Outside the Bubble 10/24/13

Obama addresses Obamacare website problems

Obama gave a speech from the White House on Monday to address concerns about his new health care website. Obama acknowledged the login problems, long waits, and repeated failures with the website and assured the public that the best technology industry experts in the country were being brought in to help fix the site. “Nobody’s madder than me about the website not working as well as it should, which means it’s going to get fixed,” said President Obama (CNN, “Obama: No ‘sugarcoating’ problems with health website,” 10.21.13).
The Washington Post/ABC post released showed that 56 percent of respondents considered the current problems to be foreshadowing of broader problems with the Affordable Care Act. However, 46 percent said that they support the law now, as opposed to 42 percent last month. The government shutdown last week overshadowed the website but now the issue is at the center of public concern (The Huffington Post, “Obama vows fixes to health care website,” 10.21.13).
Republicans have called for the firing of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius over this problem. After Obama’s address, Speaker John Boehner said, “Americans didn’t get any answers from the President today, but the House’s oversight of this failure is just beginning” (The Washington Post, “Obama on health-care site: ‘There’s no excuse for the problems, and they are being fixed,’” 10.21.13).
Obama urged the public to support the law and be patient. “It’s time for folks to stop rooting for its failure, because hardworking middle class families are rooting for its success,” said Obama. (CNN) The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) expects 7 million Americans to enroll by April. President Obama maintained an optimistic view and said, “in some cases, actually, it’s exceeding expectations. The prices are lower than expected, and the choice is greater than we expected.” (CNN)

Report surfaces that U.S. intercepted more than 70 million French phone calls

The U.S. Ambassador to France Charles Rivkin met with French diplomats Monday over allegations that the United States National Security Agency (NSA) intercepted more than 70 million phone calls in France over a three-week period. These allegations all came from leaks by former NSA contractor, Edward Snowden. The report shows that an average of three million data intercepts occurred a day. The report explained, “When a telephone number is used in France, it activates a signal which automatically triggers the recording of the call.” (CNN, “Report: U.S. intercepts French phone calls on a ‘massive scale,’” 10.21.13)
“These kinds of practices between partners, that violate privacy, are totally unacceptable,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters. (CNN) These reports also came out the day after German news magazine, Der Spiegal, said that the NSA “systematically” eavesdropped on Mexico by hacking the email account of the former President Felipe Calderon.
In Paris, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with the Qatari foreign minister and would not address the specifics of the report but said that “lots of countries engage in intelligence activities to prevent terrorist attacks,” and added that France is one of the US’s closest allies. (CNN) “Our goal is always to try to find the right balance between protecting the security and privacy of our citizens,” said Kerry. (CNN) President Obama assured the French President Francois Hollande that a White House was conducting a review of intelligence practices and findings are expected in December (The Washington Post, “Report that NSA collected French phone records causing diplomatic headache for U.S.,” 10.21.13).
The report has also angered Brazil, Germany and Mexico. The President of Brazil canceled a visit to Washington DC and publicly denounced the U.S. for a “violation of human rights and civil liberties” (The Huffington Post, “NSA France: U.S. Conducted Large-Scale Spying on French Citizens: Report,” 10.21.13). It is unlikely that the US will pledge to never spy on an ally again because it is a common practice. It is unclear whether France intends to take any actions but prosecutors have already opened a preliminary into Prism, one of the NSA’s collection programs.

—Emily Hoffman, Reporter

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