- 9 Things We Just Learned About Vladimir Putin's Life
(Politics - July 23 2014 - 3:18 PM:)
A new article in Newsweek provides quite a bit of insight into Russian President Vladimir Putin's daily routine and private life.
The writer, Ben Judah, spent three years interviewing those close to Putin for his book "Fragile Empire: How Russia Fell In and Out of Love with Vladimir Putin."
Judah's insights into Putin's life come from former prime ministers, current ministers, regional governors, senior bureaucrats, close advisers, and personal aides to the president.
Here's what he learned:
Putin sleeps in. He wakes up late in the morning and eats his first meal at about noon. He always has cottage cheese with his breakfast, and he also likes quails' eggs and fruit juice.
He does "much of Russia's thinking" done in a pool. Putin always goes for a swim after breakfast because he likes to get alone time in the water. He wears goggles and swims in a front crawl.
He does a daily "cleanse." He works out after his swim, preferring weights over cardio in the gym, and then immerses himself into both hot and cold baths.
He doesn't like the internet. His offices don't have TVs and he uses "only the most secure technologies" to communicate, which to Putin means paper and fixed-line, Soviet-era telephones. Putin's advisers sometimes show him satirical online videos that make fun of him, but he "rarely uses the internet."
He's high maintenance. When he leaves Russia, Putin ships in Russian cooks, cleaners, and waitresses for his trip. When he stays in hotels, his team removes their sheets and toiletries and replaces them with Kremlin-approved items under anti-contamination seals. He doesn't eat any foreign food that hasn't been cleared by the Kremlin.
He doesn't like spending time in the Kremlin. Putin lives in a palace outside Moscow because he dislikes the traffic, pollution, and "human congestion" of the city. He doesn't like visiting the Kremlin either, and prefers to work at his estate.
His inner circle calls him “Tsar.” They used to call him boss.
He doesn't have much of a personal life. Putin's parents are dead and he and his wife divorced. He has two daughters, but they don't live in Russia. He reportedly has women — models, photographers, and gymnasts — "come to him at night," but these are just rumors. Putin does, however, take comfort in his canine companion, a black Lab.
His life is monotonous, but he fancies himself a hard worker. Putin claims he "works harder than any leader since Stalin."
- Andrew Cuomo Releases Epic 13 Page Response To 'Ethically And Practically False' NY Times Story
(Politics - July 23 2014 - 3:08 PM:)
The New York Times published a 6,500-word front page story on Wednesday detailing how Gov. Andrew Cuomo allegedly blocked an anticorruption commission he established from investigating his allies. In response, Cuomo's office sent the times a 13-page response that was almost as long as the story itself.
Cuomo's response letter, which was 5,300-words long even had a two-page "ADDENDUM" section. It argued "the premise" of the Times story was "legally, ethically, and practically false."
Among other things, the Times reported a top Cuomo aide reached out to the anticorruption commission to quash an attempt to subpoena to a media-buying firm the governor has used for his campaigns. Cuomo's allies also allegedly moved to block an investigation into a New York real estate trade group "whose members have been among [his] most generous supporters."
However, Cuomo insisted that, since he created the commission, it could not look into his office without running into a direct conflict of interest.
"Interestingly, if the Commission had in fact investigated the Governor, .... we believe it would have been a major problem for the Commission precisely for the point you raise: the Commission wasn’t essentially independent. A commission appointed by and staffed by the executive cannot investigate the executive. It is a pure conflict of interest and would not pass the laugh test," the Cuomo response said.
Regardless, the entire matter appears to be a significant headache for Cuomo, a Democrat widely thought to have national ambitions. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said he hasn't ruled out investigating the Cuomo administration for its handling of the anti-corruption commission, for example, and Cuomo's political foes jumped on today's Times story to accuse him of being part of Albany's long history of political scandals.
"Governor Cuomo is in big trouble. Today's bombshell New York Times investigative report reveals clear obstruction of justice and calculated public dishonesty by Mr. Cuomo and his subordinates," Rob Astorino, the Republican candidate running against Cuomo, said Wednesday. "New Yorkers cannot afford to have a crook in the Governor's Mansion."
- Obamacare Just Got Dealt An Incredible Blow; Here's What Could Happen Next
(Politics - July 23 2014 - 12:55 PM:)
Tuesday was a day full of twists and turns for the Affordable Care Act, one that could lead the law back to the U.S. Supreme Court.
At the start of the day, Obamacare was struck a seemingly serious blow after a federal appeals court in Washington threw out an IRS regulation that allows for the implementation of key subsidies for health insurance under the law. It was a "stinging defeat" for the federal government — a potential "deathblow," as The Huffington Post's banner put it.
By the end of the day, though, another appeals court ruled in the law's favor in a separate case and the Obama administration was declaring victory. It was affirmation, the White House said, that the morning's ruling was a mirage and had been "undermined."
The plaintiffs in both cases decided by the appeals courts on Tuesday are challenging President Barack Obama's signature legislation by arguing the way it was written does not allow for subsidies to be provided by the federal government.
They point to a statute that says subsidies should be issued to plans purchased "through an Exchange established by the State under Section 1311" of the Affordable Care Act. Section 1311 establishes the state-run exchanges. The plaintiffs said the law does not permit subsidies in federal exchanges, based on Section 1311 and another corresponding section of the law.
"It was a full day," Ilya Shapiro, a senior fellow in constitutional studies at the Cato Institute, told Business Insider. "The surprising part is they came on the same day. You can tell the 4th Circuit wanted to blunt or one-up the D.C. Circuit."
In the end, the conflicting court rulings could lead the law back to the Supreme Court, where it will again be at the mercy of a conservative-leaning bench that can choose to hear the case if it so desires.
"Oh, yeah. It’s a serious challenge at this point. It’s very serious. It threatens the very substance of the law," Timothy Jost, a law professor at Washington and Lee University and an Affordable Care Act supporter, told Business Insider on Tuesday. "It means 5 million people could lose their premium tax credits, and millions more could lose their health insurance."
From this point, there are two schools of thought about where the legal challenge to Obamacare could go. The first says the conflicting court opinions on Tuesday make it more likely the Supreme Court will feel a need to step in and resolve the issue. But other legal experts still think the challenge won't make it all the way to the high court, based on a coming appeal from the Obama administration that will likely reverse the D.C. Circuit Court's opinion.
Either way, the Obama administration is seen as having the legal advantage at this point, but, as the individual-mandate case showed, perception can change rapidly.
A Justice Department official told Business Insider the administration will seek an "en banc" review from the D.C. Circuit court — which, if granted, would result in a hearing before the full court, plus two senior judges who originally heard the case. The math is better for the Obama administration in this situation: The full court splits 8-5 to Democratic presidential appointees.
"Today doesn't necessarily make it more likely" that the case will head to the Supreme Court, said Nicholas Bagley, a law professor at the University of Michigan. "It may make it less likely."
Legal scholars agree that, if the D.C. Circuit court agrees to rehear the case in full, it is likely to reverse its three-judge panel's decision. But the challengers in the 4th Circuit court could shake things up by directly appealing to the Supreme Court, rather than seeking an "en banc" ruling before a 4th Circuit court that is heavily populated with Democrats, as well.
That's why University of Richmond law professor Kevin Walsh thinks there's a good chance the conflicting rulings could speed up any potential Supreme Court review. The reason: The court may never grant review if there is no split between the 4th and D.C. Circuits. But if the 4th Circuit plaintiffs seek a Supreme Court review now, while the appeals courts are split, they will be on better legal terrain.
"The Court has discretion whether to grant [the appeal], of course, but a circuit split on such an important part of a massive regulatory scheme is the sort of thing that the Supreme Court should hear," Walsh wrote on his blog on Tuesday. "Having a final decision in favor of the government therefore is of some help to the challengers because it enables them to go to the Supreme Court more quickly."
Tom Goldstein, the publisher of the widely read and oft-cited SCOTUSblog, wrote in The Washington Post on Tuesday that he expects the case to reach the Supreme Court. His "best guess," he wrote, is that a majority of justices will take a limited view of the role of the federal courts and say the administration's position on the issue is reasonable.
"The courts are required to uphold the rule if the law is ambiguous and the administration’s position is reasonable," Goldstein wrote. "The Supreme Court will probably uphold the rule under that lax standard."
Here's a map that shows which states could be affected by the ruling:
- Here's Why The EU Still Won't Approve Tough Sanctions On Russia
(Politics - July 23 2014 - 11:29 AM:)
The E.U. already imposed sanctions on Russia in March over its stealth invasion and annexation of Crimea, but those lacked teeth. In the week after Russian-backed separatist accidentally shot down Malaysia Flight MH17 on July 17, killing 298 people, some E.U. members have urged much tougher sanctions.
Further, imposing sanctions requires agreement from all 28 E.U. member states.
Another key factor is Europe's reliance on Russian gas. Interestingly, several countries that import a significant number of Russian gas are pro-sanctions while others that do not import any Russian gas are still against sanctions.
Nevertheless, there's no collective political will to truly punish Vladimir Putin as long as Russian companies are supplying about 30% of Europe's gas. In fact, Ukraine claims that E.U. energy companies are sending less gas to Ukraine because of threats from Russian state oil giant Gazprom.
- Immigration Reform Is Actually Happening – Just Not On Capitol Hill
(Politics - July 23 2014 - 11:00 AM:)
Though comprehensive immigration reform has sputtered and stalled in Congress, many Democrats and activists have turned their attention away from the federal government and started focusing their efforts on the local level. This push has resulted in a number of pieces of local immigration reform legislation that have passed largely under the radar of the national debate. However, these laws have had dramatic effects and supporters argue they may inspire a wave of similar policies across the country.
Just this month New York City passed new legislation granting government ID cards to undocumented immigrants, joining cities like Oakland, New Haven, Trenton, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Since last year, a number of localities — including California, Maryland, Connecticut, Illinois, New Mexico, Nevada, and Oregon — have passed legislation granting drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants, according to the National Immigration Law Center. And a small slew of states have passed their own versions of the DREAM Act, giving undocumented students in-state tuition assistance.
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat looking at a run for president, told Business Insider that, when it comes to immigration reform, "progress has become a metropolitan phenomenon."
"I think hopefully what will happen is the more states that pursue policies that are consistent with the longer arc of our American immigrant experience," O'Malley explained at a New York City pub last week. "The more of us that follow those policies, the easier it will become for our federal government to catch up."
According to the most recent numbers compiled by the National Conference of State Legislators, immigration-related legislation is accelerating at the local level. A total of 184 state immigration laws were enacted and 253 resolutions adopted in 2013 — a 64% increase over 2012, the report said. (This number includes both pro-immigration and anti-immigration measures.) Ann Morse, the NCSL program director who helped compile the report, said the upcoming 2014 numbers are on track to show similar trends.
For his part, O'Malley predicted immigration reform could follow a similar path to same-sex marriage, which has rapidly become legal in state after state.
"I think that the genius of our system is that there is some flexibility and some room for states to follow some different approaches. And if they turn out to be better approaches then we learn from each other, right?" he asked. "Eventually, the result is in terms of extending fuller rights to greater numbers."
O'Malley recently found himself in the center of the national immigration debate after he engaged in a high-profile back-and-forth with the White House over the influx of unaccompanied children who have crossed the Mexican border and been placed in crowded detention centers. In response, O'Malley criticized the detention centers while also accusing President Barack Obama's administration of sending the children it planned to deport back to "certain death" in violent Central American countries. The White House fired back at O'Malley, who was one of Obama's most dedicated surrogates during the 2012 presidential election, by reportedly leaking conversations between the governor and administration aides that were designed to make him look hypocritical on the issue.
Even with members of both parties describing the situation with the flood of children on the border as a humanitarian crisis, the White House's solution to the problem — $3.7 billion in emergency border spending — is currently stuck in the quagmire of congressional politics.
Federal comprehensive immigration reform legislation is in an even more intractable position. Though an immigration reform bill passed the Democratic-controlled Senate, anything that can be labeled "amnesty" meets steep opposition in the Republican-controlled House. A final nail in the coffin for the possibility of compromise on the issue came last month when Eric Cantor, the soon-to-be-former House Republican majority leader, lost a primary in a shocking upset fueled by his willingness to consider a path to citizenship for undocumented children. Faced with this gridlock, Obama is exploring what actions he can take unilaterally without congressional approval.
Local leaders, including New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, have directly cited federal inaction on immigration reform as motivation for them to seek their own solutions.
"In the absence of federal leadership on a host of issues, cities around the country are taking on the challenge of finding ways to create progressive change that helps all our residents, and then sharing ideas with each other, inspiring each other to action," de Blasio said as he signed a municipal ID card bill in July.
It's not only the amount of local immigration legislation that has changed. According to Kica Matos, director of the Immigrant Rights and Racial Justice at the Center for Community Change, the nature of the laws being passed has shifted from policies aimed at blocking illegal immigration to legislation designed to expand access to government services for undocumented immigrants.
"What’s interesting is if you look at the trajectory of 2006 and 2007, the trend was more towards introducing anti-immigrant bills. What we’ve really seen is a shift in the types of legislation that’s being introduced in particular states and much more acceptance ... of bills that are pro-immigration," Matos told Business Insider.
This stands in contrast, she said, to laws like the one Arizona famously passed in 2010 — which both supporters and critics identified as the strictest immigration crackdown in generations. That law, which was mostly struck down by a subsequent Supreme Court ruling, made failure to carry immigration documents a crime and expanded police power to go after anyone suspected of being an illegal immigrant.
Echoing many politicians and advocates for undocumented immigrants, Matos said one reason for the shift towards state- and city-level immigration reform is that officials have realized Congress is unlikely act on the issue anytime soon.
"The state legislatures and particularly the big cities are recognizing that when Congress is unwilling to move forward with legislation, ... municipalities and the states really have to wrestle with the challenges that come with the undocumented population," she argued.
Of course, not everyone is happy with these measures. When New York City began to move forward with its municipal ID card bill in February, State Senator Greg Ball, a Republican leading his chamber's homeland security committee, warned of dire consequences.
“Now a decade plus after 9-11, New York's extremist mayor is laying out a hair brained scheme that can simply be dubbed the 'de Blasio Terrorist Empowerment Act.' My concern is not about the illegal alien dish washer looking to get to work, this extreme mayor's proposal, joined by efforts in the New York State Senate to provide New York State driver's licenses to illegals, will simply provide a mask to those seeking to harm the United States," Ball said at the time. "This mayor's proposal is a homeland security nightmare."
But Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who championed the bill in addition to other immigration-related measures, told Business Insider her legislative body was "very careful and deliberative" in how it crafted the municipal ID card law.
"We feel very comfortable about this. We feel very proud about what we’ve done," she said, also touting her efforts to expand legal services access in immigration courts and limit cooperation with federal deportation authorities in certain cases.
Mark-Viverito further predicted other localities will follow New York's lead.
"We know that New York City is the city this country and everywhere in the world has their eyes on," she said. "Definitely it’s a strong signal and a strong message to ... encourage others to implement it and take it a step further."
- Here's Where Russia Trains Separatists Before Sending Them Into Ukraine
(Politics - July 23 2014 - 10:57 AM:)
Geoffrey Pyatt, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, tweeted satellite imagery showing a Russian training facility for separatists near the Ukraine border.
The U.S. State Department asserts that over the last few months, U.S. intelligence has "detected an increasing amount of heavy weaponry to separatist fighters crossing the border from Russia into Ukraine."
The U.S. has also gathered "information indicating that Russia is providing training to separatist fighters at a facility in southwest Russia, and this effort included training on air defense systems."
Russian-backed separatists are suspected of accidentally shooting down Malaysia Flight MH17 on July 17, killing 298 people.
- John Kerry Doesn't Care About The FAA Ban Either — He Just Landed In Israel
(Politics - July 23 2014 - 9:42 AM:)
TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — The top U.S. diplomat flew into Israel's main airport Wednesday despite a Federal Aviation Administration ban in an apparent sign of his determination to achieve a cease-fire agreement in the warring Gaza Strip despite little evidence of progress in ongoing negotiations.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry planned to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during what appeared to be a crucial day in the flailing talks. U.S. officials have downplayed expectations for an immediate, lasting truce between Israel and the Hamas militant group that controls Gaza. At the least, Kerry's mission Wednesday sought to define the limits of what each side would accept in a potential cease-fire.
Kerry flew into Tel Aviv on an Air Force jet one day after the FAA banned commercial flights into Ben-Gurion Airport. The FAA imposed the 24-hour restriction after a Hamas rocket landed within a mile of the airport on Tuesday.
The FAA was going to reassess its ban by midday Wednesday in Washington. The European Aviation Safety Agency also issued an advisory saying it "strongly recommends" airlines avoid the airport. Israeli officials said the precautionary U.S. step was unnecessary and "gave terror a prize" by reacting to Hamas' threats. It also prompted a complaint to Kerry by Netanyahu.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Wednesday's meetings would continue Kerry's efforts to get Hamas and Israel to declare a truce after more than two weeks of fighting in the Gaza Strip. More than 630 Palestinians and about 30 Israelis have been killed in the violence. Israel says its troops have killed hundreds of Hamas gunmen, while Gaza officials say the vast majority have been civilians, many of them children.
Kerry flew to Tel Aviv from Cairo, where he met Tuesday with Egypt's president and other high-level officials. Egypt, Israel and the U.S. back an unconditional cease-fire, to be followed by talks on a possible new border arrangement for Gaza. Israel and Egypt have severely restricted movement in and out of Gaza since Hamas seized the territory in 2007.
But Hamas has rejected repeated Egyptian truce proposals. The militant group, with backing from its allies Qatar and Turkey, says it wants guarantees on lifting the blockade before halting its fire. Kerry spoke several times Tuesday with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid al-Attiya.
Egypt has also been negotiating with some Hamas officials, but relations between the two sides have been strained since Egypt outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood, which has ties to Hamas, after last year's overthrow of former President Mohammed Morsi.
Israel launched a massive air campaign on July 8 to stop relentless Hamas rocket fire into Israel, and expanded it last week to a ground war aimed at destroying tunnels the military says Hamas has constructed from Gaza into Israel for attacks against Israelis. Israel has struck almost 3,000 sites in Gaza, killed more than 180 armed Palestinians and uncovered 66 access shafts of 23 tunnels, its military said.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri said Tuesday's talks were focused "to not only resolve this issue, but also to set in motion once again the peace process that Secretary Kerry has been so actively involved in so as to end this ongoing conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis."
It's unlikely that Washington is ready to wade back into the morass of peace negotiations that broke off last April after nearly nine months of shuttle diplomacy by Kerry. But the new round of fighting between Israel and Hamas militants who control Gaza has reached the level of violence that U.S. officials warned last spring would happen without an enduring truce.
Kerry stopped short Tuesday of advocating a new round of peace talks. Still, he left the door open for broad negotiations between Israel and Palestinian officials once a cease-fire is in place.
"Just reaching a cease-fire is clearly not enough," Kerry told reporters after meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. "It is imperative that there be a serious engagement, discussion, negotiation regarding the underlying issues and addressing all the concerns that have brought us to where we are today."
The U.N.'s Ban met Tuesday with Palestinian authorities in Ramallah and with Netanyahu in Israel, where he urged a resumption of talks toward bringing about a two-state solution.
Netanyahu responded that Hamas, a group whose charter calls for the destruction of Israel, does not want a two-state solution and said the international community needed to hold Hamas accountable for the latest round of violence, saying its refusal to agree to a cease-fire had prevented an earlier end to the fighting.
"What we're seeing here with Hamas is another instance of Islamist extremism, violent extremism," Netanyahu said at a joint press conference in Tel Aviv. "What grievance can we solve with Hamas? Their grievance is that we exist. They don't want a two-state solution, they don't want any state solution."
Copyright (2014) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
- The 10 Most Important Things In The World Right Now
(Politics - July 23 2014 - 7:41 AM:)
Hello! Here's what people will be taking about on Wednesday.
1. Airlines in the United States and Europe, including American Airlines and Air Berlin, have suspended flights to and from Tel Aviv over concerns related to rocket strikes near the airport. The FAA is operating with caution to protect the safety of its passengers, even though Israeli officials maintain that the airport is safe.
2. Investigators say the crash site of the downed Malaysia airlines plane has been "significantly altered." Michael Bociurkiw, a spokesman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, told ABC News that "major pieces of the front of the plane appear to have been cut away."
3. International efforts to end the fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza continues, while Israel says one of its Israeli soldiers has gone missing. Capturing an Israeli military official can have a more "powerful impact on Israeli society" than even death, The New York Times explains. "Hamas has recognized the pull such incidents have over the Israeli psyche and clearly has moved to grab hostages," the Times adds.
4. A national day of mourning is being held in the Netherlands on Wednesday for the 193 Dutch victims of the Malaysia airlines plane crash, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said in a statement. The first bodies recovered from the crash are being flown to the country on Wednesday.
5. Russian oligarchs are moving their money out of London in anticipation of economic sanctions, the Telegraph reports. The move to punish Vladimir Putin's "cronies" follows the downing of the Malaysia passenger jet over eastern Ukraine.
6. The U.K. government will hold a public inquiry into the death of Alexander Litvinenko, a former KBG spy who was poisoned at a London hotel in 2006 after drinking tea laced with polonium-210. Litvinenko was meeting with two Russian men at the time, but both have denied involvement in his death, the BBC says.
7. Herbalife shares soared as hedge fund manager Bill Ackman delivered "the most important presentation of his career" on the nutritional supplement company, which he claims is a fraud. Ackman has spent $50 million trying to prove that Herbalife is running an illegal pyramid scheme.
8. The U.S. patent office awarded Apple a patent for an electronic wristwatch. The so-called iTimes patent describes a smartwatch-like device that attaches to the wrist and can communicate with other Apple portables, like the iPhone or iPad.
9. Typhoon Matmo made landfall on the east coast of Taiwan on Tuesday and is expected to moved toward China on Wednesday. The storm comes just a week after Typhoon Rammasun slammed southern China, leaving at least 100 dead.
10. Officials said five people are being held in an investigation into the Shanghai factory that allegedly supplied expired meat to several foreign fast food brands in China, including McDonald's and KFC.
Authorities are looking into who raised two giant white flags on the Brooklyn Bridge on Tuesday, briefly replacing the two American flags that normally fly there. "I'm not particularly happy about the event," police commissioner William Bratton said, according to the BBC.
- Businessman David Perdue Scores Big Upset Victory In Georgia Republican Senate Primary Runoff
(Politics - July 23 2014 - 4:28 AM:)
Self-described "outsider" candidate David Perdue claimed an unexpected victory in Georgia's Republican U.S. Senate primary runoff after a brutal, nine-week intra-party fight against his competitor, U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston.
The results were tight throughout the night, hovering around 50-50 throughout, but the businessman Perdue ultimately secured 50.9% of the vote, according to The Associated Press. Kingston, an 11-term congressman lagged behind by 1.7%, finishing with 49.1% of the final tally.
Perdue claimed victory in front of an enthusiastic crowd in Buckhead, Georgia, and spoke of the potential he sees should he win the Senate seat in November.
"The good news is there's an alternative: Limited government, economic opportunity... and a health care system that works for Georgians, he said. "We cannot give Harry Reid one more vote in this U.S. Senate. ... That cannot stand."
Perdue also thanked his followers, many of whom began supporting him before he was, in his words, "a viable" candidate.
"Guys, there are so many people to thank. We are the underdogs. I am a better candidate now because I've been through this process. So to you, I say God bless," he said.
Kingston gave the concession speech he said he "didn't want to give." He congratulated Perdue on a "victory well fought."
The momentum swung in Perdue's favor due largely to his success in mid-Georgia. Perdue also succeeded in the northern half of Georgia, which includes heavily populated metro-Atlanta.
Kingston performed very strongly in his home district, which encompasses 17 counties in southeast Georgia, as well as in the southern half of the state overall.
In the May primary, Perdue also won the largest percentage of the popular vote, leading Kingston 31% to 26%.
Going into tonight's race, polls largely indicated momentum for Kingston putting the incumbent between five and seven points above Perdue. The positive numbers for Kingston were fueled by the wide array of supporters that endorsed him during the runoff campaign, including the U.S. Chamber of Congress and big conservative names like former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
In closing his concession speech, Kingston ensured his full support for his former competitor.
The coming months will tell whether or not Republicans will be able to rally their base around Perdue as he begins yet another grueling campaign. Democratic candidate Michelle Nunn will likely put up an even tougher battle than Kingston. Recent polls have shown Nunn either close with or out in front of Perdue.
Democrats have identified Georgia as one of only two potential Senate seat steals this year, along with Kentucky. They plan to campaign aggressively before the November vote. The general election is Nov. 2.
- Tripoli's International Airport Has Turned Into A Surreal Battleground [PHOTOS]
(Politics - July 22 2014 - 10:12 PM:)
What's being called the worst fighting since the country's 2011 revolution is gripping Libya, and the capital's international airport is one of the prime battlegrounds.
Last Monday, clashes between secular and Islamist militants at Tripoli's central airport left the place in ruins, reportedly destroying 90% of the aircraft parked there.
Fighting has continued throughout the week, with clashes intensifying within the past two days. Forty-seven people have been killed, with 120 more injured in the fighting through Saturday, reports the Libya Herald.
The Herald also reports that five more people died, and 20 were wounded, in fighting on Sunday.
The pictures of the chaos have been flooding Twitter:
The foreign minister of Libya's interim government recently told the U.N. Security Council that his country is in danger of becomming a "failed state," and leaders have hinted that international forces might be needed to stabilize the situation.
- Incredible Images Tell The Story Of A Photo Of A Man Who Stood Down Chinese Military Tanks
(Politics - July 22 2014 - 9:40 PM:)
On June 5, 1989, one day after China's government began violently cracking down on protestors in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, a lone man, dressed in black pants and a white shirt, decided to take action against an approaching line of military tanks, en route to suppress protestors.
In an act of nonviolent protest, the man, who to this day remains unidentified, calmly walked in front of the procession of tanks, forcing the lead tank to halt. As the tank tried to move around him, the man repeatedly shifted his position, continuing to block the progress of the tanks and creating a symbolic gesture of opposition that still holds power today.
Photographer Stuart Franklin, a contributing member Magnum, a famous photojournalist and photographer collective, was there, shooting from a balcony at the Beijing Hotel.
The following day, after his roll of film was smuggled out of China in a packet of tea and delivered to the Magnum offices in Paris, the "Tank Man" image appeared on front pages everywhere. Three other photographers also snapped the scene, but Franklin's image is arguably the most iconic, having appeared in Time and Life magazines, and winning him a World Press Award.
25 years later, the iconic image is back in the spotlight. Franklin's contact sheet — a piece of photographic paper containing thumbnails of all the exposures from a specific roll of film — was recently part of Magnum's show of famous contact sheets at Manhattan's Milk Gallery.
The sheets, which were used by photographers and photo editors to make image selections before computers and digital photography rendered them obsolete, are treasure troves of information. They show outtakes and behind-the-scenes images from a specific photoshoot or event, helping the viewer to gain a better sense of the process and the mindset of the photographer.
Franklin's contact sheet from Tiananmen Square contains multiple slide exposures taken from a balcony of the Beijing Hotel, giving us a new perspective on the event and photographic process.
(Double click to zoom in and explore the contact sheet in more detail, or click here for an enlarged version on mobile.)
The exposures show "Tank Man" entering the fray and standing in front of the tank before finally being grabbed and moved out of the scene by others. We can also see where Stuart takes a risk and rushes back into his hotel room to change out his lens for a closer shot.Take a closer look at some of the exposures. Here, we see the tanks beginning their march towards the Square."Tank Man" enters the frame.Here's the image that made it to the front page of newspapers around the world.Finally, thanks to the contact sheet, we can see Tank Man being escorted away by others. Who they were is still a topic of debate.
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- Ted Cruz Did Not Like Seeing His Name In A 'Misogynist And Profanity-Ridden' HBO Show
(Politics - July 22 2014 - 9:20 PM:)
Senator Tex Cruz (R-Texas) did not enjoy seeing his name pop up in last Sunday's episode of HBO's vampire series "True Blood." He responded to the reference in a Facebook message posted Tuesday.
"Of all the places I never thought to be mentioned, HBO's True Blood vampire show would have to be near the top of the list. Sunday night, they aired a misogynist and profanity-ridden episode where Texas Republicans are murdered attending a 'Ted Cruz fundraiser,'" Cruz wrote.
"True Blood" featured vampires preparing to attend a Cruz gala at the George W. Bush Presidential Library. Before the event, they dismissed the types of people who would be present.
"You'll never get in. You're vampires. Security is going to be tight, and they only invite assholes," one of the characters says.
"You don’t know us, sweetheart. We can be assholes," came the reply.
After dressing up for the gala, a female character declares, "Oh my God! I am a Republi-cu**!"
Cruz said the entire situation had confused him since he would have expected the film industry to depict vampires as conservatives instead of "hard-core leftists."
"Well, I'm sorry to have lost the vampire vote, but am astonished (and amused) that HBO is suggesting that hard-core leftists are blood-sucking fiends," he wrote.
HBO did not immediately return a request for comment about Cruz's remarks.
- The Strange Story Of How Rhode Island Accidentally Legalized Prostitution
(Politics - July 22 2014 - 9:08 PM:)
For a brief period of history, Rhode Island was the only state where prostitution was legal in every county. Now, a new report shows legalized prostitution led to a decrease in rapes and sexually transmitted diseases within the state, the Washington Post reports.
The report, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, found that from 2004-2009, when indoor prostitution was decriminalized throughout Rhode Island, there was a 31% decrease in reported rapes and a 39% decrease in female gonorrhea reports.
The history of legalized prostitution in Rhode Island dates back to 1976, when a group called "Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics," or COYOTE, a national organization looking to reform prostitution laws, sued the Attorney General of Rhode Island and the Providence Chief of Police, claiming the law that prohibited prostitution, among other "lewd and indecent acts," was unconstitutional, according to the NBER report.
When the lawsuit made its way to the Rhode Island Supreme Court in 1979, there was also a separate push to downgrade street prostitution to a misdemeanor in order to prosecute cases more quickly.
The next year, Rhode Island's legislature decided to make prostitution a misdemeanor instead of a felony. At the same time, the COYOTE case apparently influenced the lawmakers, according to NBER. When they made prostitution a misdemeanor, they also removed language COYOTE thought was unconstitutional. COYOTE was apparently satisfied with the changes and decided to drop the case.
However, in deleting parts of the law, legislators accidentally removed the section that referred to prostitution as a crime. "Street solicitation" was still a misdemeanor, but indoor prostitution was technically legal. That wasn't a huge issue back then since most prostitution occurred outdoors, according to NBER.
The loophole went unnoticed until 1998, when a case relating to amateur pornography shot within the state was tossed out. Because it was shot indoors, and could not be considered street prostitution or pimping, it was not a crime under Rhode Island law.
But the loophole was fully exposed in a 2003 case relating to "Operation Rubdown," when a judge dismissed a case stemming from an undercover police sting operation on Asian massage parlors.
Lawyers representing the eight women who were arrested pointed out that they did not break any state law, and the judge was left with no choice but the toss the case out, the Providence Journal reports. Soon thereafter, people realized that paying for sex, so long as it was indoors, was legal.
On November 3, 2009, Rhode Island Gov. Donald Carcieri made the act of paying for sex illegal again after he signed a bill that banned indoor prostitution immediately, NPR reported.
"Prostitution, outdoors or indoors, is a bad thing," he announced, according to NPR. "I think it's been a black eye, frankly, in our state, that we've allowed this to go, for whatever the reason is, for far too long."
At the time, most of the prostitutes were Asian immigrants operating out of spas, which were fronts for the operation, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The only state that permits prostitution is Nevada, although it is illegal in the three most populated counties, which includes Clark County, home of Las Vegas.
- It's Obvious That An Independent Scotland Just Won't Be Economically Viable
(Politics - July 22 2014 - 8:39 PM:)
Scotland will vote in a referendum on whether it will become independent from Britain on September 18, and it's becoming increasingly clear that if by some miracle the Scots do choose independence, then the new nation of Scotland will be in imminent peril of economic collapse.
And there is one very simple reason why: An independent Scotland will not be allowed to use the British pound sterling as its currency, a British parliamentary committee has recommended, and Scotland isn't big enough economically to support its own currency.
Let's begin by putting an independent Scotland in perspective, in terms of its population size:
- Britain: 63 million
- Scotland: 5.3 million
- London: 8.3 million
Scotland might look big on the map, but in terms of the actual number of people involved it's small fry. An independent London city state would make more sense as a "country" than Scotland, ranked by population alone.
Pick a currency, any currency — they're all bad.
Scotland has four "options" for a currency if it goes independent, according to this House of Commons report:
- using the pound in a currency union with Britain.
- using the pound without Britain's permission ("sterlingisation"), the way Panama uses the U.S. dollar.
- adopting the Euro.
- creating a new Scottish currency (which we can only hope they would call "the groat" or "the Jock.")
Using the pound or the Euro in any way would keep Scotland at the mercy of central banks it does not control. As a small country, that's not desirable. Scotland would not be able to devalue its currency in order to increase exports or strengthen it in order to ward off inflation. (Think about Greece.)
Scotland will not get the pound.
And George Osborne, the U.K's chancellor of the exchequer, has categorically ruled that if Scotland leaves it's on its own. The new country will not have recourse to the Bank of England when the going gets tough. That House of Commons report said:
The Chancellor of the Exchequer told us: "... ultimately you would be asking UK taxpayers to provide a safety net to a separate country, which, by the way, has a very large banking system and a much smaller economy. It would be like sharing the bank account and credit card after a divorce."
"I do not think that it would be in the interests of the people of Scotland either, because they would be tying themselves to the economic decisions of another country; the interest rate decisions of a Bank of England that they were not involved with anymore; and the tax and spend decisions of this Parliament, where there would not be Scottish Members of Parliament representing their interests."
Now let's assume you're a hardcore Scottish nationalist and you want independence regardless of the currency consequences. Your position is, "damn the torpedoes!" essentially.
Scotland can't back its banks.
It turns out that Scottish gross domestic product (GDP) is so small its deficit is twice that of the U.K. as a whole. According to Fathom Consulting, Scotland had a budget deficit of 13.3% of GDP in 2012-13, the U.K.'s was 7.3%.
And, Fathom says, Scotland's GDP is the equivalent of only one tenth of the assets in its banks. That's crucial because in theory, a country's banking system only remains stable if people believe that the country will stand behind, or make good, on all the assets held in its banks. (For instance, the FDIC guarantees U.S. deposits even if an individual bank goes bankrupt.) Scotland can't do that, Fathom says. Here's Sunday Times columnist David Smith's summary of that:
Fathom estimates it would still be as fragile as Greece, not because its budget deficits are a bit larger than the whole UK’s, but because it would carry too much banking risk.
As things stand, Scotland’s banking assets — in practice the potential liabilities of an independent Scottish government in the event of independence — are a staggering 1,100% of GDP. Scotland has a potential banking liability of Icelandic proportions, much bigger than those (700% of GDP) that almost bankrupted the Irish economy.
S&P has warned that this raises ratings risks for Scottish banks.
"While S&P has said that Scotland could start with an investment grade rating, the rating agency would be concerned about high levels of public debt, sensitivity to oil prices, depending on the nature of arrangements with the EU or UK, potentially limited monetary flexibility, and volatility from the banking sector," according to Chintan Joshi at Nomura. "These concerns would have a bearing on funding costs of Scottish banks and would therefore be a longer-term risk to shareholders."
And if things did sour, Scotland's financial services industry couldn't count on the Bank of England as a lender of last resort.
It's interesting that when economists talk about an independent Scotland, the countries they compare it to are not England or France. They're Greece, Iceland and Ireland — the economic basket cases of Europe.
So, what is a nationalist to do? Nothing, apparently. Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond has no Plan B for a Scottish currency.
- WHITE HOUSE: Obamacare Actually Won In Federal Court Today
(Politics - July 22 2014 - 7:55 PM:)
The White House declared victory for the Affordable Care Act after a pair of federal appeals court decisions on Tuesday, saying one court's ruling trumped another's earlier in the day that dealt a significant blow to a key provision of the law.
"Another partisan attempt to harm the Affordable Care Act failed today," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement. "This latest attempt was undermined by a unanimous judicial panel in the 4th Circuit. The law was designed to make health care affordable through tax credits — and it is working."
The "partisan attempt" Earnest referred to was the 2-1 decision handed down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on Tuesday morning that invalidated an IRS regulation which allowed the implementation of health subsidies that are a crucial part of the Affordable Care Act. Earnest said this defeat was trumped by a unanimous 3-0 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling issued on Tuesday in Virginia that held the key provision of Obamacare is legal.
Both cases dealt with the question of whether the federal government has the authority under the Affordable Care Act to distribute premium subsidies to help individuals buy health insurance.
The plaintiffs in both cases challenged the healthcare law by arguing the way it was written does not allow for subsidies to be provided by the federal government. They pointed to a statute that says subsidies should be issued to plans purchased "through an Exchange established by the State under Section 1311" of the Affordable Care Act. Section 1311 establishes the state-run exchanges. Because of this, the plaintiffs said the law does not permit subsidies in federal exchanges.
In response to these arguments in both cases, the federal government has maintained Congress' intent in crafting the law was clear. Government lawyers argued the Affordable Care Act was created so as many people as possible would be able to acquire affordable health insurance with subsidies provided either through a federal or state exchange.
Despite the defeat in the D.C. Court of Appeals, going forward, the Obama administration does have the seeming legal edge. An administration official told Business Insider earlier Tuesday it will request an "en banc" hearing from the full D.C. Circuit Court reviewing the ruling. The court is split 7-4 toward Democratic appointees.
Because of this, legal experts consider it likely that, if the court does decide to review the panel's decision with a full bench, the administration is likely to prevail. Either way, Tuesday's dueling rulings could set the stage for a major Obamacare case in the Supreme Court.
- Big Name NYC CEOs Urge Congress To Pass Terrorism Insurance Bill
(Politics - July 22 2014 - 6:50 PM:)
Today, the CEOs of New York City's 200 leading companies - all members of the Partnership for New York City - sent an urgent letter to House Republican Leadership asking them "to quickly pass the Terrorism Risk Insurance Reauthorization Act (TRIA)."
TRIA was originally passed in 2002 in the wake of 9/11, and exists to "provide a federal backstop for insurance coverage in the event of catastrophic losses from terrorist attacks." In other words, the bill was designed to help employers and insurers to appropriately manage terrorism risk. As it stands, TRIA is set to expire in December 2014.
On July 17, the Senate passed a version of a TRIA reauthorization 93-4 in a display of overwhelming support from both sides of the aisle. The Senate's renewal bill extends TRIA for an additional seven years, and was first brought to the floor by Sen. Schumer (NY) in April. The House currently has its own version of the TRIA extension, which only proposes to extend the bill for five years.
The Partnership for New York City's letter cites the U.S.'s "vulnerable[ility] to international terrorism" and urges the House to "act swiftly to pass a bill that maintains a program structure that has proven effective and has had no cost to the federal taxpayer." It was signed by executives from a wide array of industries. Some of the signatories included: fashion designer Tory Burch, media mogul Barry Diller, American Express CEO Kenneth I. Chenault, Viacom Inc. President and CEO Philippe Dauman, and billionaire John Catsimatidis.
The House is set to vote on the Senate's version of the bill in coming weeks.
Here is the full text of the letter:
July 22, 2014
Honorable John Boehner (R-OH) Speaker of the House
Honorable Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) Majority Whip
Honorable Steve Scalise (R-LA) Majority Whip-Elect
Dear Representatives Boehner, McCarthy, and Scalise,
We write to urge the House of Representatives to quickly pass the
Terrorism Risk Insurance Reauthorization Act (TRIA). America remains
vulnerable to international terrorism. “TRIA” is one of the 21st
Century tools that we rely upon to protect American jobs and allow
investment to continue, despite the risk of terrorism. With the sunset
of this federal program coming up in December, it is already difficult
to renew insurance along the lines required by employers and property
owners in urban centers.
The bill that passed in the Senate last week with overwhelming,
bipartisan support provides the federal backstop necessary to allow
insurers, employers, and property owners to continue to manage
terrorism risk. It is important to the business community in New York
City and across the nation that the House act swiftly to pass a bill
that maintains a program structure that has proven effective and has
had no cost to the federal taxpayer.
We want to continue to work with you to keep our economy growing. TRIA
is one of the public-private partnership arrangements that makes
continued growth possible.
Lee S. Ainslie, III, Managing Partner, Maverick Capital
Ajay S. Banga, President & CEO, MasterCard
David Barger, President & CEO, JetBlue Airways Corporation
Candace K. Beinecke, Chair, First Eagle Fund & Chair, Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP
Frank A. Bennack, Jr., Executive Vice Chairman of the Board & Chairman, Executive
Committee, Hearst Corporation
Stephen Berger, Chairman, Odyssey Investment Partners, LLC
William H. Berkman, Managing Partner, Associated Partners, LP
Mark T. Bertolini, Chairman, CEO & President, Aetna Inc.
Michael W. Blair, Presiding Partner, Debevoise & Plimpton LLP
Jeff T. Blau, Chief Executive Officer, The Related Companies, L.P.
Kathy Bloomgarden, Chief Executive Officer, Ruder Finn, Inc.
Adam M. Blumenthal, Managing Partner, Blue Wolf Capital Management
Michael C. Bodson, President & CEO, The Depository Trust and Clearing Corporation
Frank Branchini, Chairman & CEO, Emblem Health Services LLC
Jacques Brand, Chief Executive Officer, North America, Deutsche Bank Americas
Tory Burch, Chief Executive Officer, Tory Burch LLC
Ursula M. Burns, Chairman & CEO, Xerox Corporation
Michael A. Carpenter, Chief Executive Officer, Ally Financial Inc.
Gregory C. Case, Chief Executive Officer, Aon plc
Dominic J. Casserley, Chief Executive Officer, Willis Group Holdings, Plc
John Catsimatidis, Chairman & CEO, Red Apple Group, Inc.
Kenneth I. Chenault, Chairman & CEO, American Express Company
Jane A. Chmielinski, Chief Operating Officer & President, Americas, AECOM
Richard B. Clark, Chairman & Global Head of Real Estate, Brookfield Office Properties Inc.
H. Rodgin Cohen, Senior Chairman, Sullivan & Cromwell LLP
Creighton Condon, Senior Partner, Shearman & Sterling
Philippe P. Dauman, President and CEO, Viacom Inc.
Anthony J. de Nicola, Co-President, Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe
Todd C. DeGarmo, Chief Executive Officer, STUDIOS Architecture
Barry Diller, Chairman & Senior Executive, IAC
Daniel L. Doctoroff, President & CEO, Bloomberg L.P.
Irene M. Dorner, President & CEO, HSBC Bank USA
Douglas Durst, Chairman, Durst Organization Inc.
Richard W. Edelman, President & CEO, Edelman
Joel S. Ehrenkranz, Senior Partner, Ehrenkranz Partners L.P.
Andrew Farkas, Chairman & CEO, Island Capital Group LLC
Roger W. Ferguson, President & CEO, TIAA-CREF
Joseph R. Ficalora, President & CEO, New York Community Bancorp, Inc.
Laurence D. Fink, Chairman & CEO, BlackRock, Inc.
Alan H. Fishman, Chairman, Ladder Capital Finance LLC
William E. Ford, Chief Executive Officer, General Atlantic LLC
Edward C. Forst, President & CEO, Cushman & Wakefield, Inc.
Russell P. Fradin, Chief Executive Officer, SunGard
Eric J. Friedman, Managing Partner, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP
Mark T. Gallogly, Managing Principal, Centerbridge Partners
MaryAnne Gilmartin, President & CEO, Forest City Ratner Companies
Barry M. Gosin, Chief Executive Officer, Newmark Grubb Knight Frank
Jonathan N. Grayer, President & CEO, Weld North LLC
Robert Greifeld, Chief Executive Officer, The NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc.
James H. Herbert, II, Chairman & CEO (Founding), First Republic Bank
Marc Holliday, President & CEO, SL Green Realty Corp.
Steven Holliday, Chief Executive Officer, National Grid
Stephen R. Howe, Jr., Americas Area Managing Partner, Ernst & Young LLP
Frederick J. Iseman, Chairman & CEO, CI Capital Partners LLC
Jeffrey Katz, President & CEO, Sherwood Equities Inc.
Klaus Kleinfeld, Chairman & CEO, Alcoa Inc.
Henry R. Kravis, Co-Chairman & Co-CEO, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.
William P. Lauder, Executive Chairman, The Estée Lauder Companies, Inc.
Rochelle B. Lazarus, Chairman Emeritus, Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide
Joseph M. Leccese, Chairman, Proskauer
Richard S. LeFrak, Chairman & CEO, The LeFrak Organization
Jeffrey E. Levine, Chairman, Douglaston Development
Pamela Liebman, President & CEO, The Corcoran Group, Inc.
Martin Lipton, Senior Partner, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz
Terry J. Lundgren, Chairman, President & CEO, Macy's, Inc.
Bridget A. Macaskill, President & CEO, First Eagle Investment Management, LLC
Peter L. Malkin, Chairman Emeritus, Empire State Realty Trust
Joel S. Marcus, Chairman, CEO & Founder, Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc.
Donald B. Marron, Chairman, Lightyear Capital
Peter W. May, President & Founding Partner, Trian Partners
John McAvoy, Chairman, President & CEO, Con Edison
Sherilyn McCoy, Chief Executive Officer, Avon Products, Inc.
Raymond W. McDaniel, Jr., President & CEO, Moody's Investors Service
Mitchell Modell, Chief Executive Officer, Modell's Sporting Goods
Kenneth D. Moelis, Chief Executive Officer, Moelis & Company Holdings LP
Robert E. Moritz, Chairman & Senior Partner, PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP
Atsushi Nakajima, President & CEO, Rockefeller Group International, Inc.
Richard D. Parsons, Senior Advisor, Providence Equity Partners
Ronald Perelman, Chairman & CEO, MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings Inc.
Douglas L. Peterson, President & CEO, McGraw Hill Financial
Charles E. Phillips, Jr., Chief Executive Officer, Infor
Deidre Quinn, President & CEO, Lafayette 148 New York
Ian C. Read, Chairman of the Board & CEO, Pfizer Inc.
Scott H. Rechler, Chairman & CEO, RXR Realty LLC
Thomas J. Reid, Managing Partner, Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP
Daniel W. Riordan, Chief Executive Officer, Global Corporate, North America, Zurich
Insurance Group Ltd
James D. Robinson, III, Co-Founder & General Partner, RRE Ventures
Julio E. Rojas, Chief Executive Officer, Americas, Standard Chartered Bank
Wilbur L. Ross, Jr., Chairman & CEO, WL Ross & Co. LLC
Michael I. Roth, Chairman & CEO, Interpublic Group
Steven Roth, Chairman & CEO, Vornado Realty Trust
Howard J. Rubenstein, President, Rubenstein Associates, Inc.
William C. Rudin, Vice Chairman & CEO, Rudin Management Company, Inc.
Kevin P. Ryan, Chairman & Founder, Gilt
Alexander Saint-Amand, Chief Executive Officer, GLG
Alan D. Schwartz, Executive Chairman, Guggenheim Partners, LLC
Barry F. Schwartz, Executive Vice Chairman & Chief Administrative Officer, MacAndrews &
Forbes Holdings Inc.
Frank J. Sciame, Chairman & CEO, F.J. Sciame Construction Co., Inc.
Michael C. Slocum, President, Commercial Banking, Capital One Bank
James C. Smith, Chief Executive Officer, Thomson Reuters
J. Eric Smith, Chief Executive Officer, Swiss Re Americas
Tad Smith, President & CEO, The Madison Square Garden Company
Jerry I. Speyer, Chairman & Co-CEO, Tishman Speyer
Arthur P. Steinmetz, President & CEO, OppenheimerFunds, Inc.
Mark Thompson, President & CEO, The New York Times Company
Mary Ann Tighe, Chief Executive Officer, NY Tri-State Region, CBRE, Inc.
James S. Tisch, President & CEO, Loews Corporation
Daniel R. Tishman, Vice Chair, Tishman Realty Partners
John B. Veihmeyer, Chairman & CEO, KPMG LLP
George H. Walker, Chairman & CEO, Neuberger Berman Group LLC
Charles Weinstein, Chief Executive Officer, EisnerAmper LLP
Christopher J. Williams, Chairman & CEO, The Williams Capital Group, L.P.
Robert Wolf, Chief Executive Officer, 32 Advisors, LLC
Douglas M. Woodham, President, Americas, Christie's
Kathryn S. Wylde, President & CEO, Partnership for New York City
Tim Zagat, Co-Chair, Zagat Survey LLC
Strauss Zelnick, Chief Executive Officer, ZelnickMedia Corporation
Mortimer B. Zuckerman, Chairman & Editor-in-Chief, USNews & World Report; Chairman &
Publisher, NY Daily News; Chairman, Boston Properties
Update (3:31 p.m.): With a corrected list of names.
- A Federal Judge Used Pizza To Explain Why A Key Provision Of Obamacare Is Legal
(Politics - July 22 2014 - 5:36 PM:)
Just hours after the Affordable Care Act was dealt a serious blow from a federal appeals court, a different appeals court gave the law a victory — thanks in part to an analogy based on pizza.
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia on Tuesday afternoon upheld the distribution of premium subsidies under the law through both state and federal exchanges, something that has become a point of contention in federal courts.
The argument from plaintiffs challenging Obamacare holds that the way the law was written does not allow for subsidies to be provided by the federal government, pointing to a statute that says subsidies should be issued for plans purchased "through an Exchange established by the State under Section 1311" of the Affordable Care Act. Section 1311 establishes the state-run exchanges. However, the plaintiffs argued the law does not permit subsidies in federal exchanges, according to Section 1321 of the law.
The federal government has maintained Congress' intent in crafting the law was clear — that as many people as possible would be able to acquire affordable health insurance with subsidies provided either through a federal or state exchange.
The Virginia court's ruling was a unanimous 3-0 decision. In a concurring opinion explaining the rationale for the ruling, Senior Fourth Circuit Judge Andre Davis explained the debate in terms of a pizza order:
If I ask for pizza from Pizza Hut for lunch but clarify that I would be fine with a pizza from Domino’s, and I then specify that I want ham and pepperoni on my pizza from Pizza Hut, my friend who returns from Domino’s with a ham and pepperoni pizza has still complied with a literal construction of my lunch order.
That is this case: Congress specified that Exchanges should be established and run by the states, but the contingency provision permits federal officials to act in place of the state when it fails to establish an Exchange. The premium tax credit calculation subprovision later specifies certain conditions regarding state-run Exchanges, but that does not mean that a literal reading of that provision somehow precludes its applicability to substitute federally-run Exchanges or erases the contingency provision out of the statute.
On the surface, it makes sense. Davis is reading Congress' intention as asking states to establish exchanges, but saying it would be fine for the federal government to come in and run exchanges if the states fail to do so. The Internal Revenue Service later handed down a regulation in 2012 that said individuals may receive a tax credit "regardless of whether the exchange is established and operated by a state."
Davis' two colleagues agreed with the federal government's arguments in court, though they applied more caveats. Judge Roger Gregory wrote the "defendants have the stronger position, although only slightly."
It's not the first time a food analogy has been used as a legal metaphor to explain a section of Obamacare. In 2012 oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court, there was a famous debate over a theoretical mandate to buy broccoli.
Just hours before the Fourth Circuit handed down its opinion, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit essentially came to the opposite conclusion and sided with the plaintiffs in a similar case.
In a 2-1 decision, the D.C. court said the plaintiffs presented a more compelling argument than the federal government. It determined the law "unambiguously restricts the ... subsidy to insurance purchased on Exchanges 'established by the State."
"We conclude that appellants have the better of the argument: a federal Exchange is not an 'Exchange established by the State,' and section 36B does not authorize the IRS to provide tax credits for insurance purchased on federal Exchanges," the judges wrote in their decision.
The conflicting opinions could set up another high-profile challenge to Obamacare before the Supreme Court.
- Healthcare Premiums Would Absolutely Explode If Today's Obamacare Ruling Stands
(Politics - July 22 2014 - 4:19 PM:)
A federal appeals court on Tuesday dealt a setback to the Affordable Care Act, ruling that premium subsidies provided through the federal health exchange in 36 states are invalid under the writing of the law.
Here's the practical effect of the ruling, if it withstands the rest of the legal process: More than 5 million, generally low-income Americans who received tax credits through the federal exchange to purchase health insurance, would see their premiums explode.
Avalere Health, an independent healthcare firm, released an analysis last week showing that people who received premium subsidies for health insurance would see a premium hike of about 76% if courts ultimately rule they can't get tax credits through the federal exchange.
"The court case has major implications for future insurance coverage and access to care for millions of Americans," said Caroline Pearson, vice president at Avalere Health. "Depending on the ultimate decision by the courts and absent some other remedy, individuals in at least 25 states who remain in their current plans could see an average premium increase of over 70%."
The Obama administration said in May that about 87% of people who bought coverage in the 36 states served by the federal marketplace received subsidies. The potential effect of the Halbig decision would be even more pronounced in certain states — in Mississippi, for example, about 94% of people buying health insurance received federal subsidies.
Here's a map from Avalere showing the potential state-by-state effect:
For now, however, the Obama administration said the ruling would not affect premium subsidies while the administration initiates a review.
"We believe that this decision is incorrect, inconsistent with Congressional intent, different from previous rulings, and at odds with the goal of the law: to make health care affordable no matter where people live," Department of Justice spokeswoman Emily Pierce said in a statement. "The government will therefore immediately seek further review of the court’s decision. In the meantime, to be clear, people getting premium tax credits should know that nothing has changed, tax credits remain available."
A senior administration official told Business Insider that it would appeal the ruling to the full D.C. Circuit court, in which the full court would hear and decide on the case. The math for the administration is better in this situation — the appeals court is stacked with seven Democratic and four Republican appointees, four of which were appointed by Obama himself.
But even if the Obama administration prevails before the full D.C. Circuit, the case appears destined for the Supreme Court.
- A Federal Appeals Court Just Invalidated Obamacare Subsidies In These 36 States
(Politics - July 22 2014 - 4:05 PM:)
The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a 2-1 decision that health insurance subsidies provided by the Affordable Care Act are invalid in the 36 states with federal health insurance marketplaces.
The Affordable Care Act, colloquially called Obamacare, established what are known as health insurance marketplaces or exchanges, where consumers can buy health insurance plans. Sixteen states operate their own marketplaces, and the remaining two-thirds of states use the federal marketplace, Healthcare.gov.
These marketplaces also offer low-earners certain subsidies to help cover the cost of healthcare, which the law states may be provided "through an Exchange established by the State.
In Halbig v. Burwell, the challengers to the law argued that this means that, technically, the subsidies should only be available to the state-run marketplaces, not through Healthcare.gov.
Today, the Court agreed.
This means that more than 5 million people in 36 states who are currently receiving health insurance subsidies through the federal marketplaces could potentially be shut out, as the graphic below shows.
The health insurance subsidies won't be cut off immediately.The Hill reports that the government is expected to appeal the decision and it looks like the case may eventually be headed to the Supreme Court.
As BI's Brett Logiurato reported, Avalere Health, an independent healthcare firm, released an analysis of each state's subsidies that show how much they will be impacted. Here's the state-by-state breakdown.
Update: We added the word "subsidies" to this headline to clarify that the ruling invalidated subsidies in these states, not Obamacare overall.
- NYPD Investigating White Flags Placed On Top Of Brooklyn Bridge
(Politics - July 22 2014 - 2:33 PM:)
New York City officials don't know why a white flag was flying over the Brooklyn Bridge on Tuesday morning, but the police say they are investigating the matter.
Business Insider called the city Department of Transportation, which operates and maintains the bridge, and was told the flag was a police matter. An officer with the office of the NYPD's Deputy Commissioner for Public Information subsequently told us they don't know why the flag is atop the bridge.
"We have no idea," the officer said. "It's being investigated right now, so we have no comment whatsoever. We don't know anything."
Another officer from DCPI subsequently called Business Insider and said police were pursuing some leads, but can not divulge any further information at this time. According to the NYPD, crews removed the flags at 11:20 a.m., about three hours after sightings were first reported on social media. Later in the afternoon, the NYPD announced Police Commissioner Bill Bratton would hold a press conference to discuss the incident at 4 p.m.
At that press conference, police officials said video showed individuals crossing the bridge at about 3 a.m. Tuesday shortly before lights on the towers where the flags stood went out. They also said it appeared whitewashed flags were installed in their places and the lights were covered with aluminum. However, NYPD spokesman John Miller said the incident currently appears to have "no particular nexus to terrorism or politics."
Other officials also weighed in on the situation throughout the day Tuesday.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams issued a statement about the flags vowing Brooklyn would "not surrender our public safety."
"If flying a white flag atop the Brooklyn Bridge is someone’s idea of a joke, I’m not laughing. The public safety of our city is of paramount importance, particularly our landmarks and bridges that are already known to be high-risk targets," Adams said. "We will not surrender our public safety to anyone, at any time. Political and social expression, whatever its message may be, has a place in our society, but not at the expense of others’ security. I am confident in the NYPD’s ability to investigate this matter."
Adams subsequently released another statement announcing his intention to hold a press conference where he will "announce a reward, which he will personally fund, for information leading to the arrest of a suspect or suspects connected with the flying of a white flag atop the Brooklyn Bridge earlier this morning." The press conference is scheduled for 2:30 p.m.
City Councilman Mark Weprin also issued a statement saying "New Yorkers have the right to know who is responsible" for the "serious security breach."
"This morning, while on my way to work, I was stunned to see that the American flag atop the Brooklyn Bridge had been replaced by a white flag. I strongly urge the NYPD to investigate how someone was able to bypass both patrol cars and security cameras to gain access to the bridge," Weprin said. "New Yorkers have the right to know who is responsible and how this serious security breach could occur at such a prominent City landmark."
According to Daily News reporter Oren Yaniv, the flags were American flags that were "painted" white. DCPI would not confirm that detail and would only say the matter is "under investigation."
Local blog Gothamist quoted a local resident who said a police officer told her they believed the flag was part of a film shoot. Business Insider reached out to the city's Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting to ask if there was a film shoot on the bridge. They referred us to the Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment, which said the NYPD is "investigating" the matter.
Photos of the mysterious flag that are currently spreading like wildfire on social media. View some of the pictures below.
This post was updated with details from the NYPD press conference at 5:06 p.m.
Additional reporting from Colin Campbell.