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Archive for May 24th, 2014

Hawaii Raises Minimum Wage to $10.10 by 2018

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 24th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Hawaii Raises Minimum Wage to $10.10 by 2018
Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie on Friday approved a gradual hike in the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, as Democrats seek to make raising pay for hourly workers an issue ahead of this year’s midterm congressional elections. The move makes Hawaii the latest in a string of Democratic-dominated states including California and Maryland to pass or enact legislation raising the minimum wage to at or above the $10 mark, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The new law, approved overwhelmingly by Hawaii lawmakers in April, will raise Hawaii’s base wage in stages to reach $10.10 by January 2018 from a current level of $7.25, which is also the federal minimum.


David Petraeus Making Public Appearance to Honor Post-9/11 War Dead

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 24th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

David Petraeus Making Public Appearance to Honor Post-9/11 War Dead
The first ‘Reading of the Names’ for those killed in Iraq and Afghanistan will take place Saturday.

Militants attack parliament building in Somalia
MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Militants in Mogadishu on Saturday carried out a multi-pronged, complex attack against the country’s parliament building involving a car bomb, suicide bomber and gunmen on foot, police said.

Pope thanks Jordan for welcoming Syrian refugees
AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — On the first leg of his three-day Mideast trip, Pope Francis will get a firsthand look at the plight of Syrian refugees and witness the toll the civil war next door is taking on Jordan.


John McCain: Private hospitals could relieve VA health care woes

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 24th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

John McCain: Private hospitals could relieve VA health care woes
McCain would allow veterans to seek outside care; Rep. Nancy Pelosi has signaled her openness


Fox’s Ben Carson: “I Think What’s Happening With The Veterans Is A Gift From God”

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 24th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Fox’s Ben Carson: “I Think What’s Happening With The Veterans Is A Gift From God”

From the May 24 edition of Fox News’ America’s News HQ:

Previously:

6 Things You Should Know About Conservative Media Darling Dr. Ben Carson

Health Care Experts Rip Ben Carson’s “Near Worthless” Health Care Plan

Ben Carson Didn’t Expect Anyone To Be Offended by His Bigoted Comments


In VA Scandal, Accountability for All — Including Congress

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 24th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

In VA Scandal, Accountability for All — Including Congress
Joe Conason, RealClearPolitics
While Congress eagerly prepares its latest political stunt — a resolution to oust Gen. Eric Shinseki as Veterans Affairs Secretary — individual members might consider their own responsibility for the scandalous inadequacy of veterans’ health care. Unlike most of them, especially on the Republican side, Shinseki opposed the incompetent war plans of the George W. Bush administration that left so many American service men and women grievously wounded. And unlike most of them, especially on the Republican side, Shinseki has done much to reduce the backlog of veterans seeking care, despite the…

GOP Still Swallowing the Tea
Eugene Robinson, RealClearPolitics
WASHINGTON — What’s happening in the Republican primaries is less a defeat for the tea party than a surrender by the GOP establishment, which is winning key races by accepting the tea party’s radical anti-government philosophy. Anyone who hopes the party has finally come to its senses will be disappointed. Republicans have pragmatically decided not to concede Senate elections by nominating eccentrics and crackpots. But in convincing the party’s activist base to come along, establishment leaders have pledged fealty to eccentric, crackpot ideas. House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, who easily…

Non Campus Mentis
Steven Hayward, RealClearPolitics
Shortly after the 2010 mid-term elections, my old mentor M. Stanton Evans offered his interpretation of the Republican landslide: “The election represents a return of the conservative principles of low taxes, fiscal responsibility, family values, and a strong national defense. In other words—hate.” If anything, this gag is understated—vindicating Evans’s Law of Insufficient Paranoia—which holds that no matter how bad things look, a closer inspection will always find that they’re even worse than you thought. Earlier this year, campus feminists at…


Labour defends election performance

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 24th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Labour defends election performance
Ed Miliband’s Labour says it has performed well where it matters in English town halls amid complaints about the campaign from some in the party.

Tories ‘lack clarity and courage’
Tory MP and former leadership hopeful David Davis criticises his party and says David Cameron should pledge to hold an early in/out EU vote.


Will Conyers ruling be appealed?

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 24th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Will Conyers ruling be appealed?
“It’s too early to comment,” a spokeswoman for the secretary of State said. 


Junta Targets Scholars for New Detentions as Thai Forces Are Sent to Protests

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 24th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Junta Targets Scholars for New Detentions as Thai Forces Are Sent to Protests
Members of the junta sought to consolidate their power, “terminating” the upper house of Parliament and summoned professors and writers to give them “time to think.”



In Possible Thaw, Pakistani Leader Agrees to Attend Swearing-In Ceremony in India
The invitation by Narendra Modi, India’s new prime minister, indicated a possible upturn in relations between the two longtime rivals.



3 Shot Dead at Brussels Jewish Museum
An unidentified gunman opened fire at the Jewish Museum in central Brussels, killing at least three people.



Tempting Europe With Ugly Fruit
Isabel Soares has bet that there is a market for fruits and vegetables deemed too ugly by government bureaucrats, supermarkets and other retailers to sell to their consumers.




Boehner Suggests Privatizing The VA: ‘I Still Like The Idea, And Especially Now’

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 24th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

Boehner Suggests Privatizing The VA: ‘I Still Like The Idea, And Especially Now’

Boehner had first considered the option more than two decades ago.

The post Boehner Suggests Privatizing The VA: ‘I Still Like The Idea, And Especially Now’ appeared first on ThinkProgress.

House Debates Payroll Tax Extension Plan

CREDIT: Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is floating the idea of privatizing the Department of Veterans Affairs following multiple reports of abuses and delays of care at the agency. “I still like the idea, and especially now,” Boehner said in response to a question from the Columbus Dispatch about whether he still supported turning over veterans’ care to the free market. Boehner had considered the option “more than two decades ago,” reporter Jessica Wehrman notes.

Boehner added that “until we understand what’s happening and until we understand whether it can be fixed or how it can be fixed, all veterans seeking care shouldn’t have to wait” and said that reports of some veterans dying waiting to access care pointed to “systematic” problems within the VA.

Privatizing or partially privatizing veterans health care was most recently considered during the 2012 presidential election by Mitt Romney, who proposed giving servicemembers government vouchers to “choose whether they want to go in the government system or in a private system with the money that follows them.” Veterans groups quickly rejected the idea, arguing that access to VA-sponsored care through private providers would undermine the existing system that is exclusively suited to meet veterans health needs and treat war injuries and could lead veterans to “lose the many safeguards built into the VA system.” Following the backlash, Romney abandoned the proposal.

While veterans have struggled to gain adequate access to care since the Kennedy administration, the health services they do receive are the best in the nation. The annual Independent Budget, an aspirational budget published by the nation’s leading veteran organizations, has consistently found that the government-run VA serves as “a model health-care provider that has led the way in various areas of medical research, specialized services, and health-care technology.” It provides “quality and expertise on veterans’ health care” that “cannot be adequately duplicated in the private sector” and has become “the most efficient and cost-effective health-care system in the nation,” the document notes. A 2005 survey from the RAND Corporation similarly found that “VA patients were more likely to receive recommended care” and “received consistently better care across the board, including screening, diagnosis, treatment and follow up.” The nation’s largest integrated health care network also outperforms other health systems in delivering chronic and preventive care, treating diabetes.

A 2013 survey released by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs found that 93 percent of veterans who use the VA health care system have a favorable impression of it.

The post Boehner Suggests Privatizing The VA: ‘I Still Like The Idea, And Especially Now’ appeared first on ThinkProgress.

What You Need To Know Ahead Of Ukraine’s Presidential Elections

The Ukrainian election — complete with The Chocolate King, pro-Russian gunmen, and Steve Stockman — is set for Sunday. Here’s what you need to know.

The post What You Need To Know Ahead Of Ukraine’s Presidential Elections appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Leading presidential candidate Petro Poroshenko campaigning

Leading presidential candidate Petro Poroshenko campaigning

CREDIT: AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky

Three months after ousting President Viktor Yanukovych, Ukrainians are finally preparing to head to the polls to elect their new leader. In the time since, the citizens of Ukraine have lived through the annexation of part of their country, the threat of Russian invasion, an economy hovering on the brink, and chaos in the East. Will the trek to the ballot box solve these issues? Time will tell, but here’s what you need to know ahead of the vote:

Why is Ukraine having an election now?

Last year, the Ukrainian government under Yanukovych was poised to sign a series of deals with the European Union that would have brought Ukraine more in line with the EU’s laws and put into place trade deals that would see Ukraine more in Europe’s economic favor than Russia’s. In a sudden reversal, however, Yanukovych backed out of the deal, leading to demonstrations in the streets of Kyiv. Those protests were quickly met with force and a swing towards neighboring Russia for support, both moves that only escalated the crisis. After three months of street violence, raging fires, and deaths on both sides, an agreement was signed between the demonstrators and Ukrainian government, but Yanukovych fled to Russia anyway. In the aftermath of his departure, the Ukranian parliament unanimously declared that he had vacated his seat and formed a new interim government to manage the country until elections could be held on May 25. Yanukovych has repeatedly decried the vote as illegal from Russia, but has so far not managed to convince many of the fact.

Who’s in the running?

There are currently 18 candidates running to take over for interim president Oleksandr Turchunyov, though many on the far right and left have been marginalized. The leading candidate is actually the owner of the largest candy manufacturer in Ukraine. At times called the “Chocolate King” or the “Willy Wonka” of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko has proven himself to be an astute politician as well over the years. As the New York Times points out, the billionaire has “served as foreign minister under President Viktor A. Yushchenko; as economics minister under the ousted president, Viktor F. Yanukovych; and as a longtime member of Parliament, including a stint as speaker.” Poronshenko’s platform of instituting needed economic reforms and openness to greater autonomy for regional governments — along with his having taken part in the protests that ousted Yanukovych, though not as a leader of the movement — has won him more and more support as the months have gone on.

The other candidate garnering the most attention is former prime minister Yulia Tymonshenko, whose popularity has waned since her peak in the aftermath of the Orange Revolution in 2005. While Yanukovych was in office, Tymonshenko was convicted of abusing her power during her time in office, a conviction that was only lifted after Yanukovych’s ouster. While her release and subsequent announcement of her candidacy was met with excitement, since then she has lagged in the polls behind Poroshenko. Both Tymonshenko and Poroshenko are noted for their broadly pro-Europe stance, though the latter grew up in a Russian-speaking household which could eventually win him support in the restive east. In contrast, Tymonshenko has been increasingly seen as an old-school politician rather than a reformer, and is generally loathed in Moscow these days.

The third most popular candidate for a time was former world-champion boxer Vitaly Klitschko, whose popularity surged as a leader of the protests earlier this year. Seeing his position in the polls, however, Klitschko dropped out to run for mayor of Kyiv instead, the third time he’s done so, in a election also due to take place this Sunday. That a shady fellow billionaire orchestrated the deal for Klitschko to step down and throw his support behind Poroshenko, however, has left something of a sour taste in the mouths of some Ukrainians.

Is Russia still making trouble for Ukraine?

Yes and no. The threat of all-out invasion of Ukraine appears to be fading as the weeks go on. Moscow has said — yet again — that it is pulling back its forces that have been massed on its western border to create “favorable conditions for Ukraine’s presidential vote and end speculations.” Speaking at an investment forum in St. Petersburg, which the White House pressured U.S. business leaders not to attend, Russian president Vladimir Putin himself said he would “respect the choice of the Ukrainian people” in Sunday’s vote. This is a swing from previous statements made as recently as Wednesday, when Putin said it would be more logical for the vote to be held after a referendum on a new Ukrainian constitution.

But at the same time, Russian-backed fighters are still operating in eastern Ukraine, where heavily armed groups in the regions of Donetsk and Luhank recently declared their independence from Kyiv after a series of “referendums.” And Russian state-owned natural gas company Gazprom has been steadily escalating the amount that it costs Ukraine to buy from them, demanding cash payments in advance of the next shipment in June and calling in overdue payments that Kyiv currently can’t afford.

How will the fighting in eastern Ukraine affect the vote?

According to a poll from Pew Research’s Global Attitudes Project, even in the east — which is broadly pro-Russian, compared to the west’s pro-Europe stance — 70 percent of respondents wanted to keep Ukraine whole and united. Despite the insistence from the leaders of the “People’s Republic of Donetsk” that they’re independent, the Kyiv-appointed regional governor of Donestk at least has insisted that the polls will be open for Ukrainians to take part in the national plebiscite.

But leaders in Kyiv have admitted that it will be impossible to hold free and fair elections when armed gunmen patrol the streets to intimidate voters. This is being borne out as pro-Russians are moving to close down election stations in the east, such as in Maiivka in Donestk. And just because the majority of eastern Ukrainians want to stay a part of Ukraine, it doesn’t mean they’re excited about the election in the east, as “just 19% say it will be fair, compared with 75% who say it will not.” Further, a recent poll from the Kiev International Institute of Sociology says that more than 60 percent of people in eastern Ukraine are “either undecided or not planning to vote in the election.”

And the fighting has only gotten worse in recent days after a seeming lull. A pro-Ukrainian militia on Friday stormed a government building that pro-Russian separatists were camped out in, killing at least one of the separatists. The previous day, 14 Ukrainian soldiers were killed in a shoot-out with the separatists in Donetsk.

So what’s going to happen?

Since the announcement of the election, the Ukrainian Central Electoral Commission has been working non-stop to pull off the logistical feat that is a snap election in a post-rebellion country. A torrent of election monitors — including roughly 1,000 from the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), as well as American officials such as controversial congressman Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) — have descended upon Ukraine, to bolster the legitimacy of the vote.

Should any of the candidates receive less than 50 percent of the vote, a second run-off election will be held between the top two candidates. According to the polls ahead of Sunday, however, it’s looking like a landside for Poreshenko, forgoing the need for a second round. Whoever wins will have a far more constrained role than Yanukovych, with reduced powers in balance with the prime minister and parliament.

The post What You Need To Know Ahead Of Ukraine’s Presidential Elections appeared first on ThinkProgress.


GOP Hawks Wary of Rand Paul

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 24th, 2014 11:08 pm by HL

GOP Hawks Wary of Rand Paul
Jeremy Peters, New York Times
Rand Paul had just finished his opening remarks at a private gathering of Republican power brokers at the Four Seasons in Georgetown last fall when Phil Gramm, the former senator from Texas, shot up his hand with the first question.

Hillary Speaks! (Not Really)
Mark Leibovich, New York Times Magazine
Next month, Hillary Clinton’s latest memoir, “Hard Choices,” a chronicle of her time at the State Department, will enter the expanding political subgenre of Inoffensively Clichéd and Calculated Titles Composed of Inoffensive Clichés and Calculations. “Hard Choices,” which reportedly earned Clinton a high-seven-figure advance, will offer the standard promotional- book-tour-cum-possible-campaign prelude. It is “much awaited” in the same way that Vice President Selina Meyer’s “Some New Beginnings” and Senator Al Franken’s…

Why I Blew the Whistle on the VA
Sam Foote, New York Times
MY decision to become a whistle-blower after 24 years as a physician in a Veterans Affairs hospital was, at first, an easy one. I knew about patients who were dying while waiting for appointments on the V.A.’s secret schedules, and I couldn’t stay silent.

Mark Cuban and the “Price” of Progress
Ian Crouch, The New Yorker
In April, as the scandal involving the Clippers owner Donald Sterling made headlines, many of Sterling’s fellow-owners issued stern condemnations. Mark Cuban, the tech millionaire and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, said that, while Sterling’s comments were “wrong” and “abhorrent,” he wasn’t convinced that Sterling should be forced out of the league. “I think you’ve got to be very, very careful when you start making blanket statements about what people say and think, as opposed to what they do,” he said. “It’s a very, very…

Netanyahu Says Obama Got Syria Right
Jeffrey Goldberg, Bloomberg
Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has some uncharacteristically positive words for one of U.S. President Barack Obama’s most controversial foreign policy initiatives: the deal struck last year to remove chemical weapons from Syria.