One major goal of the Affordable Care Act is to slow the growth in health care spending without compromising on the quality of care. So far, it seems to have done that, bringing projected Medicare costs down by nearly $70 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Now, spurred on by Gov. Deval Patrick (D-MA), the state that created the blueprint for Obamacare is following its lead.
Last night, the Massachusetts Senate passed a bill projected to trim $150 billion off state medical costs over 15 years. As the Boston Herald reported, health care spending currently consumes about 40 percent of the state budget and is expected to double by 2020. This legislation, passed by an overwhelming 35-2 vote, aims to reduce that burden by changing the way medical professionals care for patients and taking steps to keep Massachusetts residents healthier:
The bill, which was debated over two days in the Senate and required the consideration of 265 amendments, would seek to limit health care cost growth to a level at or slightly above overall state economic growth.
It aims to achieve that goal by encouraging hospitals and doctors to adopt new care delivery and payment models focused on patient outcomes rather than quantity of care provided, and would transition state-funded health care programs away from fee-for-service to alternative payment systems by 2014.
The Senate has also proposed to invest $100 million over the next five years in a transition to electronic medical records, and another $100 million in wellness and prevention programs paid for with an assessment on insurers.
Celebrating the vote, Senate President Therese Murray said Massachusetts “[o]nce again” leads the U.S. on health care. Moving medical records to an electronic format is expected to reduce administrative expenses, while prevention initiatives could cut health care costs by potentially billions of dollars, reducing the burden on taxpayers without negatively impacting care. A study released last year, meanwhile, found that doctors will improve the quality of care if their performance is tracked.
Leaders in the Massachusetts House have their own version of this bill that differs from the Senate version, including a luxury tax on some high-cost hospitals featured in the House version, which Murray said she would not support. An architect of the bill, Sen. Richard Moore (D), said he hoped “the bulk” of the bill would ultimately become law.
Police officers were caught by a security camera apparently beating a black teen as he lay prone with his hands behind his head. Chad Holley, then fifteen, was running from police after committing burglary, but after falling over the hood of a police car remained on the ground and put his hands behind his head. The video shows Officer Andrew Blomberg reach Holley first, and he then appears to kick or stomp Holley on the head or neck. Blomberg then runs to pursue another suspect. Holley remains surrounded by at least five officers who appear to continue beating him.
Despite the video and expert testimony that “Blomberg’s actions were ‘objectively unreasonable’ and were ‘contrary to any legitimate police action,’” an all-white, six member jury acquitted Blomberg on Wednesday. Blomberg was the first of four officers who were fired by the Houston police department over the incident to face trial trial for official oppression, which carries a penalty of up to one year in jail. Blomberg claimed to being using his foot to “sweep” not stomp Holley after Holley failed to put his hands behind his back. Jurors in the case told Blomberg’s attorney, Dick DeGuerin, that prosecutors had failed to prove that Blomberg had acted unreasonably.
The acquittal came after another white officer was accquitted of wrongdoing in the shooting of African-American Robert Tolan in the driveway of his home last year, and members of the local community are outraged at the outcome:
“The jury sent a message that the life of a black man don?t mean a damn thing in Houston,” African-American community activist Quanell X told the Los Angeles Times. “I believe the prosecutor never truly intended to convict this cop. I believe that allowing an all-white jury to be impaneled in this case was absolutely wrong and a miscarriage of justice.” …
“Black people must rise up and send a message to white people in this city and this town that our lives and the lives of our children do matter,” Quanell X told the Times. “We?re at a boiling point where America is headed toward some real civil conflict because of cases like Trayvon Martin and Robbie Tolan and Chad Holley. Black people are sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
The community responded to the outcome by holding a protest in downtown Houston on Thursday. The protest started with three dozen people but the crowd grew to about 300.
Both Houston Mayor Annise Parker and Harris County District Attorney agree with protesters that the verdict in the case was incorrect. Mayor Parker told a news conference that none of the officers who were fired over the incident will ever be Houston police officers again regardless of the outcome of their trials. State Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, also disagreed with the verdict and has called for a complete review of the Houston criminal justice system, stating that “[a]n officer of the law simply cannot be above the law.?
Three other officers await trial for their part in the incident. Drew Ryser is charged with official oppression and Phillip Bryan and Raad Hassan are both charged with official oppression and violating the civil rights of a prisoner.
House Oversight Chair Darrell Issa’s (R-CA) claim that Attorney General Eric Holder should be held in contempt for declining to turn over records of ongoing criminal investigations to Issa’s committee has not been received well by people who actually know something about law enforcement. Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey warned that Issa’s crusade against Holder has “distracted the Department of Justice in its efforts to assist state and local law enforcement — particularly in the area of violent crime prevention and suppression,” and a group of senior African-American law enforcement officials similarly warned that Issa’s efforts are “an impediment to the vigorous enforcement of violence and crime.”
Indeed, Issa’s overreach against Holder extended so far that even the House Republican Leadership is trying to reign him in. Nevertheless, a core group of House freshmen are now trying to pressure them to ignore the wishes of law enforcement:
In a letter to Speaker John Boehner (Ohio), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.); Reps. Sandy Adams (Fla.), Ben Quayle (Ariz.), Tim Griffin (Ark.), Dennis Ross (Fla.), Tom Marino (Pa.) and Trey Gowdy (S.C.) argued that ?the House of Representatives has seen its proper oversight function thwarted and obstructed. It’s time for the House to formally recognize the obvious ? that Attorney General Holder has not and will not cooperate with the legitimate investigation launched by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and is therefore in contempt of Congress.?
For weeks, Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (Calif.) has unsuccessfully lobbied leadership to allow contempt proceedings to begin against Holder.
Last week, even Eric Cantor seemed to understand that Issa’s crusade went too far. Cantor and his fellow members of the House leadership will now have to decide whether to abandon that good sense, ignore the wishes of law enforcement, and pick up his own pitchfork alongside the House freshmen.
Mitt Romney says he wants to "take a look at tax returns" from potential running mates ... but he doesn't want you to look at his.The Hill's Alexander Bolton reports that Mitt Romney's vice presidential vetting process is in full swing and offers this reminder:
To make it through the process, say past contenders, politicians hoping for a place on Romney?s ticket will face the most intensive scrutiny of their lives.Of course, while Mitt Romney wants to see the tax returns of his vice presidential candidates, he doesn't want you to see his. I'm sure he hopes you're not personally offended by that: It's just that he plays by a different set of rules than anyone else, you see.
Nothing is off limits: not old college papers, voting records, tax returns, children, spouses or former spouses.
Fox's Brian Kilmeade suggested that it was wrong for the Obama administration to have considered apologizing for an accidental deadly military strike against Pakistani troops by U.S-led forces. Fox is reporting that Obama will not apologize, but even if he were to do so, such an apology would hardly be the first time a U.S. president has apologized to a foreign nation.
Kilmeade: If Obama Apologized, "This Would Not Be The First Time President Obama Has Apologized To A Questionable Friend Of The United States." During the May 18 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Fox News correspondent Peter Doocy reported that the Obama administration will not apologize to Pakistan. Nevertheless, Fox & Friends co-hosts Brian Kilmeade and Steve Doocy suggested that it was problematic for the administration to have considered making such an apology, with Kilmeade saying, "[T]his would not be the first time President Obama has apologized to a questionable friend of the United States":
KILMEADE: We've learned there's a big push in the White House to apologize to Pakistan for the deadly air strike last year. And this would not be the first time President Obama has apologized to a questionable friend of the United States. It's been a live debate since that date. Live in Washington with more, Peter Doocy. Peter?
PETER DOOCY: And Brian, we've now learned that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was on a plane to London back in December to meet with the Pakistani foreign minister and say that we're sorry for accidentally killing 24 Pakistani soldiers back on November 26th. But mid-flight, she was told to stand down because President Obama had just apologized to the president of Pak -- of Afghanistan after our troops burned a Quran, and officials worried that two apologies in one day would make us look weak. But now a senior U.S. official tells us that Pakistan just isn't going to get an apology, telling us late last night that, quote, "There've been discussions over time, over whether to apologize and a decision has been made to express deep regret and try to move forward."
After the incident, a Pakistan -- Pakistan did close a border crossing with Afghanistan and it now cost NATO $38 million a month to work around it. And this U.S. official says that because of that, the U.S. is disinclined to apologize and the source close to the Pakistani government is quoted in The Wall Street Journal saying that if the apology would have occurred in the first or second day as it should have, we could have moved on, with another U.S. official saying in The Wall Street Journal today: "This goes to the fact that we don't know how to deal with the Pakistanis."
But White House National Security Advisor Tom Donilon said yesterday that we have made real progress moving towards resolving our issues with the Pakistanis. And he says that the key government groups in Islamabad have told us that they are ready to negotiate and that both sides, us and the Pakistanis, have determined that it's time to reach a conclusion. But remember that other U.S. official told us that there will not be an apology. Back to you.
KILMEADE: All right. Peter, thanks. They want to skyrocket the amount that we pay to get across the border to get supplies into Afghanistan, which is basically -- it seems like we're paying off a ransom.
STEVE DOOCY: It does. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 5/18/12]
President George H.W. Bush Apologized To Nicaragua's Sandanista Government After U.S. Forces Searched Through Nicaraguan Diplomatic Residence. During the 1989 U.S. invasion of Panama, U.S. forces entered and searched through the residence of the Nicaraguan ambassador to Panama. After the Nicaraguan government complained that U.S. forces had violated international law by conducting the search, President Bush apologized for the incident, calling it a "screw up" that "shouldn't have happened" and saying that the U.S. had expressed its "regrets". From The Washington Post:
President Bush said today that Friday's search of the residence of the Nicaraguan ambassador to Panama by U.S. troops was a "screw up" and "shouldn't have happened," but he questioned "what the man is doing with rocket launchers and grenades and Uzis and automatic weapons up to his eyeballs in his house."
The president, golfing here on vacation, and the State Department in Washington moved quickly to try to regain the high ground for the United States after the incident, which appeared to violate the internationally accepted principle of diplomatic immunity.
"When you find those kinds of weapons caches," Bush said, "even though I think in retrospect we shouldn't have gone in there, it makes you wonder exactly what our young men are up against. I don't know what they need rocket launchers for in a man's house. But nevertheless, I said we shouldn't have gone in the Nicaraguan mission and we've expressed our regrets." [The Washington Post, 12/31/89, via Nexis]
President Reagan Apologized To Japan For Sinking Of A Japanese Freighter. From United Press International:
President Reagan, in a letter to Prime Minister Zenko Suzuki, deplored the "extremely unfortunate" sinking of a Japanese freighter that was accidentally rammed by an American nuclear submarine, the Foreign Ministry said today.
"I want to tell you personally how much all of us in the United States regret the extremely unfortunate incident," Reagan wrote to Suzuki.
"Particularly regrettable was the tragic loss of the lives of two crewman from the Japanese ship," the president said. [UPI, 4/18/81, via Google News]
The Reagan Administration Apologized To France For Protecting Klaus Barbie. On August 16, 1983, Reagan's Justice Department issued a formal apology to France for protecting Klaus Barbie, a Nazi whom U.S. intelligence recruited and shielded in the aftermath of World War II. From The Economist:
American military intelligence officers recruited and later shielded from prosecution Mr Klaus Barbie, now awaiting trial in France for war crimes while head of the Gestapo in occupied Lyons. Evidence of their involvement has circulated for some time. Criticism has mounted, particularly in France. After an investigation, the justice department on August 16th acknowledged the charges in a long report and made a formal apology to France.
According to Mr Allan Ryan, the justice department's chief investigator of war crimes, army counter-intelligence officers recruited Mr Barbie in 1947 when he presented himself as a source of valuable information, especially about communists who had fought in the resistance.
As allegations of torture and other atrocities surfaced against Mr Barbie, the French sought him for trial. American officers not only concealed his whereabouts by lying to the American occupation authorities in Germany, but, late in 1950, they also helped him escape along the so-called ''ratline'' to South America used by other former Nazi officials. [The Economist, 8/20/83, via Nexis]
President George W. Bush Apologized To Iraq's Prime Minister After A U.S. Sniper Shot Up A Quran. From the Associated Press:
President Bush has apologized to Iraq's prime minister for an American sniper's shooting of a Quran, and the Iraqi government called on U.S. military commanders to educate their soldiers to respect local religious beliefs.
Bush's spokeswoman said Tuesday that the president apologized during a videoconference Monday with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who told the president that the shooting of Islam's holy book had disappointed and angered both the Iraqi people and their leaders.
"He apologized for that in the sense that he said that we take it very seriously," White House press secretary Dana Perino said. "We are concerned about the reaction. We wanted them to know that the president knew that this was wrong." [AP, 5/21/08, via Google News]
President George W. Bush Apologized For Abu Ghraib Abuse: "It's A Stain On Our Country's Honor And Our Country's Reputation." From a May 6, 2004, USA Today article:
President Bush issued his first outright apology Thursday for the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. soldiers, saying photographs of the mistreatment made Americans "sick to our stomachs."
In a White House briefing with Jordan's King Abdullah, Bush said he told Abdullah that "I was sorry for the humiliation suffered by the Iraqi prisoners and the humiliation suffered by their families."
Bush's apology, which he stopped short of giving in two interviews with Arab television stations Wednesday, came as the administration continued frantic efforts to control the damage from the prisoner abuse scandal.
The president continued to insist that guilty parties will be brought to justice. In addition to probes of abuse at Abu Ghraib prison, investigations have been launched into the deaths of at least 10 Iraqi prisoners at U.S. prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"It's a stain on our country's honor and our country's reputation," Bush said. "I am sickened by what I saw and sickened that people got the wrong impression." [USA Today, 5/6/04]
Bush Administration Said It Was "Very Sorry" For Surveillance Plane That Entered Chinese Air Space. From the Chicago Tribune:
China agreed to free 21 men and three women after days of intense negotiation over wording of a U.S. government letter of regret accepted by Beijing's foreign minister Wednesday.
The deal to free the Americans required the United States to compromise by using the phrase "very sorry" in acknowledging some of China's complaints over the incident, but it was Beijing that gave up its assertion that the U.S. accept full responsibility and apologize before the crew could be released.
"Please convey to the Chinese people and to the family of pilot Wang Wei that we are very sorry for their loss," said the letter signed by Prueher.
Besides expressing sympathy, the letter acknowledged one Chinese complaint: that the damaged American plane entered China's airspace and landed at an airport without authorization.
But even this aspect of the letter came across more as an account of the event than as an apology. It said the U.S. was "very sorry" for entering Chinese airspace without "verbal clearance." [Chicago Tribune, 4/12/01]
For more on previous presidential apologies, click here.
Fox News Figures Have Relentlessly Pushed The Myth That Obama Routinely Apologizes For America. Fox News figures have stated with regularity that Obama has gone on so-called apology tours in which he apologizes for America. [Media Matters, 4/26/12, 2/28/12, 2/9/11, 8/31/11, 5/18/10, 7/10/09]
But Independent Fact-Checkers Say The Claim That Obama Regularly Apologizes For America Is A Myth. Fact-checkers from the Associated Press, PolitiFact, and The Washington Post have all debunked the claim that Obama has repeatedly apologized for America. Fox News' own Juan Williams has made the same point. [Media Matters, 4/26/12]
As you watch this or read the transcript, keep in mind that from 2001 to 2003?during which time the Bush administration launched two wars, one of which we are fighting to this day, and two rounds of tax cuts for the wealthy?Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels was George W. Bush's budget director. Yet now he is blaming President Obama for allegedly creating a debt bomb:
Well, you know, he's been the president of this nation for the three years in which we have drifted ever closer to the biggest peacetime crisis we may have ever faced. There's no doubt it. It's a mathematical certainty. [...] To me the central question of this election is why such an administration deserves a second chance.The fact that Mitch Daniels apparently has forgotten we are at war in Afghanistan?even though he served in the White House when we began the war more than a decade ago?is a fitting tribute to the Romnesia that has infested the Republican Party.
Daniels talks about our fiscal challenges as if they are problems of President Obama's creation, but the fact is that it's the Bush administration that cut taxes too low, it's the Bush administration that destroyed the economic growth upon which any sound fiscal policy depends, and it's the Bush administration that wasted hundreds of billions in Iraq and Afghanistan. President Obama isn't the one who should step aside?it's Daniels and Romney and the whole gang of Republicans who want to take us back to the way things were under W. Their policies didn't work then and they won't work now. America can't afford to go back.
Simon Johnson writes that Timothy Geithner told Jamie Dimon to resign from the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. I saw the interview to which he's referring, and I would hardly characterize it as that strong.[...]
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?Our Court, as long as I've been around, has been in many ways our nation's most remarkable institution,? Mondale said. ?It has been bipartisan, we've had great judges with a lot of vision. Without it, we wouldn't have civil rights, we wouldn't have so many things that have made America more open, more fair, more trustworthy. Now it's become a kind of harsh, partisan institution. You have 'Citizens United,' you have the Florida case, you have some real bummers coming up here. I really worry about what it'll do to the country. I've been around once during the worst of the Vietnam War when I really began to worry whether this place was going to blow up, whether the center would hold. We're nowhere near that now. But don't toy with that. Always try to act in a way that sustains trust, public trust. It's hard to explain but what makes us strong as a nation, fundamentally, is that people trust the system. And I don't think we should keep playing with that like we are now.?
Dr. [Robert] Spitzer in no way implied in the study that being gay was a choice, or that it was possible for anyone who wanted to change to do so in therapy. But that didn?t stop socially conservative groups from citing the paper in support of just those points, according to Wayne Besen, executive director of Truth Wins Out, a nonprofit that fights antigay bias. [...]
?You know, it?s the only regret I have; the only professional one,? Dr. Spitzer said of the study, near the end of a long interview. ?And I think, in the history of psychiatry, I don?t know that I?ve ever seen a scientist write a letter saying that the data were all there but were totally misinterpreted. Who admitted that and who apologized to his readers.?
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on my parahippocampal gyrus. Scientists at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute have found that suspicion resides in two distinct regions of the brain: the amygdala, which plays a central role in processing fear and emotional memories, and the parahippocampal gyrus, which is associated with declarative memory and the recognition of scenes.
"We wondered how individuals assess the credibility of other people in simple social interactions," said Read Montague, director of the Human Neuroimaging Laboratory and the Computational Psychiatry Unit at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, who led the study. "We found a strong correlation between the amygdala and a baseline level of distrust, which may be based on a person's beliefs about the trustworthiness of other people in general, his or her emotional state, and the situation at hand. What surprised us, though, is that when other people's behavior aroused suspicion, the parahippocampal gyrus lit up, acting like an inborn lie detector."
It's impossible to calculate exactly how black voters came down on Amendment 1, because there was no exit polling and voting precincts are rarely single-race. What is clear is that urban voters opposed the amendment; rural ones supported it; and that division cut cleanly across the color line.
In each of North Carolina's five largest cities, voters in majority-black precincts rejected the measure: Charlotte (52 percent), Raleigh (51 percent), Greensboro (54 percent), Winston-Salem (55 percent), and Durham (65 percent). Durham's results were dramatic: Not a single majority-black precinct supported the amendment. Several crushed it by margins of 3-to-1 and even 4-to-1.
A federal district court in New York has ruled that the federal government cannot enforce the domestic military detention provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2012 because it unconstitutionally infringes on the rights of journalists and activists to associate with people the government might consider terrorists?exposing them to arrest and indefinite detention without a trial.
?This court is acutely aware that preliminarily enjoining an act of Congress must be done with great caution,? wrote U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest, in a 68-page decision handed down on Wednesday. ?However, it is the responsibility of our judicial system to protect the public from acts of Congress which infringe upon constitutional rights.?
Curt Schilling is a hero to New England baseball fans, known for his performances in high pressure situations. But as a businessman, he's in big trouble, and not the kind he can pitch his way out of.
The former MLB all-star's start-up video game company, 38 Studios, missed a $1.1 million payment to the state of Rhode Island on May 1, and things have only gotten more complicated since.
Rhode Island lured 38 Studios away from Massachusetts in 2010, in exchange for $75 million in guaranteed loans. At the time, then-Governor Donald Carcieri, a Republican, considered the company a chance to jump-start a new business sector in the state. The company promised to create 450 jobs in three years. Massachusetts officials declined to match Rhode Island's offer. Earlier this year, the company's first game, "Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning," came out to positive reviews. "It sings with infectious, engaging excellence," raved The New York Times.
But the company missed a payment earlier this month, and Schilling was forced to ask for more public assistance this week, The Boston Globe reports. The company said it did not have enough money to make payroll for its nearly 300 employees. The Rhode Island official who oversaw the loan guarantee resigned on Wednesday. And the troubles reached an absurd high point on Thursday, when the company hand-delivered a check to the state for $1.1 million before warning that it didn't have the funds to cover it.
"38 Studios arrived at [Rhode Island's Economic Development Corporation] at 5 p.m. with a check. Upon learning from the CFO of 38 Studios that there were insufficient funds in the account to cover the check, EDC returned the check to 38 Studios," Christine Hunsinger, a spokesman for Governor Lincoln Chafee, told The Providence Journal on Thursday. "EDC remains willing to accept payment with readily available funds."
Late Thursday, Schilling took to his Facebook page to offer a few words on the situation.
"To all the prayers and well wishes to the team and families at 38, God Bless and thank you! We will find a way, and the strength, to endure," he wrote.
But some people aren't offering an well wishes.
"We got hoodwinked; we got played,'' Republican state Representative Robert Watson told the Globe. "How many millions of dollars does Curt Schilling have? He can't write a check? It's Rhode Island that is supposed to provide the money? I think not.''
On Friday, Globe columnist Brian McGrory unloaded on Schilling, who over the years has made no secret of his conservative politics.
"Schilling spent no small amount of time in his career preaching the Republican mantra of smaller government and personal responsibility. He did this fresh off the historic Red Sox World Series win when he backed George W. Bush in the 2004 campaign. He did it on the stump on behalf of John McCain in 2008," McGrory wrote. "Smaller government? Call me crazy, but I'm betting that wasn't exactly what Schilling was extolling when he sat behind closed doors on Wednesday pleading with the members of the Rhode Island Economic Development Corp. to put more public money behind his fantasy video game venture."
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