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Member since: Tue Jan 6, 2004, 12:46 PM
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Progressive groups try to exert more pressure on lawmakers


The groups, Americans for Tax Fairness and the Action, are planning more than 100 events on Saturday to push for the rates to rise for couples making more than $250,000.

While these organizations' initiatives are mostly focused on the tax part of the issue, other progressive groups are focusing on the spending side, urging the White House not to push for major cuts in entitlement programs – Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

The advocacy group MoveOn and a group of major unions – American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and National Education Association (NEA) - sponsored efforts at lobbying congressional members this week.

"Make no mistake, we will not rest until Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and education are spared from cuts. We won't take our foot off the gas. So stay tuned," Chris Fleming, a spokesman for AFSCME, told CNN.

(more at link)

Cutter: President Obama Has Mandate To ‘Protect Middle Class’

Stephanie Cutter, who served as deputy campaign manager for Obama's re-election effort, said that the president's mandate after winning re-election "is to protect the middle class," during an appearance on MSNBC's "Daily Rundown."

"His mandate is to protect the middle class and help people enter and stay in the middle class," Cutter said. Adding that that means protecting programs like Medicaid.

As President Obama tries to mobilize Americans behind his push to extend the middle class tax cuts, Cutter predicted people would get involved. "The president ran on an agenda," Cutter said. "OFA, Obama for America, those millions who helped get the president elected, they want to get that agenda done. So I think you'll see a pretty mobilized group of people across this country who have a real stake in the outcome of what happens in Washington."


President Obama to appeal to public on fiscal cliff

Source: AP

President Barack Obama plans to make a public case this week for his strategy for dealing with the looming fiscal cliff, traveling to the Philadelphia suburbs Friday as he pressures Republicans to allow tax increases on the wealthy while extending tax cuts for families earning $250,000 or less.

The White House said Tuesday that the president intends to hold a series of events to build support for his approach to avoid across-the-board tax increases and steep spending cuts in defense and domestic programs. Obama will meet with small business owners at the White House on Tuesday and with middle-class families on Wednesday.

The president's visit to a small business in Hatfield, Pa., that makes parts for a construction toy company will cap a week of public outreach as the White House and congressional leaders negotiate a way to avoid the tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to take effect Jan. 1. The trip will mark Obama's first public event outside the nation's capital since winning re-election.

Following the election, Obama aides asked supporters to record YouTube videos discussing the need to have the wealthiest Americans pay more in taxes. Some of the people who shared their stories on YouTube planned to join Obama at the White House on Wednesday.

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/huff-wires/20121127/us-obama-fiscal-cliff/?utm_hp_ref=homepage&ir=homepage

Tammy Duckworth to prospective congressional foes: 'Bring it'

Battle-hardened double amputee to prospective congressional foes: 'Bring it'

When Tammy Duckworth steps into Congress this January for her first term, she’ll be carried by two prosthetic legs – and the potent notion that if she can survive a grenade blast while piloting a chopper, she surely can endure any political flak on Capitol Hill.

“The worst day for me in Washington on the floor of the House is never going to be as bad as me getting blown up. So bring it,” said Duckworth, a Democrat who represents Illinois’ 8th Congressional District, the suburbs north of Chicago.

One of the first women to fly combat missions in Iraq, Duckworth’s Black Hawk was hit by enemy fire in November 2004 as the aircraft skimmed tree tops at about 135 miles per hour. The explosion vaporized her right leg, smashed her left leg into the instrument panel, sheering it off, and tore away most of her right arm. Before losing consciousness, she used her remaining arm to try to land the sputtering chopper. On Nov. 6, she won election to the U.S. House.

“There’s nothing anyone can say to me or do to me — short of actually pointing a gun and shooting at me — that’s going to be as bad as it was in Iraq and that year I spent recovering. So it’s really freeing,” Duckworth told NBC News. “Had you talked to me 10 years ago, before I served and got hurt in combat, I would not have the courage to do what I’m doing now.”

Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., U.S. representative-elect for Illinois' 8th Congressional District, is pictured with other female members of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington on Nov. 14. Duckworth, a helicopter pilot in the Iraq war who was shot down and lost both her legs in the attack, is the first disabled woman to be elected to the House of Representatives.

UN Climate Chief Calls Out U.S. For Climate Inaction: Hurricane Sandy Is ‘Yet Another Wake-up Call’

UN Climate Chief Calls Out U.S. For Climate Inaction: Hurricane Sandy Is ‘Yet Another Wake-up Call’

Hurricane Sandy’s $50 billion damage demonstrated the vulnerability of America’s largest cities to the effects of global warming. Christiana Figueres, the top United Nations diplomat for international climate negotiations, said Sandy serves as “yet another wake-up call” for the U.S. to cut carbon pollution.

In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Figueres made the case for why it’s in the country’s best interest to lead with urgency:

FIGUERES: First, from a domestic perspective, why would the United States allow other countries to pursue the technologies of the future while the United States stays with the technologies that are becoming every day more obsolete, hence losing its future competitiveness in an increasingly competitive world? I don’t think that the visionary leaders of the United States will let this happen. I do think that there is going to be increasing pressure in particular from the private sector to catch up with the rest of the world, which is moving toward low-carbon technologies. So just from a domestic point of view, it doesn’t make any sense.

FIGUERES: One must say, given the historical responsibility that the United States plays in this issue, it is quite a unique position that the United States is in and one that frankly they have not responded to in a commensurate manner. So, yes, if the United States does not strengthen its participation in the global climate regime under the newly re-elected president I think there will be increased frustration with the United States.

Sen. Patty Murray will be key voice in Senate on budget deal

As chair of her party’s Senate campaign arm, the architect of surprising Democratic gains and the incoming chair of the powerful Senate Budget Committee, Murray now occupies a place of special influence in the Senate.

And so what Murray has to say about the so-called “fiscal cliff,” a combination of tax hikes and spending cuts set to take effect in January, may be of particular importance. In a town consumed by talk of the apocalyptic consequences of failing to resolve the budgeting crisis, Murray has been arguing that missing the deadline for a deal — going over the cliff — could actually make getting a deal easier.

In the crunch of final negotiations over a deal to raise the nation’s debt ceiling last summer, it was Murray who nixed the idea of exposing veterans benefits to automatic domestic and military spending cuts that would result if Congress does not reach a more targeted deficit-reduction deal by the end of this month.

It was Murray, too, who had counseled Democrats in April 2011 to reject a last-minute demand by House Republicans to eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood in a spending bill designed to avoid a government shutdown.


New Obamacare challenge: Informing millions that they will benefit

by Joan McCarter

The Affordable Care Act, House Speaker John Boehner aside, is going to go into effect. The rules are being written, and in about half the states work has already begun to set up their side of the program. But there are obstacles beyond just Republican governors dragging their heels.

Here's one of the bigger challenges: how to bring in the millions of people who are completely unaware of the options they will have under the new law.

Part of the problem, experts say, is that people who will be affected don’t realize the urgency because the subsidies won’t begin for another year. But policy decisions are being made now that will affect tens of millions of Americans, and the lack of public awareness could jeopardize a system that depends on having many people involved. Low enrollment could lead to higher premiums, health policy experts say. Hospitals worry that, without widespread participation, they will continue getting stuck with patients’ unpaid medical bills. And advocates say the major purpose of the Affordable Care Act – extending health insurance to more Americans – will go unmet if large numbers of vulnerable people don’t take advantage of it.

Seventy-eight percent of the uninsured Americans who are likely to qualify for subsidies were unfamiliar with the new coverage options in a survey by Democratic polling firm Lake Research Partners. That survey, sponsored by the nonprofit Enroll America, also found that 83 percent of those likely to qualify for the expansion of Medicaid, which is expected to cover 12 million Americans, were unaware of the option.

In separate October polling data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, 41 percent of voters described themselves as “confused” about the health-care law.

Sabotage has been a big part of the Republican fight to make sure that the Affordable Care Act doesn't succeed, their fallback position to doomed repeal efforts. Keeping the public uncertain about the fate of the law and confused on the aspects of the law is definitely part of that effort.

So is Boehner's promise of never-ending "investigations" by the House into the implementation of the law. House Republicans have already started in, specifically targeting the Department of Health and Human Services efforts to publicize the new law.

A number of non-profit organizations have formed a coalition under the umbrella Enroll America, "whose mission is to ensure that all Americans are enrolled in and retain health coverage." It's planning an advertising campaign to inform the public of options under the new law, but confusion in the states where Republican governors are gumming up the works will complicate that effort as well.

The Affordable Care Act will move forward. Now the fight is going to be making it a success.

Millions will qualify for new options under the health care law. Most have no idea.

(Site content may be used for any purpose without explicit permission unless otherwise specified)

Thanks to OKNancy, here's the link to
What the health care law means for you

Ireland Opens New Investigation Into Death Of Woman Denied An Abortion

Ireland has opened a new investigation into the death of Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old woman who died in October after being denied an abortion, Reuters reports. Abortions are illegal in the majority Catholic country except when the life of the mother is at risk, but Irish law does not clarify when the threat is high enough to allow the termination.

Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year old dentist, was admitted to hospital in severe pain on October 21 and asked for a termination after doctors said her baby would not survive, according to husband Praveen, but in a country with some of the world's most restrictive abortion laws, surgeons would not remove the fetus until its heartbeat stopped days later.

Husband Praveen Halappanavar, who believes the delay contributed to the blood poisoning that killed his wife on October 28, has said he would not cooperate with an investigation already launched by the country's health service because he did not believe it would be neutral.


Ireland opens new probe into death of woman denied abortion
A solicitor acting on behalf of the husband said the new inquiry was unlikely to be enough to satisfy his client.

"My client has always made his position very clear ... He wants a public inquiry. He has made it clear he wants to get to the truth of the matter, so I don't think that the framework of HIQA will suffice," Gerard O'Donnell, told RTE radio.

He added that the next step would be to consider an application to the European Court of Human Rights, which criticized Ireland's abortion ban in 2010.

Pres. Obama's designer couture pays off for campaign, "just north of $40 million"

While President Barack Obama's re-election campaign took heat for launching a high-fashion clothing line as a fundraising tool earlier this year, it turns out the move may not have been such a far-fetched idea.

The Obama team's campaign manager, Jim Messina, recently said the line ultimately brought in "just north of $40 million"–a notable chunk of the more than $644 million raised by the campaign.

With high-dollar pieces created by some of the industry's top designers, the idea was started by Anna Wintour, editor of Vouge Magazine and a big Obama backer. The line even held runway fashion shows, including an event in February, where more than 500 paying guests showed up to shop for the Obama gear, paying anywhere from $44 for a discounted ticket to $2,500 for a chance to have dinner with the event's organizers.

At the New York fashion show, 23 designers put their touches on tote bags, shirts, pins and scarves. The wares on display: $75 tote bags designed by Tory Burch and Diane Von Furstenburg, $45 t-shirts by Marc Jacobs, Beyonce, Sean John and Narciso Rodriguez, and polo shirts by Russell Simmons.


Robert Reich:Why We Should Stop Obsessing About The Federal Budget Deficit

I wish President Obama and the Democrats would explain to the nation that the federal budget deficit isn’t the nation’s major economic problem and deficit reduction shouldn’t be our major goal. Our problem is lack of good jobs and sufficient growth, and our goal must be to revive both.

Deficit reduction leads us in the opposite direction — away from jobs and growth. The reason the “fiscal cliff” is dangerous (and, yes, I know – it’s not really a “cliff” but more like a hill) is because it’s too much deficit reduction, too quickly. It would suck too much demand out of the economy.

But more jobs and growth will help reduce the deficit. With more jobs and faster growth, the deficit will shrink as a proportion of the overall economy. Recall the 1990s when the Clinton administration balanced the budget ahead of the schedule it had set with Congress because of faster job growth than anyone expected — bringing in more tax revenues than anyone had forecast. Europe offers the same lesson in reverse: Their deficits are ballooning because their austerity policies have caused their economies to sink.

The best way to generate jobs and growth is for the government to spend more, not less. And for taxes to stay low – or become even lower – on the middle class.

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