Archive for the 'Articles' Category

21
Jul
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: Sen. Barack Obama listens as Gen. David H. Petraeus discusses security improvements in Baghdad while giving him and Sens. Jack Reed and Chuck Hagel an aerial tour of the city Monday, July 21, 2008

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Today (all times Eastern)

10:30: The President signs an Executive Order that protects gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees from discrimination by companies that do federal government work, East Room

11:0: The President makes a statement on the situation in Ukraine

11:45: Participates in a town hall focusing on the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative; Walker Jones Education Campus, Washington

1:0: Josh Earnest briefs the press

3:10: The President awards Ryan M. Pitts, U.S. Army, the Medal of Honor, East Room

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The Week Ahead here

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NYT: Obama to Issue Order Barring Anti-Gay Bias by Contractors

President Obama plans to sign an executive order on Monday that protects gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees from discrimination by companies that do federal government work….

The order will also, for the first time, explicitly protect federal employees from discrimination on the basis of gender identity, officials said. Federal workers are already protected based on their sexual orientation.

…. “With the stroke of a pen, the president will have a very real and immediate impact on the lives of millions of L.G.B.T. people across the country,” Chad Griffin, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement on Friday. “These actions from the president have the potential to be a keystone in the arch of his administration’s progress, and they send a powerful message to future administrations and to Congress that anti-L.G.B.T. discrimination must not be tolerated.”

More here

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MSNBC: Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative gets $104 million boost

Six months since the launch of My Brother’s Keeper – the president’s boldest effort since taking office to address the dire state of young minority men – Obama is set to announce that millions are being dedicated to expanding the initiative.

According to a White House official, Obama will announce Monday at the Walker Jones Education Center in Washington new partnerships with public and private groups to the tune of about $104 million in funding to help this demographic succeed at critical stages throughout their lives – from early education to college and career.

Young minority men generally faces some of the worst social, academic and economic outcomes in the country.

“Tomorrow’s announcements are an important next step in continuing to build ladders of opportunity for all and to highlight the President’s commitment to ensuring that all children have a fair shot to succeed in this country,” a White House official said.

More here

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BBC: Gaza crisis: UN calls for ceasefire as deaths pass 500

The UN Security Council has called for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza. It comes as US Secretary of State John Kerry heads to Cairo for talks on the crisis amid a mounting death toll.

Over 500 Palestinians, mainly civilians, have been killed since the Israeli offensive began two weeks ago, Gaza’s health ministry says.

Twenty Israelis – 18 of them soldiers – have died, Israel says, as it seeks to end rocket fire on the country.

On Sunday Gaza saw its deadliest day since the start of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, with 13 Israeli soldiers and more than 100 Palestinians killed. Israel says it has killed at least 120 militants since the ground offensive began on Thursday night.

More here

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Washington Post: Flight 17: U.S. builds case against rebels, Russia in downing of jet in Ukraine

The Obama administration expanded its case Sunday accusing Ukrainian separatists and Russian forces of working hand in hand to acquire and operate a missile battery believed to have shot down a Malaysia Airlines jetliner last week, killing nearly 300 people.

Citing an “enormous amount of evidence,” Secretary of State John F. Kerry accused Russia of providing SA-11 antiaircraft missiles to the pro-Russian rebels and training them how to fire the advanced weapons. He also said U.S. intelligence agencies “saw the launch” of a missile from rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine and recorded its trajectory at the moment the passenger plane vanished from radar.

Meanwhile, in Kiev, the U.S. Embassy said American intelligence analysts had confirmed the authenticity of recorded conversations in which rebel leaders bragged about shooting down what they thought was a Ukrainian military transport plane moments after the Malaysian jetliner was blown apart.

More here

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WH.gov: President Obama to Award the Medal of Honor

On July 21, 2014, President Barack Obama will award Ryan M. Pitts, a former active duty Army Staff Sergeant, the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry.  Staff Sergeant Pitts will receive the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions while serving as a Forward Observer with 2nd Platoon, Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, during combat operations at Vehicle Patrol Base Kahler, in the vicinity of Wanat Village in Kunar Province, Afghanistan on July 13, 2008.

Staff Sergeant Pitts will be the ninth living recipient to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. He and his family will join the President at the White House to commemorate his example of selfless service.

More here

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On This Day

 U.S. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the Multi-National Force in Iraq, and Sen. Barack Obama at Baghdad International Airport, July 21, 2008

 Sen. Obama shakes hands with a U.S. Soldier outside Multi-National Division South East Headquarters in Basra, Iraq July 21, 2008

 Gen. David H. Petraeus gives an aerial tour of Baghdad to Sen.’s Obama, Jack Reed and Chuck Hagel Monday.

Sen. Obama looks on during a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Baghdad, July 21, 2008

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President Obama tapes an interview before an event celebrating country music at the White House on July 21, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

The First Family listens to a performance during an event celebrating country music in the East Room of the White House on July 21, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama and Vice President Biden walk from the Oval Office to the motorcade on the South Lawn driveway, July 21, 2010. They traveled to the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., to sign the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and Vice President Biden ride in the motorcade from the White House to the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., July 21, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama shakes hands with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after signing the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., July 21, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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 First Lady Michelle Obama colors props for a theater production with children during a visit to the Naval Air Station Oceana Summer Camp in Virginia Beach, Va., July 21, 2011 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)

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20
Jul
14

A Few Thoughts on Empathy

 

Three images from the past few days have stuck in my mind.

The first was a group of anti-immigrant protesters screaming at a bus thought to be filled with Central American child refugees. It was instead filled with kids from the YMCA.

The second, even more disturbing, was of Israelis gathered on a hill overlooking the Gaza Strip, cheering as the Israeli Defense Force pummeled Gazans from land, sea, and air, Gazans unable to defend themselves, the rockets which Hamas launch towards Israel of no scope to combat a modern military.

The third was of drunken Russian separatists not permitting international investigators from working on the wreckage of the Malaysian Airlines jet shot down by, well, Russian separatists (with, I’m sure, an able assist from Russian military), leaving the strewn bodies to fester in the summer sun.

I’ve been struggling to put the events of the past week into some overarching structure. Yes, we can castigate Israelis, Russians, and Americans at the border. But taken in isolation they don’t present a clear picture. Taken in totality, one working with the other, they present a narrative.

Humans are on a precipice. We face challenges not faced by any previous generation. Despite the end of the Cold War, we are on a road to ruin. Not, perhaps, by nuclear Armageddon, but by an Armageddon of a thousand cuts: a war here, an atrocity there, and the ever looming shadow of global climate change. We’re quite aware of the warnings, quite cognizant of the dangers ahead, but can’t seem to refrain from acting in the old, tired ways.

Continue reading ‘A Few Thoughts on Empathy’

19
Jul
14

Rise and Shine: The Week at TOD

@dougmillsnyt: A young girl greets President Obama as he arrives at the New Castle Air National Guard Base, Delaware

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All the week’s White House videos here

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Sunday

Early Bird Chat • • • Rise and Shine: The Week at TOD

Chat Away • • • A Tweet or Two • • • Chat On: World Cup

140 Characters Of Everything • • • Chat On

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Monday

Early Bird Chat • • • Rise and Shine • • • Chat Away 

ObamaCare Is Reducing The Number Of Uninsured. Cue The GOP Tears • • • A Tweet or Two 

President Obama Hosts an Iftar Dinner Celebrating Ramadan • • • Laugh Monday Away

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Tuesday

Early Bird Chat • • • Rise and Shine

President Obama at Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center 

700K Jobs At Risk? Do Something, Congress • • • A Tweet or Two 

President Obama Is Creating A Part-Time Economy? Yeah, Right 

Laugh The Day Away • • • Let The Laughter Continue

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Wednesday

Early Bird Chat • • • Rise and Shine • • • Chat Away 

First Lady Michelle Obama Speaks at a Unite for Veterans event 

Your VOTE Is Important. Exercise It • • • President Obama Delivers a Statement on Ukraine 

A Tweet Or Two • • • 140 Characters Of Chuckles

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Thursday

Early Bird Chat • • • Rise and Shine • • • Chat Away

President Obama delivers remarks on Infrastructure • • • Yes, America. This Is The Media 

Gaza Tonight • • • The President’s Day

News Of The Day • • • Smile. It Helps.

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Friday

Early Bird Chat • • • Rise and Shine 

President Obama Delivers Statement on Situation in Ukraine

The Kids’ State Dinner • • • President Obama Speaks On Ukraine 

First Lady Michelle Obama Celebrates Kid Chefs

A Tweet or Two • • • Laughter Is 140 Characters

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 And aaaaaaanother TODtastic week – thank you to the legend that is Nerdy for all her wonderful posts,

and to LL too – even if he yet again displayed unspeakable cruelty by posting his menus in the comments.

And to all the commenters who make TOD what it is – thank yooooooou!!

 

18
Jul
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama plays basketball with senior staff and their family members during a retreat at Camp David on July 18, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (all times Eastern)

11:25: Live from the 2014 Kids’ State Dinner

11:30: President Obama delivers a statement on the situation in Ukraine

1:0: Press Briefing by Press Secretary Josh Earnest

1:30: The President and Vice President meet with Secretary of the Treasury Lew, Oval Office

1:45: The President and Vice President meet with Secretary of State Kerry, Oval Office

4:20: The President meets with Secretary of Health and Human Services Burwell, Oval Office

5:40: The President departs the White House en route Camp David

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BBC: MH17 Malaysia plane crash in Ukraine: What we know

At least 298 people are presumed dead after a Malaysia Airlines jet crashed in eastern Ukraine, close to the border with Russia.

Flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was travelling over the conflict-hit region when it disappeared from radar. A total of 283 passengers and 15 crew members were on board.

More here

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A candlelit vigil in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

BBC: MH17 crash: Ukraine rebels ‘to allow access to site’

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine are to give international investigators access to the crash site of a Malaysia Airlines jet.

The rebels vowed to secure the site and allow the recovery of bodies, the Organization for the Security and Co-operation in Europe said.

The plane, carrying 298 people, crashed in rebel-held territory on Thursday.

The two sides in Ukraine’s civil conflict have accused each other of shooting the jet down with a missile.

More here

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A ball of fire is seen following an early morning Israeli air strike, on July 11, 2014, on Rafah in the southern of Gaza strip

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Juan Cole: Falluja and Gaza: Why Counter-Terrorism fails when the Problem is Political

….. the Israeli military profoundly misunderstands Hamas. It is ridiculous to dismiss it as a terrorist organization. it is broadly based and has an important political wing.

For this reason, the Israel ground invasion of northern Gaza will be no more successful than the US invasion of Falluja. The Israelis cannot actually destroy Hamas or its capabilities as long as significant numbers of Palestinians in Gaza support it. That support is political, having to do with the organization’s role in at least trying to stand up to Israeli oppression, occupation and blockade.

Just as the enemies of the US ultimately prevailed in Falluja, so the enemies of Israel will prevail in Gaza.

Oppression and occupation produce resistance. Until the oppression and the occupation are addressed, the mere inflicting of attrition on the military capabilities of the resistance will not snuff it out. Other leaders will take the place of those killed.

Full post here

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Children read while sitting in a street shelter, in anticipation of Code Red sirens alerting of incoming rockets, on July 11, 2014 in Nitzan, Israel

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Nathan Thrall (NYT): How the West Chose War in Gaza

As Hamas fires rockets at Israeli cities and Israel follows up its extensive airstrikes with a ground operation in the Gaza Strip, the most immediate cause of this latest war has been ignored: Israel and much of the international community placed a prohibitive set of obstacles in the way of the Palestinian “national consensus” government that was formed in early June.

That government was created largely because of Hamas’s desperation and isolation. The group’s alliance with Syria and Iran was in shambles. Its affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt became a liability after a July 2013 coup replaced an ally, President Mohamed Morsi, with a bitter adversary, Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Hamas’s coffers dried up as General Sisi closed the tunnels that had brought to Gaza the goods and tax revenues on which it depended.

More here

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On This Day

 President Obama meets with Warren Buffett, the Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, in the Oval Office, July 18, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Vice President Joe Biden arrives for a meeting with President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and National Security Advisor Tom Donilon in the Oval Office, July 18, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

The 2012 NCAA champion Lady Bears with President Obama at the White House on July 18, 2012

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Morning again everyone – short of time again this morning, so just a few links to the two main international stories of the day (thank you Jackie and Vickie), we’ll catch up with other news through the day.

Happy Friday!

17
Jul
14

The President’s Day

@petesouza: Pres Obama talks on phone w Pres Poroshenko of Ukraine aboard Air Force One regarding Malaysian Airlines plane crash

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Text of the President’s remarks here

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@dougmillsnyt: A young girl greets President Obama as he arrives at the New Castle Air National Guard Base, in New Castle, Delaware.

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@dougmillsnyt: Obama is reflected through the window as he greets customers at the Charcoal Pit to in Wilmington, Del.

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President Barack Obama speaks about transportation and an initiative to increase private sector investment in national infrastructure, at the Port of Wilmington in Wilmington, Delaware, near the Interstate 495 Bridge. The federal government is helping pay for repairs to the bridge, which state officials ordered closed on an emergency basis last month because several supporting columns were tilting.

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President Barack Obama signs a initiative to increase private sector investment in the nation’s infrastructure after speaking in front of the Interstate 495 bridge over the Christina River near Wilmington, Delaware

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White House: Fact Sheet: Building A 21st Century Infrastructure: Increasing Public And Private Collaboration With The Build America Investment Initiative

Today, the President will deliver remarks at the Port of Wilmington in front of the I-495 Bridge in Delaware. With 90,000 cars moving over it per day before repairs began, this bridge is a key example of the importance of infrastructure, which keeps the economy moving, spurs innovation, and bolsters our national competitiveness. At the port – and in this Year of Action – the President will announce a new executive action to create the Build America Investment Initiative, a government-wide initiative to increase infrastructure investment and economic growth. As part of the Initiative, the Administration is launching the Build America Transportation Investment Center – housed at the Department of Transportation – to serve as a one-stop shop for cities and states seeking to use innovative financing and partnerships with the private sector to support transportation infrastructure.

That is why today, the President will sign a Presidential Memorandum to launch the Build America Investment Initiative, a government-wide initiative to increase infrastructure investment and economic growth by engaging with state and local governments and private sector investors to encourage collaboration, expand the market for public-private partnerships (PPPs) and put federal credit programs to greater use. Starting with the transportation sector, this initiative will harness the potential of private capital to complement government funding. As part of the Initiative, the Administration is launching the Build America Transportation Investment Center: Housed at the Department of Transportation, this center will serve as a one-stop shop for state and local governments, public and private developers and investors seeking to utilize innovative financing strategies for transportation infrastructure projects.

More here

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President Barack Obama meets with Tanei Benjamin at the Charcoal Pit in Wilmington, Del., before speaking about transportation and infrastructure. Benjamin wrote the president a letter about her struggles as a working single mother.

President Obama holds Jaidyn Oates, 7 months, at the Charcoal Pit in Wilmington

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President Barack Obama holds seven-month-old Jaidyn Oates during a stop at the Charcoal Pit

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Tanei Benjamin wipes tears from her eyes after receiving a hug from President Barack Obama

17
Jul
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama hikes along the coastline in Acadia National Park, Maine, July 17, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

 11:20: President Obama departs the White House

12:15: Arrives Delaware

2:10: Delivers remarks on Infrastructure, Port of Wilmington, Wilmington

3:15: Departs Delaware

4:0: Arrives New York City

5:45: Attends a DNC fundraiser, private residence, New York City

7:30: Attends a fundraiser for House Democrats, private residence, New York City

9:15: Departs New York

10:30: Arrives White House

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Jelani Cobb: Talking Openly About Obama And Race

In September, 2009, just eight months into Barack Obama’s first term, when it was still possible for unsentimental observers to perceive the Tea Party’s riotous fulminations as a passing blip, Jimmy Carter remarked that opposition to the President’s agenda was driven, largely, by one thing: race. “I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he’s African-American,” Carter said. One hears it in the questioning of Obama’s American birth and legitimacy—the idea that he couldn’t really be President without trickery, that he has stolen something—and his presence in rooms where someone like him shouldn’t be.

Carter’s words are, if not conventional wisdom, then certainly one of those truths that most of us know but few are willing to admit. That reticence, along with a large dose of cynicism, explains the reaction to Eric Holder’s statement, in an interview with ABC News, that the opposition to the Administration (“You know, people talking about taking their country back”) is partly driven by racism. Holder’s assessment that “I don’t think this is the thing that is a main driver, but for some there’s a racial animus” is, on the whole, more tempered than Carter’s words, and far less incendiary than Charlie Rangel’s dismissal of the Tea Party, in 2013, as “the same crackers who fought against civil rights.”

More here

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Thank you Nath, for this perfect summation of America’s history

You know what, Kathleen, President Carter was spot on! For some of us with a little knowledge of history, the reaction to the election of President Obama was reminiscent of the reaction to the election of Black people to local, state and national offices, during the Reconstruction period after the Civil War. Whites made sure that Reconstruction State governments, with substantial Black participation, failed. Black elected officials were routinely accused of ignorance and corruption. Even though those accusations were false. Eventually whites resorted to violence to finally force Blacks from political office. But they were able to accomplish that with the complicity of the media, the Congress and the two political parties. Beginning with the 1877 “Hayes Compromise” the Republican party–the party of Abraham Lincoln– began abandoning Black people. By the beginning of the 20th Century Black folks, especially in the South, had no where to go politically. Lilly white Republicans shunned them and Dixiecrat Democrats were hostile against them. The migration of Blacks from the South to Northern cities during the World War I era began to change the racial demographics of many of those cities. Blacks in Northern cities slowly gained political clout. In 1928, South side Chicago elected the firs black to Congress from the North. In the 1950s Chicago would be joined by other Northern cities like Detroit and New York in electing Blacks to the House of Representatives. Still, two or three members of House of Representatives were never considered a threat to white supremacy.

The situation changed dramatically when Blacks were able to form coalitions to elect mayors to some of the biggest cities in America. White supremacist reaction to the election of Black Mayors in major cities during the late 1960s to 1980s was comparable to white supremacist reaction during Reconstruction, and white supremacist reaction following the election of President Obama. White supremacists on city councils made absolutely sure to obstruct everything the Black Mayors proposed to do. In some cities, major businesses relocated to suburbs or other states so as to deprive cities ruled by Black mayors of tax revenues. The goal: to make cities ruled by black mayors so dysfunctional, and thus to consequently discredit the wisdom of electing Black mayors. This is exactly the playbook the GOP in Congress decided to follow from day one of President Obama’s presidency. Thankfully, in his first two years, the GOP playbook was thwarted by Democrats who controlled both houses of Congress. Then came the 2010 and Republicans gained a majority in the House of Representatives, and enough votes to use the filibuster to paralyze the U.S. Senate.

Basically, the GOP’s goal is the same as the white supremacists’ goal, advocated by Rush Limbaugh: Make sure that President Obama fails! GOP and Rush could care less if President Obama’s failure translates into a failure that affects the vast majority of Americans. Other than their idiotic followers who stand to suffer if President Obama’s policies are defeated, people like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Rupert Murdoch and Fox, GOP members of Congress, and the billionaire Koch brothers, wouldn’t experience that much suffering and hardship. They are, however, certain that if President Obama fails, America will never again make a mistake of electing another Black person President.

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Emily Hauser: Incompetence Or Indifference?

As a peace advocate, I am forever confronted by Israeli and/or American Jews (and the occasional gentile) who take one look at any exchange of fire between Israel and Palestinian militants and say: “Yes, sure, all civilian deaths are terrible — but for Israelis, they’re unintentional. The Palestinians actually target civilians.” And as one of those civilians who used to be targeted on the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, I have no problem saying that intentionally targeting civilians is wrong — is, in fact, a war crime…. But I weary of the desperate clinging to the word “unintentional” on my side of this decades-long war.

From the end of September 2000 through the end of September 2012, Israel was responsible for the deaths of 3,034 Palestinian noncombatants, of whom well more than a third were minors: 1,338. And that’s not counting the noncombatants and children (including several toddlers and at least one pregnant woman) killed in the last week alone. But when I look at those numbers, when I see the pictures of tiny, broken bodies pulled from utter destruction, when I see the wailing of fathers and mothers, their dead children wrapped in white shrouds, never to feel their parents’ arms around them again—I no longer care. Incompetence or indifference, neither can be an excuse anymore. And in the meantime, more children die.

More here

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Michael Grunwald: Lower Health Care Costs Brighten America’s Debt Outlook

Fiscal doom will be delayed thanks to lower health care inflation in recent years. But will Congress take notice? For years, America’s health care costs grew at an unsustainable rate. That was the main reason America’s long-term fiscal position looked unsustainable as well; Medicare, Medicaid, and other health programs were spiraling out of control. But our health care cost inflation is no longer unsustainable. That’s huge news, because it means our long-term deficits should be manageable, too.

Republicans have spent the last five-and-a-half years griping about the budget deficit, and most of their gripes have been absurd. They were wrong to accuse President Obama of creating a record trillion-dollar deficit, which he actually inherited from President Bush. They were wrong to criticize Obama for increasing the deficit with his 2009 stimulus bill, which was an amazingly effective Keynesian response to an economic crisis; the budget-balancing austerity approach the GOP was advocating led to much slower recoveries and double-dip recessions in Europe. And they were wrong to accuse Obama of turning the U.S. into Greece; the deficit has shrunk by more than half during his presidency, dropping from 10 percent of GDP to less than 4 percent as the recovery has progressed.

More here

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Edwin Lyngar: I was Poor, but A GOP Die-Hard: How I Finally Left The Politics Of Shame

I hated government – even as it was the only thing trying to save me. Here’s how, one day, I finally saw the light I was a 20-year-old college dropout with no more than $100 in the bank the day my son was born in 1994. I’d been in the Coast Guard just over six months. Joining the service was my solution to a lot of problems, not the least of which was being married to a pregnant, 19-year-old fellow dropout. We were poor, and my overwhelming response to poverty was a profound shame that drove me into the arms of the people least willing to help — conservatives. Looking around, I saw no other young servicemen. Coming from the white working class, I’d always been taught that food stamps were for the “others” — failures, drug addicts or immigrants, maybe — not for real Americans like me.

I felt my own poverty was a moral failure. To make up for my own failures, I voted to give rich people tax cuts, because somewhere deep inside, I knew they were better than me. They earned it. My support for conservative politics was atonement for the original sin of being white trash. I finally “got it.” In 2012, I shunned my self-destructive voting habits and supported Obama. The people who most support the Republicans and the Tea Party carry a secret burden. Many know that they are one medical emergency or broken down car away from ruin, and they blame the government. They vote against their own interests, often hurting themselves in concrete ways, in a vain attempt to deal with their own, misguided shame about being poor. They believe “freedom” is the answer, even though they live a form of wage indenture in a rigged system. I wish I could take the poorest, struggling conservatives and shake them. I would scream that their circumstances or failures or joblessness are not all their fault. They should wise up and vote themselves a break. Rich people vote their self-interest in every single election. Why don’t poor people?

More here

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Variety: Michelle Obama Calls For Focus On The Arts In Grammy Museum Speech

First Lady Michelle Obama appeared in Los Angeles before a crowd of music professionals, educators and students on Wednesday, as she called for greater recognition of the value of arts education. “We cannot be satisfied until every child in America has some exposure to the arts,” Obama said. Obama’s address was part of the Grammy Museum’s Jane Ortner Education Award Luncheon, named in honor of the late public school teacher Jane Ortner, who promoted music education.Obama said that some 6 million school children have no music or arts classes in their schools, a problem exacerbated by cuts in public education.

She said that for many young people, “the arts are a way to channel that pain and frustration into something meaningful and productive and beautiful.” “For many young people and arts education is the only reason they get out of bed in the morning,” she said, her voice often passionate as she delivered her remarks. She also called on arts organizations across the country to adopt programs that include activities for students, as the Grammy Museum does. The museum participates in an educational component of the White House’s concert series, which airs on PBS as “In Performance at the White House.”

More here

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Mark Thompson: Lawyer: Bergdahl ‘Deeply Grateful’ To Obama

No one’s heard anything yet from Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the former prisoner-of-war freed in a May 31 swap for five Taliban leaders after nearly five years as a Taliban prisoner. He hasn’t spoken to the press—by all accounts, he hasn’t even spoken to his parents. But, in typical American fashion, he has retained—and spoken to—an attorney. “Sergeant Bergdahl is deeply grateful to President Obama for having saved his life,” Eugene Fidell, retained a week ago by the soldier, told TIME on Wednesday.

Fidell has traveled to Texas—where Bergdahl has returned to active duty at a desk job in San Antonio following his “re-integration” back into the service—to discuss with his client the investigation into the circumstances leading up to Bergdahl’s abduction in 2009. The attorney declined to offer any insights into Bergdahl’s mood, legal defense, or relationship with his family. Bergdahl also has an Army lawyer.

More here

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Anne Barnard: Boys Drawn to Gaza Beach, And Into Center Of Mideast Strife

The four Bakr boys were young cousins, the children of Gaza fishermen who had ordered them to stay indoors — and especially away from the beach. But cooped up for nine days during Israeli bombardments, the children defied their parents and went out Wednesday afternoon, the eldest shooing away his little brother, telling him it was too dangerous. As they played on and around a jetty in the late-afternoon sun, a blast hit a nearby shack. One boy was killed instantly. The others ran. There was a second blast, and three more bodies littered the sand. One was charred, missing a leg, and another lay motionless, his curly head intact, his legs splayed at unnatural angles.

The Israeli military acknowledged later that it had launched the strike, which it said was aimed at Hamas militants, and called the civilian deaths “a tragic outcome.” The four dead boys came quickly to symbolize how the Israeli aerial assaults in Gaza are inevitably killing innocents in this crowded, impoverished sliver of land along the Mediterranean Sea. They stood out because they were inarguably blameless, children who simply wanted to play on their favorite beach, near the fishing port where their large extended family keeps its boats.

More here

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L.A. Times: Federal Judge Rules California Death Penalty Is Unconstitutional

A federal judge in Orange County ruled Wednesday that California’s death penalty violates the U.S. Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney, ruled on a petition by death row inmate Ernest Dewayne Jones, who was sentenced to die nearly two decades ago. Carney said the state’s death penalty has created long delays and uncertainty for inmates, most of whom will never be executed. He noted that more than 900 people have been sentenced to death in California since 1978 but only 13 have been executed. “For the rest, the dysfunctional administration of California’s death penalty system has resulted, and will continue to result, in an inordinate and unpredictable period of delay preceding their actual execution,” Carney wrote.

Carney’s ruling can be appealed to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Carney, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, said the delays have created a “system in which arbitrary factors, rather than legitimate ones like the nature of the crime or the date of the death sentence, determine whether an individual will actually be executed,” Carney said. A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge in 1995 sentenced Jones to death for the 1992 rape and killing of Julia Miller, his girlfriend’s mother. Jones killed Miller 10 months after being paroled for a previous rape.

More here

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Reuters: U.S. Retail Sales, Manufacturing Data Point At Firming Economy

A gauge of U.S. consumer spending rose solidly in June, in the latest indication that the economy ended the second quarter on a stronger footing. That momentum appeared to have carried into the third quarter, with another report on Tuesday showing factory activity in New York state expanded sharply in July. “This is not a fragile economy,” said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ in New York. “The consumer continues to play their part in moving the economy forward.”

Core sales, which strip out automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services, increased 0.6 percent last month after rising an upwardly revised 0.2 percent in May, the Commerce Department said. Core sales, which correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic product, were previously reported as being flat in May. Economists had expected them to rise 0.5 percent in June. The report added to signs of the economy’s strengthening fundamentals, which could buoy optimism the recovery is on a self-sustaining path, after output contracted sharply in the first quarter.

More here

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First Lady Michelle Obama hugs six-time Grammy nominee singer Janelle Monae as they attend the Grammy Museum’s Jane Ortner Education Award luncheon honoring Monae and Southern California-based educator Sunshine Cavalluzzi July 16, 2014 in Los Angeles

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On This Day

President Barack Obama attends a bipartisan meeting of freshman House members in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on July 17, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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On a weekend trip to Acadia National Park in Maine, the President showed his daughters, Malia and Sasha, how to skip stones during a hike in the park.” July 17, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama greets tourists and hikers in Acadia National Park, Maine, July 17, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and their daughters Sasha and Malia watch the World Cup soccer game between the U.S. and Japan, from the Treaty Room office in the residence of the White House, Sunday, July 17, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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