17
Apr
14

Night owl chat – Hall & Oates

Today has been a GOOD day, so time for some music.

When I think of Hall & Oates, I think of summers hanging out in the park, and nights spent watching MTV. So, a little blue-eyed Philly soul with the latest members of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

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I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)

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Private Eyes

Continue reading ‘Night owl chat – Hall & Oates’

17
Apr
14

The President And First Lady’s Day

President Obama visits with people in the crowd following the seventh annual Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride on the South Lawn of the White House, April 17, 2014 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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One of the riders taking part in the Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride, with a President Obama bobblehead in his jersey, waits in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, April 17, 2014. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

See this post for more photos of the Wounded Warriors event

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President Obama smiles as he announces that eight million have signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act

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Students cheer from their dorm room windows as they watch First Lady Michelle Obama take a tour of Howard University

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First Lady Michelle Obama smiles at rapper Bow Wow at Howard University. The First Lady joined juniors and seniors from Chicago public high schools on the first day of their four-day visit to Howard University, as part of a program to immerse talented high school students in a college campus environment.

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Helena Andrews: Michelle Obama and Bow Wow Spotted At Howard University

On Thursday, first lady Michelle Obama and rapper-slash-actor Bow Wow joined 37 students from Chicago public high schools for a tour of Howard University, our colleague Krissah Thompson reports. According to the first lady’s office, Obama specifically requested Bow Wow for the event, an annual college visit called “Escape to the Mecca” — a nod to the university’s nickname “the mecca.” “This isn’t bad,” Obama said as she stepped inside a dorm room in Frazier Hall where one enterprising student had the perfect product placement on her desk: a portfolio and résumé.

During the sneak peek, Obama encouraged the visiting students to step in and look around too. “You might be living here. I’m just visiting,” she said. As Obama made her way through Howard’s famous quad, posing for photos with the Chicago group, female Howard students inside the dorms shouted greetings through open windows. “Hi Michelle!!!” several young women screamed, prompting more fans of the first lady to also shout hello. “Michelllllle! First lady! We love you.”

More here

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First Lady Michelle Obama obliges cheering students by showing off the hand signal the students in the quadrangle dormitory use to identify themselves, during a campus tour of Howard University with high school students

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Yahoo: Michelle Obama: High School Diploma Is Not Enough

It may be a few years before the first daughters head to college, but Michelle Obama is already brainstorming a dorm room checklist while encouraging high school students to dream big about their education beyond graduation. The first lady told a group of students Thursday that a high school diploma is not enough in today’s global economy. “No longer is high school the bar. That is not enough,” Mrs. Obama told the crowd. “You have got to go to college or get some kind of professional training.”

The campus visit is a part of Mrs. Obama’s push to promote higher education, especially President Barack Obama’s “North Star” goal. By 2020, America would once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. “We have to have a hunger for education like we had when our parents and grandparents were fighting for us to have a right to come to these schools and get the education,” she said. “So now it’s up to you all to take that baton and do the very best you can with it.”

More here

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First Lady Michelle Obama obliges cheering students by showing off the hand signal the students in the quadrangle dormitory use to identify themselves, during a campus tour of Howard University

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High school students from Chicago laugh as First Lady Michelle Obama makes a rectangle symbol, representing the women’s quad, in response to cheering from students at Howard University

17
Apr
14

Soft power’s amazing resuscitation – The Ukraine deal

Not much hope was attached to the meeting of the US, EU, Ukraine, and Russia over the crisis between the latter two countries. Again, the usual suspects were saying that the West had no leverage over Russia, Ukraine was in chaos, and Vladimir Putin held all the cards.

Then a deal was struck.

The particulars are these:

* Illegal military formations must be dissolved
* Occupied buildings must be vacated and their occupiers disarmed
* Ukraine would grant an amnesty to pro-Russian protesters
* The Ukrainian political discussion would touch on “inclusivity”, another word for decentralization
* All steps are to be overseen by the OSCE, to which both the US and Russia belong

From the Right, President Obama has been castigated for “appeasement” and a “lack of resolve”. From the louder segments of the Left, he’s been upbraided for daring to intervene when after Iraq the US had no moral authority.

Pres. Obama didn’t give in to the hawks who wanted US warships moved into the Black Sea en masse and a buildup of NATO troops on the western borders of Ukraine. And he dismissed the idea that because of the Iraqi misadventure the US had lost all right to speak on the violation of another country’s territorial sovereignty.

He made it clear from the outset that military force against Russia was not an option. And he made it clear that the US would stand up for Ukraine’s rights, in spite of recent history.

Russia, for all its bluster, is a failed Potemkin state. Its economy is vulnerable to outside pressure, as an exporter of energy and raw materials. And the world’s banking system dances to the tune set by the US.

Continue reading ‘Soft power’s amazing resuscitation – The Ukraine deal’

17
Apr
14

President Obama Honors Wounded Warriors

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President Barack Obama, flanked by Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, and Vice President Joe Biden, welcome the Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride to the South Lawn of the White House in celebration of the seventh annual Soldier Ride.

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USA Today: Obama To Wounded Warriors: “You Inspire Us”

President Obama paid tribute Thursday to once-maimed veterans who are now racing bikes. “You inspire us,” Obama said. “You inspire the country.” The president spoke at the seventh annual Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride to the White House. The event is designed to help the injured recover and to raise awareness of the challenges they face.

Some of the bikers were so badly injured they had to re-learn “the basics,” Obama said — “how to stand again, how to walk again, how to run again.” “You inspire me with your courage, your resolve, your resilience, your tenacity, your optimism,” Obama said. “It makes me proud to be your Commander-in-Chief.”

More here

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The Coolest President EVER!

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President Barack Obama makes a face as Nancy Loubin takes a picture of him at the seventh annual Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride.

17
Apr
14

Chat Away

17
Apr
14

President Obama: Press Briefing

Starting soon: President Obama appearing at Press Briefing

 White House Live

17
Apr
14

Ukraine crisis in Tweets

Dear CNN: The world’s on the verge of blowing up in Eastern Europe. #MH370 can wait. Kthxbai.

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Continue reading ‘Ukraine crisis in Tweets’

17
Apr
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama embraces Nicole Hockley, who lost a son in the Sandy Hook shootings, after delivering a statement on the Senate’s failure to pass a measure to expanded gun background checks, April 17, 2013

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Today (all times Eastern):

11:05: President Obama welcomes the Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride to the White House

11:40: Meets with representatives from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners

1:35: Meets with insurance executives

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LA Times: Health insurance gains since last fall hit 12 million, survey shows

President Obama’s health law has led to an even greater increase in health coverage than previously estimated, according to new Gallup survey data, which suggest that about 12 million previously uninsured Americans have gained coverage since last fall.

That is millions more than Gallup found in March and suggests that as many as 4 million people signed up for some kind of insurance in the last several weeks as the first enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act drew to a close.

Just 12.9% of adults nationally lacked coverage in the first half of April, initial data from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index indicates, the lowest rate since the survey began in 2008.

More here

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Brian Beutler: The Repeal Swindle Republicans are pretending to support Obamacare’s goals, but they don’t

For years now, undeterred by an imposing level of conservative schadenfreude, a handful of us have argued that the introduction of Affordable Care Act benefits in January would flip the politics of Obamacare, and the GOP’s repeal platform would collapse.

It’s April now and that worm is turning before our eyes, both on on Capitol Hill and in states across the country.

Republicans have replaced an unabashed “full repeal!” mantra with a deluge of weasel words meant to conceal the fact that “repeal” is still the beginning and end of their health-care reform agenda. It’s still the goal—they’re just a little ashamed of it now. And that places an onus on Dems (and reporters and anyone else who believes politicians should own the consequences of their policies) to be extremely explicit about the benefits Obamacare is conferring, and what an unvarnished rendering of GOP health policy would really look like.

More here

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Steve Benen: Jobless claims inch up, but remain near 7-year low

Initial unemployment claims improved unexpectedly last week to a level unseen in seven years, and though the new figures from the Labor Department aren’t quite as good, they’re close.

The number of people who applied for unemployment-insurance benefits ticked up by 2,000 to 304,000 in the week that ended April 12, a slight increase from the lowest level since 2007…

… In terms of metrics, when jobless claims fall below the 400,000 threshold, it’s considered evidence of an improving jobs landscape, and when the number drops below 370,000, it suggests jobs are being created rather quickly. At this point, we’ve been below 340,000 in 13 of the last 15 weeks.

Full post here

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CBS: Obama warns of “consequences” for Russian actions destabilizing Ukraine

President Obama put Russian President Vladimir Putin on notice Wednesday evening, warning that further actions to destabilize the interim Ukrainian government will result in consequences from both the United States and Europe.

In an interview with CBS News White House Correspondent Major Garrett , Mr. Obama said it was “absolutely clear” that Russia had violated Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity by annexing Crimea last month, and they continue to do so by supporting “non-state militias” in southern and eastern Ukraine.

Still, the White House has not abandoned diplomatic solutions. Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Geneva Wednesday evening to prepare for four-party talks with European, Russian and Ukrainian officials.

More here – video at link

And more from the interview here

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LA Times: Putin: Russia may invade Ukraine to protect locals

Russia may invade southeast Ukraine to protect the local population, President Vladimir Putin said Thursday.

Speaking live at his annual call-in show in a Moscow television studio, Putin implied he reserves the right to move Russian troops into the neighboring country on behalf of pro-Russian residents.

“We know quite well that we must do our best to protect their rights and help them independently decide their fate and we will struggle for that,” Putin said. “I remind you that the Federation Council of Russia [the upper house of Parliament] empowered the president to use the armed forces in Ukraine.”

But Putin added that he hoped he would not have to resort to that.

Putin’s threat suggests that Russia’s armed intervention in Ukraine is a looming reality, Ukrainian political scientist Vadim Karasyov said.

More here

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LA Times: Russian economy hit by Ukraine fallout; 0% growth in 2014 possible

Russia’s economy has been hit hard by the Ukraine crisis, prompting finance officials to cut growth forecasts for this year to near zero and draining the country’s hard currency reserves as investors flee an uncertain market, Kremlin officials disclosed Wednesday.

In an address to the lower house of parliament, Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev said $63 billion had been converted from rubles to hard currencies and taken out of the country in the first quarter of this year.

If that pace of capital flight continues, Russia could easily surpass the $120 billion lost at the height of the global economic crisis six years ago.

More here

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Reuters: US Court Deportations Have Fallen Drastically Under Obama

Deportations through U.S. immigration courts have fallen 43 percent in the past five years as the federal government brought fewer cases before those courts, according to Justice Department data analyzed by the New York Times on Wednesday.

The figures come as President Barack Obama and House of Representatives Republicans clashed openly over immigration- reform legislation that remains stalled in the Republican-led House.

… Obama, who has made immigration reform a priority, has drawn fire from advocacy groups and been called “deporter in chief” for presiding over an administration that has deported some 2 million people. But his administration brought 26 percent fewer cases in immigration courts in 2013 than in 2009, the New York Times reported.

More here – (And see NDN Analysis: Total Removals, Returns of Unauthorized Immigrants Plummet Under Obama)

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And who is helping push the ‘Deporter in Chief’ smear? Ah yes, Ezra’s Vox:

Get outta here.

PS Stay classy, Ezra:

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USA Today: Biden: I’ll tell Obama first if I run in 2016

Vice President Biden says he hasn’t decided whether to seek the presidency in 2016 – and when he does he’ll tell the incumbent about it first.

“If I decide to run, believe me, this’ll be the first guy I talk to,” Biden said during a joint interview with President Obama on CBS News. “But that decision hasn’t been made for real, and there’s plenty of time.”

.”.. If I absolutely knew I wasn’t going to run – or I absolutely knew I was – there’s nothing I would do differently over the next seven, eight, ten months,” Biden said. “We have a very important job to do.”

Obama responded by praising Biden. “I’ve got somebody who I think will go down as the finest Vice Presidents in history, and he has been, as I said earlier, a great partner in everything that I do,” Obama said.

More here

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SmartyPants: Why Taibbi’s brand of linkbait works

Perhaps by now you’ve heard that Matt Taibbi went on Democracy Now to promote his latest book and gin up that old emo meme about how President Obama is worse than Bush – this time it’s about not holding Wall Street accountable for the crimes that led to the Great Recession. So he managed to get our attention and probably sold a lot more of his books….

…. In stark contrast to this approach is a long article by Jed Rakoff, United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York (someone who knows a thing or two about securities law and white collar crime). He thoroughly reviews every argument made for the lack of prosecutions (including the one made by Taibbi), discarding them all. Then he speculates about three of his own. The reason you probably haven’t heard about it is that he makes intelligent and nuanced arguments. He’s writing to educate, not inflame.

More here

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Trevor LaFauci (The People’s View): From Boston To Bundy: Mainstream Media’s Struggle To Define Modern Terrorism

This past week in Kansas, a man shot and killed a teenager and his grandfather coming out of their house of worship. Three states over in Las Vegas, Nevada, a woman attempted to attack the former American Secretary of State during her speech by throwing a shoe at her. And down the road from the footwear fiasco, a man in Clark County, Nevada and an armed renegade militia engaged in a standoff with federal land managers for misusing government land and refusing to pay taxes.

Let’s recap: A vicious murder of two unarmed people after a religious service. An attack of an American diplomat and potential 2016 presidential candidate. An armed rebellion by a rancher who threatened federal employees who were just trying to do their job. Three separate events that put Americans’ safety and security at risk. Three deranged individuals who openly took up violence against their fellow citizens. There was media coverage of these events and yet not a single mention of a word that describes the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political means. Nowhere in any mainstream media coverage did any of the networks refer to any of these events as what they were:  Terrorism.

Which brings us to an interesting question: How does the mainstream media in the year 2014 determine who is and who isn’t a terrorist?

More here

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Peter Bergen (CNN): U.S. right wing extremists more deadly than jihadists

On Sunday, a man shot and killed a 14-year-old boy and his grandfather at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City and then drove to a nearby Jewish retirement community where he shot and killed a third person. Police arrested a suspect, Frazier Glenn Cross, who shouted “Heil Hitler” after he was taken into custody.

Cross, who also goes by Frazier Glenn Miller, is a well-known right wing extremist who founded the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and the White Patriot Party, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

…. since 9/11 extremists affiliated with a variety of far-right wing ideologies, including white supremacists, anti-abortion extremists and anti-government militants, have killed more people in the United States than have extremists motivated by al Qaeda’s ideology. According to a count by the New America Foundation, right wing extremists have killed 34 people in the United States for political reasons since 9/11.

More here

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Mother Jones: Is New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez the Next Sarah Palin?

Petty. Vindictive. Weak on policy. And yet she’s being hailed as the Republican Party’s great new hope.

…. Previously unreleased audio recordings, text messages, and emails reveal a side of Martinez the public has rarely, if ever, seen.

Full post here

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The Daily Banter: Cenk Uygur Just Took $4-Million from a Conservative Source (but He’s Still a Better Liberal Than You)

One of the pitfalls of running a for-profit media company that traffics almost entirely in one specific brand of political opinion is that your funding, and where it comes from, becomes especially relevant. If you spend all day espousing what you claim are strongly liberal views, then turn around and take a giant bag of money from, say, a former Republican candidate for president and governor of Louisiana who has worked against a woman’s right to choose and in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act, people might accuse you of being a bit hypocritical.

Just a little while ago the Young Turks Network announced that it’s inked a deal to get $4-million in seed money from a group run by Buddy Roemer. With the funding comes an option that could double the take for TYT, with the whole thing being made through Roemer’s private equity fund, Roemer, Robinson, Melville & Co. Roemer himself is a pretty staunch conservative, despite having been a Democrat for many years and a late-career decision to try running for president as a member of both the Reform and Americans Elect party. In addition to his retrograde views on abortion and gay marriage, he also supported Arizona’s draconian crackdown on undocumented immigrants, is pro-torture, and is for the repeal of the ACA, saying that it amounts to government interference in healthcare. In other words, the guy is the furthest thing from a liberal.

More here

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On This Day

President Obama greets Costa Rica President Oscar Arias during a reception at the Summit of the Americas in Port of Spain, Trinidad, April 17, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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First Lady Michelle Obama smiles as she greets several members of the 911th Airlift Wing of the Air Force Reserve Command and the 171st Air Refueling Wing at their base near Pittsburgh on April 17, 2012

…. embracing one of the female members of the 911th Airlift Wing of the Air Force Reserve Command and the 171st Air Refueling Wing

President Obama looks at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship trophy as he approaches Tony Stewart’s car during an event on the South Lawn of the White House, April 17, 2012. NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers Tony Stewart, center, Kyle Busch, and Ryan Newman, right, watch nearby (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

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President Obama walks into the Rose Garden to deliver a statement on the Senate’s failure to pass a measure to expanded gun background checks, April 17, 2013

President Obama puts his arm around former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords before he speaks in the Rose Garden, April 17

Vice President Joe Biden embraces Mark Barden, father of Daniel who died at Sandy Hook

President Obama and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki applaud participants in the Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride on the South Lawn driveway at the White House, April 17, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

First Lady Michelle Obama has lunch with midshipmen in King Hall at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., April 17, 2013 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

President Obama delivers remarks during an interfaith prayer service dedicated to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings, at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston, Mass., April 18, 2013 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)




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