Friday, May 29, 2009

Schwarzenegger Wants To Eliminate Home Care For 400,000 Elderly, Blind and Disabled Californians

/PRNewswire/ -- Gov. Schwarzenegger today proposed catastrophic cuts in the In Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program that would all but destroy the program, which provides home care for more than 420,000 low-income elderly, blind and disabled Californians.

Under the latest Schwarzenegger plan, some 380,000 individuals--nearly 90 percent of all IHSS consumers--would be thrown out of the program. This comes on top of an earlier proposal from the governor that would cut the pay for the state's home care providers back to minimum wage.

"While the governor's earlier proposals were foolish and shortsighted, his latest scheme is outrageous, vindictive and unconscionable," said Doug Moore, president of the 65,000 member UDW Homecare Providers Union.

"IHSS saves taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars each year by keeping some of our most vulnerable citizens out of nursing homes, which cost at least five times more than home care," Moore said. "It also brings millions in federal revenue to the state. Yet the governor would gut this cost-effective program, while continuing to fully fund more expensive nursing homes.

"We believe that all Californians should do their share to help the state through its financial problems. But Schwarzenegger and his Republican allies would put all of the burden on low-income, working Californians. They won't call on businesses to give up some of their tax breaks. They won't ask the oil companies to do their part by taxing the oil produced here in California, just like every other state in the union already does.

"It is time for the leaders of our state legislature to really lead. It is time for them to stand up to the governor and the Republicans and say 'enough.' It is time for realistic, common-sense solutions to our budget crisis that call on everyone to contribute."

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Secretary Sebelius Announces Appointment of Cindy Mann as Director of the Center for Medicaid and State Operations

U. S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today
announced the appointment of Cindy Mann to serve as Director of the
Center for Medicaid and State Operations (CMSO), part of the Centers for
Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Mann most recently served as a
research professor and executive director of the Center for Children and
Families at Georgetown University's Health Policy Institute.

"Cindy Mann has decades of experience in health care financing at the
federal and state level, and vast knowledge of health care policy," said
Secretary Sebelius. "She has devoted her career to working on behalf of
children and families, the elderly and people with disabilities. She
will be an outstanding leader at CMSO, particularly as the nation moves
forward with health care reform."

Mann previously served as director of the Family and Children's Health
Programs at CMSO from 1999-2001; in that capacity she played a key role
in implementing Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program
(CHIP).

"Cindy has been instrumental in recent efforts to expand health care
coverage in our country," said Sebelius. "Her knowledge of health care
issues and management experience will be a great asset to CMSO and to
the millions of Americans who rely on Medicaid."

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

New Virginia Poll: 71 Percent of Voters Strongly Support FDA Regulation of Tobacco Products

/PRNewswire/ -- A new statewide poll of registered voters finds that 71 percent of voters support Congress passing a bill to give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to regulate tobacco products. The U.S. Senate is expected to debate this issue next week, and Senators Webb and Warner will play a key role in determining whether Congress will finally pass this life-saving legislation.

"Senators Webb and Warner have a critical role to play in ensuring that strong FDA tobacco regulation is enacted into law," said Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "We urge Senators Webb and Warner to vote for the bill when it's on the floor this year."

Support for FDA legislation crosses party lines, with strong majorities of Republicans (66 percent), Democrats (81 percent) and independents (71 percent) favoring FDA regulation of tobacco. In addition, support for FDA legislation is strong across virtually all demographic groups, with majorities of voters in every age bracket, education level, and income level supporting FDA regulation.

The poll shows:

-- 93 percent support restricting tobacco sales to children by requiring
ID checks for younger buyers and fining retailers who sell tobacco to
minors.
-- 79 percent support requiring tobacco companies to take measures, when
scientifically possible, to make cigarettes less harmful.
-- 86 percent support preventing tobacco companies from making claims
that some products are less harmful than others unless the FDA
determines those claims are true.
-- 87 percent support restricting tobacco marketing aimed at children
such as limiting advertising in magazines with a large percentage of
readers under age 18.
-- 73 percent support requiring the reduction or removal of harmful
ingredients, including nicotine, from tobacco products.


"There is broad, bipartisan support for FDA regulation of tobacco products," said Myers. "Virginia voters agree that it's time for Congress to address the nation's number one preventable cause of death and end the deadly status quo that allows tobacco companies to target our children and mislead the public."

In April, the U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation granting the FDA authority over tobacco products with a vote of 298-112. Similar legislation was approved 15-8 by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on May 20th and sent to the full Senate for consideration.

"There are few other issues before Congress where you will find such strong consensus across regions and across party lines. The passage of this legislation to give the FDA the authority to regulate tobacco products was long overdue. I was proud to cast my vote to address the nation's number one preventable cause of death and keep tobacco products out of the hands of our children," said Representative Gerri Connolly (D-11th).

A report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) concluded that in order for the United States to dramatically reduce tobacco use as a significant public health problem, it is essential to provide FDA authority over tobacco products. As the IOM concluded, "The time has come for Congress to exercise its acknowledged authority to regulate the production, marketing and distribution of tobacco products."

Nationwide, tobacco use kills more than 400,000 people and costs more than $96 billion in health care bills each year. Currently, 20 percent of high school students smoke and more than 1,000 kids become new regular smokers every day. In Virginia, tobacco use kills 9,200 residents and costs the state $2.08 billion in health care bills a year, and 15.5 percent of high school students smoke.

The survey of 500 likely voters in Virginia was conducted by Global Strategy Group January 27-29, 2009 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points. Detailed poll results can be found at: www.tobaccofreekids.org.

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Black Leader Urges Senate Scrutiny for Sotomayor Supreme Court Nomination - No Rubber Stamp for Controversial Nominee

With President Obama's nomination of U.S. Circuit Court judge Sonia Sotomayor to the vacancy being created by U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter's impending retirement, Mychal Massie, chairman of the Project 21 black leadership network, is urging senators to take a very close look at her record before commenting on her fitness for the job.

"Of all the possible nominees suggested over the past few weeks, it appears Obama selected the most radical one," said Massie. "The U.S. Senate has a duty to scrutinize Judge Sotomayor's record to ensure she has the demeanor and aptitude to be elevated to such a solemn post."

Massie continued: "During the Bush Administration, it was common for liberal senators to demand a consensus nominee with broad political appeal. By selecting an avowed liberal in Sotomayor, it would appear Obama is not following the stipulation he and his former colleagues sought to impose upon his predecessor. This should open up the nomination to the scrutiny it justly deserves."

The Sotomayor nomination, Massie notes, is the perfect catalyst to begin a national debate on the appropriateness of "judicial activism" - when judges essentially cut lawmakers out of the legislative process and try to rule from the bench. For example, in a 2001 speech at the University of California at Berkeley School of Law, Sotomayor said it was appropriate for a judge such as herself to use her "experiences as women and people of color" to "affect our decisions." In 2005, she told a crowd at the Duke University Law School that the "Court of Appeals is where policy is made" - rather than by lawmakers beholden to voters.

Massie commented: "Considering Justice Souter's record, Sotomayor will not change the balance of the Supreme Court. But she will likely dramatically alter the temperament of the Court and the way in which it operates. Senators must keep this in mind as they take on the very solemn process of vetting her fitness."

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Voters Urged to Support Budding Moves to Include Long Term Care in National Health Reform

/PRNewswire/ -- Although President Obama has called for affordable, accessible, high-quality health care for all Americans, "There's no guarantee the legislation will bridge the long term care gap," says Denise Gott. "Only about 9 million Americans, a fraction of our 300 million plus, have long term care insurance. And among those at greatest risk, 45 and older, more than 9 in 10 go uncovered. Health reform won't be complete unless Congress addresses this gaping hole." Gott is Chairman of the Board of LTC Financial Partners LLC (LTCFP) -- http://www.ltcfp.com/ -- one of the nation's most experienced long term care insurance agencies.

Americans need tax and other incentives to help pay for the missing long term care protection, Gott asserts. And she applauds recent Congressional efforts to provide those incentives: House bill H.R. 2096, the Long-Term Care Affordability and Security Act; and companion legislation in the Senate, S. 702.

"Depending on public support," says Gott, "efforts like these could make it into law or wither on the vine. A barrage of letters and calls, right now, could make all the difference."

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, leader of the House of Representatives, has promised an omnibus U.S. health care bill, ready for debate, before the August recess. Whether it will contain provisions like those in H.R. 2096, "Depends on the pressure of competing needs and factions," says Gott. "If we want those provisions, we'd better make a lot of noise." Senate action is expected to follow House action, "But our Senators are making up their minds now, and they need to hear from us now too."

H.R. 2096 and S. 702 would allow long-term care insurance to be included in employer-sponsored cafeteria plans and flexible spending accounts, enabling people to pay their long-term care insurance premiums using pre-tax dollars. "I don't care whether these bills pass as they are, or their provisions are ported into a broader bill, just so we get the incentives," says Gott. Sponsors of the House version are Earl Pomeroy (D-ND), Allyson Schwartz (D-PA), Charles Boustany (R-LA) and Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL). Sponsors of the Senate version are Charles Grassley (R-IA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Susan Collins (R-ME), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), John Ensign (R-NV), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and Tim Johnson (D-SD).

Gott also applauds the efforts of Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ), and Representative John Dingell (D-MI) to provide some form of care for all citizens, while controlling Medicaid costs and empowering many with care needs to remain active in their communities.

"We need to let these legislators know we're behind them," says Gott. "And we need to let everyone else in Congress know too." Contact information for Washington officials is available at -- http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml. "Just fill out a form saying you want all Americans to have long term care protection, click and send," says Gott. "Or if you prefer, dial a number and state your views on the phone."

Should you wait for the legislation before investigating long term care insurance? "There's a big risk in waiting," says Gott. "If your health deteriorates, you'll have to pay a higher rate or might not qualify at all. Then you'd have to pay all the bills yourself or rely on Medicaid."

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Boehner: North Korea’s Aggression Demands Strong Response, Bolsters Case for Missile Defense

House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) today issued the following statement in response to North Korea’s nuclear test and its test launches of short-range ballistic missiles:

“North Korea’s nuclear test and its continuing short-range ballistic missile tests demonstrate the need for a strong and coordinated response, both from the United States and the international community. We cannot allow North Korea to become a nuclear state that threatens to sell its nuclear secrets to the highest bidder. Those who think the status quo is containable and sustainable are mistaken.

“North Korea’s brazen act of aggression should strengthen our resolve for a multi-layered missile defense system, capable of protecting our nation and our allies. It is time for Democrats to come forward and support a missile defense system that will strengthen America’s national defense.

“Rewarding continual defiance with appeasement and dialogue will only provide North Korea with more time to achieve the status of a regional nuclear power. That would send the wrong message to other rogue regimes around the world. The world is waiting to see how we respond to this hostile and provocative act.”

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Libertarians blast Sotomayor pick

America’s third largest party Tuesday criticized President Barack Obama’s nomination of federal appeals court judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, citing past rulings that public employers should discriminate in hiring based on race.

“While Judge Sotomayor deserves a fair and impartial hearing, Supreme Court justices should be nominated for their thorough knowledge of and adherence to the Constitution and the rule of law,” said William Redpath, Libertarian National Committee Chairman.

“By nominating Sonia Sotomayor, Barack Obama has made it clear he prefers an activist for his personal causes over a rational interpreter of law,” said Redpath.

According to Cato Institute Vice President for Legal Affairs Roger Pilon, Sotomayor is “the most radical of all the frequently mentioned candidates before him.”

Sotomayor is best known for the Ricci v. DeStafano case, in which the New Haven, Conn. fire department decided it didn’t like the results of an officers promotion exam in which whites and Hispanic firefighters outperformed black firefighters. The city threw out the results of the exam, denying several firefighters promotions solely because of their race. The firefighters sued the city, claiming racial discrimination under Title VVI of the Civil Rights Act and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The Cato Institute, Reason Foundation and the Individual Rights Foundations filed briefs on behalf of the firefighters, citing the absurdity of allowing public employers to throw out the results of valid, race-neutral exams that produce racial disparity because the racial disparity produced wasn’t politically correct. The firefighters and the libertarian foundations filing briefs argued that public employment practices should be color-blind.

Sotomayor disagreed, ruling the city has a right to discriminate against white and Hispanic public employees to construct a politically correct racial mix in hiring, even if it goes against the results of a racially-neutral competency exam.

The case is now before the Supreme Court. Sotomayor has had her rulings thrown out by the court a troubling four times. In three of those cases, the Court ruled Sotomayor had incorrectly interpreted the law.

“It is troubling that Obama, who won the highest elected office in the world without racial preferences, would nominate someone who openly admits the government should racially discriminate against its own citizens to serve the needs of political correctness,” said Redpath.

“Libertarians believe that, while the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of association allows private parties to hire whomever they please, government has no right to discriminate. Public employers should treat all citizens of all colors, races and ethnicities with equal respect and value and Sotomayor’s radical rulings are a jarring departure from that principle.”

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Obama Administration Launches Food Safety Working

New Web Site, www.foodsafetyworkinggroup.gov, Will Serve as Hub for Citizens and Stakeholders to Stay Informed and Provide Input

Responding to President Obama’s directive to upgrade the nation’s food safety system, the White House Food Safety Working Group, led by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, launched a Web site to provide information about the group’s activities and progress.

“The Working Group will be an important tool for gathering ideas as to how we can strengthen the food safety system to be more accountable and accessible to the public it protects, flexible enough to quickly resolve new safety challenges that emerge, and able to meet the robust needs of our rapidly changing world,” said Vilsack.

“Families have enough to worry about. You shouldn’t have to wonder if the food you buy at the grocery store is safe,” said Sebelius. “Our Working Group is working hard to modernize our food safety system and protect the American people. The Web site will help ensure all Americans can share their thoughts and contribute to this important process.”

The Web site, www.foodsafetyworkinggroup.gov will be an important resource for people who want to stay apprised of the Working Group’s progress, learn about food safety tools and practices, and share their views on how to improve the food safety system. The Web site features social bookmarking tools including an RSS feed and a widget that can be downloaded to help individuals stay informed.

Last week, representatives from the White House Food Safety Working Group met and outlined principles to meet the President’s goal. In the weeks to come, the Food Safety Working Group will provide additional opportunities to engage stakeholders in conversations and help shape these principles.

A comprehensive approach to an improved national food safety system links statutory modernization to regulatory actions and public health outcomes. The public health approach that serves as the basis of the Working Group’s efforts focuses resources according to risk, applies the best available science and high quality data to the decision-making process, and strives for seamless coordination among federal agencies and their state, local and international public health partners.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Libertarians: “Cap and tax” destroys jobs, punishes working families

America’s third largest party warned the House Energy and Commerce Committee Tuesday to not approve H.R. 2454, a “cap and tax” bill levying billions of dollars in new job-killing taxes on American businesses.

“Cap and tax legislation is the offspring of bad science and bad economics,” said William Redpath, Libertarian National Committee Chairman. “Imposing massive new taxes on carbon production destroys jobs and drastically increases consumer prices with no proven effect on global temperatures.”

“Cap and tax compounds the suffering of so many in this economy, with no scientific evidence whatsoever it helps the environment.”

The legislation, sponsored by Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Energy and the Environment Subcommittee Chairman Edward Markey (D-MA), taxes carbon dioxide by imposing a cap on greenhouse gas emissions and creates a complex system for employers to buy and sell credits allowing them to create carbon under the cap. As the cap lowers each year, employer can exchange allowances in a complicated auction market. Speculators, such as hedge funds, can purchase credits to sell.

“The research is in and the economic toll of cap and tax is inescapable. With cap and tax, job losses will rise by an additional 1,105,000 Americans each year. In the worst years, 2,479,000 will lose their jobs annually under cap and tax,” said Redpath, citing research from the Heritage Foundation.

“Electric bills could rise by an inflation-adjusted 90 percent. The price of gasoline could rise by an inflation-adjusted 74 percent. It adds $1,500 to the average family’s annual energy bill, which hits the poor and the elderly the hardest. The increased costs of energy also force any business using energy to raise their prices, making food, medicine and other essentials more unaffordable,” said Redpath.

“There is never a good time to impose billions of dollars in new taxes on job creators that send consumer prices skyrocketing and job prospects plummeting,” said Redpath. “But in this economy, voting for cap and tax is an easy way to send a member of Congress to an early retirement.”

“Even worse, it has virtually no effect on the environment. Climatologists calculate the full bill reduces temperatures only five one-hundredths of a degree in 2050 and no more than two-tenths of a degree at the end of this century – and even that’s based on the assumption man-made carbon dioxide can change the climate of an entire planet,” said Redpath.

“Members of Congress should be on notice. Anyone who supports this bill will face angry voters in 2010, because we’re going to let them know you’re working to eliminate their jobs, make their groceries more expensive and raise their energy bills,” said Redpath.

“The Libertarian Party is a fearless defender of small businessmen, workers and families. That is why we not only oppose this disastrous cap and tax legislation, but we will work to defeat anyone who supports it,” said Redpath.

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Chambliss Introduces Legislation to Prohibit Detainees at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base from Entering the United States

U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., yesterday introduced S. 1071, the Protecting America’s Communities Act, to prohibit President Barack Obama from bringing detainees at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base to the United States. Chambliss has also introduced the legislation as an amendment to the supplemental appropriations bill being debated on the Senate floor.

“People across America are very concerned that this administration has not developed a plan for what to do with these hard-core terrorists once the detention center at Guantanamo is shuttered,” said Chambliss. “Americans are concerned that they will be released into the United States. It is important to remember most detainees held at Guantanamo were captured on the battlefields in Afghanistan or Iraq and were determined to be a threat to our nation’s security. Whatever their ties to terrorists groups or activities, these individuals should never be given the privilege of crossing our borders, even if incarcerated. To do so would be nothing short of an invitation for al-Qa’ida to operate inside our homeland.”

Article I, Section 8, Clause 4 of the Constitution grants Congress the power to “establish a uniform rule of naturalization.” The power of Congress “to exclude aliens from the United States and to prescribe the terms and conditions on which they come in” is absolute. The Immigration and Nationality Act contains a list of 30-plus excludable classes of aliens, including those deemed inadmissible for security reasons, such as terrorist activities. Chambliss’ legislation adds “an alien who, as of January 1, 2009, was being detained by the Department of Defense at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base” to the list of classes of aliens ineligible for visas or admission to the United States. The bill does not grant the executive branch waiver authority (parole authority) over this exclusion.

If the president should rely on other authority, such as his constitutional Article II powers - which Chambliss believes does not grant him this ability - to bring these detainees to the United States, the legislation adds additional safeguards to our immigration laws to ensure that they will be held and not released until they can be deported to their home country or a third country.

Finally, the legislation reaffirms that the United States is in an armed conflict with al-Qa’ida, the Taliban and associated forces, and that the president has the authority to detain enemy combatants in connection with the continuing armed conflict, regardless of the place they are captured.
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Attorney General Holder and HHS Secretary Sebelius Announce New Interagency Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team

Attorney General Eric Holder and Health and Human Services (HHS)
Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today announced the creation of a new
interagency effort, the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement
Action Team (HEAT), to combat Medicare fraud. Holder and Sebelius also
announced the expansion of Strike Force team operations to Detroit and
Houston. Medicare Fraud Strike Forces, currently in operation in South
Florida and Los Angeles, fight Medicare fraud on a targeted local level.

"With this announcement, we raise the stakes on health care fraud by
launching a new effort with increased tools, resources and a sustained
focus by senior-level leadership," said Attorney General Holder. "Every
year we lose tens of billions of dollars in Medicare and Medicaid funds
to fraud. Those billions represent health care dollars that could be
spent on medicine, elder care or emergency room visits, but instead are
wasted on greed. This is unacceptable, and the Justice Department is
committed to working with the Department of Health and Human Services to
eradicate it."

"Today, we are turning up the heat on perpetrators who steal from the
taxpayers and threaten the future of Medicare and Medicaid," said
Secretary Sebelius. "Most providers are doing the right thing and
providing care with integrity. But we cannot and will not allow
billions of dollars to be stolen from Medicare and Medicaid through
fraud, waste and serious abuse of the system. It's time to bring the
fight against fraud into the 21st century and put the resources on the
streets and out into the community to protect the American taxpayers and
lower the cost of health care."

The HEAT team will include senior officials from DOJ and HHS who will
build upon and strengthen existing programs to combat fraud while also
investing new resources and technology to prevent fraud, waste and abuse
before it happens. Efforts will include the expansion of joint DOJ-HHS
Medicare Fraud Strike Force teams that have been successfully fighting
fraud in South Florida and Los Angeles. Established in 2007, these
teams have a proven record of success using a "data-driven" approach to
identify unexplainable billing patterns and investigating these
providers for possible fraudulent activity. The Medicare Fraud Strike
Force team operating in South Florida has already convicted 146
defendants and secured $186 million in criminal fines and civil
recoveries. After the success of operations in South Florida, the
Medicare Fraud Strike Force expanded in May 2008 to phase two in Los
Angeles, where 37 defendants have been charged with criminal health care
fraud offenses. To date in the Los Angeles cases, more than $55 million
has been ordered in restitution to the Medicare program.

"We know these strike forces work. I believe a targeted civil and
criminal enforcement strategy in these locations will have a substantial
impact on deterring fraud and abuse, protecting patients and the elderly
from scams, and ensuring that taxpayer funds are not stolen," said
Attorney General Holder.

Prevention is critical to reforming the system and the HEAT team will
also focus critical resources on preventing fraud from occurring in the
first place. The team will build on demonstration projects by the HHS
Inspector General and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)
that focus on suppliers of durable medical equipment (DME). These
projects increase site visits to potential suppliers to prevent
imposters from posing as legitimate DME providers. Other initiatives
include:

* Increasing training for providers on Medicare compliance,
offering providers the resources and the knowledge they need to help
identify and prevent fraud.

* Improving data sharing between CMS and law enforcement so we can
identify patterns that lead to fraud.

* Strengthening program integrity activities to monitor and ensure
Medicare Parts C (Medicare Advantage plans) and D (prescription drug
programs) compliance and enforcement.

The Attorney General and the HHS Secretary also called on the American
people to visit a new Web site www.hhs.gov/stopmedicarefraud or call
1-800-HHS-TIPS (1-800-447-8477) to report suspected Medicare fraud.

"The American people are some of our best weapons in the fight against
Medicare fraud," added Sebelius. "Fraud is happening in communities
across the country right now and we need the American people to blow the
whistle on thieves and criminals who are stealing from all of us."

Fraud prevention efforts are also strengthened in President Obama's
proposed Fiscal Year 2010 budget. The President's budget invests $311
million -- a 50 percent increase from 2009 funding -- to strengthen
program integrity activities within the Medicare and Medicaid programs.
Combined, the anti-fraud efforts in the President's budget could save
$2.7 billion over five years by improving oversight and stopping fraud
in the Medicare and Medicaid programs, including the Medicare Advantage
and Medicare prescription drug programs.

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U.S. Members of Congress Introduce Legislation on Argentine Debt and Court Defaults

/PRNewswire / -- American Task Force Argentina (ATFA), a coalition of more than 40 taxpayer, investor, educator, Latino and agriculture organizations, today commended members of the U.S. House of Representatives for introducing legislation imposing stiff penalties on wealthy and middle-income nations that, like Argentina, refuse to honor obligations to U.S. creditors.

The effort is being led by Representative Eric Massa, a Democrat from New York State who was raised in Argentina while his father served as U.S. Naval Attache in Buenos Aires. Also introducing the legislation were Representatives Paul Tonko (D-NY), Robert Wexler (D-FL), Timothy Bishop (D-NY), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Dan Maffei (D-NY), and Mike McMahon (D-NY).

The bill, H.R. 2493, called the Judgment Evading Foreign States Accountability Act of 2009, would bar from U.S. capital markets any nation that has been in default of U.S. court judgments totaling more than $100 million for more than two years. The legislation would also require the U.S. government to consider the default status of these countries before granting them aid.

"Argentina is ignoring billions of dollars in U.S. court judgments, which has hurt not just U.S. citizens, but also Argentine citizens," said ATFA Executive Director Robert Raben. "U.S. taxpayers are still waiting to be repaid money they lent to Argentina in good faith. At the same time, Argentina is saddled with the reputation of a deadbeat because their government defaults on court judgments. This legislation should pave the way for a fair resolution for both countries."

In 2001, Argentina defaulted on $81 billion in obligations to investors - the largest sovereign debt default in history. In 2005, Argentina offered bondholders 27 cents on the dollar for outstanding debt, far below the international norm for sovereign debt restructurings. Argentina repudiated its debts to the 50 percent of foreign lenders who declined the offer. U.S. courts have ruled in favor of these "holdout" bondholders in numerous cases, but the Argentine government has refused to repay its debts, choosing to default on those judgments.

"President Kirchner has said several times she's prepared to negotiate with bondholders, but we've seen no action whatsoever," Raben said. "Argentina has $45 billion in reserves and can afford to pay its $3.5 billion in debts to U.S. bondholders many times over. It's time to resolve this issue for the benefit of both nations."

A team of Argentine economists concluded in 2006 that Argentina's default status causes the nation to lose more than $6 billion in foreign direct investment every year. The U.S. State Department warned in February 2009 that Argentina's unresolved debts, and the resulting court judgments, have created a risky climate for U.S. investors.

Argentina's refusal to resolve its outstanding debts may be setting a precedent in the region. Ecuador in recent months defaulted on more than $3.8 billion in obligations to foreign investors, citing Argentina as a model.

The legislation introduced today is intended to encourage responsible lending, support the rule of law and improve international accountability by:

-- Denying Argentina and other foreign states that have been in default
of U.S. court judgments exceeding $100 million for more than two years
access to U.S. capital markets;
-- Denying domestic corporations of such judgment evading foreign state
that remain in default for more than three years access to the U.S.
capital markets;
-- Requiring the U.S. government to consider the default status of
countries before granting them aid; and
-- Requiring the Secretary of the Treasury to issue annual reports naming
these states and analyzing the impact of their behavior on the U.S.
economy.


The legislation would not affect poor nations, including those eligible for International Development Association financing or relief through the World Bank's Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative or the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts

Today, President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals for key administration posts: Capricia Penavic Marshall, Chief of Protocol, with the rank of Ambassador during her tenure of service, Department of State; Evan Segal, Chief Financial Officer, United States Department of Agriculture; and Rocco Landesman, Nominee for Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. The President also announced that he will be designating Gregory B. Jaczko, currently a Commissioner at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, as Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

President Obama said, “This impressive group of people will add valued voices to my administration as we work to tackle the many challenges our nation faces. I am grateful for their decision to serve, and I am confident they will work hard as we put our country on a path towards prosperity and security.”

President Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals today:

Capricia Penavic Marshall, Nominee for Chief of Protocol, with the rank of Ambassador during her tenure of service, Department of State

Capricia Penavic Marshall has had an extensive career in public service. In 1992, after graduating from Case Western University School of Law, she joined Governor Bill Clinton’s Presidential campaign as Special Assistant to Hillary Rodham Clinton. Upon entering the White House in 1993, Marshall served as Special Assistant to the First Lady, traveling extensively and coordinating her agenda, meetings and public appearances. In October 1997, at the age of 32, Marshall was appointed Deputy Assistant to the President and Social Secretary to the White House, becoming the youngest Social Secretary in recent history. Marshall's official responsibilities included the planning and execution of all White House international and domestic events. Marshall continued working with President Clinton helping to advance his work in policy, politics and community initiatives. In 2001, she began working as a consultant to a number of nonprofit and private sector organizations. In 2006, Marshall joined the re-election efforts for Senator Hillary Clinton, and subsequently joined Senator Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign. As Senior Advisor, she led the Surrogate Speakers Program and helped coordinate women’s outreach. In 2008, Marshall became Executive Director of Hillpac and Friends of Hillary and is currently overseeing the closure of both committees. A first generation American and native of Cleveland, Ohio, Marshall graduated from Purdue University with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and International Studies. She studied at the University of Madrid for a year and traveled extensively through Europe. Marshall holds a law degree from Case Western Reserve University School of Law.

Evan Segal, Nominee for Chief Financial Officer, United States Department of Agriculture

Evan Segal is the former President & Owner of Dormont Manufacturing Company, the leading manufacturer of flexible stainless steel gas appliance connectors. While there, he led a dramatic growth of the company increasing sales from $5 to $60 million and creating 250 new jobs. Segal is active in the philanthropic world as the Chairman of the Evan and Tracy Segal Family Foundation, which supports numerous civic and community organizations. Segal is a member of the UJF Pittsburgh Management Committee, a board member at the Community Day School and a member of the Board of Directors of Hillel: The Foundation for Campus Life. He also currently serves as an Executive-In-Residence at the CMU Tepper School of Business and as a mentor to start-up businesses. Segal graduated from the Carnegie Mellon University Tepper School of Business with a B.S. Administration & Management Science and an MBA.

Rocco Landesman, Nominee for Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts

Since 1987 Landesman has been President of Jujamcyn Theaters, a company that owns and operates five Broadway theaters and produces Broadway shows including the landmark productions: “Angels in America,” “Proof,” “Smokey Joe’s CafĂ©,” “The Grapes of Wrath” and “Caroline, Or Change.” Landesman was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, got his undergraduate education at Colby College and the University of Wisconsin, and earned a doctorate in Dramatic Literature at the Yale School of Drama. At the completion of his course work he stayed at Yale for four years as an Assistant Professor. He was appointed President of Jujamcyn in 1987 and purchased the company in 2005. Before and after joining Jujamcyn, Landesman has produced a number of successful Broadway shows, the most notable of which are "Big River," "The Producers" and six plays by August Wilson. Landesman was trained at a not-for-profit performing arts conservatory. His career has been a hybrid of commercial, philanthropic, and purely artistic engagements. He has continued his relationship with the Yale School of Drama and Yale Repertory Theatre, returning to teach over the years. He has been active on numerous boards, including the Municipal Arts Society, an advocacy organization concerned with New York City's public spaces and preservation, the Times Square Alliance, which has changed the heart of the city by improving its safety, sanitation and aesthetic, and the Educational Foundation of America. Landesman has also participated in the debate about arts policy, speaking at forums and writing numerous articles focusing on the relationship between the commercial and not-for-profit sectors of the American theater.

The President also made the following announcement today:

Gregory B. Jaczko, designating as Chairman, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

The Honorable Gregory B. Jaczko was sworn in as a Commissioner of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on Jan. 21, 2005. During his tenure on the Commission, Jaczko has worked to ensure the agency clearly communicates with the public and its licensees. He believes that to best accomplish its mission of protecting public health and safety and the environment, the NRC should be as open with information as possible and transparent in explaining the processes the Commission uses to make decisions. Because he believes public involvement strengthens the formulation of public policy, Jaczko has encouraged all stakeholders – including licensees, vendors, state and local governments, interest groups, and the general public – to participate in NRC policy-making efforts. Jaczko has also worked to achieve a common safety and security culture. He has specifically focused his attention on the security of nuclear power plants, emergency preparedness, and the safe use of radioactive sources. Jaczko's professional career has been devoted to science and its use and impact in the public policy arena. Immediately prior to assuming the post of Commissioner, Jaczko served as appropriations director for United States Senator Harry Reid and had also served as the Senator's science policy advisor. Previously, he advised members of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on nuclear policy and other scientific matters, and worked as a congressional science fellow in the office of United States Representative Edward Markey. In addition, he has been an adjunct professor at Georgetown University, teaching science and policy. Originally from upstate New York, Jaczko earned a bachelor's degree in physics and philosophy from Cornell University and a doctorate in physics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

White House Sets Record Straight on Gay Ban

/PRNewswire/ -- The following was released today by the Michael D. Palm Center:

Asked today if the White House would consider halting gay discharges by presidential authority, press secretary Robert Gibbs said it would not stop the firing of gay troops. That said, Gibbs insisted that the President believes that the "don't ask, don't tell" policy "isn't working for our national interests" and that he "will work with the Joints Chiefs of Staff, the administration and with Congress" to change the policy.

In recent weeks, the President's national security team has sent mixed messages. Defense Secretary Robert Gates spoke of what action would occur "if" the policy were repealed, suggesting it may not be; and national security advisor James Jones said this weekend he was not sure if the ban would be lifted.

Scholars said that Gibbs' comments today indicate new leadership from the White House in reassuring the public that "don't ask, don't tell" will be repealed. Nathaniel Frank, senior research fellow at the Palm Center, said that "today's remarks appear to send a signal to any member of the administration who questions the President's resolve."

At the same time, Gibbs' statement raised questions by gay rights experts about why President Obama, who continues to say he wants the ban terminated, would preside over ongoing discharges when he has authority to end them by executive order. The Palm Center yesterday released a report by a team of scholars and legal experts showing that the president has statutory authority to halt discharges immediately.

Richard Socarides, who worked in the Clinton administration as special assistant to the president on LGBT issues, said that the current president should exercise the short-term options he has to end the ban. "I have long supported and advocated a moratorium on further discharges," he said today, "and I think it's well within the president's discretionary authority to do that immediately." Socarides said an executive order halting discharges would be consistent with Obama's stated belief that the policy should end.

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Karen Handel's Statement on Governor's Decision to Veto the “JOBS Bill”

I am disappointed in Governor Perdue’s decision to veto HB 481.

While I appreciate the Governor’s position that the tax cuts included in the bill would have made balancing our state budget even more difficult, I believe that the economic benefits to our state would have outweighed these concerns. Now is the time for us to cut taxes in order to help grow jobs and ignite our economy.

The capital gains tax cut seemed particularly problematic for the Governor, and I do share some of his concerns about the timing and lack of immediate relief it will offer. That being said, cutting the capital gains tax has been a cornerstone of Republican economic policy for decades, and I believe we must seize on any opportunity to cut these job-killing taxes.

I supported this legislation, worked with its sponsors to develop it, and would have signed it. The Governor does, however, make a very valid point that a comprehensive tax-cutting policy – rather than piecemeal legislation – is very much needed. Had a comprehensive plan, developed with input from county and city officials, been presented this year, I believe the Governor would have been more likely to sign such legislation.

As Governor, I will work closely and collaboratively with our county and city elected officials, as well as the Legislature, to develop and enact a comprehensive overhaul of Georgia’s tax structure.
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Monday, May 11, 2009

Sebelius Announces HHS Office of Health Reform Personnel

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius today announced the establishment of the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Health Reform. This Office will spearhead the Department's efforts to pass urgently needed health reform this year and coordinate closely with the White House Office of Health Reform. Both offices were created by
an April 8 Executive Order to help deliver on one of President Obama's top priorities.

"The skyrocketing cost of health care is crushing families and businesses and we must enact health reform this year," said Secretary Sebelius. "The HHS Office of Health Reform and the White House Office of Health Reform will work in tandem to advance legislation and take
immediate actions to cut costs, assure quality and affordable health care for all Americans, and guarantee Americans can choose their doctor and their health plan."

The following key staff members have been appointed to the HHS Office of Health Reform:

Jeanne Lambrew, PhD, Director of the HHS Office of Health Reform: Jeanne Lambrew will lead the health reform effort in the Office, helping the Secretary to marshal the experience and assets of the Department. Dr. Lambrew was previously an associate professor at the LBJ School of
Public Affairs, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, and worked on health policy in the Clinton Administration.

Michael Hash, Senior Advisor: Michael Hash will serve as a Senior Advisor, running the inter-agency process for developing specific aspects of health reform legislation consistent with the President's priorities. He will be an assignee at the White House Office of Health Reform and assist in the preparation of Administration positions and in communication with the Congress. Prior to his appointment, Hash held senior positions at the Health Care Financing Administration (now CMS) and on the staffs of the House Energy and Commerce Committee as well as a private health policy consulting firm.

Neera Tanden, Senior Advisor: Neera Tanden will work on developing health care policies for HHS and the Administration. She is the former Domestic Policy Director for the Obama-Biden Campaign and Policy Director for the Hillary Clinton campaign, and oversaw health care work
on both campaigns. She has worked in think tanks, in the Senate and in the Clinton Administration.

Linda Douglass, Director of Communications: Linda Douglass will serve as the Director of Communications in the Office of Health Reform, working as an assignee at the White House Office of Reform, coordinating communications. Before joining the administration, Douglass was a traveling spokesperson for President Obama's 2008 campaign and was chief spokesperson for the Presidential Inaugural Committee 2009. She spent most of her career as a journalist, most recently as a managing editor for National Journal and prior to that as Chief Capitol Hill
Correspondent for ABC News.

Meena Seshamani, MD, PhD, Director of Policy Analysis: Meena Seshamani will coordinate the quantitative and qualitative analyses on health reform conducted throughout HHS. Before joining the administration, Dr. Seshamani was a resident physician in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at Johns Hopkins University. She is a health economist who has published widely on issues of health expenditures, health care financing, and their impact on health outcomes.

Caya B. Lewis, MPH, Director of Outreach and Public Health Policy: Caya Lewis will coordinate HHS outreach and interaction with stakeholders on health reform. She will also advise the Office on prevention and public health policy. Before joining the Administration Lewis was the Deputy
Staff Director for Health for the Senate HELP committee under the chairmanship of Senator Edward M. Kennedy. She advised Senator Kennedy on a range of issues including public health and prevention, community health centers, health professions training and health disparities.

Jennifer Cannistra, Policy Analyst and Director of Special Projects: Jennifer Cannistra will work as an assignee at the White House and will lead special projects undertaken by the HHS Office of Health Reform that require close coordination with the White House. Previously, Cannistra
served as the Pennsylvania State Policy Director for the Obama campaign. Prior to joining Obama for America in September 2007, Cannistra served as a law clerk to the Hon. Faith S. Hochberg, D.N.J. and as an attorney in Washington, DC.

Karen Richardson, Outreach Coordinator: Karen Richardson will be responsible for conducting outreach to stakeholders on behalf of HHS, as an assignee at the White House Office, as it relates to advancing the President's agenda for health reform. She was previously the Policy
Director at the Democratic National Committee (DNC). She was Policy Director for Obama for America in Iowa and several states throughout the presidential primary. Richardson began working for President Obama at his Senate Office in August 2005, beginning as an intern and then serving as Deputy to the Policy Director.

Michael Halle, Special Assistant: Michael Halle will be responsible for coordinating office projects and activities as well as providing research assistance. Halle worked for the Presidential Inaugural Committee and Obama for America, contributing to field operations in Iowa and North Carolina. Prior to joining the Obama campaign he was an intern at the Center for American Progress with the health policy team.

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Saturday, May 9, 2009

Egyptian Government Warmly Welcomes President Obama's Speech to the Muslim World From Egypt

/PRNewswire/ -- The Egyptian government warmly welcomes today's announcement by the White House that President Obama will visit Egypt in early June to make his keynote address to the Muslim World.

"President Obama's speech offers an important opportunity to deepen America's engagement with the Arab and Muslim world, and Egypt is a unique venue for that objective," said Sameh Shoukry, Egypt's Ambassador to the United States. Egypt is the Arab world's largest and most populous nation and has long been at the center of Islamic intellectual thought.

Egypt's long tradition of religious tolerance and diversity embodies the ideals and values of moderate Islam. "The true nature of Islam lies in its moderate heart, not at its radical fringes. Egypt is very hopeful that President Obama's speech will mark a watershed in America's relations with the Muslim world," said Ambassador Shoukry.

President's Obama's initiative comes at a very opportune time. There are many challenges facing the Middle East, in particular the need to achieve peace for the people of the region and to reduce the threat posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

"It is important that America's relations with the Muslim World be based on mutual respect and understanding. Egypt stands ready to work with President Obama and his Administration towards that objective, in accordance with our longstanding friendship," concluded Ambassador Shoukry.

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Friday, May 8, 2009

Fox News Report Highlights House Republicans' Keep Terrorists Out of America Act

Fox News’ Special Report last evening highlighted House GOP legislation – the Keep Terrorists Out of America Act – aimed at stopping the Obama Administration from importing these terrorists into the United States. In January, the Administration made the political decision to close the prison within one year even though no backup plan was in place for what to do with the terrorists housed there. The House GOP measure unequivocally opposes releasing terrorists from the Guantanamo Bay facility and transferring them to the United States, makes clear that governors and state legislatures must pre-approve the transfer or release of any terrorist detainee into their respective states, and requires the Administration to meet strict criteria and certification standards before terrorists housed at the Guantanamo prison could be brought to the United States




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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Secretary Hilda L. Solis Unveils U.S. Department of Labor’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2010

Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis today, through a national online discussion with stakeholder groups, the general public and the news media, will outline the president’s fiscal year (FY) 2010 budget for the U.S. Department of Labor, which begins to restore worker protection programs and revitalize employment opportunities for the American workforce.

“The president’s budget launches new and innovative ways to promote economic recovery and the competitiveness of our nation’s workers,” said Secretary Solis. “At the same time, the budget reflects our effort to invest in what works and cut or reduce programs that do not. The budget is transparent, and we are accountable to the American public.”

The budget, for instance, ends the Work Incentive Grants program, saving $17 million. This demonstration program has accomplished its mission, and the lessons learned are being incorporated into other programs. Building on the best practices developed under the Work Incentive Grants, the budget boosts funding for the department’s Office of Disability Employment Policy to facilitate the employment and advancement of individuals with disabilities.

It is with this fiscally responsible approach that the Labor Department’s FY 2010 budget builds on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act), restoring worker protection programs; promoting an inclusive, green recovery; and ensuring accountability and transparency.

The budget requests $104.5 billion, with the majority to be used for unemployment insurance benefits for displaced workers and federal workers’ compensation. The discretionary request of $13.3 billion allocates $1.7 billion for worker protection programs, a 10 percent increase over the prior year’s budget.

Under this budget, the Labor Department expects to hire nearly 1,000 new employees, including about 670 investigators, restoring worker protection staffing to FY 2001 levels. For example, the FY 2010 budget asks for $564 million for the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which is $51 million (10 percent) more than that agency received in FY 2009. With this funding, the Labor Department plans to hire 160 new enforcement staff, many of whom will be bilingual to communicate with staff in the changing workplace. Also, the department’s Wage and Hour Division will receive $228 million, an increase of $35 million from the prior year, including funding to hire 200 new investigators. With these increases, Labor’s worker protection agencies will be able to vigorously protect wages and working conditions of the 135 million workers in more than 7.3 million workplaces.

The Labor Department is receiving $38.3 billion under the Recovery Act to assist unemployed workers and provide more training and employment opportunities to seniors, the unemployed and underserved populations.

For employment and training programs, the budget provides $9 billion, including $50 million for green jobs training initiatives. The Department of Labor will use $500 million from the Recovery Act for competitive grants to train workers for green jobs.

Because community colleges and educational institutions are often the basis for successful careers, the Labor Department will use $135 million for the Career Pathways Innovation Fund, which will help people to advance in the workplace. Another $50 million will be used to test transitional job programs, which help individuals with severe employment barriers gain the skills and experience they need to find unsubsidized jobs. Finally, $114 million is requested for Youth Build, which gives low-income and at-risk youth the opportunity to obtain a high school diploma or GED and learn construction job skills, while serving their communities by building affordable housing.

For veterans, the budget provides $255 million (a six percent increase) to reach an additional 7,200 homeless veterans, particularly women veterans; provide green jobs training; and expand access to employment workshops for service members and their families who are transitioning to the civilian workforce.

The budget provides $12 million for evaluation of job training programs, a 68 percent increase, and provides $5 million for a new department-wide evaluation initiative. The additional funding will support rigorous evaluations to determine which programs and interventions work and inform the department’s policy, management and resource allocation decisions.

For more information on the president’s 2010 budget for the Department of Labor, visit http://www.dol.gov.
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Chambliss Statement on Administration's Plan to Slash Key AG Programs

U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Ranking Republican Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, today released the following statement regarding President Obama’s proposed fiscal year (FY) 2010 budget request, calling for additional cuts to key agriculture programs:

“When the Administration outlined its budget proposal earlier this year, I was greatly concerned, particularly with items pertaining to agriculture and our current farm safety net. It seems as if the extra time taken to put together a more detailed budget has been utterly wasted. The President’s proposed budget request still includes the same ill-advised cuts to the farm safety net without a serious attempt to trim back the bloated federal budget and reduce our national debt. While on the surface some of the proposed savings seem reasonable to those who don’t understand the economics of farming, most are simply misguided recycled gimmicks from previous years. This Administration promised change, and yet they offer the same agriculture proposals previously rejected. Time and time again, we have seen the Administration unfairly target agriculture programs to achieve savings and completely discount the hardworking men and woman that rely on these programs for their livelihood.

“Agriculture is not the problem in the budget. Agriculture spending represents less than one percent of the federal budget, yet we are constantly under attack. When we reauthorized the farm bill, we paid for it. This Administration recklessly spends billions to trillions of dollars, none of which are paid for, and then looks at the one area of the budget where we have been fiscally responsible to cut. I am not certain how this President can justify slashing agriculture one day to appear fiscally responsible, and then spew out billions of dollars to ‘distressed industries’ and programs the Administration views as more worthy the next. The American taxpayer deserves better.

“Americans are worried that this new level of massive debt will be passed down to their children and grandchildren. I simply cannot in good conscious support this President’s budget.”
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Public Nuisance Fairness Coalition Applauds New Georgia Law Limiting the Misuse of the Public Nuisance Theory

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Public Nuisance Fairness Coalition (PNFC) applauds the bipartisan work of the Georgia legislature in passing legislation (CS Bill 213) that limits the misuse of the public nuisance law. The legislation, signed into law by Governor Sunny Perdue, precludes product manufacturers sued in Georgia on theories of industry-wide liability (e.g., public nuisance, market share, or enterprise liability).

"The Georgia legislature has demonstrated a clear understanding of the risk posed when public nuisance theory is used to displace traditional causes of action, such as product liability lawsuits," said Stan Anderson, PNFC Executive Chair. "This legislation is a victory for all Georgia consumers, who will not be forced to bear the financial consequences resulting from over-zealous trial lawyers and a true victory for the traditional rule of law. This law will ensure that appropriate and traditional legal protections will be in place in litigation filed against Georgia manufacturers."

"Public nuisance is an 800-year-old legal standard intended to apply to unreasonable interference with public rights. However, plaintiffs' lawyers across the country are trying to turn public nuisance into their next big payday by bypassing well-settled notions of product liability law, such as the requirement to demonstrate actual harm," said Lisa Rickard, President of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR). "Thankfully, for businesses, workers and local communities in Georgia, their elected leaders have dealt a blow to the plaintiffs' bar's efforts to establish novel, but improper, uses of the public nuisance theory to bring abusive lawsuits in the state."

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House GOP Introduces Keep Terrorists Out of America Act

House Republicans today introduced the Keep Terrorists Out of America Act, legislation aimed at stopping the transfer or release of terrorists held at the Guantanamo Bay prison into the United States. The legislation unequivocally opposes releasing terrorists from the Guantanamo Bay facility and transferring them to the United States, makes clear that governors and state legislatures must pre-approve the transfer or release of any terrorist detainee into their respective states, and requires the Administration to meet strict criteria and certification standards before terrorists housed at the Guantanamo prison could be brought to the United States. Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) issued the following statement on the legislation:

“This bill has a straightforward but vital purpose: to ensure that the terrorists held in the Guantanamo Bay prison are not imported into the United States. We are giving every member of Congress an opportunity to stand with the American people by affirming their opposition to bringing these terrorists into our communities, and we hope they join us. Equally as important, this bill holds the Administration accountable if it acts unilaterally against the will of the American people.

“The world did not suddenly become safe in January 2009. There are still terrorists around the world who are committed to killing Americans and destroying our way of life. A number of those terrorists are being held at the prison in Guantanamo Bay right now. If the Administration is allowed to proceed, they won’t be there for long. In fact, they may be right here, in the United States. I have been urging the Administration to finally present to the American people its plan for what to do with the terrorists held at Guantanamo and for confronting and defeating the global terrorist threat. Right now, that plan does not exist, and the safety of our nation depends on it.

“Our ranking members John McHugh, Pete Hoekstra, Lamar Smith, Peter King, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen all deserve great credit for their work on this measure. I thank them for their efforts in crafting this critically important bill.”

NOTE: Following is a summary of the Keep Terrorists Out of America Act:

Affirming Congress’ Opposition to the Release and Transfer of Terrorists. The bill affirms Congress’ opposition to transferring or releasing terrorists held at the Guantanamo Bay prison into the United States. Most Americans do not support releasing these terrorists from Guantanamo Bay prison and transferring them into the United States. The bill gives Congress an opportunity to show that it stands with the American people on this critical matter, and opposes the release and transfer of these terrorists.

Governor & State Legislature Pre-Approval. The measure prohibits the Administration from transferring or releasing any terrorist detainees at Guantanamo Bay to any state without express approval from the state’s governor and legislature, and certifies to Congress that strict requirements have been met. For example, the Administration must certify to the respective governor and state legislature that the detainee does not pose a security risk to the United States. The certifications must be made 60 days before any transfer or release.

Presidential Certification Requirements. The measure prohibits the President from transferring or releasing a terrorist detainee into the United States unless he provides the following notification and certification to Congress regarding:

- The name of the detainee and transfer/release location in the United States.

- The release/transfer would not negatively impact continued prosecution of the detainee.

- The release/transfer would not negatively impact continued detention of the detainee.

- The ability of federal judges to release detainees into the United States.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Libertarians praise Maine, D.C. marriage bills, but urge better policy

America’s third largest party praised Maine Governor John Baldacci (D) for signing a bill legalizing gay marriage and the Washington, D.C. City Council Wednesday for voting to recognize gay marriages performed in other jurisdictions, opening the door to marriage equality in the District, but urged Baldacci and council members to take the proper approach to marriage equality and repeal government definitions and regulation of marriage entirely.

Mayor Adrian Fenty (D) is expected to sign the D.C. measure. Since Washington, D.C. is a federal district and not a state or entirely independent city, the legislation must be approved by Congress. Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large) plans to introduce legislation next year legalizing gay marriage in the District.

“While Baldacci’s and the Council's intentions are noble, they are taking the wrong approach. Marriage, in the eyes of government, is a legal arrangement between consenting adults. Politicians have no right to refuse to recognize consensual agreements they don't agree with,” said Donny Ferguson, Libertarian National Committee Communications Director.

“The Libertarian Party position is simple. The government should not police consensual agreements between adults. Government should recognize the marriage of any consenting parties entering into an agreement, and businesses and individuals should retain the right to choose for themselves who to bestow private benefits to,” said Ferguson.

"We are the only party that not only supports marriage equality, but would completely do away with government's ability to restrict it."

Libertarians urge the Maine Legislature and D.C. Council to propose legislation repealing laws defining or regulating marriage and instead recognize all current and future marriages between consenting adults as private legal agreements.

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President Obama Issues Historic Biofuels Directive to Key Cabinet Members

/PRNewswire/ -- In response to recommendations from the Governors' Biofuels Coalition, President Barack Obama issued a presidential directive charging key members of his administration with shepherding the development of the U.S. biofuels industry. The directive creates the nation's first comprehensive biofuels market development program; coordinates infrastructure policies; and identifies policy options to improve the sustainability of biofuels feedstock production.

The President's action is a response to a letter from the Governors John Hoeven of North Dakota and Chet Culver of Iowa - chair and vice chair of the Governors' Biofuels Coalition - proposing a number of initiatives to accelerate the United States' development and use of renewable, sustainable, low-carbon fuels produced domestically. The 35 governors of the Coalition believe the President's directive is the right policy for the nation's energy, environmental and national security future.

"With this directive, a national strategic vision for the role of biofuels in America's future has been established," said Governor Hoeven, chair of the Governors' Biofuels Coalition.

"President Obama's action recognizes the economic opportunity that biofuels offer in terms of job, economic strength and energy security today -- and for decades to come," said Governor Culver, vice chair of the Coalition. "As governors, we see first-hand the positive impact and the tremendous potential of biofuels for our states and our nation. This historic action by President Obama has strengthened our commitment to the essential role that biofuels will play in the nation's energy future."

The May 5, 2009, presidential directive was distributed to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu, and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson. The directive creates a Biofuels Interagency Working Group led by these three senior administration officials. The President tasked the Working Group with four key initiatives:

-- Developing the nation's first comprehensive biofuels market
development program, which should include policies to increase
flexible fuel vehicle production and assist in retail marketing
efforts;
-- Coordinating infrastructure policies impacting the supply, secure
transport, and distribution of biofuels;
-- Identifying new policy options to improve the environmental
sustainability of biofuels feedstock production, taking into
consideration land use, habitat conservation, crop management
practices, water efficiency and water quality, and lifecycle
assessments of greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition to creating the Biofuels Interagency Working Group, the President directed the Secretary of Agriculture to pursue other biofuels development efforts in coordination with state and local governments. He requested that Secretary Vilsack begin refinancing existing investments in renewable fuels as needed to preserve jobs in ethanol and biodiesel plants, renewable electricity generation plants, and supporting industries. He also tasked the Secretary of Agriculture with presenting a plan within 30 days to make available the renewable energy financing opportunities made possible in the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008.

The President's directive stresses the "thousands of new jobs" and "hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax revenues for local, state and federal governments" that local production of clean renewable fuels provides. The President said that biofuels create homegrown sustainable energy options that stimulate the economy.

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American Association for Homecare Applauds Senate 'STOP' Act, Which Aims to Prevent Medicare Fraud and Abuse

/PRNewswire / -- The American Association for Homecare applauds Senators Mel Martinez (R-Fla.), John Cornyn (R-Tex.), and several others for introducing the "STOP" Act (S. 975) which targets Medicare waste, fraud, and abuse. The Seniors and Taxpayers Obligation Protection (STOP) Act is designed to reduce the billions of dollars lost to waste and fraud every year by creating additional prevention and detection systems for the Medicare program.

The STOP Act will give the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Social Security Administration (SSA) more tools needed to prevent waste, fraud, and abuse in the Medicare system before it starts. The bill is co-sponsored by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), and David Vitter (R-La.), Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Bob Corker (R-Tenn).

"The American Association for Homecare has been working closely with Senator Martinez and his staff over the past year to help identify the most effective and direct measures to stop waste, fraud, and abuse in the Medicare program," said American Association for Homecare President Tyler J. Wilson. "We applaud the Senators' efforts to protect patients, seniors, and taxpayers, and we appreciate the fact that provisions in this bill reflect recommendations from our Association's Medicare Anti-Fraud Legislative Action Plan. We also strongly support President Obama's goal of preventing Medicare fraud, which he has identified as a priority in his 2010 budget."

Earlier this year, the American Association for Homecare urged members of Congress to adopt the Medicare Anti-Fraud Legislative Plan. This legislative action plan outlines tough, effective steps to stop waste, fraud, and abuse in Medicare's home medical equipment (HME) sector before it starts. Among the provisions detailed in the legislative proposal are more rigorous quality standards, increased penalties for fraud, mandated site inspections for new providers, and real-time claims analysis. For more information about the Medicare Anti-Fraud Legislative Action Plan, please visit www.aahomecare.org/stopfraud.

The recently introduced STOP Act includes provisions that mirror recommendations from the American Association for Homecare Anti-Fraud Legislative Plan, such as mandates for:

- Pre-enrollment site visits and unannounced site visits for new home medical equipment providers;

- Site visits for current providers that are re-enrolling, as well as an unannounced site visit after re-enrollment;

- Real-time data analysis (like that used to identify credit card charging patterns) to identify and investigate unusual billing and ordering practices that could indicate fraud or abuse; and

- Checks to ensure that the provider is qualified and enrolled to bill the type of item or service that is on the claim for reimbursement.

As Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, Sen. Martinez will hold a hearing later today to discuss legislative solutions aimed at eliminating Medicare and Medicaid waste, fraud, and abuse. In a statement submitted to the Committee, the American Association for Homecare expressed its support for the Committee's efforts to fight waste in Medicare:

"The Association and its members want to work with Congress, the Administration, and CMS to enact these new steps to prevent criminals from abusing Medicare.... While HME fraud only constitutes a small fraction of overall Medicare fraud, we firmly believe that any abuse of the Medicare system is a disgraceful waste of taxpayers' dollars and represents theft of resources needed by patients, seniors, and individuals with disabilities."

Included in this formal statement was the AAHomecare Medicare Anti-Fraud Legislative Plan that proposes the following 13 specific recommendations to stop fraud and abuse in the homecare sector:

1. Mandate Site Inspections for All New Home Medical Equipment Providers A
July 2008 GAO report underscored the need for CMS to ensure that its
contractors are conducting effective site inspections for all new
applicants for a Medicare supplier number.
2. Require Site Inspections for All HME Provider Renewals All renewal
applications should require an in-person visit by the National Supplier
Clearinghouse (NSC), the contractor that CMS uses to ensure integrity
in the Medicare program.
3. Improve Validation of New Homecare Providers Additional validation of
new providers should be included in a comprehensive and effective
application process for obtaining a Medicare supplier number.
4. Require Two Additional Random, Unannounced Site Visits for All New
Providers Two unannounced site visits should be conducted by NSC during
the first year of operation for new HME providers.
5. Require a Six-Month Trial Period for New Providers The NSC should issue
a provisional, non-permanent supplier number to new suppliers for a
six-month trial period. After six months of demonstrated compliance,
the provider would receive a "regular" supplier number.
6. Establish an Anti-Fraud Office at Medicare CMS should establish an
office with the sole mandate of coordinating detection and deterrence
of fraud and improper payments across the Medicare and Medicaid
programs.
7. Ensure Proper Federal Funding for Fraud Prevention Increase federal
funding to ensure that NSC completes site inspection and other
anti-fraud measures.
8. Require Post-Payment Audit Reviews for All New Providers Medicare's
program safeguard contractors should conduct post-payment sample
reviews for six months worth of claims submitted to Medicare by new
providers.
9. Conduct Real-Time Claims Analysis and a Refocus on Audit Resources
Medicare must analyze billings of new and existing providers in real
time to identify aberrant billing patterns more quickly.
10. Ensure All Providers Are Qualified to Offer the Services They Bill A
cross-check system within Medicare databases should ensure that
homecare providers are qualified and accredited for the specific
equipment and services for which they are billing.
11. Establish Due Process Procedures for Suppliers CMS should develop
written due process procedures for the Medicare supplier number
process, including issuance, denial and revocation of the Medicare
supplier number. The procedures must include, for example, an
administrative appeals process and timelines.
12. Increase Penalties and Fines for Fraud Congress should establish more
severe penalties for instances of buying or stealing beneficiaries'
Medicare numbers or physicians' provider numbers that may be used to
defraud the government.
13. Establish More Rigorous Quality Standards Ensure that all accrediting
bodies are applying the same set of rigorous standards and degree of
inspection to their clients.

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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

New Poll Shows American Public Supports Immediate TARP Repayment: Senate Vote Risks Public Ire

/PRNewswire/ -- A poll commissioned by National Media Inc. over the weekend demonstrates that an overwhelming majority of Americans believe that healthy banks should be allowed to repay TARP investments immediately. Of the one thousand respondents, 86 percent believe that banks should be allowed to repay the government immediately, if they are capable of doing so. Only 11 percent disagreed.

"Last night the U.S. Senate had the opportunity to allow banks who are financially sound to repay their TARP money, but failed to do so," said Alex Castellanos, a Republican strategist and commentator. "This is counter to the American public's desire and some of the better respected experts and elected officials on this issue."

Additionally, 75 percent of those polled believe taxpayers should expect a return on their investment when the funds are repaid. If informed of a hypothetical return -- 10 percent was used in the poll -- 65 percent of respondents are more likely to support the TARP program (Actual return will vary based on valuation of the warrants that Treasury hold in each TARP bank. Analysts have stated that returns could be as high as 15 percent.)

"The data shows that policymakers would have gotten more support for the TARP if it had been more clearly understood that the taxpayers would get a return on their investment," said Castellanos. "One of the most controversial acts of the financial crisis could have been politically more palatable to taxpayers if they'd understood the TARP was designed to produce a return on investment, not just throw taxpayers' money to the wind."

TARP Perception Survey Questions:

Q1. Last fall, in order to address the financial crisis, the government
invested hundreds of billions of dollars in banks and financial
institutions. This initiative is known by the acronym TARP. Do you
think the TARP investments were a good idea?
Yes - 31%
No - 54%
Don't know/ No Response - 16%

Q2. If a bank has the financial strength to pay the government back,
should they be allowed to do so immediately?
Yes - 86%
No - 11%
Don't know/ No Response - 4%

Q3. As healthy banks repay this money to the government, should taxpayers
expect a return on this investment?
Yes - 75%
No - 19%
Don't know/ No Response - 6%

Q4. If you knew that taxpayers were going to get a return on their TARP
investment, say 10%, would you be more or less supportive of the TARP
program?
More - 64%
No -23%
Don't know/ No Response - 13%


National Media Inc. periodically commissions surveys in its ongoing research and analysis of the public policy issues of the day. This poll was conducted in coordination with GfK Custom Research, North America.

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Saturday, May 2, 2009

Nationwide Tea Party Leaders Call on Obama to Live up to Meeting Promise

(BUSINESS WIRE)--Eighteen national leaders of the Tea Party protest movement, which has drawn the participation of hundreds of thousands of Americans over the past few weeks, today responded to President Barack Obama’s invitation to meet with members of the Tea Party movement to discuss solutions to the nation’s fiscal challenges.

Speaking at a townhall meeting in Arnold, Missouri this past Wednesday, Obama said: “So, you know, when you see — those of you who are watching certain news channels on which I'm not very popular and you see folks waving tea bags around, let me just remind them that I am happy to have a serious conversation about how we are going to cut our health care costs down over the long term, how we're going to stabilize Social Security.”

The national leadership team of the Nationwide Tea Party Coalition, one of several organizations that form the grassroots ecosystem of the Tea Party movement, this afternoon faxed a letter to the White House accepting the President’s invitation for such a discussion. “The Tea Party movement has grown because millions of Americans believe the government is heading in the wrong direction and their government is not only not listening to them, but ignoring them. We need to have a serious, public discussion of these issues. We are ready to have that discussion with you and look forward to your response,” the Nationwide Tea Party Coalition leaders wrote in their letter to Obama.

“We have noticed there often appears to be a great divide between President Obama’s political rhetoric and the political reality of his policies and actions,” said Michael Johns, one of the eighteen signators of the letter. “When the President says he is ‘happy to have a serious conversation’ with us about the fiscal state of this nation, we think the next question is when and where, and we hope to have an answer to that promptly so we can present concrete, workable policy ideas,” he said.

Nationwide Tea Party Coalition leader and letter signator Dana Loesch, who led a protest of hundreds during Obama’s Missouri visit this past Wednesday, said: “We didn't stand out in the street by the hundreds at the townhall meeting simply to create sound bites and stock footage for the news circuit any more than the Sons of Liberty dumped tea into Boston Harbor to become an entry in history books." “We stood because we want to propose an alternative, and dare I say better, suggestion as to how fiscal matters should be handled. We welcome an open discussion,” she said.

The national leadership team of the Nationwide Tea Party Coalition includes 26 of the more than 900 organizers of the April 15, 2009 Tax Day Tea Parties held nationally and attended by an estimated one million Americans. The Coalition’s web site, where today’s letter to the president can be seen, is: www.nationwideteapartycoalition.com.

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