WASHINGTON — As the House and Senate prepare to meet next week to work out differences in their farm bills, lobbying efforts are intensifying to get last-minute changes to the 1,000-page legislation that sets the nation’s farm and nutrition policies. (Snip)A coalition of budget watchdog groups and a seafood trade group are lobbying to repeal a $20 million catfish inspection program at the Agriculture Department, which was put into the 2008 farm bill at the request of catfish farmers to limit imports. Opponents say it is duplicative because there is already a catfish inspection program at the Food and Drug
Parents beware: You´re about to have one less idiom in your repertoire. Scientists in Australia have discovered gold deposits on eucalyptus trees in the Outback. Yes, you read that right -- money can actually "grow" on trees. While it´s not new that plants and trees absorb minerals such as gold through their leaves, scientists had previously been unable to prove that the minerals in question came from deeper underground and not from surface soil deposits. The paper´s authors hope that their findings will turn into a trusted form of gold prospecting. According to the paper, eucalyptus and acacia trees, such as the ones
On September 30, Richard Portwood, a 27-year-old Georgetown University graduate student, received a phone call from an FBI agent who said the bureau wanted to meet with him urgently. Portwood didn´t know why the FBI would have any interest in him, but two days later he sat down with a pair of agents at a coffee shop near his apartment. They told him they suspected that Yury Zaytsev, the US director of a Russian government-run cultural exchange program that Portwood had participated in, was a spy. Since 2001, Zaytsev´s organization, Rossotrudnichestvo, has footed the bill for about 130 young Americans—including
VIENNA — For all those who can´t come to the Vienna State Opera — it can now come to you. Starting Sunday, the company is offering what it describes as state-of-the art live streaming, with viewers able to switch between a view of the stage and close-ups with moving cameras. Innovations promised by the year´s end will include apps providing subtitles in English, German and Korean and a synchronized score of the work being shown. The project starts off with Richard Strauss´ "Der Rosenkavalier" ("Knight of the Rose.") The company is recognized as one of the world´s best and the
After their decades-long feud, Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono appear to be giving peace a chance. In a new Rolling Stone interview, the Beatles legend said he has moved on from his longstanding grudge against the widow of fellow Beatle John Lennon. Calling her a “bada**,” he said, “I thought, ‘If John loved her, there’s got to be something.’ He’s not stupid. It’s like, what are you going to do? Are you going to hold a grudge you never really had?” McCartney, 71, told Rolling Stone that the late George Harrison, another member of the foursome, encouraged him to forgive. “George would say to
After the latest dismal performance by congressional Republicans in their battle (a generous description) with the president and his minions over the budget and ObamaCare, it´s time to ask, "Why the Republican Party?" From Jed Babbin, writing for American Spectator: Staggering, without direction, not quite dead and in search of brains, the Republican Party is giving a really good performance as the Zombie Party. According to the media´s current narrative, it has to rid itself of the Tea Party´s influence or die. The saddest of facts is that the media narrative is shared by many establishment Republicans.
WASHINGTON — At first glance, Senator Ted Cruz’s wife, Heidi Nelson Cruz, seems to be just the sort of person the Tea Party supporters who celebrate her husband’s anti-establishment positions love to hate. A vegetarian with a Harvard M.B.A., Mrs. Cruz is a managing director at Goldman Sachs, one of the Wall Street firms that helped set off the populist rage that ushered Mr. Cruz into the Senate in 2012. She works for Goldman in Houston, where she lives with the couple’s two young children, and as her husband’s fame has increased — depending on the audience, he is among
WASHINGTON — Republicans have always been harsh critics of Obamacare. Now President Barack Obama’s signature health care law is taking heat from Democrats, too. More than three weeks after the problem-plagued rollout of the federal marketplace where consumers can sign up for health insurance, support for major provisions of the Affordable Care Act is weakening among some Democrats, who want to see someone fired over the botched debut. “I absolutely believe that somebody should be held accountable,” said Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. (Snip) Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire broke with fellow Democrats and
More than 700 websites have been created with names playing off of Obamacare or Healthcare.gov, making it likely that some Americans will mistakenly hand over private information to unknown third-parties. For instance, there is a website — www.obama-care.us — that brands itself as part of the "Obamacare enrollment team," directs people to an "Obamacare enrollment form" and asks users for their name, address, Social Security number and other contact information. According to a counter at the bottom of the page, more than 3,000 people have visited obama-care.us.
Policemen from Romania and Poland are being drafted in to help British forces combat an Eastern European crimewave. Scotland Yard has recruited the officers, who have flown to the capital for a two-year ‘tour of duty’ to help identify and deport overseas offenders. The move comes ahead of the lifting of border controls on immigrants from Romania in two months’ time. (Snip) The unprecedented move comes after it emerged last year that 28 per cent of the 300,000 suspects the Metropolitan Police arrests each year were foreign nationals, with Poles and Romanians at the top of the list.
Rome — As the United States grapples with some of the most intractable problems in the Middle East, it has run into a buzz saw of criticism, not from traditional enemies but from two of its strongest allies. During stops in Paris and London this week, Secretary of State John Kerry found himself insisting that the United States was not facing a growing rift with oil-rich Saudi Arabia, whose emissaries have described strains over American policy on Egypt, Iran and Syria. And during a stop in Rome, Mr. Kerry sought to reassure Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel that the
Little did they know it, but Republicans fighting to defund or delay Obamacare had an ally in spirit in Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Her explanation for why the Obamacare website doesn’t work is that she couldn’t possibly have been expected to make it work in the mere 3½ years since the law passed. She told The Wall Street Journal the website ideally needed five years of construction and one year of testing and instead had only two years of construction and almost no testing. (Snip) Kathleen Sebelius is to the Obamacare rollout what FEMA Director Michael Brown
It’s not clear how many Americans have secured new health insurance through Obamacare — the federal government won’t disclose initial figures until November. But some states have released preliminary numbers and a look at the early statistics shows that the vast majority of people who have managed to navigate the sign-up process in some states have enrolled in Medicaid, not private health plans. The Affordable Care Act allowed states to expand eligibility for Medicaid, and about half have done so, meaning millions more Americans now qualify for the public insurance program. It’s also likely that many people who previously qualified
The Obama administration is scrambling on multiple fronts to salvage the Obamacare web site and change the negative narrative for the president’s signature health care law. On Wednesday the CEOs of several health insurance companies will head to the White House to meet with adviser Valerie Jarrett and chief of staff Denis McDonough,two industry sources said. And a top Health and Human Services official will update House Democrats on the glitchy health care enrollment site. The president himself appeared Tuesday in an Organizing for Action You Tube video, asking supporters to spread the word about what Obamacare means to ordinary
As technical failures bedevil the rollout of President Obama’s health care law, evidence is emerging that one of the program’s loftiest goals — to encourage competition among insurers in an effort to keep costs low — is falling short for many rural Americans. While competition is intense in many populous regions, rural areas and small towns have far fewer carriers offering plans in the law’s online exchanges. Those places, many of them poor, are being asked to choose from some of the highest-priced plans in the 34 states where the federal government is running the health insurance marketplaces, a review
Six voters in ten describe implementation of ObamaCare as “a joke,” and more voters than not say problems with the government’s health insurance website are so bad someone should be fired, according to a Fox News national poll. The new poll, released Wednesday, also finds a majority continues to dislike President Obama’s signature achievement: 51 percent of voters use negative terms to describe the health care law, saying it is either “a step backward” or “disastrous.” That’s down two percentage points from 53 percent in August. On the other side, 44 percent describe ObamaCare positively, either as “wonderful” or “progress.”
Inside the National Security Council, most officials aren’t allowed to use or even look at Twitter, the popular social-networking service. But that didn’t stop some of President Obama’s top advisers from trying to identify the person responsible for @natsecwonk, an anonymous Twitter account that published a steady stream of personal and sometimes offensive attacks on White House and State Department officials. Three weeks ago, the group hatched a plan to trick the suspected NSC staffer into revealing himself. They would intentionally plant inaccurate, but harmless, information with him to see if it would pop up as a 140-character tweet
Pity the journalist who wishes to write about Fox News. It can be very dangerous. In his new book “Murdoch’s World,” NPR media reporter David Folkenflik documents one of the perils as part of a chapter on the sharp-elbowed ways of Fox News’s PR operation. These are the folks who take all incoming press inquiries on Fox News, ignore some, scoff at others and arrange access or statements on yet others. An easy way to antagonize this group, says Folkenflik, is to propose writing anything that acknowledges their key competitors — MSNBC and CNN — as existing. “They are a
HOUSTON — Sharon Alford knows what they have been saying about her state’s junior senator up in Washington. Which is why she was standing here, among about 600 people in a sweltering warehouse, holding a hand-made sign that said, “We the people ? Ted Cruz.” “He’s surrounded by enemies up there, and I want to show support for him in Texas,” she said. “I’m just hoping it’s like this around the country.” Cruz may be the most reviled man in the U.S. Senate at the moment, not least among his Republican colleagues. He was the face and voice of the
The vacuum at the center of the few federal lawsuits brought against banks in connection with the 2008 financial crisis is that actual people seldom seem to be held responsible for the alleged wrongdoing. It´s as if the fraud and misrepresentation charged in these cases fell upon the banks from the skies, like interstellar lichens attached to meteorites. Things were different Wednesday in Manhattan federal court, where a jury found Rebecca Mairone, a former executive at Countrywide Financial, liable for a fraudulent mortgage program that may have cost U.S. taxpayers more than $10 million.
A long New York Times story today details the quarrels and vicissitudes that have marked the Obama White House’s Syria policy over the last two and a half years. Some senior officials wanted to arm the rebels to topple Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, while others pushed back. As has been previously reported, former CIA director David Petraeus was in the first camp, as was former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, the former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey. Samantha Power, at the time on Obama’s NSC staff and now ambassador to
The scandal-plagued Internal Revenue Service (IRS) sent $4.2 billion in child tax-credit checks to illegal immigrants the year the agency began targeting conservative groups, according to a new report from Watchdog.Org. The IRS sent illegal immigrant families $1,000 checks totaling $4.2 billion through the federal government’s Additional Child Tax Credit program in the year 2010, when the agency’s improper targeting of conservative and tea party groups began. The child tax credit program was created in 1998 with a $400 cap and now has a $1,000 cap that was made permanent by the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, signed by President Obama.
Washington — The rocky rollout of the Affordable Care Act again came under sharp criticism Wednesday, two weeks into the launch, but this time some of the loudest voices were among top Democrats, including President Obama´s closest allies. Democrats on Capitol Hill said they were unhappy with the performance of the Obamacare website, which has been plagued with problems since its debut Oct. 1. Even the president´s longtime campaign guru, David Axelrod, was critical of the administration´s handling of the issue. "This has been shrouded in a little bit of mystery. I don´t quite understand why that is," Axelrod said
Jofi Joseph, the National Security Council official fired last week for Tweeting secretly under the moniker @natsecwonk, had publicly, albeit anonymously, accused a senior White House official of leaking classified information related to United States intelligence operations against Iran. Joseph, who was outed in a report Tuesday in The Daily Beast, criticized and insulted dozens of Obama administration officials, lawmakers, Capitol Hill staffers, and journalists during his two-year stint on social media. But his number-one target was Deputy National Security Advisor for Communications Ben Rhodes, a senior official close to President Obama. Rhodes worked for the same department as Joseph,
Robert Laszewski is president of Health Policy and Strategy Associates, a policy and marketplace consulting firm that has him working closely with many in the heath industry as they try to navigate the Affordable Care Act, as well as the author of the excellent Health Care Policy and Marketplace Review blog. As such, he has a unique view on how the rollout looks from the industry side. We spoke on Wednesday. A lightly edited transcript of our conversation follows. Ezra Klein: We last talked about 10 days ago. So in the interim, what are your insurance industry sources saying has
The Obama administration said Wednesday night that it will give Americans who buy health insurance through new online marketplaces an extra six weeks to obtain coverage before they risk a penalty. The announcement means that those who buy coverage through the exchange will have until March 31 to sign up for a plan, according to an official with the Health and Human Services Department. Administration officials said the new deadline is unrelated to the many technical problems that the marketplace’s Web site, HealthCare.gov, has had in its first three weeks of operation. Instead, they said, the change is designed to