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Luckovich: Leadership

White House: Premiums will fall for many in Florida

White House: Premiums will fall for many in Fla.
Associated Press

August 6, 2014

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. — The majority of Floridians who purchased health plans through the Affordable Care Act will actually see their out-of-pocket costs decrease, especially in big cities such as Miami and Orlando, according to senior White House officials. That's the opposite of what state officials, under Republican Gov. Rick Scott, said earlier this week.
Analyzing rates for the 2015 health plans sold through President Barack Obama's law can be tricky and politicians on both sides are eager to use the figures as evidence of the law's success or failure.

An estimated 75 percent of Floridians live in areas where the silver premium will actually decline, Tasha Bradley, a spokeswoman for the federal Department of Health and Human Services told The Associated Press. Their analysis shows the cost of that silver plan will decrease by 6 percent in Miami, 12 percent in Orlando and 17 percent in West Palm Beach.

Of the nearly 1 million plans purchased in Florida this past year, 73 percent were silver plans. It's also the most common plan nationwide because the subsidy tax credit is based on the silver plan, which is the second-lowest priced.

The state said Monday that consumers could expect an average premium increase of 13 percent in 2015. State officials calculated the average of premiums for all plans, bronze, silver, gold and platinum to arrive at the figure, but the Obama administration says it's misleading to average the premium costs of all plans because most people purchase silver plans.

State insurance officials didn't immediately comment Wednesday.


Peter Beinart in Haaretz: Israel’s best weapon against Hamas: Giving the Palestinians hope

Israel’s best weapon against Hamas: Giving the Palestinians hope
Unfortunately, as effective as Benjamin Netanyahu has been at destroying Palestinian rockets, he’s been even more effective at destroying hope and strengthening despair.

By Peter Beinart
Jul. 23, 2014

It’s easy to criticize the Israeli government’s response to the rockets launched from Gaza in recent weeks. It’s harder to offer an alternative. But honest critics have an obligation to try. So here goes.

The short answer is that I’d treat the rockets as military symptoms of a political problem. That doesn’t mean Israel shouldn’t return fire. If Hamas and Islamic Jihad can attack Israel with impunity, they may never stop. But returning fire—or even invading Gaza—will never make Israel safe.

Israel can destroy Hamas’ rockets, but Hamas will eventually rebuild them bigger and better, as it did after the last war, and the one before that. And in the relatives and friends of the Palestinians killed in Operation Protective Edge, it will find plenty of new recruits willing to fire them. Israel can overthrow Hamas and then pull back, but it will leave in its wake Somalia-like chaos that gives groups even more radical than Hamas free reign. Israel can overthrow Hamas and try to install Fatah, but doing so will harm the latter as much as the former because any faction that rides into Gaza atop an Israeli tank will lose its public legitimacy forever. Israel can overthrow Hamas and try to govern Gaza itself, but that would require Israeli 18- year-olds to permanently patrol house-to-house in a territory where they’re constantly at risk of becoming the next Gilad Shalit.

So what would I do? First, I’d seek a cease-fire that eases those aspects of Israel’s blockade that have no legitimate security rationale. (That doesn’t mean acceding to Hamas’ cease-fire demands but it means recognizing that a cease-fire that does nothing to address the blockade - as Israel wants - won’t last).



Why Doesn't The Sunshine State Use More Solar Energy?

Why Doesn't The Sunshine State Use More Solar Energy?


A solar panel installation at FPL's Martin County Next Generation hybrid natural gas and solar energy plant.
Credit Julia Duba

As far as solar energy goes, the Sunshine State is third in the country for potential -- and 18th in actual installation.

In Florida, there’s no financial assistance for installing solar panels on your roof. Solar energy users can only take a federal tax credit.

Florida Power and Light powers the state using mostly natural gas. Out of all the energy FPL provides, only 0.06 percent comes from solar energy.


Luckovich: Gaza peace plan

Slate's Fred Kaplan: Israel’s Deadly Gambits

Israel’s Deadly Gambits
The Israeli government has lost the ability to think strategically.

By Fred Kaplan

An Israeli cannon fires artillery shells into Gaza on July 17, 2014 near Sderot, Israel.
Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Israeli ground troops are moving into Gaza. From a purely tactical and short-term view, it makes sense. From a strategic and medium-to-long-term view, it’s crazy.

The short-term outlook has a certain clarity. Hamas militants are firing rockets into Israel. There’s no dealing with Gaza’s government, since its leaders are Hamas militants. Retaliating with air strikes doesn’t finish the job and leads to horrible errors. So, let the tanks roll.

But let’s say an invasion crushes Hamas, a feasible outcome if the Israeli army were let loose. Then what? Either the Israelis have to re-occupy Gaza, with all the burdens and dangers that entails—the cost of cleaning up and providing services, the constant danger of gunfire and worse from local rebels (whose ranks will now include the fathers, brothers, and cousins of those killed), and the everyday demoralization afflicting the oppressed and the oppressors. Or the Israelis move in, then get out, leaving a hellhole fertile for plowing by militias, including ISIS-style Islamists, far more dangerous than Hamas.

Either way, what’s the point? In an excellent online New Yorker article, Bernard Avishai, a longtime journalist and business professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, recalls former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert telling him “that he launched his 2008 Gaza operation in part to strengthen Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority, with whom he was advancing two-state negotiations.” The tactic didn’t work then, and it certainly wouldn’t work now, given that there are no such talks or even the prospect of any.



The Nation's Bob Dreyfuss: The Palestinians must put an end to suicidal Hamas

The Palestinians Must Put an End to Suicidal Hamas
Bob Dreyfuss on July 15, 2014

One message from the current crisis over Gaza is clear: the Palestinians have to get rid of Hamas. No one else can do it: the Israelis, vastly superior in military terms, only strengthen Hamas politically by wantonly raining death and destruction on Gaza. But the fanatics of Hamas, who seem to believe that they can resist Israel militarily—along with the even more radical Islamist groups that run around in Gaza—do incalculable damage to the Palestinian cause.

In this case, I agree with Bret Stephens, who wrote today in The Wall Street Journal, concerning Israel and Hamas, "If you must have a nemesis, better it be a stupid one." Stephens, a neoconservative hawk who is a blind supporter of Israel, certainly doesn't qualify as sympathetic to the Palestinian plight. But he's right here: Israel has no stupider enemy than Hamas. And the people of Gaza, entrapped in a hellish, prison-like entity—where conditions of despair give rise to the nihilist, Islamist radicalism of Hamas—have once again to endure the pain of Israel's bombardment. And for what? Already in Gaza Israel has struck nearly 1,500 separate targets and killed more than 200 people, including civilians and children.

As I've written repeatedly over the years, in the 1970s and 1980s Israel's intelligence service—especially after the rise of the Likud government of Prime Minister Menachem Begin in 1977—helped Hamas organize and gain power. The Israelis aided Islamists on the West Bank and in Gaza, including the Muslim Brotherhood (of which Hamas is a branch), in the belief (correct, as it turned out) that Hamas would be a bitter enemy of the Palestinian nationalist movement. Indeed, back then the early supporters of Hamas clashed with moderate and left-wing Palestinian groups throughout the occupied territories. Decades later, Hamas has emerged as the perfect foil for Israeli rightists and advocates of Greater Israel, such as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In the latest round, Hamas's idiotic decision to fight Israel by firing useless missiles against unseen Israeli targets not only gave Netanyahu a pretext for his brutal war but managed to erase the controversy over the premeditated killing of a Palestinian youth by a gang of ultra-nationalist, right-wing Israelis. Just a week or so ago, that killing transfixed Israel and generated horror among Israelis with a conscience. Now, while the story goes on, it's figuratively buried under the rubble of Gaza.



Luckovich: Over the edge

Luckovich: On second thought...

Haaretz editorial: Lapid must stand up for peace

Lapid must stand up for peace

Now is the time to form a peace-seeking government made up of parties that are able to lead Israel according to the Bar-Ilan framework.

Haaretz Editorial
Jul. 10, 2014

Opposition chairman MK Isaac Herzog (Labor) was asked what he would do if he were prime minister. “I would do everything that is necessary to prevent the intolerable rocket fire on southern Israel,” he answered, “and I would go Ramallah to advance an agreement with the Palestinians.” Herzog combined finding a tactical solution to this acute problem with a strategy for preventing future conflicts.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told Akiva Eldar during an interview for the Israel Conference on Peace that he would uphold his promise to hold another nine months of negotiations if Israel lives up to its previous commitment to release the fourth round of prisoners. Abbas also stated that a Palestinian commitment to talks would hinge on an Israeli commitment to discuss borders during the first three months of the talks, as well as refrain from building new settlements.

Finance Minister Yair Lapid said during the Herzliya Conference last month that Israel must define its borders, stop settlement construction outside of the large blocs, and renew talks with the Palestinian Authority. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected Lapid’s suggestions, calling him inexperienced. How can Israel “give” the Palestinians borders without receiving anything in exchange, Netanyahu asked. But Lapid was right, and Netanyahu was wrong, or perhaps he preferred to halt any progress. An agreement, if and when it is signed, would include many issues; it will be impossible to implement a proposal or accord based on a single issue. It must be part of an overarching agreement. It’s hard to believe that the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority engaged in negotiations for nine months but didn’t talk about borders. Abbas’ demand that this be the first issue discussed in a new round of talks is justified, and according to Lapid, it’s in Israel’s interest as well. Abbas and Lapid also both see the Arab Peace Initiative of 2003 as a basis for an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. The reason there are currently no negotiations is clear: Either the prime minister does not believe the things he said during his Bar-Ilan speech or he is unable to prevail over the extreme right-wing elements in his coalition, thereby making him unfit to lead.

Now is the time to form a government made up of parties that are able to lead Israel according to the Bar-Ilan framework articulated by Netanyahu and the strategy put forth by Lapid and Herzog. Netanyahu could put together a coalition without Habayit Hayehudi and certain MKs from Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu who wish to continue representing the settlers. Lapid must issue an ultimatum to the prime minister:

Either with me on the path to peace, or without me.
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