November 24th, 2013
Israel and some Republicans in Congress called the nuclear deal hammered out between Iran and world powers very dangerous, despite assurances from the United States that the pact would make American allies in the region safer.
"What was achieved last night in Geneva is not a historic agreement. It was a historic mistake," Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a cabinet meeting Sunday morning. "Today the world become a much more dangerous place, because the most dangerous regime in the world took a significant step towards getting the most dangerous weapon in the world."
The agreement between Iran and the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia aims to halt the progress of the Iranian nuclear program and rolls back key parts of it.
Struck with great speed given a history of failed negotiations, it also comes less than three months after Iran's new President Hassan Rouhani promised, in an interview with NBC News, to dramatically alter Iran’s relationship with the world.
Secretary of State John Kerry lays out some of the exact terms of the nuclear deal with Iran.
Earlier, Israel's Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon called the agreement "extremely dangerous for the free world."
"It goes without saying that all options remain on the table and that Israel has the capability – and the responsibility – to defend itself using any means necessary," Danon said in a statement.
The West and Israel fear that Iran has been seeking to develop a nuclear weapons capability. Tehran denies this, saying its nuclear program is a peaceful energy project. The White House has tried to reassure Israel that its fear that a deal would leave it vulnerable was unfounded. Late Saturday, President Barack Obama admitted huge challenges remain and said Iran's promises will be put to the test over the next six months.
"As we go forward, the resolve of the United States will remain firm, as will our commitment to our friends and allies - particularly Israel and our Gulf partners, who have good reason to be skeptical about Iran's intentions," he said.
Emphasizing the United States' commitment to Israel as well as his personal relationship with Netanyahu, Kerry said on Sunday that the two allies continue to share the same strategy and the United States will not tolerate a nuclear Iran threatening Israel.
President Obama says the historic nuclear deal with Iran is a first step. He added, the U.S. will continue to implement tough sanctions, but won't impose new ones if Iran meets its commitments during the next six months.
"There is no difference whatsoever between the United States and Israel about what the end goal is,” Kerry said.
Earlier in the news conference, Kerry said the agreement could not have been reached without the Iranians' decision to come to the negotiating table. He said the next phase of talks, while even more difficult will also be more important
"If this first step leads to what is our ultimate goal – which is a comprehensive agreement – that will make the world safer," he said.
An agreement with Iran will likely also affect U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia, a Sunni nation, which is threatened by signs of improved U.S. relations with Shiite Iran.
Gulf reaction to the announced Iran deal has been divided. Behind the scenes, senior Gulf diplomats have had a host of mixed feelings, sources told NBC News.
The UAE officially has welcomed the deal but at least one senior Gulf diplomat was much more critical and expressed skepticism over the deal.
Others see the U.S. holding secret meetings with Iranian officials in Oman over the past year as “insulting” because the U.S. has pressured Gulf countries like the UAE to step up sanctions on Iran, much to the detriment of their own economic self-interests. For years, the UAE was a major economic hub for Iranian commerce but since sanctions were increased, business has declined.
November 23rd, 2013
Say it ain't so, John!
The AP headline read :
However, while the story focused on Boehner's trial and error laden efforts at trying to get into the federal website, some of us were aghast that the GOP leader would go public with such an extreme bout of hypocrisy. Boehner has been ideologically opposed to the healthcare act from day one, so why would he sign up for a plan that he is even now supposedly fighting against?
"AP: Being speaker of the House doesn't make it any easier to sign up for health care coverage using the troubled federal website. Just ask John Boehner."
Many Americans are refusing to sign up through the healthcare exchanges out of principle alone, even forgoing the federal subsidy, but not John Boehner, apparently. Maybe the Speaker of the House simply doesn't care for the identical plans offered in the private health insurance market, since they're apart from big gov.
But, it gets even worse when we stop to consider that a Congressional mandate, which was engineered by Boehner with Obama and behind closed doors, allowed Congress members to be subsidized to the tune of 75% of their health plan costs, and by executive decree.
Perhaps private healthcare was not a particular part of that equation, but either way, Boehner should have never signed up for a plan that he has promised to repeal at first chance....or maybe Boehner has no true intentions to ever repeal Obamacare, especially now, since he's safely signed-up.
Below is the original story from the AP:
The Ohio Republican says he had to re-start the process several times while spending four hours trying to sign up at HealthCare.gov.
At one point Thursday, Boehner tweeted his frustration — "Guess I'll just have to keep trying" — along with photos of himself at a computer and the error message he says he received. The House speaker has 583,000 followers on Twitter.
Nearly an hour after his tweet, Boehner received an email confirming he was signed up, his spokesman said.
Boehner's effort comes as Republicans crank up a highly organized effort to capitalize politically on the troubled rollout of the health care law's website, as well as millions of Americans receiving policy cancellations.
Congressional Democrats are squirming over potential political fallout from those problems ahead of next year's midterm elections.
President Barack Obama has apologized for problems related to his signature health care law. Administration officials have said the website, unveiled on Oct. 1, will be working better by the end of this month.
November 23rd, 2013
By Barry Secrest
But it was such a great idea!
"No," says NASA administrator Steven Malkovich, who does admit that NASA scientists have long known of the powerful reaction exhibited between the catalytic properties of Coke and Mentos.
NASA states in their rejection letter, regarding the Mentos propulsion system, "there's no practical use for it."
Unfortunately, NASA also rejects the tongue in cheek writer's offer to become an Astronaut with a stinging rejoinder that "it's not something so simple a chimp has done it."
But, actually, mice have even done it, too; however, that's neither here nor there....indeed, at the fringe of propulsion research, one wonders if NASA has ever considered a human "Bio-Methane Drive" powered by the renewable catalytic properties of black beans, rice, and cabbage?.....A true "green energy" solution, if ever there were one.
NASA tweet in response:
So, NASA's belated response from yesterday obviously therefore means that the Coke and Mentos idea remains valid....but, what about the human "Bio-Methane Drive?" Now dubbed as the "Flatulence Articulated Reaction Turbine?"
Other stories from Conservative Refocus
November 23rd, 2013
An underwater forest off the coast of Alabama has been calculated to be much older than previously thought, AL.com reported.
According to the firsthand report by diver Ben Raines, an Alabama environmental journalist, the samples he collected were discovered by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to be 50,000 years old. The forest is located 60 feet underwater and ten miles off shore. The scientists who studied the samples commented on the well-preserved state they were found in.
"It is a little darker in color than a piece of modern cypress, but if I didn't tell you that it was over 50,000 years old, you wouldn't know it," said Kristine DeLong, the Louisiana State University researcher responsible for preparing and sending the samples for analysis. "I showed it to some of the other professors and they couldn't believe the wood was that well preserved. It's amazing it has held up. When I cut into them, they smelled just like you were cutting into a cypress tree."
November 23rd, 2013
By Adam-Aigner Treworgy, CNN
Washington (CNN) -- One of the basic tenets of Obamacare is that the government will help lower-income Americans -- anyone making less than about $45,900 a year -- pay for the health insurance everyone is now mandated to have.
But a CNN analysis shows that in the largest city in nearly every state, many low-income younger Americans won't get any subsidy at all. Administration officials said the reason so many Americans won't receive a subsidy is that the cost of insurance is lower than the government initially expected. Subsidies are calculated using a complicated formula based on the cost of insurance premiums, which can vary drastically from state to state, and even county to county.
That doesn't change the fact that in Chicago, a 27-year old will receive no subsidy to help offset premiums of more than $165 a month if he makes more than $27,400 a year.
In Portland, Oregon, subsidies for individuals making just $28,725 a year phase out for those younger than 35 years old.
The subsidies situation is adding another layer of complications and calculations to the already-complex picture of Obamacare.
And Obama administration officials had promised that the threshold for government assistance would be higher.
Subsidies are based on a formula set by law, applying to individuals with annual incomes of one to four times the poverty level -- or $11,490 to $45,960.
The percentage people have to pay for insurance increases on a sliding scale, with those making $11,490 paying no more than 2% of their income, and those making $45,960 paying no more than 9.5% unless they choose to select a more expensive plan.
Back in April, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told a congressional subcommittee that any individual making under that $45,960 threshold -- or four times the poverty level of $11,490 for an individual -- would qualify for "an upfront tax subsidy."
"Somebody who's making $25,500 would definitely qualify for a subsidy if he or she is purchasing coverage in the individual market," Sebelius added.
Despite the secretary's assurance, a 25-year-old living in Nashville, Tennessee, making $25,500 will not qualify for a subsidy, for example.
An administration official, presented with the data that many low-income Americans would not receive a subsidy, argued that lower premium costs meant the market was working.
"In some instances, because of the competition that the marketplace creates, premiums have come in so low that the premium is below the ceiling in the law," said HHS spokeswoman Joanne Peters. "This means that, in some places, people will pay less than they would with a tax credit."
To calculate premium subsidies, the government sets a maximum amount that low-income customers will have to pay for insurance as a percentage of their income. That cap is then subtracted from the cost of a mid-level insurance plan in the individual's region, and the difference is their subsidy. The insurance companies knock that amount off the price of premiums before the customer pays.
But if the baseline plan is cheap enough, the formula is thrown off and the subsidy is zero.
"The way the subsidy works is by capping the percent of your income that you'd have to spend on a silver premium," said Cynthia Cox, a policy analyst at the Kaiser Family Foundation, referring to the medium-level insurance plan the government uses as the baseline. "But if the premium before subsidies is already so low that it falls below your income cap, then you wouldn't qualify for a subsidy even if your income would otherwise qualify for one."
This means that in places like Minneapolis, Minnesota, where premiums are especially low, a 40 year old making $28,725 a year would get no help from the government to purchase insurance. In that case, this individual would be earning just 250% of the federal poverty level, far below 400% where the subsidies are supposed to end.
"While you don't qualify for subsidies your premiums are already lower," Cox pointed out. "So in this example, this person is only going to be paying $154 a month whereas the same person living somewhere else would be paying $193 a month after subsidies."
Still, because of what government officials have been saying about who would get subsidies, many low-income consumers are counting on subsidies to lower their costs, no matter how small those costs may initially be.
The actual age and income level where subsidies phase out differs depending on the cost of insurance, which are often lower in cities than in more rural areas.
But no matter where a person lives, premiums increase based on a customer's age, meaning this problem will disproportionately affect younger customers. Two exceptions are in New York and Vermont, where state laws require insurance companies to charge younger customers the same as older customers.
"There's a lot of interest in getting young people to enroll in coverage because that helps bring down the average cost," Cox said, but these younger, healthier consumers might stay out of the exchange it they "don't have subsidies to incentivize them to enroll."
As incomes increase, the age cap gets even higher.
Part of the reason for the sizable difference between the actual subsidy caps in certain cities and the intended cap under the law is that actual premiums came in below what the government and the Congressional Budget Office estimated.
"The CBO projected premiums to be approximately 16% higher than they turned out to be," Cox said. Because Kaiser based its estimates on the CBO's, much of its projections turned out to be slightly off.
The actual subsidy caps only became clear after October 1, when the foundation was able to compile the cost of the second-lowest silver plan from every coverage area in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
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