Archive for October, 2013

Prayer and Meditation for Friday, November 1, 2013 — Solemnity of All Saints and the Sermon on the Mount

October 31, 2013

Solemnity of All Saints Lectionary: 667

Reading 1 Rv 7:2-4, 9-14


I, John, saw another angel come up from the East, holding the seal of the living God. He cried out in a loud voice to the four angels who were given power to damage the land and the sea, “Do not damage the land or the sea or the trees until we put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.” I heard the number of those who had been marked with the seal, one hundred and forty-four thousand marked from every tribe of the children of Israel.
After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice:
“Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb.”
All the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They prostrated themselves before the throne, worshiped God, and exclaimed:
“Amen. Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving, honor, power, and might be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”
Then one of the elders spoke up and said to me, “Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?” I said to him, “My lord, you are the one who knows.” He said to me, “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 24:1bc-2, 3-4ab, 5-6


R. (see 6) Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face. The LORD’s are the earth and its fullness; the world and those who dwell in it. For he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers. R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face. Who can ascend the mountain of the LORD? or who may stand in his holy place? One whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean, who desires not what is vain. R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face. He shall receive a blessing from the LORD, a reward from God his savior. Such is the race that seeks him, that seeks the face of the God of Jacob. R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.

Reading 2 1 Jn 3:1-3


Beloved: See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as he is pure.

Gospel Mt 5:1-12a


When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.”
First Reflection upon today’s readings:

Shortly after he converted to Catholicism in the late 1930s, Thomas Merton was walking the streets of New York with his friend, Robert Lax. Lax was Jewish, and he asked Merton what he wanted to be, now that he was Catholic.

“I don’t know,” Merton replied, adding simply that he thought maybe he wanted to be a good Catholic.

Lax stopped him in his tracks.

“What you should say,” he told him, “is that you want to be a saint!”

Merton was dumbfounded.

“How do you expect me to become a saint?,” Merton asked him.

Lax said: “All that is necessary to be a saint is to want to be one. Don’t you believe that God will make you what He created you to be, if you will consent to let him do it? All you have to do is desire it.”…

Thomas Merton knew his friend was right.

Merton, of course, would go on to become one of the great spiritual thinkers and writers of the last century.

His friend Bob Lax would later convert to Catholicism himself — and begin his own journey to try and be a saint.

But the words Lax spoke ring down through the decades to all of us today. Because they speak so simply and profoundly to our calling as Catholic Christians.

Like Thomas Merton and Lax — we don’t want to be good Catholics. We want to be saints. And the saints before us show us how. By leading good lives. By living the virtues and obeying God’s law and God’s word. By seeking God’s will for us and then doing it!

If we life righteously with humility and gratitude and joy — we will someday be among the Communion of Saints.

Thomas Merton




Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

The Church today celebrates All Saints Day. Together with the whole Church, the communion of saints, we rejoice with all those members of the Church who have arrived at their destiny.  Where they have arrived at is also our calling and destiny as well.  But the fact remains that in the minds of many of us, we feel unworthy about this call.  Indeed, if ever someone says to us, that “you are a saint”, we would react almost defensively by saying that we are no saints because we know how imperfect we are.  The implication is therefore that all saints are perfectly holy and sinless.  Yet, it would be against our faith to think that we are not called to sainthood because this is our very and ultimate calling in life: to be saints and to be in fellowship with all the saints in heaven and with the Holy Trinity.  So if we feel diffident about our vocation to be saints, it is because we have a false notion as to what and who is a saint.

Who then is a saint?  The first thing we must realize is that saints were not perfect until when they were canonized or when they were admitted into heaven.  In other words, saints were very human and ordinary people just like you and me.  Saints too had to go through much struggles in their lives. They too had their weaknesses, sinfulness and lack of charity to contend with.

What then is the difference between the saints and us?  We too have our weaknesses like them.  But the difference is, as St John tells us, they “have been through the great persecution, and they have washed their robes white again in the blood of the Lamb.”  It is clear then that before they became saints, they were sinners but through their faith in Christ, they were able to wash their robes white again.  They have attained victory over sin, symbolized by the palms they held in their hands.  With the grace of God, each day, they become more and more like Christ. By so doing, they are sealed by God, Christified, so to speak, and thus recover their likeness as the children of God.  In fact, that is the very reality of all of us, as St John remarked, “Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us, by letting us be called God’s children; and that is what we are.”

So the difference between the saints and us is that they have purified themselves to become more like Christ and therefore come to their consciousness that they are God’s children during their sojourn on earth.  In our case, however, many of us, in different degrees are still not aware of our true identity as the children of God.  Thus, we live our lives in such a way that does not reflect God’s life or His love.  We do not bear the seal of His presence and light.  And how is that so?  Because St John says, “the world refused to acknowledge him, therefore it does not acknowledge us.”  When we refuse to recognize Christ and accept Him into our lives, we are unable to see our true calling and identity.   But when we accept Christ and recognize our sonship in Him, then St John says that although “what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed … we shall be like him because we shall see him as he really is.”

Furthermore, the saints are those who not only become like Jesus, but they see God and Jesus face to face.  This encounter with God face to face is what the Church traditionally called the gift of beatific vision of the saints.  Of course, we know that God has no face except Jesus Christ since He is pure Spirit.   Beatific vision would therefore mean that we see God face to face so fully in Jesus, in the communion of saints and in ourselves.  This privilege is reserved of course only to the saints and no mystical encounter on earth can be compared to the beatific vision in heaven.  Why is this so?  Because it is possible to see God who is without face only through Christ who is the image and likeness of God in person!  But to see Christ also entails that we share in His same likeness.  Hence, if all saints bear the likeness of Christ, then, necessarily, to have a beatific vision is to see God in himself, in Christ, in the communion of saints and in ourselves, since we are in communion with each other and with God, the Trinity.

The implication for us, according to St John, is this: “Surely everyone who entertains this hope must purify himself, must try to be as pure as Christ.”  Yes, if we were to see God face to face and to see God in others and in ourselves, then we must restore our status as God’s children, and this is, as St John reiterates, who we really are already, even if we fail to realize this completely.  The way to this purification process is of course concretely spelt out in the beatitudes found in today’s gospel.  The beatitudes are the blueprint for us to perfect ourselves in the likeness of Christ.  After all, we must realize that these guidelines of the Kingdom life are culled from the very life of Jesus Himself.  He had lived these beatitudes in His own life even before preaching to us.

Briefly then, these beatitudes urge us firstly to cultivate a disposition that is humble and poor in spirit, since poverty and humility is the gateway to all other virtues.    Only through humility, can we become compassionate like the Father towards others, being gentle and merciful, empathizing with them especially when they suffer injustices and persecutions.  In this way, we demonstrate that we are truly sons of God since we reflect the purity, mercy, love, justice and righteousness of God in our lives.  In identifying ourselves with others, especially those who are suffering, we indirectly recognize them as sharing in our common calling as children of God in the communion of saints.

But the question remains as to how we can live out the beatitudes in our lives much as we want to.  We know how difficult it is to be true to ourselves, to what God has created us for.  This is where today’s celebration is important.  When we rejoice with those members of our Christian family who have arrived at their destiny, they also inspire us.  For they are saints today not because they were born perfect but they perfected themselves through trials, struggles and sufferings and, for some, over many long years.  So we do not become a saint overnight.  That is only wishful thinking.  But it is nevertheless not a far-fetched hope to be a saint one day.  For if they could arrive at their destiny in spite of their imperfections then we certainly share that same hope as well.

But the saints are remembered not simply as models of hope for us, but because they are in heaven, they are still in communion with us.  Being filled with the love of Christ, they too will have compassion for us. They are in solidarity with us.  They are as it were in heaven cheering us along whilst we are still struggling in our race on earth.  So we must turn to them not only for inspiration but also for support and prayers.  We should ask them to intercede for us so that we too can be reunited with them, some of whom we knew and loved personally on earth.  Yes, the thought of the multitude of saints who have reached their goal and their union with us in prayer cannot but motivate us further in our purification process to become more and more like Christ.

Finally, let us remember that the victory of the saints is in the final analysis not simply a question of disciplining ourselves in the way of the gospel through our own human efforts.  Nay, the victory over evil and sin is not within our power but all is dependent on the grace of God.  It is not through our efforts that we will become saints but only through the grace and power of God.  This is made clear in St John’s vision, for the saints were declaring victory not for themselves, as if they had won or made it, but to God.

Hence, to be saints we must rely ultimately on God’s grace.  Only He can empower us to be His saints and give us the grace to purify ourselves in Christ.  And the good news is that such grace is freely given to us if only we are receptive to His love.  For good reason, therefore, St John exhorts us, “Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us, by letting us be called God’s children; and that is what we are.”  Indeed, even before we reach our destiny, we who live the blessed life according to the beatitudes would already have had a foretaste of the life that is to come.   That is why St John says we are already the children of God.  Our basis for our final hope to be with the Saints in heaven and with the Trinity is founded on the joy of the blessed life we live now. 

In the meantime, since we are really God’s children through the grace of God, we can be certain that God will grant us the grace that is necessary to realize our divine dignity and calling.  All we need to do is to be in union with Christ, Mary and the communion of saints so that His grace can come through them.


Forbes: White House Predicted in 2010 That 93 Million Would Lose Their Health Plans Under ObamaCare

October 31, 2013

To counter accusations that the President lied when he repeatedly told  Americans they can keep their health insurance plans if they liked them, the  administration has claimed that he was referring to the millions of people  covered by their employers.

By Noel Sheppard | October 31, 2013

An article from Forbes Thursday thoroughly refutes this claiming that Obama officials back  in 2010 predicted that 93 million Americans would have their plans cancelled as  a result of ObamaCare including a vast amount of those with employer-sponsored  plans:

If you read the Affordable Care Act when it was passed, you knew that it was  dishonest for President Obama to claim that “if you like your plan, you can keep  your plan,” as he did—and continues to do—on countless occasions. And we now  know that the administration knew this all along. It turns out that in an  obscure report buried in a June 2010 edition of the Federal Register,  administration officials predicted massive disruption of the private insurance  market. […]

[T]he administration’s  commentary in the Federal Register did not only refer to the individual  market, but also the market for employer-sponsored health insurance.

Section 1251 of the Affordable Care Act contains what’s called a  “grandfather” provision that, in theory, allows people to keep their existing  plans if they like them. But subsequent regulations from the Obama  administration interpreted that provision so narrowly as to prevent most plans  from gaining this protection.

“The Departments’ mid-range estimate is that 66 percent of small employer  plans and 45 percent of large employer plans will relinquish their grandfather  status by the end of 2013,” wrote the administration on page 34552. All in all,  more than half of employer-sponsored plans will lose their “grandfather status”  and get canceled. According to the Congressional Budget Office, 156 million  Americans—more than half the population—was covered by employer-sponsored  insurance in 2013.

As we found out from Lisa Myers’ report Monday, the administration predicted that between 47 and 60 percent of  individually-purchased policies would be cancelled under ObamaCare.

Forbes did the math to calculate a total:

51 percent of the employer-based market plus 53.5 percent of the non-group  market (the middle of the administration’s range) amounts to 93 million  Americans.

What this means is that not only did Obama lie when he repeatedly told  Americans that they can keep their plans if they like them, he also lied in  Boston on Wednesday when he said he was referring to the majority of Americans  coverered by their employers.

Will media report this?

Stay tuned?

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China sends sympathy to Filipino doc’s kin

October 31, 2013

By , ,

12:45 am | Friday, November 1st,  2013

The Chinese government has extended its sympathies to  victims of Monday’s terror attack at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, where a  Filipino doctor was among those killed and her family among the injured.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying has  said China would provide assistance to victims of the SUV (sport utility  vehicle) crash at the popular tourist site, an incident that authorities labeled  a “terrorist attack” on Wednesday.

Beijing regularly calls such incidents “terrorism” and  blames them on Muslim Uighurs from China’s far western region of Xinjiang, but  Uighur organizations dismiss that as an excuse to justify religious and security  restrictions.

“We are distressed by this unfortunate incident and  express condolences to the victims and sympathies to the bereaved families and  the injured,” Hua said in a press conference in Beijing on Wednesday.

Hua said Chinese authorities responded to the incident  immediately to “ensure that the injured get timely and effective treatment.”

“We also informed relevant countries’ embassies in  China of the incident and facilitated consular officials’ visits to the injured  and their performance of consular duties. We will continue to offer necessary  assistance and properly deal with relevant matters,” Hua said.

Filipino family

A Filipino doctor, Rizalina Camia-Bunyi, 55, was killed  while her husband, Nelson, and two daughters—Francisca Ysabel, 23, and Mikaella,  21—were among 38 tourists injured when the speeding SUV driven by Uighur Usmen  Hasan crashed into a crowded sidewalk and burst into flames in Tiananmen Square,  the symbolic heart of the Chinese state.

Four others were killed, including a tourist from  southern China’s Guangdong province, Hasan and his wife and mother, who were  with him in the vehicle.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) earlier said  Bunyi’s family was in a stable condition at Tongren Hospital in Beijing. Their  relatives left for Beijing on Wednesday to check on their condition and help  arrange the repatriation of Bunyi’s remains.

Also on Wednesday, Chinese authorities announced they  had arrested five suspects in the alleged terrorist attack some 10 hours after  the incident.

Those detained were Uighurs but the overseas World  Uyghur Congress said the official narrative of the Tiananmen incident was full  of holes and discriminatory.

The DFA declined to comment on the investigation of the  incident, saying it was giving priority to looking after the Filipino victims.

“We are not in a position to comment on the ongoing  investigation of the incident by the Chinese authorities. At this time, we are  focused on attending to the welfare and immediate needs of the victims,” Raul  Hernandez, spokesman for the DFA, said on Thursday.

Deeper pain

Bunyi’s father said Thursday that learning that his  daughter died not in an accident but in an act of terrorism deepened his  family’s pain.

“My daughter and her family had nothing to do with the  Chinese government. It’s their government’s problem that they should fix,” said  Rodrigo Camia, 84.

Bunyi and her family left for China on Sunday for a  vacation. They were supposed to return to the Philippines on Thursday, in time  for All Saints’ Day.

“I’ve heard about the arrests, too, but that’s no good  news. Nothing good comes out of this because I lost my daughter,” Camia said in  a phone interview from his home in Imus City, Cavite province.

The Camias and the Bunyis are seeking help from the DFA  for the immediate repatriation of Bunyi’s remains and for the return of her  family.

Bunyi’s daughters were injured and her husband had a  fracture that needed an operation.

“We want them (Nelson and his two daughters) treated  here before [Rizalina’s] body arrives,” Camia said.

Ma still doesn’t know

Camia has yet to tell his 83-year-old wife, Pacencia,  that their daughter had died.  has weak lungs and is frail.

“I just told her to wait because [Rizalina] might call  us soon. I didn’t know what else to tell her,” Camia said.—With a  report from AFP

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Japan, China Territorial Tensions Rising Over Unmanned Drones

October 31, 2013
FILE - An unidentified plane flies near disputed islands, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, in the air over the East China Sea, in this handout photo taken by Japan Air Self-Defense Force.


FILE – An unidentified plane flies near disputed islands, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, in the air over the East China Sea, in this handout photo taken by Japan Air Self-Defense Force.
Daniel Schearf
October 31, 2013
SEOUL — The long-running territorial dispute between China and Japan over a remote group of islands is in the spotlight this week as the two countries conduct massive military exercises. Analysts warn the drills and China’s increased use of drone aircraft in the region raise the risk of an unintended confrontation.
Japan on Friday begins a week of live-fire military drills involving 34,000 troops, navy destroyers, jet fighters and amphibious assault vehicles.
The exercises include operations to defend remote islands from attack and come as Tokyo and Beijing are testing each other in a war of words over the disputed Senkaku islands, known as Diaoyu in China.   Japanese media report Prime Minister Shinzo Abe this month approved a plan to shoot down any foreign drones that refuse to leave Japan’s airspace.
Kyodo news agency reports Abe decided on the tough policy in response to China’s flying a drone in September near the islands.
China’s  Wing Loong drone, closely modeled on the U.S. MQ-9 Reaper, on display at the China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai. Photo: Courtesy David Cenciotti
Although not yet officially confirmed, Japan has for months been considering the measure to protect the waters surrounding the Japan-administered islands.
China’s military spokesman said an attack on its aircraft would be considered an act of war and that it would strike back.
Rory Medcalf, the director of the international security program at Sydney’s Lowey Institute, said China’s introduction of drones into the dispute, and pledge to defend them, has made the situation more unpredictable.
“So, the Chinese have kind of put Japan into an awkward position.  If it lets them pass, or if it lets them fly over disputed, contested airspace then China is further establishing its presence there,” he said. “But, if Japan strikes back, then it’s really escalating tensions potentially towards conflict.”
Beijing has been aggressively developing its unmanned aerial vehicles and last year unveiled armed attack drones that appeared to be modeled on U.S. versions.
China’s Foreign Ministry played down its military’s talk of war by implying Japan was hyping the situation in order to build up its defenses.
Japan’s neighbors, who suffered from its World War II aggression, are wary of plans by Tokyo to increase the military operations allowed under its pacifist constitution.
But China is the one asserting its power in the region and testing Japan’s defense of the islands. Beijing sends weekly, and sometimes daily, patrols of ships and jet fighters near the islands, forcing Japan to respond by scrambling its own jets.
Abe this week said Japan would not tolerate any use of force by China to change the status quo.
Beijing responded by calling Japanese politicians “arrogant” and “self-deceiving” over the dispute.
“The real problem isn’t really so much the war of words, it is that the jet scrambling and fleets navigating in the disputed area, there could be a miscalculation with serious consequences,” said Jeff Kingston, director of Asian Studies at Japan’s Temple University.
China’s official Xinhua news agency this month revealed Chinese nuclear submarines are being sent on regular sea patrols. Chinese destroyers earlier this year for the first time sailed the strait between Russia and Japan, raising eyebrows in Tokyo.
Japan’s exercises begin as China finishes up its own military exercises. China’s navy earlier this month began weeks of drills in the West Pacific with, for the first time, all three of its navy fleets.  Xinhua reports the exercises are aimed at improving combat abilities on the high seas.
Medcalf said the coinciding exercises could also help the two sides release some steam and prevent more threatening posturing.  But he said Japan-China hostility is not likely to cool down any time soon.
“Tension is becoming the new normal in relations between China and Japan.  And, the best we can probably hope for is that they find informal ways of managing this, informal ways of their navies and their maritime forces really signaling to one another or keeping out of each others way,” Medcalf said. “It’s possible that over the next, I guess, ten to twenty years they will work this out and perhaps reach some new political understandings.  The danger zone will be, I think, in the next few years before they reach these new levels of understanding.”
Medcalf said one positive step would be if the countries establish operational hotlines between their forces to prevent unintentional confrontations from turning into a bigger conflict.
Japan says China’s recent introduction of drones is a provocation and has responded by scrambling manned (and armed) jet fighters.
China and Japan have been playing an endless cat and mouse game at sea in the vicinity of Senkaku (in Japanese) and Diaoyu (the Chinese name) islands in the East China sea. Vast oil wealth is believed to be beneath the sea floor near here.


Graphic above shows the area in dispute between China and Japan

Map of South China Sea

China has claimed much of the South China Sea for itself —  claims that have upset many in the region, especially Vietnam and the Philippines. A huge wealth of untapped oil is believed to be below the sea here.

Above: China says it has sovereignty over all inside the “Nine Dash Line” as seen here.




Sebelius hit with subpoena from Congress to find truth about how many have signed up on disastrous Obamacare website

October 31, 2013

By  David Martosko, U.s. Political Editor

The Republican Party’s top congressional  investigator has issued a subpoena ordering Health and Human Services Secretary  Kathleen Sebelius, ordering her to turn over a raft of documents related to the  disastrous website, the chronically ill Obamacare insurance portal.

Sebelius has two weeks to tell the House  Oversight and Government Reform Committee how many people have enrolled, and attempted to enroll, in federal insurance  exchanges through the website.

The subpoena also requires HHS to produce  documents showing how much the agency knew about technical problems with prior to its failed  launch, and paperwork showing how much  testing was conducted ahead of time.

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Order: Sebelius has two weeks to tell the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee how many people have enrolled, and attempted to enroll.
Order: Sebelius has two weeks to tell the House  Oversight and Government Reform Committee how many people have enrolled, and  attempted to enroll

‘The Administration’s failure to provide  answers about what led to the disastrous launch of and what is  being done to fix it is completely unacceptable,’ said committee chairman  Darrell Issa, a California Republican, in a statement.

‘The evidence is mounting that the website  did not go through proper testing, including critical security testing, and that  the Administration ignored repeated warnings from contractors about ongoing  problems.’


Issa is focused, in part, on data security  risks that HHS has been reluctant to address. Inadequate digital protections  could leave Americans who give the website their personal information open to  identity theft and other problems.

‘The American people deserve to know why the  Administration spent significant taxpayer money on a product that is entirely  dysfunctional and puts their personal information at risk,’ Issa  said.

He also complained about ‘skyrocketing  out-of-pocket costs, fewer choices, and the cancellation of millions of people’s  current health insurance coverage’ that have plagued many Americans’ experience  with the Affordable Care Act.

U.S. Secretary.
Under the table: Sebelius was unable to tell a  congressional hearing yesterday the crucial figures. The subpoena also demands  her to turn over evidence of prior warnings of the website’s failings

Hopping mad: California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, dropped a subpoena on Kathleen Sebelius' desk Thursday


Hopping mad: California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa,  chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, dropped a  subpoena on Kathleen Sebelius’ desk Thursday

The committee, working with Senate Health  Committee ranking Republican Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, first requested the  documents and information on Oct. 10, and made a second demanded on Oct. 24.

The lengthy set of questions addressed the  costs with fixing the design and technical mistakes that brought the website to  a crashing halt shortly after its launch.

The site was down during most of Sebelius’  3-1/2 hour grilling in the House Energy and Commerce Committee on  Wednesday.

Issa and Alexander also demanded to know  whether HHS moved forward with the knowledge that was unable to  correctly transmit applicants’ information to insurance companies.

But the most damaging material could  come  from documents that Sebelius and her agency have been reluctant to  share with  Congress.


Sebelius takes blame for flawed launch of  Obamacare

The Oct. 10 letter ordered her to ‘provide  all documents, including emails, referring or relating to the design, software,  and capacity problems with the exchange.’

It also insisted on having ‘all documents  referring or relating to the testing of the exchange and the federal data hub,’  including contracts, emails and reports from contractors.

Neither HHS nor the Centers for Medicare and  Medicaid Services, which built and manages, immediately responded  to a request for comment.

Sen. Alexander said on Thursday afternoon  that ‘we shouldn’t have to issue a subpoena or pass a law to get the  administration to tell us basic information about the Obamacare exchanges, but  apparently that’s what it’s going to take.’

Senate Democrats blocked an  Alexander-sponsored bill this week that would have required the Obama  administration to provide weekly reports to Congress, states, and the public  about the 36 federally run insurance exchanges.

That information was proposed to include the  number of individuals who visited the website and the number who successfully  enrolled.

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Forbes Makes Russian President Putin “Most Powerful Man in the World” — Russian Media Boasts, Complains

October 31, 2013

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin adjusts his sunglasses on August 17, 2011 (AFP/File, Dmitry Kostyukov)

Russian media cheered Forbes’ decision to name Vladimir Putin the world’s most powerful person in 2013. But they also took umbrage at how he was described by the magazine.

By , Correspondent / October 31, 2013


Vladimir Putin is the world’s most powerful person in 2013, according to Forbes magazine, which has taken it upon itself to compile a controversial “most powerful” list every year since 2009.

This year it has 72 names of people who “matter the most,” including 17 heads of state, 27 business kingpins, assorted politicians and bureaucrats, one drug trafficker, one pope and – with a bit of overlap – 28 billionaires.

In a breezy explanation of its methodology, the magazine says that top editors consider the extent of a candidate’s power over people, financial resources, influence in multiple spheres, and whether the person’s authority is effectively wielded.

For three of first four years of the list’s existence US President Barack Obama was the anointed No. 1. And rightly so. By almost any calculus, whether GDP, diplomatic heft, or military might, the leader of the United States ought to be pretty much guaranteed that slot every single time. But, perhaps just to mix it up, the editors of Forbes gave the top honor to Chinese President Hu Jintao in 2010.

Russians are already clinking their tea glasses in celebration, seeing in this fairly prominent global ranking a validation not only of Russia‘s inexorable rise on the world stage, but also of US decline.

The Kremlin-funded English-language TV network, RT, managed to make all those points while still decrying the lamentable double-standards employed by Forbes editors.

“Apparently, Putin’s first place on Forbes couldn’t appear without ready-made clichés in the description and accompanying articles, with terms like ‘autocratic leader,’ ‘ex-KGB strongman,’ and ‘dictator’ littered everywhere. His counterpart Obama, on the other hand, has been depicted as ‘the handcuffed head of the most dominant country,’ but still the ‘leader of the free world,'” RT complained.

Citing its reasons for promoting Mr. Putin to the top of the list this year, while Mr. Obama fell back to second place, Forbes said that “Putin has solidified his control over Russia and anyone watching the chess match over Syria has a clear idea of the shift in the power towards Putin on the global stage. The ex-KGB strongman – who controls a nuclear-tipped army, a permanent seat on the UN Security Council and some of the world’s largest oil and gas reserves – is allowed to serve another six-year term, which could keep him in office until 2024.”

The most important factor was Syria, where a Russian proposal to put Syrian chemical weapons under international control appears to have shifted the focus from military strikes to diplomacy after Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad was accused of using poison gas against civilians.

In September, Putin penned an influential commentary in the New York Times, appealing to Americans to see the logic of Russia’s position on Syria and forgo their own misguided tendency to see the US as “exceptional.” That brought a testy cold war-style response from US Senator John McCain, who published his anti-Putin polemic in one of the modern successors to the former Soviet Communist Party newspaper Pravda.

Putin’s ability to stand up to the US over the issue of fugitive ex-National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, to whom Russia granted a year’s refuge despite stiff US objections last August, was another factor in Putin’s rise to the top, the magazine said.

“Even if this rating is subjective, it’s another sign that Russia’s prestige is rising,” says Olga Kryshtanovskaya, one of Russia’s top political sociologists.

“I don’t think this changes anything inside Russia. People who hated Putin will go on doing so, those who are loyal to him will be proud of this [new sign of recognition]. But it’s an acknowledgement of the fact that, thanks to Russia, bloodshed in Syria was prevented,” she says. “This is a very important fact.”


Russia's President Vladimir Putin (RIA Novosti/Michael Klimentyev)

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (RIA Novosti/Michael Klimentyev)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been ranked the most powerful person in the world by Forbes. He topped the list of the 72 world figures that “matter the most,” while US President Barack Obama was rated second.

Putin’s Syria “chess match” that prevented the US strike,  and his having the last word in the diplomatic row over the  fugitive NSA whistleblower, Edward Snowden, didn’t go unnoticed  with the editorial rating of the influential American business  magazine, and were noted among the reasons for his top place.

This, added to Obama’s recent political failures and scandals  surrounding his second term, have cost the US President the first  position he achieved last year, with a “clear idea of the  shift in the power towards Putin on the global stage.”

The Russian President also “outstripped” the likes of the Chinese  leader Xi Jinping (ranked #3), the German Chancellor Angela  Merkel (who “fell” to #5 from #2 over the year), and the Saudi  King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud (#8).

Curiously, Pope Francis was ranked #4, with the reason being he  is “the spiritual leader of 1.2 billion Catholics, or about  1/6th of the world’s population,” as stated in the media’s  details on its “methodology.” 

Other seemingly unexpected entries in the Forbes’ list include  European Central Bank President Mario Draghi (#9) outstripping  the rank of the UK Prime Minister David Cameron (#11).  29-year-old Mark Zuckerberg (CEO Facebook) managed two ranks  above the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Apparently, Putin’s first place on Forbes couldn’t appear without  ready-made clichés in the description and accompanying articles,  with terms like “autocratic leader,” “ex-KGB  strongman,” and “dictator” littered everywhere. His  counterpart Obama, on the other hand, has been depicted as   “the handcuffed head of the most dominant country,” but  still the “leader of the free world.”

While giving Putin an optimistic forecast for his possible stay  in office until 2024, Forbes was more negative towards Obama,  saying that his “lame duck period” has already set in.

This is not the first time that Putin has led the “most  influential” rating compiled by Western media. In 2012, Putin  outdid everyone on the list of the international political think  tank, Eurasia Group, published by the Foreign Policy magazine.  However, the first place on the list was left ostensibly empty to  symbolize the think tank’s concept of “no clear leader” in  the modern world.



New York (United States) — Having outfoxed him on Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin has pipped Barack Obama to the title of the world’s most powerful leader as ranked by Forbes on Wednesday.

It was the first time in three years that the US president has dropped to second place on the magazine’s list and came as US-Russia relations slid to a new low.

Putin, who has enjoyed 13 years of dominant rule over Russia, was again elected president in March 2012.

Obama, on the other hand, has just emerged scathed from an embarrassing 16-day US government shutdown caused by a budget and debt crisis in Washington.

“Putin has solidified his control over Russia, while Obama’s lame duck period has seemingly set in earlier than usual for a two-term president — latest example: the government shutdown mess,” wrote Forbes.

In August, Russia granted asylum to former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, wanted in the United States over a mammoth intelligence leak.

A month later, Putin played the trump card again by averting Obama’s threatened missile strikes on Syria with a plan for Damascus to hand over chemical weapons.

“Anyone watching this year’s chess match over Syria and NSA leaks has a clear idea of the shifting individual power dynamics,” Forbes wrote.

The 2013 list of 72 powerbrokers was chosen to reflect one for every 100 million lesser mortals on Earth.

Third prize went to Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is expected to rule for a decade in which China is set to eclipse the US as the world’s largest economy.

Pope Francis made his debut at number four and German Chancellor Angela Merkel rounded out the top five.

Among 13 newcomers were Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-Hee at number 41 and Nigerian billionaire Aliko Dangote, the richest man in Africa, in at number 64.

There were 17 heads of state who run nations with a combined GDP of $48 trillion and 27 CEOs and chairs who control over $3 trillion in annual revenues.

Only nine women made the cut despite representing half the world’s population.

The entire list can be seen at

Repeat Offender Vice President Joe Biden’s niece to cops: Don’t you know who I am?

October 31, 2013

By Rebecca Rosenberg

October 30, 2013

Pals say the pressure of being Vice President Joe Biden’s niece made her a “hot mess” – but Caroline Biden apparently had no trouble using her status to try and pull rank on cops, The Post has learned

“I shouldn’t be handcuffed! You don’t know who you’re doing this to,” Caroline Biden barked at police, according to court documents.

Cops arrested Biden at her then luxury rental apartment in Tribeca Sept. 17 after she allegedly went berserk in a door-pounding, screaming confrontation with her roommate over unpaid rent.

After swinging at a female officer then slapping another, cops cuffed her and took her to the station house.

The unstable 26-year-old rambled for nearly two hours, snootily trying to get cops to make the connection between her name and that of her powerful uncle, court papers show.

“My name can’t be on it,” Biden bossily demanded, referring to police paperwork. “I know my rights, I studied law.”

When cops tried to search the Georgetown University grad’s purse she snapped, “I have secret service stuff in there.”

Biden continually referenced her connection to her uncle, despite having complained to friends about how much she hated the pressure of being the VP’s niece, according to socialite and pal Paul Johnson Calderon.

She at one point asked to use the bathroom and when her cell door was opened she announced she was leaving, according to the criminal complaint.

The prima donna, who wasn’t cuffed, tried to slide past an officer who blocked her.

“Don’t touch me,” she squealed, trying to push the cop out of the way. When the officer tried to deposit her back into the cell, she desperately clung to a doorframe to prevent it.

Some cops questioned whether the young woman’s erratic behavior and incessant gabbing might be caused by medication, a source added.

A friend of Biden’s previously told the Post she’d struggled with alcohol and pill addiction and even did a stint in rehab.

In a last ditch effort to escape police custody, Biden appealed to the next best thing to her big shot uncle. “I need to call my father,” she said, referring to her financier dad James Biden Sr.

She’s charged with obstruction of government administration, resisting arrest and harassment.

The blue-eyed Biden sported a mysterious black eye at her appearance Tuesday in Manhattan Criminal Court.

Additional reporting by Tara Palmeri

U.S. Government Responsible For Doctors Fleeing General Practice and Going Into Concierge Medicine

October 31, 2013

hospital cat scan surgery doctors

As insurance companies have come to dominate health care services, frustrated doctors and patients have turned with increasing numbers to a different kind of practice known as concierge medicine.


“It’s a style of medicine where there is a relationship between the physician and patient. The patient gets an enhanced level of service for a retainer fee,” said Dr. Delicia Haynes, owner of Family First Health Center in Daytona Beach.

Haynes, a primary-care physician, describes her practice as a hybrid that includes concierge services and traditional primary family care.

“Concierge is for those, when something happens, who want assurance they can get to me, see me without delay,” she said.

Haynes is one of a small but growing number of physicians in the Volusia-Flagler area now offering concierge services.

Concierge medicine has been around nationally since the late 1990s and was initially marketed to affluent patients. Fees were $10,000 and higher.

But, with annual fees now down below $2,000 a year, more people can afford it and more doctors are practicing concierge medicine, said Tom Blue, the former executive director and now chief strategy officer for the Virginia-based American Academy of Private Physicians.

“There are 5,500 private physicians in some form of concierge practice. That’s up 25 percent from a year ago and growing 25 percent a year the past couple of years,” Blue said. “The reality is independent practitioners and small groups of doctors in primary care are unsustainable in this environment without seeing patients faster and faster. They are then confronted with selling out to a hospital or changing their business model.”

Read the rest:


By Vivian Giang | Business Insider

Theo Heimann/Getty Images

The health care and social-assistance sector has been rapidly growing in recent years and is expected to generate the  largest number of jobs, a total of 5.6 million, and grow at an annual rate of 3%, according to the  Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This is the most dramatic growth of any sector in the country, and it isn’t slowing down.

As the  Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly called Obamacare, kicks in, companies are ramping up hiring of health care workers.

“We are seeing and feeling [the demand] in the market right now,” says  Robin Singleton  , executive vice president and the national health care practice leader for DHR Internation al, a recruiting firm responsible for placing executive s.  “This is my 30th year working in health care, and I haven’t seen anything like it.”

Some of the hottest jobs right now have been around for years but are now seeing increased demand, while others are more recently created. Singleton and John Blank, executive vice president and managing director in Nashville for DHR, outline the hottest jobs of the health care boom below.

  Chief medical officers

Salary: The national median expected salary is $340,092, according to

How to become a chief medical officer: This is an administrative role that requires completion of medical school or a physician training program.

Many corporations are taking health care into their own hands by setting up clinics within their firms to manage health care costs, says Blank. The idea is if they have their own health care facilities, they can lower insurance costs, make sure their employees are healthy, and inevitably increase productivity.

This is where the need for chief medical officers come in. These are professionals who advise the board and CEO on regulatory issues and make sure their practices are in compliance.

“These are the MDs that practiced for awhile, but eventually moved into administration positions,” says Singleton.

Companies that have built medical centers on their campuses include  Hewlett-Packard, Intel, and Facebook.

Medical billers and coders

Salary: The 2010 median wage for medical billers and coders was $32,350, according to the BLS. However, this seems to be the amount paid to an entry-level worker.

How to become a medical biller and coder: A postsecondary or professional certification is typically required.

“Reimbursement rates are changing a lot. Once you submit a claim, you can’t re-submit it,” says Blank. “That’s part of the ACA so you better be right the first time you submit it.”

This has led to an increased need for medical billers and coders. The BLS is predicting that the job outlook for these professionals will increase 21% between now and 2020.

Insurance brokers

Salary: The median annual wage for insurance brokers was $46,770 in May 2010, according to the BLS. However, many sales agents are paid by commission rather than a salary.

How to become an insurance broker: All agents must be licensed in the state where they work. One-third of these workers have a bachelor’s degree.

The demand for brokers has increased since the  U.S. government gave online brokers permission in July to enroll clients in subsidized plans offered through the federal and state health care exchange. In short, this means you can hire a broker to research plans offered directly from the insurance company or through the government exchange.

However, Blank says this demand is only going to last for a short period of time and will slow down once Obamacare kicks in.

“You’re not going to need near as many brokers because it’ll be up to the individuals then,” he says.


Salary: According to the BLS, the median annual wage of registered nurses was $64,690 in May 2010.

How to become a nurse: Nurses must be licensed by passing a licensing examination. These workers also have a bachelor’s degree in nursing, an associate’s degree in nursing, or a diploma from an approved nursing school.

There’s been a nursing shortage for years in America and as the population ages, the overall demand for nurse practitioners will increase. Through 2020, the field is projected to grow 26%.

Blank says to fill this shortage, many international nurses will immigrate into the country.

“Patients deal with nurses the most throughout their experience at hospitals,” Singleton tells us.  “It’s essential to make sure everything is running smoothly for the nursing staff.”

VP of the patient experience

Salary: These workers can earn anywhere from $150,000 at a small hospital to over $250,000, according to and the University of California.

How to become a vice president of the patient experience: Typically a bachelor’s and master’s degree in nursing or business. Since this is a senior role, experience in a leadership position in a major health care provider setting is also preferred.

“This role never existed in the past,” says Singleton. “The focus now is really on showing the highest quality of care.” A lot of this comes down to making sure hospitals’ HCAHPS ( Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) scores don’t dip too low.

Hospitals with lower scores have a hard time getting approval for reimbursements or won’t get reimbursed as much as hospitals with higher scores.

These organizations understand that they’re competing with one another based on their patients, and the Internet has made it easier to share reviews among the public. So if a patient has a bad experience, that scenario can be shared very quickly, Singleton says.

Informatics officer

Salary: The median annual wage for informatics officers in May 2012 was $34,160, with many metropolitan areas in New Jersey as the top-paying areas. If you move into a more senior level, as chief informatics officer, the national median annual income  was about $156,874 as of January 2011, according to

How to become an informatics officer: Informatics officers typically have career experience in health care, technology, or business.

“These are the MDs who take the data from patient, physician, and staff surveys and  make the quality changes needed for the organization to run smoothly,” says Singleton.

These are also doctors who have moved into more of an administrative role. A federal mandate requires all medical facilities to keep satisfactory health care record keeping. To prepare for the ACA, informatics officers are needed to compiled, process, and maintain patient records in a manner consistent with  ethical, legal, and regulatory requirements.

Concierge primary care physicians

Salary: According to the BLS, primary care physicians made a median salary of $202,392 in 2010, but doctors offering concierge services typically charge a standard fee for all patients or a monthly or yearly fee that’s dependent on the patient’s age.

How to become a concierge primary care physician: Physicians typically complete four years of medical school and three to eight years of internship and residency.  Most concierge primary physicians work for themselves.

These are doctors who work with only a specific number of patients, says Blank. The patient pays an annual fee retainer in exchange for the services of a private-like doctor. By directly charging patients, these doctors are able to control prices and don’t have to go through health insurance companies.

As of July 2012, there were approximately 4,000 physicians offering concierge-like services, which is 30% more than the previous year,  reported  Lauren Silverman at The practice is fastest growing in  Texas, California, and Florida.

Sri Lanka security forces ‘raping and torturing’ ahead of Commonwealth summit

October 31, 2013

Human rights Human rights group urges David Cameron to use summit to demand international   inquiry into disappearances

Human rights group urges David Cameron to use summit to demand international inquiry into disappearances

David Cameron on a visit to Wolverhampton on Thursday Photo: RUI VIEIRA/PA

By Dean Nelson, New Delhi

Sri Lanka’s security forces are still raping and torturing suspects despite   the imminent arrival of David Cameron and 50 world leaders for a Commonwealth summit in the country, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday.

The Prime Minister and the Prince of Wales have confirmed they will both   attend the gathering in Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo, from Nov 15.

But Sri Lanka has 5,676 “outstanding cases” of disappearances – more than   anywhere else in the world apart from Iraq. Although the civil war ended in   2009, President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government has kept the Prevention of   Terrorism Act, which allows anyone to be jailed without charge or trial for   up to 18 months.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has documented 10 cases of suspects being tortured or   mistreated in detention since February. More disappearances have also taken   place in recent months.

One 30-year-old woman told The Daily Telegraph that she was abducted by men   driving an unmarked white van in the northern city of Jaffna on Aug 12. She   was bundled in to the vehicle, blindfolded and driven about 90 miles to the   town of Vavuniya.

There, she was interrogated, stripped and photographed naked by men she   believed were police officers from the Criminal Investigation Department.   Later that evening, several of the men beat her with rods. “I was raped by   many men, not just one and it continued until I escaped,” she said. “They   bit me on my backside and breasts.”

On Aug 31, she was blindfolded and placed in a vehicle again. The woman, a   mother, feared that she was going to be murdered. Instead she was taken to   meet her uncle, who had paid a large bribe to secure her release. She then   fled to India and later to Britain, where she is now seeking asylum.

”I could not have taken any more. If I have to go back, I would not survive,”    she said by telephone from London.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) waged a 26-year war for a separate   homeland until they were crushed by the army in 2009.

The woman, a Tamil, acknowledged that she had previously helped the LTTE with   information and by working as a courier – along with many thousands of   others. She was not charged with any offence. Doctors who found marks and   scars had verified her testimony, said HRW.

This new evidence of continuing torture showed the need for greater   international pressure on Sri Lanka’s government, added the campaign group.   Canada has already promised to boycott the Commonwealth summit in Colombo.   Manmohan Singh, the Indian prime minister, is under pressure from leaders of   his country’s Tamil minority to follow suit.

Mr Cameron has confirmed that he will go to Sri Lanka, but promised to be    “very clear about those aspects of the human rights record in Sri Lanka that   we are not happy with”. In particular, the Prime Minister will be the first   foreign leader to visit Northern Province, the region which suffered most   from the civil war – and from the continuing abuses.

Mr Cameron should also use the summit to demand an independent international   inquiry into outstanding cases of disappearances, HRW have urged. Some   examples of people who are still missing were highlighted in an   investigation by The Daily Telegraph last month.

Meenakshi Ganguly, the South Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said:    “Abuses are continuing and people trying to speak. Victims and activists are   facing a climate of intimidation. Commonwealth leaders need to remind the   Sri Lankan government that the pressure is ongoing and everything will not   be fine until justice is done.”

Obama: ‘Shop around’ if you lose your health insurance plans

October 31, 2013

President Obama defended his signature health care law Wednesday in a speech from Boston, saying that people who are losing their insurance plans because of the law should start shopping around for better coverage.

Speaking at historic Faneuil Hall, Obama acknowledged the problem-plagued rollout of ObamaCare and attempted to deflect criticism over the wave of cancellation notices hitting small businesses and individuals who buy their own insurance.

The cancellation notices apply to people whose plans changed after the law was implemented or don’t meet new coverage requirements. The president said those changes ensure that all Americans are able to get quality coverage.

“So if you’re getting one of these letters, just shop around in the new marketplace. That’s what it’s for,” Obama said. “Because of the tax credits that we are offering, and the competition between insurers, most people are going to be able to get better, comprehensive healthcare plans for the same price or even cheaper than projected.”

Republicans believe the president’s argument flies in the face of his repeated claims that consumers who liked their insurance would be able to keep it.

Officials in Oregon say 150,000 Oregonians enrolled in individual health care plans will see their plans cancelled by the end of the year because the plans don’t provide the minimum level of coverage required under the new health care law.

In Florida, about 300,000 Blue Cross and Blue Shield members will be affected. California’s Blue Shield and Oakland-based Kaiser Permanente will withdraw policies for a combined 280,000 customers. CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield sent notices to more than 70,000 customers in D.C., Virginia, Maryland and Washington whose current plans don’t comply with the law, according to Bloomberg News.

Sens. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., introduced legislation Wednesday aimed at giving American the ability to hold onto their plans if they liked them. The bill would add flexibility to the standards for insurance policies allowed under ObamaCare.

“That was a fundamental promise that was made in order to get this law passed and now that’s being broken and we’re seeing that it wasn’t an unintended consequence, it was an intended consequence,” Rubio told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren on “On the Record.”

The president’s remarks marked a striking departure from his vow stretching back to 2009: “No matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise to the American people. If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what.”

And from the final months of the 2012 campaign: “If you’re one of the more than 250 million Americans who already have health insurance, you will keep your health insurance. This law will only make it more secure and more affordable.”

Obama chose the site where Massachusetts’ health care system became law to promote his health care law, arguing that the state plan also faced initial setbacks and low enrollment but in time gained popularity and became a success.

“All the parade of horribles, the worst predictions about health care reform in Massachusetts never came true,” he said. “They’re the same arguments that you’re hearing now.”

The president pointed to benefits already available under the 3-year-old health care law, including ending discrimination against children with pre-existing conditions and permission to keep young people on their parents’ insurance plans until they turn 26.

Romney took issue with Obama’s characterization of the Massachusetts health care law. In a statement, he said “had President Obama actually learned the lessons of Massachusetts health care, millions of Americans would not lose the insurance they were promised they could keep, millions more would not see their premiums skyrocket and the installation of the program would not have been a frustrating embarrassment.”

Obama he conceded the troubled launch of the open enrollment period that began Oct. 1.

“There’s no denying it, right now, the website is too slow, too many people have gotten stuck. And I am not happy about it. And neither are a lot of Americans who need health care, and they’re trying to figure out how they can sign up as quickly as possible,” he said.

Underscoring the president’s challenge, the website was down, because of technical difficulties, during his remarks. Republicans say the current computer dysfunction is more reason to repeal the law, and they’re pressing Obama administration officials for an explanation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Includes a video: