April 29, 2015

In Miami Herald op-ed, Obama pushes for climate change action

The following is an op-ed by President Barack Obama published in the Miami Herald:

Last week I spent Earth Day in the Everglades, one of our nation’s greatest national treasures, and saw firsthand what makes its unique landscape so magical — what the poet Emma Lazarus called “the savage splendor of the swamp.” Plus, I got to hang out with Bill Nye the Science Guy.

“There are no other Everglades in the world,” wrote Marjory Stoneman Douglas, who helped preserve it. But climate change is threatening this treasure and the communities that depend on it. That’s what my visit was all about.

Last year, 2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record, and 14 of the 15 hottest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century. So climate change is real as are its effects: stronger storms, deeper droughts, longer wildfire seasons and public-health risks. The surgeon general and I recently met with doctors and nurses and parents who see patients and kids grappling with the health impacts. The Pentagon says that climate change poses an increasing set of risks to our national security.

Those who choose to deny science need only to travel to the Everglades where you can actually see the effects of a changing climate — where rising sea levels endanger a fragile ecosystem, threaten the drinking water of more than 7 million Floridians and pose risks to Florida’s $82-billion tourism industry. We can no longer delay action. That’s why I’ve committed the United States to lead the world in combating this threat.

More here.

April 22, 2015

Miami congressman denied Air Force One seat in February will travel with Obama to Everglades


This time around, U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo didn't even have to ask for an invitation.

The White House invited the Miami Republican to ride Wednesday with President Obama to the Florida Everglades. Curbelo said yes; the congressman, whose district includes the Everglades, will be arriving at Miami International Airport with Obama on Air Force One.

"I appreciate the President taking the time to showcase the Florida Everglades, one of the world's great natural treasures and an important part of the Congressional district I represent," Curbelo said in a text message to the Miami Herald. "Everglades restoration is a worthy bipartisan cause, and I support the Administration's efforts to preserve the Everglades for future generations."

Another South Florida congressman -- Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter, who is running for U.S. Senate in 2016 -- is the only other representative on board.

The trip will be a make-up session of sorts: Curbelo was denied an Air Force One seat in February when Obama attended a town hall-style meeting on immigration at Florida International University, which is also in Curbelo's district. The freshman congressman was invited to the event but not to travel with the president -- even after he asked for a ride -- so he didn't attend.

The dis came after the White House had expressed its interest in bringing more Republicans on presidential trips to foster bipartisanship. As a moderate Republican in a swing district, Curbelo agrees with some of Obama's policies.

After Curbelo revealed that he had been kept off Air Force One for the February trip, the White House reached out to the congressman to mend fences.

Obama will visit Everglades, backyard to Republicans skeptical on climate change

@jenstaletovich @Patricia Mazzei

In his first ever visit to the Everglades on Wednesday — Earth Day — President Barack Obama hopes to connect climate change impacts already unfolding in the imperiled wetland to wider risks across the nation.

Obama plans to tour the Everglades, as long as it doesn’t rain, and make a speech about the importance of protecting the environment — not just for the planet’s sake, but also to boost the economy, protect national security and guard public health.

The president will tout his administration’s record on tackling environmental problems, including imposing a historic cap on carbon pollution and spending $2.2 billion on Everglades restoration projects. He further plans to unveil new ways to assess the value of the country’s national parks, including a study that shows protected wild lands play a major role in keeping carbon out of the atmosphere. Visitors to parks also poured $15.7 billion into surrounding communities, the administration said.

Obama will also reveal new conservation efforts in four areas of the country, including Southwest Florida. And in a move some say is long overdue, the National Park Service will designate as a national historic landmark the Marjory Stoneman Douglas house in Coconut Grove, which several years ago sparked a contentious fight between preservationists and neighbors. The pioneering preservationist is largely credited with sparking Everglades restoration.

In addition to highlighting his environmental record, Obama’s trip is intended to pressure Republicans into a more robust climate-change debate. Voters will elect Obama’s successor in 18 months, and the GOP field so far is teeming with would-be candidates who question whether climate change is man-made, despite significant scientific scholarship concluding that it is largely a result of carbon emissions.

Among those skeptics are U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and, to a lesser extent, former Gov. Jeb Bush, both of Miami. While Obama is not expected to single out any presidential contender, a trip to Bush’s and Rubio’s backyard will hardly go unnoticed in the early days of the 2016 campaign.

More here.

April 21, 2015

A presidential shout-out for PolitiFact's Obameter

President Barack Obama, sports fan, has continued a tradition of welcoming championship teams to the White House for some presidential props. On April 20, he greeted the Ohio State Buckeyes, who won the 2014 College Football Playoff national championship.

What’s that got to do with politics? Well, back in 2008, Obama pledged to "throw his weight around" to get a playoff system for college football, rather than a system based on computer and human rankings.

"I think any sensible person would say that if you've got a bunch of teams who play throughout the season and many of them have one loss or two losses — there's no clear, decisive winner — that we should be creating a playoff system," he said on 60 Minutes, adding, "I don't know any serious fan of college football who has disagreed with me on this."

Granted, this isn’t as weighty a promise as world peace. It’s one of a handful of light-hearted pledges in our database of 500-plus promises. But lo and behold, a college playoff system did come to pass, and Obama did speak up in favor of it. So back in 2012, when plans were made to start a playoff system, we rated his promise asPromise Kept.

See what Obama said about PolitiFact's Obameter here.

April 18, 2015

Obama to visit Everglades to speak about climate change


President Obama will travel Wednesday -- Earth Day -- to the Florida Everglades to speak about the threat of climate change.

In his weekly radio address Saturday, the president said, "there is no greater threat to our planet than climate change."

"And on Earth Day, I’m going to visit the Florida Everglades to talk about the way that climate change threatens our economy," Obama continued. "The Everglades is one of the most special places in our country. But it's also one of the most fragile. Rising sea levels are putting a national treasure -– and an economic engine for the South Florida tourism industry –- at risk."


April 11, 2015

Handshake takes place between Obama, Raúl Castro

via @HeraldMimi @jimwyss

PANAMA CITY -- U.S President Barack Obama and Cuban leader Raúl Castro shared a stage and took part in a gala dinner Friday at the opening of the VII Summit of the Americas, as the formerly hostile nations continued their slow dance toward reconciliation.

While there's still a huge chasm to close for countries that haven’t had diplomatic relations since 1961, the opening ceremony came amid speculation that the two leaders might have a more substantial conversation Saturday and that the communist island might be taken off the U.S. list of state-sponsors of terrorism.

Friday evening, Obama and Castro greeted each other and shook hands, according to the White House.

Ben Rhodes, a deputy National Security adviser and one of the architects of the new Cuba policy, said he expected a more substantial conversation between the two leaders, Saturday. “We certainly do anticipate that they will have the opportunity to see each other at the summit [Saturday] to have a discussion,” he said.

More here.

April 08, 2015

Poll in Cuba: President Obama more popular than Raul and Fidel Castro

via @glenngarvin

President Barack Obama is more popular among Cubans than either of the Castro brothers who have ruled the island for the past five and a half decades, according to a new poll secretly conducted there last month.

Eighty percent of the Cubans polled said they had a “very positive” or “somewhat positive” opinion of Obama, while just 17 percent registered a “very negative” or “somewhat negative” impression.

The widespread approval of the U.S. president was in sharp contrast to the mostly adverse opinions of Cuban leader Raul Castro (48 percent negative, 47 percent postive) and his retired older brother Fidel (50 percent negative, 44 percent positive).

Obama’s popularity — exceeded by only that of Pope Francis — was perhaps the most startling finding of the poll, which was conducted by the Miami company Bendixen & Amandi International for the TV networks Univision and Fusion and the Washington Post.

The survey is the first nationwide opinion poll conducted in Cuba by a private firm since the country turned communist. Without the Cuban government’s knowledge or permission, the pollsters conducted face-to-face interviews with 1,200 adults throughout the island between March 6 and 16. The poll has a plus-or-minus 2.8 percent margin of error.

More here.

April 01, 2015

Quinnipiac poll: President Obama's job approval dips in Florida


Florida voters continued to give President Obama negative marks in a new public-opinion poll that has also found most respondents favor some sort of deal on Iran's nuclear program.

Obama's popularity, known as his job-approval rating, is 41 percent in Florida, with 55 percent disapproving of the Democratic president, according to the survey by Quinnipiac University published Wednesday. Last time the organization asked that question, in February, Obama was doing slightly better, with 46 percent approval and 49 percent disapproval.

The latest poll, which has an error margin of 3 percentage points, also found that 61 percent of Florida respondents would like to change direction from Obama's policies, compared to 32 percent who would like to continue them.

"President Barack Obama gets lousy grades for his job performance, although they are not quite as low as they have been at times in his second term," Peter A. Brown, the poll's assistant director, said in a statement. "More damning is that about five in eight voters say they want the new president to take the country in a different direction."

Despite their disapproval of Obama, Florida voters said -- by 63-26 percent -- that they would back an agreement with Iran to lift sanctions against the country in return for restrictions on its nuclear program. The Obama administration is in negotiations that have stretched past a self-imposed March 31 deadline.

Last month, 47 Republican U.S. senators sent Iranian leaders a letter warning that a deal with Obama might not be backed by the GOP-controlled Congress. Wednesday's poll found a majority of Florida voters found the letter to be unhelpful, by 55-38 percent (that's a wider negative margin than Obama's approval rating). The split was largely partisan, with Democrats and independents in opposition and Republicans in support.

Still, half of Florida voters opined the letter won't have an impact on the White House's efforts, and they support, by 65-23 percent, legislation making any Iran deal subject to congressional approval.

March 20, 2015

Obamacare turns 5: What came true and what didn't

Predictions about the health care law were a dime a dozen back in 2010. Supporters contended that virtually everyone around the country would soon have access to affordable insurance. Opponents said the law would cost a fortune by adding to the national debt and killing jobs.

Actually, none of those things have happened.

As the Affordable Care Act makes its way to its fifth anniversary on Monday, the law has taken twists and turns, moving off course from where everyone thought it would be.

Once expected to insure 32 million new Americans by the end of the decade, the projected target has been downgraded to 27 million — far from the universal coverage many proponents hoped for.

Unforeseen developments, like significant changes in health cost trends and a sweeping Supreme Court decision on Medicaid expansion, have meant the insurance provisions in the law will cost $139 billion less over the next five years than it was supposed to back in 2010. That has quieted some critics who expected massive, deficit-inflating costs.

In five years, the law has steadily navigated toward its overall goal of decreasing the number of uninsured Americans, without dramatically disrupting the overall health care industry, for better or worse. Yet.

"The whole thing has been in much slower motion that what was predicted," said Michael Tanner, health care analyst with the libertarian Cato Institute. "Whether you thought something good was going to happen or something bad, you sort of thought it would have happened by now. Instead, it’s just been creeping along."

For the rest of the article by Angie Drobnic Holan and Steve Contorno, check out PolitiFact.

March 13, 2015