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|Obama on health care: 'The law is here to stay'
President Obama can't seek re-election again, but he is campaigning for his health care law.
WASHINGTON -- President Obama can't run for re-election again, but he is still mounting a major political campaign -- this time trying to build public support for his heath care plan as it gradually comes on line.
Obama invited supporters to the White House on Friday to promote the law's benefits for women and lay groundwork for the introduction of health care insurance exchanges in October.
"The law is here to stay," Obama told the crowd.
As Republicans cite polls that show rising opposition to the law -- and predict it will be a major factor in next year's congressional elections -- Obama said it's understandable that people would be nervous and anxious about its implementation.
While big new projects always involve "mistakes" and "hiccups," Obama said: "I am 110% committed to getting it done right."
Many provisions of the law signed in 2010 are already benefiting Americans, Obama said. Insurance companies cannot cut off people who are sick or have pre-existing conditions, and children can stay on their parents' policies until the age of 26.
"A lot of people don't know it, but you get those protections," Obama said.
Future provisions will benefit Americans who currently lack health insurance, including the creation of new marketplace exchanges that will create competition and lead to lower rates.
"There's a lot that this law is already doing for Americans with insurance," Obama said. "There's a lot more that's going to happen for folks who don't have insurance."
He also said: "We still have a lot of work to do in the coming months to make sure more Americans can buy affordable health coverage."
The president connected this particular White House event -- one of a series designed to promote the law -- to Mother's Day, which is Sunday.
The law benefits women by offering preventive care like mammograms and cancer screenings, Obama said.
Obama also asked supporters to encourage uninsured young people to sign up for the new exchanges that start in October.
Republicans are also busy campaigning on what they call "Obamacare," looking ahead to the 2014 congressional elections.
Many GOP lawmakers and candidates have said they want to repeal the law.
"Women and families don't need Obamacare's higher costs, 20,000 pages of red tape and regulations or to be forced off plans they currently have and like, in order to get cancer screenings or other preventive care," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
McConnell also said: "Rather than another campaign-style event, the president has an obligation to warn all Americans about the train wreck that's headed our way."
US approves new pesticides linked to mass bee deaths as EU enacts ban
In the wake of a massive US Department of Agriculture report highlighting the continuing large-scale death of honeybees, environmental groups are left wondering why the Environmental Protection Agency has decided to approve a "highly toxic" new pesticide.
The continuing mass death of honeybees, known scientifically as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and a “pollinator crisis,” could well strain production of over 100 crops in the US including apples, zucchinis, avocados and plums. The agriculture value of these products is estimated at over $200 billion globally per year.
As RT recently reported, a new USDA report has taken a broad look at the decline of bee colonies in the country, highlighting a dire situation as the number of colonies has plummeted from 3 million in 1990 to 2.5 million this year. Demonstrating that the decline is a long-term issue, that same report points to the existence of 6 million honey bee colonies in 1947.
Though dire, the report does not offer any immediate solutions, as scientists continue to examine the potential causes for the mass colony collapses, during which adult bees abandon their hives, along with the queen, brood and food supplies.
The USDA cites “multiple factors… including parasites and disease, genetics, poor nutrition and pesticide exposure,” while also citing last summer’s drought as a contributing factor.
Many environmental groups seem convinced that pesticides are a main factor in the continuing colony collapse situation. One group, Beyond Pesticides, has called the EPA’s recent green light for use of a new insecticide known as sulfoxaflor irresponsible in light of its “highly toxic” classification for honey bees.
In late April, the European Union voted to enact a two-year moratorium on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides (sulfoxaflor is considered by many to be a "fourth-generation neonicotinoid") in light of scientific studies that indicate their harm to bees.
As in the US, a number of European countries have also been monitoring declining health and colony collapses in their bee populations, including France, the Netherlands, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain.
Groups such as the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) have praised the continent-wide ban.
“The EU vote comes after significant findings by the European Food Safety Agency that these pesticides pose an unacceptable risk to bees and their use should be restricted. Along with habitat loss and pathogens, a growing body of science points to neonicotinoid pesticides as a key factor in drastically declining bee populations,” said a statement by PAN.
Meanwhile, major pesticide manufacturers scoff at the two-year European ban.
“As a science-based company, Bayer CropScience is disappointed that clear scientific evidence has taken a backseat in the decisionmaking process. This disproportionate decision is a missed opportunity to reach a solution that takes into consideration all of the existing product-stewardship measures and broad stakeholder concerns.”
Unlike the straight-cut decision taken by the EU, the same USDA report highlighting plummeting bee colony numbers in the US seems to undermine the possibility of even a temporary ban on potentially harmful pesticides.
According to one veteran environmental reporter, Bryan Walsh of Time Magazine, the USDA report in introducing several “potential” factors in CCD skirts the issue of pesticides altogether.
“The USDA report mostly withholds judgment on neonicotinoids, citing the need for more research, and the Environmental Protection Agency is conducting a very slow review of the evidence,” says Walsh.
The review cited by the agency is slated to take an additional five years. Meanwhile, the domesticated bee population in the US has reached a 50-year low.
According to Walsh, in a normal year the commercial bee industry would expect to lose 10 to 15 per cent of its colonies, but over the past five years mortality rates have increased dramatically, ranging from 28 to 33 per cent.
Unlike in the EU, where at least in terms of policy lawmakers were not willing to take a chance on pesticides, the USDA’s report points to various possible causes for the massive colony collapse, including: A parasitic mite called Varroa destructor; a bacterial disease called European foulbrood; and the use of pesticides, including neonicotinoids, a neuroactive chemical.
Yet, almost paradoxically, the USDA seems to lend further study a time frame which seems glacial compared to its own dire estimates of mass bee die offs.
“Currently, the survivorship of honeybee colonies is too low for us to be confident in our ability to meet the pollination demands of US agricultural crops,” the USDA report said.
Chinese Hackers Raiding U.S. Military Tech Secrets
Washington Free Beacon Staff
Chinese hackers have successfully pillaged the databanks of U.S. defense and security contractors over the last several years, stealing massive quantities of data, Bloomberg reports:
QinetiQ was only one target in a broader cyber pillage. Beginning at least as early as 2007, Chinese computer spies raided the databanks of almost every major U.S. defense contractor and made off with some of the country’s most closely guarded technological secrets, according to two former Pentagon officials who asked not to be named because damage assessments of the incidents remain classified.
As the White House moves to confront China over its theft of U.S. technology through hacking, policy makers are faced with the question of how much damage has already been done. During their multiyear assault on defense contractors, the spies stole several terabytes — equal to hundreds of millions of pages –of documents and data on weapons programs, dwarfing in sheer quantity any theft of Cold War secrets. The QinetiQ hack may have compromised information vital to national security, such as the deployment and capabilities of the combat helicopter fleet. [...]
In 2007-2008, the Pentagon gave secret briefings to about 30 defense companies alerting them to the aggressive spying effort and providing data to help defend against it, according to a person familiar with the process. The person did not know whether QinetiQ received the classified intelligence.
According to officials, U.S. intelligence agencies have traced the recent compromise of a sensitive U.S. military infrastructure database to Chinese hackers, the Washington Free Beacon reported earlier this week.
Cyber attacks have been an increasing area of concern for the U.S. military, especially from Chinese hackers.
“Cyber is now at a point where the technology is there to cripple a country,” former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said earlier this year, “to take down our power grid system, to take down our government systems, take down our financial systems, and literally paralyze the country. That is a reality.”
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