Clinton didn’t pay health insurance bills

Clinton didn’t pay health insurance bills
By: Kenneth P. Vogel
March 31, 2008 12:11 PM EST

Among the debts reported this month by Hillary Rodham Clinton’s struggling presidential campaign, the $292,000 in unpaid health insurance premiums for her campaign staff stands out.

Clinton, who is being pressured to end her campaign against Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination, has made her plan for universal health care a centerpiece of her agenda.

The campaign provides health insurance to all its employees, their spouses, partners and children — and that wasn’t interrupted by any lag in payments to insurance providers, said Jay Carson, a Clinton campaign spokesman.

He said the campaign this month paid off all outstanding bills to Aetna Healthcare and CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield. Those payments will be reflected on a report the campaign will file this month with the Federal Election Commission, which Carson said will show “zero debt owed to both vendors.”

“Sometimes invoices are not paid immediately because we need additional information for our records, or to verify expenses,” Carson said in a statement e-mailed to Politico. “Sometimes invoices arrive at the very end of the month at the cutoff of the reporting period, which means that we are required to report them as a debt on the current FEC report, even where they are paid in regular course during the next month.”

But the unpaid bills to Aetna were at least two months old, according to FEC filings.

They show the campaign ended last year owing Aetna more than $213,000 for “employee benefits.”

During the first two months of the year, the campaign did not pay down any of that debt. In fact, it accrued another $16,000 in unpaid bills last month, and it finished the month owing Aetna $229,000.

Though the campaign reported owing $63,000 to Carefirst at the end of February for employee benefits, it appears Clinton paid that company on a more frequent basis. The New York senator’s presidential campaign began the month owing $299,000 to Carefirst, but paid that amount in its entirety, and the $63,000 it owed at the end of the month appears to be from services rendered last month.

Campaigns resemble businesses in many ways. Like businesses, one of their biggest costs is salaries, payroll taxes and the benefits of their employees. Also like businesses, they tend to carry unpaid bills as debt from week-to-week or even month-to-month.

But Arizona Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, did not report any unpaid bills to insurance providers at the end of February. And the only insurance-related debt reported by Obama, an Illinois senator, was $908 to AIG American International Group for “insurance.”

Their campaigns also reported substantially less debt overall than Clinton’s, which owed $8.7 million at the end of February. Obama owed $625,000 and McCain $4.3 million, though most of his debt was from a bank loan, and only $1.3 million was in the form of unpaid bills to a dozen vendors.

Carson stressed that Clinton’s campaign pays all its bills “regularly and in the normal course of business.”

The EU-Turkey romance is on the rocks

The EU-Turkey romance is on the rocks

November 08, 2006

Islam, Politics

Los Angeles Times Tracy Wilkinson November 7, 2006

After early promise, the Muslim nation’s membership bid appears headed for limbo. Both sides’ ardor has cooled.

ANKARA, TURKEY — They’re calling it a train crash here, the seemingly inevitable collision between this large Muslim nation and the Europe it has courted for years.

Those gauging Turkey’s once promising program of reforms, aimed at modernizing its democracy and facilitating membership in the European Union, see a troubled landscape: Turkish writers, journalists and even a 93-year-old academic are hauled into court on charges they insulted their country. Military commanders known for staging coups make veiled threats.

Anti-Western nationalism is on the rise, conservative Islam is spreading, and public opinion in favor of joining the EU has plummeted to an all-time low.

At the same time, many in Europe have soured on the prospect of welcoming a poor, officially Muslim country of 70 million people to their 25-nation club.

On Wednesday, the EU will issue its annual progress report. It is expected to sharply criticize Turkey as failing to sufficiently improve human rights, freedom of speech, cultural rights for minority Kurds and civilian control over the military, according to portions that have been leaked to the media.

It now seems likely that Turkey’s EU bid will be put on hold — not formally suspended, but frozen for possibly as long as a year.

Thousands march for secularism in Turkey

Thousands march for secularism in Turkey
by
Saturday 04 November 2006 5:38 PM GMT

 

Thousands have marched through the Turkish capital, Ankara, vowing to defend Turkey’s secular state against rising Islamic sentiment within the ruling AK Party.

Some 12,000 people from more than 100 pro-secular associations waved Turkish flags as they marched to the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey. Many carried posters of Ataturk.
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“Turkey is secular and it will remain secular,” they chanted during the march which was broadcast live on Turkish TV channels.

Secular Turks have felt increasingly threatened by a rise in Islamism under the AK Party.

There was outrage earlier this year when a high court judge, who had ruled against a teacher for wearing a headscarf to school, was shot by a lawyer. Tensions have been rising since.

Senal Sarihan, the president of the Republican Women’s Association, said: “The gains of the republic were being rolled back one by one. Today is the day to rise up for the Republic.”

Election debate

Ahmet Necdet Sezer, the Turkish president, who is a staunch secularist, is due to retire in May 2007. Parliament, which is dominated by legislators from the AK Party, will choose the next president. 

Sener Eruygur, the former commander of Turkey’s paramilitary forces and president of the Ataturk Thought Association, warned against alleged plans by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, to run for president in May.

Eruygur said: “There are plans to occupy the presidential palace a symbol of secularism in Turkey.”

Symbolic Although largely ceremonial, the presidency has become a symbol of secularism under Sezer. A former Constitutional Court judge, Sezer has vetoed a record number of laws that he deemed violated the secular constitution and has blocked government efforts to appoint hundreds of reportedly Islamic-oriented candidates to important civil service positions.

Citing the constitution Sezer said: “The state’s … order cannot be based on religious rules. Religion or religious sentiments … cannot be used for personal or political gains.”

Sezer has recently cautioned against the threat of Islamic fundamentalism.

Erdogan’s government denies that it has an Islamic agenda, but pro-secular Turks say that the government is slowly moving the country toward increased religious rule and threatening the secular state.

Reforms

Since taking power, Erdogan has shown his commitment to EU membership by enacting sweeping reforms that allowed the country to start accession talks in October 2005.

He has also stoked secularist concerns by speaking out against restrictions on wearing Islamic-style headscarfs in government offices and schools while taking steps to bolster religious schools. 

Erdogan tried to criminalise adultery before being forced to back down under intense EU pressure. Some party-run municipalities have taken steps to ban alcohol consumption in government tea houses.

The presidential palace is a government office and if Erdogan were to become president, the headscarf worn by his wife, Emine, could cause further tensions.

Aljazeera + Agencies