Saturday, February 22, 2014

California Sen. Ronald S. Calderon, brother charged in FBI probe

State Sen. Ronald S. Calderon
State Sen. Ronald S. Calderon (D-Montebello) faces charges of bribery, fraud, money laundering and related offenses.(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press / January 6, 2014)

  • But the appointment at the Bellagio hotel took an immediate unexpected turn for the Southern California lawmaker, according to court records. The businessmen Calderon expected to meet were actually FBI agents with an unsettling message: He was under investigation for public corruption, and he could either cooperate with authorities or face the consequences.
Calderon (D-Montebello) initially agreed to wear a wire in an effort to implicate other politicians, authorities said. That arrangement eventually fell apart, and on Friday prosecutors announced a sweeping indictment against Calderon charging him with bribery, fraud, money laundering and related offenses. Calderon's brother, Thomas, a former member of the California Assembly, is also charged with money laundering.

The charges stem from a scheme in which Ronald Calderon allegedly solicited and accepted nearly $100,000 in cash bribes, as well as gourmet meals and golf outings, in exchange for his influence as a lawmaker. His actions, prosecutors say, helped facilitate a half-billion-dollar healthcare fraud — one of the largest such scams in the state's history.

The mastermind of the healthcare fraud was Michael Drobot, who had owned Pacific Hospital in Long Beach. Drobot has admitted to bribing Calderon to use his influence to keep a state law on the books that allowed Drobot to pass on inflated expenses from spinal surgeries to workers' compensation insurers. The surgeries were performed on patients referred by doctors and chiropractors who were paid illegal kickbacks financed by the inflated billings, authorities allege.

Via: LA Times

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GOP wages war with 'imperial presidency'

House Republicans will push the Obama administration to roll back regulations over the next few weeks as they combat an "imperial presidency."
In an email to House Republicans, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) accused President Obama of "effectively rewriting the laws" and called on the GOP to fight to "restore the balance of power created by our Founders."
"President Obama has provided new clarity as to what constitutes an imperial presidency," Cantor wrote Friday in the email obtained by The Hill. "Declaring that he has a 'pen and a phone,' he has acted to effectively rewrite the laws of the United States."
Cantor said pushing back against the Obama administration's "excessive and burdensome" regulations is one of the top priorities on the Republican legislative agenda over the next three weeks.
He pointed to studies that show the cost of federal regulations amounts to $10,585 per employee for small businesses, and $7,755 per employee for large companies.
"The cost of excessive and burdensome Washington regulations means fewer jobs and reduced salaries for those with a job," Cantor wrote.
Cantor pointed to ongoing GOP efforts to roll back regulations, including a series of bills that will hit the House floor next week.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte's (R-Va.) Regulatory Accountability Act topped Cantor's list, because it would require federal agencies to write regulations that have the smallest economic impact on businesses.
Cantor also mentioned the ALERT Act, introduced by Rep. George Holding (R-N.C.), which he says would require federal agencies to provide timely information about the status and cost of new regulations it is considering. This would prevent "regulators from hiding the ball," he said.
Meanwhile, the Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act, introduced by Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), fights what Cantor calls an "abusive" practice where federal agencies will settle lawsuits with liberal groups by agreeing to impose stricter regulations on businesses. 

Via: The Hill

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Barber Calls President’s Obamacare Enrollment Claims ‘Spin at Best’

The Washington Free Beacon‘s Ellison Barber called President Obama’s recent Obamacare enrollment claims “spin at best” Friday during her appearance on The Real Story.
Obama told Democratic governors Thursday night that nearly 4 million have enrolled so far on the exchanges and close to 7 million Americans have access to health care for the first time due to Medicaid expansion.
“He said almost 4 million people have enrolled so far,” Barber said. “That number is 3.3 million, so I would say that’s kind of rounding up on the high end. I think it has to be 3.5 before you can round up to the next number. The enrollment number is closer to 3 million. That’s kind of the first problem. The other issue is going to be the number he gave for how many people have been able to get health insurance because of the Medicaid expansion. That’s 7 million. That I would say that’s spin at best and probably a little bit inaccurate.”
Barber also spoke about Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D., W.V.) alleged statement about wanting to repeal Obamacare. Manchin has since backtracked from those comments, saying he wants to get the law fixed, but Barber said remarks like those could be trouble for vulnerable Senate Democrats seeking re-election where Obamacare is unpopular.
“He’s not up for election right now, but since he is one of those red-state more conservative-leaning Democrats, what he says would impact the races that are going in other states like Kay Hagan (in North Carolina), Senator (Mary) Landrieu (in Louisiana),” Barber said. “It would put them in a tough position to come out and say something. I think it probably still will because he’s already said these, so I think he’s trying to backtrack now because he realizes, or someone said, you’re putting these guys in a tough position. Let’s not say that right now.”

Misfire: Man Wearing Pro-2nd Amendment T-Shirt Stopped at Voting Station

A Texas man was stopped at a polling station during early voting Tuesday because of guns—namely, the ones referenced on his t-shirt.
Chris Driskill was on his way to the voting booth when, he said, “I heard a gentleman’s voice over my shoulder say ‘he can’t vote with that shirt on. You’ll have to either turn it inside out our you’ll have to leave.’”
Driskill at first thought that his shirt, which read “2nd Amendment: America’s Original Homeland Security,” had offended the polling workers’ politics. “I didn’t quite understand it at first,” he said. “I was thinking they just didn’t like something about the Second Amendment.”
But he had actually run afoul of a Texas law prohibiting electioneering with 100 feet of a polling place. With a proposition on the ballot about concealed carry, Driskill’s pro-Second Amendment shirt fit the bill.
Driskill was offered a coat by a local Republican candidate standing outside the voting station (one hopes more than 100 feet away) and returned to successfully complete his ballot. “I guess I can kind of see where their reaction came from,” he told KVUE. “If you have to turn around and go change shirts, you know, so be it. But get out and vote.”
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3 Things You Don’t Know About Obamacare That Could Hurt You

Mario Tama/Getty Images
Mario Tama/Getty Images
Nearly one in three Americans have little familiarity with Obamacare, and the ramifications are playing out in the media. Since each day brings headlines highlighting Americans who are surprised by changes in their health care situation because of President Obama’s signature achievement, The Heritage Foundation compiled three Obamacare items that might surprise you:
1. Your doctor could be outside the network of your Obamacare exchange plan. This could be true even if the insurer said that physician is in its health care provider network. The California state exchange, called Covered California, has had a systemic problem with this issue. Earlier this month, the exchange pulled its physician directory for the second time because of all the errors.
Since the health plans took effect January 1, many Obamacare enrollees in California have complained that doctors won’t take their insurance, despite being listed as part of the plan’s network. Insurance expert Edmund Haislmaier, senior research fellow in Heritage’s Center for Health Policy Studies, says it’s a combination of insurers rushing to get information to the exchanges and the exchanges not updating their directories quickly enough.
Some health care providers could be negotiating with insurers over payment rates, which delays doctors from being in plan networks, Haislmaier added. “This will sort itself out over time but it’s an issue that is still playing out,” he said, advising enrollees to call their physicians first to verify participation in plans offered by the Obamacare exchanges.
2. You might get a better deal if you buy insurance outside an Obamacare exchange.Unless you live in the District of Columbia or Vermont, you can buy health insurance outside the exchanges, either through an insurance agent or directly from an insurer. The biggest disadvantage is that such health plans aren’t eligible for Obamacare’s subsidies.
But some Americans don’t qualify for Obamacare subsidies anyway, such as those making more than 400 percent of the federal poverty level (about $45,960 for an individual or $94,200 for a family of four). For them, buying an “outside” plan could be slightly cheaper.

[VIDEO] Obama Weekly Address : Americans Deserve A Minimum Wage Vote, Saturday February 22, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama says hardworking Americans deserve a vote in Congress on a minimum raise hike.
In his weekly radio and Internet address, Obama says six states have already raised their minimum wage and more are considering it. Obama says he's taken action, too, by raising wages for federal contractors.
He says now it's up to Congress to finish the job by passing legislation raising the federal minimum to $10.10 per hour.
Obama is praising retailer The Gap for deciding to pay its employees higher wages. He says the move will benefit about 65,000 workers and help the economy.
Via: Huffington Post
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[VIDEO] Tom Cotton Takes On Obama in Weekly Address, Saturday February 22, 2014

Republicans chose Rep. Tom Cotton, a Senate candidate in one of the hottest races this cycle, to deliver the party’s weekly address and go after President Barack Obama as “causing” the problems people face in Arkansas and across the country.
It’s the latest example of how leaders in both parties are showcasing Senate candidates to let their battles play out under the Dome as well as back home. Already Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor and Cotton have been on opposite sides of legislative battles, including the farm bill. And Democratic leaders gave Pryor a ready-made political wedge issue recently on a topic related to veterans benefits.
The addresses posted on YouTube by both the White House and the GOP on Saturday mornings are hardly a major national platform, but the video did give Cotton an opportunity to point out his own Arkansas roots and boast that he is a leader on an issue that helps him back home.
“Arkansans, like most Americans, have had their grit tested over the last several years through a financial collapse, recession, and a stagnant, jobless recovery. Barack Obama’s policies aren’t solving these problems — they’re causing the problem,” Cotton said.
The Republican Senate hopeful singled out the health care law as the root of many of these problems, and said, of course, the GOP has the solution.
Obama’s policies, Cotton said, “are fundamentally flawed.”
“They’re wrong for Arkansas, and they’re wrong for America. And as a result, too many Arkansans, like people across the country, are still out of work — five years into President Obama’s economic ‘recovery,’” he said. “Republicans in Congress are committed to stopping the harms caused by the President’s policies, repairing the damage, and getting America working again. We’re advocating reforms that trust patients and their doctors — not Washington bureaucrats. And we’re working to get spending under control. That’s because we trust you to make the right decisions for you and your family.”
The Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rates the Pryor-Cotton race as Tilts Republican.
Obama’s own weekly address focused on proposals to increase the minimum wage, anotherpolitical wedge Democrats are using in hopes of keeping control of the Senate and as they attempt to win the 17 seats needed to reclaim the House.
The president said that since he first asked Congress to raise the minimum wage, six states have increased their own, but noted “only Congress can finish the job and lift Americans’ wages across the country.”
The bill to boost the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 would help 16 million Americans, Obama said.
“But even though a majority of Democrats, independents, and Republicans across the country support raising the minimum wage, Republicans in Congress don’t want to give it a vote,” he said. “Hardworking Americans deserve better than ‘no.’ Let’s tell Congress to say ‘yes.’ Pass that bill. Give America a raise. Because here in America, no one who works hard should have to live in poverty — and everyone who works hard should have a chance to get ahead.”
Get used to more messages like this in the coming months as the battle for control of Congress rages on.


The Obama administration's unilaterally instituted 28 Obamacare delays cumulatively add up to 15 years and three months, a Fox News analysis reveals. 

Out of the 28 delays the White House has decreed, 13 have involved changes designed to delay features of the law for one year or more so they will not hit before the 2014 midterm elections.  
Critics of the unpopular Obamacare program argue that President Barack Obama's 28 Obamacare changes trample on the Constitution because they were made without the consent of Congress. 
"This is a shameless act, a shameless power grab that is designed to help the president and his political party achieve a particular outcome in a partisan election," said Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT). 
According to the RealClearPolitics average of polls, just 39% of Americans support Obamacare. 


A Harvard University feminist student writing in the campus newspaperThe Crimson recently posited this:
“If our university community opposes racism, sexism, and heterosexism, why should we put up with research that counters our goals simply in the name of “academic freedom”?
The column was titled  “The Doctrine of Academic Freedom – Let’s Give Up On Academic Freedom in Favor of Justice.”
Its author, senior Sandra Y.L. Korn, a joint history of science and studies of women, gender and sexuality major, called for the end of academic freedom and in its place “a more rigorous standard: one of ‘academic justice.’”
“When an academic community observes research promoting or justifying oppression, it should ensure that this research does not continue,” she wrote. “The power to enforce academic justice comes from students, faculty, and workers organizing together to make our universities look as we want them to do.”
Uh huh. She went there.

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