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More benefit cuts under ObamaCare

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Dec. 31, 2012: President Obama pauses as he speaks at the White House in Washington. (AP)

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Buzz Cut:
• More benefit cuts under ObamaCare
• Obama gets Buffaloed
• NSA’s domestic dispute
• ‘Vultures’ for Hillary!
• A parrot, a glass eye and a prosthetic leg

EMPLOYERS SLASHING COVERAGE - UVA dumps spouses - The University of Virginia announced Wednesday it will stop offering health insurance to some employees’ spouses citing rising costs under ObamaCare. According to a press release on the university’s website, “Provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act are projected to add $7.3 million to the cost of the University health plan in 2014 alone.” This follows news that UPS would be dumping an estimated 15,000 from the company’s plan. Chief National Correspondent Jim Angle follows the story today.

[A new study from consultants Towers Watson says 40 percent of businesses surveyed plan to change their health plans next year in light of the law.]

Nevada union trashes ObamaCare - Nevada’s AFL-CIO passed a resolution Wednesday saying ObamaCare would, “lead to the destruction of the 40 hour work week, higher taxes and force union members onto more costly plans”

[FNC’s William LaJeunesse reports on the ObamaCare provision that exempts some 6 million American Indians from penalties under the law.]

OBAMA TURNS COLLEGE RECRUITER - Ed Henry wants to know: “The White House says the bus tour through universities and high schools is focused on college affordability. But since a new Gallup poll found young adults are least likely to say they're familiar with the health law, will he also use this swing to rally his campaign base ahead of the Oct. 1 sign up deadline?”

Welcome to Buffalo, Mr. President - President Obama travels to Buffalo today, part of a two-day economic bus tour that will take him thru upstate New York and Pennsylvania. At the University of Buffalo, Obama will pitch his “better bargain for the middle class” with a call for more education spending. In an e-mail to supporters, the President wrote, “We have to fundamentally rethink about how higher education is paid for in this country.”

Tuition spike - The Albany Times Union reports Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-N.Y., scheduled to appear with the president, “…created the NYSUNY 2020 program, which raised tuition 30 percent at all SUNY campuses over five years, from $4,970 to $6,470.” According to US News and World Report, 63 percent of Buffalo University students receive some kind of need-based assistance.

Teacher union angst - The Buffalo Teacher’s Federation is fuming that their teacher’s make $20,000 less than their counterparts in other districts. Buffalo News reports, in some cases, $45,000 less. Census figures reveal the city’s 29.9 percent poverty rate.

Local schools losing ground - The president will wrap-up the day speaking at Henninger High School in Syracuse. Obama will be joined by Education Secretary Arne Duncan to tout the school’s involvement with a government program that pays the tuition for students at failing schools accepted at public colleges and participating private institutions. According to New York’s Department of Education, graduation rates in the city stand at 48%.

[Daniel Henninger, (no relation) writes: “The president gives essentially the same speech everywhere. In part it is a meditation on the meaning of middle class—‘Americans are gritty, resilient and work hard.’ In part it is populist paranoia.”]

Bad to worse - The Syracuse Post Standard reports students in the district are failing to meet the state’s new curriculum standards. “[O]nly 8.7 percent of third- through eighth-graders met the standard in English language arts. In math, only 6.9 percent of students met the standard.”

BAIER TRACKS: FED FLUSTER… Bret Baier: “If anyone needs more evidence of the supercharged role of the Federal Reserve in the economy, here's another piece.  Just the mere hint of different analyses of the minutes of the central bank's July meeting released yesterday sent stocks lower. That's essentially someone in analysis circles whispering, ‘You know, it looks like the Fed may really start turning off the spigot soon.’ Well, imagine what happens when the Fed does slow or stop the flood of new US dollars into the economy.  Bottom line: Fed policy is a huge economic driver.  At his last news conference, President Obama said picking a new Fed chairman, ‘is definitely one of the most important economic decisions that I’ll make in the remainder of my presidency.’  Many experts characterize that as a big understatement.”

GALLUP: UNEMPLOYMENT’S 30 DAY JUMP - Gallup’s latest unemployment figures show a significant jump from July’s 7.7 percent to 8.9 percent released Wednesday. Their figures also show underemployment increased from 17.1 percent to 17.9 percent in the same 30-day period. 

Still stuck - NYT reports median income remains below 2007 levels.

[Watch FOX Business for the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ jobless claims report in the 8am ET hour.]

NSA HAD EYES ON US COMMUNICATION - Washington Examiner reports the NSA gathered over 56,000 “wholly domestic” communications before a secret court struck the program down. The revelation comes in 100 pages of documents declassified by the agency. Most are secret opinions from the FISA court; they detail major compliance problems. The NSA worked with Congress and the FISA court to correct the problem but ultimately decided it could not salvage the data collected and it was purged in 2012. Chief Intelligence Correspondent Catherine Herridge is taking a deep dive on the documents. To read them yourself, click here

[Watch FOX: Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner , R-Wis., who helped write the Patriot Act discusses how he feels President Obama has abused the law in 12pm ET hour.]

GRENELL: POWER A NO SHOW ON SYRIA - Newly confirmed UN Ambassador Samantha Power was absent from an emergency meeting of the Security Council Wednesday on a chemical weapons attack that killed hundreds. Power, who has previously called the UN’s failure to intervene in Syria “a disgrace,” was reportedly traveling at the time of the meeting. Fox News Contributor Richard Grenell, a former member of George W. Bush’s UN team, wants to know where she was: “Samantha Power has been on the job exactly 19 days.  In that time, she’s already traveled from New York to Los Angeles to deliver a speech.  Her absence from the UN on Wednesday sends a terrible message at a time when U.S. credibility in the region is suffering.”

WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE...Washington Examiner’s Michael Barone explains the hidden agendas behind the preservation of the dollar bill. [Hint: It’s all about the money…] “No other advanced country, so far as I am aware, uses a bill for amounts approximating a dollar. They use coins, which are longer lasting and more convenient to use in vending machines and parking meters. Coins last longer and don’t bulge up in your wallet.”

Got a TIP from the RIGHT or LEFT? Email FoxNewsFirst@FOXNEWS.COM

POLL CHECK - Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval: Approve – 44.5 percent//Disapprove – 50.5 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 29.6 percent Right Track//Wrong Track – 62.2 percent 
 

HILLARYLAND - “Vulture capitalist” cash for Hillary - Politico: “Hillary Clinton is set to be the featured attraction at the private equity firm The Carlyle Group’s investor conference next month.”  Carlyle is the same kind of firm that the 2012 Obama campaign lambasted Mitt Romney for running, famously calling Romney a “vampire.”

Dean backs Hillary “at this point” - In brief interview with the Des Moines Register, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean said, “At this point, I’m supporting Hillary Clinton.” Dean cut the interview short when asked about his presidential aspirations.

VOTER ID “OATH” FIGHT - Kansas and Arizona fight feds on voting - Fox News: Kansas and Arizona say a federal rule that allows voters to establish their status as citizens by simply swearing an oath won’t keep elections safe. They’re suing to overturn the rule.

HOUSE WANTS ANSWERS ON ASYLUM ABUSES - Washington Examiner: “In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., warned that foreigners, particularly from Mexico, are exploiting a law that allows those with a ‘credible fear’ of persecution in their own country to enter the U.S. …Goodlatte intends to hold hearings to investigate the issue and called on Homeland Security personnel to testify”

OFF TO THE RACES - Brown: No gov run, still pondering president and senate bids - Former Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., announced on WBZ Wednesday that he will not run for Massachusetts’ governor. Brown: “From the most conservative to the most liberal Republican: if we are going to be an effective party we have to all have a voice.”

FRIENDLY FOES? - Fox News - Despite the public antagonism between the U.S. and then Soviet Union, then-President Richard Nixon chatted warmly with Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev in the run-up to a historic summit in June 1973, according to the final installment of secret recordings released Wednesday. Future former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, then chairman of the RNC and governor of California, respectively, are also heard in the tapes. [Ed. note: Paging James Rosen!]

CHRISTIAN RESCUE MISSION - Fox News - An international relief agency plans to airlift some 3,400 Christians out of Sudan, where they face increasing persecution from the Islamist government. The Barnabas Fund, named for St. Paul’s ministry partner, has already rescued about 5,000 Christians from the embattled country. The Christians will be taken to South Sudan, a smaller nation formed in 2011 where religious freedom is better tolerated.

FROM THE READERS - “I hope you make your new service interactive. Let viewers suggest topics and write opinion pieces....like letters to the editor.”  – Guy Randolph via FoxNewsFirst@FOXNEWS.COM [Ed. note: Keep them coming.]

PLEASE REMOVE ALL PERSONAL ITEMS - NY POST: “What do handcuffs, a live parrot, bag of diamonds and underwear have in common? They're all items that have been left on planes, much to the surprise of flight attendants. That's according to a survey of cabin crew by travel website Skyscanner.com….Other weird items discovered on board long after passengers departed include dentures, a bag of sand, a glass eye and prosthetic leg.”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES - “In Egypt where there are only two sides -- there's only the Brotherhood and only the military -- with wide popular support.  We're not choosing either.  And I think the administration's incoherence on policy is astounding” – Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up here. To catch Chris live online daily at 11:30am ET, click here

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as digital politics editor based in Washington, D.C.  Additionally, he authors the daily "Fox News First” political news note and hosts “Power Play,” a feature video series, on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on the network, including "The Kelly File," "Special Report with Bret Baier," and "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.”  He also provides expert political analysis for Fox News coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.