Sunday, May 12, 2013

Presidential Proclamation -- Irish-American Heritage Month, 2013

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary


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For more than two centuries, America has been made and remade by striving, hopeful immigrants looking for a chance to pursue their dreams. Millions among them were born in Ireland, separated from our shores but united by their belief in a better day. This month, we celebrate the Irish-American journey, and we reflect on the ways a nation so small has inspired so much in another.

Generations of Irish left the land of their forebears to cast their fortunes with a young Republic. Escaping the blight of famine or the burden of circumstance, many found hardship even here. They endured prejudice and stinging ridicule. But through it all, these new citizens never gave up on one of our oldest ideas: that anyone from anywhere can write the next great chapter in the American story. So they raised families and built communities, earned a living and sent their kids to school. In time, what it meant to be Irish helped define what it means to be American. And as they did their part to make this country stronger, Irish Americans shared in its success, retaining the best of their heritage and passing it down to their children.

That familiar story has been lived and cherished by Americans from all backgrounds, and it reaffirms our identity as a Nation of immigrants from all around the world. So as we celebrate Irish-American Heritage Month, let us retell those stories of sweat and striving. And as two nations united by people and principle, may America and Ireland always continue to move forward together in common purpose.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim March 2013 as Irish-American Heritage Month. I call upon all Americans to observe this month with appropriate ceremonies, activities, and programs.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-eighth day of February, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.


Extending Middle Class Tax Cuts

Hanging Out with First Lady Michelle Obama

Mrs. Obama joins a virtual conversation about Let’s Move!, her initiative to ensure our nation’s kids grow up healthy and reach their full potential.

The Open Government Partnership publishes the text of the President's directive extending whistleblower protections to the intelligence and national security communities, as requested by the community.

The Department of Labor celebrates its centennial anniversary and looks forward to continuing its important work on behalf on America's workers.

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View the original article here

Remarks by the Vice President to the AIPAC Policy Conference

The White House

Office of the Vice President

Walter E. Washington Convention Center
Washington, D.C.

10:35 A.M. EST

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Mr. President.  (Applause.)  It’s great to be here.  It’s great to be here.  (Applause.)  Hey, Debbie. 

Ladies and gentlemen, oh, what a difference 40 years makes.  (Laughter.)  I look out there and see an old friend, Annette Lantos.  Annette, how are you?  Her husband, Tom Lantos, a survivor, was my assistant, was my foreign policy advisor for years.  And Tom used to say all the time, Joe -- he talked with that Hungarian accent -- he’d say, Joe, we must do another fundraiser for AIPAC.  (Laughter.)  I did more fundraisers for AIPAC in the ‘70s and early ‘80s than -- just about as many as anybody.  Thank God you weren’t putting on shows like this, we would have never made it.  (Laughter.)  We would have never made it.

My Lord, it’s so great to be with you all and great to see -- Mr. President, thank you so much for that kind introduction.  And President-elect Bob Cohen, the entire AIPAC Board of Directors, I’m delighted to be with you today.  But I’m particularly delighted to be with an old friend -- and he is an old friend; we use that phrase lightly in Washington, but it’s real, and I think he’d even tell you -- Ehud Barak, it’s great to be with you, Mr. Minister.  Great to be with you.  (Applause.)

There is a standup guy.  There is a standup guy.  Standing up for his country, putting his life on the line for his country, and continuing to defend the values that we all share.  (Applause.)  I’m a fan of the man.  (Applause.)  Thanks for being here, Ehud.  It’s good to be with you again.

Ladies and gentlemen, a lot of you know me if you’re old enough.  (Laughter.)  Some of you don’t know me, and understand I can’t see now, but in the bleachers to either side, I’m told you have 2,000 young AIPAC members here.  (Applause.)  We talked about this a lot over the years.  We talked about it a lot:  This is the lifeblood.  This is the connective tissue.  This is the reason why no American will ever forget.  You’ve got to keep raising them.  (Applause.)

Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve stood shoulder to shoulder, a lot of us in this auditorium, defending the legitimate interest of Israel and our enduring commitment over the last 40 years.  And many of you in this hall -- I won’t start to name them, but many of you in this hall, starting with Annette Lantos’s husband, who is not here, God rest his soul -- many of you in this hall have been my teachers, my mentors and my educators, and that is not hyperbole.  You literally have been.

But my education started, as some of you know, at my father’s dinner table.  My father was what you would have called a righteous Christian.  We gathered at my dinner table to have conversation, and incidentally eat, as we were growing up.  It was a table -- it was at that table I first heard the phrase that is overused sometimes today, but in a sense not used meaningfully enough -- first I heard the phrase, “Never again.”

It was at that table that I learned that the only way to ensure that it could never happen again was the establishment and the existence of a secure, Jewish state of Israel.  (Applause.)  I remember my father, a Christian, being baffled at the debate taking place at the end of World War II talking about it.  I don’t remember it at that time, but about how there could be a debate about whether or not -- within the community, of whether or not to establish the State of Israel.

My father would say, were he a Jew, he would never, never entrust the security of his people to any individual nation, no matter how good and how noble it was, like the United States.  (Applause.)  Everybody knows it’s real.  But I want you to know one thing, which some of you -- I’ve met with a lot of you over the last 40 years, but the last four years as well.  President Obama shares my commitment.  We both know that Israel faces new threats, new pressures and uncertainty.  The Defense Minister and I have discussed it often.  In the area of national security, the threats to Israel’s existence continue, but they have changed as the world and the region have changed over the last decade.

The Arab Spring, at once full of both hope and uncertainty, has required Israel -- and the United States -- to reassess old and settled relationships.  Iran’s dangerous nuclear weapons program, and its continued support of terrorist organizations, like Hezbollah and Hamas, not only endanger Israel, but endanger the world.  (Applause.)  Attempts of much of the world to isolate and delegitimize the State of Israel are increasingly common, and taken as the norm in other parts of the world. 

All these pressures are similar but different, and they put enormous pressure on the State of Israel.  We understand that.  And we especially understand that if we make a mistake, it’s not a threat to our existence.  But if Israel makes a mistake, it could be a threat to its very existence.  (Applause.)  And that’s why, from the moment the President took office, he has acted swiftly and decisively to make clear to the whole world and to Israel that even as circumstances have changed, one thing has not:  our deep commitment to the security of the state of Israel.  That has not changed.  That will not change as long as I and he are President and Vice President of the United States.  (Applause.)  It’s in our naked self-interest, beyond the moral imperative.  (Applause.)

And to all of you, I thank you for continuing to remind the nation and the world of that commitment.  And while we may not always agree on tactics -- and I’ve been around a long time; I’ve been there for a lot of prime ministers -- we’ve always disagreed on tactic.  We’ve always disagreed at some point or another on tactic.  But, ladies and gentlemen, we have never disagreed on the strategic imperative that Israel must be able to protect its own, must be able to do it on its own, and we must always stand with Israel to be sure that can happen.  And we will.  (Applause.)

That’s why we’ve worked so hard to make sure Israel keeps its qualitative edge in the midst of the Great Recession.  I’ve served with eight Presidents of the United States of America, and I can assure you, unequivocally, no President has done as much to physically secure the State of Israel as President Barack Obama.  (Applause.)

President Obama last year requested $3.1 billion in military assistance for Israel -- the most in history.  He has directed close coordination, strategically and operationally, between our government and our Israeli partners, including our political, military and intelligence leadership. 

I can say with certitude, in the last eight Presidents, I don’t know any time, Ehud, when there has been as many meetings, as much coordination, between our intelligence services and our military.  Matter of fact, they’re getting tired of traveling back across the ocean, I think.  (Laughter.)

Under this administration, we’ve held the most regular and largest-ever joint military exercises.  We’ve invested $275 million in Iron Dome, including $70 million that the President directed to be spent last year on an urgent basis -- to increase the production of Iron Dome batteries and interceptors.  (Applause.)

Not long ago, I would have had to describe to an audience what Iron Dome was, how it would work, why funding it mattered.  I don’t have to explain to anybody anymore.  Everybody gets it.  (Applause.)  Everybody saw -- the world saw firsthand why it was and remains so critical. 

For too long, when those sirens blared in the streets of the cities bordering Gaza, the only defense had been a bomb shelter.  But late last year, Iron Dome made a difference.  When Hamas rockets rained on Israel, Iron Dome shot them out of the sky, intercepting nearly 400 rockets in November alone.  It was our unique partnership -- Israel and the United States -- that pioneered this technology and funded it.

And it is in that same spirit that we’re working with Israel to jointly develop new systems, called Arrow and David’s Sling, interceptors that can defeat long-range threats from Iran, Syria and Hezbollah -- equally as urgent.  (Applause.)  And we are working to deploy a powerful new radar, networked with American early warning satellites, that could buy Israel valuable time in the event of an attack.  This is what we do.  This is what we do to ensure Israel can counter and defeat any threat from any corner.  (Applause.)

But that’s only the first piece of this equation.  Let me tell you -- and I expect I share the view of many of you who have been involved with AIPAC for a long time.  Let me tell you what worries me the most today -- what worries me more than at any time in the 40 years I’ve been engaged, and it is different than any time in my career.  And that is the wholesale, seemingly coordinated effort to delegitimize Israel as a Jewish state.  That is the single most dangerous, pernicious change that has taken place, in my humble opinion, since I’ve been engaged.  (Applause.) 

And, ladies and gentlemen, it matters.  It matters.  To put it bluntly, there is only one nation -- only one nation in the world that has unequivocally, without hesitation and consistently confronted the efforts to delegitimize Israel.  At every point in our administration, at every juncture, we’ve stood up on the legitimacy -- on behalf of legitimacy of the State of Israel.  President Obama has been a bulwark against those insidious efforts at every step of the way.

Wherever he goes in the world, he makes clear that although we want better relations with Muslim-majority countries, Israel’s legitimacy and our support for it is not a matter of debate.  There is no light.  It is not a matter of debate.  (Applause.)  It’s simple, and he means it:  It is not a matter of debated.  Don't raise it with us.  Do not raise it with us.  It is not negotiable.  (Applause.)

As recently as last year, the only country on the United Nations Human Rights Council to vote against -- I think it’s 36 countries, don't hold me to the exact number -- but the only country on the Human Rights Council of the United Nations to vote against the establishment of a fact-finding mission on settlements was the United States of America. 

We opposed the unilateral efforts of the Palestinian Authority to circumvent direct negotiations by pushing for statehood and multilateral organizations like UNESCO.  We stood strongly with Israel in its right to defend itself after the Goldstone Report was issued in 2009.  While the rest of the world, including some of our good friend, was prepared to embrace the report, we came out straightforwardly, expressed our concerns and with recommendations. 

When Israel was isolated in the aftermath of the Gaza flotilla in 2010, I was in Africa.  We spent a lot of time on the phone, Ehud and -- the Defense Minister and I.  (Laughter.)  And Bibi and I spent a lot time on that phone with my interceding, going to the United Nations directly by telephone, speaking with the Secretary General, making sure that one thing was made clear, Israel had the right -- had the right -- to impose that blockade.  (Applause.)

Ladies and gentlemen, that's why we refuse to attend events such as the 10th anniversary of the 2001 World Conference on Racism that shamefully equated Zionism with racism.  (Applause.)  That's why we rejected anti-Semitic rhetoric from any corner and from leaders of any nation.  And that's why I’m proud to say my friend, the new Secretary of State, John Kerry, spoke out against the kind of language in Ankara just this Friday.  (Applause.)  By the way, he’s a good man.  You're going to be happy with Kerry.

And it was in the strongest terms that we vigorously opposed the Palestinian bid for nonmember observer status in the General Assembly, and we will continue to oppose any effort to establish a state of Palestine through unilateral actions.

There is no shortcut to peace.  There is no shortcut to face-to-face negotiations.  There is no shortcut to guarantees made looking in the eyes of the other party.

Ladies and gentlemen, Israel's own leaders currently understand the imperative of peace.  Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defense Minister Barak, President Peres -- they've all called for a two-state solution and an absolute secure, democratic and Jewish State of Israel; to live side by side with an independent Palestinian state.  But it takes two to tango, and the rest of the Arab world has to get in the game.  (Applause.)  

We are under no illusions about how difficult it will be to achieve.  Even some of you in the audience said, why do we even talk about it anymore?  Well, it's going to require hard steps on both sides.  But it's in all of our interests -- Israel's interest, the United States' interest, the interest of the Palestinian people.  We all have a profound interest in peace.  To use an expression of a former President, Bill Clinton, we've got to get caught trying.  We've got to get caught trying.  (Applause.)

So we remain deeply engaged.  As President Obama has said, while there are those who question whether this goal may ever be reached, we make no apologies for continuing to pursue that goal, to pursue a better future.  And he'll make that clear when he goes to Israel later this month.

We're also mindful that pursuing a better future for Israel means helping Israel confront the myriads of threat it faces in the neighborhood.  It's a tough neighborhood, and it starts with Iran.  It is not only in Israel's interest -- and everybody should understand -- I know you understand this, but the world should -- it's not only in Israel's interest that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon, it's in the interest of the United States of America.  It's simple.  And, as a matter of fact, it's in the interest of the entire world. (Applause.)

Iraq's [sic] acquisition of a nuclear weapon not only would present an existential threat to Israel, it would present a threat to our allies and our partners -- and to the United States.  And it would trigger an arms race -- a nuclear arms race in the region, and make the world a whole lot less stable. 

So we have a shared strategic commitment.  Let me make clear what that commitment is:  It is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.  Period.  (Applause.)  End of discussion.  Prevent -- not contain -- prevent.  (Applause.)
The President has flatly stated that.  And as many of you in this room have heard me say -- and he always kids me about this; we'll be in the security room -- and I know that Debbie Wasserman Schultz knows this because she hears it -- he always says, you know -- he'll turn to other people and say, as Joe would say, he’s -- as Joe would say, big nations can't bluff.  Well, big nations can't bluff.  And Presidents of the United States cannot and do not bluff.  And President Barack Obama is not bluffing.  He is not bluffing.  (Applause.) 
We are not looking for war.  We are looking to and ready to negotiate peacefully, but all options, including military force, are on the table.  But as I made clear at the Munich Security Conference just last month, our strong preference, the world’s preference is for a diplomatic solution.  So while that window is closing, we believe there is still time and space to achieve the outcome.  We are in constant dialogue, sharing information with the Israeli military, the Israeli intelligence service, the Israeli political establishment at every level, and we’re taking all the steps required to get there. 

But I want to make clear to you something.  If, God forbid,
the need to act occurs, it is critically important for the whole world to know we did everything in our power, we did everything that reasonably could have been expected to avoid any confrontation.  And that matters.  Because God forbid, if we have to act, it’s important that the rest of the world is with us.  (Applause.)  We have a united international community.  We have a united international community behind these unprecedented sanctions. 

We have left Iran more isolated than ever.  When we came to office, as you remember -- not because of the last administration, just a reality -- Iran was on the ascendency in the region.  It is no longer on the ascendency.  The purpose of this pressure is not to punish.  It is to convince Iran to make good on its international obligations.  Put simply, we are sharpening a choice that the Iranian leadership has to make.  They can meet their obligations and give the international community ironclad confidence in the peaceful nature of their program, or they can continue down the path they’re on to further isolate and mounting pressure of the world. 

But even preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon still leaves them a dangerous neighbor, particularly to Israel.  They are using terrorist proxies to spread violence in the region and beyond the region, putting Israelis, Americans, citizens of every continent in danger.  For too long, Hezbollah has tried to pose as nothing more than a political and social welfare group, while plotting against innocents in Eastern Europe -- from Eastern Europe to East Africa; from Southeast Asia to South America.  We know what Israel knows:  Hezbollah is a terrorist organization.  Period.  (Applause.)  And we -- and me -- we are urging every nation in the world that we deal with -- and we deal with them all -- to start treating Hezbollah as such, and naming them as a terrorist organization.  (Applause.) 

This isn’t just about a threat to Israel and the United States.  It’s about a global terrorist organization that has targeted people on several continents.  We’ll say and we’ll do our part to stop them.  And we ask the world to do the same.  That’s why we’ve been talking to our friends in Europe to forcefully declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization.  This past month I’ve made the case to leading European heads of state, as Barack and Israelis know, together we have to continue to confront Hezbollah wherever it shows -- sews the seeds of hatred and stands against the nations that sponsor campaigns of terror.

Ladies and gentlemen, the United States and Israel have a shared interest in Syria as well.  Assad has shown his father’s disregard for human life and dignity, engaging in brutal murder of his own citizens.  Our position on that tragedy could not be clearer:  Assad must go.  But we are not signing up for one murderous gang replacing another in Damascus.  (Applause.)

That’s why our focus is on supporting a legitimate opposition not only committed to a peaceful Syria but to a peaceful region.  That’s why we’re carefully vetting those to whom we provide assistance.  That’s why, while putting relentless pressure on Assad and sanctioning the pro-regime, Iranian-backed militia, we’ve also designated al-Nusra Front as a terrorist organization. 

And because we recognize the great danger Assad’s chemical and biological arsenals pose to Israel and the United States, to the whole world, we’ve set a clear red line against the use of the transfer of the those weapons.  And we will work together to prevent this conflict and these horrific weapons from threatening Israel’s security.  And while we try to ensure an end to the dictatorship in Syria, we have supported and will support a genuine transition to Egyptian democracy. 

We have no illusions -- we know how difficult this will be and how difficult it is.  There’s been -- obviously been a dramatic change in Egypt.  A lot of it has given us hope and a lot of it has given us pause, and a lot of it has caused fears in other quarters. 

It’s not about us, but it profoundly affects us.  We need to be invested in Egypt’s success and stability.  The stable success of Egypt will translate into a stable region.  We’re not looking at what’s happening in Egypt through rose-colored glasses.  Again, our eyes are wide open.  We have no illusions about the challenges that we face, but we also know this:  There’s no legitimate alternative at this point to engagement. 

Only through engagement -- it’s only through engagement with Egypt that we can focus Egypt’s leaders on the need to repair international obligations -- respect their international obligations, including and especially its peace treaty with Israel.  It’s only through active engagement that we can help ensure that Hamas does not re-arm through the Sinai and put the people of Israel at risk.  It’s only through engagement that we can concentrate Egypt’s government on the imperative of confronting the extremists.  And it’s only through engagement that we can encourage Egypt’s leaders to make reforms that will spark economic growth and stabilize the democratic process.  And it’s all tough, and there’s no certainty.  There’s no certainty about anything in the Arab Spring.

I expect President Obama to cover each of these issues in much greater detail.  I’ve learned one thing, as I was telling the President, I learned it’s never a good idea, Ehud, to steal the President’s thunder.  It’s never a good idea to say what he’s going to say the next day.  So I’m not going to go into any further detail on this.  (Laughter.)  But in much greater detail he will discuss this when he goes to Israel later this month, just before Passover begins.

I have to admit I’m a little jealous that he gets to be the one to say “this year in Jerusalem,” but I’m the Vice President.  I’m not the President.  (Applause.)  So I -- when I told him that, I’m not sure he thought I was serious or not.  But anyway.  (Laughter.)

As will come as no surprise to you, the President and I not only are partners, we’ve become friends, and he and I have spoken at length about this trip.  And I can assure you he’s particularly looking forward to having a chance to hear directly from the people of Israel and beyond their political leaders, and particularly the younger generation of Israelis.  (Applause.)

And I must note just as I’m getting a chance to speak to 2,000 young, American Jews involved and committed to the state of Israel and the relationship with the United States, he’s as anxious to do what I got a chance to do when I was there last, Ehud with you, as you flew me along the line.  I got to go to Tel Aviv University to speak several thousand young Israelis.  The vibrancy, the optimism, the absolute commitment is contagious, and he’s looking forward to seeing it and feeling it and tasting it.

The President looks forward to having conversations about their hopes and their aspirations, about their astonishing world-leading technological achievements, about the future they envision for themselves and for their country, about how different the world they face is from the one their parents faced, even if many of the threats are the same.

These are really important conversations for the President to have and to hear and for them to hear.  These are critically important.  I get kidded, again to quote Debbie, she kids sometimes, everybody quotes -- Democrat and Republican -- quotes Tip O’Neill saying, all politics is local.  With all due respect, Lonny, I think that's not right.  I think all politics is personal.  And I mean it:  All politics is personal.  And it’s building personal relationships and trust and exposure, talking to people that really matters, particularly in foreign policy.

So, ladies and gentlemen, let me end where I began, by reaffirming our commitment to the State of Israel.  It’s not only a longstanding, moral commitment, it’s a strategic commitment.  An independent Israel, secure in its own borders, recognized by the world is in the practical, strategic interests of the United States of America.  I used to say when I -- Lonny was president -- I used to say if there weren't an Israel, we'd have to invent one. 

Ladies and gentlemen, we also know that it's critical to remind every generation of Americans -- as you're doing with your children here today, it's critical to remind our children, my children, your children.  That's why the first time I ever took the three of my children separately to Europe, the first place I took them was Dachau.  We flew to Munich and went to Dachau -- the first thing we ever did as Annette will remember -- because it's important that all our children and grandchildren understand that this is a never-ending requirement.  The preservation of an independent Jewish state is the ultimate guarantor, it's the only certain guarantor of freedom and security for the Jewish people in the world.  (Applause.) 

That was most pointedly pointed out to me when I was a young senator making my first trip to Israel.  I had the great, great honor -- and that is not hyperbole -- of getting to meet for the first time -- and subsequently, I met her beyond that -- Golda Meir.  She was the prime minister.  (Applause.)

Now, I'm sure every kid up there said, you can't be that old, Senator.  (Laughter.)  I hope that's what you're saying.  (Laughter.)  But seriously, the first trip I ever made -- and you all know those double doors.  You just go into the office and the blonde furniture and the desk on the left side, if memory serves me correctly.  And Golda Meir, as a prime minister and as a defense minister, she had those maps behind her.  You could pull down all those maps like you had in geography class in high school. 

And she sat behind her desk.  And I sat in a chair in front of her desk, and a young man was sitting to my right who was her assistant.  His name was Yitzhak Rabin.  (Laughter.)  Seriously -- an absolutely true story.  (Applause.)  And she sat there chain-smoking and reading letters to me, letters from the front from the Six-Day War.  She read letters and told me how this young man or woman had died and this is their family.  This went on for I don't know how long, and I guess she could tell I was visibly moved by this, and I was getting depressed about it -- oh, my God. 

And she suddenly looked at me and said -- and I give you my word as a Biden that she looked at me and said -- she said, Senator, would you like a photo opportunity?  (Laughter.)  And I looked at her.  I said, well yes, Madam Prime Minister.  I mean I was -- and we walk out those doors.  We stood there -- no statements, and we're standing next to one another looking at this array of media, television and photojournalists, take -- snapping pictures.  And we're looking straight ahead.

Without looking at me, she speaks to me.  She said, Senator, don't look so sad.  She said, we have a secret weapon in our confrontation in this part of the world.  And I thought she was about to lean over and tell me about a new system or something.  Because you can see the pictures, I still have them -- I turned to look at her.  We were supposed to be looking straight ahead.  And I said, Madam Prime Minister -- and never turned her head, she kept looking -- she said, our secret weapon, Senator, is we have no place else to go.  We have no place else to go.  (Applause.)

Ladies and gentlemen, our job is to make sure there's always a place to go, that there's always an Israel, that there's always a secure Israel and there's an Israel that can care for itself.  (Applause.)  My father was right.  You are right.  It's the ultimate guarantor of never again.  God bless you all and may God protect our troops.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

11:09 A.M. EST

Extending Middle Class Tax Cuts

Hanging Out with First Lady Michelle Obama

Mrs. Obama joins a virtual conversation about Let’s Move!, her initiative to ensure our nation’s kids grow up healthy and reach their full potential.

The Open Government Partnership publishes the text of the President's directive extending whistleblower protections to the intelligence and national security communities, as requested by the community.

The Department of Labor celebrates its centennial anniversary and looks forward to continuing its important work on behalf on America's workers.

view all related blog posts

View the original article here

Indonesia Central Bank Shuffle Plan Raises Concern

Moves by Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to put his finance minister in charge of the central bank is leading to concerns that he may be seeking someone more malleable to run the state coffers in the run up to next year's elections.

Yudhoyono made the surprise announcement on Feb. 22 that he wanted Agus Martowardojo to take over the central bank when the current governor's term expires in May. He has given no explanation for not seeking to extend Governor Darmin Nasution's term.

Nor has there been any explanation why the president wants to move Martowardojo out of the cabinet, and take charge of monetary policy for Southeast Asia's biggest economy.

On Tuesday night, parliament is due to take the first step by deciding whether Yudhoyono's sole candidate for the five-year term is eligible to face the fit and proper test that he must pass to take over the governorship of Bank Indonesia from late May.

The president had proposed Martowardojo for the central bank job before, in 2008, but parliament ruled him ineligible for consideration at the time, in a decision that was seen as a more related to politics than specific objections to Martowardojo.

(Read More: Indonesia's President Reassures Investors Economy Is Top Priority)

Some MPs have grumbled that Martowardojo lacks monetary policy skills and question his links to graft cases that have been ripping apart Yudhoyono's ruling Democrat Party. The finance minister has been questioned as a witness over one major scandal, but there has been no suggestion he was involved.

Martowardojo was also in the ministry when Indonesia introduced laws, including a controversial tax on mineral exports, which have attracted warnings that the government may be pushing away foreign investors.

So far, foreign direct investment has been at record highs and a major factor in rapid economic growth.

"We do not expect any immediate changes to the current monetary policy stance. In our view, BI will remain reluctant to tighten its policy stance," Nomura wrote in a research note, in reference to the benchmark rate which has been at a record low of 5.75 percent for a year.

Born in Amsterdam 57 years ago, Martowardojo has spent almost his entire career in the banking industry culminating in his role as head of Bank Mandiri, when he is widely credited as having turned around the fortune of the top state bank.

Who Next?

If Martowardojo does switch to the central bank, attention will turn to whether his successor at the finance ministry allows political considerations to outweigh fiscal prudence.

"Will his successor be a person of equal credibility as Martowardojo? Or would the replacement be accommodative to the political pressures prior to 2014 (elections)?" said Fauzi Ichsan, senior economist at Standard Chartered in Jakarta.

One of the biggest challenges the next finance minister will face is how to cut back on fuel subsidies which gobble up around 15 percent of the annual budget and went 54 percent over budget last year, an issue Martowardojo was able to only partially tackle.

(Read More: Indonesia Will Hike Fuel Prices, No Inflation Risk: Official)

"The worry is a more fiscally lax replacement may compromise the perception of Indonesia's fiscal soundness, more so ahead of the elections," said one Indonesia economist who asked not to be named because of bank policy over talking to the media.

Speculation over who will head the finance ministry range from the outgoing BI chief, representing a straight job swap, to the current chief economics minister Hatta Rajasa.

Rajasa, more career politician than technocrat, is close to Yudhoyono and often seen as the president's choice to be the next leader of the world's fourth largest country.

Taking Stands

Martowardojo took over in May 2010 from Sri Mulyani Indrawati, effectively driven from office by a political and business elite upset with her tough stand against graft, frequently cited as the biggest drag on one of the world's fastest growing economies.

For all the speculation that Martowardojo is being sidelined, he denies he is being pushed out of his current job.

His only comments about his proposed move to the central bank have been to say he will watch inflation and also expects reciprocity with other countries in banking.

That appears to be a direct threat to the already long-delayed bid by Singapore's DBS Group Holdings $7.2 billion for Bank Danamon, unless the island neighbour changes policy and lets Indonesian banks operate there.

In his ministerial role, Martowardojo has been prepared to take on both foreign and politically influential domestic investors. Analysts point to his willingness to confront the Bakrie Group, whose head is also in charge of the powerful Golkar party, over the purchase of a stake in a major gold mine.

He opposed a project to build a bridge to join the islands of Sumatra and Java and which is thought to be something Yudhoyono had hoped would be a legacy of his 10 years in office.

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Ellen DeGeneres Submits Unofficial Marriage Equality Brief To Supreme Court

Friday was the deadline for individuals and organizations to submit amicus briefs to the Supreme Court adding to the arguments for marriage equality. Ellen DeGeneres took to her blog to write a brief of her own, hoping that someone will tweet it to the Court on her behalf. Speaking of her marriage to Portia de Rossi, DeGeneres explained that for as happy as she is, they’re still not equal in society:

Portia and I have been married for 4 years and they have been the happiest of my life. And in those 4 years, I don’t think we hurt anyone else’s marriage. I asked all of my neighbors and they say they’re fine.

But even though Portia and I got married in the short period of time when it was legal in California, there are 1,138 federal rights for married couples that we don’t have, including some that protect married people from losing their homes, or their savings or custody of their children.

The truth is, Portia and I aren’t as different from you as you might think. We’re just trying to find happiness in the bodies and minds we were given, like everyone else. [...]

I hope the Supreme Court will do the right thing, and let everyone enjoy the same rights. It’s going to help keep families together. It’s going to make kids feel better about who they are. And it is time.

Here is the monologue DeGeneres shared on her show shortly after her wedding, in which she described the special day:

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Are ‘E-Cigs’ Exploiting Regulatory Loopholes To Get Kids Hooked On Nicotine?

If you were one of the estimated 108.4 million Americans who watched this year’s Super Bowl game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens, you may have caught a glimpse of this advertisement for “Blu Cigs,” one of the most popular new “electronic cigarette” products out on the market:

The ad raised eyebrows in the public health and anti-smoking communities, as federal law has prohibited — or strictly limited — the marketing of tobacco-related products on television since the 1970s. President Obama even signed legislation during his first term to further limit the auditory and visual prerogatives of tobacco-related advertising. But electronic cigarettes — or “e-cigs,” as they are commonly referred to — aren’t technically the same kind of tobacco product, presenting a dilemma for those seeking to curb smoking rates among America’s youth.

E-cig advertisements tend to emphasize the fact that they do not contain the tar and other poisonous elements of cigarettes that lead to concerns over second-hand smoke — rather, they are simply mixtures of water vapor and pure nicotine (and, occasionally, some added flavors), making them more akin to nicotine gums and other smoking cessation products.

Public health advocates are a bit more skeptical. Organizations like the American Cancer Society and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have been ramping up efforts to determine how, exactly, e-cigs could impact public health:

“E-cigarette use is growing rapidly,” said Tom Frieden, director of the Office on Smoking and Health at CDC. “There is still a lot we don’t know about these products, including whether they will decrease or increase use of traditional cigarettes.”

The CDC noted that although e-cigarettes appear to have far fewer of the toxins found in smoke compared to traditional cigarettes, the impact of e-cigarettes on long-term health must be studied.

“If large numbers of adult smokers become users of both traditional cigarettes and e-cigarettes — rather than using e-cigarettes to quit cigarettes completely — the net public health effect could be quite negative,” added Frieden.

Some might find that e-cigs represent a relatively less harmful method of transitioning away from products that have continued to drive up public-health related care costs. Still, the transition to a more “high-tech” form of nicotine ingestion is oddly reminiscent of Big Tobacco efforts to deceive the American public into believing that life-threatening tobacco products are perfectly fine for moderate day-to-day use. And, unlike smoking cessation products such as nicotine gum, e-cigs allow users to indulge in the “oral fixation” of smoking — which tends to be one of the hardest obstacles to overcome for a smoking addict.

Ultimately, the lack of research and oversight into the issue of e-cigs and their effect on smoking habits prohibits an objective study into their efficacy and hazards. But while Americans — and teens in particular — are exposed to product placement promoting their worth, oversight groups would do well to press for more information on the products.

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Statement by Vice President Biden on the House Passage of the Violence Against Women Act

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For Immediate Release February 28, 2013 Statement by Vice President Biden on the House Passage of the Violence Against Women Act

Today Congress put politics aside and voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. Eighteen years ago, I envisioned a world where women could live free from violence and abuse.  Since VAWA first passed in 1994, we have seen a 64% reduction in domestic violence.  I am pleased that this progress will continue, with new tools for cops and prosecutors to hold abusers and rapists accountable, and more support for all victims of these crimes. 

The urgent need for this bill cannot be more obvious.  Consider just one fact—that 40% of all mass shootings started with the murderer targeting their girlfriend, or their wife, or their ex-wife. Among many other important provisions, the new VAWA will increase the use of proven models of reducing domestic violence homicides. 

This morning I met with several parents whose beautiful young daughters were killed by abusive boyfriends. Nothing puts this legislation in to perspective more than their stories. This issue should be beyond politics—and I want to thank the leaders from both parties—Patrick Leahy, Mike Crapo, Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer and Gwen Moore—and the bipartisan majorities in both the House and the Senate who have made that clear once again.


Extending Middle Class Tax Cuts

Blog posts on this issue March 04, 2013 6:52 PM ESTHanging Out with First Lady Michelle ObamaHanging Out with First Lady Michelle Obama

Mrs. Obama joins a virtual conversation about Let’s Move!, her initiative to ensure our nation’s kids grow up healthy and reach their full potential.

March 04, 2013 3:52 PM ESTFulfilling our Commitment to Open Government: We Hear You

The Open Government Partnership publishes the text of the President's directive extending whistleblower protections to the intelligence and national security communities, as requested by the community.

March 04, 2013 3:01 PM ESTU.S. Department of Labor Celebrates 100 Years of Helping American Workers

The Department of Labor celebrates its centennial anniversary and looks forward to continuing its important work on behalf on America's workers.

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Remarks by the First Lady to Kids at Let's Move! Active Schools Launch

The White House

Office of the First Lady

McCormick Place
Chicago, Illinois

12:29 P.M. CST

MRS. OBAMA:  Isn’t this exciting?  (Applause.)  Oh my goodness.  Thank you, Serena, Allyson, thanks to all the athletes.  And let me just tell you, I wanted to take a moment before we got into some fun, because I wanted to talk to you all -- I’m in my home town.  (Applause.) 

So listen up, just a little serious business because all of these incredible athletes you see here -- they have traveled here today to my home town because, like me, they wanted to be here with all of you amazing kids.  We wanted you to know that there are millions -- do you hear me, millions -- of people like us all over this world who love you so much.  We love you more than you can ever know.  We love you so much.  (Applause.)

And we care about you -- I want you to hear this -- we care about you.  We care and believe in you.  We believe that you have what it takes to accomplish anything that you want in this life.  But we also want you to understand, and I want you all to listen, we want you to understand that the only difference between all of you all out there and all of us standing up here on this stage are the choices that you make in life.

It is so important for each of you to realize that every day you, and you alone, have the power to choose the life you want for yourself.  Whether you spend your day watching TV or whether you use that time to pick up your books and finish your homework -- see, that’s your choice.  Whether you fill your bodies with chips and candy or fruits and vegetables -- see, that’s on you.  Whether you sit around all day playing video games or get up and move your bodies -- these are all the choices that will determine who you will become and what you can achieve.

See, every one of these great athletes standing with me today had to make good choices, and they had to work hard to get where they are.  See, what you guys have to understand -- they weren’t just born faster or stronger or smarter.  And maybe it’s hard for you to believe, but many of us didn’t have it easy growing up.  I mean, some of us are from tough neighborhoods where we had to watch our backs.  Or we went to schools where the books were torn and the lockers were beat up and stuff didn’t always work.  Yes, some of us grew up without a father -- or we saw people we loved involved with gangs and drugs.  And it was a struggle to get each other’s backs and hang together as a family.

And let me tell you, I can tell you that growing up, my family didn’t have a lot of money.  We live in a little bitty apartment on the South Side of Chicago.  (Applause.)  South Side.  (Applause.)  And for most of my life growing up, I shared a tiny bedroom with my big brother.  And some nights, let me tell you, it was hard to get my homework done because it was so noisy that I could barely think.  And I know some of you know what that’s like, right?


MRS. OBAMA:  So it was hard.  So there were times when I started to doubt myself.  In fact, a lot of us up on this stage grew up being told by others that we weren’t good enough or smart enough to achieve our dreams.  We all heard that, right?  So if you guys remember just one thing from our time today, it’s this:  Although I am the First Lady of the United States of America -- (applause) -- listen to this, because this is the truth -- I am no different from you.  (Applause.)

Look, I grew up in the same neighborhoods, went to the same schools, faced the same struggles, shared the same hopes and dreams that all of you share.  I am you.  And the only reason that I am standing up here today is that back when I was your age, I made a set of choices with my life -- do you hear me -- choices.

I chose not to listen to the doubters and the haters.  (Applause.)  I chose to shut those voices out of my head and listen to my own voice.  I chose to ignore any negative things that were happening around me, and instead focus on all the wonderful things I had going on inside of me.  I chose to focus on what I could control. 

So let me tell you what I did.  I worked hard in school to get good grades.  I listened to my teachers.  I behaved in school.  I learned from everyone and everything around me.  I stayed active.  I didn’t do -- I did everything that I could to keep my body healthy and fit.  I did everything within my power to prepare myself for great things.  And eventually all of my work paid off -- I went to college, I want to law school.  And because I had a good education, I could get a good job so that my family wouldn’t have to worry about money and I could live in a house where my daughters could have their own rooms.

And the lesson I learned along the way is that it did not matter where I was from.  It didn’t matter how much my parents had.  What mattered was how hard I was willing to work, and how deeply I was willing to believe in myself.  (Applause.) 

And one of the main reasons I wanted all of you to be here today with us is that that is true for every single one of the folks up on this stage here today.  They can tell you that there is no magic to their achievements.  No one waved a wand and turned these folks into champions.  They turned themselves into champions by doing the hard work, getting their education, exercising every day, eating healthy, practicing their skills over and over and over again.

And we’re all here today to tell you that you can do the same thing.  Do you hear me -- you all can do the same thing.  (Applause.)  You all have every reason to be hopeful about your future.  Don’t let anybody tell you differently.  You all can make yourselves into somebody that you’re proud of.  You have it in you.  You can be anything you want -- whether it’s a doctor, a teacher, a scientist, or, yes, President of the United States.  You all can do that.  (Applause.)

You can make your family proud of who you are and who you become.  And I have the secret.  Do you want to hear the secret?


MRS. OBAMA:  You have to get a good education.  Do you hear me -- you have to get a good education.  That is the most important thing that you can do for yourselves right now.  And that means that you have to go to school every day -- every single day no matter what you’re school looks like or what’s going on there, you have to be sitting at your desks, ready to learn.  You’ve got one job at this age and that is to be the best student that you can be.  (Applause.)

So listen to your teachers.  Do your homework -- and not just when you feel like it, but every day, no matter what’s happening in your life.  Remember, no one is born smart.  You become smart through hard work.  The more you read, the more you do math, the smarter you become.  So every single one of you can become smart if you’re willing to put the work in.

And finally, you guys need to take care of your bodies.  You have to.  That means you have to eat the right foods.  It’s not a joke, it’s not a game -- foods that will make you strong and give you energy.  You’ve got to eat fruits.  You’ve got to eat vegetables.  You’ve got to use those meals, those good foods you’re getting now in your schools every single day. 

And you have to be active, guys.  You listen to me -- you’ve got to turn off the TV, move away from the screen.  (Applause.)  You’ve got to keep your body active, even if that means just turning on some music and dancing for an hour.  Do a little dougie, a few jumping jacks, some push-ups.  And you don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to be healthy.  You just have to move.  That’s how you’ll prepare your bodies and your minds for greatness. 

You know what -- and now it’s time for the serious stuff to end, okay?  Did you all hear all the message that I had for you?


MRS. OBAMA:  You all promise me that you’re going to be good students.

AUDIENCE:  We promise!

MRS. OBAMA:  You all promise me that you’re going to eat right.

AUDIENCE:  We promise!

MRS. OBAMA:  You promise me you’re going to get moving.

AUDIENCE:  We promise!

MRS. OBAMA:  And we’re going to start right here and right now.  (Applause.)  These champions are going to lead the way by showing us how to get moving.  So let’s have some fun.  Are you ready?  (Applause.)  All right, let’s move!  (Applause.)

12:40 P.M. CST

Extending Middle Class Tax Cuts

Hanging Out with First Lady Michelle Obama

Mrs. Obama joins a virtual conversation about Let’s Move!, her initiative to ensure our nation’s kids grow up healthy and reach their full potential.

The Open Government Partnership publishes the text of the President's directive extending whistleblower protections to the intelligence and national security communities, as requested by the community.

The Department of Labor celebrates its centennial anniversary and looks forward to continuing its important work on behalf on America's workers.

view all related blog posts

View the original article here

Biogen says FDA starts review of hemophilia B drug

WESTON, Mass. -- Biogen Idec Inc. said Monday that the Food and Drug Administration is now reviewing its application for a new hemophilia treatment.

The company's drug rFIXFc is designed to treat hemophilia B, and Biogen said it lasts longer than current drugs. That would allow patients to endure fewer treatments. Biogen said the FDA will conduct a 10-month review, which means a decision would be due by early January.

Biogen said rFIXFc was effective in clinical trials when patients received a dose every one to two weeks. The company said current treatments can require more than 100 injections a year.

Hemophilia is a rare, inherited disorder that affects blood clotting. Hemophilia B affects only males, and patients have little or none of a blood clotting protein called factor IX.

Biogen and Sweden's Orphan Biovitrum are also studying a treatment for hemophilia A, which is more common and is caused by a different deficiency. Biogen plans to file for marketing approval of that treatment in the next few months.

Shares of Biogen Idec rose 39 cents to $169.09 in afternoon trading.

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Remarks by the President in Personnel Announcements

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

East Room

10:27 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.  This afternoon, I’ll hold my first Cabinet meeting of my second term.  And there will be some new faces, and there will be some familiar faces in new jobs.  But there will also be some seats waiting to be filled on a permanent basis.  And today, I’m announcing my plan to nominate three outstanding individuals to help us tackle some of our most important challenges.

One of those challenges is building on the work that we've done to control our own energy future while reducing pollution that contributes to climate change.  And few people have played more of a role in addressing these issues than current Secretary of Energy Steven Chu.  Steven has helped us to speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.  He’s given more of our brightest young scientists the opportunity to pursue the ideas that will shape our future.  So I could not be more grateful to Steve for the incredible contribution that he’s made to this country. 

And now that he’s decided to leave Washington for sunny California, I’m proud to nominate another brilliant scientist to take his place -- Mr. Ernie Moniz.  There’s Ernie right there.  (Applause.)

Now, the good news is that Ernie already knows his way around the Department of Energy.  He is a physicist by training, but he also served as Under Secretary of Energy under President Clinton.  Since then, he’s directed MIT’s Energy Initiative, which brings together prominent thinkers and energy companies to develop the technologies that can lead us to more energy independence and also to new jobs. 

Most importantly, Ernie knows that we can produce more energy and grow our economy while still taking care of our air, our water and our climate.  And so I could not be more pleased to have Ernie join us.  And he will be joined in that effort by my nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.

Over the last four years, Lisa Jackson and her team at the EPA have helped us to reduce emissions of the dangerous carbon pollution that causes climate change, put in place the toughest new pollution standards in two decades.  Lisa is now ready for a well-deserved break.  And I want to very much thank Bob Perciasepe, who’s not only been a great Deputy Administrator, but has also been acting as the Acting Administrator.  So, please, Bob -- everybody give Bob a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

As we move forward, I think there is nobody who can do a better job in filling Lisa’s shoes permanently than my nominee who’s standing beside me here -- Gina McCarthy.  (Applause.)

Now, you wouldn't know from talking to her, but Gina is from Boston.  (Laughter.)  And one of her proudest moments was yelling “Play ball!” at Fenway Park before a Red Sox game.  But Gina has got plenty more to be proud of.  As a top environmental official in Massachusetts and Connecticut, she helped design programs to expand energy efficiency and promote renewable energy.  As Assistant EPA Administrator, Gina has focused on practical, cost-effective ways to keep our air clean and our economy growing.  She’s earned a reputation as a straight shooter.  She welcomes different points of views.  I’m confident that she’s going to do an outstanding job leading the EPA.

So these two over here, they're going to be making sure that we're investing in American energy, that we're doing everything that we can to combat the threat of climate change, that we're going to be creating jobs and economic opportunity in the first place.  They are going to be a great team.  And these are some of my top priorities going forward.

But as President, one of the things you learn very quickly is that it's not enough just to talk a big game; the real test is whether your priorities are reflected in a budget.  And that’s where the rubber hits the road.  That’s where my third nominee comes in.

Since I took office, Jeff Zients has served as America’s first Chief Performance Officer and the Deputy Director of the management -- Director for Management of the Office of Management and Budget.  He's made our government more efficient.  He's saved taxpayers a lot of money.  He’s stepped in as Acting Director of OMB not once, but twice, including leading up to the fiscal cliff.  So there’s no question that Jeff’s skill and versatility have served the American people very well.  I expect it will continue to serve us well in the future. 

In the meantime, I am confident that my nominee for OMB Director, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, is the right person to continue Jeff's great work.  (Applause.)  

In the 1990s, when she was, what, 19 -- (laughter) -- Sylvia served under Jack Lew as Deputy Director of OMB -- part of a team that presided over three budget surpluses in a row.  Later, she helped the Gates Foundation grow into a global force for good, and then she helped the Walmart Foundation expand its charitable work.  So Sylvia knows her way around a budget. 

But as the granddaughter of Greek immigrants, she also understands that our goal when we put together a budget is not just to make the numbers add up.  Our goal is also to reignite the true engine of economic growth in this country, and that is a strong and growing middle class -- to offer ladders of opportunity for anybody willing to climb them.

Sylvia's mom is here.  And Sylvia loves to talk about her parents growing up in West Virginia and the values that they instilled in her as educators.  And I think that reflects everything that Sylvia now does.  And so I'm absolutely confident that she's going to do a great job at OMB.  And those values are especially important to remember now, as we continue to try and find a way forward in light of the budget cuts that are already starting to cost us jobs and hurt our economy. 

As I said before, the American people are resilient.  And I know that Jeff and Sylvia will do everything in their power to blunt the impact of these cuts on businesses and middle-class families.  But eventually, a lot of people are going to feel some pain.  That’s why we've got to keep on working to reduce our deficit in a balanced way -- an approach that's supported by the majority of the American people, including a majority of Republicans.  And I'm confident that we can get there if people of goodwill come together. 

So I want to thank Steve and Lisa and Jeff once more for their outstanding service, for all the great work that they’ve done in this administration over the last several years.  I want to thank Ernie, Gina and Sylvia, and their families, for agreeing to take on these big roles. 

I hope the Senate will confirm them as soon as possible, because we’ve got a lot of work to do and we cannot afford delay. But I can promise you that as soon as the Senate gives them the go ahead, they're going to hit the ground running and they're going to help make America a stronger and more prosperous country. 

So thank you very much, everybody.  (Applause.)  

10:36 A.M. EST 

Extending Middle Class Tax Cuts

Hanging Out with First Lady Michelle Obama

Mrs. Obama joins a virtual conversation about Let’s Move!, her initiative to ensure our nation’s kids grow up healthy and reach their full potential.

The Open Government Partnership publishes the text of the President's directive extending whistleblower protections to the intelligence and national security communities, as requested by the community.

The Department of Labor celebrates its centennial anniversary and looks forward to continuing its important work on behalf on America's workers.

view all related blog posts

View the original article here

INTERVIEW-Elan says investors unmoved by Royalty Pharma offer

DUBLIN, March 4 (Reuters) - The vast majority of investors at Elan do not view a $6.6 billion approach by U.S. investment firm Royalty Pharma as worthy of discussion, the Irish drugmaker's chief executive said.

Elan announced on Monday that it would give shareholders 20 percent of the royalty rights for multiple sclerosis drug Tysabri and Elan Chief Executive Kelly Martin told Reuters that this was not a response to Royalty's approach last week.

"We simply don't view the Royalty indication of interest as credible. The vast majority of our investor base simply don't view Royalty's indication as worthy of any discussion period," Martin told Reuters in a telephone interview.

"I wish Royalty well, they can do what they need to do but we're not in any discussions with them at all on any topic and we don't see any need to have those discussions."

(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Anthony Barker)

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ADHD’s Lasting Effects Prove That Mental Disorders Need To Be Treated Just Like Any Other Illness

When the bipartisan Wellstone-Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) was signed into law in 2008, mental health advocates hoped it would begin bridging the gap between the way that mental health treatments and more “traditional” medical services are provided — particularly by prohibiting different standards for one type of care over the other. Unfortunately, the evidence shows there’s still a long way to go when it comes to making the dream of medical parity a reality.

Time’s new Mayo clinic-sponsored report points out that ADHD, while being increasingly diagnosed and treated in children, has lingering long-term effects on adults and is a strong indicator of co-occurring mental illnesses for both children and adults. But lax insurance requirements, as well as a lack of awareness about the long-term effects of mental illness, have led to a dearth of research regarding the comprehensive effects of what medical professionals tend to dismiss as a childhood behavioral disorder:

It’s not that the condition isn’t being addressed adequately, or that doctors, parents and teachers are not aware of the condition: they certainly are, since education and awareness about ADHD has increased in recent decades, even contributing to a rise in diagnoses… [Dr. Barbaresi of Boston Children’s Hospital and Mayo Clinic] argues, however, that the legacy and long term implications of an ADHD diagnosis haven’t really been considered and studied adequately, since most doctors tend to think of the condition as one that primarily affects children that they tend to outgrow once they reach adulthood. The need for attention is even greater considering that the study also found a connection between ADHD and suicide. While the absolute number of deaths in the adults who still have ADHD is low, the statistical difference is significant: children with ADHD were nearly five times more likely to die from suicide than other people in the study group. [...]

In addition, data from this same group of study participants showed that more than 60% of kids with ADHD have a learning disability and develop at least one additional mental-health problem while they’re still children. Yet insurance companies are reluctant to authorize additional assessments that may detect and treat these conditions. “If a child gets diagnosed with ADHD, we want to do a comprehensive psychological assessment to see if the child has undiagnosed disorders because we know these kids are at risk,” says Barbaresi. “But insurance won’t pay.”

That’s in stark contrast to the way that children are evaluated for other medical conditions, such as diabetes. “We know they’re at risk for developing kidney and eye problems so they’re regularly assessed for those issues. We don’t wait until a child has renal failure or loses his eyesight,” says Barbaresi. “But with childhood ADHD, we can’t get authorization to do these assessments until it’s already happened.”

The Mayo study on ADHD underscores the practical hurdles of enacting true parity between the ways that mental health disorders and more “traditional” medical problems are diagnosed, treated, and even researched. Societal stigmas and decades of traditional medical practice have perpetuated a system in which mental health disorders are considered to be unique, individualistic medical problems — they are not — that ignores the interplay that mental disorders have with other medical conditions, not to mention the physical manifestations of such disorders.

Much of the focus on changing this unacceptable status quo has — justifiably — concentrated on funding and access to mental health care services. For instance, between the Wellstone-Domenici law and Obamacare’s requirement that statewide insurers include mental health coverage as an “essential health benefit,” millions of Americans are expected to gain access to mental services:

That is undoubtedly a step in the right direction. But the mental health benefits that states must provide under Obamacare are left largely to states’ discretion — and there is little reason to expect that states will impose strict requirements on insurers since mental health is still largely considered a form of “specialty” care culturally, if not legally, and private insurance doesn’t tend to cover patients’ out-of-pocket psychiatric costs. Bringing true parity between mental and physical health care necessitates a paradigm shift in the very culture of how such conditions are analyzed, approached, and treated, in addition to stricter insurer requirements for providing comprehensive care.

Armed with more data from longitudinal studies about the long-term effects and complex interactions of mental health problems — such as the Mayo ADHD study — health care professionals could substantially improve the lives of millions of Americans, and help eliminate a dangerous medical inequality and stigma in the process.

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