In press conference, Obama slows drumbeat for war with Iran. [...]
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President wishes Romney 'good luck tonight'. [...]
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The Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics at Ole Miss is hosting Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley (D), Rep. Bobby Moak (D - Bogue Chitto), and Rep. Bryant Clark (D - Pickens) tomorrow at 11 a.m. They will be discussing working in politics as members of the minority party in their respective bodies. Charlie Mitchell will moderate.
I anticipate that this will be an interesting discussion. Clark, Moak, and Presley are all unapologetic Democrats and warriors for the middle class. Being in the leadership of the minority party in the House and the PSC isn't as easy as being in the leadership of the majority party, but all three men have taken to their task with aplomb.
The Overby Center is named for Charles L. Overby, editor of the Daily Mississippian (the student newspaper at Ole Miss) from 1967-68. Overby is currently the CEO of the Newseum in Washington, D.C.
It's committee deadline day at the Capitol, and many bills will see their lives end at midnight after not being considered by the committees to which they were assigned. I will have a comprehensive look at the well-known bills that didn't make it and those that did after the deadlines pass, but for now, let's have a look at a couple that appear dead already.
First, a constitutional amendment that would prohibit the governor from pardoning certain violent criminals appears to be a goner. Sen. Michael Watson (R - Pascagoula) wrote the bill, and it was double-referred to his committee (Constitution) and Judiciary B. Watson didn't see fit to take up his own bill until yesterday evening. As a result, Jud B Chairman Sen. Hob Bryan (D - Amory) will likely not bring the bill up at the Jud B committee hearing today. This smacks of political posturing on Sen. Watson's part. Not taking up your own constitutional amendment until sunset on the eve of committee deadline just gives you an "out" when it fails. Taking up a constitutional amendment with that little time to study it isn't good policy, and Sen. Bryan is right to let this bill die. (Sen. Watson apparently didn't bother to bring up his other two pardon-related constitutional amendments. Find them here and here.)
The same can be said for Sen. Chris McDaniel's (R - Ellisville) constitutional amendment that would declare that fetuses have a right to life under the Mississippi Constitution of 1890. This legislation was double-referred to Constitution and Jud B also. Once again, Sen. Watson brought the bill out of his committee yesterday evening, leaving little time to consider it in Jud B. I'm certainly not complaining about that, as the language in this proposed constitutional amendment creates more problems than it solves, which I imagine is Sen. McDaniel's intent.
enlargeThe polls are not going Elizabeth Warren's way in Massachusetts right now, and Chris Christie just weighed in with an endorsement for Scott Brown in an effort to tip the scales toward Brown.
Today, [Christie] officially endorsed Brown, saying in a statement that the men ?share a commitment to taking on today?s most difficult challenges by reforming government, balancing budgets and making tough choices.?
?He is battling to bring the same kind of fiscal discipline to Washington that I am fighting for in New Jersey. Scott cuts through the baloney and calls the issues like he sees them, and I am proud to endorse his campaign,? he continued.
Meanwhile, the polls are not being kind to Elizabeth Warren, which should be of concern to Democrats around the country. This is the third poll showing Brown ahead of Warren by a significant margin there, with the first taken in mid-February, a second one last week, and now this one. Real Clear Politics has Brown leading by 3.5 points right now in the averages.
Via Washington Post:
?We'll let the political pundits debate the polls and watch them go up and down over the course of the campaign,? said Warren press secretary Alethea Harney. ?Elizabeth will keep working her heart out.?
Boston-based Democratic strategist Mary Anne Marsh said Warren still needed to make her case to independents and increase her overall visibility: ?The quieter the campaign, the better advantage for him and not for her, because it?s the status quo.?
Democrats also argued that Brown?s cross-party popularity in the Western New England survey was a sign of how volatile polling was, not of danger for Warren.
Elizabeth Warren is a Blue America-supported candidate. Please consider donating to her campaign or helping in any way you can to make some noise and send Scott Brown home in November forever.
Attorney General Eric Holder delivered a major policy speech at Northwestern University in Chicago that laid out what he and the Obama Administration consider to be the legal justification for counterterrorism policies. Of particular significance were[...]
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Last week we tried drawing attention to the fact that it is the same hedge fund managers and commodities speculators funding Mitt Romney's profligate campaign who have pushed the price of gas up for their GOP allies. Every time you buy an increasingly expensive gallon of gasoline, you're funding Mitt Romney's shameful attack ads. Bernie Sanders-- whose reelection efforts you can support here-- has been fighting this battle for years-- and this week he stepped it up.
Bernie penned a letter to Gary Gensler, chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and the other 4 members, asking them to crack down for real on excessive oil speculation. Both senators and House Members are stampeding to sign on to the letter. Not Republicans of course. Here's the letter:
Dear Chairman Gensler, and Commissioners Chilton, Wetjen, Sommers, and O?Malia:
We are writing to urge you to immediately enact strong position limits to eliminate excessive oil speculation as required by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. As you know, the Dodd-Frank Act mandated that your agency promulgate and enforce such limits no later than January 17, 2011. We are disappointed that, more than a year later, the Commission has not fulfilled this important regulatory duty.
Congress determined that speculative position limits are an effective and critically important tool to address excessive speculation in America's oil and gasoline markets. It is one of your primary duties--indeed, perhaps your most important--to ensure that the prices Americans pay for gasoline and heating oil are fair, and that the markets in which prices are discovered operate free from fraud, abuse, and manipulation.
There has been a major debate over the last several years as to whether spikes in oil prices are caused entirely by the fundamentals of supply and demand or whether excessive speculation in the oil futures market is playing a major role. It is clear to us that debate has ended. Exxon Mobil, Goldman Sachs, the Saudi Arabian government, the American Trucking Association, Delta Airlines, the Petroleum Marketers Association of America, and even a report last year from the St. Louis Federal Reserve have all indicated that excessive oil speculation significantly increases oil and gasoline prices. According to a February 27, 2012 article in Forbes, excessive oil speculation ?translates out into a premium for gasoline at the pump of $.56 a gallon? based on a recent report from Goldman Sachs.
The facts bear this out. According to the Energy Information Administration, the supply of oil and gasoline is higher today than it was three years ago, when the national average price for a gallon of gasoline was just $1.90. And, while the national average price of gasoline is now over $3.70 a gallon, the demand for oil in the U.S. is at its lowest level since April of 1997. Nor is the global supply of oil at issue. According to the International Energy Agency, in the last quarter of 2011 the world oil supply rose by 1.3 million barrels per day while demand only increased by 0.7 million barrels per day. Yet, during this same period, the price of Texas light sweet crude rose by over 12%. Meanwhile, oil speculators now control over 80 percent of the energy futures market, a figure that has more than doubled over the past decade.
As the cost for American people to fill their gas tanks continues to skyrocket, the CFTC continues to drag its feet on imposing strict speculation limits to eliminate, prevent, or diminish excessive oil speculation as required by the Dodd-Frank Act. Although the CFTC has adopted initial position limits, they are not strong enough and not yet in force owing to industry opposition, delays in swaps oversight and data collection. This is simply unacceptable and must change.
We urge you to take immediate action to impose strong and meaningful position limits, and to utilize all authorities available to you to make sure that the price of oil and gasoline reflects the fundamentals of supply and demand. This could entail promulgation of rules only with regard to the currently regulated exchange markets. Swaps rules should also be implemented immediately, but even so, waiting for swaps rules to trigger all position limits is simply not adequate to protect consumers. We urge you to develop alternative methods of moving forward and to do so as swiftly and expeditiously as possible.
We have a responsibility to ensure that the price of oil is no longer allowed to be driven up by the same Wall Street speculators who caused the devastating recession that working families are now experiencing. That means that the CFTC must do what the law mandates and end excessive oil speculation once and for all.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We look forward to receiving your response.
"Oil speculators gamble on Wall Street and we pay the price at the pump. The price is not governed by supply and demand. The supply is not our problem. Fuel was America's largest export in 2011. Our oil output is higher now than it has been in decades. But speculators who bet that oil will be a higher price in a month from now, based on turmoil in the Middle East, rising global demand, or refinery capacity, end up causing an artificial supply problem even when one doesn't exist. This is because those who own the commodity, hold on to it waiting for the price to raise. It's a self fulfilling prophecy that makes both the speculator and the oil company rich. Oil is one of our most valued commodities. It affects the price of nearly everything we purchase from fresh produce, to shipping, to airplane tickets, to taxi rides. In some cases those who gamble with speculation, also own the commodity. Talk about a conflict of interest!
"Big oil and the Republicans solution is to 'drill, drill, drill.' Since high gas prices isn't really a supply problem, drilling for more oil and increasing the supply won't solve our problems. It will just make more money for the oil companies already raking in record profits, because speculators will keep the price high and there will be more oil to sell at that high price. Plus, if we start drilling today, the real effects at the pump will take months or years to feel. On the other hand, ending oil speculation will have an immediate effect on gas prices.
"Speculation causes volatility in the market price for oil. Let's restrict oil trading like other goods, in the open market based on real stock investments. I'm calling for an end to oil speculation and when I get to Congress, some of my first actions will be fighting to remove this stranglehold around the necks of consumers at the hands of big oil companies and speculators trying to get rich."
"Senator Sanders' letter illustrates that there are members of Congress that understand the problems of trade and speculation, and who are working on solutions to these problems. For my part, I not only support the objectives of the letter, but urge the nation to consider that we must move forward with a New Deal agenda that tethers the investment activity of Wall Street to the viability of Main Street. An important component of the New Deal agenda I propose is the institution of the Public Trust, a new federal trading institution which ensures that the American people's interests are protected against excessive speculation."
Maurice Hinchey (D-NY)
Louise Slaugher (D-NY)
Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)
Pete DeFazio (D-OR)
Peter Welch (D-VT)
Pete Stark (D-CA)
Raul Grijalva (D-AZ)
Barbara Lee (D-CA)
Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)
Dennis Kucinich (D-OH)
Bruce Braley (D-IA)
Mazie Hirono (D-HI)
Marcy Kaptur (D-OH)
Lloyd Doggett (D-TX)
Tim Ryan (D-OH)
Chellie Pingree (D-ME)
Tim Bishop (D-NY)
Sale Kildee (D-MI)
Mike Honda (D-CA)
Brian Higgins (D-NY)
Paul Tonko (D-NY)
Leonard Boswell (Blue Dog-IA)
Mike Quigley (D-IL)
Joe Donnelly (Blue Dog-IN)
Bob Filner (D-CA)
Sander Levin (D-MI)
Bill Pascrell (D-NJ)
Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC)
Bobby Rush (D-IL)
Jackie Speier (D-CA)
Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR)
Nick Rahall (D-WV)
Anna Eshoo (D-CA)
John Tierney (D-MA)
Mike Michaud (Blue Dog-ME)
Hank Johnson (D-GA)
John Lewis (D-GA)
John Olver (D-MA)
Gerry Connolly (D-VA)
Rosa LeLauro (D-CT)
Jim McDermott (D-WA)
John Conyers (D-WA)
Marcia Fudge (D-OH)
Gary Ackerman (D-NY)
David Cicilline (D-RI)
Lucille Royball-Allard (D-CA)
Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
"It's long past time we cracked down on people who make money by manipulating markets to rip Americans off. Hard-working Americans deserve fair prices, and Senator Sanders is right on in calling for the CFTC to live up to it's legal obligations."
The updated list is in the right column.
Our guest blogger is Katrina Womble, an intern at the Center for American Progress.
Last week, February 26 to March 3, was National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. The National Institute of Mental Health defines an eating disorder as an ?illness that causes serious disturbances to your everyday diet, such as eating extremely small amounts of food or severely overeating.? In the United States, up to 24 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder, such as anorexia or bulimia.
Although eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, only 1 in 10 men and women with eating disorders receive treatment. This low incidence of treatment for eating disorders is often the result of inadequate protections in federal and state laws. The federal mental health parity law only requires health insurance plans that already offer mental health coverage to provide the same level of benefits for mental illnesses as for other physical illnesses and diseases. This law does not mandate that group plans must provide mental health coverage and the law also allows states to determine which mental illnesses will be covered.
While some state laws provide comprehensive coverage for all mental illnesses (such as Arkansas), some states limit the coverage to ?serious mental illnesses? or a specific list of ?biologically based? mental illnesses (like Iowa?s does). These categories have been used by states and insurance companies to restrict or exclude individuals, including those suffering from eating disorders, from receiving life-saving treatment.
Most states only offer coverage for those individuals who meet all of the criteria for a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa (excessive food restriction) or bulimia nervosa (binge eating followed by purging). Health insurance plans do not typically cover individuals who have been diagnosed with an ?eating disorder not otherwise specified? (EDNOS) even though this diagnosis is more common than anorexia or bulimia. This means that a female patient who meets all of the diagnostic criteria for anorexia except that she is still having her period could be diagnosed with EDNOS and would not receive coverage for her eating disorder.
There is also significant variation in private insurance coverage of eating disorders. For example, companies can refuse coverage if a person?s body mass index (BMI) is not ?low enough.? While the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) has determined that a BMI of 17.5 is a ?strict indicator? of anorexia, Magellan Behavioral Health Inc. requires an individual to have a BMI of 16 or below before they deem hospitalization to be medically necessary. Anthem Blue Cross has even stricter eligibility standards, requiring an individual to have a BMI of less than 15 to qualify for acute inpatient hospitalization. This means that a 5 foot 6 woman would be considered anorexic by SAMHSA if she weighed 108.5 pounds, but she would have to weigh a mere 99 pounds (Magellan) and 93 pounds (Anthem) to be eligible for treatment depending upon her health insurance provider. Alternatively, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan, one of the options that states could use to base their benchmark plan off of, allows doctors to determine when a patient is in need of medical treatment for their eating disorder.
The inclusion of mental health coverage in the Affordable Care Act?s (ACA) 10 essential health benefits (EHB) is an important step towards providing comprehensive health care coverage to all Americans. However, the HHS has issued proposed regulations that allow states to choose a benchmark plan from among the three largest small employer plans, the three largest state employee plans, the three largest Federal Employees Health Benefits Plans, or the largest HMO plan offered in a state. This means that states can adopt a benchmark plan based on a state employer plan that may exclude coverage for eating disorders.
These disparities in coverage for eating disorders across state laws and insurance plans emphasize the need for the federal government to adopt a national benchmark plan for EHB that includes comprehensive mental health. For CAP?s formal comments to HHS Secretary Sebelius on the proposed EHB regulations, click here.