Tag: Exchange

North And South Korea Exchange Artillery Fire (Video)

Tensions Rise As North And South Korea Exchange Fire – Reuters

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South Korea fired a barrage of artillery rounds into North Korea on Thursday after the North shelled across the border to protest against anti-Pyongyang propaganda broadcasts by Seoul, moves that raised tensions on the divided peninsula.

Washington urged Pyongyang to halt any “provocative” actions in the wake of the first exchange of fire between the two Koreas since last October. Both sides said there were no casualties or damage in their territory.

North Korea did not return fire but warned Seoul in a letter that it would take military action if the South did not stop the broadcasts along the border within 48 hours, the South’s Defense Ministry said.

In a separate letter, Pyongyang said it was willing to resolve the issue even though it considered the broadcasts a declaration of war, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said.

North Korea’s young leader, Kim Jong Un, would put his troops on a “fully armed state of war” starting from 5 p.m. on Friday and had declared a “quasi-state of war” in frontline areas, Pyongyang’s official KCNA news agency reported.

Such language is often used by North Korea in times of tension with the South.

A South Korean military official said the broadcasts would continue. Seoul began blasting anti-North Korean propaganda from loudspeakers on the border on Aug. 10, resuming a tactic that both sides had stopped in 2004.

South Korea said the North had fired one anti-aircraft shell followed by multiple shells on Thursday.

South Korea’s military, which said it fired “tens” of artillery rounds in response, raised its alert status to the highest level.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye told defense officials to “react firmly” to North Korean provocations, a spokesman quoted her as saying.

“Our military has stepped up monitoring and is closely watching North Korean military movements,” South Korea’s Defense Ministry said.

‘RECKLESS PROVOCATION’

The North Korean army said the South fired 36 rounds, six of which landed near its guard posts, in a “reckless provocation,” KCNA said.

The United States, which has about 28,500 military personnel in South Korea, said it was concerned and closely monitoring the situation.

“Such provocative actions heighten tensions, and we call on Pyongyang to refrain from actions and rhetoric that threaten regional peace and security,” U.S. State Department spokesperson Katina Adams said.

The Pentagon said it would “take prudent measures” to ensure the well-being of U.S. personnel, but did not elaborate.

The first North Korean shell landed in an area about 60 km (35 miles) north of Seoul in the western part of the border zone, the defense ministry said. Nearly 800 South Korean residents living nearby were ordered to evacuate and stay in shelters, officials said.

North Korea said the South’s military “invented a case of ‘shell fired by the North’,” according to KCNA.

The two Koreas last exchanged fire in October, when North Korean soldiers approached the military border and did not retreat after the South fired warning shots, the South Korean Defense Ministry said at the time. There were no casualties.

Tension between the two Koreas has risen since early this month, when landmine explosions in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) of the border wounded two South Korean soldiers. Seoul accused North Korea of laying the mines, which Pyongyang has denied.

The incident prompted Seoul to stage the propaganda broadcasts.

North Korea on Monday began conducting its own broadcasts.

Thursday’s exchange of fire took place during annual joint U.S. and South Korean military exercises.

The two Koreas have remained in a technical state of war since the 1950-1953 Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

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House And Senate Claimed Only 45 Employees Each, Then Signed Up 12,359 On Obamacare ‘Small Business’ Exchange

U.S. House And Senate Each Said They Had Only 45 Employees, Then Signed Up 12,359 For Insurance On Obamacare ‘Small-Business’ Exchange – CNS

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Both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives certified that they had only 45 employees each in order to sign up for the District of Columbia’s Small Business Exchange. But 12,359 – or 86 percent of the exchange’s enrollees – are members of Congress, congressional staff members, and their spouses and dependents, according to an appeal filed with the D.C. Court of Appeals by Judicial Watch.

The public interest law firm announced Monday that it is appealing the February dismissal of its lawsuit challenging congressional participation in the Obamacare exchange even though the D.C. Exchange Act limits enrollment to small companies with 50 or fewer employees.

“Congress obviously has far more than 50 employees,” Judicial Watch attorney Michael Bekesha pointed out in his opening brief. “It has thousands of employees.”

Congress enrolled in the small business exchange when its previous coverage under the Federal Employee Health Benefits plan was terminated by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and congressional employees stood to lose thousands of dollars in “employer contributions” if they enrolled in the District’s individual exchange.

According to documents obtained by Judicial Watch through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives both certified that they “employ 50 or fewer full time equivalent employees.”

In October 2013, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued a final rule that provides an “employer contribution” covering about three-quarters of the premiums of congressional employees enrolled in the small business exchange starting Jan. 1, 2014.

The OPM rule “allowed at least 12,359 congressional employees and their spouses and dependents to obtain health insurance through the Small Business Exchange… These 12,359 participants represent an astonishing 86% of the Small Business Exchange’s total enrollment,” the appeal states.

Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit last October on behalf of Kirby Vining, a D.C. resident since 1986, who objected to the expenditure of municipal funds to insure congressional employees in an exchange that was established specifically for small employers in the District.

“Congress authored the law [ACA], and is going to rather questionable lengths to avoid compliance with the law it drafted,” Vining said.

Although the D.C. Health Benefit Exchange Authority conceded that D.C. law limits participation in the exchange to small employers, it argued in court that “the local statute must yield to the extent the federal statute or regulation applies.”

In its motion to dismiss the case, the authority also stated that the exchange “has been funded exclusively by federal grants awarded to the District to establish its Exchange, and more recently, an assessment imposed on health carriers doing business in the District.”

In dismissing the lawsuit, D.C. Superior Court Judge Herbert Dixon ruled that Vining had no standing to challenge the OPM rule because he “has not demonstrated a reasonable inference that municipal taxpayer funds have been appropriated to defendant exchange authority to establish a cognizable injury to maintain standing to bring his underlying complaint.”

However, in a budget report submitted to Congress, the Exchange Authority’s actual budget for Fiscal Year 2013 ($10.9 million) and FY 2014 ($66.1 million) was identified as ” ‘municipal monies’ as originating from the District’s General Fund. No monies are identified as Federal Funds, Private Revenue, or Intra-District Funds,” according to the appeal.

“In Fiscal Year 2015, the Exchange Authority’s budget was reclassified from the General Fund to a newly created fund, separate and distinct from ‘Federal Funds’,” it continued.

Dixon also ruled that the OPM rule preempts the D.C. Exchange Act, noting that “allowing members of Congress and their staff to participate in the District’s small business health options program is authorized by federal regulations.”

But Judicial Watch argues in its appeal that the D.C. law cannot be preempted because it is “completely consistent and entirely compatible” with the federal law and in fact its “sole purpose is to implement various provisions of ACA.”

“In reality, the court ruled that a determination by a federal bureaucrat – in this instance, the director of OPM – trumps the 50-employee limit of the Exchange Act, at least with respect to Congress,” the group’s appeal brief stated. “No lawful regulation – much less a regulation that purports to delegate such authority to an agency head – can do that, and the Court cites no legal authority whatsoever for their astonishing conclusion that it can.”

Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton said that allowing Congress to enroll in an exchange meant for small businesses is both “unlawful and unethical.”

“It is an abuse of District taxpayers to use D.C. funds to subsidize illegal health insurance for Congress,” Fitton said in a statement. “It is unlawful and unethical for District officials to use local dollars to participate in Congress’s Obamacare fraud.

“The highest court in the District of Columbia must affirm the right of District taxpayers to protect their monies from being misappropriated by corrupt District officials.”

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Leftist Nightmare Update: Hawaii Shutting Down $205 Million Obamacare Exchange (Video)

Hawaii’s $205 Million Obamacare Exchange Shutting Down – TPNN

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Hawaii’s state legislature rejected legislation giving a $28-million cash infusion to its troubled Obamacare insurance exchange, making it impossible for the website to operate after this year.

The exchange will stop taking new enrollees on Friday.

Hawaii’s Connector Exchange released a statement saying:

“Now that it is clear that the state will not provide sufficient support for the Hawaii Health Connector’s operations through fiscal year 2016 (ending June 30, 2016), the Connector can no longer operate in a manner that would cause it to incur additional debts or other obligations for which it is unable to pay.”

“Staff reductions will commence immediately, with the executive director ( Jeff Kissel) exiting once the bulk of operational activities end.” The statement continued saying: “If the state cannot facilitate an orderly transition, the Connector’s operations will abruptly end, as the Connector does not have the resources to continue operations.”

According to Americanthinker, more states, including: Minnesota, Maryland, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Oregon – are having massive problems with their Obamacare websites, and are expected to close also. The cost? Almost a Billion dollars more of our money flushed down the drain.

Can any state exchanges continue to exist? With 36 states refusing to open their own exchanges and the Supreme Court ready to deal the death blow to subsidies, the future of the Obamacare exchanges appears uncertain at best.

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Shocker! California’s Obamacare Exchange Plagued By Incompetence, Mismanagement

Incompetence, Mismanagement Plague California’s Obamacare Insurance Exchange – Daily Signal

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California’s health insurance exchange, established under the Affordable Care Act, has been held out as a national model for Obamacare. In some ways – not all of them good – it is. Whether it’s falling far short of 2015 enrollment goals or sending out 100,000 inaccurate tax forms, Covered California is struggling with its share of challenges.

Now, several senior-level officials integral to the launch of Covered California – who enthusiastically support the Affordable Care Act – are speaking about what they view as gross incompetence and mismanagement involving some of the $1 billion federal tax dollars poured into the state effort.

‘Somebody Must Have Been Smoking Something’

Consultant Aiden Hill became a “foxhole convert” to Obamacare in July of 2010 when he lost his insurance, had a serious medical issue and couldn’t get a new policy.

“I lived through a health care nightmare. That’s one reason why I took a cut in my pay rate to work for Covered California.”

In March 2013, Hill was hired as project manager over Covered California’s massive $120 million call center effort. In just six short months, it would face an avalanche of customers seeking insurance mandated under the new law.

But five months on the job converted Hill from avid supporter to disenchanted whistleblower. He says the secretive and dysfunctional culture was more interested in cheerleading than real results. After he persistently raised concerns, Covered California abruptly terminated his contract. He says the experience drove him to raise allegations about waste and cover ups at a Covered California board meeting.

Covered California quietly launched an independent investigation into Hill’s grievances. Nine months later, the results were summarized in four sentences stating that evidence did “not support” Hill’s complaints. Hill calls the probe a sham and says the inquiry didn’t include interviews with many witnesses he suggested.

Today, Hill describes himself as disgusted by the process – and soured on Obamacare.

“I really believe that we’ve created a monster – and it’s an unaccountable monster,” Hill told The Daily Signal.

Covered California declined comment on Hill’s allegations.

Other officials integral to Covered California’s efforts concur with Hill’s assessment. One of them headed the largest call center.

“They started this way too late for what they needed to do,” says the official who was hired in April 2013, five months before the website’s launch. He has since left that position and asked not to be named to protect his current job status.

“This program had to touch 58 counties, 11 federal agencies, all medical carriers and all advocates. To have a system that would be integrated seamlessly – somebody must have been smoking something if they thought that was going to happen.”

Disappointing Enrollment

It’s against that backdrop that Covered California finds itself now grappling with a big disappointment: low enrollment growth. California ranked near the bottom in overall growth, with a scant 1 percent increase over last year.

“It’s a tiny fraction of the growth they were expecting,” says an official who helped implement the Affordable Care Act and examined California’s numbers.

As recently as last fall, the official says, California hoped to increase enrollment by 500,000 this year. But only an additional 7,098 have “selected a plan” for 2015.

“Their total enrollment is a step in the right direction but nowhere near what anyone thought it would be for the largest state in the country.”

Covered California would not answer our questions about enrollment figures.

Another telling statistic is Covered California’s poor retention rate. Even though people are required by law to have health insurance, only 65 percent of Covered California’s 2014 customers reenrolled in 2015. The rest dropped off.

Covered California would not address our questions about lackluster retention and growth.

Last month, the agency issued a press release touting a younger and more diverse mix of customers.

“New enrollment for 2015 coverage is strong and has brought in consumers who our marketing and outreach targeted,” said Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee, overlooking the fact that his organization’s retention of last year’s customers was among the lowest in the country.

Hoping for a bump, California followed the lead of the federal HealthCare.gov effort and repeatedly extended this year’s enrollment deadline. The Feb. 15 cutoff was pushed back to Feb. 20 and then Feb. 22. Now, it’s been extended to the end of this month.

“I lived through a health care nightmare. That’s one reason why I took a cut in my pay rate to work for Covered California.”

In March 2013, Hill was hired as project manager over Covered California’s massive $120 million call center effort. In just six short months, it would face an avalanche of customers seeking insurance mandated under the new law.

But five months on the job converted Hill from avid supporter to disenchanted whistleblower. He says the secretive and dysfunctional culture was more interested in cheerleading than real results. After he persistently raised concerns, Covered California abruptly terminated his contract. He says the experience drove him to raise allegations about waste and cover ups at a Covered California board meeting.

Covered California quietly launched an independent investigation into Hill’s grievances. Nine months later, the results were summarized in four sentences stating that evidence did “not support” Hill’s complaints. Hill calls the probe a sham and says the inquiry didn’t include interviews with many witnesses he suggested.

Today, Hill describes himself as disgusted by the process – and soured on Obamacare.

“I really believe that we’ve created a monster – and it’s an unaccountable monster,” Hill told The Daily Signal.

Covered California declined comment on Hill’s allegations.

Other officials integral to Covered California’s efforts concur with Hill’s assessment. One of them headed the largest call center.

“They started this way too late for what they needed to do,” says the official who was hired in April 2013, five months before the website’s launch. He has since left that position and asked not to be named to protect his current job status.

“This program had to touch 58 counties, 11 federal agencies, all medical carriers and all advocates. To have a system that would be integrated seamlessly – somebody must have been smoking something if they thought that was going to happen.”

Disappointing Enrollment

It’s against that backdrop that Covered California finds itself now grappling with a big disappointment: low enrollment growth. California ranked near the bottom in overall growth, with a scant 1 percent increase over last year.

“It’s a tiny fraction of the growth they were expecting,” says an official who helped implement the Affordable Care Act and examined California’s numbers.

As recently as last fall, the official says, California hoped to increase enrollment by 500,000 this year. But only an additional 7,098 have “selected a plan” for 2015.

“Their total enrollment is a step in the right direction but nowhere near what anyone thought it would be for the largest state in the country.”

Covered California would not answer our questions about enrollment figures.

Another telling statistic is Covered California’s poor retention rate. Even though people are required by law to have health insurance, only 65 percent of Covered California’s 2014 customers reenrolled in 2015. The rest dropped off.

Covered California would not address our questions about lackluster retention and growth.

Last month, the agency issued a press release touting a younger and more diverse mix of customers.

“New enrollment for 2015 coverage is strong and has brought in consumers who our marketing and outreach targeted,” said Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee, overlooking the fact that his organization’s retention of last year’s customers was among the lowest in the country.

Hoping for a bump, California followed the lead of the federal HealthCare.gov effort and repeatedly extended this year’s enrollment deadline. The Feb. 15 cutoff was pushed back to Feb. 20 and then Feb. 22. Now, it’s been extended to the end of this month.

Call Center Chaos

The devastating crash of Covered California’s website and call centers on Oct. 1, 2013 was “the canary in the coalmine, an early warning of deep dysfunction,” according to Hill.

Pre-launch testing had proven disastrous. As with the national HealthCare.gov website, “it was breaking at the first click of the button,” says the former call center manager who worked under Hill. “Behind the scenes, states were worried. I know we were worried.”

Covered California contractors projected 10,000 calls the first day. The call center manager says he knew they were way off. “I and my training manager, who had launched call centers before, projected 20,000. We had 21,000 on day one. Our contractors were wrong.”

The HealthCare.gov website was on a parallel trajectory. It, too, suffered under hasty development and failed performance tests days before launch – all while the Obama administration put on a positive public face.

“Everybody knew it wasn’t going to function,” says a third Covered California official. “Calls start coming in and within the first hour, the entire system went down – phone and web.”

“The train was coming off the rails,” adds Hill. “The call center was going into meltdown.”

The meltdown lasted for months and fixes proved costly. Covered California would not provide a tally of expenses, but the agency ended up asking the federal government for an extra $155 million. That put the cost of Covered California at more than $1.06 billion federal tax dollars.

Enrollment Exaggeration?

Covered California’s disastrous debut triggered a house of cards. When the website crashed, consumers were directed to fill out paper applications; they were 33 pages long and took at least an hour to complete. What’s more, they couldn’t be coordinated with the electronic version because of a major design flaw. The forms didn’t match.

But Covered California counted duplicate applications as if they were enrollments, giving the impression that more people had successfully signed up. (The Obama administration did the same with national HealthCare.gov applications.)

For example, Covered California’s Lee publicly touted 30,000 successful enrollments for the first month. Hill says the actual number was closer to 4,000.

“A lot of the information that came out of Covered California was misleading or outright lies,” Hill insists.

Another Covered California official agrees.

“There’s no way he didn’t know he wasn’t telling the truth,” says an official, who still works at the agency and asked not to be identified. “We were fully aware that those numbers were inflated. It was horrible… morale busting. Things were being said that were blatantly untrue.”

The Daily Signal asked for Lee’s side of the story, but Covered California declined to make him available.

Hill says misinformation was aided and abetted by an uninformed press. In the midst of Covered California’s fiasco, he was stunned to read a New York Times article claiming the Golden State was an Obamacare utopia: the crown jewel of the health care reform effort.

On Nov. 24, 2013, Paul Krugman of The New York Times gushed:

What would happen if we unveiled a program that looked like Obamacare, in a place that looked like America, but with competent project management that produced a working website? Well, your wish is granted. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you California… The California authorities have been especially forthcoming with data tracking the progress of enrollment. And the numbers are increasingly encouraging.

That assessment was far from the reality, say the Covered California officials who spoke to The Daily Signal.

Covered California declined to respond to our questions but issued this statement:

Covered California is proud that it has been the portal for nearly four million people to find coverage through one of our participating health plans or through low cost/no cost Medi-Cal; is helping more than a million people access financial assistance to lower their monthly health insurance premiums; through the Affordable Care Act has reduced the number of uninsured in California by half.

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Maryland Obamacare Exchange Wrongly Billed U.S. Taxpayers $28M

MD’s Exchange Wrongly Billed U.S. Taxpayers $28M – Sweetness & Light

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From the United Press International:

Audit shows Maryland health exchange improperly billed $28.4 million

March 27, 2015

WASHINGTON (UPI) – Maryland’s health insurance exchange improperly billed the federal government $28.4 million, a Department of Health and Human Services audit reported Friday.

In another patented Friday evening news dump.

An inspector general’s probe found a lack of oversight and internal controls, not criminal wrongdoing, was the cause of the exchange’s problems since the marketplace opened in 2013.

Their incompetence seems to border on criminality.

The Maryland Health Connection was among the first state exchanges approved by the federal government, but its website crashed on its first day of operation and it experienced numerous software problems and feuds between contractors.

The entire technological infrastructure of the exchange was scrapped in 2014 and replaced by a platform used by Connecticut’s exchange.

In other words, it was a typical Obama-Care success story. By the way, wouldn’t Maryland’s governor make a great President?

The audit said the state used a 2013 and 2014 federal grant to cover the exchange’s costs when it should have used funds from a Medicaid program jointly financed by Maryland and the federal government…

We’re sure it was an innocent mistake. The state wouldn’t want to try to cheat the federal taxpayers in other states.

The audit found two accounting errors, a $15.9 million misallocation caused by out-of-date enrollment data, and $12.5 million through an unidentified contractor’s incorrect calculations.

It recommended Maryland pay back the $28.4 million, then apply for the actual amount due it from the federal government…

Don’t hold your breath.

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*VIDEO* House Foreign Affairs Committe Hearing On Bergdahl/Taliban Prisoner Exchange



……………………….Click on image above to watch video.

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*VIDEOS* House Armed Services Committee Hearing On Bergdahl/Taliban Exchange


Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Defense Department General Counsel Stephen Preston testifiy about the release of five Taliban terrorists in exchange for Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl.

……………………..Click on images below to watch videos.
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Part 1

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Part 2

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