- US Says Russia Launched A Cruise Missile In Violation Of Cold War Missile Treaty
(Politics - July 29 2014 - 12:40 AM:)
In another sign of deteriorating relations between the United States and Russia, theU.S. government said on Monday that Moscow had violated the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces treaty, and urged immediate bilateral talks on the issue.
The Cold War treaty, ratified in 1988, was designed to eliminate ground-launched cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 km (310 to 3,400 miles).
Senior American officials told The New York Times that Russia tested a prohibited ground-launched cruise missile. NYT reported in January that Washington informed its NATO partners that Russia had tested a ground-launched cruise missile.
"This is a very serious matter which we have attempted to address with Russia for some time now," an administration official said in a statement.
"We encourage Russia to return to compliance with its obligations under the treaty and to eliminate any prohibited items in a verifiable manner," the official said.
The United States notified Russia of its determination and called for senior-level talks "with the aim of assuring the United States that Russia will come back into compliance" with the treaty.
"The United States will, of course, consult with allies on this matter to take into account the impact of this Russian violation on our collective security if Russia does not return to compliance," the official said.
Anita Friedt, principal deputy assistant secretary for nuclear and strategic policy, told the April hearing that the State Department had raised the concerns with Russia and briefed NATO allies.
(Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Peter Cooney)
- Here's Why Medicare Isn't Actually Going To 'Run Out Of Money' In 2030
(Politics - July 28 2014 - 9:51 PM:)
The general slow down in health spending means Medicare, the federal insurance program for Americans 65 and older, is doing better financially, but is still expected to run out of money in 2030. This marks a four-year increase from last year, when the Medicare Board of Trustees predicted the program would remain solvent through 2026.
The insolvency date of Medicare has fluctuated wildly since 1970, from "as close as two years away or pushed as far as 28 years into the future," according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. And despite the impending financial doom, it is highly likely that the program will still be operational come 2030. That's because even if Medicare were to hit the point of "insolvency," it would still continue to function.
In 2013, the four Medicare programs: Parts A, B, C and D, covered 52.3 million people at a cost of $582.9 billion. Part A covers the cost of hospital care and is financed by a 2.9% payroll tax paid by employees and employers that goes into a trust fund. When the trustees talk about the "solvency" of the program, they are referring to the date through which the payroll tax will adequately cover the cost of hospital care for Medicare beneficiaries.
If Medicare is projected to remain solvent through 2030, this means that after 2030, the government wouldn't be able to finance the program 100%; however, the payroll tax would still be collected and the government could finance up to 85% of the cost. That percentage, though, would continue to decline into the future.
Parts B and D are considered supplementary medical insurance. Part B pays for physician services and Part D covers prescription drugs. (Part C is Medicare Advantage, and beneficiaries chose to have the program administered by a commercial health insurance plan.) Parts B and D are funded by a combination of premiums paid by the elderly enrolled in the programs and general revenue tax dollars, which are unallocated tax dollars. These programs are not affected by the solvency projections of Medicare Part A.
"Trustees’ reports have been projecting impending insolvency for four decades, but Medicare has always paid the benefits owed because Presidents and Congresses have taken steps to keep spending and resources in balance in the near term," Paul N. Van de Water of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities wrote at this time last year.
Even so, policy analysts stress that the Medicare programs will need to undergo some changes as the Baby Boomers are growing older and living longer. "As the largest generation in American history enters retirement, the pressure on our social insurance programs has grown," Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew said Monday. "We must make changes now, so we don’t need to make drastic changes later."
- Here's What's On Sarah Palin's New Online TV Network
(Politics - July 28 2014 - 9:30 PM:)
Conservative commentator and one-time U.S. Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin announced the launch of the Sarah Palin Channel, her brand new web-based TV network, in a post on her Facebook page Sunday night.
Palin's newest foray into the conservative media seems to be the culmination of her journey from politics to reality TV. For $9.95 a month, subscribers are granted full access to a combination of Palin's political commentary, glimpses into her family’s life in Alaska - think moose meat for dinner - and the occasional guest appearance from a famous conservative. Well, there aren't any guests yet, but Palin says they're coming.
The site’s promotional video has Palin outlining the network's mission to engage with viewers to "address the problems of the day...on [her] terms." Palin says she sees the channel as a unique opportunity to "cut through the media’s politically correct filter."
After exploring the site, we found that sarahpalinchannel.com is essentially a video blog with clips ranging in length from three minutes to 45 minutes. Some of the videos feature Palin responding to reader questions and comments. As of this writing, about a day into the launch, approximately 30 clips are live and ready to watch.
Some videos are labeled as "samples" and can be watched free of charge for the undetermined future. Business Insider indulged in these preview clips and discovered what lies within Palin's new media venture.
The top of the site features an appropriately Palinesque trifecta: a ticking countdown to the end of Obama's presidency, a running tally of the nation's debt, and a Biblical verse of the day. This section of the site is entitled "State of Our Nation".
The first video we watched, entitled "We Can't Be Afraid of the I Word", describes the influx of undocumented immigrants coming from Mexico is the "last straw" after "the years of abuse from" President Barack Obama."
"It makes kind of the battered wife, say, 'No mas. That's enough,'" Palin declares in the clip.
In her trademark Alaskan drawl, Palin goes on to claim Obama's stance on immigration has led Americans to feel "like strangers in their own land" and is one of "at least 25 impeachable offenses" the president should be held accountable for.
"The many impeachable offenses of Barack Obama can no longer be ignored," Palin says in the clip.
Clips of Palin speeches are also featured. One we were able to watch, entitled, "The Forgotten Man," included Palin speaking to followers in Colorado.
"Obama was here last week, right? Getting his Rocky Mountain high on? He had time to shoot some pool, wet his whistle, and smile real big for those photo ops he really, really hates!" she said.
Other videos are more lighthearted, such as those chronicling Palin's charitable efforts and elements of Alaskan culture.
In a family-oriented clip, Palin takes viewers into her freezer to explain the versatility of Alaskan moose meat and introduces viewers to the "protein gold," halibut, which she said she likes "beer battered" and "deep fat fried."
The site also offers Palin cross-promotional opportunities for other business ventures started by her and her family. It features links to her daughter Bristol Palin's blog as well as previews for the upcoming season of her Sportsman Channel TV show, Amazing America. Perhaps un-seasonally, there is also a video advertising Palin's Christmas book, which gives steps to combatting the "war on Christmas" and, of course, includes Palin's famous moose chili recipe.
SEE ALSO: SARAH PALIN: Impeach Obama
- We Just Got More Good News About The 'Biggest Fiscal Development' Of The Past 3 Decades
(Politics - July 28 2014 - 9:20 PM:)
The boards of trustees for the nation's Medicare programs released a report Monday that showed an economic trend some experts have described as one of the most important fiscal developments in over 30 years is having an even more dramatic effect than most previously realized.
In their annual report, Medicare's trustees said the program's trust fund that provides hospital care to the country's retirees — known as "Part A" — is expected to run out of money by 2030. This expiration date is four years later than earlier projections, a grace period that is due to federal spending on healthcare that is slower than ever due to savings from the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and other reforms.
"While today’s report focuses on Medicare, it reflects broader trends in the health care system toward much slower growth in costs, a trend that has continued into 2014," wrote Jeanne Lambrew, the deputy assistant to the president for health policy, and Tim Gronniger, a senior policy adviser for the domestic policy council.
Overall, the lifespan of Medicare's major trust fund has been extended 13 years since the passage of the Affordable Care Act. When the trust fund runs out, the federal government would be able to pay only part of the benefits owed to seniors, and that portion would keep declining over time.
Though the report highlighted the fact healthcare reform is helping to extend the life of the major Medicare trust fund, the trustees said more still must be done to shore up the long-term life of the program. The trustees estimated that without further action, the government would be able to pay out only 85% of Medicare benefits in 2030.
The Medicare trustees' report builds on the overall optimism surrounding the slowing of healthcare costs in the U.S., which the trustees said on Monday were due to a mix of overall factors that include Obamacare, a weak economy, and other various reforms. Aside from the life extension of the Medicare trust fund, Medicare spending is slowing rapidly.
Earlier this month, the Congressional Budget Office released a report showing the slowdown in health costs would likely continue over the next 25 years, which mirrors the trustees' findings. The CBO said the federal government would spend about $250 billion less on major federal healthcare programs than it had forecast in 2010, the year the Affordable Care Act was signed into law.
At the time, Peter Orszag, the former director of the Office of Management and Budget, told Business Insider the Medicare spending growth decline represented the "biggest fiscal development" in more than three decades.
"Healthcare spending has always been the core fiscal problem facing the United States," Orszag said. "If we had passed legislation that knocked down long-term Medicare spending projections by 35% it would easily qualify as the biggest fiscal development since the early 1980s — and the fact that the changes are occurring for multiple reasons doesn’t alter that conclusion."
However, the news wasn't all good.
Despite the optimism generated by the decline in healthcare spending, the Medicare trustees' report contained a number of warnings about the future of the program and it urged lawmakers to take action to ensure the long-term viability of the program. The problem is still the same — a rapid rise in the U.S.'s over-65 population, combined with still-rising healthcare costs, will eventually drain the Medicare program down unless Congress intervenes.
Paul Spitalnic, the chief actuary for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, also warned many of Obamacare's cost reforms that have helped decrease spending might be difficult to maintain. Specifically, Spitalnic raised questions about the ability of health providers to sustain price reductions required under the law.
"The Affordable Care Act is making important changes to the Medicare program that are designed, in part, to substantially improve its financial outlook," Spitalnic wrote in the report. "While the ACA has been successful in reducing many Medicare expenditures to date, there is a strong possibility that certain of these changes will not be viable in the long range."
The trustees for Social Security were less optimistic in their annual report, however. Their report, which was also released Monday, projected the Social Security would remain solvent through about 2034.
The massive retirement program's long-term forecast was unchanged from last year. And the first need for Congress to step in might come by 2016, when the program's disability fund will run dry, since millions more have joined the rolls of the program amid the economic downturn.
"Both of these vitally important programs are fiscally unsustainable over the long run and will require legislative intervention to correct,'' Social Security and Medicare trustee Robert Reischauer said at a press conference Monday, adding, "The sooner the policymakers address these challenges, the less disruptive the unavoidable adjustments will be."
- Chinese Hackers Stole Plans For Israel's Iron Dome
(Politics - July 28 2014 - 8:53 PM:)
China-based hackers stole plans for Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system in 2011 and 2012, according to an investigation by a Maryland-based cyber security firm first reported by independent journalist Brian Krebs.
The hackers also stole plans related to other missile interceptors, including the Arrow 3, which was designed by Boeing and other U.S.-based companies.
According to Krebs, "the attacks bore all of the hallmarks of the 'Comment Crew,' a prolific and state-sponsored hacking group associated with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and credited with stealing terabytes of data from defense contractors and U.S. corporations." The hackers gained access to the systems of three Israeli companies working on missile defense. Maryland-based Cyber Engineering Services could prove that 700 documents were stolen in the breach although it's likely that the actual number is higher.
Krebs reported that some of these documents bore "markings indicating that their access and sharing is restricted by International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) — U.S. State Department controls that regulate the defense industry."
The breach is reminiscent of the repeated state-sponsored Chinese cyber-attacks reported in The New York Times in February of 2013 — a sustained effort against American government targets that resulted in the federal indictment of five members of the People's Liberation Army this past May.
Elements of the Chinese state are willing to gain any potential intelligence or technological advantage regardless of the possible diplomatic consequences.
"The Chinese style of espionage is more like a vacuum cleaner than a closely-directed telescope," Jon Lindsay, a research scientist at the University of California's Global Institute on Conflict and Cooperation, explained to Business Insider. "They go after a lot of different kinds of targets — the leaders in any particular industry."
But this breach could also indicate a particular Chinese interest in granular and difficult-to-master military technologies. As Lindsay notes, missile defense is a technological puzzle, with high-profile systems like the U.S.'s Patriot missile battery often showing disappointing results in the field, as during the first Gulf War.
Israel has a highly developed domestic arms industry that seems to have mastered a difficult niche ability. With the Iron Dome's apparent success after Israel's 2012 conflict with Hamas, it must have seemed like an irresistible target to the Chinese — despite improving relations with Israel.
As it turns out, Iron Dome is of limited applicability outside of an Israeli context. It was made to pick off relatively unsophisticated short and mid-range missiles of a kind that threaten almost no other developed country or military.
And in the years since the apparent hack China and Israel have grown closer, with the exchange of high-level delegations and a major Chinese donation to Israel's top technological university according to a 2013 New York Times report.
Still, Lindsay notes that Chinese hacking isn't always a reflection of what the country's leadership wants — for instance, China still enjoys close economic ties with the U.S. even in spite of state-sanctioned Chinese cyber-attacks on American targets. And it isn't always clear how high up the chain of command cyber-attacks go.
"The party is in charge but there's a sprawling state council with several executive ministries," Lindsay explains of China's often-compartmentalized authority structure. "Everybody is looking up and very few people are looking across."
- HAMAS LEADER: We Have No Current Plans To 'Coexist' With Israel
(Politics - July 28 2014 - 8:24 PM:)
Khaled Meshaal, the political leader of Hamas, said in a recent interview that he has no plans to "coexist" with Israel as it is structured right now.
"No. I do not want to live with a state of occupiers," Mashaal said when directly asked if he wants to "coexist" with Israel or recognize the country "as a Jewish state."
Mashaal made his remarks in an interview with PBS host Charlie Rose. The network provided reporters a partial transcript of the conversation, which is scheduled to air in full Monday night.
Mashaal, whose organization is currently engaged in a violent conflict with the Israeli army, nevertheless insisted he was ready to work with the Israelis as long as they weren't "occupiers" and "settlers" of Palestinian land.
"I'm ready to coexist with the Jews, with the Christians, and with the Arabs, and with non-Arabs, and with those who agree with my ideas and those who disagree with them. However, I do not coexist with the occupiers, with the settlers," he said.
- The US Economy Does Better Under Democratic Presidents, But Party Affiliation Has Nothing To Do With It
(Politics - July 28 2014 - 8:23 PM:)
Democratic presidents have enjoyed 4.35% annual GDP growth on average since the end of World War II, while Republican presidents have seen GDP growth of just 2.54%, according to two Princeton economists.
In a working paper published with the National Bureau of Economic Research, economists Alan Blinder and Mark Watson also say that the performance for nearly every other factor by which one can measure the health of the economy — jobs growth and inflation, for instance — is superior under Democrats.
But political party has nothing to do with this outcome. Almost all that success is to an overwhelming degree the result of luck.
Since Harry Truman, the party of Jefferson has managed to avoid major oil shocks, ride through changes in productivity, and preside over a more stable international scene, they write. All of which are largely outside the bounds of domestic policy.
"These factors together explain slightly more than half of the 1.80 percentage point" growth gap, they say. "The rest remains, for now, a mystery of the still mostly-unexplored continent."
What's more, the apparent Democrat advantage has been eroding over time: The economists note most of the Democratic outperformance came in the first part of the surveyed years, during the Truman, Kennedy and Johnson administrations. Here's the breakdown by term...
...And by administration.
Bottom line: Voters may be able to expect stronger economic performance from Democrats, but there's nothing the President him(or her)self can do to guarantee it.
- WHITE HOUSE TO RUSSIA: Prepare For The Worst Sanctions Yet
(Politics - July 28 2014 - 5:59 PM:)
President Barack Obama convened a video conference with four E.U. leaders on Monday during which they agreed to implement additional sanctions against Russia for its continued involvement in the Ukrainian crisis.
Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken said during the White House daily press briefing on Monday that the U.S. expects the E.U. to take additional steps against Russia this week, which the U.S. will follow. Blinken said those measures would include sanctions on whole sectors of the Russian economy, including the financial, arms, and energy sectors.
"Russia bears responsibility for everything that's going on in eastern Ukraine," Blinken told reporters, saying Russian President Vladimir Putin has "doubled down" on his support of pro-Russian separatists in the eastern part of the country.
Obama spoke Monday with U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Francois Hollande, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Blinken emphasized the coordination among the leaders and the agreement to implement new sanctions, something that has been a sticking point between the U.S. and E.U. throughout the Ukrainian crisis.
The new measures will come after of the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which the West has blamed pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine for shooting down. Blinken said it's still "unclear who pulled the trigger," but said Russia "bears responsibility."
"They agreed on the importance of coordinated sanctions measures on Russia for its continued transfer of arms, equipment, and fighters into eastern Ukraine, including since the crash, and to press Russia to end its efforts to destabilize the country and instead choose a diplomatic path for resolving the crisis," the White House said in a readout of the call.
The U.S. and its allies have charged Russia with continuing to support the separatists by flowing weapons across the border, including rocket launchers, artillery pieces, tanks, and armored vehicles. Russia has continued to deny it is supporting the rebels. But in a somewhat extraordinary public rebuff, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov he didn't accept his denial that weapons from Russia were helping to fuel the conflict.
"In the battlefield, Ukrainians are doing very well," Blinken said. "That's why we think Russia is doubling down."
Blinken also said Monday the U.S. thinks the pro-Russian separatists could still be in possession of the types of surface-to-air missiles that were believed to have brought down MH17.
Blinken said the White House sees Russia's "playbook" as attempting to bait Ukraine into taking military action that would give Russia an excuse to launch a veiled "humanitarian" or "peacekeeping" mission by sending troops into eastern Ukraine. He stressed, however, that a diplomatic solution is still the preferred path.
"We would like nothing better than to resolve this crisis diplomatically. That’s now up to President Putin," Blinken said.
In the teleconference, the five leaders also spoke about various world crises — including the situations in Iraq and Libya, as well as the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. The White House said Obama stressed the need for an immediate, unconditional humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza.
- 2 US Marshals, 1 NYPD Officer Shot In New York City; Suspect Dead
(Politics - July 28 2014 - 5:55 PM:)
Two U.S. marshals and one New York Police Department detective were shot Monday afternoon in the West Village of Manhattan, according to the New York Daily News.
"There has been an incident at West 4th street and 6th avenue," Mayor Bill de Blasio said at an unrelated press conference shortly after the shooting. "The basic outline: Two U.S. marshals and a member of the NYPD shot while trying to apprehend the subject."
De Blasio said the injuries were not life-threatening.
A suspect, reportedly a sex offender, was also shot, and he is now "deceased," the NYPD commissioner said at a press conference.
"The suspect who they were seeking to engage, I understand, is deceased and a firearm has been recovered," NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said. "Minimum details at this time … The officers are all in treatment at this moment at this moment. There’s a very active crime scene investigation."
Here's a statement from U.S. Marshals Service to Business Insider:
Two deputy U.S. marshals from the Eastern District of New York and one NYPD officer were injured in a shooting incident this afternoon while attempting to arrest a suspect in Manhattan. The U.S. Marshals New York/New Jersey Regional Fugitive Task Force was working on a case in which the suspect, Charles Mozdir, was charged with child molestation in Coronado, California. All three law enforcement officers have been transported to a medical facility in New York.
The NYPD detective was a member of the police department U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force, according to CBS New York.
The suspect, 32-year-old Charles Mozdir, was being arrested on child molestation charges, according to CNN. Police had been looking for him since June 2012.
California investigators "found evidence of child pornography and bestiality on his cell phone and computers," CNN reports.
- Texas Congressman Saves Child From Choking On Chicken Nuggets
(Politics - July 28 2014 - 5:27 PM:)
Congressman Pete Gallego (D-Texas) became a bit of a hero on his plane ride home last Friday when he performed the Heimlich maneuver on a 3-year-old who was choking on chicken nuggets.
In a conversation with Business Insider on Monday, Gallego recalled the episode, which ultimately involved in the nuggets coming back up all over the federal lawmaker's suit.
"I unbuckled the little boy, held him back and compressed his chest a little bit and put some pressure so he would throw up. Unfortunately, I thought I was aiming him forward," Gallego said. "I ended up with chicken nuggets on my chest. But the little boy was fine and that was important in the end."
Gallego said he didn't have any specific medical training to prepare him for the incident, first reported by the Houston Chronicle. But the congressman said he learned how to perform the Heimlich maneuver on a child while raising his own son, who once choked on a piece of bacon.
Even without medical training, Gallego apparently impressed some of the passengers on the flight.
"Afterward, the gentleman who was across the aisle … he looks at me and says, 'Wow, you looked pretty quick. Are you a doctor?' And I said laughingly, 'I’m not a doctor. I'm just a dad,'" he recalled.
The child's mother also showered Gallego with praise on Twitter.
"So thankful for his quick reaction!" she wrote. "It was so scary to see my son unable to breath! Sorry for the mess! Thank you!!!!"
Gallego said his suit is currently at the cleaners.
- Man Accidentally Calls Obama 'First President of United States of Africa' At Event
(Politics - July 28 2014 - 4:44 PM:)
During a meeting with young African leaders on Monday, President Barack Obama had a rather awkward interaction in which he was seemingly referred to as "the first president of United States of Africa."
"Thank you, Mr. President," said a man from Senegal during a question-and-answer session. "President Obama is the first president of United States of Africa. I would like to know, can you share the two important issues you will discuss with the first president of United Nations of Africa."
Obama appeared to be unsure how to answer the question.
"I'm sorry. I am the first African-American president of the United States," Obama corrected, adding, "But I wasn't sure."
The young man clarified he meant to ask Obama to address a hypothetical scenario in which the various countries across the African continent unified and Obama had the opportunity to give advice to the new country's leader.
"If Africa becomes United States of Africa. And you get the chance to meet the first president of the first United States of Africa," he said. "It's clear?"
Obama responded by saying he would tell the hypothetical African leader to protect civil rights and rule of law.
"Regardless of the resources a country possesses, regardless of how talented the people are, if you do not have a basic system of rule of law, of respect for civil rights and human rights. If you do not give people a credible, legitimate way to work through the political process," Obama said. "If you don't have those basic mechanisms it is very rare for a country to succeed. I will go further than that: That country will not succeed over the long term."
- How Harry Reid Might End Up Saving Obamacare
(Politics - July 28 2014 - 4:23 PM:)
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid might have saved Obamacare by going "nuclear."
Last November, Reid pushed the button on the so-called "nuclear option," dramatically changing Senate filibuster rules to get more of President Barack Obama's judicial and executive nominees approved. Reid's rule change allowed Obama's nominees to be approved by a simple majority vote rather than with the support of 60% of senators, which prevented the Republican minority from blocking the president's picks.
And it turns out, Reid's maneuvering might become the White House's most effective weapon as it faces the most serious legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act in more than two years.
"It's the first big case where the effects of the nuclear option could be felt," one Senate Democratic aide told Business Insider last week.
Here's how Reid's senatorial nuke could theoretically save Obamacare. Last week, a three-judge panel on the D.C. Circuit Court ruled that a 2012 IRS regulation that implements key subsidies under the law is invalid, in the case of Halbig v. Burwell. The decision has the potential to affect more than five million people who have been given tax credits when purchasing health insurance through the federal exchange.
But the Department of Justice is appealing the panel's decision, requesting an "en banc" review by the full D.C. Circuit Court. The math for the Obama administration is better in this situation — the court splits 7-4 in favor of Democratically appointed judges, because of Reid's rule change. Because of this breakdown, legal experts believe the D.C. court will reverse the Halbig decision if it grants the en banc review.
Reid's decision to go nuclear came after Obama mounted an unusual public campaign to get three of his judicial nominees appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. After months of threats, Reid responded to the president's push by instituting the rules change. Those three D.C. Circuit Court judges have since been confirmed — and they're the reason there's a Democratic majority on the court that would most likely reverse the Halbig decision in the en banc review.
"Adding Democratically appointed judges who are less enamored of a literalist approach to statutory interpretation makes it much more likely that the court will take the case en banc," Nicholas Bagley, a law professor at the University of Michigan and contributor to The Incidental Economist, told Business Insider, adding, "The nuclear option thus matters a great deal for the moment."
The D.C. Circuit Court, considered the second-most powerful court in the nation after the Supreme Court, is of particular importance to Obama's second-term agenda — and his legacy. The court has a vast jurisdiction over the federal government and thousands of regulations, rules, and executive actions from more than 400 administrative agencies. The Halbig case is viewed as the most significant case yet to potentially come before the new D.C. Circuit Court's split.
In fact, some opponents of the president's signature healthcare law believe Reid's decision to go nuclear was specifically designed to protect Obamacare from legal challenges.
"There has been speculation they did that because of Halbig," Michael Cannon, the director of health policy at the Cato Institute and one of the key architects of the Halbig lawsuit, told Business Insider in an interview on Friday.
"I have no basis for evaluating those claims and that speculation, other than to say that adhering to the law as written would prove such a threat to the law itself and the goals of Senate Democrats and the president. These lawsuits are probably reason enough for them to pull the trigger on the nuclear option."
The D.C. Circuit Court's decision in Halbig v. Burwell wasn't the only recent ruling in a legal challenge to Obamacare that could prove crucial to the law's future.
Last Tuesday, the same day Halbig was announced, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia came to the opposite conclusion and ruled the regulation allowing subsidies for people buying health insurance through federal exchanges was valid. These dueling rulings mean Reid's work to fill the D.C. Circuit with Democratic judges could prevent the challenges to the regulation on subsidies from reaching the Supreme Court, which is far less predictable and is divided 5-4 in favor of Republican appointees.
If the full D.C. Circuit Court panel reverses the Halbig decision, it will be in agreement with the Fourth Circuit Court ruling. In this case, legal experts say, the Supreme Court would be much less likely to step into a situation in which there is no dispute at the lower-level courts.
However, all of Reid's maneuvering doesn't guarantee the legal challenges to Obamacare won't make it to the Supreme Court. And, as Bagley put it, the rule changes "won't make a lick of difference" if the case goes to the higher court.
Therein lies the caveat: If the case does reach the Supreme Court, all bets are off, because it will be up to an unpredictable court. But for now, Reid has made the odds of the law's survival in the federal-court system a little better.
Jonathan Adler, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio and another conservative legal scholar behind the Halbig challenge, acknowledged that Reid and Obamacare supporters may think the nuclear option gave them a win. However, he also argued the ultimate outcome was still uncertain.
"Sen. Reid certainly thinks the nuke option helps the government, and in a case this politically charged it might," Adler said. "I guess we'll see."
- Remember When Obama Said 'Buying Stocks Is A Potentially Good Deal'?
(Politics - July 28 2014 - 4:20 PM:)
U.S. President Barack Obama spent a few seconds talking about stocks during an interview last week with CNBC's Steve Liesman.
“My estimation is you've got a lot of savvy investors out there," he said. "You got people who recognize that what goes up can come down as well. I'll leave it up to them to make determinations about whether valuations and stock prices are too high. I'm more concerned about the day-to-day fundamentals. And if we get those fundamentals right, then I'm pretty confident that we can do very well in the next decade.”
So, that's not much. But it's not nothing. Presidents don't usually talk about stocks.
In a new note to clients, Goldman Sachs' David Kostin remembers another time Obama talked about stocks. From the note:
Some investors may remember Obama’s previous equity valuation comment from March 3, 2009 when the S&P 500 traded at 696: ”On the other hand, what you're now seeing is profit and earnings ratios are starting to get to the point where buying stocks is a potentially good deal if you've got a long-term perspective on it.” Since his observation, the S&P 500 has soared by 185% and this week reached a new all-time high of 1988.
March 3 was six days before the S&P 500 hit an intraday low of 666.
That was a pretty extraordinary call.
- Multiple News Sites Publish Corrections After Falling For Fake Story About Michele Bachmann
(Politics - July 28 2014 - 3:04 PM:)
Last week, multiple liberal news sites were forced to correct false stories claiming Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota) called for "Americanization facilities" for undocumented migrants at the border.
The sites — including ThinkProgress and Crooks and Liars — based the story on a parody site called KCTV7 News that features clearly absurd stories on its home page. For example, one KCTV7 news story is titled, "Feds Spend $2.2 Million To Study Why Lesbians Are Obese."
Both outlets retracted their stories after publication and apologized for being duped.
"We sincerely regret the error," ThinkProgress wrote, doing a complete strike through the text of the original article.
Crooks and Liars argued Bachmann's outspoken conservatism made the parody believable.
"Yeah, I got pwned," the author wrote. "How sad is it that it was just this side of realistic enough to believe in the first place. When you have a reputation for making outrageous and ridiculous comments, it becomes easier and easier to believe something that should have been dismissed out of hand."
Bachmann's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.
- POLL: Romney Would Beat Obama In Election Rematch
(Politics - July 28 2014 - 1:59 PM:)
A new poll from CNN and ORC International that was released on Sunday found President Barack Obama would have a hard time if he had to face off against Mitt Romney again. The poll showed 53% of Americans would vote for Romney and just 44% for Obama if "for some reason a presidential election were being held today."
Though Obama would apparently have trouble with Romney another Democrat, Hillary Clinton, was found to be in a far better position against the 2012 GOP nominee. The poll showed 55% of Americans would support Clinton and just 42% would vote for Romney if a hypothetical election between the two were held today.
The poll also looked at the leading candidates considering running in the 2016 presidential election. It showed Clinton has a wide lead over the other leading Democratic hopefuls: Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-New York), and Gov. Martin O'Malley (D-Maryland).
According to the poll, 67% of voters would support Clinton over those other Democrats. Warren was in second place with 10%, however, the poll showed her support rising from 7% in surveys conducted in November and September of last year. Warren seemed to gain at the expense of Biden who was in third place at 8% and down from 12% and 10% in the prior polls.
On the Republican side, the poll found Gov. Chris Christie (R-New Jersey) on top of the field with 13%. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee were tied for second with 12% each. Christie seems to be rebounding after the "Bridgegate" scandal. Prior polls conducted in May and March of this year showed him under 10%.
- Hillary Clinton Explains Why Darth Vader Is Polling Better Than She Is
(Politics - July 28 2014 - 12:44 PM:)
Hillary Clinton's favorability rating is worse than "Star Wars" villain Darth Vader, according to a new poll — and on Sunday, she tried to explain why.
"I think the deeper meaning is that people love fantasies and sometimes when we're so frustrated with the gridlock in Washington, we would like some deus ex machina figure," Clinton told CNN host Fareed Zakaria, according to a transcript.
Last week, The Washington Post and others highlighted a new poll of Star Wars characters showing them more popular than leading presidential contenders like Clinton and vastly more popular than Congress.
Clinton said Darth Vader was not her personal choice, however.
"Darth would not be my choice, but, you know, somebody, perhaps a slightly more positive attitude in his presentation ... to come in and just fix it. You know, we just get sick of it. But that's the price of democracy," she said, proceeding to compare the political structures of India and China to tout the benefits of democracy. "Each, in their own way, is a triumph. I mean, India is a triumph of a unified political nation and China has been triumphant in moving people out of poverty. But in the long run, who has the better system?"
Clinton went on to slam Congress for its inaction and said she could relate to people who would prefer fictional villains to the status quo.
"People get frustrated. And people are just so fed up with the gridlock and dysfunction in Washington. The Congress is just, you know, so, unfortunately, unable to even agree on the most obvious kinds of matters, that I think, you know, Darth Vader looks pretty good to a lot of people," she said.
- John Oliver Challenges Vladimir Putin Over 'Space Gecko' Mating Experiment
(Politics - July 28 2014 - 12:04 PM:)
Comedian John Oliver passionately took up the cause of Russia's satellite designed to monitor gecko mating in space during his Sunday night program.
The satellite was reportedly malfunctioning last week, placing the five geckos on board in serious danger. Oliver, the host of HBO's "Last Week Tonight," refused to accept that outcome.
"Don't you dare laugh at that," he told his viewers. "Don't you dare laugh at the fact that Russia has lost a satellite full of sexually active space geckos. There's nothing funny about that. This is like 'Apollo 13' all over again, only in Cyrillic and a quintet of Russian f**k lizards instead of Tom Hanks."
In order to avert the crisis, Oliver urged his viewers to fill out an online form letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin demanding he save the geckos.
"You can and should do more. You could go onto the Kremlin's contact page, which inexplicably has a form allowing you to write Vladimir Putin a letter. Which you can do at this address. Look, take this seriously. Don't be idiots about this. The Kremlin insists — this is true — that your suggestions be, and I quote, 'specific.' And I do not know of a more specific suggestion than: Go get those geckos!" he exclaimed.
Oliver went on to dismiss Russia's claim that they had reestablished control of the satellite on Saturday.
"They're clearly lying. They're just buying Putin enough time to run to a pet store, get five geckos, and parade them in front of us," he insisted. "Well, we don't want those geckos. We want the space geckos!"
View the segment below.
- US: These Satellite Photos Prove That Russian Troops Are Shelling Ukraine
(Politics - July 28 2014 - 12:01 PM:)
Someone has been firing grad rockets from Russian territory at Ukrainian troops, and the U.S. government says the culprits are Russian troops.
On Sunday, the State Department released satellite images showing what it says are Russian positions that are firing on Ukraine. On Monday, Russia's defense ministry said that photos are fake.
Evidience indicates that Russia already training separatists on Russian soil and sending them heavy weapons, including the Buk missile system that shot down Malaysia Flight MH17 and killed all 298 people on board. Moscow's denies aiding the insurgency.
The high-altitude images released Sunday “provide evidence that Russian forces have fired across the border at Ukrainian military forces, and that Russia-backed separatists have used heavy artillery, provided by Russia, in attacks on Ukrainian forces from inside Ukraine,” according to the office of the director of national intelligence.
The first image, taken Monday, shows where shelling has been aimed.
The next one, labeled as being taken on Wednesday, shows a row of vehicles described as “self-propelled artillery only found in Russian military units, on the Russian side of the border, oriented in the direction of a Ukrainian military unit within Ukraine."
Here is the before and after of one Ukrainian position.
And here's a look at the Ukrainian position hit by shells and marks left by the troops firing the shells from across the border in Russia.
SEE ALSO: KERRY TO RUSSIA: STOP LYING
- IDF: Here's What It Looks Like Inside A Hamas Tunnel
(Politics - July 28 2014 - 11:17 AM:)
As Israel has cracked down on missile attacks via its Iron Dome antimissile defense system, Hamas has moved much of its war efforts underground, building an intricate network of tunnels underneath Gaza and into Israel.
The purpose of the three dozen underground passageways is to provide a way for Hamas to shuttle fighters and weapons across the border into the homes and towns of Israelis. They are considered a military gamechanger.
Since the start of Israeli invasion of Gaza 10 days ago, Israel has made destroying the tunnels one of its top priorities. A new video released from the Israel Defense Forces posted to YouTube reveals what one of these tunnels looks like, just before the IDF blows it up.
Hamas has spent $30 million pouring concrete and other materials to build the tunnels, which are tall enough to allow a soldier to stand. The tunnels are lined with rail tracks, so that Hamas can ferry weapons through on carts, as well as electrical and communication cables.
Here's the entrance to one of the tunnels
This is what the electrical and communications cables look like.
And a better view of the tunnel just before the IDF blows up.
Here's the full video, including the detonation:
H/T The Telegraph
- The 10 Most Important Things In The World Right Now
(Politics - July 28 2014 - 7:53 AM:)
Welcome back from the weekend! Here's what people will be taking about on Monday.
1. Israel maintains that its forces were not responsible for 16 Palestinians who were killed last Thursday when a United Nations school in Gaza came under fire. An Israeli military spokesman "acknowledged that an errant mortar round fired by Israeli troops had exploded in the school’s courtyard that afternoon," The New York Times reports, "but said the yard had been empty at the time."
2. Cease-fire talks have stalled as fighting between Israel and Hamas enters its fourth week. A poll by an Israeli television news station found that 87% of respondents wanted "Israel to continue the operation until Hamas was toppled," Reuters reports. A separate poll from "The Jerusalem Post" found that more than 85% of Israel's majority Jews are against calling a truce.
3. Boko Haram, the militant group that abducted 200 Nigerian schoolgirls in April, has kidnapped the wife of Cameroon's vice prime minister. Three others were also killed in the attack on Kolofata, a northern town in Cameroon.
4. Argentina is heading for a default on Wednesday unless it can make a $539 million interest payment to bondholders. This would mark the country's second default in 13 years, The Wall Street Journal reports.
5. International efforts to investigate the crash site in eastern Ukraine where a Malaysian airliner was shot down have been hampered as fighting between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian rebels near the region reaches new levels. Australian and Dutch police will try to gain access on Monday, Reuters says.
6. One American doctor died from Ebola on Sunday and another is very ill. Both contracted the deadly virus while working to combat one of the largest ever outbreaks in West Africa.
7. China criticized the U.S. on Monday for applying new tariffs on Chinese solar products following allegations that panels and cells were being sold too cheaply to the American consumer. The unconfirmed move places anti-dumping duties as high as 165.05% on solar products from China.
8. The wrecked Costa Concordia will be broken up into scrap after returning on Sunday to the Italian Port of Genoa, the same port where the the cruise ship launched nine years ago. It took officials nearly two years to refloat and remove the liner after it smashed into rocks off the coast of Giglio
9. McDonald's restaurants in China are facing a Big Mac and Chicken McNugget shortage after the company said it would suspend sales of all processed foods from its Shanghai supplier, which was shut down over allegations of improper meat handling. Employees at one Beijing location could only offer pies, hash browns, fries, drinks, and ice cream, CNN Money reports.
10. One person was killed and at least seven other injured when lightning struck Venice beach in Los Angeles. “It went down my whole side of my right body, and my calves sort of locked up, and I fell over,” a beach-goer told the The Washington Post. “I looked up and everybody else was, you know, falling over.
Oregon police say an unsupervised 3-year-old boy climbed into a Jeep, knocking it out of gear and into the side of a house down the street, the Associated Press reports. After the accident, police found the boy back at his home watching cartoons.