Nation roundup for January 13
Spanish health site has struggles
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Mirroring problems with the federal health care website, people around the nation attempting to navigate the Spanish version have discovered their own set of difficulties.
The site, CuidadoDeSalud.gov, launched more than two months late.
A Web page with Spanish instructions linked users to an English form.
And the translations were so clunky and full of grammatical mistakes that critics say they must have been computer-generated — the name of the site itself can literally be read “for the caution of health.”
“When you get into the details of the plans, it’s not all written in Spanish. It’s written in Spanglish, so we end up having to translate it for them,” said Adrian Madriz, a health care navigator who helps with enrollment in Miami.
The issues with the site underscore the halting efforts across the nation to get Spanish-speakers enrolled under the federal health care law. Critics say that as a result of various problems, including those related to the website, many people whom the law was designed to help have been left out of the first wave of coverage.
Federal officials say they have been working to make the site better and plan further improvements soon. Also, administrators say they welcome feedback and try to fix typos or other errors quickly.
“We launched consumer-friendly Spanish online enrollment tools on CuidadoDeSalud.gov in December which represents one more way for Latinos to enroll in Marketplace plans,” said Health and Human Services Department spokesman Richard Olague in an email to The Associated Press. “Since the soft-launch, we continue to work closely with key stakeholders to get feedback in order to improve the experience for those consumers that use the website.”
Still, efforts to enroll Spanish-speakers have fallen short in several states with large Hispanic populations, and critics say the translated version of HealthCare.gov could have helped boost those numbers.
Air Force drug probe expanding
WASHINGTON (AP) — An Air Force investigation into alleged drug use in the ranks has expanded to include 10 officers at six bases in the U.S. and Britain.
Nine lieutenants and one captain are being investigated for illegal possession of recreational drugs, Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Brett Ashworth said Friday. The case began with the investigation of two officers at Edwards Air Force Base in California and quickly widened to several other bases because of the airmen’s contacts with others about drug possession, he said.
The probe surfaced Thursday as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel visited F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming to give a pep talk to members of the nuclear missile force. Initially, officials revealed that two nuclear launch control officers at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana were being probed for drug use.
On Friday, Ashworth said the probe now includes officers at Edwards and Malmstrom as well as at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado, Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and Royal Air Force base Lakenheath in eastern England, which hosts U.S. Air Force units and personnel.
No other details about the probe, which is being conducted by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, are being released.
President selects new No. 2 at Fed
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama took a step Friday toward reshaping the Federal Reserve under incoming chairman Janet Yellen, choosing a leading expert on the global economy to be her vice chairman.
Obama said he will nominate Stanley Fischer, a former head of the Bank of Israel, for the No. 2 job at the Fed. He would replace Yellen, who was confirmed this week to lead the Fed.
Fischer, a dual citizen of the United States and Israel, was a long-time professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Departing Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and Mario Draghi, the current head of the European Central Bank, were among his students.
Obama also is nominating Lael Brainard as a Fed governor. Brainard served as the undersecretary for international affairs at Treasury during Obama’s first term. She left the administration recently. He also is renominating Jerome Powell to the Fed for a second term. All three nominations must be confirmed by the Senate.
“These three distinguished individuals have the proven experience, judgment and deep knowledge of the financial system to serve at the Federal Reserve during this important time for our economy,” Obama said in a statement.
The selections were largely expected and did little to change economists’ outlook for Fed policy this year. All three will likely support Yellen’s approach to fighting high unemployment as long as inflation stays low. And all three are likely to back plans to gradually withdraw some of that support, if the economy continues to show improvement.
In December, the Fed said it would start reducing its bond purchases from $85 billion a month to $75 billion a month. Further “measured steps” are expected this year. The bond purchases are designed to lower interest rates to spur borrowing and spending.
In selecting Fischer, Obama is tapping someone with extensive experience in global economics. Fischer served as chief economist at the World Bank, deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund, and head of the Bank of Israel from 2005 until 2013.
During his time at the IMF, Fischer dealt with a number of countries in financial crises. That included the 1997-98 Asian currency crisis, which forced a number of nations to seek support from the IMF to stabilize their currencies and emerge from deep recessions.
David Jones, chief economist at DMJ Advisors and the author of several books on the Fed, said Fischer had an excellent reputation in the field of monetary policy and would bring expertise in global economics.
“The White House has reached out to someone who has a wealth of not only theoretical experience but practical experience in monetary policy,” Jones said.
Economists said they did not expect Fischer, 70, to dissent from the activist approach to Fed policy that Bernanke and Yellen have supported. That effort has kept interest rates low in an effort to stimulate growth and fight high unemployment since the Great Recession.
Critics say the central bank’s policies, which also include massive bond purchases, could trigger unwanted inflation down the road. They also warn of a potential buildup in asset bubbles, which could destabilize financial markets.
During his time as head of Israel’s central bank, Fischer earned praise for his handling of Israel’s economy in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.
Sung Won Sohn, an economics professor at the Martin Smith School of Business at California State University, said that Fischer’s selection to help lead a second central bank may be part of a growing global trend. Britain last year tapped Mark Carney to lead the Bank of England after he had been head of the Bank of Canada.
“I think we are going to see more and more such moves,” Sohn said. “Because of globalization, the world economy is now very interconnected.”
Powell, a Republican, has been on the Fed board since 2012. He had been a partner at The Carlyle Group, a Washington-based investment firm from 1997 to 2005. He also served as a top official in the Treasury Department during the administration of President George H.W. Bush.
Obama’s selections still leave one spot to fill on the Fed board. Obama has nominated Sarah Bloom Raskin to become deputy Treasury secretary. She has remained on the Fed board pending Senate confirmation to the Treasury job, but she has not participated in the Fed’s interest rate deliberations since her nomination.
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