Pittsburgh Police are investigating an armed carjacking on the South Side.
- Business Insider
Opinion: The costs of a foreign policy that emphasizes US global preeminence are now inescapable clear, and US leaders need to change course.
- Business Insider
Over a dozen GOP House members cited 'the ongoing health emergency' to skip in-person voting while they spoke at CPAC
Many GOP members, including some who voted by proxy during CPAC, have vocally criticized the system and even sued over it in court.
- The New York Times
Ever since the Affordable Care Act became law in 2010 — a big deal, in the (sanitized) words of Vice President Joe Biden — Democrats have itched to fix its flaws. But Republicans united against the law and, for the next decade, blocked nearly all efforts to buttress it or to make the kinds of technical corrections that are common in the years after a major piece of legislation. Now the Biden administration and a Democratic Congress hope to engineer the first major repair job and expansion of the Affordable Care Act since its passage. They plan to refashion regulations and spend billions through the stimulus bill to make Obamacare simpler, more generous and closer to what many of its architects wanted in the first place. Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York Times “This is the biggest expansion that we’ve had since the ACA was passed,” said Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey, who helped draft the health law more than a decade ago and leads the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “It was envisioned that we’d do this periodically, but we didn’t think we’d have to wait so long.” The Affordable Care Act has expanded coverage to more than 20 million Americans, cutting the uninsured rate to 10.9% in 2019 from 17.8% in 2010. It did so by expanding Medicaid to cover those with low incomes, and by subsidizing private insurance for people with higher earnings. But some families still find the coverage too expensive and its deductibles too high, particularly those who earn too much to qualify for help. Tucked inside the stimulus bill that the House passed early Saturday are a series of provisions to make the private plans more affordable, at least in the short term. The legislation, largely modeled after a bill passed in the House last year, would make upper-middle-income Americans newly eligible for financial help to buy plans on the Obamacare marketplaces, and would increase the subsidies already going to lower-income enrollees. The changes would last two years, cover 1.3 million more Americans and cost about $34 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. For certain Americans, the difference in premium prices would be substantial: The Congressional Budget Office estimates that a 64-year-old earning $58,000 would see monthly payments decline from $1,075 under current law to $412 with the new subsidies. It was a blow to Obamacare’s authors when the Supreme Court allowed states to refuse to expand Medicaid, the health law’s primary tool for bringing comprehensive coverage to poor Americans. Multiple states have joined the expansion in recent years, some via ballot initiative, but some Republican governors have steadfastly rejected the program, resulting in 2 million uninsured Americans across 12 states. The stimulus package aims to patch that hole by increasing financial incentives for states to join the program. Though Democrats are offering holdout states larger payments than they’ve contemplated in the past, it’s unclear whether it will be enough to lure state governments that have already left billions on the table. Under current law, the federal government covers 90% of new enrollees’ costs. Republican critics of the law contend that Democrats are seeking to install long-sought permanent policies through a temporary stimulus plan. “Suffice it to say, this is not COVID relief,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, who helped write a prominent Obamacare repeal bill in 2017. “It’s fulfilling the agenda of the Biden administration under the guise of COVID relief.” Cassidy fears that short-term spending increases on Obamacare will prove difficult to undo. He cited a quotation from former President Ronald Reagan: “Nothing lasts longer than a temporary government program.” The White House and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have already begun to advertise insurance options and make them easier to get. On Feb. 15, the Biden administration opened a special enrollment period so that uninsured people could sign up for coverage right away, publicizing it widely. Officials have also begun rolling back Trump-era work requirements in the Medicaid program. Other regulatory changes are also planned. Xavier Becerra, Biden’s choice to lead HHS, testified about his ambitions on Capitol Hill on Feb. 24. Officials are hoping to resolve the “family glitch” problem, which makes Obamacare insurance expensive for the children or spouses of workers who get insurance only for themselves at their job. Officials plan to tighten the rules for private short-term insurance plans that are not required to cover a full set of benefits. And they are considering a long list of technical changes aimed at making plans more comprehensive. “Any one of these changes individually is moderate, but stack one on top of another and you get a big boost to the Affordable Care Act,” said Jonathan Cohn, author of “The Ten Year War,” a new history of the health law. “It doesn’t change the law’s structure, but it does make it much more generous.” Those close to the effort say its ambitions — and its limits — reflect the preferences of those leading the way. Biden, who was involved in the passage and rollout of Obamacare as vice president, ran on the idea of expansion, not upheaval. And leaders in Congress who wrote Obamacare have been watching it in the wild for a decade, slowly developing legislation to address what they see as its gaps and shortcomings. Many see their work as a continuing, gradual process, in which lawmakers should make adjustments, assess their effects, and adjust again. “When you think about where we thought the ACA was headed four years ago, and contrast that to where we are right now, on the cusp of a massive expansion of affordability, it’s pretty exciting,” said Christen Linke Young, deputy director of the White House Domestic Policy Council for Health and Veterans Affairs. But Bob Kocher, an economic adviser in the Obama administration who is now a partner at the venture capital firm Venrock, said that beyond the current changes, Biden’s mission on Obamacare seemed more modest, more like “don’t break it.” “I don’t think he has any ambition in mind beyond managing it,” he said. To aid in the effort, President Joe Biden has recruited a host of former Obama administration aides. His picks for top jobs at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Office of Management and Budget, as well as key deputies at HHS, all worked on the first rounds of Obamacare policymaking. Many key congressional aides working on health care now also helped write the Affordable Care Act. Born in the Great Recession, the Affordable Care Act was drafted with a focus on costs. Political compromises and concerns about runaway deficits kept the law’s overall 10-year price tag under $1 trillion, and included enough spending cuts and tax increases to pay for it. Those constraints led its architects to scale back the financial help for Americans buying their own coverage. Staffers who wrote the formulas said they ran hundreds of simulations to figure out how to cover the most people within their budget. Those who wrote the regulations that interpreted the law also recall drafting rules that erred on the side of spending less to avoid blowback or litigation. Republicans, who spent a decade dead set on repealing the law, blocked any policies to expand its reach. And the fiscal politics of the Obama years would have foreclosed the kind of subsidy expansion under discussion now, even if the law had been less politically divisive. Now, with Democrats back in control of Congress and the White House, there is new enthusiasm for expanding health coverage. Against the background of the pandemic and changing views about federal debt among many economists, lawmakers are less concerned about deficit spending than they used to be. But the Biden health project still faces challenges, and it may disappoint his allies. The new proposed spending, which would bring the law’s subsidies in line with early drafts of the Affordable Care Act, is temporary. Making those changes permanent could cost hundreds of billions over a decade, a sum that may spook moderate Democrats once the economy is in better health. And for many Democrats, the overhauls do not go as far they had hoped. Biden ran not only on subsidy expansions and technical fixes, but also on a lowering of the Medicare eligibility age and the creation of a so called public-option plan, government insurance that people could choose in place of private coverage. Members of Congress have introduced Medicare expansion and public-option bills, but neither type of proposal appears likely to move soon. Becerra has previously supported a single-payer system. He faced questions about his commitment to that idea from Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has repeatedly introduced "Medicare for All" legislation, and from Republican senators who oppose the idea. In each case, he responded similarly: The Affordable Care Act is the president’s focus, and his own as well. “I’m here at the pleasure of the president of the United States,” Becerra said. “He’s very clear where he is — he wants to build on the ACA. That will be my mission.” Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., who led a joint Biden-Sanders policy task force during Biden’s presidential campaign, says she is heartened by the measures the administration is taking — but concerned that the current efforts don’t yet match the promises made to progressives during the campaign. She said she would keep pushing for more generous health plans and an expansion of Medicare to cover more Americans, among other measures. “I believe we’re going to do so many things in this package, and I do think it’s a good package,” she said. “But I believe we haven’t done enough to help everyone who has fallen into the cracks.” This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company
- The Telegraph
Budding American astronauts have been asked to make Dragon’s Den style pitches to a billionaire tech mogul in order to win a place on the first ever civilian space mission. Jared Isaacman, founder and CEO of payments technology company Shift4 Payments is offering three seats on a SpaceX Crew Dragon rocket to people who show entrepreneurial flair, generosity and hope. The venture is supporting efforts to raise $200 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to fight childhood cancer, with half the sum already donated by Mr Isaacman. An accomplished jet pilot, he will be the commander on the mission, making it the first ever all-civilian trip to space. One seat has already been given to a hospital worker from St Jude’s and another will be given to someone who donates to the research hospital via an online portal. The third winner will be decided in a Dragon's Den-style contest run by Shift4 Payments in which users have to design their own website on the platform.
- Business Insider
QAnon's most devout followers believe bizarrely that former President Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 19th President on March 4, 2021.
- The Telegraph
Perched on the mountain range that divides the sprawling city of Caracas from the Caribbean Sea, Venezuela’s Hotel Humboldt can be seen from nearly all corners of the capital. The 65-year-old, 14-floor structure can only be reached by cable car from the city below. It currently boasts 69 rooms, six dining areas, a casino, a night club, and a swimming pool and spa. “It will be the first seven star hotel in Venezuela,” President Nicolas Maduro once proudly proclaimed as the 1956 symbol of oil wealth was being lavishly renovated. Now, the hotel is open again as a symbol of an impending economic recovery and tourism boom in a country that has suffered the worst economic crisis in modern Latin American history. But the so-called Socialist president’s touting of the luxurious, $300 per night hotel in a country where most live in poverty represents something else to others - an abandonment of a political project promising a socialist utopia in favor of an 'anything goes', capitalist kleptocracy.
A harmless side effect of the shot can be swollen lymph nodes. That means the vaccine is working, but could cause false alarm, so you should wait.
Mexican authorities hope most of the asylum seekers living in a major encampment on the border will be allowed to enter the United States by the end of next week, according to a Mexican government source. The migrant camp in Matamoros, Mexico, just across the river from Brownsville, Texas, is currently home to just under 700 migrants, according to the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR). The majority are asylum seekers who have been waiting in Mexico as their cases wind through U.S. courts under a program implemented by former President Donald Trump.
- Business Insider
Johnson & Jonhson's coronavirus vaccine is the only one that's been tested out in the US as just one shot.
- Business Insider
Go back to the place you got your first shot if you lose your paper card, and make sure to take a photo of the vaccine card after your first dose.
- The Week
Democrats decry Biden's airstrikes in Syria as unconstitutional. Republicans praise them as 'proportional.'
Democrats are calling the Biden administration's airstrikes in Syria unconstitutional. President Biden on Thursday ordered airstrikes against facilities in eastern Syria used by Iranian-backed militant groups, his first military action since taking office. The strikes were in response to several rocket attacks against U.S. targets in Iraq. While Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the limited scope of the airstrikes "aims to de-escalate the overall situation in both eastern Syria and Iraq," many Democrats expressed concerns on Friday that the move has done just the opposite, and argued it wasn't legally justified. "Some Democrats said that Congress has not passed an authorization for the use of military force specifically in Syria," reports CNN. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) said "there is absolutely no justification for a president to authorize a military strike that is not in self-defense against an imminent threat without congressional authorization ... we need to extricate from the Middle East, not escalate." Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) agreed, calling for an immediate congressional briefing and saying "offensive military action without congressional approval is not constitutional absent extraordinary circumstances." Republicans, however, were seemingly largely pleased with the move. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called the U.S. response a "necessary deterrent" to tell Iran that attacks on U.S. interests "will not be tolerated," reports CNN. As Fox News notes, Republican Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.), among others, also applauded the strike, calling it "proportional." White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki defended the action as "necessary," and said Biden "has the right to take action" as he sees fit. She said "there was a thorough, legal response" and the Defense Department briefed congressional leadership in advance. More stories from theweek.comBiden in the quagmireBen Sasse on Matt Gaetz: 'That guy is not an adult'Newly confirmed Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm is 'obsessed' with creating 'clean-energy jobs'
It's been 40 years since Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer announced their engagement with a televised interview.
Residents of an Indian slum thought they were getting vaccinated like everyone else but were unknowingly part of a clinical trial
After a white van advertised COVID-19 vaccines to a central-Indian slum, many of its residents feel duped after finding out they were in a trial.
- Yahoo News Video
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she won't take AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine because she is too old, a comment that comes as millions of Germans refuse to take the vaccine because they do not trust it.
- Business Insider
The White House is beginning to look past recreational marijuana use to fill key Biden administration roles
Previous users who secure a position must agree to not use pot during their tenure in office and undergo random drug tests, NBC News reported.
- Business Insider
Trump supporters and right-wing reporters wouldn't stop heckling CNN's Jim Acosta during second day of CPAC
A crowd of Trump supporters and right-wing reporters were filmed following Jim Acosta around CPAC while chanting "CNN sucks!"
- The Week
Iranian security official accuses U.S. of trying to 'revive' organized terrorism with Syrian airstrikes
Ali Shamkhani, Iran's top security official, said Saturday that the United States' airstrikes against Iranian-backed militias in eastern Syria earlier this week will rejuvenate the Islamic State in the region, Reuters reports. "The attack on anti-terrorist resistance forces is the beginning of a new round of organized terrorism," an Iranian news agency quoted him as saying during remarks to visiting Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein. More specifically, he said the action "strengthens and expands the activity" of ISIS. Shamkhani reportedly went on to say Tehran "will confront the U.S. plan to revive terrorism" in the Middle East, but didn't elaborate. Later, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif condemned the U.S. strikes as "illegal and a violation of Syria's sovereignty." The Washington Post, meanwhile, provided an in-depth of analysis of the strikes — which were carried out in response to several rocket attacks against U.S. targets in Iraq — suggesting that whether Iran, which denies involvement in the attacks on U.S. targets, chooses to respond in a way that escalates the already-tense relationship hinges on further developments in the Biden administration's diplomacy. "The administration’s actions and Europe’s support for U.S. decisions in response to Iran’s regional tests will determine whether Tehran believes it can be more aggressive regionally under Biden," Norman Roule, who previously served as the U.S. intelligence manager for Iran, told the Post. "But if the Iranians go up the escalatory ladder, we have no choice but to do the same in order to protect our forces and our partners." Still, the sense among experts largely remains that President Biden's Iran strategy will be less bellicose overall than former President Donald Trump's. Read more at Reuters, The New York Post, and The Washington Post. More stories from theweek.comBiden in the quagmireBen Sasse on Matt Gaetz: 'That guy is not an adult'Newly confirmed Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm is 'obsessed' with creating 'clean-energy jobs'
Bangladesh is under "no obligation" to shelter 81 Rohingya Muslim refugees adrift for almost two weeks on the Andaman Sea and being assisted by neighbouring India, said Bangladesh foreign minister A.K. Abdul Momen. India's coast guard found the 81 survivors and eight dead crammed onto a crippled fishing boat and were trying to arrange for Bangladesh to take them, Indian officials said on Friday. But Momen told Reuters late on Friday that Bangladesh expects India, the closest country, or Myanmar, the Rohingyas' country of origin, to accept them.
Former Sen. Kelly Loeffler is out as owner of WNBA team, and the new owners include former star player who retired to fight for social justice
One month after WNBA players helped oust Kelly Loeffler from the Senate, the league announced that it had approved sale of the franchise she co-owned.
Jill Biden said on "The Kelly Clarkson Show" that her daughter, Ashley, was the first to tell her that the Valentine's Day scrunchie sparked a trend.