Review Category : Poltics

Michelle Obama Gets Covered in Stickers

State Dept photo(WASHINGTON) — A first lady known for her flora and fashion got a little unsolicited help with both Monday from a toddler.

On a visit to Fisher House at Walter Reed National Military Center, Michelle Obama became an object for decoration by 20-month-old Lily Oppelt, who covered Obama’s face in floral stickers during an Easter card-making session.

Oppelt was one of 14 children, ages 6 months to 8 years old, participating in a pre-Easter celebration when the first lady stopped by. The children all have a Wounded Warrior parent receiving care at the facility.

In the middle of her brief remarks, a child interrupted Obama to present her with an Easter Card.

“Let me see. Oh, my gosh. It’s Happy Easter! I love it!” she said, receiving the unexpected gift.

“This is the best part of my day — with so many great families, you guys. But, more importantly, I get to shine a light on you all, our military families and our military kids,” Obama said. “Because you all are our heroes, especially our kids. Do you know — hey, hey, kids, do you guys know you’re heroes?”

“Yes,” the children replied.

“You guys are heroes. You’re — yes, that’s Spiderman,” Obama said responding to one child’s gesture.

“Spidergirl,” interjected one mother.

“Spidergirl, yes. An important hero,” Mrs. Obama replied. “Because you guys do what you do and make your parents’ lives so wonderful, they’re able to do the job that they do. And I know your parents couldn’t do this without you guys. So we’re so proud of you all.”

First dogs Bo and Sunny were also along for the visit. Mrs. Obama brought a basket of cookies in the shape of the dogs and the White House; she also gave the children tickets to the White House Easter Egg Roll, which is next Monday.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Rep. Peter King: US Sporting Events ‘Going to be Targets’ for Terrorists

US Congress(WASHINGTON) — With the nation focusing on Boston a year after the marathon was the subject of a bombing attack, chatter among terrorist groups continues to suggest a desire to strike high-profile sporting events in the United States, Rep. Peter King said.

“We always have to assume that major sporting events are going to be targets,” King, R-N.Y., told ABC’s Rick Klein and ESPN’s Andy Katz, in an interview for the new podcast series Capital Games.

“Now we don’t get that many specific threats against sporting events per se. But we know from listening to the chatter how terrorist want to attack iconic events,” he continued. “So whether it’s a major Fourth of July celebration or the Super Bowl or the World Series, we assume that that is what they’re targeting.”

Listen To The Full Interview With Gov. Patrick Along With The Rest Of The Podcast

Big outdoor events with access to the public — like the Boston Marathon — pose particular security challenges, said King, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee and chairman of the sub-committee on counterterrorism and intelligence.

“All we can do is try to minimize the chances for an attack and maximize the security to the extent that we can,” he said. “But in the real world in which we live, it’s a dangerous world. And you know the old saying is that we have to be right 100 percent of the time, the terrorists only have to be right once.”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Little-Known Legal Challenge that Could Torpedo Obamacare

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — While the Supreme Court considers one challenge to a provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a federal appeals court located just blocks away is contemplating a separate challenge that could have much more dire consequences for the future of the law.

“What you’re asking for is to destroy the individual mandate, which guts the statute,” Judge Harry T. Edwards of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said to an attorney representing the challengers during a hearing on March 25.

The case — Halbig vs. Sebelius — was heard by Edwards and two other judges and they are expected to rule in the coming months.

It concerns the American Health Benefit Exchanges (known as “exchanges”). The ACA provides for the establishment of the exchanges that are meant to help individuals (who in general are not getting insurance from an employer) to purchase competitively-priced health insurance. The philosophy behind the exchanges is that collective purchasing power will lead to more affordable insurance.

The ACA states that states can establish or operate the exchanges, or the federal government will step in to do so.

So far, 16 states and the District of Columbia have elected to set up their own exchanges, while 34 states rely on federally run exchanges.

The conflict at the center of the Halbig case (and three other challenges across the country) has to do with tax subsidies granted to those who seek to obtain insurance from the exchanges. The ACA grants the credits to qualifying individuals in order to defray the cost of the insurance. Millions of Americans are expected to take advantage of the subsidies.

But challengers to the law dispute who is eligible for the tax credits.

On one side, the IRS interprets the law as authorizing the agency to grant tax credits to individuals using either the state or federal exchanges. On the other side are challengers to the law who question that interpretation.

The challengers say that while the text of the law allows the subsidies for the state-run exchanges, there is nothing in the law that says the subsidies should be available for the federal exchanges.

“This is yet another example where the president and his agencies are playing fast and loose with the text of the law because they are trying to get the result they want,” said Carrie Severino, chief counsel for the Judicial Crisis Network, who is a critic of the ACA.

Michael A. Carvin, a lawyer for the challengers, argued in court briefs that the IRS is wrong in its interpretation of the law and the agency purports to “dispense billions of dollars in federal spending that Congress never authorized.”

Carvin is representing individuals and employers who are likely to face fines because of the IRS rule.

Michael Cannon, of the Cato Institute, was a very early critic of the IRS interpretation of the law. Cannon said he believes that the supporters of the law never imagined that so many states would decline to set up the exchanges. “Congress gave states the power to veto exchange subsidies,” Cannon said. “That’s the last thing President Obama wants, so the president decided to issue the subsidies in federal exchanges, even though he only had the authority to issue them for state exchanges.”

As of March 7, 2.6 million people have selected a federal exchange and 85 percent of them have selected a plan with financial assistance, according to U.S. Health and Human Services statistics.

Ron Pollack of Families USA is a strong supporter of the law and the exchanges. He dismisses Carvin’s arguments about costs. “If you just look at the provision of subsidies, it does cost money — there is no question. But the overall budget impact of the ACA is that it reduces the federal deficit,” he said. “There are many provisions in the ACA that create significant economies. Those economies more than offset the overall additional costs in the ACA.”

Pollack said the law and the intent of Congress is clear: subsidies should be available for all those who qualify, whether the exchanges are run by the state or the federal government.

The Department of Justice says the challengers are reading the ACA the wrong way. “Congress made clear that an exchange established by the federal government stands in the shoes of the exchange that a state chooses not to establish,” the agency argued in court briefs.

The challengers in Halbig vs. Sebelius are simply political foes of the law giving an artificial read to the statute, Pollack said. He worries if the challengers ultimately prevail, “it would mean that the key purpose of the ACA — which is to extend affordable health coverage to the many millions of people in the country who don’t have it today — would be frustrated.”

During the Halbig argument, Judge Edwards (appointed to the bench by President Jimmy Carter) strongly supported the government’s interpretation of the law. He told the challengers’ lawyer that Congress’ intent was to expand the availability of affordable health coverage not to restrict subsidies for the states that have opted for the federal exchanges. At one point he called Carvin’s arguments “preposterous.”

But he was contradicted by his own bench mate, Judge A. Raymond Randolph (appointed by George H.W. Bush). Randolph made clear his disdain for the law as a whole calling it “cobbled together” and “poorly written.”

Randolph suggested that the textual ambiguity in the law represents not a drafting error, but Congress’ intent. “Congress acted on the assumption that dangling this carrot in front of the states and the politicians and the governors of the state would lead to the fact that the states themselves would set up exchanges, rather than the federal government,” he said.

The third judge on the panel, Thomas B. Griffith (appointed by George W. Bush), held his cards more closely to the vest. But at one point he suggested that if Congress hadn’t made itself clear, “is it our job to fix the problem?”

If this panel of judges rules against the law in this case, the government could ask that a larger panel of judges on the same court hear the case. But supporters are concerned that one of the challenges, currently playing out in four different federal courts across the country, could one day end up, front and center, at the highest court in the land.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Secretary Lew Signs $1 Billion Loan Guarantee for Ukraine

Drew Angerer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Treasury Secretary Jack Lew signed a $1 billion loan guarantee for the Ukrainian government at the Treasury Department Monday morning.

Lew was joined by Ukrainian Finance Minister Oleksandr Shlapak at the signing ceremony.

“We view today’s documents and today’s signing as a sign of…support from the United States of America of the aspirations of the Ukrainian people to freedom, democracy and European values,” Shlapak said. “We view today’s signing as the first step towards broad financial assistance to our nation.”

Secretary Lew also said the U.S. was willing to impose “additional significant sanctions” against Russia as tension in eastern Ukraine escalates.

“[W]orking with our allies, we are fully prepared to impose additional significant sanctions on Russia as it continues to escalate the situation in Ukraine, including apparently through support to a…campaign by armed militants in east Ukraine,” Lew said Monday in the Cash Room at the Treasury Department.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Obama Reflects on Meeting with Pope Francis

Pete Souza / The White House(WASHINGTON) — At the Easter prayer breakfast Monday morning, President Obama reflected on his recent meeting with Pope Francis and their conversation about “the imperatives of addressing poverty and inequality.”

The president read a passage from the Francis’ The Joy of the Gospel, which he received as a gift. Obama said the message “speaks to us today.”

“‘Christ’s resurrection,’ [Francis] writes, ‘is not an event of the past, it contains a vital power which has permeated this world.’ And he adds, ‘Jesus did not rise in vain. May we never remain on the sidelines of this march of living hope.’ So this morning, my main message is just to say thank you to all of you because you don’t remain on the sidelines,” Obama told his guests.

Obama said the appeal of Pope Francis is found both in his words — a “message of justice and inclusion” — and his deeds — “simple yet profound.”

The president said he believes the pope is a reminder that “no matter what our station, have an obligation to live righteously and that we all have an obligation to live humbly, because that’s, in fact, the example that we profess to follow.”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Obama Reflects on Meeting with Pope Francis

Pete Souza / The White House(WASHINGTON) — At the Easter prayer breakfast Monday morning, President Obama reflected on his recent meeting with Pope Francis and their conversation about “the imperatives of addressing poverty and inequality.”

The president read a passage from the Francis’ The Joy of the Gospel, which he received as a gift. Obama said the message “speaks to us today.”

“‘Christ’s resurrection,’ [Francis] writes, ‘is not an event of the past, it contains a vital power which has permeated this world.’ And he adds, ‘Jesus did not rise in vain. May we never remain on the sidelines of this march of living hope.’ So this morning, my main message is just to say thank you to all of you because you don’t remain on the sidelines,” Obama told his guests.

Obama said the appeal of Pope Francis is found both in his words — a “message of justice and inclusion” — and his deeds — “simple yet profound.”

The president said he believes the pope is a reminder that “no matter what our station, have an obligation to live righteously and that we all have an obligation to live humbly, because that’s, in fact, the example that we profess to follow.”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Obama Condemns Shooting at Kansas Jewish Center

Pete Souza / The White House(WASHINGTON) — President Obama said on Monday that the deadly shooting outside a Jewish community center in Kansas is a call to action to “combat the ignorance and intolerance, including anti-Semitism, that can lead to hatred and to violence.”

“As Americans, we not only need to open our hearts to the families of the victims; we’ve got to stand united against this kind of terrible violence, which has no place in our society,” Obama told guests of the White House Easter prayer breakfast.

“We’re all children of God, we’re all made his image, all worthy of his love and dignity,” he said, “and we see what happens around the world when this kind of religious-based or -tinged violence can rear its ugly head. It’s got no place in our society.”

It was the second time in as many weeks that Obama condemned a shooting that claimed innocent lives and terrorized an American community. The latest incident occurred Sunday outside the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City in Overland Park, Kan., where parents and their children were gathering for a singing contest and another event.

Police say the alleged gunman, who killed three people, was a known white supremacist with a prior criminal record.

“That this occurred now, as Jews were preparing to celebrate Passover, as Christians were observing Palm Sunday, makes this tragedy all the more painful,” Obama said.

Synagogues and Jewish community centers across the country have added security measures in the wake of the attack. The federal government is assisting in the investigation, the president said.

“Nobody should have to worry about their security when gathering with their fellow believers,” he said. “No one should ever have to fear for their safety when they go to pray.”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Samantha Power: Putin’s Actions Suggest He Wants Eastern Ukraine

US Department of State(WASHINGTON) — In a wide-ranging, exclusive interview with George Stephanopoulos Sunday morning on This Week, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power had harsh words for Russian President Vladimir Putin in the wake of pro-Russian soldiers’ recent takeovers of government buildings in several eastern Ukrainian cities.

Asked by Stephanopoulos if the U.S. believes that Putin “wants” Eastern Ukraine, Power responded, “I think the actions that he is undertaking certainly give credence to that idea. But I will say in the conversations that we have, of course, they keep insisting, ‘No, that’s not what we want, that’s not what we want.’ But everything they’re doing suggests the opposite.”

“The leadership in Ukraine have made very clear that they’re prepared to have a conversation about autonomy and decentralization,” Power added regarding eastern Ukraine, but Putin’s continued provocations “make you think that a military solution is what” he is seeking.

By contrast, Power issued a relatively tempered response to Saturday’s revelations of potential new chemical weapons attacks in Syria, saying the administration is still trying to confirm the reports.

“We are trying to run this down. So far, it’s unsubstantiated,” Power said. “But we’ve shown, I think in the past, that we will do everything in our power to establish what has happened and then consider possible steps in response.”

Asked whether the U.S. had any option but to strike militarily following President Obama’s “red line” comments and Syria’s promise to turn over its chemical arsenal last fall, Power responded that President Obama finds the use of chemical weapons to be “alarming” and “outrageous,” and the U.S. would have to “look at our policy on this.”

“That’s why he put the credible threat of military force on the table, that’s why we’ve been able to destroy and remove more than half of Syria’s chemical weapons up to this point,” Power said. “But certainly the point of what we’ve done so far is to prevent further use. We weren’t just removing for removing sake, it was to avoid use.”

Power was a prominent proponent of aggressive action to protect civilians in Syria against attacks by Assad forces in 2012 and 2013, but has been quieter on the subject since a Russian-brokered deal was put in place last September that allowed the Syrian regime to peacefully dismantle its chemical stockpile.

Power recently returned from Africa, where she visited Rwanda on the 20th anniversary of that country’s mass slaughter of the Tutsi ethnic minority. She also stopped in the Central African Republic, where experts fear the outbreak of Rwanda-style genocide against Muslims by Christians today.

She said the crisis in CAR involves American national security interests that go beyond the mere defense of our values. The “Muslim population now in the Central African Republic has been displaced,” Power said, “and we know how dangerous that can be as unsavory elements get in [and] try to exploit” the persecution and disenfranchisement of religious minorities. Muslims make up about 15% of the Central African Republic’s populace. “This is a population that can be radicalized,” Power cautioned.

Power is the author of 2002′s A Problem from Hell, a Pulitzer-prize winning book about American inaction in the face of genocide. She told This Week that in the 20 years since the horror in Rwanda, the world has learned that “we can’t affect people’s desire to want to kill one another on ethnic, religious or other grounds.” But, she offered hopefully, “we’re much quicker” to respond to try to stop it.

In A Problem from Hell, the former journalist and professor stated that, “The United States should not frame its policy options in terms of doing nothing or unilaterally sending in the Marines.” That stark choice, she said, meant in the real world of political decision-making that the answer too often would be “doing nothing” in the face of human suffering abroad.

Now, Power is in a position to frame these policy choices herself, and she expressed optimism that in the United States, at least, her message has gotten through.

“We’ve learned the lesson that you can’t make the choice one, between doing nothing, on the one hand, and sending the U.S. Marines, on the other. There’s lots in between,” Power said.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Gov. Deval Patrick: ‘Very Thorough’ Planning to Protect Boston Marathon

Office of Governor Deval Patrick(BOSTON) — Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said Sunday the state is taking all necessary steps to secure the Boston Marathon after the attack on last year’s event that left three dead and hundreds injured.

“I think we are very well prepared and people should come out and enjoy themselves,” Patrick said Sunday morning on This Week.

“I think we have struck an appropriate balance between having more law enforcement presence, but also assuring that it continues to be a family outing and a civic ritual,” he told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. “The planning has been very, very thorough. The teams are well coordinated. … We had a sort of table-top exercise, a practice session, a full day, a couple of weeks ago with there were 450 people in the room from every state, federal and local agency and municipal leadership, as well, for each of the cities and towns along the route,” he continued.

Stephanopoulos also asked Patrick about the report that faulted Russia for failing to share intelligence and suggested the FBI could have done a better job tracking bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

“It’s obviously concerning that Russian intelligence was not responsive to questions asked by the FBI and by other United States intelligence agencies for a year or more. I knew this in the immediate aftermath, when we were getting this information. Now the public knows it, as a result of the inspector general’s — inspectors general report,” he said

Patrick said the marathon this year will be a “great occasion,” that remembers the tragic events but also honors the strength and teamwork demonstrated by the city.

“It’s going to be a great occasion and a solemn one, obviously, on Tuesday, when we acknowledge the tragedy of the last year, but, also, it has been a source of pride for us in the way that this community has shown the world what a community — and a strong community — looks like,” he said.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Rand Paul: Don’t Rule Out Containment of Nuclear Iran

United States Congress(MANCHESTER, N.H.) — New Hampshire can be a make-or-break state for a potential presidential candidate and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is ahead of the 2016 competition.

ABC News’ Jon Karl caught up with the Kentucky senator at a Manchester eatery, the Portland Pie Company. He was in town for the conservative Freedom Summit – dishing on Iran’s nuclear program, the future of the Republican Party, fellow republican Jeb Bush, and his own potential presidential candidacy.

Despite winning the last several straw polls, Paul is still shying away from being labeled the 2016 frontrunner. “I don’t know if that’s good luck or bad luck. So why don’t we not go there?” he said.

“I guess it’s better than not being noticed,” he added.

He may be ambiguous about his candidacy, but Paul is adamant on his views about the Republican party and its future.

“No matter what happens, I think the Republican Party needs to evolve, change, grow if we’re going to win again. And so I do want to be part of that.”

He is particularly focused on efforts to bring in minorities and young voters who gravitate toward Democrats. The senator has visited Berkeley, Howard University, and Detroit, working to bring new communities into the republican fold. Paul said his party’s staunch and sometimes alienating policies face “a hardened resistance.”

“It’s been going on for decade after decade after decade. So it’s not going to be easy to change. We got 3 percent of the vote in Detroit,” he said. “There’s not one Democrat that’s offered to help the people in Detroit,” a city who is struggling economically.

“I offered them a billion dollars of their own money to try to help them recover.”

But when asked by Karl to explain how those tax cuts he is proposing would help them, Paul said it would allow businesses to hire the unemployed.

“That money will be left in the hands of businesses that people in Detroit are already voting on,” he said. “Let’s grow those businesses and they will employ more people.”

Paul also defended his push to cut defense spending beyond lower sequester levels.

“I believe national defense is the most important thing we do, but it isn’t a blank check,” he said. “Some conservatives think, ‘oh, give them whatever they want and that everything is for our soldiers’ and they play up this patriotism that, ‘oh, we don’t have to control defense spending.’”

“We can’t be a trillion dollars in the hole every year,” he continued.

In 2012, Paul was one of two Republican senators to vote against a bipartisan bill proposing tough sanctions on Iran. Paul stood by his decision, saying he thinks “all options should be on the table” and explained why the government should not rule out containment of a nuclear Iran.

“They said containment will never ever, ever be our policy. We woke up one day and Pakistan had nuclear weapons. If that would have been our policy toward Pakistan, we would be at war with Pakistan. We woke up one day and China had nuclear weapons. We woke up one day and Russia had them.”

“The people who say ‘by golly, we will never stand for that,” he continued, “they are voting for war.”

Earlier this week, another conservative superstar Jeb Bush made headlines with his comments on immigration. The former Florida governor said illegal immigrants break the law by crossing the border, but “it’s not a felony, it’s an act of love.”

While Paul didn’t dispute Bush’s comments, he did say he may have framed them differently.

“If it were me, what I would have said is, people who seek the American dream are not bad people.”

“But here’s the way I’d finish up,” he continued “We can’t invite the whole world. When you say they’re doing an act of love and you don’t follow it up with but we have to control the border, people think, well, because they’re doing this for kind reasons, that the whole world can come to our country.”

Ultimately, the conversation turned back to 2016 – the question on everyone’s minds – will he or won’t he?

Paul said the decision is up to his wife, joking that he’s trying to convince her to run in his place. As of now, “There’s two votes and at least one undecided in the house,” he said. “So we’ll see.”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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