Tags: Obamacare | Spurs | Firms-to-Drop | Coverage | Foxman Thanks Pope | Kerry Gets More Guards Than Benghazi |

Obamacare Spurs Firms to Drop Coverage; ADL's Foxman Thanks Pope; Kerry Gets More Guards Than Benghazi

By    |   Sunday, 17 February 2013 02:55 PM

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Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):
1. Americans Still Spurn Electric Vehicles
2. Obamacare Survey: Firms Will Drop Health Coverage
3. More Security for John Kerry Than for Benghazi
4. Arctic Ice Hasn't Disappeared as Predicted
5. ADL Leader Thanks Pope Benedict
6. We Heard: Al Sharpton, Sarah Palin, Jake Tapper

1. Americans Still Spurn Electric Vehicles

The Obama administration has set a goal of having 1 million plug-in electric vehicles on the road by 2015, and the government offers a $7,500 tax credit to buyers. But, by and large, Americans still are rejecting electric cars.

Only 9,819 Nissan Leafs were sold in 2012, and sales of Chevrolet's Volt, which has a gas engine that kicks in when the electric charge runs out, barely topped 23,000. Electric vehicle (EV) sales accounted for just 0.1 percent of the market, up only slightly from 0.09 percent in 2011, according to The Fiscal Times.

Nissan is seeking to bolster sales by dropping the Leaf's price by $6,000, and Chevrolet last year cut the Volt's lease rate by $20 per month. Yet the market research firm LMC Automotive predicts that in 10 years, EVs will account for only 1.5 to 2 percent of the market.

A survey by the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs in 21 large cities found that the perceived drawbacks of EVs outweigh their advantages for most respondents. Chief among those drawbacks are the price of the vehicle and the limited range that requires frequent battery recharging.

One Nissan Leaf driver who spoke with The Fiscal Times reported that the car lasted as little as 43 miles on a charge in the winter rather than the promised 73 miles, and recharging the car with a 120-volt charger could take 20 hours.

Another hindrance to sales in cities is that apartment dwellers generally don't have access to a private garage where they can use a home charging station to recharge their EV.

"Federal billions cannot overcome the fact that electric vehicles and plug-in electric hybrids meet few, if any, real consumer needs," The Washington Post observed in an editorial.

"Compared with gas-powered cars, they deliver inferior performance at much higher costs."

Nevertheless, some car manufacturers remain hopeful. Six new EVs were unveiled last year, and this year will see the rollout of Tesla's Model S, a large EV that can travel more than 200 miles on a charge.

The car's price tag after the $7,500 tax credit: $52,400. Federal loan guarantee for Tesla: $465 million.

Editor's Note:

2. Obamacare Survey: Firms Will Drop Health Coverage

One in five companies with fewer than 500 employees say they are "likely" or "very likely" to discontinue company-provided healthcare coverage within five years, a survey reveals.

The reason: The main provisions of Obamacare will be implemented in 2014.

And 43 percent of those companies expect employees to pay a greater share of healthcare costs this year, according to the survey by Mercer, a human resources and financial services consulting firm.

Less than 10 percent of larger companies — with 500 to 4,999 workers — say they'll likely drop coverage in five years, as do about five percent of firms with 5,000 or more employees.

But almost 70 percent of those largest companies, and 60 percent of those with 500 to 4,999 employees, expect workers to pay a larger share of healthcare costs this year.

Nearly 150 million Americans now rely on company-provided healthcare benefits, and the price of those benefits has doubled in the past decade. The average cost to a large company of covering an employee with a family is now $15,745 a year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

But individuals whose coverage is dropped would pay even more, since they do not receive the same tax breaks as an employer and can't bargain with insurers the way a company can, although some lower-income workers can qualify for subsidies to buy insurance.

Under the Affordable Care Act, employers with more than 50 workers will eventually have to pay a fine of $2,000 for each employee if they don't provide coverage, but many could decide simply to pay the fine rather than pay for employees' coverage, according to The Economist.

So much for President Obama's promise that "if you like your healthcare plan, you can keep your healthcare plan."

A 2011 survey by consulting firm McKinsey found that 30 percent of employers would "definitely or probably" drop coverage after 2014.

That prediction was thought to be extreme, but later surveys find that around 10 percent of employers feel that way.

The Mercer survey also found that more than 45 percent of companies with fewer than 500 workers are considering adopting a "defined contribution" healthcare scheme, whereby employees receive a fixed sum to spend on health insurance rather than company-provided coverage.

Defined contribution plans make employers' costs more predictable and employees more conscious of costs. But the danger, The Economist observes, is that employees will "delay seeking essential treatment for fear of the bill," which "could leave companies with a sicker, less productive workforce."

Editor's Note:

3. More Security for John Kerry Than for Benghazi

New Secretary of State John Kerry was protected by more security during a short trip to Virginia than the State Department deployed to protect the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, before last year's Sept. 11 terrorist attack.

On Feb. 4, Kerry's first day as head of the State Department, four Diplomatic Security (DS) agents were on hand when he traveled from Washington, D.C., and arrived in Arlington, Va., in a limousine.

That was one more DS agent than the State Department posted in Benghazi in the days leading up to the attack that took the lives of four American diplomatic personnel.

Ironically, Kerry traveled to Arlington for a meeting at the Bureau of Diplomatic Security's headquarters.

The Bureau is responsible for protecting U.S. diplomatic personnel around the world. It also protects the secretary of state, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and foreign diplomats working in the United States.

A report from the Senate Homeland Security Committee in December noted that embassy officials in Libya had requested a minimum of three DS agents for Benghazi, and that is all they got, CNS News reported.

Yet investigators identified more than a dozen violent events in Benghazi during the six months before the Sept. 11 attack.

On Oct. 2, three weeks after the attacks, Republican Reps. Darrell Issa, chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense, and Foreign Operations, sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stating: "Put together, these events indicated a clear pattern of security threats that could only be reasonably interpreted to justify increased security for U.S. personnel and facilities in Benghazi."

But when U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens traveled from Tripoli to Benghazi on Sept. 10, he brought only two DS agents with him. So the U.S. mission in Benghazi had a total of just five agents when it was attacked by as many as 150 Islamic militants armed with assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, and anti-aircraft machine guns.

None of the agents was killed in the attack, although one was severely wounded.

Editor's Note:

4. Arctic Ice Hasn't Disappeared as Predicted

A leading climate scientist predicted that the Arctic would be ice-free in five years — five years ago.

An article in The Guardian published in August 2008 reported the Professor Wieslaw Maslowski of the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey Calif., and his team produced a forecast "which indicated that by 2013 there will be no ice in the Arctic, other than a few outcrops on islands near Greenland and Canada, between mid-July and mid-September."

Maslowski said: "The crucial point is that ice is clearly not building up enough over winter to restore cover and that when you combine current estimates of ice thickness with the extent of the ice cap, you get a very clear indication that the Arctic is going to be ice-free in summer in five years."

The article also quoted Professor Peter Wadhams of Cambridge University in Britain: "Now the most detailed computer models suggest the Arctic's summer ice is going to last for only a few more years."

Arctic ice did not disappear last summer, however. And the National Snow and Ice Data Center has reported that the "average sea ice extent for January 2013 was 5.32 million square miles."

President Obama showed that he has bought into the global warming hysteria when he declared in his State of the Union address on Tuesday: "For the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change."

Respected climate scientist Richard Lindzen, who is the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said in remarks quoted by the Climate Depot website: "Future generations will wonder in bemused amazement that the early 21st century developed world went into hysterical panic over a globally averaged temperature increase of a few tenths of a degree, and, on the basis of gross exaggerations of highly uncertain computer projections combined into implausible chains of inference, proceeded to contemplate a roll-back of the industrial age."

Editor's Note:

5. ADL Leader Thanks Pope Benedict

The Anti-Defamation League's National Director Abraham Foxman has expressed great appreciation for Pope Benedict XVI's support for Jews and Israel following the surprise announcement that the Pope is resigning at the end of the month.

Foxman had five audiences with the Pope during his nearly eight years as pontiff, according to the Jerusalem Post.

He said in a statement issued on Tuesday: "Benedict XVI has profoundly bolstered the positive trajectory of Catholic-Jewish relations launched by his predecessor, Pope John Paul II.

"Benedict, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, worked closely with John Paul during his 26-year papacy, developing a historic new relationship between Catholic[s] and Jews as —loving brothers and sisters' after centuries of tragedy.

"In his tenure as Pope, Benedict pledged that he would always stand with the Jewish people against anti-Semitism. He strongly condemned Holocaust denial. He made it a point early in his papacy to visit Israel, going to Yad Vashem and the Western Wall, thus cementing the historic act of his predecessor for future generations and strengthening the relationship between Israel and the Vatican. He became the first pope to visit a synagogue in the United States. And he also visited the synagogue in Rome, institutionalizing these visits.

"Pope Benedict XVI reconfirmed the official Catholic position that God's covenant with the Jewish people at Sinai endures and is irrevocable."

The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism.

Editor's Note:

6. We Heard . . .

THAT MSNBC talk show host Al Sharpton admits he occasionally does check out conservative media sources — but not before bedtime.

In an interview with Adweek, Sharpton was asked: "Do you ever follow Fox News or conservative outlets to see what's going on with them?"

He responded: "I will sometimes see what they're doing, but not on a daily basis. You don't get a good night's sleep reading right-wing stuff before you go to bed."

THAT Sarah Palin had some fun with a Washington Post blogger who reported that the former Alaska governor was hired to host a news show on the future cable network Al Jazeera America.

The problem with blogger Suzi Parker's story was that its source was a parody from the comedy news site The Daily Currant, which calls itself "the global satirical newspaper of record."

After she used her Twitter account to send a correction, Palin sent this tweet: "I'm having coffee with Elvis this week. He works at the Mocha Moose in Wasilla."

Parker has posted a correction.

THAT Jake Tapper's new CNN show now has a name: "The Lead." The show launches next month at 4 p.m. weekdays and will go head-to-head with "Your World with Neil Cavuto" on Fox News and Martin Bashir's show on MSNBC, TVNewser reports.

Tapper joined CNN last month after nine years with ABC News.

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