Posts Tagged ‘Obama’

 

Published December 12, 2013

FoxNews.com

 

A man being criticized by sign language experts for providing fake interpretations while standing close to President Obama and other heads of state at Nelson Mandela’s memorial says he becomes violent “a lot” and was hallucinating during the event.

Thamsanqa Jantjie did not describe his qualifications for being a sign language interpreter, but told The Star he works for an interpreting company that paid him $85 for interpreting Tuesday’s event, according to The Associated Press. He told Radio 702 on Thursday he’s receiving treatment for schizophrenia and had an episode while on stage at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg.

“What happened that day, I see angels come to the stadium … I startrealizing that the problem is here. And the problem, I don’t know the attack of this problem, how will it come. Sometimes I get violent on that place. Sometimes I will see things chasing me,” Jantjie said in an interview with The Associated Press, describing his hallucinations.

“I was in a very difficult position,” he added. “And [I] remember those people, the president and everyone, they were armed, there was armed police around me. If I start panicking I’ll start being a problem. I have to deal with this in a manner so that I mustn’t embarrass my country.”

Asked how often he had become violent, he told The Associated Press “a lot” while declining to provide details. He also did not say which president he was referring to, but did apologize for his performance and admitted he was once hospitalized in a mental health facility for more than a year.

The statements from Jantjie raised questions about the security at the three-hour event. Jantjie stood three feet away from Obama and the other leaders, including U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, while they were speaking at the lectern.

When asked about the matter on Wednesday, U.S. Secret Service Spokesman Brian Leary told FoxNews.com that the department was aware of it, but declined to elaborate.

White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest said during a press briefing that he wasn’t aware of any securityconcerns with the man being so close to Obama.

“I think my only reaction to that is that it’s a shame that you had a service that was dedicated to honoring the life and celebrating the legacy of one of the great leaders of the 20th century, [and it] has gotten distracted by this and a few other issues that are far less important than the legacy of Nelson Mandela,” he said.

A South African deputy Cabinet minister said “a mistake happened” when Jantjie was hired for the event.

Deputy Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu said Thursday that government officials have tried to track down the company that provided Jantjie, SA Interpreters, but that its co-owners “have vanished into thin air.”

Bogopane-Zulu also apologized to deaf people who were offended around the world by what they say was Jantjie’s incomprehensible signing.

She said an investigation is under way to determine how Jantjie received a security clearance.

Jantjie said he was due on the day of the ceremony to get a regular six-month mental health checkup to determine whether the medication he takes was working, whether it needed to be changed or whether he needed to be kept at a mental health facility for treatment.

He said he did not tell the company that contracted him for the event that he was due for the checkup, but said the owner of SA Interpreters in Johannesburg was aware of his condition.

AP journalists who visited the address of the company that Jantjie provided found a different company there, whose managers said they knew nothing about SA Interpreters. A woman answered the phoneat a number that Jantjie provided and said it was not for the company, and another phone number went to a voicemail that did not identify the person or company with the number.

Jantjie said he received one year of sign language interpretation at a school in Cape Town. He said he has previously interpreted at many events without anyone complaining, and insisted he was doing proper sign-language interpretation of the speeches on Tuesday.

But Bruno Druchen, the Deaf Federation of South Africa’s national director, and three other sign language experts said Jantjie was not signing in South African or American sign languages and could not have been signing in any other known sign language because there was no structure to his arm and hand movements. South African sign language covers all of the country’s 11 official languages, according to the federation.

“He didn’t follow any of the grammatical rules and structure of the language. He just invented his signs as he went along,” Delphin Hlungwane, an official South African sign language interpreter at DeafSA, told Reuters.

“There was zero percent accuracy. He couldn’t even get the basics right. He couldn’t even say thank you,” she added.

For his part, Jantjie said that while voices in his head impaired his ability to interpret what was being said on stage, he was unable to leave and continued to sign things that didn’t make sense.

“Life is unfair. This illness is unfair. Anyone who doesn’t understand this illness will think that I’m just making this up,” he told The Star. “There was nothing I could do. I was alone in a very dangerous situation. I tried to control myself and not show the world what was going on. I am very sorry, it’s the situation I found myself in.”

Ingrid Parkin, principal of the St. Vincent School for the Deaf in Johannesburg, said she had received complaints from the deaf community from Canada to China about Jantjie on stage and how his movements looked “like he’s signing gibberish.” He also used no facial expression to convey the emotions of the leaders, a key element of sign language interpretation.

“This man himself knows he cannot sign and he had the guts to stand on an international stage and do that,” Parkin said.

The country’s deaf community and the ruling African National Congress said Wednesday they had no knowledge of who Jantjie was, despite him apparently appearing on television gesticulating alongside South African President Jacob Zuma last year, Reuters reported.

The scandal over the interpreter is another indication of shoddy organization behind the historic memorial service.

Other difficulties included public transportation breakdowns which hindered mourners from getting to the event and a faulty audio system that prevented many of the tens of thousands in the stadium from hearing the leaders’ speeches. In an apparent security failure, police did not search the first wave of crowds arriving at the stadium.

Bogus sign language interpreters are a problem in South Africa, because people who know a few signs try to pass themselves off as interpreters, Parkin said. And those hiring them usually don’t sign, so they have no idea that the people they are hiring cannot do the job, she said.

FoxNews.com’s Greg Norman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

I coined a phrase to define this world we live in where everyone has an opinion and there are a multitude of ways to express that opinion. I call it, “The Feedback Society.”

Whether on a consumer review site like Yelp; in the ‘comments’ section of an online publication; or something as simple as calling your congressperson, it’s clear that everyone has an opinion and they are eager to share it with as many people as possible.

The vast majority of these are anonymous postings—or as I like to tell my celebrity clients, “Writing on a bathroom wall.” I actively discourage them from reading it knowing that they can be toxic, mean-spirited and just plain hurtful. As their representative I do take into account the whole of the feedback, so I have an idea of how a story is being received.

Certainly a public relations person is tasked with presenting a client to the public, but equally important is letting the client know what kind of environment they are stepping into and how their news is being received.

President Obama has access to some of the most sophisticated opinion analysts in the world. And while he can certainly take heart in the fact that his own approval rating held steady at about 44 percent during the government shutdown while Republicans were plummeting; it is equally clear that the rollout of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) has been a real shit show.

His problems didn’t begin with the rollout; they began with a lame effort at selling Obamacare to the American people. His lack of clear targeted messaging and inability to get people behind it at the grass roots level made it easy prey for his political opponents.

Even people who clearly stood to benefit from provisions in the act expressed their hatred for it. His own ham-handed PR rollout was further denigrated by the opposition who took, and still take, every opportunity to demonize the law and its provisions.

Despite losing the PR battle, POTUS won the war. The Affordable Care Act is the law of the land, passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the President. It has the added bonus of being vetted by the U.S. Supreme Court and found lawful.

The official rollout of the Affordable Care Act coincided with the shutdown of the U.S. government by Congress on October 1. Defunding Obamacare was the major incentive for shutting down the government and, ironically, opposition to the shutdown made the act more popular than it had been.

What was clear from the beginning of the rollout was that the online systems to handle a massive rollout of complicated and sophisticated data was just not in place and the system crashed.

Despite multiple news reports that 476,000 Americans have applied for the coverage, no one seems to have access to accurate information. Additionally, this bill was, in part, designed to simplify the health care coverage process.

The inability of the government to handle this system supported the opponents’ argument that it’s just too big and complicated for the government to handle and would be better dealt with by private industry.

On Monday, President Obama held a news conference, which some referred to as an ‘infomercial,’ to discuss the state of the law.

To his credit, he didn’t sugarcoat the problems and expressed his own believable and apparent frustration with the technical aspects of the rollout.

Not surprisingly, his political opponents are using the glitches to heir own advantage. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell tweeted that a visit to the Obamacare website made a trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles seem pleasant.

While millions stand to benefit from the provisions of Obamacare, the system is dependent on people, indeed millions of people, signing up for the system. When the system designed to manage that doesn’t work, the result is chaos, frustration and a huge political opportunity for opponents.

And if The Affordable Care Act cannot attract the critical mass it needs to make the numbers work, it could be a very costly program.

I’m glad the President owned the problem. But what’s more important is that he owns the solution. Because, unless he gets an effective and efficient system in place to access the new provisions, The Affordable Care Act and the benefits possible to tens of millions of uninsured Americans will go down as his greatest folly and a huge failure for any future government program that dares to think big.

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

As the days drag on, the shutdown has deepened public disgust with leaders of our government.

I share the feeling – there’s no doubt that most of this current Congress has got to go – but I also feel something that I don’t think many share, unfortunately, and that’s a sense of optimism.

Last week, I had the chance to talk about the government shutdown on LinkedIn Today with CBS’s Jill Schlesinger andUniversity of Michigan Professor Jeff DeGraff. It was a great conversation.

Here’s what we need to remember: Yes, this Congress is in charge right now but they don’t have the monopoly on leadership.

Right now, there are states and municipalities that are getting it done. (Look at Mayors Rahm Emanuel of Chicago and Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans or Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal). They’ve recognized that this is a time where we’re confronting some very thorny problems, none of which has a clean solution. Instead, they’re compromising, innovating, moving forward as best they can with common-sense strategies.

This is the next generation of leadership. They’re earning their chops now for future greatness. A mayor who will become a congresswoman. A state congressman on track for a Senate run. A governor eyeing the presidency.

They’re not hampered or hamstrung by the problem that’s tying so much of Washington up in knots.

They’re willing to be disruptors.

When I talk to people in DC, I’m struck by the slavish adherence to incrementalism. An inch in the right direction is heralded as magnificent progress, even if it’s evidence of massive dysfunction to the rest of the country. Here in Silicon Valley, my colleagues and I see an area that’s ripe for disruption, for exploring big, creative, smart ideas that really could generate momentum. It needs us, though, to believe it can happen and to work for it, whether it’s voting for the right leaders, lobbying for our passions, writing letters and blogs, etc.

The shutdown will end – as Dr. DeGraff pointed out, there will be some kind of face-saving deal.

In the meantime, look to Nov. 5 and remember that we need daring disruption sooner, not later, even at the local level.

What ideas do you wish our leaders would implement?

October 12, 2013 by webnerbob

 

The continuing saga of the federal government’s Affordable Care Act website is worth following, because it is telling us a lot about how modern government works, and doesn’t work, and what we should believe.

Most people, including me, have focused on the access issues with the Healthcare.gov website — that is, the fact that there are ongoing reports that people simply cannot get on the website and use it as intended, and whether the design of the system in fact works against that.  But there are other issues, too.

For example, how complete and accurate is the information the website is collecting?  Anyone who has filled out a health-care application knows that a mass of information must be provided.  Arecent article quoted industry sources who estimated that only one in 100 applications completed on the website contain enough information to actually enroll someone in a plan — which of course is the entire point.  As the article notes, much more serious problems could be coming if people believe they have successfully enrolled, only to be told later that the information they provided was insufficient or lost.

And speaking of information — how secure is the data those lucky people who have been able to use the website have provided?  Health care information and financial information is extraordinarily confidential.  Given the apparent design flaws with the website, why should anyone have great confidence that the designers at least got system security right?  Given the coverage of the problems with the website, are legions of hackers around the world targeting it as an easy potential source for personal information, like Social Security numbers and credit card data?

And finally, there is cost.  Some sources have tried to piece together government contracting data to determine how much the Affordable Care Act websites have cost the taxpayer.  The Washington Post says about $400 million has been committed to the health care exchanges.  The Digital Trends website estimates the cost so far is more than $500 million, with a total cost of more than $2 billion expected.

With costs like this, it’s fair to ask whether we are really getting our money’s worth.  On Thursday, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius visited Pittsburgh as part of a nationwide campaign to tout the exchanges.  She assured the audience that the “glitches” were being addressed and the system is getting better every day.  Event planners had brought more than 20 certified health care application counselors to meet with uninsured people, but even the certified counselors couldn’t access the Healthcare.gov website.  So, who do you believe — the bureaucrat who says the system is improving, or the fact that even computer geeks can’t get it to work?

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A delegation of 18 House Republicans is heading to the White House Thursday afternoon to propose a short-term increase in the debt ceiling, which the White House indicated President Obama could sign — but the deal would not resolve the partial government shutdown which is now in its 10th day.

The goal of the proposal appeared to be to buy time, by removing the immediate threat of missing an Oct. 17 deadline to raise the debt ceiling, for both sides to strike a broader agreement on spending and debt.

House Speaker John Boehner and his deputies announced the proposal after pitching it to rank-and-file Republicans in a closed meeting. The plan would allow for a six-week extension of the debt ceiling with no strings attached, as long as Obama and Democrats make a “real commitment” to negotiate over the partial government shutdown and a longer-term debt-ceiling hike.

“It’s time for leadership,” Boehner said.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney indicated that Obama could sign it. While stressing that the president still needs to see a bill, he said that if a “clean” bill to hike the debt ceiling for six weeks hits his desk, “He would sign that.”

Carney said Obama still would strongly prefer that Congress approve a longer-term increase in the debt ceiling and approve a spending bill right away. Pressed repeatedly by reporters, Carney appeared to open the door to a short-term increase in the debt limit even if the partial government shutdown is not addressed.

That means the partial shutdown could easily continue into next week and beyond, without the pressure of the Oct. 17 deadline. That’s when Treasury officials warned the nation would be unable to pay all its bills, absent a debt-ceiling hike.

Inside the GOP caucus, reaction to the Republican leaders’ plan appeared to be mixed, with some voicing support and others voicing skepticism. One source said leadership was “taking the temperature of the conference” before taking the idea to Obama.

Despite Carney’s remarks, a prior statement from the White House was non-committal over the new plan.

A White House official said “we are willing to look at any proposal Congress puts forward to end these manufactured crises” but will not “allow a faction of the Republicans in the House to hold the economy hostage to its extraneous and extreme political demands.” The official said Obama still wants the House to pass a spending bill first, and raise the debt ceiling, before Obama will negotiate.

The official also reiterated that Obama would prefer a longer-term debt-ceiling increase, like the one-year extension the Senate is considering.

Sources said the new GOP proposal would increase the debt ceiling through a hard deadline of Nov. 22, but also call for negotiators to be appointed to discuss the budget — and require Obama to work with them on both the debt limit and budget.

Pressure is increasing on all sides to work out an agreement. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew testified on Thursday that both stalemates are creating a drag on the economy and Wall Street.

He issued dire warnings about failing to raise the debt ceiling. He did not specifically warn that the government would be unable to pay interest on the debt, but said payments ranging from Social Security checks to Medicare reimbursements to military salaries could be halted by the end of the month.

He said some of the repercussions would be unpredictable since this is “uncharted territory.”

“It would be chaos,” Lew said.

Though some Republicans have accused the administration of exaggerating, many still do not want to toy with breaching the debt-ceiling deadline.

Senate Republicans are set to meet with Obama at the White House on Friday morning.

Fox News’ Mike Emanuel, Chad Pergram and Fox Business Network’s Rich Edson contributed to this report.

By Michael O’Brien and Frank Thorp, NBC News

President Barack Obama called Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, on Tuesday to again tell the top House Republican that he wouldn’t negotiate over reopening the government or raising the nation’s debt ceiling.

And, keeping up his pressure on Republicans in Congress, Obama will marshal the power of the bully pulpit during a 2 p.m. press conference at the White House.

The phone call came within an hour of Boehner’s most recent public plea for Obama and Senate Democrats to come to the bargaining table and agree to talks to solve the fiscal impasse.

“The president called the speaker again today to reiterate that he won’t negotiate on a government funding bill or debt limit increase,” Boehner aide Brendan Buck emailed reporters.

According to the White House, Obama “repeated what he told him when they met at the White House last week: the President is willing to negotiate with Republicans — after the threat of government shutdown and default have been removed.”
Obama also again demanded that Boehner bring up a clean extension of government spending and a clean approval of increased borrowing authority.
The call occurred at around 10:45 a.m., just a short while after Boehner emerged from a closed-door meetings to put the pressure on Obama to negotiate.
“There’s never been a president in our history been a president who didn’t negotiate over the debt limit. Never. Not once,” Boehner said following a closed-door meeting with fellow Republicans.
But the very subject of whether to negotiate has set Obama and Boehner apart — a difference on top of their opposing views over how to fund the government, and whether to preserve health care reform.
Obama and his Democratic allies have said they are more than happy to negotiate over any number of topics, but only after Republicans vote to approve a clean extension of government spending and authorize an increase in the debt limit.

President Barack Obama calls on Republican House Speaker John Boehner to bring a clean continuing resolution to the floor for a vote. Obama made the remarks Monday in Washington, D.C., while visiting FEMA headquarters.

“We’re not going to negotiate under the threat of further harm to our economy and middle-class families,” Obama said Monday at FEMA headquarters in Washington. “We’re not going to negotiate under the threat of a prolonged shutdown until Republicans get 100 percent of what they want.”

Democrats, meanwhile, have challenged Boehner to demonstrate his assertion over the weekend that a clean spending bill to reopen the government or a clean extension of the debt ceiling couldn’t pass the House.
“Speaker Boehner insists that the Senate-passed bill to end this shutdown can’t pass the House,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Tuesday. “Well, I’m not the first to issue this challenge … and that is, prove it. Bring it up for a vote.”

In short, political gamesmanship continued its stranglehold of Washington as the nation’s political leaders barreled toward the Oct. 17 deadline by which they must raise the nation’s debt limit or risk a severe shot to the U.S. economy and global financial markets.

There had been some speculation Tuesday that Republicans might consider a short-term extension of both spending and the debt limit in order to enter into serious fiscal talks with Obama. It would hand Democrats a minor victory immediately, but offer up a chance for the GOP to lock in reduced spending levels under the automatic “sequester” spending cuts. Republicans could also look to win entitlement or tax reforms as a result of such negotiations.

As Republicans mull their path forward, GOP leaders laid out a new plan to their rank-and-file on Tuesday that envisions the House passing two bills this week, one to guarantee pay for essential workers who have stayed on the job throughout the shutdown.

The other bill would establish a bipartisan negotiating team to tackle the debt limit and other fiscal issues, somewhat resembling some of the other official panels and working groups that have unsuccessfully tried to resolve the deep fiscal differences between Democrats and Republicans in recent years.

It’s not clear that this group would have any greater success, though, especially since its authority is nonbinding — unlike some of the past panels, like the 2011-2012 “supercommittee.”

Boehner dismissed talk of such a temporary resolution as “a lot of speculation,” refusing to engage with a reporter’s question. And the Republican speaker said that he didn’t have any particular standard by which he’s measuring the GOP’s willingness to enter into an eventual deal. “I’m not drawing any lines in the sand,” he said, later adding: “There’s no reason to make it more difficult to bring people to the table. There’s no boundaries here. There’s nothing on the table, there’s nothing off the table. I’m trying to do everything I can to bring people together and have a conversation.” As the shutdown continued to play out, there were increasing signs that the GOP was shouldering more of the political blame for the shutdown. An ABC News/Washington Post poll released Monday found, for instance, that seven in 10 Americans disapprove of the way congressional Republicans have handled negotiations over the federal budget. This story was originally published on Tue Oct 8, 2013 10:42 AM EDT

 

 

 

The government slimdown enters its second week with Democrats and Republicans continuing to blame each other with no compromise in sight, as a second major budget deadline looms larger and closer.

Despite Treasury Secretary Jack Lew warning again Sunday about the potential “catastrophic” impact of Congress allowing the government to default on its debt on Oct. 17, Republican leaders made clear the House won’t agree on any deal to increase the county’s borrowing authority without concessions from President Obama.

Lew told “Fox News Sunday” such a strategy was “irresponsible” and “reckless.”

“Which is why Congress needs to act,” said Lew, calling on members to pass a temporary spending bill to reopen the government and pass a measure to increasing the nation’s $16.7 trillion debt limit.

House Speaker John Boehner made a point Sunday of saying his GOP-led chamber has stayed on Capitol Hill two straight weekends to try to pass spending bills to keep the government fully operational, only to have them rejected by the Democrat-led Senate.

The upper chamber will try to vote this week on a bill that passed the House unanimously on Saturday to pay federal workers for days missed.

Boehner told ABC’s “This Week” that Obama is risking default by refusing to negotiate with Republicans and that he doesn’t have the votes to pass a debt-limit proposal free of other fiscal issues.

“We’re not going to pass a clean debt limit increase,” he said. “The votes are not in the House to pass a clean debt limit, and the president is risking default by not having a conversation with us. … I’m ready for the phone call.”

Changes to ObamaCare, entitlement reform and other spending cuts are among the possible concessions for which Republicans might ask.

On Monday, the government slimdown enters its seventh day with hundreds of thousands of federal employees furloughed, national parks closed and an array of government services on hold. However, the Obama administration is calling back to work hundreds of thousands of civilian military workers.

Lew said Obama has not changed his opposition to coupling a bill to re-open the government and raise the borrowing authority with Republican demands for changes in the 3-year-old health care law and spending cuts.

Boehner insisted that Obama must negotiate if the president wants to end the shutdown and avert a default that could trigger a financial crisis and recession that would echo the events of 2008 or worse.

Boehner said he lacks the votes to pass a clean temporary spending bill. Democrats argue that their 200 members in the House, plus close to two dozen pragmatic Republicans, would back a so-called “clean” bill if Boehner just allowed a vote, but he remains hamstrung by his Tea Party-strong GOP caucus.

“Let me issue him a friendly challenge,” New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer told ABC. “Put it on the floor Monday or Tuesday. I would bet there are the votes to pass it.”

In a series of Sunday television appearances, Lew warned that on Oct. 17, when he exhausts the bookkeeping maneuvers he has been using to keep borrowing, the threat of default would be imminent.

“I’m telling you … Congress is playing with fire,” he said.

Lew said that while the Treasury expects to have $30 billion of cash on hand on Oct. 17, that money will be quickly exhausted in paying incoming bills given that the government’s payments can run up to $60 billion on a single day.

Treasury issued a report on Thursday detailing in stark terms what could happen if the government actually defaulted on its obligations to service the national debt.

“A default would be unprecedented and has the potential to be catastrophic,” the Treasury report stated.

Private economists generally agree that a default on the U.S. debt would be extremely harmful, especially if the impasse was not resolved quickly.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a force in pushing Republicans to get changes to ObamaCare in exchange for keeping the government running, spelled out his conditions for raising the borrowing authority.

“We should look for three things. No. 1, we should look for some significant structural plan to reduce government spending,” he told CNN’s “State of the Union.” “No. 2, we should avoid new taxes. And No. 3, we should look for ways to mitigate the harms from ‘ObamaCare,” Cruz said, describing the debt ceiling issue as one of the “best leverage the Congress has to rein in the executive.”

Asked how the standoff might end, Boehner said: “If I knew, I’d tell you.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.