President Plans New Background Check Law

President Barack Obama waves as he walks with his daughter Malia Obama across the South Lawn on return to the White House in Washington, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016, after their family vacation in Hawaii. Photo: Jacquelyn Martin, AP / APAccording to the publication The Hill, U.S. President Obama plans to increase background-check requirements for those who purchase guns from high-volume dealers.

He would be doing this through the use of executive order.

The President announced Friday that will meet today, Monday, with Attorney General Loretta Lynch “to discuss options” for reducing gun deaths in America, according to The Washington Post.

The Post, citing unnamed people “familiar with the proposal,” said the White House will unveil the background checks and other policy specifics next week.  The policy proposals would include closing the gun show loophole.

CNN states he will have a one-hour live town hall on gun control at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, on Thursday and meet with CNN reporter Anderson Cooper.

Obama used his weekly radio last address Friday to pledge a continued fight against “our epidemic of gun violence.”

“Because I get too many letters from parents, and teachers, and kids, to sit around and do nothing,” Obama said.

“I get letters from responsible gun owners who grieve with us every time these tragedies happen; who share my belief that the Second Amendment guarantees a right to bear arms; and who share my belief we can protect that right while keeping an irresponsible, dangerous few from inflicting harm on a massive scale.”

(Updated for credit)

(Article inspired by: R. Montgomery)




TPP Trade Framework Agreed Upon; It Must Still Pass Legislatures

The United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries have reached a deal on the most sweeping trade liberalization pact in a generation – the TPP trade deal.

Details of the pact were emerging in statements by officials after days of negotiations in Atlanta.

The agreement first needs to be ratified by Congress. Lawmakers in other TPP countries must also approve the deal, according to The Huffington Post.

The TPP trade deal is a pact that includes the nations of Brunei, Chile, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, the United States, and Vietnam.

The TPP has been controversial because of the secrecy in the negotiations that have shaped it over the past five years and the perceived threat to interest groups like Mexican auto workers or Canadian dairy farmers.

The basic agreement must still be passed in Congress and signed into law by the President.  President Obama said that Americans would have months to read the deal before he signs it into law.

One of the snags of the deal had to do with the question of how long a monopoly period should be allowed on next-generation biotech drugs.

Some publications question the deal, as well as past free-trade agreements.  The Huffington Post says the U.S. has “a job-destroying trade deficit that has grown despite a long series of free-trade agreements.”

The Huffington Post calls the TPP a “profoundly anti-democratic agreement which signs away our right to govern our own economy.”

They claim that the TPP contains provisions which interfere with areas well beyond the bounds of trade.  It would:

• Limit how U.S. federal and state officials could regulate foreign firms operating within U.S. boundaries, with requirements to provide them greater rights than domestic firms.

• Extend the incentives for U.S. firms to offshore investment and jobs to lower-wage countries.

• Establish a two-track legal system that gives foreign firms new rights to skirt U.S. courts and laws, directly sue the U.S. government before foreign tribunals and

• Demand compensation for financial, health, environmental, land use and other laws they claim undermine their TPP privileges.

• Allow foreign firms to demand compensation for the costs of complying with U.S. financial or environmental regulations that apply equally to domestic and foreign firms.

The tariff reduction schedules cover hundreds of imported items from pork and beef in Japan to pickup trucks in the United States.  The issue of the length of the monopolies awarded to the developers of new biological drugs had threatened to ruin the talks until the end.

Negotiating teams had been deadlocked over the question of the minimum period of protection for the rights for data used to make biologic drugs made by companies like Pfizer Inc., Roche Group, and Takeda Pharmaceutical Co.

The United States had sought 12 years of protection.  Australia, New Zealand and public health groups had sought a period of five years to reduce drug costs and the burden on subsidized medical programs.

Negotiators agreed on a compromise on minimum terms that was short of what U.S. negotiators had originally sought.  The two-track process would grant biologic drugs a minimum period of 5 years and up to a minimum of 8 years of time free from the threat of competition from generic versions of drugs.

A set of issues surrounding protections for dairy farmers was also addressed in the final hours of talks.

The United States, Mexico, Canada and Japan agreed rules governing the auto trade that dictate how much of a vehicle must be made within the TPP region in order to qualify for duty-free status.

The Huffington Post’s Kevin Kearns makes the assessment that “the agreement negotiated by President Obama is completely inadequate to serve the interests of America’s manufacturers, industrial workers, farmers,” and other groups.

The North American Free Trade Agreement between Canada, the United States and Mexico mandates that vehicles have a local content of 62.5 percent. The way that rule is implemented means that just over half of a vehicle needs to be manufactured locally. Credit has been given to this rule for a boom in auto-related in investment in Mexico.

But the TPP would give Japan’s automakers, led by Toyota Motor Corp, a freer hand to buy parts from Asia for vehicles sold in the United States.

Also, The Huffington Post states that a key problem is that the Obama administration has refused to include enforceable currency manipulation provisions in the final deal, despite an overwhelming bipartisan request from both houses of congress. This means there will still be no reprisals if a countries devalues its currency or otherwise manipulates its exchange rate.

(Updated post)

Barack Obama And Donald Trump Discusses Upcoming Debate

The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon

On Monday, Jimmy Fallon impersonated Donald Trump on The Tonight Show. The “Tonight Show” host assumed Trump’s persona while holding a fake phone call with President Obama in a sketch where the president prepped him for Thursday’s GOP debate, according to Yahoo News.

Recently the website Gawker leaked Trump’s phone number, claiming it was retaliation for Donald Trump giving out Senator (and presidential candidate) Lindsey Graham’s cellphone number.

More Than 10 Million Signed Up For Health Insurance This Year Under Affordable Care Act

According to The Associated Press, more than 10 million people have signed up for private health insurance this year under The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), the White House said Tuesday.

The 10.2 million consumers enrolled in a plan and followed through by paying their first month’s premiums, states The Associated Press.

The report comes from the Department of Health and Human Services as insurers are reportedly proposing premium hikes for next year, raising concerns about affordability.  Also, the Supreme Court is weighing the legality of subsidized premiums for millions of consumers in more than 30 states.  That decision is A decision is due around the end of the month.

By the end of June, the Supreme Court is expected to issue its decision in King v. Burwell, the case that centers on whether the Internal Revenue Service can allow payment of Affordable Care Act subsidies to individuals enrolled in the federal exchange.

The lawsuit is widely considered to be based on a technicality.  The actual law reads “state exchanges” as opposed to “federal exchange.”

Should the Court rule against the Obama administration, subsidies no longer would be available to individuals who purchased coverage through, the federal website, in the 34 states that chose not to establish their own state-based exchanges, writes The Daily Signal.

It also would mean the Obamacare employer mandate would be effectively unenforceable, according to The Daily Signal.

Things would probably get ugly if that happens. Democrats would probably go on the offensive, blaming Republicans for “every case of a person who lost coverage just before giving birth, or having another round of chemo,” according to

Currently, the 10 million sign-ups exceed the target of 9.1 million set last year by HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell.

However, “(e)nrollment has been lower and slower than what most people projected,” said Caroline Pearson of the data analysis firm Avalere Health.

Still, the combination of subsidized private coverage sold through online insurance exchanges in every state, along with Medicaid expansion in most states, has resulted in large coverage gains.

Nearly 9 out of 10 adults now have health insurance, writes The Associated Press.  It is about the same proportion of Americans who buckle their seatbelts.

President Creates Twitter Account, Gets Trolled By Racists

President Obama sent his inaugural Twitter post from the Oval Office on Monday, writes The New York Times.

The White House heralded the event with fanfare, and displayed a photograph of him perched on his desk tapping out his message on an iPhone.

The account is @POTUS — named for the in-house acronym derived from “President Of The United States.”

A White House aide wrote that it would “serve as a new way for President Obama to engage directly with the American people, with tweets coming exclusively from him.”

According to The New York Times, however, it took only a few minutes for Mr. Obama’s account to attract racist, hate-filled posts and replies.

“They addressed him with racial slurs and called him a monkey,” wrote the Times.

One post had an image of the president with his neck in a noose.

Racial hostility toward the nation’s first black president has long been expressed in stark terms on the Internet, where conspiracy theories thrive and prejudices find ready outlets, writes The New York Times.

“But the racist Twitter posts are different because now that Mr. Obama has his own account, the slurs are addressed directly to him, for all to see,” writes the Times.

(Updated article to add link)


MSNBC Hardball: Obama Says Elizabeth Warren Is Wrong On TPP


On Tuesday afternoon three weeks ago – April 21st – MSNBC led a roundtable discussion with President Barack Obama that primarily concerned his administration’s Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

This interview got a lot of attention among liberal pundits, many of whom feel that Massachusetts Senator Warren (D) was right and the deal could lead to the export of jobs and lowering of wages.

During Obama’s two terms in office, the U.S. has experienced slow, steady economic growth and economic indicators are up. Is it appropriate to risk a downturn or negative impact on the economy?

In the MSNBC Hardball interview, the host gave the president a platform to fire back against criticism the plan has been getting from opponents like Senator Warren.  In it, the president said she was “wrong.”