Archive for May 28th, 2014

28
May
14

Picture Of The Day

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Hunter Schwarz: Joe Biden taking a selfie with a bunch of cyclists at the Naval Observatory.

28
May
14

A Tweet Or Two

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Continue reading ‘A Tweet Or Two’

28
May
14

News Of The Day

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White House: Statement By The President On The Passing Of Maya Angelou

When her friend Nelson Mandela passed away last year, Maya Angelou wrote that “No sun outlasts its sunset, but will rise again, and bring the dawn.”

Today, Michelle and I join millions around the world in remembering one of the brightest lights of our time – a brilliant writer, a fierce friend, and a truly phenomenal woman. Over the course of her remarkable life, Maya was many things – an author, poet, civil rights activist, playwright, actress, director, composer, singer and dancer. But above all, she was a storyteller – and her greatest stories were true. A childhood of suffering and abuse actually drove her to stop speaking – but the voice she found helped generations of Americans find their rainbow amidst the clouds, and inspired the rest of us to be our best selves. In fact, she inspired my own mother to name my sister Maya.

Like so many others, Michelle and I will always cherish the time we were privileged to spend with Maya. With a kind word and a strong embrace, she had the ability to remind us that we are all God’s children; that we all have something to offer. And while Maya’s day may be done, we take comfort in knowing that her song will continue, “flung up to heaven” – and we celebrate the dawn that Maya Angelou helped bring.

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President Obama greets Buffalo Soldiers Louis Coffield, 96, left, and Sanders Matthews, 93, at Stewart Air Base in Newbrugh, N.Y. today

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Brent Logiurato: In 3 Big Slides Here’s Why Mary Meeker Is Optimistic About The Future Of American Healthcare

Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner Mary Meeker has released her latest annual presentation. In it, she gives a bullish take on the future of the U.S. healthcare system, saying it looks like it may be at an “inflection point.” Some recent reforms perpetrated by the Affordable Care Act, though, give her reason for optimism. More than 8 million people have gained coverage through insurance exchanges established by the law,

and she writes that the law is aiding the “digitization of healthcare — 84% of hospitals and academic or institutional practices are now using a fully functioning electronic health record (EHR) system. Digital health venture investments are up almost 40% year over year. Meeker is also bullish because of the emphasis of moving toward quality care over quantity. By 2015, 60% of employers will offer price-transparency tools in their healthcare plans, she writes.

More here

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NYT: Maya Angelou, Lyrical Witness Of The Jim Crow South, Dies At 86

Maya Angelou, the memoirist and poet whose landmark book of 1969, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” — which describes in lyrical, unsparing prose her childhood in the Jim Crow South — was among the first autobiographies by a 20th-century black woman to reach a wide general readership, died on Wednesday in her home. She was 86 and lived in Winston-Salem, N.C. Long before that day, as she recounted in “Caged Bird” and its five sequels, she had already been a dancer, calypso singer, streetcar conductor, single mother, magazine editor in Cairo, administrative assistant in Ghana, official of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and friend or associate of some of the most eminent black Americans of the mid-20th century, including James Baldwin, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Afterward (her six-volume memoir takes her only to the age of 40), Ms. Angelou (pronounced AHN-zhe-lo) was a Tony-nominated stage actress; college professor (she was for many years the

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(Dr. Maya Angelou reading a poem at the Million Man March in 1995)

Reynolds professor of American studies at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem); ubiquitous presence on the lecture circuit; frequent guest on television shows, from “Oprah” to “Sesame Street”; and subject of a string of scholarly studies. In February 2011, President Obama presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor. Throughout her writing, Ms. Angelou explored the concepts of personal identity and resilience through the multifaceted lens of race, sex, family, community and the collective past. As a whole, her work offered a cleareyed examination of the ways in which the socially marginalizing forces of racism and sexism played out at the level of the individual. “If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat,” Ms. Angelou wrote in “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” Hallmarks of Ms. Angelou’s prose style included a directness of voice that recalls African-American oral tradition and gives her work the quality of testimony. She was also intimately concerned with sensation, describing the world around her — be it Arkansas, San Francisco or the foreign cities in which she lived — with palpable feeling for its sights, sounds and smells.

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Dr Angelou’s Final Tweet:

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Evan McMorris-Santoro: Obama: “American Influence Is Always Stronger When We Lead By Example

President Obama attempted to set a new course for American foreign policy Wednesday, laying out a plan for action on the world stage he said continues the country’s role as global superpower, but does so in a way that looks within before looking out. “I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being,” the president said in a prepared version of the commencement address he delivered at West Point. “But what makes us exceptional is not our ability to flout international norms and the rule of law; it’s our willingness to affirm them through our actions.” The president called on Congress to adopt the Law of The Sea convention, take action on climate change and close GITMO, efforts he said would go a long way to showing the world the United States practices what it preaches. The country’s number one threat “remains terrorism,” Obama said. But the changing nature of that threat means that the tools of the recent past should be scrapped, he added.

“A strategy that involves invading every country that harbors terrorist networks is naïve and unsustainable,” he said. “I believe we must shift our counter-terrorism strategy – drawing on the successes and shortcomings of our experience in Iraq and Afghanistan – to more effectively partner with countries where terrorist networks seek a foothold.” “Here’s my bottom line: America must always lead on the world stage. If we don’t, no one else will. The military that you have joined is, and always will be, the backbone of that leadership,” the president said. “But U.S. military action cannot be the only – or even primary – component of our leadership in every instance. Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail.”

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Greg Sargent: Grimes Hits Back: On Obamcare, Mitch McConnell Is In “Fantasyland”

Ever since Mitch McConnell’s comically absurd evasions on Obamacare began gaining attention from the press, people have wondered whether Alison Lundergan Grimes would make them an issue. McConnell’s refusal to say what should happen to Kentucky Kynect — even as he continues to call for repeal of the ACA – allows Grimes to point out that McConnell’s position would take health coverage away from hundreds of thousands of constituents who are benefitting from it, and he won’t admit it. Now the Grimes campaign is finally hitting McConnell over his gyrations on the issue, accusing him of “voting to destroy Kynect.” From Grimes senior adviser Jonathan Hurst: Mitch McConnell has been in the fantasyland that is Washington for so long that he cannot tell the difference between fact and fiction. McConnell has voted to destroy Kynect — and he has said he will do it again. In the U.S. Senate, Alison Lundergan Grimes will fix the law to ensure it is working for all Kentuckians.

This seems somewhat defensive. It again leans heavily on a vow to “fix” the law, and doesn’t state flatly that Kynect is a policy success. Some Dems, such as Rep. John Yarmuth and pollster Celinda Lake, have suggested Grimes go further. Lake told me the other day that her polling has showed that Kynect polls positively in Kentucky, even as the law known as “Obamacare” or the “Affordable Care Act” remains under water. Lake suggests this to Grimes: “She could say, `In Kentucky, we got it right. I’ll take Kentucky values to Washington.”As Joe Sonka points out in a good piece, McConnell is betting that press coverage won’t clearly explain to voters just how absurd his position really is. But perhaps now that Grimes is engaging on the issue — to some degree, at least — that could serve as a hook for top shelf reporter and commentator types to take a peek at what’s really going on here.

More here

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Herald Leader: Say Again, Senator, ACA Unkynected?

Sen. Mitch McConnell has some explaining to do. What in the world did he mean last week when he told reporters that repeal of the Affordable Care Act — “root and branch,” as he has demanded many times — is “unconnected” to the future of Kynect, Kentucky’s health insurance exchange? Asked specifically if Kynect should be dismantled, McConnell said: “I think that’s unconnected to my comments about the overall question.” Huh? Nothing could be more connected — or should be more important to Kentucky’s senior senator — than the fates of the more than 400,000 Kentuckians who are getting health insurance, many for the first time, and the federal Affordable Care Act, which is making that possible. Repeal the federal law, which McConnell calls “Obamacare,” and the state exchange would collapse. Kynect could not survive without the ACA’s insurance reforms, including no longer allowing insurance companies to cancel policies when people get sick or deny them coverage because of pre-existing conditions,

as well as the provision ending lifetime limits on benefit payments. (Kentucky tried to enact such reforms in the 1990s and found out we were too small a market to do it alone.) Kentucky’s exchange also could not survive without the federal funding and tax credits that are helping 300,000 previously uninsured Kentuckians gain access to regular preventive medicine, including colonoscopies, mammograms and birth control without co-pays. As a result of a law that McConnell wants to repeal, one in 10 of his constituents no longer have to worry that an illness or injury will drive them into personal bankruptcy or a premature grave. Kynect is the Affordable Care Act is Obamacare — even if Kentuckians are confused about which is which. Kentuckians are waiting to learn if their five-term senator understands — or cares — how much is at stake.

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Kimberly Kindy: Father Of Victim In Santa Barbara Shootings To Politicians: ‘I Don’t Care About Your Sympathy.’

Richard Martinez grew up around guns, shooting birds out of the fruit trees on his family’s farm. He later served as a military police officer in the U.S. Army before going on to become a criminal-defense lawyer, at times representing the young and the violent. Now, Martinez is a grieving father. He’s asking members of Congress to stop calling him to offer condolences but nothing more for the death of his only child, Chris­topher Michaels-Martinez, who was killed in the rampage Friday in Santa Barbara, Calif. “I don’t care about your sympathy. I don’t give a s— that you feel sorry for me,” Richard Martinez said during an extensive interview, his face flushed as tears rolled down. “Get to work and do something. I’ll tell the president the same thing if he calls me. Getting a call from a politician doesn’t impress me.”

Saying that “we are all to blame” for the death of his 20-year-old son, Martinez urged the public to join him in demanding “immediate action” from members of Congress and President Obama to curb gun violence by passing stricter gun-

control laws. “Today, I’m going to ask every person I can find to send a postcard to every politician they can think of with three words on it: ‘Not one more,’ ” he said Tuesday. “People are looking for something to do. I’m asking people to stand up for something. Enough is enough.” Martinez is the latest tragic figure to raise the mantle of gun control. Previous massacres and spasms of violence have produced urgent calls for new restrictions.

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Laura Meckler: Some Democrats Talking Up Health Law

Democratic candidates have begun to take a more assertive stance on the Affordable Care Act, highlighting the most popular benefits of the law and attacking Republicans for trying to repeal them. Not long ago, many Democrats were in a defensive crouch when it came to health care, amid public anger about the botched rollout of the federal website to sign up for insurance and stories of people who lost existing coverage because it didn’t meet federal standards. Many focused on fixes they said should be made to the law rather than trying to convince voters of its benefits. Now, in at least half a dozen competitive Senate and gubernatorial races, Democrats and their allies are airing TV commercials that directly support the legislation, focusing on its guaranteed coverage for pre-existing conditions, preventive-care benefits and a ban on charging women more for insurance. In some cases, the ads talk up how the Democrat candidate has worked to guarantee these benefits; in others, they attack a Republican for wanting to take them away.

At a Senate hearing to consider the nomination of a new health secretary this month, Sen. Kay Hagan (D., N.C.), who is in a tough re-election race, hailed the Medicaid expansion available under the act and criticized her state’s leadership for declining the federal money that would allow North Carolina to add a half million people to the program. “These are some of the most vulnerable citizens in our society who will continue to seek care in emergency rooms and then will leave chronic conditions unmanaged,” she said. In Florida, Republican-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist, running for governor, has fully embraced the law. “I don’t shy away from it. I don’t back away from it. I don’t apologize for it. It’s the right thing to do,” he said in April, according to the Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale.

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AP: After Decades, Dirty Power Plant To Get Clean

Three years ago, the operators of one of the nation’s dirtiest coal-fired power plants warned of “immediate and devastating” consequences from the Obama administration’s push to clean up pollution from coal. Faced with cutting sulfur dioxide pollution blowing into downwind states by 80 percent in less than a year, lawyers for EME Homer City Generation L.P. sued the Environmental Protection Agency to block the rule, saying it would cause it grave harm and bring a painful spike in electricity bills. None of those dire predictions came to pass. Instead, the massive western Pennsylvania power plant is expected in a few years to turn from one of the worst polluters in the country to a model for how coal-fired power plants can slash pollution.

The latest regulation, the first proposal to curb earth-warming carbon dioxide from power plants, is due next week. But Homer City also shows how political and economic rhetoric sometimes doesn’t match reality. Despite claims by Republicans and industry critics that the Obama administration’s regulations will shut down coal-fired power plants, Homer City survived. The owners of the massive western Pennsylvania power plant — which releases more sulfur dioxide than any other power plant in the U.S. — have committed to install $750 million worth of pollution control equipment by 2016 that will make deeper cuts in sulfur than the rule it once opposed. Last month, the Supreme Court upheld the EPA’s rule in the case initiated by Homer City Generating Station. GE Energy Financial Services, the plant’s majority owner, now says it can do it — and without electricity bills increasing for the two million households it provides with power.

More here

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Julie Bosman: Chicago Mayor Proposes Restrictions On Gun Sales

Calling gun violence Chicago’s “most urgent problem,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel outlined a proposal on Tuesday that would make it harder to buy firearms in the city. The proposal would restrict gun purchases for individuals to one a month and would mandate that all gun sales be videotaped, an effort to deter buyers from using false identification. Under the proposed ordinance, employees in gun stores would be required to undergo background checks and complete training to help them spot the common signs of gun traffickers. Retailers would be subject to a quarterly audit of inventory in an effort to reduce theft.

In addition, the plan would impose a 72-hour waiting period to buy handguns and a 24-hour waiting period to buy rifles and shotguns. Mr. Emanuel has tried to tamp down violence in Chicago since taking office in 2011, pushing for tougher rules on gun retailers and stronger federal laws on firearms. Chicago’s rate of gun-related violence is three times that of New York. The report blamed states with weaker gun laws for most of the illegal guns in Chicago, saying that from 2009 to 2013, 60 percent of guns used to commit crimes in the city were originally bought out of state, mainly in Indiana, Mississippi and Wisconsin.

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Washington Post: Michigan Hikes Minimum Wage, Led By GOP Governor Seeking Reelection

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) signed legislation Tuesday hiking his state’s minimum wage to $9.25 an hour over four years, dodging what could have been a political hurdle as he seeks re-election this year. Snyder had come under pressure from Democrats, led by his likely general election opponent, former representative Mark Schauer. He signed the wage increase one day before labor groups planned to turn in more than 300,000 signatures to get a minimum wage hike on November’s ballot. At a news conference Tuesday, Snyder sought to take some measure of credit for the increase.

Many Republicans in the legislature opposed the increase. A majority of House Republicans voted against the measure, though House Speaker Jase Bolger (R) helped shepherd it through to protect Snyder. All but two Democrats in each chamber voted for the increase, which also indexes the minimum wage to inflation. Several Republicans said they voted for the legislature’s version of the wage hike to avoid the possibility of a ballot initiative passing; the ballot initiative would have increased the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, for both regular and tipped-wage employees.

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AP: Top US Commander: Obama Ended Afghan Uncertainty

The top U.S. and coalition commander in Afghanistan said Wednesday that President Barack Obama’s decision to keep about 10,000 American troops in the country past 2014 has eliminated any uncertainty Afghans may have had about America’s commitment. Gen. Joseph Dunford told reporters the decision will allow an advisory force of 9,800 troops to remain in the country to finish training and equipping Afghan security forces. “I believe that this decision was good news for the Afghan people,” Dunford said. “It eliminates the uncertainty about the future here in Afghanistan, in the region and within the coalition.” He added that it “also sends a message to those who said that Afghanistan would be abandoned at the end of the year and that simply isn’t true. “

Obama announced plans Tuesday for keeping nearly 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan after this year, then quickly withdrawing nearly all of those forces by the end of 2016. NATO and other U.S. allies also are expected to commit troops, bringing the total to be around 12,000. Some American troops are also expected to play a counterterrorism role, chasing any elements of al-Qaida and other such groups still operating in Afghanistan. The commitment is conditional on Afghanistan’s government signing a stalled bilateral security agreement. While Afghan President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign it, both the candidates running to replace him — former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and ex-Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai — have said they will.

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Tracy Connor: Edward Snowden Tells Brian Williams The U.S. Stranded Him In Russia

Edward Snowden, in an exclusive interview with “Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams, blamed the State Department for stranding him in Russia, saying he “never intended” to wind up there. “I personally am surprised that I ended up here,” Snowden said in the interview, an excerpt of which aired on TODAY on Wednesday morning. “The reality is I never intended to end up in Russia,” he said. “I had a flight booked to Cuba onwards to Latin America and I was stopped because the United States government decided to revoke my passport and trap me in Moscow Airport. “So when people ask why are you in Russia, I say, ‘Please ask the State Department.” Secretary of State John Kerry hit back in a live interview on TODAY. “For a supposedly smart guy, that’s a pretty dumb answer, frankly,” Kerry said. “If Mr. Snowden wants to come back to the United States today, we’ll have him on a flight today.

“We’d be delighted for him to come back. He should come back. That’s what a patriot would do. A patriot would not run away and look for refuge in Russia or Cuba or some other country. A patriot would stand up in the United States and make his case to the American people,” Kerry added. “He can come home but he’s a fugitive from justice which is why he is not being permitted to fly around the world,” he said. Asked whether he had changed his mind about the nature of Snowden’s actions, Kerry said Snowden “stole” information and did “great damage” to the United States. “The fact is if he cares so much about America and he believes in America, he should trust in the American system of justice,” Kerry said. “But to be hiding in Russia, an authoritarian country, and to have just admitted he was really just trying to get to Cuba — what does that tell you?” he added. “I think he’s confused. I think it’s very sad.”

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Maya Angelou in 1991, dancing with another legendary poet Amiri Baraka, who died in January

28
May
14

The Commander-In-Chief At West Point

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President Barack Obama arrives to deliver the commencement address to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point’s Class of 2014

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Transcript Of President Obama’s Address At West Point

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PM Carpenter: Obama’s West Point Address, In Two Words

Magnificently sane.

In a few more words, Obama’s address, grounded in a mature appreciation of our limits, called for multilateralism–diplomatically whenever possible, militarily if inescapable; it called, given al Qaeda’s fragmentation and dispersal, for global “partners” to suppress it; and, in a direct shot at his Republican critics, it called for a world-involved America that leads by example at home–not through climate-change denialism, or unratified treaties, or the obscenities of a Gitmo that the propagandists and paranoids won’t close.

Because Obama’s speech was so magnificently sane, let the carping and slander begin.

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Underclassmen listen from the back of the stadium as U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at a commencement ceremony at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York

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Gavin White, a West Point graduate who lost a leg in Afghanistan, is recognized by President Barack Obama during the commencement ceremonies for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point

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CNN: Obama Outlines Foreign Policy Vision Of “Might And Right”

President Barack Obama on Wednesday outlined a foreign policy vision of “might doing right,” arguing that modern pragmatism requires both a strong military and the diplomatic tools of alliances and sanctions to exert influence and provide global leadership. He told graduating cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point that after the nation’s “long season of war and divisions about how to move forward,” they now would represent America with the duty “not only to protect our country, but to do what is right and just.” “I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being,” he said, referring to a tenet of conservative ideology.” But what makes us exceptional is not flouting international norms and the rule of law; it’s our willingness to affirm them through our actions,” Obama said in arguing that true leadership involves not only having the world’s most powerful military, but in doing the right thing.

“America must always lead on the world stage,” Obama said, and the military “always will be the backbone of that leadership,” but U.S. military action “cannot be the only — or even primary — component of our leadership in every instance.” In a sign of the sentiments of the cadets, Obama got big applause when he noted they were the first West Point graduates in more than a decade unlikely to be stationed in a war zone. Overall, Obama said, “America has rarely been stronger relative to the rest of the world,” and he contended that “those who argue otherwise — who suggest that America is in decline, or has seen its global leadership slip away — are either misreading history or engaged in partisan politics.” “The question we face — the question each of you will face — is not whether America will lead, but how we will lead, not just to secure our peace and prosperity, but also extend peace and prosperity around the globe,” Obama told the cadets.

On Wednesday, Obama reiterated his policy that the United States will used military force, “unilaterally if necessary,” when its people are threatened, its livelihood is at stake or allies are in danger, but he said the threshold was higher when global issues “do not pose a direct threat” to the nation. “In such circumstances, we should not go it alone,” he said. “Instead, we must mobilize allies and partners to take collective action. We have to broaden our tools to include diplomacy and development; sanctions, isolation; appeals to international law and — if just, necessary, and effective — multilateral military action.” Such a collective approach “is more likely to succeed, more likely to be sustained, and less likely to lead to costly mistakes,” Obama said.

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President Barack Obama is presented with the Class Battle Ring from Class President Jeffrey Ferebee

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President Barack Obama hands out diplomas to the graduating class of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point

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28
May
14

RIP Maya Angelou

Today we received word that the great poet Maya Angelou died. This is a tribute.

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His Day is Done

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The Mask

Continue reading ‘RIP Maya Angelou’

28
May
14

The Journey To West Point

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President Barack Obama walks on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington to board Marine One helicopter, as he travels to deliver the commencement address at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

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President Barack Obama steps off Marine One, upon arrival at Andrews Air Force Base, Md

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President Barack Obama, accompanied by Colonel David L. Almand , Commander of 89th Airlift Wing, walks toward Air Force One

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President Barack Obama and Senate Armed Service Committee member Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., laugh as they walk down the steps from Air Force One, upon their arrival at the Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, New York

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President Barack Obama talks with Col. Timothy J. LaBarge, Commander of the 105th Airlift Wing, after arriving on Air Force One at the Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, New York

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President Barack Obama arrives for the commencement ceremony at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York




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