Tag Archive: White House


Last I  checked the excuse for the shuffling that was  going on with  scheduling appointments.  Was not an  isolated incident as it was  being  done in more than one  VA Hospital.  Taking place due to  policies being implemented  to  monitor the productivity and efficiency of Hospital personnel and their respective departments. 

Protocols such as this are generally handed down from corporate hierarchy to regional and then local.   It is doubtful that regional or local management implemented these measures on their own and just happened to coincide with similar incidents in other  hospitals in the same way. 

If these protocols were being implemented and enforced  throughout all VA Hospitals , logic would dictate that  they originated higher up the food chain and that local as well as regional management had a stake in the ultimate outcome of these assessments.  After all ,  corporate politics would dictate that promotions and rewards would directly correlate with the outcome of said assessments as well as departmental records.

To establish unrealistic goals without providing adequate means to accomplish said goals effectively.  As well as establishing a competitive situation without adequate control measures to keep the  overzealous and unscrupulous from doing exactly what has been done.  Is an obvious failure on the part of corporate management, Eric Shineski, in this case.  To gloss over that fact is naive at best and criminal at worst.  But then Mr. Obama is no stranger to criminal negligence , gross ineptitude and just plain ignorance of the actions taking place around him.  So I suppose he can sympathize…..

 

~Desert Rose~

 

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VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst).

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst).

 The Washington Post

 

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House votes 390-33 to speed up VA firings

The House on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed a bill to grant the Veterans Affairs secretary expanded authority to fire senior executives for poor performance.

The measure passed on a 390-33 vote amid allegations that veterans encountered delays in access to medical care at multiple VA hospitals across the country, leading to dozens of deaths. All 33 votes in opposition came from Democrats, including ledership Reps. Steny Hoyer (Md.) and James Clyburn (S.C.). House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) voted to approve the measure.

Under the bill, the VA secretary would be authorized to dismiss senior executives or demote them to the civil service. It would require the VA secretary to notify Congress of such a firing or demotion within 30 days.House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) said the measure would help rid the department of incompetent employees in light of the controversy.

“The committee has received nothing but disturbing silence from the White House and only excuse after another from the Department of Veterans Affairs,” Miller said.

Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.) said the legislation would send a message that the VA would be held accountable.

“It is very important as we go into Memorial Day that we let the veterans know that we appreciate their service. And we also need to let them know that we’re going to do all we can to make sure they have the quality health care they deserve,” Brown said.

An administration official said the White House supports the overall goals of the legislation, but also had concerns that it could have unintended consequences.

 

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Obama vows fix to veterans’ health care troubles

 

WASHINGTON (AP) – With outrage mounting over veterans’ health care, President Barack Obama declared Wednesday that allegations of misconduct at VA hospitals will not be tolerated, and he left open the possibility that Secretary Eric Shinseki, a disabled war veteran, could be held to account.

“I will not stand for it – not as commander in chief but also not as an American,” Obama said following an Oval Office meeting with the embattled Shinseki.

Congress moved to keep up the pressure on the administration, with the House easily approving a measure Wednesday evening that would give the VA secretary more authority to fire or demote the 450 senior career employees who serve as hospital directors or executives in the agency’s 21 regions. The vote was 390 to 33.

Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, sponsored the measure, saying VA officials who have presided over mismanagement or negligence are more likely to receive bonuses or glowing performance reviews than any sort of punishment. He declared that a “widespread and systemic lack of accountability is exacerbating” the department’s problems.

The White House said it supported the goal of seeking greater accountability at the VA but had unspecified concerns about the legislation.

The growing furor surrounding the Department of Veterans Affairs centers on allegations of treatment delays and preventable deaths at VA hospitals. The department’s inspector general’s office says 26 facilities are being investigated nationwide, including a Phoenix hospital facing allegations that 40 people died while waiting for treatment and staff kept a secret list of patients in order to hide delays in care.

The allegations have raised fresh concerns about the Obama administration’s management of a department that has been struggling to keep up with the influx of new veterans returning home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama’s comments Wednesday – his first on the matter in more than three weeks – signaled a greater urgency by the White House to keep the matter from spiraling into a deeper political problem in a midterm election year.

 

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Possible drawbacks of the VA firing bill scheduled for Wednesday vote

The House is set to vote this week on a bill that would give the head of the Department of Veterans Affairs authority to fire or demote senior executives for perceived performance problems without going through the usual administrative procedures.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) added the measure to the weekly docket on Thursday, the same date VA Secretary Eric Shinseki testified about reports that VA health clinics throughout the country have cooked their books to hide treatment delays, some of which may have affected patients who died while waiting for care.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst).

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst).

Ironically, the American Legion has called for Shinseki’s removal because of the alleged coverups, along with other problems such as a longstanding backlog of disability claims and preventable deaths at various VA hospitals. If the secretary departs, his critics would have to wait for a replacement to fire senior officials for the recent controversy.

Shinseki said during the hearing that he is “mad as hell” about the reported treatment delays, and he vowed to stick around until he improves VA services for veterans or President Obama asks him to resign.

MORE: Shinseki faces tough questions on VA scandal, vows to ‘accomplish a mission’

Although firing VA officials may quell the recent outrage over reported coverups, the Senior Executives Association has raised concerns about the House bill. Below is a summary of the measure’s drawbacks, as outlined in recent statements from the group:

* Due process: Senior executives can appeal firings and demotions to an administrative panel known as the Merit Systems Protection Board, which determines whether the personnel actions were warranted. However, the hearings are informal and the decisions are non-binding for agency executives, unlike with rank-and-file employees.

The SEA said the House bill would rob employees of the right to recourse when department chiefs wrongly punish their workers. They also noted that accountability processes already exist for senior executives.

Agencies must provide a 30-day written notice when they decide to remove senior executives. The officials can then argue against removal, choose to resign, or return back to work at a lower position. They may also be eligible for immediate retirement.

 

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Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections

Obama Backs Shinseki Amid Calls to Resign (Updated)

VA Budget 03 042313 445x295 Obama Backs Shinseki Amid Calls to Resign (Updated)

Updated 6:22 p.m. | The White House is backing Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki after he faced calls to resign Monday over allegations that veterans died waiting for care in Phoenix and other problems in his department.

“As the President said last week, we take the allegations around the Phoenix situation very seriously,” said Shin Inouye, a White House spokesman. “That’s why he immediately directed Secretary Shinseki to investigate, and Secretary Shinseki has also invited the independent Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General to conduct a comprehensive review,” he said.

“We must ensure that our nation’s veterans get the benefits and services that they deserve and have earned. The President remains confident in Secretary Shinseki’s ability to lead the Department and to take appropriate action based on the IG’s findings.”

Earlier Monday, the American Legion called on Shinseki to resign, although the Veterans of Foreign Wars declined to do so. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said he wants the investigation to go forward first. 

 

 

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File:VH-3D Marine One over Washington DC May 2005.jpg

Official U.S. Marine Corps photo 050521-N-0295M-097 [1] from the USMC website [2]

A U.S. Marine Corps Sikorsky VH-3D Sea King helicopter, assigned to Marine Helicopter Squadron 1 (HMX-1), in flight over Washington D.C. on 21 May 2005.

By  :  PH2(AW) Daniel J. McLain

Wikimedia.org

 

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Monday, 12 May 2014 09:47

$1.2 Billion for New White House Helicopters Just the Beginning

Written by 

It didn’t take long for critics to scoff at the costs of the latest effort to upgrade the fleet of presidential helicopters announced by the Defense Department on Wednesday, May 7. They say the $1.2-billion contract awarded to Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation will be just the beginning.

There are at least two reasons to be skeptical: the open-ended nature of the White House requirements, and recent history.

The Department of Defense outlined its requirements, stating that Marine Helicopter Squadron One, which currently operates 19 presidential helicopters, must provide “safe and timely transportation for the President and Vice President of the United States, heads of state and others as directed by the White House Military Office.”

In addition, each aircraft must be equipped with various self-defense features such as bulletproof glass and body panels, as well as specialized communications equipment that allows the president to maintain “critical command functions” while airborne. Each helicopter must be large enough to carry up to 14 passengers and several thousand pounds of baggage while being small enough to operate from the White House lawn.

Each must have a minimum range of 300 miles and carry a full complement of defensive countermeasures to thwart heat-seeking and radar-directed missiles and also be hardened against an EMP (electromagnetic pulse), either from an enemy or from the sun. It must be able to send and receive encrypted communications and hold secure teleconferences while in flight.

And each must have air-conditioning and a toilet.

Under the contract Sikorsky promises to deliver two prototypes by 2016, with another 21 fully operational aircraft six years later.

Several questions arise. First, why so many? After all, there’s just one president and one vice president. According to Helimart.com, anytime the president flies somewhere by helicopter, four other helicopters are alongside him. They fly in varying formations to keep the president’s aircraft as disguised as possible. This is often referred to as the presidential “shell game.” In addition, with a helicopter’s range of just 300 miles, a longer trip must “cache” additional aircraft along the route.

 

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The New American

Wednesday, 23 April 2014 15:08

Democrat Says Worst of ObamaCare Yet to Come

Written by 

 


 Photo of Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.): AP Images

It is always noteworthy when a lawmaker breaks what seems to be the “Cardinal Rule” against speaking out against one’s own party, particularly when it regards the party’s signature accomplishment. The Obama administration cannot possibly be pleased with the assertions made by Representative Stephen Lynch (shown, D-Mass.) about the healthcare law, which stand in direct opposition to statements made by the president about the very same law.

On April 17, readers may recall, President Obama announced during a White House news conference that the healthcare law “is working.” Yet during an interview with the Boston Herald, Lynch did not hesitate to criticize the law when he said the worst of the Affordable Care Act has yet to be seen.

“There are parts of Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act, that were postponed because they are unpalatable,” he told the Herald. “As these provisions come into effect, the administration thus far is saying, ‘Gee, we really can’t handle this right now so we’re going to delay it.’”

 

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Nomi Prins Author of “All the Presidents Bankers“ on Upcoming Collapse

Nomi PrinsBy Greg Hunter’s USAWatchdog.com

Best-selling author Nomi Prins warns, “Never before have the Government and the Fed collaborated so extensively by propping up the banking system to the detriment of the population.”  Prins lays out a long history of the relationships between U.S. Presidents and bankers that date back to Teddy Roosevelt and JP Morgan.   On her new book titled “All the Presidents’ Bankers,” Prins contends, “That connection with Teddy Roosevelt was a very powerful established entity between two people that has allowed all this stuff that has happened in the last hundred years to really happen.  The friendships, the social ties, the idea that the bankers could sort themselves out with Treasury Department help if it needed to.  Of course, it’s epic now.  All of that was solidified then.  Banks being hands-off with respect to the oval office was all solidified then.  We’ve only been consolidating that message throughout the century since.”   

Fast forward to JFK and the bankers of the day, and Prins points out the banks in the early 1960’s didn’t want a gold standard to restrict them.  It is dollar debasement history as Prins explains, “If bankers have a peg, if they have to put gold or any type of asset behind it or have any restriction, they don’t like it.  So at the time, they weren’t working on trying to demolish the regulations that happened from the 1930’s to separate bank speculation from depositors, but they saw something else, and that was getting off gold.  They really worked to push JFK off of gold.  JFK was a little less friendly with the bankers.  JFK, when he did invite bankers to the White House, he would have very short meetings.  It was like hello, goodbye and thank you.  Where LBJ, who came after JFK, was very friendly to the bankers and opened the White House to the bankers.”  

 

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The Hill

Pelosi warns focus on deportations a ‘gift’ to Republicans

Getty Images

Immigration reformers shifting their focus from Congress to the White House over deportations risk undermining efforts to pass a comprehensive reform bill this year, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) warned Thursday.

Pelosi said she supports the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s calls for the administration to reduce deportations. But simultaneously taking pressure off of House Republicans, she added, is a “gift” to GOP leaders, allowing them to dodge a sensitive issue that could hurt them in the 2014 election.

“That’s a gift to the Republicans,” she said. “Because the fact is, the Republicans are never going to move unless they think there’s a price to play politically for not bringing the bill to the floor.”

Pelosi stressed that legislation remains the Democrats’ ultimate goal, and urged reformers to stay focused on Congress getting a bill.

“I see the pain and suffering of the deportations,” she said. “But the answer, the medicine for every ill in the deportations is to pass comprehensive immigration reform.”

Pelosi did not say that congressional Democrats or the White House should no longer consider reduced deportations. But her warning that the actions of pro-immigration groups could deliver Republicans a political benefit could raise questions about the strategy overall.

Many Democrats are calling on President Obama for reduced deportations, and Obama has asked Department of Homeland Security leaders for an across-the-board review of his deportations policies.

The move has made many critics hopeful he’ll expand the administration’s deferred action program, which allows some immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as kids to remain in the United States temporarily, to a broader population.

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Pelosi: Race playing role in GOP’s reluctance to move immigration bill

Greg Nash

Issues of race have made GOP leaders reluctant to back immigration reform, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) charged Thursday.

 

The Democratic leader suggested that the Republicans would have moved a reform bill long ago if whites were the only beneficiaries.”I think race has something to do with the fact that they’re not bringing up an immigration bill,” Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol. “I’ve heard them say to the Irish, ‘If it were just you, this would be easy.’ “

The remarks came in response to a question about the often-testy relationship between congressional Republicans and the administration of President Obama, the nation’s first black president.

There’s long been grumbling among Democrats that Obama’s race has exacerbated the partisan divide between the White House and Capitol Hill Republicans, highlighted recently by a flare-up between Attorney General Eric Holder, who is black, and Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee.

Pelosi was reluctant to say that race issues have fueled those tensions, arguing more broadly that Republicans have been “very disrespectful” of White House officials regardless of their ethnicity.

 

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MICHAEL REYNOLDS / EPA 8 minutes

Kathleen Sebelius Resigning as Health Secretary

Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is resigning, U.S. officials told NBC News on Thursday.

U.S. officials told NBC News that President Barack Obama on Friday will nominate Sylvia Mathews Burwell, currently director of the White House Office and Management and Budget, to succeed Sebelius, 65, the former governor of Kansas, who was an original member of the Cabinet that Obama appointed when he took office in January 2009.

Image: U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Sebelius answers a question while she testifies before the Senate Finance Committee hearing on the President's budget proposal for FY2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington LARRY DOWNING / Reuters

As secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius was the public face of the bug-ridden rollout of President Barack Obama’s health care insurance initiative..

No reason for Sebelius’ departure, was immediately available, but she came under sustained criticism as head of the agency in charge of the controversial rollout of Obama’s health care reform initiative.

Sebelius told Obama of her intentions in early March, a White official said, but she didn’t tip her hand when she told the Senate Finance Committee earlier Thursday that 7.5 million Americans had signed up for health coverage under the new law — a figure that exceeded the original expectations despite the months of problems.

Sebelius has apologized numerous times for the glitch-prone website, which initially blocked many Americans from comparing and enrolling in health insurance plans. Testifying before a House committee in October, she conceded that the website, healthcare.gov, was “a miserably frustrating experience for way too many Americans.”

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Bloomberg

Sebelius Said to Resign as U.S. Health Secretary

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services, speaks during a Senate..

Kathleen Sebelius, the U.S. health secretary who steered the troubled rollout of President Barack Obama’s signature health-care law, will resign just as the program topped its first-year enrollment goal, according to two people familiar with the decision.

The resignation of Sebelius, 65, is expected to be announced tomorrow, said the people who asked not to be identified because the decision is still private. Sylvia Mathews Burwell, 48, director of the Office of Management and Budget, will be nominated to succeed Sebelius, one of the people said. White House officials had no immediate comment on the report.

A former Democratic governor of Kansas, Sebelius was an early backer of Obama’s campaign for the president. She spent five years running the Health and Human Services Department, presiding over the largest change to government health programs since Medicare and Medicaid began almost 50 years ago.

Sebelius’s resignation closes the first major chapter of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. The 2010 law is projected to eventually offer health insurance to 25 million more people in the U.S., paid for with changes to Medicare, taxes on health-care providers and a requirement that all Americans have insurance.

Sebelius’s departure was unexpected by at least one person close to her, Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger, a Republican who has worked with her since 1991. Praeger said she was at a dinner where the health secretary spoke last week and that “she seemed like she was in it for the long haul.”

Enrollment Goals

Assessing Sebelius’s work, the number of people who signed up for coverage through Obamacare may trump the difficulties in getting there when the new online insurance marketplaces started with flawed technology last October. In total, 7.5 million Americans signed up for private health plans through the exchanges, half a million more than the government’s most optimistic estimates.

The secretary “played a key role that enabled the Affordable Care Act to become the law of the land, and she worked tirelessly to implement it successfully,” Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, a Washington-based health advocacy group that supports the law, said in an e-mail. “We owe her an enormous debt of gratitude for her excellent work in improving health care for families across America.”

Sluggish Start…

 

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Sanctions expand: Obama goes after more wealthy Russians and a ‘crony bank,’ freezes assets and denies US access in response to Ukraine crisis

  • President signed new executive order authorizing the U.S. to sanction ‘a whole slew’ of wealthy Russians and a bank that holds their assets
  • New move freezes assets of new targets and prohibits them from doing business in the United States
  • The bank will be denied access to U.S. dollars
  • Additional sanctions would also go into place if Vladimir Putin invades more of Ukraine or other nations
  • White House aims to cripple Russian economy including financial services, energy, metals and mining, defense and related material, and engineering

By David Martosko, U.s. Political Editor

President Barack Obama has signed a new executive order that authorizes his administration ‘to impose sanctions not just on individuals but on key sectors of the Russian economy,’ he said Thursday morning.

Speaking on the South Lawn of the White House before boarding Marine One en route to Florida, he also announced a new raft of anti-Moscow choke-holds that the White House is attempting immediately to ‘impose additional costs on Russia.’

‘We’re imposing sanctions on more senior officials of the Russian government … [and] other individuals who provide material support’ to them, Obama said in a brief statement.

He also announced new sanctions on Bank Rossiya, which he said ‘provides material support to these individuals.’

 

President Barack Obama addresses the Ukraine crisis at the White House Thursday, announcing new sanctions against Russian officials and a bank that holds their assets, and an executive order authorizing the government to make more moves

President Barack Obama addresses the Ukraine crisis at the White House Thursday, announcing new sanctions against Russian officials and a bank that holds their assets, and an executive order authorizing the government to make more moves

Showman: Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) spoke Tuesday at a rally celebrating his annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol after what the U.S> and other governments called an 'illegal referendum'

Showman: Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) spoke Tuesday at a rally celebrating his annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol after what the U.S> and other governments called an ‘illegal referendum’

Obama spoke for just a few minutes before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, en route to Florida for an economic speech and a Democratic Party fundraiser

The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control listed the new targets on its website as Obama spoke.

‘We’ve continued to be deeply concerned’ about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions, he said.

‘We’ve seen an illegal referendum in Crimea [and] an illegitimate move by the Russians to annex Crimea.’

Putin’s moves, he said, ‘have been rejected by the international community and by the government of Ukraine.’

 

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US sanctions list against Russian officials is unacceptable – Kremlin

Published time: March 20, 2014 19:47
President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov (RIA Novosti/Aleksey Nikolskyi)

President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov (RIA Novosti/Aleksey Nikolskyi)

Washington’s sanctions list against Russia is unacceptable, the Kremlin stated on Thursday. It comes after US President Barack Obama announced a new executive order slamming sanctions on top Russian officials in response to Crimea joining Russia.

“Finding some of the names on this list causes nothing but an extreme embarrassment, but no matter what the names are, finding any lists is unacceptable for us,” President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said on Thursday.

He added that Russia’s retaliation to the new sanctions will not take long.

“In any case, Russia’s reaction to these lists will be based on a reciprocity principle and will not be long in coming.”

The second round of sanctions imposed on Thursday singles out 20 top Russian political figures and businessman, among whom is Sergey Ivanov, head of the Kremlin administration.

Ivanov reacted to the news with humor, Peskov said, adding that this is not the first time that a Western country has barred him from entering.

“While I cannot say anything about the reaction of others, but as far as Sergey Ivanov, he reacted with humor. In his earlier professional life, during more than 20 years of service in the first headquarters of the KGB, and then Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, as a result of operational activity he has already been denied entry to most Western countries, so he is no stranger to this,” said Peskov.

 

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The G8 is dead declares Merkel as Europe prepares to ramp up EU sanctions against Russia

  • EU leaders are set to meet in Brussels to discuss developments in Ukraine
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel says EU will impose more sanctions on Russia after its troops seized majority control of Crimea
  • She also told the German parliament the G8 forum is suspended indefinitely

By Suzannah Hills

The European Union is set to impose further sanctions on Russia following its decision to annex Crimea as German Chancellor Angela Merkel today declared the G8 ‘is dead’.

EU leaders are set to meet in Brussels today to discuss how to deal with the developments in Crimea after Russian troops seized majority control of the peninsula.

In an address to the German Parliament in Berlin this morning, Merkel said the EU was readying further sanctions and that the G8 forum of leading economies has been suspended indefinitely.

Russia holds the presidency of the G8 and President Vladimir Putin was due to host his counterparts, including President Barack Obama, at a summit in Sochi in June.

But Merkel today declared the G8 will not meet again until the situation in Ukraine has been resolved.

 

Response: German Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced the EU will impose further sanctions on Russia

Response: German Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced the EU will impose further sanctions on Russia

The G8 is dead': German Chancellor Angela Merkel tells the lower house of parliament in Berlin the G8 forum has been suspended indefinitely

The G8 is dead': German Chancellor Angela Merkel tells the lower house of parliament in Berlin the G8 forum has been suspended indefinitely

German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses lawmakers at the lower house of parliament in Bundestag, Berlin, on Thursday ahead of a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels

German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses lawmakers at the lower house of parliament in Bundestag, Berlin, on Thursday ahead of a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels

Merkel: G8 does not exist at present

‘So long as there aren’t the political circumstances, like now, for an important format like the G8, then there is no G8,’ Merkel said. ‘Neither the summit, nor the format.’

Earlier this week, the EU and the United States slapped sanctions on certain individuals that were involved in what they say was the unlawful referendum in Crimea over joining Russia.

Cancelled: Russian President Vladimir Putin was due to host the G8 summit in Sochi in June

Cancelled: Russian President Vladimir Putin was due to host the G8 summit in Sochi in June

 

 Moscow formally annexed Crimea earlier this week in the wake of the poll. The Black Sea peninsula had been part of Russia for centuries until 1954 when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev transferred it to Ukraine.

Russian forces effectively took control of Crimea some two weeks ago in the wake of the ouster of Ukraine’s pro-Russia president, Viktor Yanukovych, after months of protests and sporadic violence.

The crisis erupted late last year after Yanukovych backed out of an association deal with the EU in favor of a promised $15 billion bailout from Russia. That angered Ukrainians from pro-European central and western regions.

 

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Sanctions tit-for-tat: Moscow strikes back against US officials

Published time: March 20, 2014 15:37
Edited time: March 20, 2014 17:40

RIA Novosti / Alexander Vilf

RIA Novosti / Alexander Vilf

Russia’s Foreign Ministry has published a reciprocal sanctions list of US citizens, consisting of 10 names, including: House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, Senator J. McCain; and advisers to President Obama D. Pfeiffer and C. Atkinson.

THE LIST OF OFFICIALS AND LAWMAKERS

These officials, along with another five named by the Foreign Ministry, are banned from entering the country.

The move comes in response to US sanctions imposed against Russian officials after the March-16 referendum in Crimea, which Washington considered “illegitimate.”

“In response to sanctions imposed by the US Administration on 17 March against a number of Russian officials and deputies of the Federal Assembly as a “punishment” for support of the referendum in Crimea, the Russian foreign Ministry announces the introduction of reciprocal sanctions against a similar number of US officials and lawmakers,” reads the statement published on the Foreign Ministry’s website.

The Ministry reiterates that Russia has “repeatedly” stressed using sanctions is a “double-edged thing” and it will have a “boomerang” effect against the US itself.

“Treating our country in such way, as Washington could have already ascertained, is inappropriate and counterproductive,” the statement said.

The statement continued: “Nevertheless, it looks like the American side continues to blindly believe in the effectiveness of such methods, taken from the arsenal of the past, and does not want to face the obvious: the people of Crimea, in a democratic way in full accordance with international law and UN regulations, voted to join Russia, which respects and accepts this choice. You may like this decision or not, but we are talking about a reality, which needs to be taken into consideration.”

 

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One Third of Uninsured Won’t Sign Up for Obamacare

The Fiscal Times

March 17, 2014

As the White House scrambles to get people signed up for health insurance before the March 31 deadline, many uninsured Americans say they are still planning to take their chances and remain without coverage.

A new study by Bankrate.com shows that about one third of uninsured Americans are going to remain without coverage and opt to pay the penalty.

The survey results suggest that the administration’s outreach to uninsured people may be falling short, with more than half of people without insurance unaware of the March 31 deadline—and even more unaware of subsidies that could make their policies more affordable.

Related: Obamacare May Be Failing the Uninsured

Bankrate surveyed 3,005 people and found that 41 percent of those who were uninsured said they plan to stay uninsured because they think that health insurance is too costly. Meanwhile, about 70 percent said they were unaware of subsidies available under the new law that could make their health plans more affordable.

The study’s findings are worrisome for the Obama administration since the key goal of the president’s health care law was to extend access to health coverage for the uninsured.

A separate study by the McKinsey consulting firm found just 27 percent of Obamacare enrollees were uninsured. That means that the majority of those signing up for Obamacare had previous insurance of some kind—whether they were kicked off their old policies, or they found a better deal on the exchanges. Though not confirmed by the White House, if accurate, that could mean the law is failing to meet its intended goal.

Related: Gallup: Employment, Obamacare Lower Uninsured Rate

Gary Cohen, an official for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said the administration has not been tracking how many of the Obamacare enrollees were previously uninsured.

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Breitbart

Eight Ways to Opt Out of Obamacare

With the deadline to sign up for Obamacare having come and gone, many Americans have decided to “opt out” of President Obama’s signature health care reform law, choosing instead to pay the $95 penalty for sidestepping the individual mandate.

“For many Americans opting out of Obamacare is the best decision they can make, but it’s important that they do it the right way—just refusing to buy health insurance and not having another way to pay for catastrophic medical expenses is a mistake,” Sean Parnell, author of the newly-released The Self-Pay Patient, told Breitbart News. “People who want to opt out should be looking at alternatives to conventional health insurance, such as joining a health care sharing ministry or purchasing a fixed benefits policy.”

Parnell also strongly advises Americans against opting out and simply paying the “list” price for medical visits and prescription drugs without shopping around, or by relying solely on the local hospital emergency room for routine medical care.

“This approach leaves people who opt out vulnerable to sky-high medical expenses at inflated ‘list’ or ‘chargemaster’ rates, and can result in an inability to obtain needed care because of cost,” Parnell writes on his blog, selfpaypatient.com.

Instead, Parnell recommends the following eight options for those who have opted out of ObamaCare:

1. Join a health care sharing ministry, which are voluntary, charitable membership organizations that share medical expenses among the membership.

Parnell states that Samaritan Ministries, Christian Healthcare Ministries, and Christian Care Ministry are open to practicing Christians, while Liberty HealthShare is open to those who are committed to religious liberty.

Healthcare sharing ministries “operate entirely outside of ObamaCare’s regulations, and typically offer benefits for about half the cost of similar health insurance,” says Parnell. “Members are also exempt from having to pay the tax for being uninsured.”

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Enlarge Photo

Photo by: Alex Brandon

**FILE** In this July 16, 2012 file photo, President Barack Obama sips his beer as he watches Team USA and Brazil during the first half of an Olympic men’s exhibition basketball game, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

The Washington Times

By Ben Wolfgang

Minutes after issuing a stern warning to Russia and saying there will be a price to pay if it interferes militarily in Ukraine, President Obama headed to a “happy hour” with fellow Democrats.

Speaking at a fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee, Mr. Obama struck a very different tone than he had less than 30 minutes earlier, when he appeared with little warning in the White House press briefing room and issued a vague threat to Moscow.

“Well, it’s Friday. It’s after 5 o’clock. So, this is now officially happy hour with the Democratic party,” the president told his cohorts. “I can do that. It is an executive action. I have the authority.”

 

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President speaks with Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai and says US is ‘moving forward with additional contingency planning’

Barack Obama, Afghanistan troop pullout
Obama would prefer to maintain a small military presence post-2014 but Hamid Karzai is unwilling to sign a BSA. Photograph: UPI/Landov/Barcroft Media

Barack Obama formally ordered the Pentagon on Tuesday to make plans for a full pullout of American troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year, pointing to a way out of the conflict that is reminiscent of his end to the Iraq campaign.

While the Obama administration reiterated that it would prefer to maintain a residual military presence in Afghanistan, the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, has refused to sign an accord that would pave the way for some US forces to remain. That has forced the administration to begin a contingency plan for a full departure after Nato formally ends hostilities in November.

A similar rebuke from the Iraqi government prompted all almost all US troops to leave there in 2011.

Obama told Karzai during a Tuesday morning phone call that while he would prefer Karzai or his successor to sign the so-called bilateral security agreement reached with the Afghans in November, “the United States is moving forward with additional contingency planning,” according to a White House description of the call.

But defense secretary Chuck Hagel said Tuesday that it was prudent “to ensure adequate plans are in place to accomplish an orderly withdrawal by the end of the year should the United States not keep any troops in Afghanistan after 2014”.

Hagel said that over the next several months, the US military will prepare “various options” for US and Nato leaders, including a full withdrawal of the approximately 37,000 US troops in Afghanistan, as well as the post-2014 missions of counter-terrorism and training for the Afghan security forces it has long desired.

The White House confirmed that Obama’s phone call to Karzai had been triggered in part by an urgent need to give clarity to Nato allies about any future US presence in Afghanistan.

“One of the reasons for the call is because Secretary Hagel will be participating in the Nato defence ministerial later this week and planning for post 2014 forces will be on the agenda,” said spokesman Jay Carney.

However, White House officials played down calls from Congress to cut off aid to Afghanistan if US troops are not allowed to stay, a major fear of politicians in Kabul.

“We have made clear that our commitment to Afghanistan – separate from the troop presence – is in our national security interests,” said Carney when asked about aid.

The White House rejected criticism that Obama had allowed a dangerous lack of communication with Karzai to develop. Prior to today’s call, the two leaders had barely spoken in months.

“It is preposterous to suggest [that Karzai’s refusal to sign the BSA] is because we have not made clear that it is to be signed,” said Carney.

The White House also warned that even if the security agreement was signed imminently, the size of the US commitment may now be in doubt

 

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Obama threatens Karzai with total Afghanistan troop withdrawal over security deal delay

 

US president Barack Obama says he will withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year, if the Afghan president continues to delay signing a post-war security deal.

The United States has about 33,600 troops in Afghanistan. It is withdrawing the force in line with Mr Obama’s vow to largely end a 12-year mission that began after the attacks in the US on September 11, 2001.

The original plan would see up to 8,000 US troops remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014 for counter-terrorism operations.

Afghan leader Hamid Karzai has agreed to a deal but he refuses to sign a joint security agreement.

Now, Mr Obama has run out of patience, telling Mr Karzai that plans are being drawn up to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan.

If that occurs, US troops will not be there to train Afghan forces or lead operations against Al Qaeda.

However, the US also has the option to keep a small contingent in Afghanistan next year without Mr Karzai’s agreement.

Mr Karzai has already ignored the White House’s earlier demand that the deal be signed within weeks, not months.

Obama gives ultimatum to Karzai

Mr Obama told Mr Karzai in a phone call on Tuesday (US time) that he had ordered the Pentagon to plan an orderly exit of all US troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year, the White House said.

The phone call was the first substantial discussion involving the two leaders since June.

“Specifically, President Obama has asked the Pentagon to ensure that it has adequate plans in place to accomplish an orderly withdrawal by the end of the year should the United States not keep any troops in Afghanistan after 2014,” the White House said in a statement.

US defence secretary Chuck Hagel will be taking the modified US position to a meeting of NATO defence ministers this week in Brussels.

 

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