WASHINGTON — Health care spending since the 2010 passage of the Affordable Care Act has risen by 1.3% a year, the lowest rate ever recorded, and health care inflation is the lowest it has been in 50 years, a report released Wednesday by the White House shows. An economy hobbled by the recession and 2008 economic crisis played a role in some of the reduced spending growth, officials said, but the report cited "structural change" caused, in part, by the law. The report's release comes as President Obama and his administration struggle with the political fallout associated with the problem-filled opening of the federal health care exchange, the online marketplace where uninsured Americans can shop for and buy insurance. The exchange's website, HealthCare.gov, opened Oct. 1 and has been hampered by outages and delays, particularly in its first weeks of operation. Per capita spending has grown at a rate of 1.3% since 2010, the lowest recorded rate for any three-year period on record, according to the report, which was conducted by the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Price inflation rose by 1%, the council found — the lowest since 1962. Because of cost reductions, the Congressional Budget Office reduced Medicare and Medicaid spending projections in 2020 by $147 billion since 2010, the council noted. The lower increases in spending as the economy has recovered is a sign the changes are structural, said Jason Furman, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. Prices remain low, he said, and Medicare spending, which he said doesn't typically reflect trends, remains low. One key area in which the law helped drive costs down, the report said, are the provisions that allow Medicare to reduce overpayments to providers and health plans. Another factor, Furman said, are fines for hospitals that readmit Medicare patients within 30 days of their release and the increased use of accountable care organizations. "For a long time, [readmission rates]were hovering around 19%, and now they are continuing to go straight down," Furman said. "A very important part of the structural story is the Affordable Care Act," he said. The Consumer Price Index statistics released Wednesday showed that "year over year health inflation slowed," Furman said. Private insurance spending grew at an annual rate of 1.6% in the last three years, Furman said, while Medicare spending had 0.0% growth rate and Medicaid spending was "actually minus 0.5%." "Health spending is certainly cyclical when you see a downturn," Furman said. But increases in cost-sharing, such as high-deductible insurance plans, as well as medications coming off patent, helped decrease costs, Furman said.
by Adam Howard
Lee Harvey Oswald allegedly committed two murders on November 22, 1963 — and while the first will forever make him infamous, it was the second that arguably helped convict him in the court of public opinion as the lone assassin of President John F. Kennedy.
Not long after the shooting of President Kennedy, Oswald is said to have been spotted acting suspicious at the intersection of East 10th street and Patton Avenue in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas around 1 p.m. A patrolman, Officer J.D. Tippit, reportedly stopped him for questioning. The official story is that Oswald became irate, drew a weapon and killed Tippit in cold blood. He is then supposed to have fled the scene on foot.
He was next spotted on W. Jefferson Boulevard where he entered a movie theater (which has since become a national landmark) and was eventually apprehended by Dallas police who somewhat inexplicably already had an exact description of him as the likely killer of the president.
The logical conclusion in 1963 was that an innocent man wouldn’t have lashed out at Officer Tippit. In fact, Oswald was originally arrested and booked for killing Tippit. He was only later charged with themurder of the president.
“How do we know Oswald killed President Kennedy?” a legal aid to the Warren Commission once said. “Because he killed Officer Tippit.”
However, many key aspects of this story have always rung false, especially for those who suspect a conspiracy was behind the president’s death.
There are conflicting viewpoints about whether Tippit was shot with an automatic weapon or a revolver (which Oswald did have in his possession when he was taken into custody). The four bullets found in Tippit’s body were also a source of confusion. The lead officer on the scene of the Tippit shooting marked the shells with his initials before they were entered into evidence, yet the bullets later produced by the FBI didn’t have his demarcation on them. Others have simply questioned why Oswald would have even been roaming the streets of Dallas after having allegedly pulled off the murder a sitting president.
And although the Warren Commission interviewed 13 witnesses in connection to the Tippit murder, only two said they actually saw it take place. One, Domingo Benavides, could never positively identify Oswald as the shooter, and the other, Helen Markham, was inconsistent with her descriptions. She both described Oswald accurately (thin, balding) and inaccurately (pudgy with “bushy” hair.)
Yet there was one witness, with a clear view of Tippit’s shooting, who was startlingly consistent with her story. She also happened to be African-American. Her name was Acquilla Clemons and among conspiracy theorists her testimony is legendary because it was never formally taken.
She told investigators that she saw two men at the scene of the crime from her front porch. One had a pistol as was waving the other man away. The armed man was described by Clemons as “chunky,” “short” and “kind of heavy” and the other man was “tall” and “thin,” wearing a white shirt and khakis, neither of which matched Oswald’s appearance on that fateful day.
Three of the bullets fired into Tippit were manufactured by one company (Winchester) but the fourth was made by another (Remington), an unusual occurrence which may support Clemons testimony that there were multiple shooters.
Later, Clemons claimed she received an intimidating visit from Dallas authorities warning her not to repeat what she saw.
Clemons later described the encounter in writer and investigator Mark Lane’s seminal book Rush to Judgment, a bestseller which called the Warren Commission’s conclusions into question:
Clemons: He looked like a policeman to me.
Lane: He did? Did he have a gun?
Clemons: Yes, he wore a gun.
Lane: And did he say anything to you?
Clemons: He just told me it’d be best if I didn’t say anything because I might get hurt.
Clemons was never called to tell her story before the Warren Commission, which refused to even acknowledge her existence in the numerous volumes of their final report. In fact their findings, which still stand as the official record, suggest there was only “one female witness” to the killing of J.D. Tippit.
There may be doubts about whether there was a conspiracy and whether of not Lee Harvey Oswald was involved, but we do know that Acquilla Clemons most certainly a living, breathing human being and her story deserves to be heard and investigated.
Bronx resident Kalief Browder was walking home from a party when he was abruptly arrested by New York City police officers on May 14, 2010. A complete stranger said Browder had robbed him a few weeks earlier and, consequently, changed the 16-year-old’s life forever.
Browder was imprisoned for three years before the charges were dropped in June 2013, according to a WABC-TV Eyewitness News investigation.
At the time of the teen’s arrest, Browder’s family was unable to pay the $10,000 bail. He was placed in the infamously violent Rikers Island correctional facility, where he remained until earlier this year.
Now that he’s free, the young man is speaking up about his experience.
“I spent three New Year’s in there, three birthdays…,” Browder, now 20, said in a recent interview with WABC, adding that he was released with “no apology.”
In October, Browder filed a civil lawsuit against the Bronx District Attorney, City of New York, the New York City Police Department, the New York City Department of Corrections and a number of state-employed individuals.
The official complaint states Browder was “physically assaulted and beaten” by officers and other inmates during his time at Rikers Island. The document also maintains the accused was “placed in solitary confinement for more than 400 days” and was “deprived meals.” In addition, officers allegedly prevented him from pursuing his education. Browder attempted suicide at least six times.
In an interview with The Huffington Post, Browder’s current lawyer Paul Prestia summarized his client’s experience as “inexplicable” and “unheard of.” Based off one man’s identification, Browder was charged with robbery in the second degree, he notes. It took three years to dismiss these charges, even though it was, in Prestia’s words, a “straightforward case to try.”
“The city needs to be held accountable for what happened,” Prestia said. “[Browder] had a right to a fair and speedy trail, and he wasn’t afforded any of that. He maintained his innocence the entire time, and essentially got a three year sentence for that.”
Still, when Browder was offered a plea deal in January, he refused to take it, because he did not want to plead guilty to the crime, WABC-TV notes. (Had Browder been tried in a timely fashion and pled guilty to the crime, Prestia told HuffPost, he might have spent less time in prison.)
Prestia adds that his client has suffered lingering mental health problems, and though he’s currently going to school for his GED, he’s “clearly way behind from where he would have been.”
“We need someone to be held accountable,” Prestia said. “This can’t just go unnoticed. To the extent that [Browder] can be financially compensated — although it’s not going to get those years back for him — it may give him a chance to succeed.”
The District Attorney’s office said it was unable to comment, as Browder’s allegations are currently the subject of ongoing litigation.
Incidentally, Browder’s claims about his experience at Rikers Island are consistent with findings from a recent report commissioned by the New York City Board of Correction. The report, obtained by The Associated Press, notes that the use of force by prison staff has more than tripled from 2004 to 2013, from seven incidents of force per 100 inmates, to almost 25. Additionally, the number of self-mutilation and suicide attempts by Rikers inmates have increased by 75 percent from 2007 to 2012. According to the report, 40 percent of the city jail’s 12,200 inmates are mentally ill, and many of these inmates are placed in solitary confinement “holes” as punishment.
by Frederick H. Lowe
Senate Republicans on Monday blocked the nomination of Judge Robert Wilkins to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the second-most powerful court in the land, after the United States Supreme Court.
Wilkins is the third of President Barack Obama’s nominees to the D.C. Circuit that Republicans have blocked. The others are Patricia Millett, an appeals court attorney, and Nina Pillard, a Georgetown University Law School professor.
The Senate voted 53 to 38 to advance Wilkins’ nomination, but 60 votes were needed. Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine voted with Democrats to end debate on Wilkins’ nomination.
The court has three vacancies, and Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts said they need to be filled.
President Obama said he was deeply disappointed by the actions of Senate Republicans.
“Millett, Pillard and Wilkins have received the highest possible rating from American Bar Association,” President Obama said. “They have broad bipartisan support, and no one has questioned their merit.”
The president nominated the three to the D.C. Circuit Court in June.
Wilkins, a U.S. District Court Judge and a Harvard Law School graduate, was a plaintiff in a famous “driving while black,” case titled Wilkins v. Maryland State Police. He and several family members were returning to Washington in 1992, following a funeral when they were stopped by the Maryland State Police.
The police had a policy of stopping black men in new cars because police assumed they were drug dealers. The police ordered Wilkins and his relatives to stand in the rain until they were let go. Wilkins, who was an attorney with the federal defenders program, filed a class-action lawsuit in 1993.
The parties settled the case in 1995, but the Maryland State Police ignored the settlement and continued to stop and search cars driven by black motorists. The American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the Maryland NAACP filed a second lawsuit, which was settled in 2008.
by Frederick H. Lowe
George Zimmerman, who was acquitted of second-degree murder in the shooting death of the unarmed Trayvon Martin, was arrested on Monday on charges that he pointed a shotgun at his girlfriend.
Zimmerman’s girlfriend, Samantha Scheibe, who owns the home in the 1300 block of Topfield Court in Apopka, Fla., ran from the house and called the police, saying Zimmerman had broken a glass table in the living room, following a shouting match.
Scheibe, 27, attempted to get back inside the house, but said he he pushed her outside, locked the door behind her and barricaded himself inside with several pieces of furniture, according to Seminole County Sheriff’s Department.
Armed deputies opened the front door with a key, pushing aside furniture used to block the door. Zimmerman, 30, was not armed when the police walked inside, and he peacefully surrendered.
Scheibe was not injured and no one else was at home.
Sheriff ‘s deputies drove Zimmerman to the John B. Polk Correctional Center, where he was charged with domestic battery, domestic aggravated assault and criminal mischief. Deputies placed Zimmerman in a segregated jail unit because he is well known.
Zimmerman is scheduled to appear in court at 1:30 pm today, Tuesday. In July, a mostly white, all-woman jury with one Hispanic member acquitted Zimmerman in the death of Martin.
In September, Shellie Zimmerman, Zimmerman’s estranged wife, called the Lake Mary, Fla., police, claiming that he threatened her family with a gun and punched her father in nose.
She did not press charges, and the police did not charge Zimmerman with a crime.
In August, Forney, Texas, police stopped an armed Zimmerman for speeding. He had a gun in glove compartment, but he was let go with a warning, police said.
By COLLEEN LONG
NEW YORK (AP) — The number of street stops under the police department’s heavily criticized stop-and-frisk tactic has plummeted 80 percent in recent months compared with the same time last year, and officers are recovering fewer weapons, according to police department data obtained Monday.
There were slightly more than 21,000 stops for July, August and September, after police changed training methods. There were 106,000 stops during the same months last year.
Officers recovered 99 firearms, down from 198 last year, and 463 knives, down from 1,016, according to the quarterly data provided to the City Council.
Police chief spokesman John McCarthy said there’s no “predetermined or correct number of stops,” just as there isn’t with arrests.
“Ultimately, police officers make their decisions based on real-time observations from the field — and those stops are based on reasonable suspicion,” he said.
The decline comes around a federal judge’s August ruling that the police department’s policy of stopping and questioning people based on reasonable suspicions a crime is about to occur or has occurred unfairly targeted minorities.
The judge ordered major reforms to the stop-and-frisk program after four men who argued they were unfairly targeted sued the city. Her ruling is on hold pending a city appeal.
The head of the New York Civil Liberties Union, Donna Lieberman, said the precipitous drop in stops is good news and proves the city, which is on track to have a record low number of murders this year, can stay safe without excessively stopping and frisking people.
“Even as (Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s) administration doggedly defends its stop-and-frisk program in court and in the public, these numbers are tacit recognition that it’s misguided and not necessary for the public safety,” she said.
The numbers had risen since Bloomberg took office in January 2002, hitting a peak of more than 685,000 in 2011. Mostly black and Hispanic men are stopped, even though they don’t make up most of the city’s population, and about 10 percent of them are arrested.
But the number of stops had been declining since May 2012, before the trial this year, when police Commissioner Raymond Kelly revised training on the policy. Kelly sent a letter to City Council Speaker Christine Quinn detailing the changes, which included increased supervision.
The police department established an early warning system to identify officers who have received public complaints on the policy, and precinct commanders will be held accountable at weekly meetings.
Kelly also created a new training course detailing how to conduct a lawful stop, following a review of the stop, question and frisk encounters. Officers who work in the highest-crime areas are receiving the training.
By Julee Wilson
Now that Jay Z has officially decided to move forward with his “A New York Holiday” collaboration with Barneys, despite the racial profiling allegations against the store, the only thing left to do is party, right?
Well, not so fast. The luxury retailer has cancelled the kickoff party that was scheduled for this Wednesday, November 20, at its Madison Avenue flagship store in New York City.
According to WWD, Barneys issued the following statement: “Due to unforeseen circumstances, the event has been cancelled.”
Although it’s unclear whether the event was cancelled due to the racial discrimination lawsuits, — a call to Barneys vice president of public relations & special events wasn’t immediately returned — we can’t say we’re surprised. Folks are still fired up about the partnership between the rapper-turned-mogul and high-end department store. And with so much negativity surrounding the venture, we think celebrating pricey clothes and accessories seems a bit silly, and we’re not the only ones who feel that way.
“Any African-American, male or female, with any consciousness of what has happened would not go into Barneys right now. Nor Macy’s.” André Leon Talley, the former editor-at-large of Vogue, told The New York Times.
As one of the conditions attached to Jay Z’s renewed commitment to the Barneys collaboration, the rapper is taking a leadership role in helping to solve the issue of racial profiling. “I am in a unique position to use my voice to affect change to this disturbing issue,” the star said in a statement released Friday.
In the meantime, Jay’s “A New York Holiday” will launch, sans soirée, on Wednesday. We’ll have to wait and see how well the collection sells. Stay tuned.
Among the targeted obstacles these particular voters face are higher chances of waiting in some of the nation’s longest voting lines and extended wait times in getting a government-issued voter ID.
This data is released in a new report by the Advancement Project, a multi-racial civil rights organization, and OurTime.org titled, The Time Tax: America’s Newest Form of Voter Supression for Millenials, and How it Must Be Eliminated to Make Voting Accessible for the Next Generation.
One of the key inconveniences discovered and discussed in the report is the “time tax” young voters experience.
The report also includes data on the changing demographic of Americans, stating that the millennial generation (those between ages 18-29) is more racially diverse than the general population ultimately, making up a large share of voters.
However, regressive voting policies have also been introduced in a majority of states, making the voting experience difficult for minority millennials.
“Young voters turned out in 2012 in spite of numerous barriers to the ballot, not because the system worked efficiently,” said Matthew Segal, president and co-founder of OurTime.org.
“From long lines and photo ID restrictions to emerging issues like challenging the residency of student voters and the need to update our antiquated registration process, young people, and especially young people of color, are disparately impacted. As we look toward the midterm elections of 2014, we must, and we can, fix this,” he added.
The report also provides policymakers with data-based recommendations to avoid such hindrances and gives methods to help make voting easier.
“In the face of targeted tactics from politicians, many youth voters across the country are refusing to have their voices silenced and are fighting back,” said Advancement Project Co-Director Judith Browne Dianis.
“Change is also coming through community-based coalition building that taps the tools of direct advocacy with election officials and litigation to challenge voter suppression policies in court. Together we are building a next-generation voting rights movement, and we will prevail.”
A 911 tape has been obtained detailing the call made by Theodore Wafer, 54, after he shot and killed 19-year-old Renisha McBride on the porch of his Dearborn Heights, Michigan home at about 4:45 a.m. on November 2.
McBride, according to official reports, had knocked on Wafer’s door likely seeking help after having been in a car accident at approximately 12:50 a.m.
Wafer shot McBride in the face with a shot gun through his locked screen door, and was arraigned on Friday for the shooting death.
Wafer places 911 call
Wafer claims that he felt threatened, and that the gun went off accidentally. A lawyer for Wafer says he believes he will be acquitted.
Wafer placed a 911 call following the incident, which occurred after McBride left the scene of the car accident on foot. The accident, which took place in Detroit several blocks from Wafer’s home, involved McBride’s vehicle hitting a parked car.
“Ah yes, I just shot somebody on my front porch with a shot gun, banging on my door,” Wafer told the dispatcher.
In the audio secured by the Detroit Free Press, Wafer is then asked his location.
Lack of clarity about lost time, incident details
The Detroit teen wandered away from the scene of the car accident after police had been called by witnesses, but did not arrive. Police confirmed later that the accident was not given a high priority.
McBride, her relatives have told the press, may have thought Wafer’s house was her family home, because both are situated on corner lots.
McBride was found to have traces of marijuana in her system, as well as alchohol levels almost twice the legal limit for driving, according to toxicology reports.
It is unclear at this time what exactly happened in the period between the accident and the fatal shooting.
Charges brought against Theodore Wafer
Wafer was charged with second degree murder, manslaughter, and a weapons charge related to the killing of McBride in an indictment read by Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy on Friday. He was released that day after posting bail for $250,000.
In a press conference following the reading of the charges, McBride’s parents, Monica McBride and Walter Simmons, praised the prosecutor’s office for what they called the fair and thorough investigation leading to these charges, which were brought almost two weeks after the incident.
The parents also asked that this case not be turned into a debate about racial profiling, while stating that they hope Wafer spends the rest of his life in Jail.
Race not considered a factor
Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy has also stated that race was not a factor in the determination of the charges, but might be found to be important as the case progresses.
Simultaneously, there are many calls for an investigation into the racial implications of the case from activists in the Detroit area and the public nationwide.
Comparisons have been made between McBride’s case and other recent shootings, such as that of Jonathan Ferrell, who was 24 at the time of his death. Ferrell was shot and killed by police in North Carolina after officers were dispatched to a home where he sought help after a car accident.
Wafer is due back in court on December 18 for a pre-trial hearing. He faces life in prison if found guilty.
President Obama relented to pressure from the public and his own party Thursday and changed one of the bedrock requirements of the new health-care law to fulfill his promise to allow people to keep their insurance plans if they want.
While the move was aimed at solving a problem that was threatening the president’s credibility and public faith in the law, it raised a slew of new questions, including whether insurers would adjust, whether millions of customers would pay higher premiums and whether states would make the fix available.
The president made the change at a White House news conference that quickly turned from a specific policy announcement into a nearly hour-long deconstruction of broader flaws with the health-care law and Obama’s responsibility for its early failures.
The president was contrite, and his admissions were many – he conceded that he was left in the dark about aspects of the crowning achievement of his presidency, he acknowledged that he and his advisers underestimated how hard it would be to sell insurance over a Web site, he could not guarantee that the site would work well for everyone by the end of the month, he allowed that federal government rules were an impediment, and he lamented the political problems he caused for members of his party.
“There have been times where I thought we were slapped around a little bit unjustly. This one’s deserved, all right? It’s on us,” Obama said regarding the policy cancellation issue, which contradicted his repeated promises that people would be able to keep insurance plans they liked.