Posts Tagged ‘Crimea

04
Jul
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama watch the fireworks over the National Mall from the roof of the White House, July 4, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

11:0: The President speaks at a naturalization ceremony for active-duty service members and civilians

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6:0: The President and First Lady attend the “Salute to the Military” July 4th celebration at the White House; the President delivers remarks

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8:10: USO concert for troops and military families featuring recording artist Pitbull

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9:10: Fireworks show on the National Mall

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David Horsey: Unsung Civil Rights Heroes Fought And Died For Our Freedom

On the Fourth of July, as on all national holidays, we are encouraged to think about the men and women who have fought and died for our freedoms; the likes of Washington, Lincoln and all the soldiers who have fought in our wars. This standard roster of heroes is venerable, but it is far from complete. … in 1955, a weary black woman refused to give up the seat she had taken in the white section of a bus in Montgomery, Ala. In 1957, one lone black girl walked into Little Rock’s Central High School amid the jeers of a furious mob.

In 1958, a few young blacks sat down at the whites-only counter at the Dockum Drug Store in Wichita, Kan., and refused to leave. In 1961…. …. Rosa Parks, John Lewis, James Meredith, Fannie Lou Hamer, Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, Medgar Evers and so many others showed bravery as great as that of any soldier. They stood firm, sacrificed and, in many cases, died for our freedom. This Independence Day, think of them and stand in awe.

More here

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Eugene Robinson: This July 4, Governing In The Spirit Of Revenge

As we celebrate the Fourth of July, who can argue that our democracy is working the way the Founders intended? And who can deny that most of the blame for dysfunction must fall to the Republican Party? … Whatever the motivation, Republicans have paralyzed our government in a way that would have shocked and depressed the Founders. Compounding the outrage, Republicans have the temerity to criticize Obama for using his executive powers in the national interest. This is dangerously close to nihilism.

Think about this for a moment. Urgently needed legislation has been passed by the Senate, is supported by the president and has enough votes in the House. Yet it goes nowhere, as chaos on the border worsens and thousands of children remain in limbo. Is this what the Founders had in mind? Today’s Republican Party opposes the Affordable Care Act, so it refuses to work with the Obama administration in legislating technical fixes that would make the law work more smoothly. Is this in any sense patriotic? the GOP cares more about ideology, reelection and opposing Obama’s every initiative than about the well-being of the nation. It is scant comfort, on Independence Day, to remember that the republic has survived worse.

More here

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President Obama’s interview with Marketplace

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Full interview and transcript here

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Danny Vinik: Recovery Summer May Finally Have Arrived Finally, A Jobs Report Routs Expectations

For the past few years, it was like clockwork: A disappointing summer of job growth would give way to a much stronger winter. Economists would hesitantly forecast that the economy was about to kick into second gear. Then the summer would come and the disappointing data would return. But finally, it looks like we are ready to break that trend: The economy added 288,000 jobs in June, soundly beating economists’ expectations of 211,000, and the unemployment rate fell to 6.1 percent.

… Consumers, businesses and investors are all showing renewed confidence in the economy. On Monday, pending home sales hit a four-year high. Automakers also reported surprisingly high sales. Many economists even expect wage growth in the second half of the year. The June jobs report only adds further support for the recovery summer. … There are few commentators on Twitter who parse the jobs report better than economist Justin Wolfers. In recent years, it was often him who urged caution as the economy picked up in the winter and would shoot down any reporters showing too much optimism. But even he couldn’t find anything to be pessimistic about in this jobs report:

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NYT: Hiring Is Strong And Jobless Rate Declines To 6.1%

American companies are finally getting comfortable enough with the economy’s prospects to add new workers at a very healthy pace, after years of saying they lacked the confidence to hire people aggressively during a fitful recovery. Employers added 288,000 jobs in June, the Labor Department said Thursday, the fifth month in a row that hiring has topped the 200,000 mark. The unemployment rate dipped to 6.1 percent last month, the best reading since September 2008, when the collapse of Lehman Brothers turned what had been a mild recession into an economic rout. Factoring in June’s increase and upward revisions for estimated hiring in April and May, employers added an average of 231,000 workers a month in the first half of 2014, the best six-month run since the spring of 2006. “We’re clicking on all cylinders in terms of job growth,” said Dean Maki, chief United States economist at Barclays. Just as significant as the headline figures,

Mr. Maki said, is that June’s hiring was broad-based, as industries as varied as health care, manufacturing, financial services and retailing all added workers. “Every major sector showed job growth in June, including the private service sector, where the bulk of jobs in the U.S. are created,” Mr. Maki said. In an important turnabout, there were encouraging gains not just in well-paid white-collar professions, or in low-wage sectors like retail and restaurants, but also in the vast middle tier of jobs that enable workers to gain a foothold in the middle class. For example, manufacturers hired 16,000 workers, while transportation companies added 17,000 employees and the long-dormant public sector saw an addition of 26,000 positions.

More here

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Sally Kohn: Hobby Lobby: Sex, Lies, And Craft Supplies

“Birth control is cheap.” Hobby Lobby was about four forms of contraception that are not cheap (PDF). Plan B costs $35 to $60. Ella costs around $55. An IUD costs anywhere from $500 to $1,000. As the Notorious RBG (known to some as Ruth Bader Ginsburg) pointed out in her scathing 35-page dissent, “the cost of an IUD is nearly equivalent to a month’s full-time pay for workers earning the minimum wage.” Similarly, for someone making $7 an hour — even if she’s lucky enough to get 40 hours of shifts in a week, which is rare — the cost of Plan B or Ella is roughly 10 percent of her take-home pay before taxes.

“Whatever, Hobby Lobby still covers 14 other kinds of contraception.” Funny thing, it actually provided all 20 until the lawyers behind the Hobby Lobby case contacted the company to see if they wanted to file suit. It was only then that the company discovered its insurance plan covered Plan B, and the two IUDs at issue—and then stopped covering them. And then Hobby Lobby sued the government for making it do something that up until that moment it had been doing on its own. Even today, Hobby Lobby’s 401(k) plan still invests not only in the manufacturers of these forms of birth control but also companies that make drugs used in medical abortions.

More here

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Irin Carmon: Female Justices Issue Searing Dissent Over New Contraceptive Case

The fierce disagreements dividing the Supreme Court over this week’s Hobby Lobby decision were laid bare Thursday in a searing dissent from Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who said the Justices’ decision in a separate contraceptive case “undermines confidence in this institution.” The dissent was signed by all three female Justices. The dissent was in an order to grant an emergency request from Wheaton College, an evangelical college in Illinois. At issue is the “accommodation” the Obama administration worked out for religiously-identified non-profits: Sign a form certifying your objection, and the insurer will provide the coverage directly, without the objecting organization having to pay.

As of now, 122 non-profits have sued, claiming that signing the opt-out form for someone to get contraception violates their religious liberty. “Let me be absolutely clear: I do not doubt that Wheaton genuinely believes that signing the self-certification form is contrary to its religious beliefs,” Sotomayor wrote. “But thinking one’s religious beliefs are substantially burdened … does not make it so.” She added, “Not every sincerely felt ‘burden’ is a ‘substantial’ one, and it is for courts, not litigants, to identify which are.”

More here

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Jeanna Smialek: Trade Gap In U.S. Shrinks More Than Forecast On Record Exports

The trade deficit in the U.S. narrowed more than forecast in May on record exports, signaling a pickup in global growth that will boost American manufacturers. The gap shrank by 5.6 percent, the biggest drop since November, to $44.4 billion from the prior month’s $47 billion, Commerce Department figures showed today in Washington. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of 69 economists called for a contraction to $45 billion.

Sales to foreign customers climbed 1 percent on growing demand for autos and parts, petroleum products and aircraft engines. Economic expansions abroad that are gaining traction will probably continue to invigorate demand for American goods. A narrowing deficit would mean trade becomes less of a drag on gross domestic product in the second quarter after the world’s largest economy contracted in the first three months of 2014.

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Lucia Graves: One Big Thing Everyone Is Missing In Hobby Lobby

The ruling is not just about sex, it’s about health. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in her scathing dissent of the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in the Hobby Lobby case this week, made an important point about women’s health that’s been almost entirely overlooked elsewhere: For many American women, the birth-control pill has nothing to do with controlling births. It’s a life-saving medicine. “The coverage helps safeguard the health of women for whom pregnancy may be hazardous, even life-threatening,” wrote Ginsburg. “And the mandate secures benefits wholly unrelated to pregnancy, preventing certain cancers, menstrual disorders, and pelvic pain.”

The decision, which found that closely held corporations may refuse for religious reasons to cover contraceptives in their health plans, may affect millions of women who suffer from a variety of medical conditions. These women depend on the pill to regulate their hormones and do everything from ease pain to reduce the risk of cancer. These medical benefits have nothing to do with sex or the prevention of pregnancy, which have become the sole focus of political debate around the decision. Even if these women never have sex once in their lives, they need to be on birth control.

More here

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The Nightmare Has Begun. Vote. Vote. Vote.

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ThinkProgress: Missouri Governor Vetoes 72-Hour Abortion Waiting Period: ‘This Is Insulting To Women’

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) rejected a measure on Wednesday that would have required women to wait three full days before being allowed to have an abortion procedure. His veto prevents Missouri from joining Utah and South Dakota, which are the only two states in the nation that currently have a 72-hour abortion waiting period on the books. But on Wednesday, Nixon explained that he couldn’t approve the bill because it’s unnecessary in light of his state’s existing 24-hour waiting period. “Lengthening the already extensive waiting period serves no demonstrable purpose other than to create emotional and financial hardships for women who have undoubtedly already spent considerable time wrestling with perhaps the most difficult decision they may ever have to make,” the governor said in a statement.

“Expanding the mandatory waiting period presupposes that women are unable to make up their own minds without further government intervention. This is insulting to women, particularly in light of what the law already requires.” Nixon also pointed out the measure demonstrates a “callous disregard” for women’s well being by failing to include an exception for victims of rape and incest — which means that women who become pregnant through those crimes would be put through a potentially emotionally damaging wait before they’re allowed to end the pregnancy. “It victimizes these women by prolonging their grief and their nightmare,” the governor noted.

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Yahoo: Putin Tells Obama He Wants Better Ties, Equal Treatment

President Vladimir Putin called for an improvement in ties between Russia and the United States on Friday in an Independence Day message to Barack Obama, urging Washington to treat Moscow as an equal partner. Relations between the two presidents and countries are at a low ebb following disagreements over the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, and over human rights, democracy and defence matters.

“The head of the Russian state expressed hope that … ties between the two countries will develop successfully on the basis of pragmatism and equality despite difficulties and disagreements,” the Kremlin said in a statement, outlining a telegram sent to Obama on the July 4 holiday. “Vladimir Putin also highlighted that Russia and the United States, as countries carrying exceptional responsibility for safeguarding international stability and security, should cooperate not only in the interests of their own nations but also the whole world.”

More here

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Good Morning, my fellow Americans. Today, we laugh at the Brits and people who spell words using the letter “u!” :)

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On This Day

Senator Obama laughs with Sasha before speaking at a campaign stop in Des Moines, Iowa on July 4, 2007

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Senator Obama hugs Malia as they watch a Fourth of July parade in Butte, Mont., July 4, 2008

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President Obama kisses a baby while greeting military families at the White House on July 4, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet military families at the White House on July 4, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama watch the fireworks over the National Mall from the White House on July 4, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama pretend to march to music in the Blue Room of the White House, July 4, 2010, before delivering remarks to military families during a Fourth of July celebration (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama greets military families gathered for July 4th festivities on the South Lawn of the White House on July 4, 2010

President Obama greets guests during the Fourth of July celebration on the South Lawn of the White House, July 4, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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A young girl salutes President Obama as he shakes hands along a ropeline with members of the military and their families during the Fourth of July celebration on the South Lawn of the White House, July 4, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama watch fireworks from the roof of the White House, July 4, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama holds a baby while greeting guests during an Independence Day celebration on the South Lawn of the White House, July 4, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama watch from the White House roof as fireworks erupt over the National Mall, July 4, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama holds a baby as he greets members of the military and their families during a Fourth of July celebration on the White House’s South Lawn, July 4, 2013

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27
Jun
14

Rise and Shine

 On This Day: President Barack Obama looks out a cell window as he and First Lady Michelle Obama tour the Maison des Esclaves Museum on Gorée Island, Senegal, June 27, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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 Today

10:50 CT: The President delivers remarks on the economy, Lake Harriet Band Shell, Minneapolis

12:20 CT: Departs Minneapolis

3:45 ET: Arrives White House

5:0 ET: Meets with Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan D Gibson and Rob Nabors

8:45 ET: Attends the Marine Barracks Evening Parade

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“Cynicism’s popular these days, but hope’s better.”

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Jonathan Cohn: Health Care Spending Down – One More Promising Sign About Obamacare

People tell me I worry too much. Maybe they are right. Back in April, I wrote a big article warning that we might be on the verge of another surge in health care spending. To critics of the Affordable Care Act, this apparent turn to health expenditure normalcy proved that the law had done little to control costs—and that it would eventually lead to much more spending. But the worrisome reports came with a huge asterisk. They were based on preliminary estimates and a whole lot of guesswork. As economists like David Cutler and Peter Orszag pointed out, other data points were more encouraging. Among other things, the cost of the federal government’s Medicare program was still rising very slowly. That suggested the health care industry really was reinventing itself and becoming more efficient—thanks, at least in part, to incentives that Obamacare had introduced.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis issued new estimates for how the economy and its component parts performed in the first quarter of 2014. The headlines were all about the economy shrinking. But that was expected, as QED’s Danny Vinik pointed out, given some one-time factors. The real surprise was health care. The supposed surge in health care spending was nowhere to be found. On the contrary, relative to the previous quarter, health care spending actually fell by 1.4 percent. it sure doesn’t look like Obamacare is bankrupting the country, as the critics always said it would. Better still, the law really may be nudging health care in the direction of more efficiency.

More here

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Benjamin Bell: Obama Calls Boehner Lawsuit Threat A ‘Stunt’ (Videos At Link)

Despite Republican House Speaker John Boehner’s threat this week to sue President Obama over his use of executive orders, the president refused to apologize for his actions during an exclusive interview with ABC News and took the Republican Party to task for what he described as its attempt to interfere with the basic functions of government. “You notice that he didn’t specifically say what exactly he was objecting to,” the president said when asked about the suit by ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos during an interview Thursday in Minnesota.

“I’m not going to apologize for trying to do something while they’re doing nothing,” the president added later. What I’ve told Speaker Boehner directly is, ‘If you’re really concerned about me taking too many executive actions, why don’t you try getting something done through Congress?’” the president said. “You’re going to squawk if I try to fix some parts of it administratively that are within my authority while you’re not doing anything?” Obama said, directing his comments toward Republicans.

More here

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(Weird title. Interesting article)

Chemi Shalev: America’s Bye-Bye Bash For President Peres Was Both Bittersweet And Over-The-Top

Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer hosted a gala dinner for President Shimon Peres at the Israeli Embassy on Wednesday, attended by a formidable representation of Washington’s high and mighty. He gave a witty and humorous speech in which he included his personal impressions of the meetings held earlier that day at the White House: “You could not imagine a better relationship than the one between Peres and President [Barack] Obama,” he said. And Dermer should know. He has the right perspective. He is far more familiar than most people with the far frostier relationship between Obama and Dermer’s own superior, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. And “far frostier” is probably an understatement. For Obama, Peres might be the last vestige of the kind of Israel that the American left fell in love with until the Six-Day-War, the polar opposite of Netanyahu’s present-day Israel, adored most fervently by Obama’s enemies in the conservative right-wing.

In Obama’s eyes, Peres seeks peace and pursues it, while Netanyahu pays lips service and then runs for his coalition’s life. Why couldn’t things have been the other way round, with Peres as prime minister and Bibi as President, Obama may have wondered, and Peres would probably join him. Peres’ has also been Obama’s chief defender against the waves of criticism and sometimes hostility directed at the U.S. President in Israel. “I learned from Ben Gurion that one must judge people based on their record, not their image,” Peres told Haaretz. “I think Obama is being judged unjustly, based on an image that he did not create – but was created for him. I think people ignore his record. Tell me one thing in which he hasn’t been consistent in his attitude towards Israel and the Jewish people. He’s just added a billion dollars to the military aid for our anti-missile defense. What do people want from him?”

More here

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Mike Lillis: Democrats: No Bluff, Obama Will Go It Alone On Immigration

The Obama administration is “not bluffing” in its intent to take executive action on immigration policy if House Republicans don’t act soon, top Democratic leaders warned Thursday. President Obama has delayed any potential changes to his deportation policy to allow House GOP leaders time to bring legislation to the floor this summer. But if the Republicans don’t act in July, the Democrats say, unilateral changes by Obama are inevitable. “We’re at the end of the line,” Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said Thursday during a press briefing in the Capitol. “We’re not bluffing by setting a legislative deadline for them to act.

“Their first job is to govern,” Menendez added, “and in the absence of governing, then you see executive actions.” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) piled on. Noting that a year has passed since the Senate passed a sweeping immigration reform bill with broad bipartisan support, he urged House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to bring a similar bill to the floor. “I don’t know how much more time he thinks he needs, but I hope that Speaker Boehner will speak up today,” Durbin said. “And if he does not, the president will borrow the power that is needed to solve the problems of immigration.”

More here

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BBC: EU signs pacts with Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova

Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova have signed partnership agreements with the European Union, in a move strongly opposed by Russia. The pact – which would bind the three countries more closely to the West both economically and politically – is at the heart of the crisis in Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin said making Ukraine choose between Russia and the EU would split it in two. A ceasefire with pro-Russian rebels in east Ukraine is due to end on Friday. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, in Brussels to sign the pact, said he would take a decision on an extension to the truce when he arrived back in Kiev later on Friday.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he would welcome an extension, but not if it were simply an ultimatum for separatists to lay down their arms. Meanwhile the United Nations refugee agency said there had been a sharp rise in the numbers of displaced people in eastern Ukraine in the past week, with 16,400 people fleeing the area. The total number internally displaced has reached 54,400, while a further 110,000 people left Ukraine for Russia this year.

More here

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Ariane de Vogue: One Year After Top Court’s Ruling Gay Marriage Is Legal In 19 States

It’s the one year anniversary of a major Supreme Court decision on gay marriage. A lot can happen in a year. In United States v. Windsor, the justices didn’t squarely address the issue of a state ban on gay marriage. Windsor, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, invalidated part of a federal law that denied benefits to same sex couples legally married in their states. But since June 26, 2013 , federal judges have adopted Kennedy’s equal protection language to strike down bans across the country. The latest ruling came Wednesday when the 10th Circuit Court ruled that Utah’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional.

Look at the statistics: A year ago same sex couples could marry in 10 states and DC. Today, that number has ballooned to 19 states and DC. Almost 44 percent of the country lives in states where same sex marriage is legal, according to Human Rights Campaign. The Supreme Court ruling fueled a social movement of such rapid pace that even veterans of social movements were taken by surprise: Here’s what Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who as a young lawyer fought the battle against gender discrimination, said recently in an interview with the Wall Street Journal: : “I haven’t seen a social change that rapid – ever.”

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Greg Sargent: Get Ready For The Next (Fake) Obamacare Freakout

Health wonks and Dem operatives are quietly mulling the possibility of a new batch of health plan cancellations in October — just before the midterms. Dems believe a round of “cancellation” headlines could greet this development. They think headlines will be out of sync with the actual problem, perhaps dramatically so. But as the gap between last fall’s “horror stories” and subsequent hard data about Obamacare has showed, press coverage of the law tends not to err on the side of proportionality or restraint. According to Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation, the possibility of more cancellations resides in the fact that an untold number of people may have renewed policies before January 1st,

meaning they did not have to meet Obamacare’s minimum standards. Those people with current plans that don’t comply could get cancellation notices 90 days before the end of this year, i.e., in October. “So much of this debate has been driven by anecdote, which can be misleading,” Levitt says. “When there is no data available to see whether the anecdotes are generalizable, they get reported anyway. This could be another example of a relatively small number of negative anecdotes being used by opponents of the law to discredit it.”

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Greg Sargent: The GOP Is Now Officially The Party Of ‘Get The Hell Out’

Exactly one year after the Senate passed an immigration reform bill that built a compromise on an exchange of increased enforcement for legalization for the 11 million, Republicans have now officially abandoned any pretense of a willingness to participate in solving the immigration crisis. Instead, they have committed the party to a course premised on two intertwined notions: There are no apparent circumstances under which they can accept legalization of the 11 million; and as a result, the only broad response to the crisis they can countenance is maximum deportations.

This means it’s now all in Obama’s hands to decide what he can do unilaterally to ease the pace of deportations and address the current unaccompanied migrant crisis. One way to understand what happened here is to trace the evolution of GOP Rep. Bob Goodlatte, chair of the Judiciary Committee. Now fast forward to yesterday. Goodlatte effectively declared immigration reform dead as long as Obama is in office, blaming his decision to defer the deportation of DREAMers for the current crisis of unaccompanied migrants crossing. This tells the entire story. Goodlatte was an early proponent of a form of legalization for the 11 million that could have been the basis for compromise.

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On This Day

Framed through two flags, President Obama takes questions during a press conference at the G20 Summit in Toronto, Canada, Sunday, June 27, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ride an escalator on the way to their bilateral meeting during the G20 Summit in Toronto, Canada, Sunday, June 27, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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 A little boy leans over to kiss President Obama during the Congressional picnic on the South Lawn of the White House, June 27, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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 President Obama participates in a joint press conference with President Macky Sall of Senegal at the Presidential Palace in Dakar, Senegal, June 27, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

June 27, 2013: “The President and his daughter Malia talk on the bow of a ferry traveling to Goree Island, Senegal.” (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama looks out of the “door of no return” during a tour of Goree Island, June 27, 2013, in Goree Island, Senegal

 First Lady Michelle Obama looks out a window at local children during her visit to a cultural center on Gorée Island, Senegal, June 27, 2013 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

 President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet residents as they walk towards the dock on Gorée Island, Senegal, June 27, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

 President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama arrive for an official dinner at the Presidential Palace in Dakar, Senegal, June 27, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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25
Jun
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama talk backstage before an event for the “United We Serve” service project with at Fort McNair in Washington DC, June 25, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

10:45: The President meets with HHS Secretary Burwell

11:45: Meets with Israeli President Shimon Peres, drops by a meeting with American Jewish leaders, Roosevelt Room

12:20: Lunch with Israeli President Peres

12:35: Josh Earnest briefs the press

1:25: The President meets with Israeli President Peres

2:55: Honors NASCAR Champion Jimmie Johnson, East Room

5:0: Meets with Senate Democrats, The State Floor

7:10: Delivers remarks to the League of Conservation Voters, Ronald Reagan Building

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The Week Ahead

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Spandan Chakrabati: Putin Completes Surrender To Obama: Syria Disarms, Russia Backing Off Ukraine

Yesterday, weapons inspectors confirmed that Syria handed over all declared chemical and biological weapons to an international inspection team for destruction, completing a major foreign policy coup for the Obama administration (or in the media version, a triumph for Vladimir Putin in a negotiation over Syria where Obama got everything and Putin got nothing) – disarming a middle eastern power of its weapons of mass destruction in the midst of a civil war without firing a single shot. ISIS – the Islamic militant group that is gaining ground in Iraq – many Americans will be surprised to learn stands for Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Incidentally, these were the same rebels McCain was urging US arms in Syria. The same media couldn’t get enough the “weak black guy” narrative then. But now that his strategy of strength, fairness and diplomacy has born major fruit? Nary a peep.

Vladimir Putin has formally asked the upper house of the Russian parliament to rescind their March 1 authorization for Putin to attack Ukraine. President Obama spoke with Putin on this matter just yesterday. Putin is backing off, with his tail between his legs. This yet another crowning foreign policy achievement for this president. Ending two wars. Securing the world’s loose nukes. Killing Osama bin Laden. Bringing the last American POW home. Disarming a middle-eastern madman without firing so much as a water balloon. Dashing Putin’s hope of a new Soviet empire. If this were any other president – let me clarify, if this were any white president – the work of carving their face on Mount Rushmore would have already begun.

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Jonathan Weisman: Cochran Holds Off Tea Party Challenger in Mississippi

With an unusual assist from African-American voters and other Democrats who feared his opponent, Senator Thad Cochran on Tuesday beat back a spirited challenge from State Senator Chris McDaniel, triumphing in a Republican runoff and defeating the Tea Party in the state where the movement’s hopes were bright. “We all have a right to be proud of our state tonight,” Mr. Cochran said at his victory party in Jackson, Miss. “This is your victory.”

Mr. McDaniel, speaking in Hattiesburg, was angry, and he did not hesitate to say so. “There is something a bit strange, there is something a bit unusual about a Republican primary that’s decided by liberal Democrats,” he said. He accused Mr. Cochran of abandoning the conservative movement. “So much for principles,” he said. The 76-year-old senator ran a largely sleepy campaign until the primary on June 3, when he was edged out by Mr. McDaniel but won enough votes to keep his opponent from outright victory. Mr. Cochran, who is seeking his seventh term, used the past three weeks to turn out Democratic voters — especially African-Americans — to make up that deficit.

More here

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BBC: Iraq PM Nouri Maliki Rejects Calls For Unity Government

Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has rejected calls for a national salvation government to help counter the offensive by jihadist-led Sunni rebels. Such calls represented a “coup against the constitution and an attempt to end the democratic experience”, he warned. The US has led appeals to the country’s political leaders to rise above sectarian and ethnic divisions. Government forces have been unable to recapture the territory seized by the rebels this month. Almost half of the 300 US military advisers assigned to help the Iraqi security forces have arrived and are to start work on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the crisis in Iraq is being discussed by Nato leaders meeting in Brussels. They have been joined by US Secretary of State John Kerry, who has just returned from a two-day visit to Baghdad and Irbil.

In his weekly televised address, Mr Maliki called on “all political forces to reconcile” in the face of a “fierce terrorist onslaught”. But the Shia prime minister gave no promise of greater representation in government for the minority Sunni Arab community, whose anger at what they say are his sectarian and authoritarian policies has been exploited by jihadist militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis). Mr Maliki said forming an emergency administration that included all religious and ethnic groups would go against the results of April’s parliamentary elections, which were won by his State of Law alliance. “The dangerous goals of forming a national salvation government are not hidden,” he said. “It is an attempt by those who are against the constitution to eliminate the young democratic process and steal the votes of the voters.”

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Ari Berman: Fifty Years After Freedom Summer, The Voting Rights Act Is Needed More Than Ever

Fifty years ago, Andrew Goodman, a 20-year-old anthropology major at Queens College, went down to Mississippi for Freedom Summer. His first stop was Philadelphia, Mississippi, where he and Mickey Schwerner, a 24-year-old graduate student in social work at Columbia University, and James Chaney, a 21-year-old volunteer with the Congress for Racial Equality from Meridian, Mississippi, were sent to investigate a church burning. Schwerner and Chaney had spoken at Mount Zion Methodist Church over Memorial Day, urging local blacks to register to vote. On June 21, 1964, the young civil rights activists were arrested by the Neshoba County police and then abducted by the Klan. Their bodies were found forty-four days later in an earthen dam. Goodman and Schwerner, both white, had been shot once. Chaney, who was African-American, had been mutilated beyond recognition. The fiftieth anniversary of Freedom Summer happens to coincide with the first anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder, where the Supreme Court’s conservative majority invalidated Section 4 of the VRA on June 25, 2013. As a result, states like Mississippi, with the worst history of voting discrimination, no longer have to clear their voting changes with the federal government.

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Since the 2010 election, twenty-two states have passed new voting restrictions, according to the Brennan Center. This includes requiring strict voter ID to cast a ballot, cutting early voting, making it harder to register to vote and rescinding voting rights for non-violent ex-felons. New restrictions will be in place for the first time in fifteen states in the 2014 election. All across the country, we’re seeing the most significant push to restrict voting rights since Reconstruction. Partisanship is a strong motivating factor for the voting changes—GOP legislatures or governors enacted eighteen of the twenty-two new restrictions. So is race. According to the Brennan Center: “Of the 11 states with the highest African-American turnout in 2008, 7 have new restrictions in place. Of the 12 states with the largest Hispanic population growth between 2000 and 2010, 9 passed laws making it harder to vote.”

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The wreckage of a Ukrainian helicopter downed near Sloviansk on Tuesday

BBC: West Warns Russia Of Sanctions Amid Ukraine Fighting

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in Berlin that new sanctions could be applied if efforts to stabilise the situation were not speeded up. UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said inaction by Russia would mean a stronger case for sanctions. President Petro Poroshenko warned he might end the truce due to violations. However, his foreign minister, Pavlo Klimkin, told reporters at a Nato meeting in Brussels on Wednesday that Ukraine would “stick to our unilateral ceasefire”. The ceasefire began on Friday. On Tuesday, a Ukrainian military helicopter was shot down with the loss of nine lives. There was also fighting overnight near the Russian border in Luhansk region. The Ukrainian military accused the rebels on Wednesday of breaking the ceasefire 44 times since it began. A separatist leader said there had “been no ceasefire”.

The truce is part of Ukraine’s plan to end two months of fighting between government troops and pro-Russian insurgents who control key buildings in towns and cities across the east. More than 420 people have been killed in the region since mid-April, the UN estimates. Mrs Merkel welcomed the surprise decision by Russian President Vladimir Putin to cancel a parliamentary resolution authorising him to use Russian forces in Ukraine. The cancellation was ratified by Russia’s upper house of parliament on Wednesday. While Mrs Merkel said the decision was “psychologically important”, she told German parliament that Ukrainian soldiers continued to die. “Progress is slow… Diplomatic solutions are always preferable but if nothing else works, sanctions can be put back on the agenda,” she said.

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Annalyn Kurtz: 3 Reasons Not To Freak Out About -2.9% GDP

The U.S. economy shrank in the first quarter of the year, and new revisions by the Bureau of Economic Analysis show the decline was even deeper than reported. Gross domestic product — the broadest measure of economic growth — contracted at a 2.9% annual rate in January through March. That’s the weakest quarter for the U.S. economy since the first quarter of 2009, amid the Great Recession. But economists aren’t too worried, for three key reasons. 1) They blame the weather: Much of the downturn was due to a brutal winter. Blizzards slowed shipments both domestically and abroad and kept consumers away from shopping malls, car lots and open houses more than usual this winter.

2) It’s not a final number: Some economists take this GDP number with a grain of salt because it will be revised again next month when the Bureau of Economic Analysis makes historical revisions. 3) Last, but certainly not least, other data show the economy is improving. Hiring slowed in December, but it has since picked up again. In the last five months, the economy added 1.1 million jobs. Hiring at that level is consistent with an economy that is growing modestly around 2% to 3% a year — not an economy that is contracting.

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NYT: Iran Secretly Sending Drones And Supplies Into Iraq, U.S. Officials Say

Iran is flying unarmed surveillance drones over Iraq from an airfield in Baghdad and is secretly supplying Iraq with tons of military equipment, supplies and other assistance, American officials said. Tehran has also deployed a unit there to intercept communications, the officials said. The secret Iranian programs are part of a broader effort by Tehran to gather intelligence and help Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s government in its struggle against Sunni militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the head of Iran’s paramilitary Quds Force, has paid at least two visits to Iraq to help Iraqi military advisers plot strategy. And Iran has deployed about a dozen other Quds Force officers to advise Iraqi commanders, and help mobilize more than 2,000 Iraqi Shiite militia members from the country’s south, American officials said. Iranian transport planes have also been making two daily flights of military equipment and supplies to Baghdad — 70 tons per flight — for Iraqi security forces.

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Nigel Duara: Judge: People On No-Fly List Must Have Due Process

When it comes to its no-fly list, the U.S. government has a choice to make. More than a dozen Muslims sued after learning they were likely on the list — something the government still won’t confirm — and they found their only recourse was to fill out an online appeal form. Then on Tuesday, a federal judge in Oregon ruled that the Department of Homeland Security must give people a better avenue to pursue a claim that they were wrongly put on the list. Now, the government can seek some way around U.S. District Judge Anna Brown’s order. Or, they can do what she asked. But Brown didn’t want to dictate the rules. In fact, federal prosecutors specifically told her in court, “We urge you not to take over the policymaking.”

Instead, Brown set out a handful of guidelines that were issued by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in an unrelated case. She said the government must tell people what unclassified information was used to put them on the list. And if the information’s classified, at least tell them the nature and extent of it. She said it shouldn’t leave people without an option to challenge their status or make blanket rulings that ignore the specifics of people’s lives. “The (challenge) process falls far short of satisfying the requirements of due process,” Brown wrote in her ruling Tuesday. U.S. Justice Department spokeswoman Dena Iverson said government attorneys were reviewing the decision.

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Philip Klein: Health Care Spending Actually Shrunk 1.4 Percent In First Quarter Of Obamacare, BEA Says

Health care spending actually shrunk 1.4 percent during the first quarter of the year, the Bureau of Economic Analysis now says, after previously saying it soared 9.1 percent — a massive revision that will shake up the debate over how President Obama’s health care law is affecting medical spending. To give an idea of the magnitude of the swing, the 9.1 percent growth rate would have been the fastest growth in health spending since 1980,

and now the BEA says it actually shrunk more than any quarter since the first quarter of 1982 — or 32 years. The revised data suggest medical spending slowed despite the expansion of coverage. So what explains the revision? The short and easy answer is that BEA gained access to more data.

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Sam Ro: This Is Precisely What Crushed GDP

Pretty much everyone was stunned to see Q1 GDP growth slashed to -2.9% from an earlier estimate of -1.0%.
The revision largely boils down to one thing: healthcare spending. “Two thirds of the revision is in consumption, cut to +1.0% from +3.1%,” said Pantheon Macroeconomics Ian Shepherdson. “Almost all of this huge hit is in the healthcare services component, cut to -1.4% from +9.1%.” According to the BEA, healthcare spending went from adding 1.01 percentage points to subtracting 0.16 from the headline GDP growth number. “So much for the BEA’s initial view that the start of Obamacare triggered a surge in spending on healthcare,” said Shepherdon.

Most economists and strategists are brushing this off. First of all, it reflects activity from Q1, which ended in March. Second, the bulk of the more recent data has been positive. “If GDP were truly so weak, we would not expect aggregate hours worked to climb 3.7% annualized through May, jobless claims to remain near cycle lows, consumer confidence to hit a cycle high, industrial production to climb 5.0% at an annual rate over the first five months of the year, core capital goods orders to be up 5.8%, ISM to be above 55, and vehicle sales to hit their strongest annualized selling pace for the year,” said Renaissance Macro’s Neil Dutta. “GDP is the outlier in these data points. I will roll my eyes and move on. Most of the data we just mentioned is consistent with underlying growth over 3.0%.”

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Steve LeVine: How A US Decision To Allow Oil Exports Could Change The World’s Energy Balance

The Obama Administration has taken a bold step toward loosening the grip of tense geopolitics on oil prices, reports the Wall Street Journal (paywall), giving the first permission in four decades for the export of unrefined American oil. The decision—not made public but announced in the form of private letters from the US Commerce Department to two oil companies, according to the paper–seems certain to cause a stir in global oil markets and perhaps send prices lower. Global oil prices have surged because of the political turmoil in the Middle East and Africa–the march of Islamic militants in Iraq, the stoppage of oil exports from Libya, and the broad turbulence in Nigeria.

The US decision allows two Texas companies—Pioneer Natural Resources and Enterprise Products Partners—to export a form of extremely light oil called condensate. The Journal’s report does not provide the volume. US condensate production in 2012, the last year provided by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), was about 250,000 barrels a day. That is not much, relatively speaking, but the exports could have a dramatic impact if the Commerce Department provides a broader definition of what counts as condensate for export purposes.

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Your Laugh Of The Day

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On This Day

President Obama meets with members of Congress for a roundtable discussion about immigration reform, June 25, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama with actress Reese Witherspoon in the Oval Office on June 25, 2009. The president was also joined by actors Paul Rudd and Jake Gyllenhaal; they are filming a movie in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama cheers on a child attempting to dunk Press Secretarty Robert Gibbs at the Congressional Luau on the South Lawn of the White House, June 25, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama shakes hands with attendees of the Congressional Luau on the South Lawn of the White House, June 25, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama laughs as First Lady Michelle Obama does a little dance while making remarks during a United We Serve event at Fort McNair June 25, 2009

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President Obama talks with Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, before a meeting with African Outreach Leaders at the G8 Summit in Muskoka, Canada, June 25, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama greets guests before an event at Oyster River High School in Durham, N.H., June 25, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama eats a hot fudge sundae as he talks with patrons at the UNH Dairy Bar on the University of New Hampshire campus in Durham, N.H., June 25, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama waves to the audience after delivering remarks at Symphony Hall in Boston, Mass., June 25, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

13
Jun
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama present a birthday cake to Assistant Usher Reggie Dickson outside the Usher’s Office of the White House, following a Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony and dinner honoring President Shimon Peres of Israel, June 13, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today

11:25 ET: The President and First Lady depart the White House

1:45 CT: Arrive Bismarck, North Dakota

2:40 CT: The President and First Lady participate in a roundtable discussion with Native American Youth, Cannon Ball Elementary School

3:45 CT: Attend the Cannon Ball Flag Day Celebration and delivers remarks, Cannon Ball Powwow Grounds

5:20 CT: Depart Bismarck

6:20 PT: Arrive Palm Springs, California

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Saturday

The President will deliver the commencement address at University of California, Irvine on the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the UC Irvine campus by President Lyndon B. Johnson. The President and the First Lady will return to Washington, D.C on Monday.

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President Obama adjusts the tie of Coast Guard Military Aide Cdr. Scott S. Phy’s son outside the Oval Office, June 12, 2014. Cdr. Phy and his family were in the Oval Office for an award citation and departure photos with the President (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Amy Lynn Smith: Cancer Patient: ‘If It Wasn’t For Obamacare, I’d Be Dead In 12 Months’

A cancer diagnosis is terrifying enough. The only thing that’s worse? Knowing you don’t have insurance and can’t possibly afford to pay for treatment. Marion N. Seidel has been uninsured since she changed jobs seven years ago. She’s worked the same job ever since, but could never afford her share of the coverage her employer offered: $600/month for herself and her daughter. On the rare occasions they got sick, the 52-year-old single mother would just pay cash for doctor’s appointments. But over the last year, Seidel started having some health issues that kept sending her to the doctor. Every time she missed a day of work, she lost a day’s pay. In April 2014, Seidel was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor on her tonsils that was already affecting her lymph glands. She needed to start treatment right away. Without it, the doctors told her, she had only 12 months to live.

I went everywhere to try to find help, but I kept being told, ‘If you can’t pay we can’t help you.’ But then she learned she could enroll for coverage through Healthcare.gov outside the open enrollment period, because her income had changed and she’d had problems signing up before. Seidel now has comprehensive coverage with low deductibles and co-payments. With the help of tax subsidies, she’s paying just $95/month for her insurance. The specialist told me I have a very high chance of being cured. They told me I’ll go through hell in the next few months but I will come back. That gave me more positivity and I feel I can beat this cancer. Without my insurance, I would not have been able to even see the specialist. If it wasn’t for Obamacare, I’d be dead in 12 months.

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Sahil Kapur: Barbara Boxer: ‘GOP Cheerleaders’ Of Iraq Invasion Are Now Joining ‘Blame-America-First Crowd’

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, torched Republican “cheerleaders” who started the Iraq war and are now criticizing President Barack Obama over the escalating violent insurgency in the country. “Some of the biggest GOP cheerleaders for the disastrous war in Iraq are now joining the blame-America-first crowd rather than working with our Commander-in-Chief to confront this crisis,” Boxer said in a statement Thursday.

She said the current crisis in Iraq “has its roots in an ill-conceived war,” arguing that while the U.S. should “go after” the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the Sunni jihadi organization taking over parts of the country, “any U.S. action must be well-considered and well-executed in coordination with our allies and the Iraqi government and military, which we helped train and arm.”

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Nicole Flatow: CNN Decides Not To Count 80 Percent Of School Shootings

When students are killed, injured, or put in harm’s way on school grounds, when does it “count” as a school shooting? Not all of the time, according to a number of right-wing commentators — and CNN. In a news report published Thursday, CNN amends its prior reporting that there were 74 school shootings since the Newtown Massacre — a number calculated by gun violence prevention group Everytown for Gun Safety — and concludes that there have instead been just 15. “CNN determined that 15 of the incidents Everytown included were situations similar to the violence in Oregon — a minor or adult actively shooting inside or near a school,” the article explains. Except for the times when those criteria don’t apply

Among those incidents not included was a brawl that escalated outside a college basketball game at Chicago State University, a shooting at a Mississippi town’s football game that left a 15-year-old dead, and a Georgia college that saw two shootings in two days. As Everytown points out in response to CNN, these discounted shootings led to 25 deaths and 45 injuries. They included familiar scenes of students hiding under desks and running for cover. And many of them were characterized by CNN as “school shootings” at the time of the incidents. CNN’s coverage does not mention it, but its change of heart followed a series of criticisms from right-wing commentators and outlets.

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First Lady Michelle Obama and West Virginia Department of Education Office of Child Nutrition Executive Director Richard Goff help students from five District of Columbia schools make a meal using the summer crop from the White House Kitchen Garden in the State Dining Room at the White House June 12. The students, who helped plant the garden earlier in the year, were joined by visiting school nutrition directors from Orlando, Dallas and West Virginia, where they have seen success in their new school lunch programs thanks to the standards put in place by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.

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Marlow Stern: Spike Lee’s Tribute to Ruby Dee: ‘A Living Example That One Could Be An Artist And Activist’

Ruby Dee, the legendary actress, poet, and Civil Rights activist, passed away on Wednesday in New York. She was 91. Born Ruby Ann Wallace, the Harlem native was a dynamo on stage and screen, starring in the 1961 film A Raisin in the Sun, winning Obie and Drama Desk Awards for the play Boesman and Lena, and earned a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her turn as the feisty mother to Harlem drug lord Frank Lucas, played by Denzel Washington, in the 2007 film American Gangster. She was also a trailblazer who paved the way for young African-American actors and filmmakers to break through during the height of segregation. Dee was married to Ossie Davis, the actor, activist, and WWII veteran, from 1948 until his death in 2005.

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The pair appeared in 11 stage productions and five films together, including Davis’s first feature film, 1959’s No Way Out, which also starred Sidney Poitier, and later, in the Spike Lee films Do the Right Thing and Jungle Fever. In 2004, Dee and Davis were recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors, who described the duo as “one of the most revered couples of the American stage, two of the most prolific and fearless artists in American culture. As individuals and as a team they have created profound and lasting work that has touched us all. With courage and tenacity they have thrown open many a door previously shut tight to African American artists and planted the seed for the flowering of America’s multicultural humanity.” Indeed, both Dee and Davis were prominent activists in the Civil Rights movement, protesting the trial and execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, and later participating in Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington in 1963.

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Jonathan Capehart: Cantor Loss A Wake-Up Call For Democrats

Tuesday evening, I observed that the Republican Party now in thrall to the extreme far right of its base stands pinched in its own vise. About an hour later, the nation watched that vise pinch the life out of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s political career. But Democrats celebrating the Cantor calamity better check their schadenfreude. There will be more Brats in Congress if they don’t show up at the polls in November, especially in key races that will determine the balance of power in the Senate. Democrats love the president (75 percent), but barely half of them (51 percent) said they were “absolutely certain” to vote in November. Meanwhile, only seven percent of Republicans polled approve of the president’s job performance. But 68 percent of them said they were “absolutely certain” to cast a ballot. It’s data like this that have Obama warning the Democratic base over and over and over again against complacency.

“A lot of the reasons that the president has not been able to move some of the things as fast and big as he’s wanted to move them is ’cause we slept,” a Democratic friend told me recently. “We won big in 2008. And we slept in 2010. And we got what we got. And we are still paying [the] price.” Sure, it’s fun for Democrats to watch Republicans fight amongst themselves and hand their nominations to the fringe of their base. But if Democrats don’t vote in the numbers they need to in November, those folks who are more conservative than the ultra-conservative members already gumming up the works will come to Washington. If the threat of that is not enough of a wake-up call for Democratic voters, I don’t know what is.

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BBC: Sgt Bowe Bergdahl Arrives Back In US

The US soldier held by the Taliban has arrived at a Texas military base after flying in from Germany. Sgt Bowe Bergdahl, 28, is being taken to a military medical centre for the next part of what the military calls a “reintegration mission”. Officials previously said he would be reunited with his family there. Sgt Bergdahl was freed on 31 May in exchange for five Taliban commanders held at Guantanamo bay, a deal criticised by the Republicans.

The US soldier left Ramstein Air Base earlier on Thursday aboard a US military aircraft and arrived in San Antonio early on Friday morning. “Our first priority is making sure that Sgt Bergdahl continues to get the care and support he needs,” Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm John Kirby said in an earlier statement. He had been recuperating at a military hospital in Germany since his release.

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Ryan Cooper: The Case For Optimism On Climate Change

First, I think climate change is the exception to how international relations normally go down. Yes, it’s quite easy to draw an international relations case, based on sound realist reasoning, that developing nations will never cut their emissions in time. This argument largely boils down to China and India since they are so huge; China alone now accounts for twice the total emissions of the United States. By this logic, no nation will harm its short-term interests by slashing emissions unilaterally when the gains are dispersed worldwide. But I think what the pessimists haven’t quite internalized is that China is going to be absolutely hammered by climate change.

Think of it this way: they’ve got an area roughly the size of the United States, with more desert, less farmland, less water, and less raw materials. In that area they’ve got the population of the entire Western Hemisphere, plus Nigeria and Japan. China could easily blow through the world’s carbon budget by itself; to say the Chinese government will choose growth over emissions is to say they will choose national self-immolation for a few measly decades of economic growth. India has it even worse, and similar things hold for most developing nations. I think people underestimate how panicked these nations are going to be, and how serious the international pressure will be for a climate treaty in five to 10 years.

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Yahoo: U.N. Human Rights Spokesman Says Hundreds Killed In Iraq

The number of people killed after Sunni Islamist militants overran the Iraqi city of Mosul earlier this week may run into the hundreds, U.N. human rights spokesman Rupert Colville said on Friday. He said his office had reports the killings included the execution of 17 civilians working for the police and a court employee in central Mosul. Four women had killed themselves after being raped, 16 Georgians had been kidnapped, and prisoners released by the militants had been looking to exact revenge on those responsible for their incarceration, he said.

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NBC News: Ukrainian Forces Surround Separatist-Held Mariupol

Ukrainian forces surrounded the strategic rebel-held port city of Mariupol on Friday in a dawn attack launched as part of a broader military operation to reclaim control of eastern Ukraine. The rebel forces, who oppose the pro-European leadership in the capital Kiev and want to be part of Russia, said five of their fighters had been killed in the battle for Mariupol, Ukraine’s largest Azov Sea port. Mariupol, which has changed hands several times in weeks of conflict, is strategically important because steel is exported through the port and the city lies on

major roads from the southeastern border with Russia into the rest of Ukraine. President Petro Poroshenko intensified the military operation against the separatists after he was elected on May 25. The rebels took several cities and towns in east and southeast Ukraine after Russia annexed Crimea in March following the overthrow of Poroshenko’s Moscow-leaning predecessor.

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Washington Post: McCarthy Consolidating Support For House Majority Leader As Race For Whip Intensifies

The defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) in a Republican primary was an astounding triumph for the tea party movement, but there was little evidence Thursday that the insurgency could take advantage of it by getting one of their own elected to the suddenly vacant leadership position. In the race to replace Cantor, who will step down from his leadership post at the end of July, House Republicans began coalescing around Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), who is more aligned with the establishment wing of the party.

The leadership battle began to crystallize Thursday morning as a popular conservative, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (Tex.), who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, announced that he wouldn’t run for majority leader and Pete Sessions (R-Tex.) entered the race and then withdrew within hours.

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Ann Sanner: Judge Orders 3 Early Voting Days Restored In Ohio

A federal judge ordered Ohio’s elections chief Wednesday to restore the final three days of in-person, early voting in the swing state in a ruling that gives Democrats a victory going into the fall election. The order from U.S. District Judge Peter Economus comes in a long-running dispute that began before the last presidential election. The fight was especially intense because of Ohio’s role as a swing state rich with electoral votes. President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign and Democrats filed a lawsuit in July 2012 against the state’selections chief over an Ohio law that cuts off in-person, early voting for most residents three days before Election Day.

The state law, passed in 2011, ends in-person voting on the Friday evening before a Tuesday election. But it allows an exception for military and overseas voters to cast a ballot in person until Monday. Democrats claimed that amounted to unequal treatment of voters and said everyone should have the chance to vote on the three days before Election Day. Ohio voters may cast an absentee ballot by mail or in person before Election Day without giving any reason.

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Steve Benen: McCain Left Classified Briefing ‘After Only A Matter Of Minutes’

With security conditions deteriorating quickly in Iraq, Sen. John McCain is in high dudgeon. Despite having been wrong about nearly every national security crisis in recent years, the Arizona Republican is doing what one might expect him to do: he’s blaming President Obama, condemning the White House, and urging everyone to pretend he still has credibility. Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, of which McCain is the ranking member, were given a classified briefing this afternoon from military and intelligence officials, keeping lawmakers apprised of the latest developments in the Iraqi crisis. McCain left the closed-door briefing after only a matter of minutes, telling reporters the security situation in Iraq “is the greatest threat since the Cold War.” [emphasis added]

If it’s the great threat to security in a generation, then maybe McCain should have stuck around for the rest of the classified briefing, instead of bolting and heading for the cameras? Except McCain left “after only a matter of minutes” so he could go complain about the president in front of the cameras. If this sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because just last week, McCain attended another closed-door, classified briefing on the prisoner swap that freed an American POW. McCain “walked out shortly after shouting at an official,” roughly half-way through the briefing. He then – you guessed it – headed for the cameras to complain about the president and the lack of compelling information he’d received in the briefing he left in the middle of.

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On This Day

President Obama tours Cree, Inc., a manufacturer of LED lighting, in Durham, N.C., June 13, 2011. Taking part in the tour are Chuck Swoboda, CEO and Chairman of Cree, Inc., left, and Jeff Immelt, CEO, General Electric and Jobs Council Chairman, center (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wave goodbye to President Shimon Peres of Israel on the North Portico of the White House following the Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony and dinner in his honor, June 13, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama and Vice President Biden listen as 9 year-old twins Zea and Luna Weiss-Wynne introduce the President at the LGBT Pride Month celebration in the East Room of the White House, June 13, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama talks with Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., along with members of his family, in the Oval Office, June 13, 2013. Rep. Dingell is the longest-serving Member in the history of the United States Congress (Photo by Pete Souza)

First Lady Michelle Obama and Air Force Pilot Captain Kelly Smith discuss Joining Forces with Hollywood Trade Representatives at the Writers Guild Theatre on June 13, 2011 in Beverly Hills

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05
Jun
14

President Obama At The G7 Summit

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President Barack Obama arrives for the G7 summit at the European Council building in Brussels

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Prime Minister David Cameron and US President Barack Obama attend the first working meeting of the day at the G7 Summit in Brussels. (The Prime Minister’s Office)

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President Barack Obama smiles during the G7 summit at the European Council headquarters in Brussels

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President Barack Obama meets with King Philippe of Belgium, right, and Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo at the Royal Palace in Brussels, Belgium

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President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron speak during a news conference at the G7 summit

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Continue reading ‘President Obama At The G7 Summit’

04
Jun
14

Rise and Shine

President Obama delivers remarks at 25th Anniversary Freedom Event in Castle Square, Warsaw (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today

The President left Poland for Belgium this morning. After arriving he will meet King Philippe and Prime Minister Di Rupo of Belgium, attend the Council of the European Union in Brussels and attend a G-7 working dinner.

1:30 EDT: First Lady Michelle Obama Announces The Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness

White House Live

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President Obama’s speech in Poland this morning – forward to 53 minutes

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The Week Ahead – See Here

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FACT SHEET: U.S. Security Assistance to Ukraine

The United States is working to bolster Ukraine’s ability to secure its borders and preserve its territorial integrity and sovereignty in the face of Russian occupation of Crimea and a concerted effort by Russian-backed separatists to destabilize eastern Ukraine.  President Obama has approved more than $23 million in additional defensive security assistance since early March.

This assistance includes:

A new tranche of $5 million for the provision of body armor, night vision goggles, and additional communications equipment.  This is in addition to the approximately 300,000 Meals Ready to Eat (delivered in March), as well as assistance for the provision of materiel using Foreign Military Financing to support Ukraine’s armed forces with medical supplies, service member equipment (e.g., helmets, sleeping mats, water purification units), explosive ordnance disposal equipment, and handheld radios.

The United States also has allocated Cooperative Threat Reduction funding to support Ukraine’s State Border Guard Service with supplies (e.g., clothing, shelters, small power generators and hand fuel pumps, engineering equipment, communications equipment, vehicles, and non-lethal individual tactical gear).

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Washington Post: Obama vows to defend freedom in Europe, support democratic movements worldwide

Surrounded by throngs celebrating Poland’s 25 years of democracy, President Obama on Wednesday pledged to uphold the United States’ longtime commitment to the defense of Eastern Europe against new threats, using the opportunity to deliver a resounding endorsement of democratic movements across the world.

“Throughout history, the Polish people were abandoned by friends when you needed them most,” Obama said. “I have come to Warsaw today — on behalf of the United States, on behalf of the NATO Alliance — to reaffirm our unwavering commitment to Poland’s security.”

Speaking at the “Freedom Day” event in a historic square by the Royal Castle, the president said he would use the full might of the American armed forces to protect Poland and other Eastern European allies and called out Russia as a threat to regional security and democracy.

“Our free nations will stand united so that further Russian provocations will only mean more isolation and costs for Russia,” he said. “We refuse to allow the dark tactics of the 20th century to define the 21st.”

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Brilliant:

Stonekettle Station: Negotiating With Terrorists

Are we really going to do this?

Is this what it’s finally come down to, is it really?

Look at yourselves, you silly selfish bastards.

Look. At. Yourselves.

Go on, do it, find a mirror and look into your own dead zombie eyes and see the empty void looking back.

This revolting, disgusting display of hypocrisy and moral bankruptcy, is this what we’ve finally become?

Are we now so filled with foul bilious hatred, are we now so consumed with soul-destroying fear, do we now despise our own selves so much that we would actually protest the return of one of our own? Is that it?

Is that what we’ve become?

If so, then the sooner America collapses of its own maggot-ridden gangrenous rot, the better.

No. No, don’t you dare look away.

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Steve Benen: McCain’s reversals on Bowe Bergdahl

It was just last week when Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) delivered a Memorial Day message in which she urged Americans to keep Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl “in our thoughts and prayers.” She added, “I renew my call on the Defense Department to redouble its efforts to find Sergeant Bergdahl and return him safely to his family.”

Less than a week later, the Defense Department announced that Bergdahl had been freed and he’ll be returned safely to his family – prompting a new round of criticism from Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.).

But all things considered, these conflicting statements are mild compared to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and his recent reversals…

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Michael Tomasky: The Bowe Bergdahl Story Is Right-Wing Crack

Never mind that Bush would have done the same as Obama. Republicans are hitting the pipe big time on the ‘deserter’ — and their creepy bottom line is that he should have been left to die.

I was amazed but not surprised by my Twitter feed Monday. More than 200 tweets from conservatives, I would estimate, calling me a host of names and Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl a menu of worse ones. That’s the most ever in one day, I think, even more than for my most scorching anti-NRA columns, which have heretofore set the gold standard for inspiring drooling right-wing vitriol.

I was not, as I say, surprised. This story has every element right-wingers dream of. Every dark suspicion they harbor about President Obama can be wedged into the narrative conservatives are constructing about how Saturday’s prisoner exchange supposedly went down and what the president’s presumed motivations were. So I knew instantly, when I read Michael Hastings’s 2012 Rolling Stone profile of Bergdahl on Sunday afternoon, that this was going to be the next Benghazi. The story is right-wing crack. And sure enough, Republicans are hitting the pipe big time.

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ThinkProgress: Former Bush Official Blasts GOP On Bergdahl: Bush Would Have Done The Same Thing

A former Bush administration official broke with Republicans on Tuesday to defend President Obama’s prisoner exchange, arguing that since “the war in Afghanistan is winding down,” the United States would be required to return prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay back to Afghanistan.

… Asked about reports that Bergdahl deserted his unit, Bellinger added that the former hostage “will have to face justice, military justice.” “We don’t leave soldiers on the battlefield under any circumstance unless they have actually joined the enemy army,” he said. “He was a young 20-year-old. Young 20-year-olds make stupid decisions. I don’t think we’ll say if you make a stupid decision we’ll leave you in the hands of the Taliban.”

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Smartypants: Why the prisoner exchange is a big issue for the neocons

We’re hearing all kinds of hysteria about the prisoner exchange that resulted in the release of Sergeant Bergdahl. The media is indulging claims about Bergdahl’s state of mind, whether or not the President was required to consult with Congress prior to finalizing the exchange and stories about soldiers who may have died trying to rescue him. But that’s all hyperbole designed to gin up the anti-Obama base. I propose that the real issue for conservatives actually centers on the other side of the exchange…the release of the 5 Taliban detainees from Gitmo.

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From Donna Dem:

Good Morning TOD

Before I head out to work let’s make today a Day of Action

We can start by all of us contacting Sen. Dianne Feinstein

Here is her contact information

Phone: (202) 224-3841

Fax: (202) 228-3954

Email

Twitter: @SenFeinstein

We can help her to understand that as a Democrat it should be her primary goal to support this President and if she has issue with anything he does she needs to talk to his staff or him directly about it. It is not necessary for her to run to every open mike and give the Republicans and the media ammunition to bash President Obama.

Have a great O’Day Everyone!!

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TPM: Videos Showed Bergdahl’s Rapidly Deteriorating Health

Some critics of the prisoner swap that exchanged Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban detainees said there was no evidence, as President Barack Obama insisted in a press conference Tuesday, that the soldier’s deteriorating health necessitated swift action to secure his release.

But the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday night that the U.S. intelligence community had evidence of Bergdahl’s failing health, based on a secret analysis of two videos of the soldier in captivity ….

Officials who saw the recent video described Bergdahl’s condition as “alarming.” ….

“We believe they saw Bergdahl as a golden egg. That is why they kept him alive and as healthy as possible. But as he deteriorated, some people believe he became more of a burden to them,” the official told the Journal. “And as the war was ending some of them [Taliban] came to doubt his value. He was more of a liability as his health declined.”

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LA Times Editorial: Editorial Freeing Sgt. Bergdahl: Why it was a good deal for all Americans

The release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a captive of Islamist extremists for almost five years, is good news not only for his family but for all Americans. But the price the Obama administration paid for the 28-year-old soldier’s repatriation was freedom for five detainees at Guantanamo Bay who are hardened Taliban commanders.

…. unless the U.S. were to assert the right to hold the detainees forever without trial, they would have been released at some point. Why not do it now when it helps to secure the release of an American?

…. Congress is free to press the administration about details of the arrangement that won Bergdahl’s freedom. But the president must be equally free to respond to a diplomatic opening that could mean the difference between freedom and captivity for an American soldier.

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Meanwhile in the real world, while the GOP try to distract everyone with Bergdahlzi ->

Steve Benen: ID law blocks 93-year-old voter in Alabama

Two years ago, the nation was introduced to Viviette Applewhite, a 93-year-old widow in Pennsylvania who had marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Applewhite has voted in nearly every election for the last-half century – right up until 2012, when the state told this African-American woman she wouldn’t be allowed to cast a ballot because Republicans policymakers had created a voter-ID law to combat voter fraud that didn’t exist.

After Applewhite’s story garnered national attention, election officials helped get her situation straightened out – and more recently, the law itself was struck down as unconstitutional – but the incident was a reminder about the real-world impact of unnecessary voter-ID laws.

Two years later, Zachary Roth introduces us to a similar face – of the same age – in the “war on voting.”

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ThinkProgress: Major Companies Distance Themselves From U.S. Chamber Campaign Against Obama’s Climate Plan

Days before President Obama’s EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy announced sweeping new rules to limit the amount of carbon pollution that existing power plants can dump into the atmosphere, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a report blasting the then-unreleased regulations as certain to raise electricity prices, kill jobs, and slow the economy. But leading climate-friendly members of Chamber don’t want to be associated with its anti-climate report. Several member companies, contacted by ThinkProgress, declined to endorse the Chamber’s efforts against the administration’s move to address a direct cause of climate change.

ThinkProgress reached out to several dozen of the major corporations that have either contributed to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or had executives currently serving on its board of directors. None endorsed the new report.

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Steve Benen: An exceedingly rare NRA apology

It’s been about four decades since Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal introduced us to an unfortunate catchphrase: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” More recently, I’ve always thought it was better applied to the National Rifle Association, which never has to say it’s sorry, either.

No matter how extreme the far-right group gets, no matter who it offends, no matter the consequences of its policy purism, the NRA just doesn’t apologize for anything, ever.

Once in a great while, however, there are exceptions.

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AP: Brisk demand for SUVs and pickup trucks pushed U.S. auto sales to a nine-year high in May

Chrysler, Nissan and Toyota all reported double-digit sales gains over last May. Even General Motors, battling bad publicity from a mishandled recall, surprised with a 13 percent sales increase.

Ford’s sales rose a better-than-expected 3 percent, while Hyundai’s were up 4 percent. Of major automakers, only Volkswagen’s sales fell.
Video: Is 16M Vehicles the New Normal for Auto Sales?

May is traditionally a strong month for the auto industry, as buyers spend their tax returns and think ahead to summer road trips. This year’s calendar, with five weekends, gave it an extra boost. Sales were particularly strong the last weekend of the month, automakers said.

Sales rose 11 percent to just over 1.6 million in May. That was the highest monthly total since July 2005, according to Kelley Blue Book.

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USA Today: White House to host event on working dads

The White House, which is preparing a summit on working families later this month, sponsors an event Monday devoted to working fathers.

Business leaders, administration officials, and other working fathers will “explore the breadth of roles dads play today at home” and “the new challenges dads experience balancing career and family,” says a White House announcement.

…. Speakers will include New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, and Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers Jason Furman.

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On This Day

President Obama speaks at Cairo University in Cairo, Thursday, June 4, 2009. In his speech, President Obama called for a ‘new beginning between the United States and Muslims’, declaring that ‘this cycle of suspicion and discord must end’. (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama jokingly shows off the hat he was given during his tour of the Pyramids and Sphinx in Egypt on June 4, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama tours the Pyramids and Sphinx with Secretary General of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities, Zahi Hawass (left), Senior Advisor David Axelrod and Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel (right), June 4, 2009. (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama tours the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt on June 4, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama ducks his head to get through an entranceway on a tour of the Pyramids and Sphinx in Egypt, June 4, 2009. At center-right is the hieroglyphic that the President comment on saying it looked like him. (Photo by Pete Souza)

Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, personal aide to the president Reggie Love, and Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett take a ride on camels in Egypt on June 4, 2009. (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama looks out the window of Marine One as they leave the Pyramids of Giza and Sphinx in Egypt, June 4, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama tours the Sultan Hassan Mosque with Dr. Zahi Hawass (left), Iman Abdel Fateh (right), and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Cairo, Egypt, June 4, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza).

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President Obama gestures during a meeting on the response to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, at the Tarmac Field House at Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans, La., June 4, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

 President Obama, at left, eats boiled seafood with residents at Carmandelle’s Live Bait and Boiled Seafood in Grand Isle, La., June 4, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama jokes with members of the Chilean delegation as President Sebastián Piñera of Chile sits at the Resolute Desk following a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office, June 4, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama embraces Myrlie Evers-Williams during her visit in the Oval Office, June 4, 2013. The President met with the Evers family to commemorate the approaching 50th anniversary of Medgar Evers’ death (Photo by Pete Souza)

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03
Jun
14

Hello, Poland!….Or, Cześć Polska!

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President Barack Obama and Poland’s President Bronislaw Komorowski, wave at Belveder residence in Warsaw, Poland. President Obama came to Poland to meet regional leaders and attend ceremonies marking 25 years of Poland’s democracy

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President Barack Obama and Poland’s President Bronislaw Komorowski make statements and meet with U.S. and Polish troops at an event featuring four F-16 fighter jets, two American and two Polish, as part of multinational military exercises

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President Barack Obama answers a question during a joint news conference with Poland’s President Bronislaw Komorowski

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Continue reading ‘Hello, Poland!….Or, Cześć Polska!’




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