President Obama defended his economic, health care and foreign policies on Friday, declaring in a year-end news conference that he has brought about a new American resurgence and is energized about his final two years in office.
Noisey present the premiere of Tinie Tempah's Demonstration: How You Do A Tour, a unique documentary that goes behind the scenes on the road life of a UK rap star.
In late 2013, Tinie and his team began to work tirelessly on preparing something that would change the live pop concert game forever, and this documentary follows the tour that took him to Manchester, Glasgow, Liverpool, London and many more cities, with support from Krept and Konan and special guests Meridian Dan, DJ Fresh and Wiz Kid.
WASHINGTON -- A month and a half ago, President Barack Obama went to the East Room of the White House to take his medicine. His party was fresh off a horrible midterm election loss. His name was toxic. One leading Democratic Senate candidate wouldn't even say whether she had voted for him in 2012. His failure to influence events globally, and the inability to pass major legislation domestically, had all contributed to a prevailing sense that the White House had lost its way.
The press conference was notable because Obama struck a defiant tone, pledging to plow forward on his planned executive actions even if Republicans had run against them. He seemed almost optimistic about the prospect of working with a Republican-run Senate and House. Obama was, it appeared, in denial.
But now, as he gets set to head to Hawaii for his annual Christmas vacation, it's beginning to seem like Obama knew more than the reporters who cover him. He achieved some legacy-defining victories during the lame-duck session. And in his year-end press conference on Friday, he showed a bit of swagger that seemed implausible in mid-November.
"Pick any metric that you want," he said. "America’s resurgence is real. We’re better off."
A good deal of Obama's enthusiasm is owed to a political landscape that, at least in the interim, worked well in his favor. Over the summer, he was shackled by calculations that he was a burden to the party, and he was virtually absent from the campaign trail. A series of crises seemed to overwhelm his presidency: from the claims backlog at the VA and the influx of young undocumented immigrants crossing the southern border to the rise of the Islamic State and the Ebola epidemic. November's election did not represent a Republican wave so much as an indictment of a sluggish Democratic agenda.
But elections come to a close, and crises eventually get resolved. With that comes the chance to breathe, if not claim triumph.
“We’ve gone through difficult times,” Obama said during his Friday press conference. “But through persistent effort and faith in the American people, things get better. The economy's gotten better. Our ability to generate clean energy's gotten better. We know more about how to educate our kids. We solved problems.”
By its own metrics, the administration had a majorly successful lame-duck session. Days after the post-election press conference, The Huffington Post sat down with a senior White House official to discuss what a successful end of the year would look like. The official named three priorities: passing funding to fight Ebola, getting the government funded "without drama," and confirming pending judicial nominees.
All those things, and more, have happened. The president issued an executive action on immigration, in the process granting legal protections to an estimated 5 million people. He struck a climate change deal with China, bringing the world's biggest polluter and one of its fiercest resisters of reform into the environmental protection movement. He has continued to oversee steady job growth and, for the first time, some signs that wage increases will be coming along with it. He relaxed the United States' policy toward Cuba and opened up relations with the country. And his health care law enabled Americans to successfully enroll in insurance for the second year in a row, a process that occurred almost entirely under the radar.
The question now is whether this is an interim period of achievement or if it will set the stage for more to come.
“I’m energized. I’m excited about the prospects for the next couple years,” Obama said Friday. “A new future is ready to be written. We’ve set the stage for this American moment.”
But the harsh reality, as the White House knows, is that it extending the lame-duck successes into a new Congress will be virtually impossible. In a nightmare scenario for the administration, much of what the president did will begin to unravel. A showdown looms in a matter of months over funding the Department of Homeland Security. Bills will likely be passed undoing some of Obama's environmental wins. His executive action on immigration and his new policy toward Cuba can be rolled back under the next president. The Supreme Court will issue a ruling that could fundamentally uproot his health care law.
And so naturally, the president seemed to get a bit defensive toward the end of Friday's press conference.
“I’m confident that I’ll be able to uphold vetoes,” he said. “If executive actions on areas like minimum wage or equal pay or having a more sensible immigration system are important to Republicans, if they care about those issues and these are bothering them, there is a very simple solution: pass bills and work with me to make sure I’m willing to sign those bills.”
More than any other politician, Obama knows that the current narrative surrounding his presidency is either inflated or wrong -- and certainly fleeting.
The St. Louis County prosecutor in the grand jury that acquitted Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson said that some of the witnesses called lied under oath.
"Clearly some were not telling the truth,” Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch said in an interview with KTRS radio on Friday. He said he's not planning to file charges against witnesses who lied.
McCulloch said that he wanted "anyone who claimed to have witnessed anything... presented to the grand jury," and that he didn't have regrets about calling non-credible witnesses, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
McCulloch talked about at least one witness who he said appeared to have pulled her account of Michael Brown's death from a newspaper report.
The Post-Dispatch reported that McCulloch was referring to Sandra McElroy, whose retelling of events was discredited by investigators.
It was McCulloch's first extensive interview since the grand jury decided not to charge Wilson in the Aug. 9 shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown.
The decision in the Wilson case, and the acquittal of a NYPD officer in the death of Eric Garner, set of a wave of national protests in late November and early December.
After delivering a classic debut album My Krazy Life, YG is back in the limelight to finish the year off on a high. The Def Jam rapper has released a mini movie called " Blame It On The Streets " which comes along with an accompanying soundtrack. The movie is directed by Lucky Rodgers and Alex Nazari.
Yelawolf stopped by Ebro In The Morning and shared an important conversation on the issues of race and how it affects him and his bi-racial son.
On top of just race, they also spoke about the outstanding issue with police and shared their personal encounters with law enforcement, as well as what influenced his "arena music" sound.
The emergence of drug cartels working together with paramilitary groups has been a rising threat for countries in the Western hemisphere. One of the most effective responses has been Fuerzas Comando, an inter-military and special ops exercise attended by forces from across North, Central, and South America. The goals of the event are to promote inter-military relationships, increase interoperability, and improve regional security.
This year, military forces from 17 countries, ranging from Belize to the United States, came together for the exercises at one of Colombia's biggest military bases, Fort Tolemaida. While each country has their own set of security threats, they all share the need to boost and innovate their military capabilities.
On the eastern edge of St. Joseph, Missouri, lies the small city's only hospital, a landmark of brick and glass. Music from a player piano greets visitors at the main entrance, and inside, the bright hallways seem endless. Long known as Heartland Regional Medical Center, the nonprofit hospital and its system of clinics recently rebranded. Now they're called Mosaic Life Care, because, their promotional materials say: "We offer much more than health care. We offer life care."
Two miles away, at the rear of a low-slung building is a key piece of Mosaic—Heartland's very own for-profit debt collection agency.
When patients receive care at Heartland and don't or can't pay, their bills often end up here at Northwest Financial Services. And if those patients don't meet Northwest's demands, their debts can make another, final stop: the Buchanan County Courthouse.
From 2009 through 2013, Northwest filed more than 11,000 lawsuits. When it secured a judgment, as it typically did, Northwest was entitled to seize a hefty portion of a debtor's paycheck. During those years, the company garnished the pay of about 6,000 people and seized at least $12 million—an average of about $2,000 each, according to a ProPublica analysis of state court data.
Many were uninsured Heartland patients who were eligible for financial aid that would have eliminated or drastically cut their bills. Instead, they were charged full price for their care, without the deep discounts negotiated by insurers, according to court records, interviews and data provided by Heartland. No other Missouri hospital sued more of its patients.
Blue collar workers, Walmart cashiers, nursing home aides, clerical staffers—these types of patients have long been the most vulnerable to unexpected debt. They can't afford insurance, yet they're not poor enough for Medicaid. Even after the 2010 Affordable Care Act, about 30 million Americans remain uninsured, in part because some states, like Missouri, have not expanded Medicaid to cover more of the poor.
Earlier this year, ProPublica and NPR reported that the wages of millions of U.S. workers are diverted to pay off a variety of consumer debts. Most states, like Missouri, allow creditors to take a quarter of after-tax wages—an amount that government surveys show is unaffordable for lower-income families.
Consumer advocates say the laws governing wage garnishment are outdated and overly punitive, regardless of the debt's source. But the consequences are especially dire when garnishment is used to collect unavoidable health care bills—with interest and legal fees piled on.
No one tracks how many hospitals sue their patients and how frequently, but ProPublica and NPR found hospitals that routinely did so in Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Alabama, as well as Missouri. The number of suits is clearly in the tens of thousands annually. In Missouri alone, hospitals and debt collection firms working for them filed more than 15,000 suits in 2013.
Court records also revealed stark differences in how hospitals within each state pursued patients who couldn't pay their bills. In Missouri, a handful of hospitals, Heartland foremost among them, accounted for an outsized portion of suits. But many others, including the state's largest hospital, rarely, if ever, sued.
Heartland's aggressive tactics aren't because the hospital is strapped for cash. Despite being based in an economically struggling county of just 90,000, Heartland reported a $45 million profit last year and paid its chief executive $1.2 million, according to its annual report. The hospital declined to discuss Northwest's finances.
As a nonprofit, Heartland pays no income taxes and no property taxes on the acres of land it owns. In exchange for these tax breaks, it is expected to provide a benefit to the community—most crucially by providing care to lower income patients who can't afford to pay.
Tama Wagner, the hospital's chief brand officer, said the hospital does everything it can to fulfill that mission. Patients are offered multiple opportunities to qualify for financial assistance and avoid the possibility of legal action, she said, adding that it's better for everyone "if we attempt to work on things before it gets to this level."
But if patients don't utilize those resources, she said, the hospital must take action. "No one goes into this with the goal or the desire to ruin someone's life," she said. "But at the same time, the services were rendered, and we have to figure out how to get them paid for."
Asked why the hospital sues more patients than any other in the state, Wagner said, "I don't know."
Chi Chi Wu, an attorney with the National Consumer Law Center, said Heartland's tactics ran counter to its mission. Nonprofit hospitals are given tax-exempt status "because they are supposed to be serving the public and especially the poor," she said.
But if hospitals are charging low-income, uninsured patients "even more and then garnishing their wages on the basis of these inflated amounts," there ought to be consequences, she said. "They should lose their tax-exempt status."
The center has recommended that federal regulators prohibit debt collectors from garnishing wages based on the high prices hospitals charge uninsured patients.
In interviews, former patients said they'd run up debts to Heartland mostly because, in an emergency, it's their only option. They never expected the hospital to seize their wages if they couldn't pay.
Northwest first sued Keith and Katie Herie when they couldn't afford the $14,000 bill for Katie's emergency appendectomy. While Northwest was seizing Keith Heries' pay for that suit, it sued him again over another hospital visit. Since 2006, the Heries have paid almost $20,000 and still owe at least $26,000, with interest mounting.
ProPublica and NPR shared Herie's case and other findings with Heartland's board of trustees, which is now reviewing the hospital's debt collection practices.
"Make it so people can make a dent in it," said Herie, 51, a drill operator. "There's a lot of people who want to be able to pay their medical bills...But they're not going to jeopardize their household for it."
J. Cole's third album, 2014 Forest Hills Drive, easily debuts at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, marking the rapper's third consecutive chart-topper. He previously led the list with his debut effort, 2011's Cole World: The Sideline Story, and its follow-up, 2013's Born Sinner.
2014 Forest Hills Drive moved 375,000 equivalent units in the week ending Dec. 14, according to Nielsen Music. (The Billboard 200 chart measures multi-metric consumption, including pure album sales. The ranking includes on-demand streaming and digital track sales, in addition to traditional album sales, all measured by Nielsen.)
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On the latest Billboard 200, 84 percent of the chart's total units (adding up the weekly unit totals of Nos. 1 through 200) are pure album sales. The rest of its units are track equivalent albums (TEA) and streaming equivalent albums (SEA).
2014 Forest Hills Drive sold 354,000 copies in it first week, and it also debuts at No. 1 on the Top Album Sales chart. The sum is the fifth-largest sales week for an album in 2014, and the biggest for a hip-hop set in over a year. The only larger weeks this year were racked up by Taylor Swift's 1989 (in its first two frames: 1.29 million and 402,000, respectively), One Direction's first week with Four (387,000) and Coldplay's arrival with Ghost Stories (383,000).
The last hip-hop album to score a bigger sales week than 2014 Forest Hills Drive's opener was Eminem's The Marshall Mathers LP 2, when it launched at No. 1 with 792,000 in the week ending Nov. 10, 2013.
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J. Cole has seen each of his albums grow in debut week sales. His first album, Cole World, started at No. 1 with 212,000 sold. His second set, Born Sinner, launched at No. 2 with 297,000 (and moved to No. 1 in its third chart week).
2014 Forest Hills Drive, released on Roc Nation through Columbia Records, is the sixth No. 1 for the Roc Nation label. The label's founder, Jay Z, scored Roc Nation's first leader with The Blueprint 3 (in 2009). It was followed by Jay Z and Kanye West's Watch the Throne (2011), Cole's Cole World and Born Sinner, and Jay Z's Magna Carta… Holy Grail (2013).
Taylor Swift's 1989 slips one rung to No. 2 after five non-consecutive weeks atop the Billboard 200. It shifted 324,000 units (up 18 percent), of which 278,000 were pure album sales (up 21 percent).
Pentatonix's That's Christmas to Me falls 2-3 with 218,000 units (down 1), powered largely by pure album sales (207,000, down 1 percent). The bulk of Pentatonix's units were comprised of album sales (95 percent), with 3.8 percent driven by TEA and another 1.4 percent by SEA.
Carrie Underwood scores her fifth consecutive top five album, as her Greatest Hits: Decade #1 bows at No. 4 with 103,000 units (94,000 in pure album sales). This is the first best-of collection for the singer, who previously logged four albums that reached the top two: her Some Hearts debut (No. 2 in 2005), followed by three No. 1s: Carnival Ride (2007), Play On (2009) and Blown Away (2012).
Underwood's latest set is the highest-charting greatest hits album since the chart dated Aug. 25, 2012, when Frank Sinatra's Nothing But the Best re-entered at No. 3 (thanks to deep discounting by Amazon MP3). Underwood logs the biggest sales week for a best-of since Whitney Houston's Whitney: The Greatest Hits shifted 112,000 on the chart dated March 17, 2012 (in the wake of Houston's death), and the biggest sales debut for a hits set since Sinatra's Nothing arrived with 99,000 (at No. 2) on the May 31, 2008 chart.
Back on the new Billboard 200, AC/DC's Rock or Bust descends 3-5 with 94,000 units (down 46 percent).
K. Michelle achieves her second top 10 album as Anybody Wanna Buy a Heart? arrives at No. 6 with 88,000 units (84,000 in album sales). It follows the singer's first album, 2013's Rebellious Soul, which debuted and peaked at No. 2 with 72,000 sold in its opening week.
One Direction's Four falls 5-7 with 82,000 units (up 11 percent). Pure album sales make up 72,000 of that figure.
Sam Smith's In the Lonely Hour moves 4-8 with 81,000 units (up less than 1 percent), with 60,000 of that sum consisting of album sales.
Ed Sheeran's x returns to the top 10 for the first time since the Sept. 6-dated chart, as his album climbs 11-9 with 65,000 units (up 56 percent). He was up across the board in album sales (36,000; up 62 percent), TEA (22,000; up 65 percent) and SEA (7,000; up 17 percent). A lot of his gain's credit is owed to his performance of the album's "Thinking Out Loud" on the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, which aired Dec. 9 on CBS. The song concurrently bounds into the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Sheeran greatly benefits from the Billboard 200's new methodology incorporating TEA and SEA. On the Top Album Sales chart (which employs the Billboard 200's old measurement system of pure album sales), x rises 29-18.
Rounding out the new Billboard 200's top 10 is Garth Brooks' Man Against Machine, descending 8-10 with 62,000 units (up 8 percent). On the Top Album Sales chart, it falls 7-8 with the same sum, as the album is unavailable on streaming services, and its individual tracks are unavailable to purchase.
When millionaire hedge fund manager James (Will Ferrell) is nailed for fraud and bound for a stretch in San Quentin, the judge gives him 30 days to get his affairs in order. Desperate, he turns to Darnell (Kevin Hart) to prep him for a life behind bars. But despite James’ one-percenter assumptions, Darnell is a hard-working small business owner who has never received a parking ticket, let alone been to prison.
Together, the two men do whatever it takes for James to “get hard” and, in the process, discover how wrong they were about a lot of things – including each other.
BLACK OR WHITE is the story of a grandfather (Academy Award® winner Kevin Costner) who is suddenly left to care for his beloved granddaughter. When the little girl’s paternal grandmother (Academy Award® nominee Octavia Spencer) seeks custody, a legal battle ensues that forces the families to confront their true feelings on race, forgiveness and understanding. Anchored by an all-star cast and based on real events, the movie is a look at two seemingly different worlds, in which nothing is as simple as black or white.