deal with Iran may freeze that country's ability to produce nuclear fuel for only ten years in exchange for sanctions relief, President Obama appeared to soften his words on the Iran negotiations if not his position. Following a meeting with the Amir of Qatar earlier this week, the president characterized the ongoing talks as trying "to reduce the possibility of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon," and "to verify that Iran does not have a nuclear weapon." These words ("reduce the possibility" and "does not have", as opposed to "will not acquire") stand in sharp contrast to the unambiguous statements President Obama had tended to make over the past several years:
"We are determined to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon." - Mar. 14, 2012
"And that’s why the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon." - Sept. 25, 2012
"Since I took office, I’ve made clear my determination to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon." - Nov. 23, 2013
"At the top of that list is our work to ensure that Iran does not ever acquire a nuclear weapon." - July 8, 2014
"[W]e seek a comprehensive diplomatic solution to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon." - Jan. 16, 2015
The crisis between the United States and Israel has been manufactured by the Obama administration. Building a crisis up or down is well within the administration’s power, and it has chosen to build it up. Why? Three reasons: to damage and defeat Netanyahu (whom Obama has always disliked simply because he is on the right while Obama is on the left) in his election campaign, to prevent Israel from affecting the Iran policy debate in the United States, and worst of all to diminish Israel’s popularity in the United States and especially among Democrats.
Suppose for a moment that the Netanyahu speech before Congress is a mistake, a breach of protocol, a campaign maneuver, indeed all the bad things the White House is calling it. Grant all of that for a moment for the sake of argument and the behavior of the Obama administration is still inexplicable. Clearly more is behind its conduct than mere pique over the speech.
First comes the personal relationship and the desire to see Netanyahu lose the election. Recall that Obama became president before Netanyahu became prime minister, and it is obvious that the dislike was both personal and political before Netanyahu had done anything. Obama does not like people on the right, period—Americans, Israelis, Australians, you name it. Obama also decided immediately on taking office to pick a fight with Israel and make construction in settlements and in Jerusalem the central issue in U.S.-Israeli relations. Remember that he appointed George Mitchell as his special negotiator one day after assuming the presidency, and Mitchell was the father of the demand that construction—including even construction to accommodate what Mitchell called “natural growth” of families in settlement populations—be stopped dead. A confrontation was inevitable, and was desired by the White House.
Obama has overplayed his hand, in the sense that in poll after poll Israelis say that they do not support his Middle East policies. Historically, an Israeli prime minister loses domestic support when he cannot manage relations with Washington. This year may be the exception, the time when Israelis want a prime minister to oppose U.S. policies they view as dangerous. They may also believe that the Obama administration is simply so hostile that no prime minister could avoid confrontations.
The Obama administration in recent weeks has been trumpeting the number of signups for health insurance through the Obamacare marketplaces for 2015, but at least 90,000 consumers who had coverage last year are losing it. In this week's Affordable Care Act open enrollment report, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that processing has been completed for most accounts with "citizenship and immigration data matching issues," and those unable to provide appropriate documentation have had their coverage terminated. A relevant portion of the item posted on the HHS blog is below [emphasis added]:
We have now completed processing the information submitted by most of those with citizenship and immigration data matching issues described in last week’s snapshot. As a result, approximately 90,000 consumers who had 2014 coverage were not able to continue their Marketplace coverage in 2015 because they did not provide the necessary documentation of their citizenship or immigration status (the previous estimate was 200,000). Their coverage has been terminated and these individuals are no longer included in the cumulative total. As such, the change in the weekly and cumulative total reflects both the increased number of sign-ups due to the special enrollment period and the reduced number of re-enrollees due to this action.
As noted, HHS had previously estimated the number who lacked documentation to be as high as 200,000. HHS noted that "these individuals are still included in the cumulative total reported ... [8,797,577 plan selections], but they will be removed in future reports after their coverage ends on February 28." Total plan selections, however, still increased as of this week's report to 8,838,291 despite the removal of the 90,000 due to the special enrollment period granted to others who experienced trouble signing up as the February 15 deadline approached.
It is not clear from the reports if the 90,000 consumers terminated should never have been covered in the first place, or if they were simply unable to provide updated documentation of citizenship or immigration status to continue coverage in 2015. A response has not yet been received to an email inquiry to HHS regarding recovery of subsidies potentially paid incorrectly on behalf of these 90,000 consumers in 2014.
In a town hall in Miami, President Obama encouraged probable Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush to lobby folks in his party to support immigration reform:
"I appreciate Mr. Bush being concerned about immigration reform," Obama said. "I would suggest that what he do is talk to the speaker of the House and the members of his party. Because the fact of the matter is that even after we passed bipartisan legislation in the Senate, I gave the Republicans a year and a half -- a year and a half -- to just call the bill. We had the votes. They wouldn't do it."
President Obama warned workers at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement: implement executive amnesty, or else. He made the comments in a town hall event on immigration on MSNBC.
According to the White House pool report, President Obama was asked for reassurance that people wouldn't be deported as the legal battle over the executive amnesty plays out in the courts.
“Until we pass a law through Congress, the executive actions we’ve taken are not going to be permanent; they are temporary. There are going to be some jurisdictions and there may be individual ICE official or Border Control agent not paying attention to our new directives. But they’re going to be answerable to the head of Homeland Security because he’s been very clear about what our priorities will be,” Obama said, according to a partial transcript provided by the pool reporter.
“Not only are we going to have to win this legal fight.. but ultimately we’re still going to pass a law through Congress. The bottom line is I’m using all the legal power invested in me in order to solve this problem.”
“If somebody’s working for ICE … and they don’t follow the policy, there’s going to be consequences to it.”
UPDATE: Here are the remarks, via a transcript provided by the White House:
MR. DIAZ-BALART: But what are the consequences? Because how do you ensure that ICE agents or Border Patrol won’t be deporting people like this? I mean, what are the consequences
THE PRESIDENT: José, look, the bottom line is, is that if somebody is working for ICE and there is a policy and they don’t follow the policy, there are going to be consequences to it. So I can’t speak to a specific problem. What I can talk about is what’s true in the government, generally.
In the U.S. military, when you get an order, you’re expected to follow it. It doesn’t mean that everybody follows the order. If they don’t, they’ve got a problem. And the same is going to be true with respect to the policies that we’re putting forward.
In an MSNBC townhall in Miami, President Obama vows to fight the court ruling against the executive amnesty he adopted last year.
"Unfortunately a group of Republican governors sued. They found a District Court judge who enjoined… but that’s just the first part of the process. This is just one federal judge. We have appealed it very aggressively. We’re going to be as aggressive as we can. In the meantime, what we said to Republicans is, 'Instead of trying to hold hostage funding for the Department of Homeland Security, which is so important for our national security, fund that and let’s get on with passing comprehensive immigration reform,'" Obama says, according to a partial transcript released by the White House pool reporter.
"“In the short term if Mr. McConnell, the leader of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, want to have vote over whether what I’m doing is legal or not they can have that vote. I will veto that vote because I’m absolutely confident it’s the right thing we do."
The Washington Post has found us out. We Americans are Philistines and slobs, utterly lacking in refinement.
Roberto A. Ferdman exposes the ugly truth and reports that:
America might fancy itself a nation of high-end coffee drinkers. But just the opposite is true: People in this country, on the whole, are actually drinking worse coffee today than they have in the past. And the reason appears to be that they value cheapness over quality — and convenience over everything.
The Post has found an “expert” who:
...likens the coffee landscape to the one that has taken shape in the beer world, where craft breweries are all the rage, but Bud Light accounts for one in every five beers sold.