The Obamas arrived back in Washington Sunday morning after their 15-day stay in Hawaii, the president’s birth state.
AP: “Iraq's prime minister on Monday urged residents and tribes of Fallujah to "expel" al-Qaida militants from this western city to avoid an all-out battle — remarks that may signal an imminent military move to retake the former insurgent stronghold.” More: “The recent gains by al-Qaida in Iraq have been a blow to the country's Shiite-led government, as sectarian violence has escalated since the U.S. withdrawal. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday that Washington was ‘very, very concerned’ by the fighting but would not send in American troops.”
Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham said in a statement that the Obama administration is partially to blame: “While many Iraqis are responsible for this strategic disaster, the Administration cannot escape its share of the blame. When President Obama withdrew all U.S. forces from Iraq in 2011, over the objections of our military leaders and commanders on the ground, many of us predicted that the vacuum would be filled by America's enemies and would emerge as a threat to U.S. national security interests. Sadly, that reality is now clearer than ever. What's sadder still, the thousands of brave Americans who fought, shed their blood, and lost their friends to bring peace to Fallujah and Iraq are now left to wonder whether these sacrifices were in vain.”
AP: “The New York Times and Guardian newspapers have called for clemency for Edward Snowden, saying that the espionage worker-turned-privacy advocate should be praised rather than punished for his disclosures.”
Dennis Rodman and various former NBA All Stars are in North Korea. He called an upcoming game he’s putting on against a group of North Korean players a “birthday present” for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The players include, per AP: Kenny Anderson, Cliff Robinson, Vin Baker, Eric "Sleepy" Floyd, guard Doug Christie and Charles D. Smith, plus four streetballers.
AP: “The new year brought relief for Americans who previously had no health insurance or were stuck in poor plans, but it also led to confusion after the troubled rollout of the federal health care reforms sent a crush of late applications to overloaded government agencies. That created stacks of yet-to-be-processed paperwork and thousands — if not millions — of people unsure about whether they have insurance.”
“For working people making modest wages and struggling with high medical bills from chronic disease, President Barack Obama's health care plan sounds like long-awaited relief. But the promise could go unfulfilled,” AP writes. “It's true that patients with cancer and difficult conditions such as multiple sclerosis or Crohn's disease will be able to get insurance and financial help with monthly premiums. But their annual out-of-pocket costs could still be so high they'll have trouble staying out of debt. You couldn't call them uninsured any longer. You might say they're ‘underinsured.’”
National Journal looks at how the standard for success for the health law in the Obama administration has evolved (or devolved).