Los Angeles Gives Out Totes Ahead of Jan. 1 Plastic-Bag Ban

Nov 21, 2013, 12:05 pm EDT

The city of Los Angeles is giving away reusable totes to get residents use to the plastic-bag ban that will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2014.

The totes, which cost $5 a piece to make, are being made by nonprofit organizations that help veterans and former gang members. The totes will be made out of recycled materials and will be given away for free. Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz is raising money to help with the manufacturing of the totes. The groups creating the totes have already received a $25,000 donation from the art studio, Metabolic Studio, reports the Los Angeles Times.

The law banning plastic bags will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2014. Smaller retailers will have until July 1, 2014 to stop using plastic bags. Retailers will still be able to sell paper bags for 10 cents a piece, but lawmakers hope that people will move to using reusable totes, the L.A. Times notes. Read 

Fla. Congressman Charged With Cocaine Possession

Nov 20, 2013, 2:07 pm EDT

Fla. Congressman Trey Radel was charged with possession of cocaine on Wednesday.

Radel, R-Fla., who is only 10 months into his first term in Congress, pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine. He was sentenced to a year of probation and plans to seek counseling. If Radel, 37, completes his probation, he won’t have a conviction charge on his records. The congressman, who is known to be hyper, hasn’t announced any plans to resign from office, reports the Washington Post.

Radel was caught when he bought cocaine from an undercover agent on Oct. 26. He purchased 3.5 grams of cocaine from the agent for $260. Radel was approached by officers after the incident and he then invited them to his home, where they found a vial that had cocaine in it, the Washington Post notes. Read 

Awkward … Obamacare ‘Success Story’ Takes Embarrassing Turn

Nov 20, 2013, 10:18 am EDT

President Barack Obama’s new health insurance program can’t seem to catch a break.

Just weeks after the president publicly touted the experience of a Washington state woman who had written him to express her thanks for the Affordable Care Act, the woman now says she can’t afford the insurance she was promised. Jessica Sanford had signed up for Obamacare through her state’s exchange and was initially told she qualified for tax credits that would have allowed her to purchase coverage for an affordable price, CNN notes.

However, after sending the president her letter, the Washington state health exchange contacted Sanford, informing her that it had made an error. It turns out she doesn’t qualify for the tax credits that were initially promised. The exchange has apologized to Sanford and to “thousands of other Washington state residents” who were given errant benefit calculations. Read 

U.S. Postal Service Setting Up Mini Branches in Staples Stores

Nov 20, 2013, 9:35 am EDT
U.S. Postal Service Setting Up Mini Branches in Staples Stores

The U.S. Postal Service is setting up mini branches inside select Staples (SPLS) stores.

The postal service plans to open 82 of these mini branches in Staples store around the nation. The mini branches, which are already set up it some stores, will sell stamps and offer shipping and mailing services. Staples stores with a USPS mini branch inside them will use the postal service as its only shipping and mailing option. The mini branches will be tested in five areas, including San Francisco, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, San Diego and Worcester, Mass., reports the Washington Post.

“I think it’s a great marriage of the two. Folks come here for office supplies, all kinds of needs in that regard,” Tad Kelley, a USPS spokesperson, told CBS News. “Now, they have the opportunity to mail things right from this location. I think it’s really a good fit.” Read 

IT Experts: Shut Down Obamacare Site for Security Flaws

Nov 20, 2013, 9:29 am EDT

At a congressional hearing on Tuesday, a number of computer experts delivered a harsh verdict for the federal online health insurance exchange that is at the center of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

When asked directly if HealthCare.gov features enough security to protect consumer data, all four information technology experts testifying before a House of Representatives committee said “no.” Three of the experts went on to say that the federal website, which is meant to handle insurance coverage for subscribers in 36 states, should be shut down until better security was installed. The fourth experts indicated that he lacked enough information to make that assessment, Reuters notes.

HealthCare.gov launched last month, but has been plagued with technical glitches and an inability to handle large numbers of consumers trying to access the website. President Obama has apologized for the problems and vowed to have the website fixed by Dec. 1. Read 

Obama Previously Briefed On HealthCare.gov Issues

Nov 19, 2013, 7:50 pm EDT

Despite public claims of surprise at the difficult roll-out of HealthCare.gov, President Barack Obama was briefed earlier this year and warned of potential issues with the site, according to the White House.

Documents released by the House Energy and Commerce Committee noted that Obama was warned as early as March about potential risks with the introduction of HealthCare.gov. Officials from the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services were briefed by a private consulting firm who reviewed over 200 documents and met with HHS staff to identify problems prior to the site opening.

The firm prepared a report stating insufficient testing, evolving requirements, and relying too much on outside contractors could hamper the implementation of the online marketplace. Read 

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