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Eugene Robinson at The Washington Post writes that the Affordable Health Care act is here to stay, despite Republican pipe dreams:
Any existential threat to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) ended with the popping of champagne corks as the new year arrived. That was when an estimated 6 million uninsured Americans received coverage through expanded Medicaid eligibility or the federal and state health insurance exchanges. Obamacare is now a fait accompli; nobody is going to take this coverage away.

There may be more huffing, puffing and symbolic attempts at repeal by Republicans in Congress. There may be continued resistance and sabotage by Republican governors and GOP-controlled state legislatures. But the whole context has changed.

Meanwhile, The Detroit Free Press says extending unemployment benefits should be "job No. 1" for Congress this year:
There’s simply no good justification — economic or social — to heap more hardship on those who were hardest hit by the economic downturn. It’s not good for them. It won’t be good for the country. When Congress gets back to work after the new year, restoring jobless benefits needs to be high on its agenda.
More on the day's top stories below the fold.
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Raising the minimum wage will be a big story this year. Harold Meyerson explains how Democrats will lead the charge:

Most efforts to raise the minimum wage this year are likely to come in blue states and cities. The recent leftward movement of U.S. cities, symbolized by the landslide election of Bill de Blasio as New York’s mayor, is an underappreciated factor in U.S. politics. Twenty years ago, six of the country’s dozen largest cities had Republican mayors. Today, none do, even when those cities — including Houston, Dallas and Phoenix — are nestled in red states. The transformation of major U.S. cities is rooted in demographics, as immigrants and young professionals — both preponderantly liberal constituencies — have clustered in urban areas.
The evolution of the Boy Scouts' stance on gays isn't complete, says The New York Times:
Unfortunately, the organization still refuses to fully renounce discrimination, and will continue to prohibit gay and lesbian adults from serving as troop leaders. This will perpetuate the idea that gays are inferior and that being gay is inconsistent with the Boy Scout values of strong moral character and leadership. It also means that gay youngsters who excel as scouts will be denied the chance to serve as pack or troop leaders when they turn 18.
On the topic of climate change, in case you missed it, it's worst than we thought. Nick Visser at HuffPo summarizes:
Climate change may be far worse than scientists thought, causing global temperatures to rise by at least 4 degrees Celsius by 2100, or about 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit, according to a new study.

The study, published in the journal Nature, takes a fresh look at clouds' effect on the planet, according to a report by The Guardian. The research found that as the planet heats, fewer sunlight-reflecting clouds form, causing temperatures to rise further in an upward spiral.

That number is double what many governments agree is the threshold for dangerous warming. Aside from dramatic environmental shifts like melting sea ice, many of the ills of the modern world -- starvation, poverty, war and disease -- are likely to get worse as the planet warms.

Which means steps like this can't happen soon enough:
...But while the public’s attention has been on his diplomacy in the Middle East, behind the scenes at the State Department Mr. Kerry has initiated a systematic, top-down push to create an agencywide focus on global warming.

His goal is to become the lead broker of a global climate treaty in 2015 that will commit the United States and other nations to historic reductions in fossil fuel pollution.

Any why letters to the editor like this one by Warren Senders in Massachusetts are so important:
ALEC’s malign influence on the legislative process is by now reasonably well known. Its “model legislation” is routinely enacted without change by lawmakers too lazy or too corrupt to do their jobs responsibly.

And there’s nothing at all to laugh about when it comes to climate change. The accelerating greenhouse effect is on track to catastrophically disrupt agriculture, infrastructure and the other support systems of our civilization. Yet ALEC and other ultra-conservative forces have used their financial resources to seriously hobble national or regional efforts to prepare for disastrous outcomes.

WARREN SENDERS, Medford, Mass.

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