Posts Tagged ‘afghanistan



16
Jun
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day – Pete Souza: “The President shows off his dance moves as he and the First Lady waited backstage during an intermission of daughter Sasha’s dance recital at Strathmore Arts Center in North Bethesda, Maryland.” June 16, 2013

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Today

10:0 am PT: President Obama departs Palm Springs

5:30 pm ET: Arrives White House

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The Week Ahead

Tuesday: President Obama will travel to TechShop Pittsburgh to deliver remarks on the economy. Following this, he will travel to New York City to attend the DNC LGBT Gala and take part in another DNC Event.

Wednesday: The President will host the first ever White House Maker Faire and meet with students, entrepreneurs and everyday citizens who are using new tools and techniques to launch new businesses, learn vital skills in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), and fuel the renaissance in American manufacturing.

Thursday: The President will award Corporal William “Kyle” Carpenter, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.), the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry.

Friday: The President will meet with Prime Minister John Key of New Zealand.

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Paul Krugman: Yes He Could – Health Care And Climate: President Obama’s Big Deals

You should judge leaders by their achievements, not their press, and in terms of policy substance Mr. Obama is having a seriously good year. In fact, there’s a very good chance that 2014 will go down in the record books as one of those years when America took a major turn in the right direction. First, health reform is now a reality — and despite a shambolic start, it’s looking like a big success story. Remember how nobody was going to sign up? First-year enrollments came in above projections. Remember how people who signed up weren’t actually going to pay their premiums? The vast majority have.

Then there’s climate policy. The Obama administration’s new rules on power plants won’t be enough in themselves to save the planet, but they’re a real start — and are by far the most important environmental initiative since the Clean Air Act….Put it all together, and Mr. Obama is looking like a very consequential president indeed.

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Colin H. Kahl: No, Obama Didn’t Lose Iraq: What The President’s Critics Get Wrong

As the senior Pentagon official responsible for Iraq policy during the first three years of the Obama administration, I had a front-row seat for the internal deliberations over how to end the war. Through the first half of 2011, there was a vigorous debate within the administration about whether U.S. forces should remain in Iraq beyond December, and if so, in what numbers and with what missions. Ultimately, at great political risk, President Obama approved negotiations with the Iraqi government to allow a force of around 5,000 American troops to stay in Iraq to provide counterterrorism support and air cover and to train the Iraqi army. But, as commander in chief, he was unwilling to strand U.S. forces in a hostile, anti-American environment without the legal protections and immunities required to ensure soldiers didn’t end up in Iraqi jails. These protections, which are common in nearly every country where U.S. forces operate, were guaranteed under the 2008 status of forces agreement negotiated by the Bush administration; Obama simply demanded that they continue under any follow-on accord. Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, told

U.S. negotiators that he was willing to sign an executive memorandum of understanding that included these legal protections. But for any agreement to be binding under the Iraqi constitution, it had to be approved by the Iraqi parliament. This was the judgment of every senior administration lawyer and Maliki’s own legal adviser, and no senior U.S. military commander made the case that we should leave forces behind without these protections. Even Sen. John McCain, perhaps the administration’s harshest Iraq critic, admitted in a December 2011 speech discussing the withdrawal that the president’s demand for binding legal immunities “was a matter of vital importance.” Moreover, because the 2008 security agreement had been approved by the Iraqi parliament, it seemed both unrealistic and politically unsustainable to apply a lower standard this time around. Unfortunately, Iraqi domestic politics made it impossible to reach a deal. Iraqi public opinion surveys consistently showed that the U.S. military presence was deeply unpopular

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Matthew Lee: Kerry: US Open To Cooperation With Iran On Chaos In Iraq

Secretary of State John Kerry says the Obama administration is willing to talk with Iran over deteriorating security conditions in Iraq and is not ruling out potential U.S.-Iranian military cooperation in stemming the advance of Sunni extremists. Kerry also says U.S. drone strikes “may well” be an option.

In a Monday interview with Yahoo! News, Kerry said Washington is “open to discussions” with Tehran if the Iranians can help end the violence and restore confidence in the Iraqi government. Asked about possible military cooperation with Iran, Kerry said he would “not rule out anything that would be constructive.” However, he stressed that any contacts with Iran would move “step-by-step.”

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Soumya Karlamangla: Uninsured Students Drop By 60% At Cal State Campuses

New data show the number of students without health insurance on California State University campuses dropped by 60% after health insurance enrollment, defying concerns that not enough young people would sign up for health insurance. According to a poll released Thursday, at the 15 largest CSU campuses, between 25% and 30% of students were uninsured before enrollment began, and 10% were uninsured after. The drop accounts for 60,000 students who became insured, and illustrates the late surge of young people who signed up for policies. “These students proved that the folks we’re calling young invincibles do want health insurance,” said William Covino, president of Cal State Los Angeles. Walter Zelman, chair of the Cal State L.A. Public Health Department and director of the project, said that he believes the 10% uninsured rate among the students is “virtually unheard of in California.”

He pointed out that the 60% drop in the number of uninsured CSU students is vastly higher than the 26% reduction in the number of uninsured nationwide that was reported by a Gallup poll this month. CSU students were perhaps more likely to sign-up for insurance than expected because many are low-income and therefore qualify for Medi-Cal, the state’s low-income health program that was expanded under the federal health care law. Natasha Buranasombati, 23, signed up for an insurance plan through Covered California. A recent Cal State L.A. grad, she’d been off her parents’ insurance for a few years, and couldn’t afford a plan on the individual market. She now pays $117 a month for her new plan. “The issue is not invincibility, it’s affordability,” Zelman said.

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Bloomberg: Taliban Fighters Warn Foreign Investors To Leave Pakistan

Pakistan’s military began a full-scale operation in the Taliban stronghold of North Waziristan, prompting insurgents to warn foreign investors, airlines and multinational companies to leave the country. “We’re in a state of war,” Shahidullah Shahid, a spokesman for the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, said in a statement today. “Foreign investors, airlines, and multinational companies should cut off business with Pakistan immediately and leave the country or else they will be responsible for their damage themselves.”

The army said yesterday it would target local and foreign terrorists in North Waziristan, a tribal region near the Afghan border the U.S. has called the “epicenter” of terrorism. The operation, long sought by the U.S., comes a week after militants attacked the country’s biggest international airport. As Islamic militants capture cities in Iraq and the U.S. draws up plans to withdraw from Afghanistan, public opinion in Pakistan is shifting in favor of stronger action against fighters who were previously seen locally as more of a threat to America’s interests. The Taliban wants to impose its version of Islamic Shariah law in Pakistan, which includes a ban on music and stricter rules for women.

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LA Times: Actors, Musicians Are Big Beneficiaries Of Obamacare

In 2011, actress Lynda Berg didn’t make enough money to qualify for health insurance through her union. And, on her own, she had trouble finding a plan she could afford because she’s a survivor of breast cancer, considered a preexisting condition. The uncertainty of not having a health plan was stressful and at times expensive, she recalls. A few years ago she fell and broke her hand and elbow and ended up paying $4,000 for her medical care. But all that has changed for Berg, 59. In March, she went online, signed up for a policy through Covered California, the state’s new health insurance marketplace set up under the Affordable Care Act, and now is getting medical care. More than most people, workers in the area’s vast entertainment industry are poised to benefit from the federal health law.

“When people think Hollywood, they think George Clooney and Meryl Streep, but that’s not the average person in this town,” said Dan Kitowski, director of health services for the western region of the Actors Fund, a national nonprofit that does Affordable Care Act outreach. Actress Berg, who lives in Beverlywood, now pays a premium of $145 a month for her Blue Shield of California plan. She’s using her coverage to get prescriptions for $5 a month that she was paying more than $100 to fill before. She plans to head to the doctor’s office soon for a checkup she’s been putting off. “It’s a tremendous blessing to actors and anyone who doesn’t have insurance,” she said. “Even if you get a plan with a large deductible, at least you have that safety net … and you’re not in debt for the next seven years.”

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Native News Online.Net: $70 Million Available To Improve Indian Housing

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced Friday $70 million in funding available during Fiscal Year 2014 to tribal communities across the nation to improve Indian housing conditions and stimulate community development for low and moderate income families. The grants are available through HUD’s Indian Community Development Block Grant (ICDBG) Program for a wide variety of community development and affordable housing activities. Read HUD’s ICDBG Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA). The purpose of the ICDBG program is to develop viable Indian and Alaska Native communities, including decent housing, suitable living environments, and economic opportunities. Recipients can use the funding to support rehabbing or building new housing or to buy land for housing. They can use it toward infrastructure such as roads, water and sewer facilities. Recipients can also spur economic development including commercial and industrial projects.

This has included community and health centers, energy conservation projects, or new businesses such as shopping centers, manufacturing plants, restaurants, convenience stores and gas stations. “Housing and infrastructure needs in Indian Country are severe and widespread, and far exceed what has been provided to tribes and their designated housing entities. This funding will go directly to the Native American and Alaska Native communities that are working hard every day to improve housing for the families who need it most,” said Rodger Boyd, HUD Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Native American Programs. “HUD invests in people and neighborhoods across the country that promote development at the local level by those local leaders who know their communities best. This year we are committed to not only expanding housing opportunities but also helping to ensure healthier environments for those affected by mold.”

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Eliza Griswold: Can General Linder’s Special Operations Forces Stop the Next Terrorist Threat?

On a searing morning this spring, Brig. Gen. James B. Linder leaned against the red-webbing seats of a C-130 as it flew over the Sahara. On his camouflaged knee, he balanced two dog-eared Moleskine notebooks and a map of Africa. Linder, who is in his early 50s, commands the United States Special Operations forces in Africa. He was on his way to visit a detachment of 12 Army Green Berets training with African troops to fight Al Qaeda and its affiliates in Niger. Through the plane’s scratched plexiglass portholes, dunes crested like waves in an ocean of sand, and hot blasts of wind buffeted the fuselage.

An hour’s flight to the south, his team of Special Forces was deployed along the Nigerian border, where the militant group Boko Haram was targeting children in its bid to establish an Islamic state. “My job is to look at Africa and see where the threat to the United States is,” Linder said as he unfolded his map and traced circles around the territories where he knew extremist groups were operating. “I see Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the Libyan problem set, Al Shabab in Somalia, Boko Haram in Nigeria, Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia, Benghazi and Darna.”

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NYT: Starbucks To Provide Free College Education To Thousands of Workers

Starbucks will provide a free online college education to thousands of its workers, without requiring that they remain with the company, through an unusual arrangement with Arizona State University, the company and the university will announce on Monday. The program is open to any of the company’s 135,000 United States employees, provided they work at least 20 hours a week and have the grades and test scores to gain admission to Arizona State. For a barista with at least two years of college credit, the company will pay full tuition; for those with fewer credits it will pay part of the cost, but even for many of them, courses will be free, with government and university aid. Starbucks is, in effect, inviting its workers, from the day they join the company, to study whatever they like, and then leave whenever they like — knowing that many of them, degrees in hand, will leave for better-paying jobs.

In a low-wage service industry, Starbucks has for decades been unusual, doing things such as providing health insurance, even for part-timers, and giving its employees stock options. (Like other food and drink chains, it has also been accused of using improper tactics in fighting unionization drives.) Whether in spite of those perks or because of them, the company has been highly successful; its stock, which closed Friday at $74.69, has grown in value more than a hundredfold since it went public in 1992. The president of Arizona State, Michael M. Crow, something of an evangelist for online education, was scheduled to join Mr. Schultz and Arne Duncan, the education secretary, to announce the program on Monday in Manhattan. Arizona State has one of the largest online degree programs in the United States, with 11,000 students and 40 undergraduate majors, and one of the most highly regarded.

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Stephen Michaelson: Robert Reich’s Facebook Post: 100 Years Old, And Spot-On About Obama

I’m here in Florida visiting my father, Ed Reich, who, at the young age of 100 and a half, just came up with one of the most incisive assessments I’ve heard of what’s happened in Iraq: “George W. Bush and the crooks he hired are responsible for this. If they hadn’t lied to the American people about weapons of mass destruction we wouldn’t have lost nearly 5,000 American lives and god knows how many Iraqi lives, and stirred up this hornet’s nest. Obama has spent his entire administration cleaning up Bush’s shit, like someone with a giant pooper scooper.” Dad has lived during the administrations of 17 presidents. “Bush was the worst,” he says. “Reagan the second worst.”

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TPM: SCOTUS Rules On ‘Straw Purchaser’ Gun Law

The Supreme Court says federal law does not allow a “straw” purchaser to buy a gun for someone else, even if both are legally eligible to own firearms. The justices ruled Monday that the federal background check law applied to Bruce James Abramski, Jr. when he bought a Glock 19 handgun in Collinsville, Virginia, in 2009 and later transferred it to his uncle in Easton, Pennsylvania. Federal officials brought charges against Abramski because he assured the Virginia dealer he was the actual buyer of the weapon, even though he had already agreed to buy the gun for his uncle.

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Smile Of The Day: A dad twerking because he’s cancer free

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On This Day

Sen. Barack Obama greets supporters a campaign rally at Kettering High School June 16, 2008 in Flint, Michigan

Sen. Barack Obama, former U.S. vice president Al Gore and Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm appear on stage together after Gore spoke endorsing him at a rally at Joe Louis Arena June 16, 2008 in Detroit, Michigan

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President Obama picks up a fly he swatted during an interview with CNBC’s John Harwood in the East Room of the White House, June 16, 2009 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

President Obama gives a fist-bump to personal aide Reggie Love in the Oval Office of the White House on June 16, 2009. Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is at left (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama arrives to speak the American Nurses Association House of Delegates June 16, 2010 in Washington, DC.

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President Obama walks with his daughter Malia as they follow First Lady Michelle Obama into the Strathmore Music Center June 16, 2013 in Bethesda, Maryland. The Obama’s were attending a dance performance with where their daughter Sasha was performing.

09
Jun
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Barack Obama talks with kids from the Children’s Miracle Network in the East Room of the White House, June 9, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

10:50: The President meets with nurses to discuss immigration reform

12:30: Josh Earnest briefs the press

1:45: The President delivers remarks and signs a Presidential Memorandum on reducing the burden of student loan debt, East Room

2:40: Meets with governors of Western States via video teleconference

4:15: Welcomes the UConn men’s and women’s NCAA champion basketball teams

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The Week Ahead

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NYT: Obama Plans Steps To Ease Student Debt

President Obama on Monday will take executive actions to ease the burden of college loan debt for potentially millions of Americans, in a White House event coinciding with Senate Democrats’ plans for legislation to address a concern of many voters in this midterm election year. Mr. Obama’s main action will be to expand on a 2010 law that capped borrowers’ repayments at 10 percent of their monthly income. The intent is to extend such relief to an estimated five million people with older loans who are currently ineligible — those who got loans before October 2007 or stopped borrowing by October 2011.

But the relief would not be available until December 2015, officials said, given the time needed for the Education Department to propose and put new regulations into effect. Also, Mr. Obama will announce that the department will renegotiate contracts with companies that service federal loans to give them additional financial incentives to help borrowers avoid delinquency or default. The Education and Treasury Departments are to work with the nation’s largest tax-preparation firms, H&R Block and Intuit Inc., to ensure that borrowers are aware of repayment options and tax credits for college tuition.

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Josh Hicks: Kerry: Leaving Soldier Behind Would Be ‘Offensive And Incomprehensible’

Secretary of State John F. Kerry in an interview aired Sunday pushed back against criticism of the prisoner swap for U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was captured by the Taliban after he left his post in Afghanistan in 2009. “It would have been offensive and incomprehensible to consciously leave an American behind, no matter what,” Kerry said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Republicans have accused the Obama administration of placing U.S. troops at greater risk by encouraging enemies to take prisoners for leverage, essentially putting a target on the backs of American troops. Responding to those concerns, Kerry said that the U.S. combat role in Afghanistan is over and that “we’re going to have very few people in that kind of position.”

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By the very wonderful @Chanlowe

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Simon Maloy: GOP’s Quiet Obamacare Disaster: How This Week’s Biggest Story Got Overlooked

While everyone obsessed over the Bergdahl flap, the real story was revealed by a nomination hearing and new data

Right around noon on Wednesday, the Senate voted to invoke cloture on Sylvia Mathews Burwell’s nomination to be the next secretary of Health and Human Services. The all-out Obamacare brawl that Republicans had promised when Burwell’s nomination was announced never materialized. Instead, it ended with a quiet, respectful display of bipartisan comity.

Losing the opportunity to grandstand on the Burwell nomination, however, was the least of the Republicans’ troubles this week when it came to the Affordable Care Act. We’re only six days into June, and opponents of the ACA have already had a terrible month.

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Las Vegas Review-Journal: Shooters In Metro Ambush That Left Five Dead Spoke Of White Supremacy And A Desire To Kill Police

Two Las Vegas police officers were killed Sunday in what appears to be a politically motivated ambush in a pizza restaurant that spilled over to a nearby Wal-Mart, where the two shooters committed suicide after killing a woman in the store. Details are sketchy, but Metropolitan Police Department sources close to the investigation say the shooters shouted that “this is the start of a revolution” before opening fire on the officers, and draped their bodies with cloth showing a Revolutionary War-era flag. Investigators have also found paraphernalia associated with white supremacists. The shooters then stripped the officers of their weapons and ammunition and badges, according to a law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation. They then covered the officers with something that featured the Gadsden flag, a yellow banner with a coiled snake above the words, “Don’t tread on Me.”

The flag is named for Christopher Gadsden a Revolutionary War general who designed it. It has recently come back in vogue as an adopted symbol of the American tea party movement. Brandon Monroe, 22, has lived in the complex for about two weeks. He said the man who lived in the apartment that was being searched often rambled about conspiracy theories. He often wore camouflage or dressed as Peter Pan to work as a Fremont Street Experience street performer. A woman lived with him, Monroe said, but he didn’t see her as often. They were weird people, Monroe said, adding that he thought the couple used methamphetamine. “The man told Monroe he had been kicked off Cliven Bundy’s ranch 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas while people from throughout the U.S. gathered there in protest of a Bureau of Land Management roundup of Bundy’s cattle.” Jessica Anderson, 27, said.

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Dan Diamond: Since Obamacare Passed 50 Months Ago, Healthcare Has Gained Almost 1 Million Jobs

Obamacare was once called “The Job-Killing Health Care Law.” But the latest jobs report suggests that the broader economy—and the health care sector, specifically—is adding jobs at a healthy rate. Since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in March 2010, the health care industry has gained nearly 1 million jobs—982,300, to be more precise—according to Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates released on Friday.

Meanwhile, the rest of the economy has added 7.7 million jobs since March 2010, and for the first time, more people are working since the recession began five years ago. Private-sector jobs also grew for the 51st straight month, Justin Wolfers observes at The Upshot, which ties the longest consecutive streak on record and overlaps with the passage of Obamacare 50 months ago. But that streak is piddling compared to health care, which just reported its 131st straight month of job gains.

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Tiffany HSU: Job Recovery In Southern California Is Outpacing U.S. Gains

Southern California fell harder in the recession than the rest of the country and took longer to recover, but now the region’s job gains are outpacing the national employment upswing. Each month since April 2012 except one, Los Angeles County has seen at least 2% year-over-year job growth, compared with a 1.7% average across the country. On Friday, the Labor Department reported that all the jobs lost in the downturn are now back nationwide, with 217,000 net new jobs added in May. The unemployment rate stayed put at 6.3%, the lowest in more than five years. But a steadily growing population means that millions of people are still out of work. In Los Angeles County, only 330,800 jobs have returned, compared with the 435,400 jobs lost from December 2007 to January 2010.

Cheery economic reports showing rising home prices in Southern California, along with steadily recovering personal income, will help boost optimism, Kleinhenz said. But new opportunities will lure more job hunters into the labor force, requiring employers to add more jobs to keep unemployment rates low. But an LAEDC report this week showed promising signs. In April, Los Angeles County employers added 90,800 nonfarm jobs — a 2.6% boost from a year earlier. The area’s jobless rate improved to 9.8% last year from 10.9% a year earlier. LAEDC expects the gauge to fall to 8.7% this year and then continue sliding to 7.8% in 2015.

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Sen. Phillip P. Puckett

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Laura Vozzella: Va. Lawmaker To Resign, Paving Way For Jobs For Self, Daughter, According To Associates

Republicans appear to have outmaneuvered Gov. Terry McAuliffe in a state budget standoff by persuading a Democratic senator to resign his seat, at least temporarily giving the GOP control of the chamber and possibly dooming the governor’s push to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Sen. Phillip P. Puckett (D-Russell) will announce his resignation Monday, effective immediately, paving the way to appoint his daughter to a judgeship and Puckett to the job of deputy director of the state tobacco commission, three people familiar with the plan said Sunday. The news prompted outrage among Democrats — and accusations that Republicans were trying to buy the Senate with job offers in order to thwart McAuliffe’s proposal to expand health coverage to 400,000 low-income Virginians.

In a statement, McAuliffe (D) acknowledged that Puckett’s resignation had created “uncertainty” for his plan to expand the federal-state health program for the poor to 400,000 uninsured Virginians. But he contended that he still had a majority of the Senate on his side. “I am deeply disappointed by this news and the uncertainty it creates at a time when 400,000 Virginians are waiting for access to quality health care, especially those in Southwest Virginia,” McAuliffe said. “This situation is unacceptable, but the bipartisan majority in the Senate and I will continue to work hard to put Virginians first and find compromise on a budget that closes the coverage gap.” Senate Republicans, meanwhile, issued a statement praising Puckett. “Although Senator Puckett has decided to end his tenure in the Senate of Virginia, his legacy there will endure,” said Senate Minority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. (James City). “And, his commitment and service to the people of Southwest, who honored him with their votes in five successive elections, will continue.”

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Reuters: U.S. Deaths In Afghanistan May Have Only Tenuous Link To Bergdahl

The frantic search for Bowe Bergdahl began the moment his comrades discovered he was no longer inside the fragile outpost in a rock-strewn valley in one of the most hostile corners of Afghanistan. Exactly why Bergdahl left is subject to intense scrutiny. But accounts by two Taliban sources as well as several U.S. officials and fellow soldiers raise doubt over media reports that he had sought to join the Taliban, and over suggestions that the deaths later that year of six soldiers in his battalion were related to the search for him.

His dramatic release on May 31 after five years in captivity in return for five Taliban commanders sparked a national controversy over whether President Barack Obama paid too high a price for his freedom. That was fueled by allegations by some in his battalion that he was a deserter, and that soldiers died because they were looking for him after his disappearance in the early hours of June 30, 2009. While many questions remain, a Reuters reconstruction of his disappearance indicates that at the time when Bergdahl’s six comrades in the 1st Battalion of the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment were killed in August and September 2009, his fallen comrades were on other missions like securing the Afghan elections and, according to one U.S. military official, the period of intensive ground searches had already ended.

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Jason Millman: Obamacare Is Adding Insurers Where They’re Most Needed

State health insurance marketplaces that offered consumers very few health plan choices in 2014 are starting to add more insurers — slowly, in most cases. But this is a sign that insurers are feeling confident about the second year of the Affordable Care Act’s coverage expansion. The development is important for a few reasons. For one, recent research suggests that more competition in the exchanges could help temper premium increases. Other new analysis shows that exchange plans, on average, are cheaper than individual plans offered outside the insurance marketplaces. And given the narrow networks in exchange plans, more insurers could mean better access to providers.

In New Hampshire, the exchange’s only insurer last year had excluded 10 of 26 hospitals in the state from its network, meaning the exchange’s customers were limited in their choice of care providers. In 2015, though, New Hampshire will have five insurers selling individual and family health plans on the exchange, state officials announced this week. That also includes the expansion of two non-profit, co-op plans that received start-up funding from the Affordable Care Act. Then there’s West Virginia, a poorer state and one of the least healthy in the country — not exactly an attractive market for insurers. Just one insurer sold 2014 exchange plans, but a second insurer from Kentucky, another co-op, will join in 2015. Kentucky Health Cooperative, which signed up 75 percent of the approximately 82,000 people who selected private plans in Kentucky’s exchange, will sell plans statewide in West Virginia next year.

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EPIC Moment Number One: Audra McDonald wins a historic 6th Tony; beating Angela Lansbury and Julie Harris’s previous records of 5 wins

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EPIC Moment Number Two: Bravo, Quest Love for the beats and arrangements, and bravo to T.I., Hugh Jackman, and LL Cool J

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On This Day

President Obama listens to a point being made in a meeting with senior advisors in the Oval Office, June 9, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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First Lady Michelle Obama greets Debra Ness, president of the national partnership for women and families, before speaking to their 40th anniversary luncheon in Washington, DC, on June 9, 2011

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31
May
14

‘Thank You, Mr President’

President Obama with the parents of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, Jani and Bob, during a news conference about the release of their son, May 31

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30
May
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Barack Obama lays a Presidential challenge coin on a grave in Section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., May 30, 2011. Section 60 is reserved for military personnel who have lost their lives while fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (all times Eastern)

* President Obama appears on Kelly and Michael – check your local listings here

10:15: President Obama meets with Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, Oval Office

11:0: The President meets with the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force

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11:15 EDT: President Obama Makes a Statement

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1:0: Jay Carney briefs the press

2:15: The President attends a hurricane preparedness meeting, FEMA Headquarters

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Fareed Zakaria: Obama’s leadership is right for today

…. Obama is battling a knee-jerk sentiment in Washington in which the only kind of international leadership that means anything is the use of military force. “Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail,” he said in his speech Wednesday at West Point.

A similar sentiment was expressed in the farewell address of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a strong leader who refused to intervene in the Suez crisis, the French collapse in Vietnam, two Taiwan Strait confrontations and the Hungarian uprising of 1956.

At the time, many critics blasted the president for his passivity and wished that he would be more interventionist. A Democratic Advisory Council committee headed by Acheson called Eisenhower’s foreign policy “weak, vacillating, and tardy.” But Eisenhower kept his powder dry, confident that force was not the only way to show strength. “I’ll tell you what leadership is,” he told his speechwriter. “It’s persuasion — and conciliation — and education — and patience . It’s long, slow, tough work. That’s the only kind of leadership I know — or believe in — or will practice.”

Maybe that’s the Obama Doctrine.

Full article here

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Fred Kaplan: Obama Lays Siege to His Critics

President Obama’s speech at West Point on Wednesday morning could be called a tribute to common sense, except that the sense it made is so uncommon. The ensuing cable pundits’ complaints—that it was insufficiently “muscular” or “robust”—only proved how necessary this speech was.

Obama’s point was not (contrary to some commentators’ claims) to draw a “middle-of-the-road” line between isolationism and unilateralism. That’s a line so broad almost anyone could walk it.

The president’s main point was to emphasize that not every problem has a military solution; that the proper measure of strength and leadership is not merely the eagerness to deploy military power; that, in fact, America’s costliest mistakes have stemmed not from restraint but from rushing to armed adventures “without thinking through the consequences, without building international support and legitimacy for our action, without leveling with the American people about the sacrifice required.”

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Graduating cadets listen to President Obama deliver the commencement address at West Point, May 28, 2014 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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NPR: Transcript And Audio: President Obama’s Full NPR Interview

NPR’s Steve Inskeep interviewed President Obama on Wednesday about foreign policy, including his approaches to Syria, Ukraine and China, as well as his remaining White House priorities and his effort to close Guantanamo Bay prison. A full transcript of the interview follows:

STEVE INSKEEP: I want to begin this way. You’re here at this historic place, trying to speak with a sense of history. And I was thinking of past presidents that I know you have studied and commented on. And a couple came to mind who were able to express what they were trying to do in the world in about a sentence. Reagan wanted to roll back communism by whatever means. Lincoln has a famous letter in which he says, I would save the union by the shortest means under the Constitution. As you look at the moment of history that you occupy, do you think you can put into a sentence what you are trying to accomplish in the world?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I’m not sure I can do it in a sentence because we’re fortunate in many ways. We don’t face an existential crisis. We don’t face a civil war. We don’t face a Soviet Union that is trying to rally a bloc of countries and that could threaten our way of life. Instead, what we have is, as I say in the speech, this moment in which we are incredibly fortunate to have a strong economy that is getting stronger, no military peer that threatens us, no nation-state that anytime soon intends to go to war with us. But we have a world order that is changing very rapidly and that can generate diffuse threats, all of which we have to deal with.

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My Brother’s Keeper Task Force Report to the President – PDF

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Greg Sargent: GOP retreat on Obamacare continues apace

A new report this morning confirms that House Republicans are likely to delay plans to offer an alternative to Obamacare until after the elections; that multiple Republican candidates are retreating from repeal; and that they are increasingly mouthing support for the law’s general goals. Once again: There’s no real policy space for a meaningful alternative, but the base still sees repeal as its lodestar, yet everyone else opposes repeal, forcing Republicans to claim they’d scrap it and replace it with something or other doing all the popular things in it, without saying what.

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 Justin Wolfers (NYT): Deceptive Dip in G.D.P. Points to Perils of Election Forecasting

An economic report issued [yesterday] provides a good example of the hazards facing election forecasters. The Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that in the first quarter of this year, Gross Domestic Product, a broad indicator of the health of the economy, shrank at an annual rate of 1 percent. Even worse, an alternative and more accurate measure, called Gross Domestic Income, shrank at an annual rate of 2.3 percent. If that persisted, we’d call it a sharp recession.

But no one is using the R-word. Nor should they. Markets have taken the news in their stride, and few economists have changed their view that the economy is growing and will continue to through 2014. Likewise, consumers remain confident about their economic prospects. Their confidence rests partly on other indicators that suggested far better growth throughout the quarter, such as nonfarm payrolls, which grew by 569,000 over the same period.

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National Journal: Lies, Damn Lies, and Global-Warming Rules

The president is about to take a major step to fight global warming. Here’s what you need to know.

President Obama promised to take action on global warming with or without Congress’s permission. Next week, he’ll tell the world how he plans to do it.

The administration is preparing to release the central pillar of Obama’s climate-change agenda: a proposal for far-reaching rules that will require power companies to cut carbon emissions.

The rules will mark the most significant federal action on climate change since Democrats’ cap-and-trade bill died in the Senate four years ago, and they’re Obama’s best shot at adding broad action on global warming to his legacy.

The rules will also touch off a political war of the first order, offering battleground for environmentalists, industry groups, and politicians to fight over the nation’s energy future.

Here’s what to watch for when the administration pulls back the curtain.

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ThinkProgress: Redskins’ Twitter Campaign To Defend Their Name Goes About As Well As You’d Expect

The Washington Redskins — desperate to defend the name that Native Americans, members of Congress, a majority of the United States Senate, religious leaders, civil rights groups, several current and former NFL players, United Nations Human Rights representatives, and even President Obama have said should be changed because it is a “dictionary-defined” racial slur — started a Twitter campaign to rally support Thursday afternoon.

It started with this tweet asking fans to tell Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has made a habit of chiding the team over its name, how they felt:

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USA Today: Biden to attend U.S. World Cup soccer match

The United States men’s World Cup soccer team will have a particularly vocal fan when it takes on Ghana next month: Joe Biden.

The vice president will attend the U.S.-Ghana match on June 16 in Natal, Brazil, as part of a trip that will also take him to Colombia and the Dominican Republic as well as Brazil.

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I’m not sure whether to love this video, or be freaked out by it:

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 I shouldn’t laugh, but:

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On This Day

Sen Obama attends a rally in Great Falls, Montana, whilst campaining in the race for the White House. May 30, 2008

Sen. Obama addresses a rally at The Four Seasons Arena May 30, 2008 in Great Falls, Montana

Continue reading ‘Rise and Shine’

29
May
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Barack Obama consoles a woman at the Joplin Community Memorial Service at Missouri Southern University in Joplin, Mo., May 29, 2011. The President delivered remarks during the service for those impacted by the deadly tornado that struck Joplin on May 22, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

11:10: President Obama delivers remarks at the White House Healthy Kids & Safe Sports Concussion Summit, East Room

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12:30: Jay Carney briefs the press

2:55: The President participates in a clinic as part of the Concussion Summit, South Lawn

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E.J. Dionne Jr: Obama Outlines A Doctrine Where Restraint Makes Us Stronger

By laying out a long-term foreign policy vision in a speech at West Point on Wednesday, President Obama challenged his critics, at home and abroad, not to speak in vague terms about U.S. “decline” or “weakness” but to answer the question: Exactly what would you do differently? This is as close as we have gotten to an Obama Doctrine, and here it is: The United States “will use military force, unilaterally if necessary, when our core interests demand it — when our people are threatened; when our livelihoods are at stake; when the security of our allies is in danger.”

But in other cases, “when issues of global concern do not pose a direct threat to the United States . . . we should not go it alone.”…. the president’s critics [have] an obligation to answer his challenge. Those who believe that the United States should underwrite a world order friendly to our values and interests need to accept that the promiscuous deployment of U.S. troops abroad is the surest way to undermine support for this mission at home. In calling for restraint and realism — and by insisting on raising the threshold for wars of choice — Obama may yet prove himself to be the best friend American internationalists have.

More article here

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Thomas L. Friedman: Putin Blinked

There was a moment at the height of the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962 when Soviet ships approached to within just a few miles of a U.S. naval blockade and then, at the last minute, turned back — prompting then-Secretary of State Dean Rusk to utter one of the most famous lines from the Cold War: “We’re eyeball to eyeball, and I think the other fellow just blinked.”

The crisis in Ukraine never threatened a Cold War-like nuclear Armageddon, but it may be the first case of post-post-Cold War brinkmanship, pitting the 21st century versus the 19th. It pits a Chinese/Russian worldview that says we can take advantage of 21st-century globalization whenever we want to enrich ourselves, and we can behave like 19th-century powers whenever we want to take a bite out of a neighbor — versus a view that says, no, sorry, the world of the 21st century is not just interconnected but interdependent and either you play by those rules or you pay a huge price. In the end, it was Putinism versus Obamaism, and I’d like to be the first on my block to declare that the “other fellow” — Putin — “just blinked.”

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Hunter Walker: Maya Angelou’s Son Shares The Most Important Lesson His Mother Taught Him

According to writer Guy Johnson, his mother, the late poet and author Dr. Maya Angelou, never gave him advice about his craft. Though Angelou didn’t guide his writing, Johnson said he learned many other lessons from his mother.
Johnson shared some of the most important things Angelou taught him and discussed some of his final memories of her in a conversation with Business Insider hours after her death Wednesday, at age 86. Johnson said the main thing he learned from Angelou is that “life’s complexity cannot be taught in a classroom.”

Angelou’s final conversation with her son took place over the phone Tuesday. Johnson said she was “laughing” and in “good spirits.” Johnson described his mother’s “mission” as focused on spreading “respect” and combatting racism. “It had to do with teaching people that we have to give respect to each other and respect this planet … that we are more alike than we are unalike … and that racism is a foolish and divisive construct,” Johnson said.

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Steve Benen: Turning The Conventional Wisdom On Its Ear

It was just a few months ago that the political world took solace in a few obvious facts. The Affordable Care Act was failing; it stood no chance of meeting its enrollment projections; and Republicans would use “Obamacare” as a cudgel for the rest of the year, beating Democrats who would no doubt try to change the subject.

That was then; this is now. All of a sudden, the ACA looks like a great success; the system has already exceeded its enrollment projections; and Democrats are suddenly willing to take the offensive on the issue they were supposed to avoid…the GOP strategy to date — vow to repeal Obamacare and mumble platitudes about replacing it with something or other that does all the things in it that people like – is a bust…. The repeal crusade is over. The right lost. It’s heartening to see the conventional wisdom start to catch up.

More here

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Simon Maloy: GOP’s New Obamacare Strategy: Why Their “Repeal” Cries Have Suddenly Shifted

As benefits take hold, Republicans’ message falls victim to the inevitable onset of nuance. A moment of silence, if you please, for the Republican “repeal Obamacare” message. It’s not dead yet, but it has fallen victim to a deadly terminal illness: nuance. The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire blog delivered the diagnosis this morning, noting that the Republican candidate field, as it transitions out of primary season, is discovering that simply calling for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act is not the winning strategy that it was once assumed to be.

The millions of people who gained coverage through the ACA, and would stand to lose it were the law to be scuttled, obviously would like to know what comes next. “Republicans won’t back off their push to repeal the law,” Washington Wire notes, “but the message is likely to be more nuanced, said Bill McInturff, a Republican pollster who has long studied the politics of health care.” “Nuance” in this sense means that Republicans are going to start using terms like “fix” and “reform” alongside (or in place of) “repeal.”

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Michael Kelley: Edward Snowden Says The US Stranded Him In Russia – Here Are 4 Problems With That Claim

Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden told “Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams in Moscow that he “never intended to end up in Russia.” The 30-year-old asserts that the U.S. State Department stranded him in Moscow after he arrived from Hong Kong on June 23. There are several issues with the claim that the U.S. stranded Snowden in Russia. Here are the most glaring: 1. Snowden couldn’t have left Russia because he had no valid travel documents when he landed at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport.

The U.S. revoked Snowden’s passport the day before he left. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange then acquired an unsigned Ecuadorian travel document — ostensibly for safe passage to Latin America — that was void when Snowden landed in Moscow. 2. WikiLeaks told him to go to Russia and stay there. Assange told Janet Reitman of Rolling Stone magazine in December that he advised Snowden against going to Latin America because “he would be physically safest in Russia.” WikiLeaks, who advised Snowden in Hong Kong while paying for his lodging and travel, reiterated the statement on May 1.

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Michael Tomasky: Mitch McConnell’s Big Obamacare-Kynect Lie

The Senator’s latest election-trail mistake? Vowing to repeal Obamacare while disingenuously promising to protect his state’s own Obamacare-funded health-care exchange, which serves 413,000 Kentuckians. Here’s why all the super-smart insidery people privately say they think that in the end, Alison Lundergan Grimes will not beat Mitch McConnell in Kentucky. Her strategy, they say, is to keep it close, keep her distance from Obama, hold her own in debates, try to match him attack ad for attack ad, and just hope McConnell makes a mistake.

And the super-smart people agree: You may admire or loathe McConnell, but if he’s proven one thing in umpteen elections, it’s that he doesn’t make mistakes. That’s what the insiders say. There’s just one problem with it. McConnell has made about a mistake a week so far! He’s run an awful campaign. And he’s given anybody no reason at all to think he won’t just keep making them.

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Brett Logiurato: Obama Gives Boehner One Last Deadline For Immigration Reform

President Barack Obama has provided House Speaker John Boehner with a final deadline of sorts for moving immigration reform legislation through the House of Representatives. A White House official confirmed Obama asked Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to delay his completion of a review of U.S. deportation policies until the end of the summer. The White House said this would give Boehner more time to act because Obama believes there is still a “window” of opportunity for immigration reform legislation to pass in the House. Some advocates believe the House could pass immigration reform legislation after the end of Republican primaries, in which immigration has become a thorny issue. “The President’s priority is to enact a permanent solution for people currently living in the shadows and that can only come with immigration reform,” a White House official said in an email.

“Legislation should also continue to strengthen our border security, modernize the legal immigration system, and hold employers accountable. He believes there’s a window for the House to get immigration reform done this summer, and he asked the Secretary to continue working on his review until that window has passed. There’s a bipartisan consensus. It’s time for them to act and the President didn’t want the discussion of the Secretary’s review to interfere with the possibility of action in the House.” In March, Obama directed Johnson to lead an administrative review of whether deportation policies could be made more “humane,” a move aimed at reassuring immigration activists. It is largely expected Obama will take unilateral action to lessen deportations if Congress doesn’t act. Potomac Research analyst Greg Valliere said Obama’s message was clear. “If you fail to act, deportation policy will be liberalized; if you want to negotiate, deportations are on the table — your choice,” Valliere wrote in a research brief this morning.

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Brian Beutler: Mitch McConnell’s Dangerous, Deceptive Retreat From Obamacare Repeal

It took the winding down of GOP primary season for the Republican Party’s increasingly incoherent position on the Affordable Care Act to attract national media attention, and nobody did more to thrust it under the press’ nose than Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — the original gangster of anti-Obamacare absolutism. This will only strike you as ironic if you ignored ACA’s stunning successes in Kentucky, and the uncompromising demands of McConnell’s primary, as they unfolded simultaneously.

Now as a general election candidate, he must square his root-and-branch repeal position with the inescapable fact that full repeal would reverse those successes and leave nearly a half a million newly covered Kentuckians without health insurance. On Friday, McConnell attempted to obscure this obvious conundrum by claiming the fate of Kynect — the state’s popular and prosperous online insurance exchange — is “unconnected” from the fate of the ACA statute itself. I surmised by implication that McConnell was actually playing a far more deceitful game.

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Paul Krugman: Cheap Climate Protection

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce just came out with its preemptive strike against Obama administration regulations on power plants. What the Chamber wanted to do was show that the economic impact of the regulations would be devastating. And I was eager to see how they had fudged the numbers.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the diatribe. The Chamber evidently made a decision that it wanted to preserve credibility, so it outsourced the analysis. And while it tries to spin the results, what it actually found was that dramatic action on greenhouse gases would have surprisingly small economic costs.

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First Lady Michelle Obama: The Campaign for Junk Food

When we began our Let’s Move! initiative four years ago, we set one simple but ambitious goal: to end the epidemic of childhood obesity in a generation so that kids born today will grow up healthy. To achieve this goal, we have adhered to one clear standard: what works. The initiatives we undertake are evidence-based, and we rely on the most current science. Research indicated that kids needed less sugar, salt and fat in their diets, so we revamped school lunch menus accordingly. When data showed that the lack of nearby grocery stores negatively affected people’s eating habits, we worked to get more fresh-food retailers into underserved areas. Studies on habit formation in young children drove our efforts to get healthier food and more physical activity into child care centers.

Today, we are seeing glimmers of progress. Tens of millions of kids are getting better nutrition in school; families are thinking more carefully about food they eat, cook and buy; companies are rushing to create healthier products to meet the growing demand; and the obesity rate is finally beginning to fall from its peak among our youngest children. So we know that when we rely on sound science, we can actually begin to turn the tide on childhood obesity. But unfortunately, we’re now seeing attempts in Congress to undo so much of what we’ve accomplished on behalf of our children.

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Chicago Tribune: First Lady To Appear At Keel-Laying Ceremony For USS Illinois

First Lady Michelle Obama will appear at a ceremony next week that recognizes the start of construction on a submarine named after her home state. At the June 2 keel-laying ceremony, the first lady will deliver remarks and meet the USS Illinois’ crew and their families, according to a release issued today from her office. Obama is also the “official sponsor” of the USS Illinois. She will chalk her initials on a metal plate that will later be mounted on the submarine, the release stated.

More here

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USA Today: White House Designates 12 ‘Manufacturing Communities’

The Obama administration named one dozen new “Manufacturing Communities” on Wednesday that will receive federal help for plans to try and attract global businesses. The Manufacturing Communities Partnership, launched in September, brings federal agencies together with local officials to develop strategies “that strengthen their competitive edge in attracting global manufacturers and their supply chains,” the administration said.

The 12 local communities are:

– Southwest Alabama led by the University of South Alabama

– Southern California led by the University of Southern California Center for Economic Development

– Northwest Georgia led by the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission

More here

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Perfect Snark Of The Day

Andy Borowitz: Obama Defends Controversial Policy Of Not Invading Countries For No Reason

President Obama raised eyebrows with his West Point commencement address Wednesday by offering a defense of his controversial foreign-policy doctrine of not invading countries for no reason. Conservative critics were taken aback by Obama’s speech, which was riddled with incendiary remarks about only using military force for a clearly identified and rational purpose.

Obama did not shy away from employing polarizing rhetoric, often using words such as “responsible” and “sensible” to underscore his message. Harland Dorrinson, a fellow at the conservative think tank the Center for Global Intervention, said that he was “stunned” to see Obama “defend his failure to engage the United States in impulsive and random military adventures.”

More here

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Coral Davenport: President Planning To Be Planning To Use Executive Authority On Carbon Rule

President Obama will use his executive authority to cut carbon emissions from the nation’s coal-fired power plants by up to 20 percent, according to people familiar with his plans, and will force industry to pay for the pollution it creates through cap-and-trade programs across the country. Mr. Obama will unveil his plans in a new regulation, written by the Environmental Protection Agency, at the White House on Monday. It would be the strongest action ever taken by an American president to tackle climate change and could become one of the defining elements of Mr. Obama’s legacy.

Cutting carbon emissions by 20 percent — a substantial amount — would be the most important step in the administration’s pledged goal to reduce pollution over the next six years and could eventually shut down hundreds of coal-fired power plants across the country. The regulation would have far more impact on the environment than the Keystone pipeline, which many administration officials consider a political sideshow, and is certain to be met with opposition from Republicans who say that Mr. Obama will be using his executive authority as a back door to force through an inflammatory cap-and-trade policy he could not get through Congress.

More here

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Greg Sargent: Mitch McConnell Effectively Abandons Obamacare Repeal

Today we have a big break in the Case of the Pathologically Dissembling Senate Minority Leader. As you know, Mitch McConnell has been struggling to articulate his position on the Affordable Care Act, ever since he laughably declared that the fate of Kentucky Kynect — the state exchange that has signed up over 400,000 people for coverage and is more popular than the hated Obamacare — is “unconnected” to his push to repeal the law.

His subsequent clarification only obfuscated matters more. Now, however, the McConnell campaign has issued a new statement to Post fact checker Glenn Kessler that, in effect, abandons his commitment to repeal. In the statement, a McConnell spokesman suggests he might largely retain the Medicaid expansion, which has expanded coverage to hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians.

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On This Day

Sen. Obama speaks at the Medical Education and Biomedical Research Facility at the University of Iowa May 29, 2007 in Iowa City. Obama introduced his plan to reduce health care costs and ensure affordable health care for all Americans.

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NBC video and sound crews capture footage of the “First Dog” in the Rose Garden outside the Oval Office for their prime-time broadcast “Inside the Obama White House,” May 29, 2009 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)

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President Obama takes a walk down the street from his Chicago home accompanied by his daughter Sasha, May 29, 2010

…. accompanied by his mother-in-law Marian Robinson

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The President visited Joplin, Mo., following a devastating tornado. Here he greets Hugh Hills, 85, in front of his home. Hills told the President he hid in a closet during the tornado, which destroyed the second floor and half the first floor of his house. May 29, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama greets residents during a tour of neighborhoods impacted by the deadly tornado in Joplin, Mo., May 29, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama is greeted by Father Justin Monaghan at a memorial service on the campus of Missouri Southern State University during a visit to the community that was devastated by a tornado in Joplin, May 29, 2011

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First Lady Michelle Obama greets Sherri Shepherd of “The View” at the show’s studio in New York, N.Y., May 29, 2012 (Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)

President Obama talks with Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Toni Morrison in the Blue Room of the White House, May 29, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

Novelist Toni Morrison and President Obama share a moment after she was presented with a Presidential Medal of Freedom during an East Room event May 29, 2012 at the White House

Bob Dylan is presented with a Presidential Medal of Freedom

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President Obama talks to the pilots aboard Marine One after landing at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, May 29, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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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