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dkf

dkf's Journal
dkf's Journal
October 1, 2013

Durbin: Medical device tax repeal could be ‘on the table’

Durbin: Medical device tax repeal could be ‘on the table’

Washington (CNN) - A repeal of the medical device tax may be a point of compromise between the House and Senate as the two houses of Congress work to end the government shutdown, the number two Democrat in the Senate said Tuesday.

“We can work on something, I believe, on the medical device tax. That was one of the proposals from Republicans, as long as we replace the revenue,” Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said on CNN’s “New Day.”

The medical device tax is a 2.3% excise tax created to in part fund Obamacare and went into effect at the beginning of 2013.

The tax is largely considered unpopular, including among some Democrats whose states harbor medical device employers. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, for example, penned an op-ed for a trade magazine advocating for a repeal last year while she was running for the Senate.

http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2013/10/01/durbin-medical-device-tax-repeal-could-be-on-the-table/

September 30, 2013

Larry Sabato says vast majority of R house seats are completely safe.

The only risk is a primary if they aren't conservative enough.

Unless things get so bad that many many individuals feel the impact, there is no downside for house Rs.

That is scary.

September 30, 2013

Fed may have to move goal posts on unemployment rate.

http://mobile.bloomberg.com/news/2013-09-29/fed-too-familiar-with-lost-labor-seeking-new-message-for-policy.html

“The committee would also take into account additional measures of labor-market conditions,” Ben S. Bernanke, chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, said Sept. 18. “Thus, the first increases in short-term rates might not occur until the unemployment rate is considerably below 6.5 percent.”

It’s becoming increasingly clear why Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke should have avoided linking the central bank’s policy decisions to specific unemployment rates.

Bernanke said in June he expected the Fed would complete its bond buying when the jobless level was around 7 percent, and policy makers have pledged since December they won’t consider raising interest rates as long as it exceeds 6.5 percent. With a decline in August to 7.3 percent for the wrong reason -- Americans giving up on finding work -- Fed officials are being forced to shift their guideposts.

The flawed measure has contributed to the market’s confusion over the direction of monetary policy, and Fed officials now are struggling with how to minimize it as a policy benchmark without damaging their credibility, according to Ethan Harris, co-head of global economics research at Bank of America Corp. in New York. The Federal Open Market Committee’s Sept. 18 decision not to taper its $85 billion in monthly bond buying surprised investors across the globe.

“Picking the unemployment rate as the key growth-side indicator was a huge mistake for the Fed,” said Harris, one of the few economists to correctly predict the Fed wouldn’t taper in September. “It was supposed to be a marker that the average Joe could look at and say, ‘Ah! OK, now we’ve hit a broad-based recovery.’ Now, they’ve almost immediately abandoned it.”
September 29, 2013

U.S. Moves on Syria, Iran Anger Saudi Arabia

RIYADH—The Obama administration's handling of overtures on Syria and Iran have outraged regional ally Saudi Arabia, which is signaling it wants to do more to boost the power of armed Sunni rebel groups on the ground in Syria as the U.S. pursues diplomacy.

Saudis fear that Syrian President Basher al-Assad will use the time afforded by U.S.- and U.N.-backed diplomacy on Syria "to impose more killing and to torture its people," Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said Thursday night in New York, in a warning that was overshadowed by the attention paid to the weekend's first public contacts in three decades between the presidents of Iran and the U.S.

Accordingly, Saudi Arabia wants "intensification of political, economic and military support to the Syrian opposition…. to change the balance of powers on the ground" in Syria, Prince Saud said in his remarks to the Friends of Syria group, a coalition of Western and Gulf Arab countries and Turkey that supports the Syria opposition against Mr. Assad. The state-run Saudi Press Agency carried a transcript of his remarks.

The Saudi government has had no public comment so far on the groundbreaking phone call Friday between U.S. President Barack Obama, whose country Saudi Arabia sees as the main military protector of its interests, and new Iranian President Hasan Rouhani, whose country Saudi Arabia sees as its main threat.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303643304579104910000148876.html

September 29, 2013

Government didn't shut down over the budget til Carter asked his AG to review anti-deficiency act.

Fascinating history of the budget and government shutdowns:

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/closed-business-government-shutdown-history-0

A stickler for the rules, Carter asked his attorney general to look into the Anti-Deficiency Act. In April 1980, Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti issued a startling opinion. "The legal authority for continued operations either exists or it does not," he wrote.

When it does not, government must send employees home. They can't work for free or with the expectation that they will be paid someday.

What's more, Civiletti declared, any agency chief who broke that law would be prosecuted.

Five days later, funding for the Federal Trade Commission expired amid a congressional disagreement over limiting the agency's powers. The FTC halted operations, canceled court dates and meetings, and sent 1,600 workers packing, apparently the first agency ever closed by a budget dispute.

Embarrassed lawmakers made a quick fix. The FTC reopened the next day. The estimated cost of the brouhaha: $700,000.



Near the end of his term, Civiletti further clarified the law's meaning. In a government-wide shutdown, the military, air traffic control, prisons and other work that protects human safety or property would continue. So would things such as Social Security benefits, which Congress has financed indefinitely.

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/closed-business-government-shutdown-history-0

September 29, 2013

Some Plans Deny Pregnancy Coverage For Dependent Children (one est 70%)

The health care overhaul provides a safety net for young adult children, who can now stay on their parents' health plans until they reach age 26. But it doesn't guarantee that their parents' plan will cover a common medical condition that many young women face: pregnancy.

Group health plans with 15 or more workers are required to provide maternity benefits for employees and their spouses under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978. But other dependents of employees aren't covered by the law, so companies don't have to provide maternity coverage for them.

Although hard numbers aren't available on how many companies don't provide dependent maternity benefits, "I would say it's common," says Dania Palanker, a senior health policy adviser at the National Women's Law Center. And the number could grow with the recent expansion of coverage to children under age 26, she says.

Dan Priga, who heads the performance audit group for Mercer, a human resources consulting company, estimates that roughly 70 percent of companies that pay their employees' health-care claims directly choose not to provide dependent maternity benefits.
...
According to the March of Dimes, the average cost for uncomplicated maternity care was $10,652 in 2007. That includes prenatal care, a routine delivery and three months postpartum care.

http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/features/insuring-your-health/2012/under-26-pregnancy-coverage-michelle-andrews-080712.aspx

Still On Your Parents' Insurance? Great! Just Don't Get Pregnant

Under the Affordable Care Act, people up to age 26 are eligible to qualify as dependents on their parents' insurance policies. This is great news if you're one of the thousands of newly minted graduates wallowing in un- or underemployed post collegiate hell, but it's less awesome news for women who, in their prime reproductive years, might find themselves SOL if they get pregnant — parental insurance plans, as a general rule, do not cover abortion or maternity costs. Better double up on both the Ortho Tri Cyclen and condoms, ladies. If you get knocked up while you're still on your parents' plan, you're both literally and figuratively fucked.

http://jezebel.com/5932613/still-on-your-parents-insurance-great-just-dont-get-pregnant

In 2008, an estimated 2.8 million women ages 15 through 25 got pregnant, 12 percent of all those in this age group, according to researchers at the National Center for Health Statistics. (That is the most recent year for which there are pregnancy estimates.)
...
In some states, a pregnant young woman might qualify for Medicaid, the federal-state health-care program for low-income individuals, even if she lived at home with her parents, say experts. But when Wendy and her husband, Andy, investigated, they were told that eligibility would be based on their household income, which was too high to qualify for Medicaid.
...

The health-care overhaul provides assistance to some young women who become pregnant while on their parents’ plans. Under the law, preventive health benefits that are recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a federal agency, must be covered by new plans and by plans that have changed enough to lose their status of being grandfathered under the law. The recommended services include a range of screenings for pregnant women, including those for anemia, hepatitis B and Rh incompatibility.

In addition, starting this month, when a non-grandfathered health plan begins its new plan year, it must provide certain other women’s health services at no charge, including an annual well-woman visit, screening for gestational diabetes and breast-feeding support, supplies and counseling.

Starting in 2014, maternity and newborn care is one of 10 so-called essential health benefits that must be offered by all health plans in the individual and small-group markets, including those that are sold through the state-based health insurance exchanges that will be up and running then.

Large-group plans, however, are exempt from the requirement to provide the essential health benefits, now or in 2014.

http://m.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/parents-insurance-covers-children-up-to-age-26--but-not-for-pregnancy/2012/08/06/2b59f160-6a2c-11e1-acc6-32fefc7ccd67_print.html

September 29, 2013

3 LIBYAN ARMY OFFICERS ASSASSINATED IN BENGHAZI

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — A Libyan security officer says unknown attackers have assassinated three army officers in the eastern city of Benghazi.

Sunday's killings are the latest to hit the security forces in Benghazi, where like much of the country the government faces a challenge from armed groups, many descended from the rebels that overthrew dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.

Col. Abdullah al-Zayedi, spokesman of joint security operations in Benghazi, said two of the officers, one a lieutenant colonel, were killed by bombs attached to their cars. He said a third, who held the rank of colonel, was shot dead by unknown gunmen.

Benghazi has been hit by a months-long wave of targeted killings. Victims have included political activists, judges and members of security agencies.

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/3-libyan-army-officers-assassinated-benghazi

September 29, 2013

Drone Loans: Customs and Border Protection Records 500 Predator Flights for Other Agencies

Customs & Border Protection released a new list to EFF this week that details the extensive number of times that the agency has flown its Predator drones on behalf of other agencies—500 flights in total over a three-year period. This list shows, yet again, how little we know about drone flights in this country and how important it is that we place limits on drone use to protect Americans’ privacy rights.

EFF obtained the list of federal, state and local agencies as a result of our Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the agency. Not only does the list show the total number of flights by year between 2010 and 2012, but it shows CBP flew its drones over 100 times just for Department of Justice components including FBI, DEA and US Marshals. This is in direct contradiction to a recently released DOJ Office of Inspector General (OIG) Report (pdf) that stated DHS had flown its drones on only two occasions for DOJ law enforcement components.

We discussed some of the other agencies that benefited from CBP’s Predators in a previous post, but some agencies on the list are new. These include the Grand Forks SWAT, the North Dakota Narcotics Task Force, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Arizona Department of Public Safety, the Minnesota Drug Task Force, and several branches of the military.

The list also includes several county sheriff’s departments. However, CBP has refused to release the names of these agencies, arguing in a recent court filing that to do so would disclose secret law enforcement techniques and would somehow “reveal that CBP is aware of the illegal activities taking place in a particular location.” It’s hard to fathom how releasing the name of a county sheriff department—without any other information about the drone flight for that department—would somehow let the criminals in the area know they’re being watched and help them evade detection.

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2013/09/500-cbp-drone-flights-other-agencies

September 28, 2013

What A Government Shutdown Would Mean For You

A government shutdown could furlough as many as 800,000 of the nation’s 2.1 million federal workers. It could hit as early as Tuesday if a bitterly divided Congress fails to approve a temporary spending bill to keep the government running.

Supervisors at government agencies began meetings Thursday to decide which employees would continue to report to work and which would be considered nonessential and told to stay home under contingency plans ordered by the Office of Management and Budget, or OMB.

Details about shutdown plans for each agency were expected to be posted on the OMB and individual agency websites by Friday afternoon, according to union officials briefed on the process. Formal furlough notices would be sent on Tuesday, the beginning of the new fiscal year.

The Office of Personnel Management has a furlough guide to help answer questions about a government shutdown.

So, how will a government shutdown affect you?

WHAT STAYS OPEN:

U.S. Postal Service.
Social Security.
Medicare.
Active-duty military will keep working, but will not get paid until the funds are available.
Air-traffic control.
Immigration.
Border security.
Emergency and disaster assistance.
Federal law enforcement.
IRS can still process electronic returns and payments only.

WHAT CLOSES:

Any federal agency that’s subject to appropriations. Each agency has the discretion to decide who is “excepted” or “emergency”, and who is furloughed.
All National Parks.
All federally-funded museums, including Smithsonian and the National Zoo.
All federal government websites.
Research by Health and Human Services stops. So does the grant process. Depending on how long it lasts, that will also impact medical research at hospitals and universities.
Applying for Social Security. If you’re a new retiree, your application won’t be processed.
IRS walk-in centers. Your paper tax return will not be processed.
Loan applications for small businesses, college tuition, or mortgages.
All Library of Congress buildings. All public events will be cancelled and web sites will be inaccessible.
Federal contractors will be out of work.
Federal workers (except “excepted” or “emergency” personnel) will not be allowed to work, not even from home. No blackberry, no smartphone, no laptop. Not even allowed to check work email.
D.C. Government would also shut down, as it is subject to congressional appropriations and is considered “a federal agency.” But the mayor sent a letter to OMB saying that all D.C. Workers are declared “essential.”

http://washington.cbslocal.com/2013/09/27/what-a-government-shutdown-would-mean-to-you/

September 28, 2013

Bernie Sanders an antiwar, pro-veteran senator

BURLINGTON, Vt. — Bernie Sanders, in his first bid for Congress in 1971, ran as a member of the nonviolent, socialist Liberty Union Party. He has maintained his antiwar stance since, first as a member of the House, then the Senate.

Now, in one of the most unlikely turns in his career, Sanders is chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, casting himself as a champion of those who fought in wars he battled to prevent.

Sanders’s role comes at an important juncture for the Department of Veterans Affairs: A new generation of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan is straining resources, while aging Vietnam veterans seek long-delayed compensation for exposure to Agent Orange, the chemical defoliant sprayed by US forces. The combination has led to a backlog of hundreds of thousands of claims, prompting outcries from veterans groups and demands that Congress step in to fix what many say is a broken system.

As a result, the Vermont independent has spent much of his time since becoming chairman in January working to fix the problems, especially the claims backlog, which the Obama administration has pledged to overcome by 2015.

http://www.bostonglobe.com/news/nation/2013/09/23/senator-bernie-sanders-antiwar-agitator-champion-veterans/2AmUdVLEHxfYAD7NlGf32L/story.html

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