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Obamacare to Cover Married Gay Couples in 2015.


Married gay couples will be eligible for a family health policy under President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform law beginning in 2015, the government said on Friday, encouraging insurers to begin offering coverage this year.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) also announced it would extend for one month a temporary program that offers insurance to some of the sickest Americans, who have had trouble finding private plans in new health insurance marketplaces set up in all 50 states under Obamacare.

Friday’s announcements add to the series of delays and modifications the administration has made to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare, since the law was enacted in 2010 and formally launched last October.

Obamacare’s six-month enrollment period ends March 31. And with volume expected to surge in the final two weeks, officials say the website HealthCare.gov continues to operate smoothly after technical problems in October and November paralyzed the portal for consumers in 36 states. The remaining 14 states run their own markets.

About 4.2 million people have enrolled in private Obamacare health plans so far, and millions more have been found eligible for the Medicaid program for the poor, according to the administration.

It continues, however, to wrestle with complicated and controversial issues related to the law.

In its decision on gay couples, HHS exercised federal authority to prevent discriminatory insurance market practices on an issue that has been caught up in state marriage laws.

The move follows a February lawsuit filed by an Ohio gay couple, who were unable to obtain family coverage under Obamacare, they said, because their state does not recognize same-sex marriage.

The gay community is a key constituency for Democrats, who are facing a Republican onslaught over Obamacare in this year’s midterm elections for control of Congress.

“If an insurance company offers coverage to opposite-sex spouses, it cannot choose to deny that coverage to same-sex spouses,” Dr. Matthew Heinz, who heads HHS outreach to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual communities, said in a posting to a government website.

“In other words, insurance companies will not be permitted to discriminate against married same-sex couples when offering coverage. This will further enhance access to health care for all Americans, including those with same-sex spouses.”

A formal clarification from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the lead Obamacare agency within HHS, said the administration is encouraging insurers to voluntarily implement the non-discrimination policy for the 2014 coverage year under the Public Health Service Act.

Compliance will be required starting in 2015.

“We expect issuers to come into full compliance with the regulations as clarified in this guidance no later than for plan or policy years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2015,” CMS said.

“We also expect states to begin enforcing the regulations in accordance with this clarification no later than for plan or policy years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2015,” it said.

Administration officials said the gay marriage decision and extension of the program for people with pre-existing conditions, known as the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP), were both intended to help Americans transition to the new healthcare era established by Obamacare.

The law requires most Americans to pay a penalty unless they are enrolled in insurance coverage by March 31, which is also when the PCIP program was set to expire.

Patient advocates welcomed the move, saying people with cancer, multiple sclerosis or other serious disorders need time to find insurance plans that meet complicated healthcare needs.

“We encourage patients in PCIP to look at other insurance options, including the health insurance marketplace at HealthCare.gov, as soon as possible so they are assured of coverage beyond the short term,” the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network said in a statement.

The extension came a day after U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told lawmakers in Congress that the enrollment deadline would not be delayed.

Administration officials said the PCIP program was being extended through April 30, under congressional authorization that has already allowed for two other extensions. PCIP was originally intended to expire at the end of 2013, but was extended first through January and later through March. (Reporting by David Morgan, editing by Karey Van Hall and Gunna Dickson)

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: Newsmax.com

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Obama, Hillary Join Forces to Raise Money for Democrats.


President Barack Obama is bolstering his party’s campaign coffers, joining an ally of former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to help the Democratic National Committee climb out of a worrisome deficit. It’s the latest alignment of the Obama and Clinton orbits, as the former first lady considers a White House bid in 2016.

Obama is traveling to New York Tuesday to raise money for the party at two events, including a high-dollar fundraiser at the home of Alan Patricof, the founder of a New York venture capital fund. Patricof is a longtime Clinton friend and financial bundler for her Senate and presidential campaigns.

The event illustrates the overlapping fundraising draw that Obama and the former first lady, senator and secretary of state represent for the party at a crucial time for the cash-strapped DNC. It also helps bridge some internal party tensions between donors who are merely interested in presidential politics and the Democrats’ needs during this year’s midterm elections.

Patricof wrote in a February email to contributors that he and his wife, Susan, had been “relatively quiet on the political front” following Clinton’s loss to Obama in the 2008 Democratic primary.

“The most effective way that we all can be helpful to Hillary, and the Democratic Party in general, is to make sure that the Democratic National Committee is as strong as possible if Hillary should decide to run in 2016 and, for that matter, if any other good candidate appears on the scene if she decides not to be in the race,” Patricof wrote in the email, first reported by Politico.

He called the fundraiser with Obama a “fireside chat” that would include 13 couples — 26 people — paying $32,500 per person.

The DNC has been trying to pare down millions of dollars in debt accumulated during Obama’s re-election campaign; through the end of January the DNC owed more than $15 million.

Obama, who will also raise money at a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee fundraiser while in New York, has been making a sober fundraising pitch of late, warning that Democrats run the risk of losing control of the Senate if the party doesn’t have the resources to motivate voters this November.

The president’s cash-raising comes amid tensions with Russia over Ukraine and a fast-approaching health care sign-up deadline that have been preoccupying the White House, underscoring the competing demands on Obama. It also comes as Obama is struggling with tepid approval ratings. Recent Gallup and CNN/Opinion Research polls place his job approval at 45 and 43 percent respectively. Over the past year, Obama’s approval ratings as measured by Gallup have fluctuated between a high of 51 percent last April and 39 percent in January.

If Clinton runs and wins the party’s nomination in 2016, the DNC would serve as a platform of continuity between the Obama White House and a future Clinton campaign. Party leaders recently outlined plans to build upon its technological advantage over Republicans and expand its voter registration and protection work in key states, steps that will help Obama’s successor.

The DNC already has plenty of Clinton connections. Committee members include Harold Ickes and Minyon Moore, both longtime advisers to Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton. One of its top fundraisers is Michael Kempner, a New Jersey public relations executive who served as co-chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 national finance committee and was a top bundler for Obama in 2012.

For many Clinton backers, the DNC is a natural place to offer help while the former New York senator mulls her future.

“It’s a clear signal that the Clinton faction of the party is seeking to help the president any way possible,” said Hank Sheinkopf, a New York-based Democratic strategist who advised Bill Clinton’s campaigns. “Money is still the mother’s milk of American politics.”

The fundraiser is the latest in a series of steps that have helped bring together the Obama and Clinton camps after the bitterness of the 2008 primary fight.

Democratic super PAC Priorities USA Action recently brought on board Jim Messina, Obama’s 2012 campaign manager, to lead the group. It made clear that it will back Clinton if she seeks the nomination. The super PAC’s executive director is Buffy Wicks, a former top Obama campaign staffer.

Ready for Hillary, a grassroots group aiming to lay the groundwork for a Clinton campaign, is advised by former Obama campaign aides Jeremy Bird and Mitch Stewart. In Iowa, which traditionally holds the nation’s first presidential caucus, the super PAC dispatched 250 volunteers last weekend to sign up new members at county Democratic conventions. The group covered 84 of the state’s 99 counties.

Patricof is managing director of Greycroft LLC, a venture capital firm he founded in 2006. In November, Obama appointed him to the President’s Global Development Council.

 

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: Newsmax.com

Cheney: Crimea Not a Lost Cause.


Image: Cheney: Crimea Not a Lost Cause

By Greg Richter

Former Vice President Dick Cheney doesn’t like it when he hears his friends say, “It’s just Crimea,” referring to the Russian takeover of that portion of Ukraine.

“It’s not just the Crimea,” Cheney said Monday on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity.”

“It’s a significant effort on [Russian President Vladimir Putin’s] part to reverse the downfall, if you will, of the Soviet Union and try to regain a lot of that territory, which voted for independence and sovereignty as the old Soviet Union fell apart.”

Cheney sees a sense of resignation in most in the West that Crimea is a lost cause. Russian troops rode into the southern peninsula of Ukraine late last month and have been occupying ever since. Putin said he is concerned because many ethnic Russians live in Crimea.

A March 16 referendum has been set for voters to determine whether Crimea will remain part of Ukraine or join the Russian Federation. Ukraine says the vote goes against the country’s constitution.

Even former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Sunday that Crimea will not slip out of Russia’s hands.

Cheney agreed with many others that economic sanctions and military aid should be considered.

“Tomorrow, if Putin is successful in the Crimea, who’s to say he won’t decide to tell the folks up in Lithuania or Latvia or Estonia he wants part of their territory because it’s got Russians on it?”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

 

Rep. Peter King: All Signs Say Terrorism on Malaysian Flight.


The puzzling disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 has all the earmarks of terrorism, says Rep. Peter King.

It’s still a mystery . . . Basically, though, you have a lot of indicators of potential terrorism here,” the New York Republican, who is chairman of the House Counterterrorism and Intelligence Subcommittee, told “The Steve Malzberg Show” on Newsmax TV.

“[There’s] the fact that you have a two passengers flying on stolen passports, the fact that the plane just disappeared, that there was no communication whatsoever, the fact that Malaysia is known to be a hotbed of al-Qaida activity in the past.”

Story continues below video.

On Saturday, the Malaysian passenger jet — headed to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur with 239 people aboard — vanished in the skies over southeast Asia. There were no distress calls made and no indication that anything was wrong.

Despite a massive search effort, no trace of the aircraft has been found.

Investigators are looking at terrorism, an electrical issue, or the possibility of a pilot suicide.

“If it was a terrorist attack, we have to make sure that it’s not part of a larger coordinated series of attacks,” King said.

“There are so many aspects that have to be looked at here . . . It could still very well be just an accident – an electrical explosion.

“Because of something this unusual, really nothing can be ruled out at this stage.”

King urged travelers all over the world to be extra-vigilant when flying.

“Whether or not we actually increase the precise level of security, we should be much more alert during this time,” King said.

“That’s just common sense that every airport be much more concerned and much more alert, much more discerning. First of all, we should be that way all of the time. It is a practical matter.

“Human nature is human nature, but certainly at this time, until this is resolved, every airport in the world, especially I’m concerned about the U.S., we should certainly be on our guard even more than we are usually.”

See the “Steve Malzberg Show” on Newsmax TV each weekday live by clicking here now.

 

© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Bill Hoffmann

Santorum: GOP Should Follow Pope’s Example to Gain Followers.


It’s possible to believe in your principles and still gain public support, former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum says.

Santorum told “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace that both Pope Francis and conservative Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott have won over followers without changing their position on social issues, and Republicans can do the same.

“We’ve done a very bad job of connecting with working Americans, and we’re out there in a very stressful time in American history,” Santorum said during a round table during the news program. “People are full of fear and anxiety about their future, and we’re out there talking about cutting things.”

Story continues below video.

And while Santorum favors reducing the size of government and taxes, he said the issue is not simply about what’s going to be cut.

“When your whole answer is, ‘I’m going to cut your benefits, I’m going to cut taxes for rich people,’ you’re not cutting it with average people. And that to me is the real missing link here.”

But if Republicans would talk more like Pope Francis, maybe they would be more successful in attracting the followers they need to win races, argued Santorum, a devout Roman Catholic.

“Pope Francis hasn’t changed one doctrine of the Catholic Church, but he’s getting four times the crowds,” he said. “Why? Because of the way he’s communicating to the average person out there. We need to learn some lessons of who is out there actually trying to reach average folks . . . because average working Americans feel disconnected to this president.”

Santorum, who placed fifth in a straw poll of potential presidential candidates at this weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference, went on to tell Wallace that he’s refusing to comment on whether he’s planning to run for president again. He said he’s holding off on answering that question until after this year’s midterm elections.

However, he admitted, “I will be in Iowa and New Hampshire this month.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

 

By Sandy Fitzgerald

Democrats Invite The Dalai Lama To Invoke Pagan ‘Blessing’ Over US Senate.


“The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.” Psalm 14:1

HuffPost: The Dalai Lama will step in for Chaplain Barry Black to lead the U.S. Senate’s opening prayer on Thursday, March 6, 2014 according to the Chaplain’s office.

The Director of Communications for Chaplain Black’s office told The Huffington Post that Senator Reid nominated the Tibetan spiritual leader to lead Thursday’s prayer in the place of the chaplain, whose office regularly facilitates prayers by visiting religious leaders.

dalai-lama-to-offer-pagan-prayer-over-us-senate-march-6-2014-new-age-religion

The Dalai Lama believes that he is a god, and as such recognizes no gods outside of himself. When he prays before the US Senate, he will be giving his blessing as a god, and not asking for God’s blessing on our nation.

The Dalai Lama’s prayer has been pre-approved, the director said, and if it is similar to the one he gave in 2009 to the New York State Senate, he may highlight the need for compassion and an “inner peace of mind.” He will be continuing the Senate’s 207-year tradition of beginning each session with a prayer, a role Chaplain Black has fulfilled since 2003 when he was elected 62nd Chaplain of the United States Senate.

Known for a firm commitment social activism, the 14th Dalai Lama is a controversial figure in China, where his relationship with the U.S. is regularly criticized. On February 21, the Dalai Lama met with President Obama for the third time prompting a reaction from the Chinese Foreign Ministry whose spokesperson called the meeting an “interference in China’s internal affairs.” source – HuffPost

by NTEB News Desk

The Exclusion Of Ogu (Egun) People From The Lagos And Ogun National Conference Delegates’ List.


The continuous marginalization of the Ogu (Egun) people of South-West Nigeria is common knowledge. The late sage and Premier of the then Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo has remained the reference point in leadership not only because of his selflessness and capability, but primarily because of his inclusiveness. For example, it was Chief Awolowo who appointed the Aholu, Claudius Dosa Akran from Badagry as the Minister for Economic Planning and Community Development (1958 – 1964) in the then regional government.

At the same time, Chief D. K Aihonsu (from Ipokia, present day Ogun State) was a member of the Regional House of Representatives through the support of Chief Awolowo. Since the demise of this sage (and the leadership style he represented), there have been spirited efforts to present the South-West Nigeria as a mono-ethnic region. In this vain, political representation (other than local elective posts) has largely excluded Ogu people.

For the records, Ogu people, who speak the language called Ogu (although erroneously called Egun) had been part of this space before colonization and amalgamation of the Southern and Northern Protectorates of Nigeria. The misfortune of colonization led to the partitioning of Ogu people into Nigeria, Benin Republic, Togo, Ghana, and Ivory Coast. The geographical spread of Ogu people forms a trans-border continuum in all these countries, while settling Ogu people are found in various other places in Nigeria.

To this end, Ogu people were part of the struggle for Nigeria’s independence and have contributed in no small measure to national development. In today’s Nigeria, Ogu people are found mainly in Badagry area of Lagos State as well as in Ado-Odo/Ota, Ipokia, Imeko, and Yewa South Local Government Areas of Ogun State. They are found in most states that share borders with Benin Republic, including Oyo, Kwara and Niger States. In addition, there are various Ogu indigenous communities like Makoko and Iwaya in Lagos State, Ago-Egun in Abeokuta, among others.

The indigenous Ogu people of Nigeria have had their fair share of the troubles with Nigeria. The Ogu are the typical victim of ethnic crisis in South-West Nigeria. In recent times, there has been escalation of ethnic crisis between Ogu people and their majority Yoruba neighbours as often reported in Ado-Odo, Ipokia areas, and some parts of Badagry. A few years ago, Ogu people were, almost as a matter of policy, denied admission into Badagry Grammar School, Kakon Model College and other government-owned schools until sufficient pressure and protests were registered by their leaders. On account of the non-Yoruba names most of them bear (there are some who consciously and on account of accident of naming bear Yoruba names), Ogu people are still denied admission into the various tertiary institutions in South-West Nigeria today among other injustices arising from their minority status in the South-West in particular and Nigeria in general.

The situation, sadly, at times suggests a systematic intention to single out this particular ethnic group for persecution. To many, the Ogu are Nigerians only when it is time to vote. Lagos traditionally has five divisions with Badagry (comprising mainly the Ogu people and the Awori sub-ethnic group of the Yoruba) as one of these divisions. It is however worrisome that a lot of political decisions and other moves for development often exclude the Ogu as is playing out in the nomination of delegates for the forthcoming national conference.

The Ogu people had looked up to the national confab as a great opportunity to table their concerns and suggestions that will advance the Nigeria project. It was with anxious optimism that the Ogu people through the Ogu Concern Forum (and various other groups) made presentations and submitted memoranda to the Senator Femi Okurounmu-led Confab Committee when the panel visited the South West late last year. Among others things, the Ogu people canvassed for ethnic representation to the confab, just as many other groups had advised. The report that the Constitutional Conference Planning Committee ultimately presented recommended, among other things, that the selection of delegates from each state should reflect their ethnic composition. Following from the recommendations, the Ogu people had made presentations and suggestions to the Lagos and Ogun State governments to be represented at the national confab.

On Monday, February 24th 2014, Governor Fashola of Lagos released the names of the six nominee-delegates of Lagos State to the national confab — Alhaji Femi Okunnu, Mr. Supo Shasore, Mr. Rabiu Oluwa, Mr. Waheed Ayeni, Prof Tunde Samuel and Mrs. Funmilayo Bashorun. Just as the Ogu, who were not in any way given any consideration in the choice of delegates, were grappling with the misfortune that had befallen them, the Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun also announced the names of Ogun State nominated delegates two days after to include Sir Olaniwun Ajayi, Pastor Tunde Bakare, Senator Biyi Durojaiye, Fola Adeola, Oba Kehinde Olugbenle, Mrs. Titi Filani, Barrister Biyi Adegbuyi and Senator Iyabo Anisulowo. Once again, the reality of Nigeria having a non-political national conference without Ogu people represented stares the entire South-West in the face.

The all-Yoruba delegates’ lists from Lagos and Ogun States reek through and through with contradictions. Such an exclusive list has the potential of detracting from the constant claim to a progressive character with which the South-West has often been identified. Neither is such a move in consonance with the mantra of justice and fairness and a collective developmental partnership which often reverberate in this part of the country. How, for instance, could these two states with radio and television broadcasting programmes in both Yoruba and Ogu close their eyes to the existence of Ogu ethnic nationality in their choice of delegates to the National Conference? It is an established fact that, Ogu people are not Yoruba, and to that extent, the governments of the states should have been kind enough to allow for representation of the Ogu as a distinct ethnic formation in the states. Even the non-Yoruba people in Ondo (Itshekiris, Ijaws) get better treatment from the state government.

We believe it is not late to rectify this gross marginalization and injustice. We are persuaded that there should be at least one Ogu representative in the Lagos State delegates’ list. We are equally persuaded that the Ogu people in Ogun State deserve at least one representative out of the eight delegates nominated by the state. We reject every suggestion that Ogu people can be represented by non-Ogu people, as not only does this smack of an attempt to infantilize Ogu people, it also amounts to malignant paternalism. We reject the persuasive distortions that tend to lump us up as Yoruba. We make bold to say that the absolutism being projected by the current leaders of South-West Nigeria is against the spirit of national dialogue.

We demand from the Nigerian State equal rights as citizens, including the right to air our grievances through the national conference. We remind all, that persistent injustice breeds agitation and resistance. We reject all suggestions that diminish our persons, our identities, our dignity and our uniqueness. We do not affirm difference for its sake; we do so because it is the least logical thing to do, seeing that we operate by distinct cultural paradigms that are framed by equally distinct historical evidence.

Signed on behalf of Ogu Collective:
Dr Pius Fasinu
Ms Gloria Sevezun Agbaosi
Dr Senayon Olaoluwa
Mr Viyon Awhanse
Dr Jendele Hungbo
Mr Nunayon Samson Afodewu

Ogu collective, a representative body of the Ogu people of Nigeria can be reached atogucollective@gmail.com

 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

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