Posts Tagged ‘holder

20
Aug
14

‘The Same Kid Who Got Stopped On The Freeway Is Now the AG Of The United States’

@ryanjreilly

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Attorney General Eric Holder in Ferguson today

(Excerpts from his remarks, as provided by the Justice Department)

“We have seen a great deal of progress over the years. But we also see problems and these problems stem from mistrust and mutual suspicion.

I just had the opportunity to sit down with some wonderful young people and to hear them talk about the mistrust they have at a young age.

These are young people and already they are concerned about potential interactions they might have with the police.

I understand that mistrust.

I am the Attorney General of the United States, but I am also a black man. …I think about my time in Georgetown — a nice neighborhood of Washington — and I am running to a picture at about 8 o’clock at night. I am running with my cousin.

Police car comes driving up, flashes his lights, yells, ‘Where you going? Hold it!’ I say, ‘Whoa, I’m going to a movie.’

Now my cousin started mouthing off; I’m like, ‘This is not where we want to go. Keep quiet.’

I’m angry and upset.

We negotiate the whole thing and we walk to our movie.

At the time that he stopped me, I was a federal prosecutor. I wasn’t a kid. I was a federal prosecutor.

I worked at the United States Department of Justice.

So I’ve confronted this myself.

We are starting here a good dialogue. But the reality is the dialogue is not enough. We need concrete action to change things in this country. That’s what I have been trying to do. That’s what the President has been trying to do.

We have a very active Civil Rights Division. I am proud of what these men and women have done. As they write about the legacy of the Obama administration, a lot of it is going to be about what the Civil Rights Division has done.

So this interaction must occur. This dialogue is important. But it can’t simply be that we have a conversation that begins based on what happens on August 9, and ends sometime in December, and nothing happens.

As I was just telling these young people, change is possible. The same kid who got stopped on the New Jersey freeway is now the Attorney general of the United States.

This country is capable of change.

But change doesn’t happen by itself.”

18
Aug
14

Rise and Shine

@jesseberney: Call this “looting,” I dare you. RT @ShaunKing: Protestors broke into McDonalds to get milk for tear gas victims

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9:30 AM Central Time: Medical Examiner Michael Baden, Michael Brown’s attorneys and family will hold a press conference to discuss his autopsy

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USA Today: Obama returns to WH for Iraq, Ferguson meetings

President Obama’s somewhat mysterious return to the White House from his Martha’s Vineyard vacation started late Sunday night.

The president is scheduled to have meetings at the White House on Monday and Tuesday, including Monday sessions devoted to the Iraq military operation and the unrest in Ferguson, Mo.

In the morning, Obama and Vice President Biden are scheduled to meet with members of the National Security Council about Iraq.

On Monday afternoon, Attorney General Eric Holder will brief Obama on the investigation of the recent police shooting in Ferguson, Mo., that has sparked major protests.

The president’s brief trip – he is scheduled to return to Martha’s Vineyard on Tuesday, and stay there the rest of the week – has inspired all sorts of speculation.

Obama is on track to announce major executive orders on immigration policy. But aides said that won’t happen this week.

More here

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Morning again everyone, have to extend my R&S break for another while, short of time these mornings, but we’ll be updating through the day. So, as ever, if you have any links you’d like to share, please post them in the comments – thank yooooou!

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On This Day

President Barack Obama in Rochester, August 18, 2012 ( Photograph by Scout Tufankjian)

President Barack Obama in Manchester, August 18, 2012 (Photograph by Scout Tufankjian)

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07
Aug
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Barack Obama gestures during a roundtable discussion with Hispanic print and web media in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, on Aug. 7, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

11:20: The President delivers remarks and signs H.R. 3230, the Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014; Fort Belvoir, Virginia

12:15: White House press briefing

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Courant: Number Of Residents Without Health Insurance Drops 50%

The number of people in Connecticut without health insurance has dropped by 50 percent since 2012, according to research findings released Wednesday by the state’s health insurance exchange. Access Health CT, the state-run onlinehealth insurance marketplace created under the federal Affordable Care Act, has enrolled more than 256,000 state residents in private health plans or Medicaid since the website launched last fall.

CEO Kevin Counihan said at a press conference with the governor Wednesday that the percentage of state residents who lack health coverage dropped from 7.9 percent at the start of the open enrollment period to 4 percent now. About 286,000 residents did not have insurance before the launch of the marketplace. “Nobody expected us to be down to 4 percent,” said Counihan, who compared the figure to those of European countries with national health insurance, where uninsured rates hover around 2 percent to 3 percent.

More here

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AP: BofA Nears $16-$17B Settlement With US

Bank of America is nearing a $16 billion to $17 billion settlement to resolve an investigation into its role in the sale of mortgage-backed securities before the 2008 financial crisis, a person directly familiar with the matter said Wednesday. The deal with the bank, which must still be finalized, would be the largest Justice Department settlement by far arising from the economic meltdown in which millions of Americans lost their homes to foreclosure.

It would follow earlier multibillion-dollar agreements reached in the last year with Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase & Co. The deal would be the latest arising from the sale of toxic mortgage securities leading up to the recession. The Justice Department last year reached a $13 billion settlement with JPMorgan and in July announced a $7 billion settlement with Citigroup. Each of these deals is designed to offer some financial relief to homeowners, whose mortgages were bundled into securities by the banks in question and then sold to investors.

More here

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Reid Cherlin: The Presidency And The Press

Somewhere between Seoul and Kuala Lumpur, with Air Force One cruising just shy of the speed of sound, Barack Obama decided to have a word with the press. It has been tradition for Obama to make a visit back to the press cabin during the last leg of exhausting presidential foreign trips – just a friendly off-the-record chat – but this junket, a barnburner taking the chief executive to Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines this past April, wouldn’t be over for three days. The president’s blood was up over two analysis pieces in The New York Times. One, written by national security correspondent David Sanger and timed for Obama’s arrival in Seoul, accused the administration of dangerously underestimating Kim Jong-Un. A second story, splashed on the paper’s front page, had effectively declared the trip a failure while it was still in progress.

With the chat being off the record, a definitive accounting of what was said is hard to come by; it is clear, though, that the thrust of the president’s message was this: Foreign policy is hard, you guys are scoring it like a campaign debate, and moreover, you’re doing it inaccurately. He went further, telling the dozen or so reporters that what he favored was a judicious use of American power, and that his primary concern was not to get the country embroiled in situations from which it might take a decade to extract ourselves. He offered up an oddly sophomoric mantra for his foreign policy: “Don’t do stupid shit.”

More here

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Victoria Stilwell: Jobless Claims Fall As Average Drops To Eight-Year Low

Fewer Americans filed applications for unemployment benefits last week, sending the average over the past month to an eight-year low, a sign the labor market continues to gain momentum. Jobless claims decreased by 14,000 to 289,000 in the week ended Aug. 2 from 303,000 in the prior period, a Labor Department report showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 47 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for an increase to 304,000. Companies are holding on to more workers in an effort to keep up with increased orders and stronger consumer demand, contributing to a virtuous cycle of growth as the economy accelerates. Fewer layoffs and more jobs

would support further gains in incomes and household spending, which accounts for 70 percent of the economy. “This is one of the early steps in the process of a really good run for the labor market,” said Thomas Simons, a money market economist at Jefferies LLC in New York, whose forecast for the drop in claims was the closest in the Bloomberg survey. “If we have fewer layoffs, it’s a necessary precondition for an acceleration in hiring, and as hiring increases and the slack in the labor force is taken up, that should put some upward pressure on wages as well.”

More here

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Tommy Christopher: Liberal MSNBC Host Says Obama “Broke Politics”

Fresh off his weeks-long stint flacking for Paul Ryan’s poverty plan, Vox publisher and All In fill-in host Ezra Klein further dabbled in Beltway view-from-nowhere dumbshittery Wednesday night when he declared, to MSNBC viewers, that President Obama broke politics. He promised to change politics, but instead, he broke them worse than they already were broken…

…. The theory is that despite all of his promises, Republicans were such pricks that Obama had no choice but to become a partisan ramrod, further dividing our country. Now, even if you accept that narrative, saying Obama broke politics is like saying Jesus sure stained the shit out of that cross… The truth is, it started within hours of President Obama’s inauguration. President Obama didn’t break politics, politics set out to break him…

More here

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Seventeen: Michelle Obama’s Open Letter To American Girls: Commit To Your Education & Get Involved In Others

Did you know that right now, 62 million girls around the world are not in school, and in some countries, fewer than ten percent of girls complete high school (as compared to 85 percent in the U.S.)? Did you know that when girls are educated, they go on to earn higher wages, get married later, and have healthier children who are more likely to attend school themselves? So you might be wondering: why on earth are so many girls worldwide not in school? There are many answers to this question. Sometimes, families simply can’t afford to send their daughters to school (some countries don’t have free public education, and families have to pay school fees); or girls live in rural areas, far from schools, and have no means of transportation; or girls can’t afford to buy sanitary pads, so they’re unable to attend school during their periods, and they wind up falling behind and dropping out.

But often, the problem isn’t just about resources, it’s also about attitudes and beliefs. In some places, girls are viewed as less worthy of an education than boys, so when a family has limited funds, they’ll educate their sons instead of their daughters. Knowing the heartbreaking challenges so many girls in the world are facing, think about all the girls you know who don’t take their education seriously – girls who skip class, or don’t do their homework, or even drop out because they don’t see the point of school. To any girl – or any young person – who might be thinking this way, I have a simple message: you can do better – for yourself, your family and your country.

More here

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On This Day

 President Obama delivers remarks on the economy from the Rose Garden, on Aug. 7, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama signs a bill in the Oval Office, on Aug. 7, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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 President Obama talks with members of the 2012 Summer White House intern class before a group photo in the East Room of the White House, Aug. 7, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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 President Obama greets troops during a rally at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., Aug. 7, 2013 ( Photo by Pete Souza)

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05
Aug
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama greets people following his remarks at the Ford Motor Company Chicago Assembly Plant in Chicago, Ill., Aug. 5, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (all times Eastern)

12:30: White House press briefing

1:45: VP Biden Delivers Remarks at U.S.-Africa Business Forum

2:45: President Obama delivers remarks and participates in the U.S.-Africa Business Forum

9:30: The President and First Lady host a dinner at the White House for African heads of state – Lionel Richie performs

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President Obama meets with advisors in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Aug. 4, 2014 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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The Week Ahead

Wednesday: The President participates in Summit Leader Meetings as part of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit.

First Lady Michelle Obama, in partnership with former First Lady Laura Bush and the Bush Institute, will host a day-long spouses symposium at the Kennedy Center focused on the impact of investments in education, health, and public-private partnerships.

Thursday & Friday: Attends meetings at the White House

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Read about the Summit here

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Live Streaming from the U.S. – Africa Leaders Summit

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AP: Obama: US Companies to Invest $14B in Africa

President Barack Obama is announcing $14 billion in commitments by U.S. businesses to invest in the continent of Africa.

Obama plans to make the announcement Tuesday at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum in Washington. The forum is bringing together African heads of state and American business leaders to find ways to boost economic ties. It comes on the second day of a U.S.-Africa summit involving nearly 50 African heads of state.

The White House says the investments include industries like construction, banking, information technology and energy.

More here

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WH.gov: The First Lady at the U.S. – Africa Leaders Summit

On August 6, 2014, the Office of First Lady Michelle Obama, the George W. Bush Institute, and the U.S. Department of State will host Investing in Our Future at the U.S. – Africa Leaders Summit.

The day-long symposium will bring together First Lady Michelle Obama, Mrs. Laura Bush, African first spouses from nearly 30 countries, leaders from non-governmental and non-profit organizations, private sector partners, and other leading experts.

The symposium will highlight the important role first spouses play and will focus on the impact of investments in education, health, and economic development through public-private partnerships. This collaboration builds on the Bush Institute’s 2013 African First Ladies Summit, Investing in Women: Strengthening Africa, held in Tanzania.

More here

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Paul Krugman: Obama’s Other Success

Although the enemies of health reform will never admit it, the Affordable Care Act is looking more and more like a big success. Costs are coming in below predictions, while the number of uninsured Americans is dropping fast, especially in states that haven’t tried to sabotage the program. Obamacare is working. But what about the administration’s other big push, financial reform? The Dodd-Frank reform bill has, if anything, received even worse press than Obamacare, derided by the right as anti-business and by the left as hopelessly inadequate. But also like Obamacare, financial reform is working a lot better than anyone listening to the news media would imagine. The decision to create a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau shouldn’t have been controversial, given what happened during the housing boom.

At this point, however, all accounts indicate that the bureau is in fact doing its job, and well — well enough to inspire continuing fury among bankers and their political allies. A recent case in point: The bureau is cracking down on billions in excessive overdraft fees. how do you rescue the banking system without rewarding bad behavior? The answer is that the government should seize troubled institutions when it bails them out, so that they can be kept running without rewarding stockholders or bondholders who don’t need rescue. In 2008 and 2009, however, it wasn’t clear that the Treasury Department had the necessary legal authority to do that. So Dodd-Frank filled that gap, giving regulators Ordinary Liquidation Authority, also known as resolution authority, so that in the next crisis we can save “systemically important” banks and other institutions without bailing out the bankers.

More here

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TPM: Israel-Hamas Truce Sets Stage For Talks On Gaza

Israel and Hamas began observing a temporary cease-fire on Tuesday that sets the stage for talks in Egypt on a broader deal on the Gaza Strip, including a sustainable truce and the rebuilding of the battered, blockaded coastal territory.

Israel withdrew its ground forces from Gaza’s border areas, and both sides halted cross-border attacks as the three-day truce took effect at 8 a.m. (0500 GMT) Tuesday. The shelling stopped and in Gaza City, where streets had been deserted during the war, traffic picked up and shops started opening doors.

If the calm holds, it would be the longest lull in almost a month of fighting that has killed nearly 1,900 Palestinians and 67 Israelis.

More here

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Atef Abu Saif (NYT): Eight Days in Gaza: A Wartime Diary

For the last two hours we’ve heard nothing but sonic booms and the sound of rockets and mortars. Shells have fallen on our street a few hundred yards from my father-in-law’s house, where my wife and I, and our five kids, are staying, and on the street behind us.

My wife, Hanna, is arguing with the kids over what to buy to celebrate Eid, the holiday that marks the end of Ramadan. She has forbidden them to go to the grocery store, and she’s adamant that they won’t visit the Internet cafes or the PlayStation shop near my father’s place. They don’t understand the impossibility of shopping at a time of war.

Last night, we all became convinced that the tank fire would soon reach the Jabaliya refugee settlement, where our families live. All night long the tanks fired on the eastern side of the camp. The buildings on our street creaked and lurched, as if about to fall. Everything shifts with each strike. It’s as if you’re an extra in a disaster movie.

More here

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BBC: Ebola Crisis: World Bank Announces $200M Emergency Fund

The World Bank has announced that it is allocating $200m (£120m) in emergency assistance for West African countries battling to contain the Ebola outbreak. The money will be distributed to the governments of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea as well as to the World Health Organization (WHO). The number of people killed in the outbreak has reached 887, the WHO says.

The World Bank’s announcement came as African leaders including 35 presidents discuss the crisis in Washington. World Bank President Jim Yong Kim – an expert on infectious diseases – said that he was “deeply saddened” by the spread of the virus and how it was contributing to the breakdown of “already weak health systems in the three countries”.

More here

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Watch Rand Paul run away from a DREAMer who confronts him and Steve King:

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Ed Kilgore: In the Middle of An August Friday Night

If you want to do something politically dangerous in Washington that you’d just as soon not draw widespread notice, doing it late on a Friday night before the August Congressional Recess begins is about as good as it gets. And that’s exactly what House Republicans did on Friday night, passing an insultingly small “border resources” package that will vanish without a trace if and when Congress returns and gets serious about the issue, and then passing another bill prohibiting continuation of the Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals program, which has enabled children and young adults (usually collectively known as DREAMers) under strict conditions to avoid deportations.

When I looked at the news aggregators this morning, there was zippo about this whole topic, which dominated political chatter last week. It’s as though quite literally nothing of interest happened Friday night.

More here

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Evan McMorris-Santoro: Eric Holder Takes Another “Historic Step” Toward Ending The Drug War, Advocates Say

The Obama administration took a “historic” step in changing the drug war Friday, activists said, when Attorney General Eric Holder said the rationale prosecutors often use to defend mandatory-minimum sentences was worthless. “Some have suggested that these modest changes might somehow undermine the ability of law enforcement and prosecutors to induce cooperation from defendants in federal drug cases,” Holder said in remarks before the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers conference in Philadelphia, according to prepared remarks posted to the Justice Department website.

“But the reality is that nothing could be further from the truth,” Holder went on, citing his own past as a federal prosecutor. “Like anyone who served as a prosecutor in the days before sentencing guidelines existed and mandatory minimums took effect, I know from experience that defendant cooperation depends on the certainty of swift and fair punishment, not on the disproportionate length of a mandatory-minimum sentence,” Holder said. The speech was a big deal, said Families Against Mandatory Minimums. Price’s spokesperson, Mike Riggs, was more direct. “It’s pretty damn historic,” he said.

More here

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March 30, 2011: President Obama greets James Brady in Press Secretary Jay Carney’s West Wing office at the White House. Brady’s wife Sarah, right, and son Scott, center, joined him for the meeting (Photo by Pete Souza)

Statement by the President on the Passing of James Brady

Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to the family of former White House Press Secretary James Brady on his passing. Jim is a legend at the White House for his warmth and professionalism as press secretary for President Reagan; for the strength he brought to bear in recovering from the shooting that nearly killed him 33 years ago; and for turning the events of that terrible afternoon into a remarkable legacy of service through the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Since 1993, the law that bears Jim’s name has kept guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals. An untold number of people are alive today who otherwise wouldn’t be, thanks to Jim.

Every day, reporters and White House staffers walk past a plaque marking the day in 2000 that the White House Briefing Room was renamed the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room. It reads, “May his courage and dedication continue to inspire all who work in this room and beyond.” Those words will endure, as will his legacy. Our thoughts and prayers are with Jim’s wife Sarah, who has been Jim’s steadfast partner in advocacy, and their children Scott and Melissa.

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Elite Daily: Happy Birthday, Mr. President: 26 Times Barack Obama Has Killed The Game

More here

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I’m still laughing:

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On This Day

President Obama waits to be introduced at a luncheon for U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias of Illinois at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago, Ill., Aug. 5, 2010. Right to left, Trip Coordinator Jordan Whichard, Bobby Schmuck, political affairs staff assistant, and Director of Political Affairs Patrick Gaspard, wait with the President (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama talks on the phone at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago, Ill., Aug. 5, 2010. From left, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Eric Whitaker and Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett work nearby (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama signs memorabilia as he talks on the phone at the Chicago Cultural Center in Chicago, Ill., Aug. 5, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama arrives at the White House after spending the night at Camp David on Sunday, August 5, 2012 in Washington, DC.

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President Obama meets with former Negro League baseball players in the Cross Hall of the White House, Aug. 5, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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MoooOOOooorning!

16
Jul
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama kisses First Lady Michelle Obama for the “Kiss Cam” while attending the U.S. Men’s Olympic basketball team’s game against Brazil at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., July 16, 2012. Vice President Joe Biden and Malia Obama look up at the jumbotron (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (all times Eastern)

12:45: Vice President Biden Speaks to Generation Progress Summit

1:0: Josh Earnest briefs the press

2:15: The President meets with his State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Climate Task Force on Preparedness and Resilience, State Dining Room

3:50: The President meets with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Eisenhower Executive Office Building

5:10: The President and Vice President meet with House Democrats, The State Floor

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11:15 PST: First Lady Michelle Obama speaks at a Unite for Veterans event at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza hotel in Century City, LA (will post live streaming link later)

First Lady Michelle Obama delivers the keynote address at Grammy Museum luncheon, LA (not sure of the time yet)

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The Week Ahead

 Thursday: The President will travel to New York City area to attend a DNC roundtable. Further details on the President’s travel to New York will be made available in the coming days.

Friday: The President will attend meetings at the White House.

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NYT: Budget Office Revises Estimate of Federal Spending on Health Care

The growth of federal spending on health care will continue to decline as a proportion of the overall economy in the coming decades, in part because of cost controls mandated by President Obama’s health care law, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said on Tuesday.

The budget office said in its annual 25-year forecast that federal spending on major health care programs would amount to 8 percent of gross domestic product by 2039, one-tenth of a percentage point lower than its previous projection.

With the latest revision, the budget office has now reduced its 10-year estimate for spending by Medicare, Medicaid and other health programs by $1.23 trillion starting in 2010, the year the health care law took effect. By 2039, the savings would amount to $250 billion a year in today’s dollars.

More here

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Paul Krugman: This Age of Infallibility

The estimable Sarah Kliff tabulates all the predictions of Obamacare disaster that didn’t come true; she puts it at seven major themes, ranging from “the website will never work” to “nobody will sign up”. We can presume, then, that people like John Boehner — who declared that it would never work and that more people would lose insurance than gain it — are spending some time now trying to understand how they could have been so wrong.

April fools! (Yes, I know it’s July.)

…. It’s probably about partisanship, which means both living in an information bubble and being so deeply committed to a worldview that you literally can’t consider facts that don’t fit.

But it’s quite something to behold.

Full post here

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Washington Post: House Democrats unveil policy ‘Action Plan’ as Pelosi sets ambitious goal for November

House Democrats plan to unveil a list of election-year proposals Wednesday that party leaders hope will resonate with women, blue-collar workers and younger voters — three key constituencies that historically don’t show up to vote in significant numbers in midterm election years.

The release of the “100 Day Action Plan” comes as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that her goal is to pick up 25 GOP seats in November, a bold ambition given historical trends: The party of a two-term president usually loses seats in his sixth year in office.

…. But Pelosi believes that her new policy plan and the recent talk among House Republicans about filing a lawsuit or possibly impeaching Obama will shore up support among Democratic-base voters, win over independents and give the party a narrow edge.

More here

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Milt Shook: Dems are not wimps! Some of the 375 bills they passed in 111th Congress!

By request, I’m reposting this again, to remind everyone just how much damage the GOP has done with their abuse of the filibuster, and to remind some progressives of the major bonehead moves they made in 2010.

In addition to the constant trashing of Obama’s real record with lies and distortions, I’m also sick to death of claims that Democrats “had no spines” and couldn’t pass anything. Republicans held Congress from 1994-2006 and rigged the filibuster rules in 2005, under the threat of killing it altogether. They made it easier for a single senator to hold up a bill anonymously, and they effectively transformed the Senate into a body that requires 60 votes to pass that bill.

The SOLUTION to the problem in 2010 would have been to keep the House, and reduce the number of Republicans in the Senate. Instead, we had the Right Wing crying “Democrats can’t get anything done!” and the Left Wing crying, “Democrats can’t get anything done!” THAT is why Democrats lost so badly last year; instead of offering up an alternate viewpoint, we basically echoed theirs. That’s what drove turnout down, and gave the GOP one of the biggest wins in their history.

Read these and tell me Democrats weren’t trying really hard to make things better.

More here

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CBS: Eric Holder demands Congress address inequality

Attorney General Eric Holder called on Congress and the American people to not only celebrate civil rights successes but also renew the spirit of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by working to “eradicate” inequality.

“Like all who are old enough to remember those days, I will never forget the turmoil and violence that characterized the Civil Rights era,” Holder told a crowd of civil rights advocates, cabinet officials and students during an event at Howard University celebrating the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act. “I am especially mindful that without the Civil Rights Act or the monumental progress that followed few of us would be here. I would not stand before you as attorney general of the United States.”

More here

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TPM: Holder Expects To Challenge GOP Voting Measures In Ohio, Wisconsin

Attorney General Eric Holder plans to support challenges to Republican-backed voting laws in two key midwestern battleground states.

Holder told ABC’s Pierre Thomas in an interview that has yet to air that he expects the Justice Department to join lawsuits challenging laws in both Ohio and Wisconsin.

GOP lawmakers in the Buckeye State passed measures earlier this year that chopped six days off the state’s early voting period, while Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted eliminated early voting on Sundays.

More here

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Trevor LaFauci (The People’s View): ‘Murica and Murrietta: Xenophobia and Racism in 21st Century America

Ask a Republican about the good old days.

No really, do it.  There’s nothing more enlightening for a progressive than to hear about what life was like back in the day.  Odds are the narrative you hear will go something like this:  First and foremost, there was a trusted man in the White House, usually with the first name Ronald and the last name Reagan.  There was a harmonious family life, where the husband made a decent wage and the mother stayed home and raised he kids.  The neighborhoods were free of gangs, the schools were all good, and everybody went to church on Sundays.  The local communities were full of mom and pop stores and you grew up the same town where you would eventually raise your own family.  As long as you worked hard, you would be able to go to college, get a good job, find a spouse, and start a family of your own.  You’d buy a nice home with a decent patch of land where you raise your kids and babysit your grand kids.  This was the America that Republicans all knew and loved.

And it was an America that never existed.

More here

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ThinkProgress: The GOP’s Plot To Convince You They Support Birth Control

There’s a war over birth control brewing in the Senate, and Republican lawmakers want to make it clear that the GOP is on the right side.

On Tuesday, after Senate Democrats introduced a measure to override the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on Hobby Lobby and clarify that for-profit companies must offer contraceptive coverage, their Republican colleagues announced some forthcoming legislation of their own. As the Hill reports, GOP leadership will introduce a bill that appears to be supportive of women’s access to birth control.

…. the GOP’s competing legislation likely wouldn’t do anything to change the status quo or ensure that Hobby Lobby employees have insurance coverage for contraception. Instead, it’s simply a way for Republicans to reinforce the point that the high court’s ruling on Hobby Lobby doesn’t inhibit women’s legal access to birth control.

… But legality isn’t exactly the same as accessibility. And the Hobby Lobby case was about the latter.

More here

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In case you missed this brilliance:

Charles Pierce: Things In Politico That Make Me Want To Mainline Antifreeze, Part The Infinity

Its puerilty has finally crossed over into indecency. Its triviality has finally crossed over into obscenity. The comical political starfcking that is its primary raison d’erp has finally crossed over into $10 meth-whoring on the Singapore docks. Once a mere surface irritation, Tiger Beat On The Potomac has finally crossed over into being a thickly pustulating chancre on the craft of journalism. It has demonstrated its essential worthlessness. It has demonstrated that it has the moral character of a sea-slug and the professional conscience of the Treponema pallidum spirochete. Trust me. Stephen Glass never sunk this low. Mike (Payola) Allen has accomplished the impossible. He’s made Jayson Blair look like Ernie Pyle…..

… You [Dick Cheney] cheap fraud. You people didn’t “face” any threat before 9/11. Every damn one of you fell asleep at the switch. You abandoned counterterrorism in favor of chasing porn merchants and Tommy Chong. You exiled Richard Clarke. You started worrying about missile defense. Your boss took a vacation and blew off his CIA briefings and failed to read his presidential daily briefings. You watched the towers fall, at least partly through your sheer dereliction of duty, and you turned a national tragedy into a personal opportunity to get rich.

More here

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SmartyPants: Pundits join Putin in 19th century thinking

An awful lot of pundits these days seem just as stuck in the 19th century as Vladimir Putin. For example, check out this jaw-dropping commentary on the Israel/Palestinian situation from Cokie Roberts on ABC’s This Week:

It’s a real absence of the American leadership in the region…We haven’t made a strong enough presence in that region to have people be afraid of this country. So I think there’s a sense that they can get away with anything they want to get away with. So much criticism of President Obama for not going in, conducting the air strikes against Syria.

Its almost hard to know where to begin. In the end, her point seems to be that if President Obama had bombed Syria he could have prevented the current escalation of the situation in Israel/Gaza. And that’s – of course – because there aren’t enough people in the Middle East who are afraid of us. So lets go bomb some more brown people over there because they’re sure not going to get mad about that and fight back. What they’ll do instead is be afraid and quit all that shooting/bombing each other.

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Patch: First Lady Michelle Obama will deliver keynote speeches at a pair of events today

…. She will first speak at a Unite for Veterans event at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza hotel in Century City. The event is aimed at discussing ways of providing opportunities for veterans to find employment and housing.

…. Obama is also scheduled to speak at the Grammy Museum’s Jane Ortner Education Award Luncheon. The award honors educators who “find innovative ways to engage students by integrating music in their classrooms and curricula.”

This year’s honoree is Sunshine Cavalluzzi, a teacher at El Dorado High School in Placentia. She is being recognized for what the museum called her “innovative economics lesson plans.” Six-time Grammy nominee Janelle Monae will also be honored for her “continued commitment to Grammy Museum educational programming.”

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Howling:

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On This Day

President Obama and his family hike on Cadillac Mountain at Acadia National Park in Maine, July 16, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Vice President Biden and President Obama look at an app on an iPhone in the Outer Oval Office, Saturday, July 16, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama talks with coach Geno Auriemma and members of the U.S. Women’s Olympic basketball team following their 99-67 win over Brazil at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., July 16, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama talks with LeBron James as First Lady Michelle Obama hugs Deron Williams during their greet with members of the U.S. Men’s Olympic basketball team at halftime of the game against Brazil at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., July 16, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama in Cincinnati, July 16, 2012

President Obama and VP Biden at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., July 16, 2012

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President Obama visits with Make-A-Wish child Suhail Zaveri, 14, from Anaheim, Calif., in the Oval Office, July 16, 2013. Accompanying Suhail are his parents, Sandeep and Asmi Zaveri, and younger brother Arsh Zaveri (Photo by Pete Souza)

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MoooOOOooorning!

11
Jun
14

Rise and Shine

President Obama’s signature on a wall in a health classroom at Southwest High School in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where he attended a town hall meeting on health care, June 11, 2009. The physical education and health staff left a note asking the President to sign the wall for future students to see (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

10:50 President Obama meets with the United States Sentencing Commission, Roosevelt Room

1:50: Departs White House

3:20: Arrives Worcester, Mass.

4:0: The President delivers remarks at the Worcester Technical High School Commencement

7:0: Delivers remarks and answers questions at a fundraiser for House Democrats, private residence, Weston, Mass.

8:20: Departs Worcester

10:0: Arrives White House

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Later This Week

Thursday: The President will hold a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Tony Abbott of Australia at the White House. In the afternoon, the President will welcome the WNBA Champion Minnesota Lynx to the White House to honor the team and their victory in the WNBA Finals.

Friday: The President and the First Lady will travel to the Cannonball, North Dakota area to visit the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Following their visit to Indian Country, they will travel to Palm Springs, CA.

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 and Tumblr’s founder, David Karp

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Adam Vaccaro: No, Obama’s Student Debt Executive Order Doesn’t Incentivize Colleges To Raise Tuition

When President Barack Obama announced yesterday that he would extend the “Pay as You Earn” federal student loan repayment program to older, previously ineligible debtors, it was met with a common contention. I’ve seen it in a few places, including the comments section in our article on the action. In short, people say that the order will make it easier for students to manage their debt, and that will incentivize schools to raise tuition. The assertion doesn’t make any sense. The Pay as You Earn program, which limits monthly payments to 10 percent of a borrowers’ income and can allow for loan forgiveness after 20 years of repayments, had previously only been available to new student borrowers. In order to be eligible, debtors could not have taken out a student loan before October 2007, and could not have stopped taking payments before October 2011.

In other words, the program was essentially put in place for the high school class of 2008 and later classes—meaning those currently in school are already eligible for the program. If the program incentivizes colleges to raise tuition—again, probably a fun debate, though it ignores that tuition was already skyrocketing well before the program was put in place—it was already happening. Obama’s action, meanwhile, extends the option to older borrowers—those who have already graduated and are making repayments, some at much higher rates than the program allows. The vast majority of those people are by definition already out of school. Who, then, would colleges raise tuition on that they couldn’t already?

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Washington Post: Republican House Majority Leader Succumbs To Tea Party Challenger Dave Brat

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.), the chamber’s second-ranking Republican, was badly beaten in a primary contest Tuesday by an obscure professor with tea party backing — a historic electoral surprise that left the GOP in chaos and the House without its heir apparent. Cantor, who has represented the Richmond suburbs since 2001, lost by 11 percentage points to Dave Brat, an economist at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Va. It was an operatic fall from power, swift and deep and utterly surprising.

As late as Tuesday morning, Cantor had felt so confident of victory that he spent the morning at a Starbucks on Capitol Hill, holding a fundraising meeting with lobbyists while his constituents went to the polls. By Tuesday night, he had suffered a defeat with few parallels in American history. Historians said that no House leader of Cantor’s rank had ever been defeated in a primary. That left stunned Republicans — those who had supported Cantor, and even those who had worked to beat him — struggling to understand what happened.

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Nick Wing: If It’s A School Week In America, Odds Are There Will Be A School Shooting

Since the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, there have been an average of 1.37 school shootings for each school week, according to data maintained by Everytown for Gun Safety, a group fighting to end gun violence. Including Tuesday’s incident at a high school in Troutdale, Oregon, 74 school shootings have taken place in the approximately 18 months since the Dec. 14, 2012, Newtown shooting. The average school year typically lasts about 180 days, which means there have been roughly 270 school days, or 54 weeks, of class since the shooting at Newtown.

With 74 total incidents over that period, the nation is averaging well over a shooting per school week. The data maintained by Everytown for Gun Safety also shows that these shootings have occurred throughout the country. In all, 31 states have had an incident of gun violence at a school. Georgia has witnessed far more incidents than others, with 10 happening at schools there since Sandy Hook. There have been seven school shootings in Florida, five in Tennessee, four in North Carolina and four in California.

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Caitlin MacNeal: Obama: ‘We Should Be Ashamed’ Of Failure To Address Gun Violence

President Obama on Tuesday slammed the failure to curb gun violence in the United States. “My biggest frustration so far is the fact that this society has not been willing to take some basic steps to keep guns out of the hands of people who can do just unbelievable damage,” he said during a Tumblr Q&A. “This is becoming the norm,” he continued about school shootings. “We should be ashamed.”

The President addressed lawmakers who blame mass shootings on mental health, not access to guns. “The United States does not have a monopoly on crazy people. It’s not the only country that has psychosis. And yet, we kill each other in these mass shootings at rates that are exponentially higher than any place else,” he said.

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Rob Wile: Small Business Confidence Surges

The NFIB’s small business confidence index came in at 96.6 for May — the highest reading since 2007. That also beat expectations for 95.8. Pantheon Macro’s Ian Shepherdson says this index is more important than payrolls, and sees this jump to the as a major shift. “At last, small businesses are on the move. We have been waiting for four years for a clean break to the upside, and it’s finally here. The rise in the headline largely reflects a 9-point jump in economic expectations and a 5-point rise in sales expectations, but several other components rose too.”

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John B. Judis: Dave Brat And The Triumph Of Rightwing Populism

“Eric is running on the Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable principles,” Brat told a Tea Party audience. “They want amnesty for illegal immigrants. They want them granted citizenship. And it’s in the millions — 40 millions coming in. if you add 40 million workers to our labor supply, what will happen to the wage rate for the average American?” Brat’s appeal was frankly demagogic. Cantor was not supporting amnesty, and there are about 10 million illegal immigrants currently in the United States. Some of Brat’s Tea Party supporters took it a step further. Larry Nordvig, the head of the Richmond Tea Party, told a joke at Brat rally.

“A politician, a Muslim, and an illegal alien walk into a bar, and you now what the bartender said? Good evening, Mr. President.” If he is elected in November, Brat may, of course, jettison the anti-Wall Street and anti-big business side of his politics. His actual economic views appear to be close to those of the Cato Institute and Ayn Rand. His solutions for America’s flagging economy consist in flattening the tax code and cutting spending – positions that will certainly not alienate the Chamber of Commerce or Business Roundtable.

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Jonathan Cohn: The GOP Just Got a Wake-Up Call: Eric Cantor’s Loss Proves The Tea Party Refuses To Rest In Peace

It’s going to take a while to figure out precisely what happened Tuesday night in Virginia’s 7th House District. Nobody thought Eric Cantor, the second most powerful Republican in the House, would lose his primary campaign to Dave Brat, an anonymous college professor too busy grading exams to attend campaign events. Not too many people even thought it’d be close. Robert Costa of the Washington Post wrote about Brat’s surprising popularity a month ago, but the rest of the political press barely noticed.

The obvious explanation for Cantor’s defeat is immigration. And in this case, the obvious explanation is probably right. Brat hammered Cantor for his supposed support of “amnesty.” Cantor swore the charge was untrue and, lord knows, he wasn’t doing anything to advance the cause of immigration reform publicly. It appears the voters didn’t believe him. Brat also attacked Cantor for his supposed cooperation with, and enabling of, Obama. This charge may seem strange to the White House and, for that matter, most sentient beings. Few Republicans have spent more energy fighting Obama and the Democrats. And Cantor played a pivotal role in killing the grand bargain that Obama was trying to negotiate with House Speaker John Boehner in 2011

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Julia Edwards: Obama Administration To Make Push On American Indian Voting Rights

Concerned that American Indians are being unfairly kept out of the voting process, the Obama administration is considering a proposal that would require voting districts with tribal land to have at least one polling site in a location chosen by the tribe’s government, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced on Monday. Holder said the Justice Department would begin consulting tribal authorities on whether it should suggest that Congress pass a law that would apply to state and local administrators whose territory includes tribal lands. The announcement came as President Barack Obama was expected to travel to an American Indian reservation in North Dakota on Friday.

Last Thursday, Holder addressed a tribal conference in the same state. Associate Attorney General Tony West on Monday will expand upon Holder’s announcement in Anchorage, Alaska, where he will address a conference held by the National Congress of American Indians. “Our proposal would give American Indian and Alaska Native voters a right that most other citizens take for granted: a polling place in their community where they can cast a ballot and receive voter assistance to make sure their vote will be counted,” West is expected to say, according a statement from the Justice Department.

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Daniel Strauss: Cantor Conquerer Caught Off Guard By Policy Questions In Interview

David Brat, who defeated House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) in the Republican primary for Virginia’s 7th Congressional District, was surprised when he appeared on MSNBC on Wednesday that he would be asked policy questions. In his interview with MSNBC’s Chuck Todd Brat punted when Todd asked him both about the minimum wage and Syria. “Let me ask you a few other issue questions. Where are you on the minimum wage? Do you believe in it and would you raise it?” Todd asked. “Minimum wage, no, I’m a free market guy,” Brat responded.

“Our labor markets right now are already distorted from too many regulations. I think Cato estimates there’s $2 trillion of regulatory problems and then throw Obamacare on top of that, the work hours is 30 hours a week. You can only hire 50 people. There’s just distortion after distortion after distortion and we wonder why our labor markets are broken.” Todd then pressed Brat on the question. “Um, I don’t have a well-crafted response on that one,” Brat finally conceded. “All I know is if you take the long-run graph over 200 years of the wage rate, it cannot differ from your nation’s productivity. Right? So you can’t make up wage rates.”

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CBS News: Judge Strikes Down Teacher Tenure In California

A judge struck down tenure and other job protections for California’s public school teachers Tuesday, saying such laws harm students – especially poor and minority ones – by saddling them with bad teachers who are almost impossible to fire. In a landmark decision that could influence the gathering debate over tenure across the country, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu cited the historic case of Brown v. Board of Education in ruling that students have a fundamental right to equal education. Siding with the nine students who brought the lawsuit, he ruled that California’s laws on hiring and firing in schools have resulted in “a significant number of grossly ineffective teachers currently active in California classrooms.” He agreed, too, that a disproportionate number of these teachers are in schools that have mostly minority and low-income students.

The judge stayed the ruling pending appeals. The case involves 6 million students from kindergarten through 12th grade. The California Attorney General’s office said it is considering its legal options, while the California Teachers Association, the state’s biggest teachers union with 325,000 members, vowed an appeal. “Circumventing the legislative process to strip teachers of their professional rights hurts our students and our schools,” the union said. Teachers have long argued that tenure prevents administrators from firing teachers on a whim. They contend also that the system preserves academic freedom and helps attract talented teachers to a profession that doesn’t pay well. Other states have been paying close attention to how the case plays out in the nation’s most populous state. The lawsuit was backed by wealthy Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Welch’s nonprofit group Students Matter, which assembled a high-profile legal team including Boutrous, who successfully fought to overturn California’s gay-marriage ban.

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Brian Beutler: Eric Cantor Lost Because He Exploited Conservatives, Not Immigration

Cantor practices a cunning, devious brand of politics. He played legislative strategy the same way he played intra-conference intrigue—devising too-clever-by-half schemes to seize momentary advantage, often at the expense of bigger picture goals. They frequently blew back at him. When Republicans took back the House, he advocated strategies that culminated in dangerous brinksmanship over funding the government and increasing the debt limit, exactly as conservatives demanded. But he also attempted to set the bizarre precedent of offsetting emergency spending for natural disaster relief with cuts to unrelated social spending programs. He never prevailed, but his position became extremely awkward when a rare and sizable earthquake severely damaged his own district in August 2011. After Obama’s re-election, Cantor had to reverse course and orchestrate ransomless debt limit increases, to the great dismay of Republican hardliners. He then pandered to those same hardliners in ways that frequently undermined John Boehner’s best-laid plans. These priorities were incongruous, and suggestive of an effort to situate himself as the Speaker’s heir apparent, rather than of a commitment to conservative causes.

Just two months ago, Cantor end ran around those same conservatives to secure passage of a bill protecting Medicare physicians from a substantial pay cut. For more than a year now, Cantor’s stable of influential operatives and former operatives have done battle with the purity obsessed hardliners and opportunists who tried to seize control of the party’s legislative strategy. Many of them sought retribution by taking aim at Cantor in his district. In the end the right’s beef with him—as with McConnell—was about more than just affect. It was about his willingness to use power politics and procedural hijinks to cut conservatives out of the tangle when expedient. The lesson of his defeat isn’t that immigration reform is particularly poisonous, but that the right expects its leaders to understand they can’t subsume the movement’s energy for tactical purposes, then grant it only selective influence over big decisions.

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On This Day

President Obama checks how much time he has left during a health care reform town hall meeting at Southwest High School in Green Bay, Wisconsin, June 11, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama speaks with White House Counsel Gregory Craig in the Oval Office, June 11 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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First Lady Michelle Obama sits with class valedictorian Jordan Smiley during the graduation ceremonies for Anacostia Senior High School on June 11, 2010 in Washington, DC

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President Obama talks with Betty White in the Oval Office, June 11, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Bo waits to greet President Obama in the Outer Oval Office, June 11, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama and Vice President Biden escort Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the East Room of the White House where the President will introduce her as his nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court to replace retiring Justice David, May 26, 2009 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

9:15 AM: The President hosts a breakfast in the State Dining Room in honor of Memorial Day. The Vice President and Dr. Biden will also attend

11:0 The President and First Lady travel to Arlington National Cemetery where the President will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

11:20: The President delivers remarks

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The Week Ahead

Tuesday

The President will host the 2014 White House Science Fair and celebrate the student winners of a broad range of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) competitions from across the country. The President will also announce new steps as part of his Educate to Innovate campaign, an all-hands-on-deck effort to get more girls and boys inspired to excel and to provide the support they need to succeed in these vital subjects

Wednesday

The President travels to West Point, New York to deliver the commencement address at the United States Military Academy at West Point

Thursday

The President will host a summit at the White House on youth sports safety and concussions, where he will be joined by stakeholders, including young athletes, parents, coaches, experts, professional athletes, and military service members. At the White House Healthy Kids and Safe Sports Concussion Summit, the President will announce new commitments by both the public and private sectors to raise awareness about how to identify, treat and prevent concussions, and conduct additional research in the field of sports-related concussions that will help us better address these problems

Friday

The President will attend a hurricane preparedness meeting at FEMA Headquarters

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President Barack Obama waves as he returns from a surprise trip to Afghanistan

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Adrianna McIntyre: 21 Things Obamacare Does That You Didn’t Know About

1. Obamacare makes funds available for “training for adulthood.” True story. The law makes funds available for “personal responsibility” programs aimed at preparing young adults for being grown-ups. Per federal law, all of these programs must include efforts to educate young adults prevention of both pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Beyond that, they’re expected to touch on other “adulthood preparation subjects”, including but not limited to: financial literacy, healthy relationships, communication and interpersonal skills, educational and career success, body image, goal-setting, decision making, and stress management. 6. The law authorizes funding for grants that target postpartum depression. The Secretary of HHS is authorized to make grants available for treating individuals who have postpartum depression and psychosis (conditions that occur in women following childbirth). The law also encourages the National Institute of Mental Health to conduct long-term study from 2010-2019 on how pregnancy affects women’s mental health. This piece of the Affordable Care Act is called the Melanie Blocker Stokes CARE Act; it is named for a woman who tragically committed suicide in 2001 after suffering from postpartum depression despite three admissions to Chicago-area hospitals following her delivery.

10. Young adults who age out of the foster system at 18 receive benefits until they’re 26. Before the Affordable Care Act, states had the option — but not the requirement — of extending Medicaid coverage up to age 21 for kids who aged out of the foster system at 18. This is an incredibly vulnerable population that suffers from high rates of homelessness, poverty, and unemployment. Under reform, states have to offer these young adults Medicaid coverage until they turn 26. 13. Employers are required to provide reasonable break time for nursing mothers. Employers must provide a reasonable amount of break time — and a private place that isn’t a bathroom — for an employee to express breast milk for up to one year after giving birth. Breastfeeding the first six months, at a minimum, is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Prior to health reform, there was no federal law that protected nursing mothers; state laws on the issue tended to be very general.

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Bob Small: First Memorial Day Created By Blacks Here In Hampton Park

Memorial Day may signal the beginning of the summer for many. A time for cook-outs and being with friends and family, but few know that the first widely publicized event, then called “Decoration Day”, was held in Charleston to honor the Union dead and was put together by many of the newly freed Black men and women. On May 1, 1865, more than 10,000 black freedmen and women including 3,000 children gathered at the old Race Track now known as Hampton Park track to honor dead Union soldiers who were buried there. They cleaned up the area and placed flowers on the graves of the unknown soldiers. The event was highly publicized and covered by a number of newspapers nationally. To many of the white citizens it was looked upon more as an Emancipation for the newly freed black men and women. Preachers and white northern missionaries gave speeches and thanks to those who had lost their lives in the Civil War. A war that claimed over 600,000 lives on both sides.

Charleston had been a holding place for captured Union Soldiers and at least 257 soldiers died while in the custody of Confederate soldiers. They were buried in hastily dug unmarked graves around the race track as Confederates fled the city from advancing Union troops. Northern missionaries who helped organize the events for Decoration Day participated in songs and speeches. The response by the Black population was tremendous. Freedmen came from all over the state to participate. Many feeling that the Union soldiers had given their lives for their freedom rather than to bring the seceded states back into the Union. They cleaned up the burial grounds and erected an enclosure with an arch that read, “Martyrs of the Race Course.” Many of those in attendance brought flowers to lie on the graves. For the newly freed people it was their way of honoring those who had given their lives for their beliefs and the black population’s newfound freedom.

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Sahil Kapur: What Obama Can – And Cannot Do – On Immigration Reform By Executive Action

Amid fading prospects for immigration reform in Congress, President Barack Obama has signaled he’ll take executive action on enforcement to ease the burden for certain people in the country illegally who don’t have criminal records. On his order, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson is conducting a review of U.S. enforcement policies in order to determine how to implement the law in  the smartest and most humane way. One area where DHS feels confident in its authority to act is the prioritization enforcement resources, sources familiar with the matter say. Under the legal theory of “prosecutorial discretion,” the department could decide, for instance, to prioritize removal of dangerous criminals who pose serious safety threats, such as gang members, drug dealers and repeat offenders. It could in turn de-prioritize action against those who have not committed crimes, (or committed lower-level crimes like DUIs) and steer resources away from those who have family ties in the U.S. and have lived here for a certain period of time. Under this approach, undocumented immigrants would technically remain subject to deportation. They’d simply be less likely to get picked up by the system.

A second category of executive action is more contentious: to formally let certain subsets of immigrants temporarily live in the U.S. without fear of deportation and perhaps apply for employment authorization. This would build upon the Obama administration’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program which granted two-year relief to certain young people brought to the country as children, referred to as DREAMers. The Obama administration feels less comfortable with expanding DACA because the legal issues are trickier. Granting a reprieve to a narrow, specific population arguably falls within the realm of enforcement discretion. But applying it to broader populations becomes problematic and may backfire legally and politically, as some immigration law experts have cautioned. “Republicans may challenge his actions in Court saying that they constitute a violation of the Separation of Powers,” said Eli Kantor, an immigration lawyer based in Beverly Hills, California. The one thing the president certainly cannot do is grant legal status to anyone in the country without proper documentation. “That’s absolutely Congress’s authority,” Chen said. That means any executive action Obama takes would, by definition, be temporary and theoretically reversible by the next president.

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NYT: Insurers Once On the Fence Plan To Join Health Exchanges In ’15

In a sign of the growing potential under the federal health care law, several insurers that have been sitting on the sidelines say they will sell policies on the new exchanges in the coming year, and others plan to expand their offerings to more states. “Insurers continue to see this as a good business opportunity,” said Larry Levitt, a health policy expert at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “They see it as an attractive market, with enrollment expected to ramp up in the second year.” Eight million people have signed up for coverage in 2014, and estimates put next year’s enrollment around 13 million.

In New Hampshire, for example, where Anthem Blue Cross is the only insurer offering individual coverage on the state exchange, two other plans, both from Massachusetts, say they intend to offer policies next year. UnitedHealth Group and Cigna, which were notable in their caution about the exchanges last year, are expected to enter more markets this year. In Washington State, United is among four new insurers that have told state regulators they are interested in offering plans in 2015.

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NYT: After Revival In San Antonio, Washington Comes Calling

When Mayor Julián Castro of San Antonio and local officials traveled to Washington in 2012 to meet President Obama’s housing secretary, Shaun Donovan, the agenda was about housing policy. But for Mr. Castro, it was personal, too. The meeting was about revitalizing the Wheatley Courts public housing project on San Antonio’s impoverished Eastside, once the heart of the city’s black community. But it also hit home for Mr. Castro, who grew up near the low-rent projects in the Mexican-American barrio on the other side of town. His mother worked for the housing authority, and his father lived in the projects on the city’s Westside as a teenager. Two years after that meeting in Washington, the Eastside is now the focus of a public and private revival, fueled in part by a nearly

$30 million grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to demolish and redevelop Wheatley Courts as housing for a broader mix of incomes, including low- and moderate-income families and market-rate households. If he receives Senate confirmation, Mr. Castro, whose twin brother, Joaquin, is a Democratic congressman representing San Antonio, apparently would become the first housing secretary in the 48-year history of the position whose parents lived and worked in public housing projects. “It’s precisely because he’s lived out the American dream that he’ll work his tail off to make sure more people can travel that same path and earn their own dreams as well,” Mr. Obama said as Mr. Castro and Mr. Donovan stood next to him at the White House.

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AP: Far Right, Euroskeptics Make Big Gains In EU Vote

Far-right and Euroskeptic parties made sweeping gains in European Parliament elections Sunday — triggering what one prime minister called a political “earthquake” by those who want to slash the powers of the European Union or abolish it altogether. Voters in 21 of the EU’s 28 nations went to the polls Sunday, choosing lawmakers for the bloc’s 751-seat legislature. The other seven countries in the bloc had already voted in a sprawling exercise of democracy that began Thursday in Britain and the Netherlands. One of the most significant winners was France’s far-right National Front party, which was the outright winner in France with 26 percent support— or 4.1 million votes.

“The sovereign people have spoken … acclaiming they want to take back the reins of their destiny,” party leader Marine Le Pen said in a statement. She called the results “the first step in a long march to liberty.” The National Front like other far-right parties across Europe promote anti-immigrant and often anti-Semitic policies. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, in an impassioned televised speech, called the National Front win “more than a news alert … it is a shock, an earthquake.” French President Francois Hollande’s office announced he would hold urgent talks first thing Monday with top government ministers in what French media called a crisis meeting.

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Austin Frakt: Staying On Parents’ Plan May Lead To Healthier Paychecks

One of the earliest pieces of the health-care law to go into effect — and one of the easiest to understand — was the one that allowed adults under age 26 to remain on their parents’ insurance plan. It has long been clear that the policy has somewhat increased the insurance rate among young adults. Now a new study suggests the effects may be much broader, also leading to increases in educational attainment and the wages of young adults. The findings suggest that the health law has given young adults more flexibility to make decisions they think are best for them financially, rather than making decisions simply to obtain health insurance.

With coverage from their parents’ plans, they can remain in college or graduate school, rather than leaving to take a job that provides health insurance. With coverage in place, once students leave school, they can consider a broader range of jobs, including some that do not offer good health insurance or any health insurance. This finding is consistent with the academic literature on “job lock,” which has consistently shown that people who do not need to take a job with employer-based coverage have more flexibility, resulting in better employment matches with higher wages on average.

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Benjamin Goad: Administration Demands Equal Education For Ilegal Immigrants

Schools cannot require students or their parents to provide Social Security numbers, birth certificates or other documentation showing citizenship status as a condition of enrollment under formal Obama administration guidance issued. The directive to all public school districts, meant to ensure equal access to education for the nation’s illegal immigrants, comes amid reports that some children have wrongfully been denied enrollment. Attorney General Eric Holder said such policies “have a chilling effect on student enrollment, raising barriers for undocumented children and children from immigrant families who seek to receive the public education to which they are entitled.” “Public school districts have an obligation to enroll students regardless of immigration status and without discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin,”

Holder said. “We will vigilantly enforce the law to ensure the schoolhouse door remains open to all.” The new guidance from the departments of Justice and Education is an update of similar guidelines issued three years ago. The mandate to provide equal education to all children stems from the Supreme Court’s 1982 Plyler vs. Doe ruling, which prohibited a school district from charging illegal immigrants extra tuition fees. The new guidance makes clear that schools may request certain documentation showing the age and address of children in order to determine whether they are eligible to enroll. But they may not ask about a child or family’s citizenship status, or deny enrollment on grounds that a student is an illegal immigrant.

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Audrey Dutton: Idaho Medicaid Enrollment Climbs 

The number of people on Medicaid in Idaho rose almost 6 percent since the launch of Idaho’s health-insurance exchange last fall even though Idaho is one of the states that has not expanded Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act. The increase is sharper than usual. That’s partly because more people discovered they qualified for Medicaid during the process of shopping for health insurance to comply with the Affordable Care Act, which requires all Americans to be insured.

It’s also because Idaho is now using federal systems to check information for Medicaid renewals, making the process smoother for people already enrolled in the program, according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. “This is a positive change for Idaho, as it ensures that those who are eligible for Medicaid can maintain coverage without burdensome administrative processes that cause individuals to [lose Medicaid] unnecessarily, causing problems for families and providers,” said Tom Shanahan, spokesman for the department. He said the change also cuts down on administrative costs.

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TPM: Obama Administration Will Let Veterans Seek Care At Private Hospitals

The Obama administration’s decision to allow more veterans to get care at private hospitals could take some pressure off backlogged Veterans Affairs facilities struggling to cope with new patients from the wars on terrorism as well as old soldiers from prior conflicts. Agreeing to recommendations from lawmakers, the administration said Saturday it will allow more veterans to obtain treatment at private hospitals and clinics in an effort to improve care.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki also said VA facilities are enhancing capacity of their clinics so veterans can get care sooner. In cases where officials cannot expand capacity at VA centers, the Department of Veterans Affairs is “increasing the care we acquire in the community through non-VA care,” Shinseki said. Lawmakers from both parties have pressed for this policy change as the VA confronts allegations about treatment delays and falsified records at VA centers nationwide.

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Brian Beutler: Mitch McConnell’s Obamacare Spin Misleads Kentucky’s ACA Beneficiaries

Now that Mitch McConnell’s emancipated himself from the exigencies of the Republican primary process, he’ll need to figure out how to square his primary-friendly view that Obamacare should be wiped off the books with the complicating fact that over 400,000 Kentuckians obtained insurance through the Affordable Care Act over the past several months. He just took a new line of obfuscation for a test drive. Assuming it’s been accurately characterized, it’s incredibly misleading. “McConnell told reporters Friday that the fate of the state exchange is unconnected to the federal health care law,” according to the Associated Press.

“Yet the exchange would not exist, if not for the law that created it.” If McConnell successfully wipes Obamacare off the books next year (which he won’t), Kynect might not go away. But the Medicaid expansion will. And the private insurance subsidies will. And the rules allowing and requiring uninsured people of all health statuses to become customers will, too. Insurance carriers will follow. Or else they’ll replace the plans they currently offer with much less generous ones. And hundreds of thousands of people will lose their coverage anyhow.

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NYT: In Russia, Tune Changes About Leader In Ukraine

Petro O. Poroshenko, the billionaire businessman who won Ukraine’s presidential election on Sunday, was portrayed last month in a bilious campaign profile on Russian television here as money-grubbing, devious, a radical sympathizer — in short, a run-of-the-mill Ukrainian politician to Russian eyes. The program on NTV, a Kremlin ally, said he owned a mansion resembling the White House, clear evidence of dangerous Western sympathies. The report mocked him as “The Chocolate Rabbit,” twisting his usual nickname, “The Chocolate King,” from his confectionary fortune.

A scientist, or at least someone wearing a white coat, materialized on screen to denounce his popular Roshen chocolate brand as riddled with carcinogens. Then as Mr. Poroshenko emerged as the front-runner, a change occurred. The attacks ceased, and his chocolate factory in southern Russia, which government police had shuttered, was allowed to operate again. President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia even mentioned the chocolates in passing on TV as edible, and, in recent days, he has said on various occasions that he would work with whatever new leadership emerges in Kiev.

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Bryce Covert: Workers At This Giant Retail Company Are Really Happy With Their Pay

In an analysis of employee feedback shared on Glassdoor over the past year, just one retailer comes in the top 25 for top marks on pay and benefits: Costco. In fact, the company is ranked at number two on the list, although has the same rating — 4.4 — as the top rated company, Google. It also beats out some big tech companies, which are often thought of as paying well and giving workers good perks, like Facebook, Adobe, and Microsoft. Costco has become known for paying its workers more than is typical in the retail sector, where median pay is $10.29 an hour.

Its starting pay is $11.50 an hour and even the lowest paid positions report on Glassdoor that they make $11.80 on average. Across all positions, its average pay is nearly $22. It also offers benefits, with 88 percent of employees enrolled in company-sponsored health insurance. On top of that, it offers significant room for advancement: 70 percent of its warehouse managers, who can expect to make about $22 an hour on average, started in the company’s lower ranked positions. This engenders high levels of worker loyalty, as its turnover rate is just 5 percent for those who have been there for more than a year.

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Future Obamacrats and proud of it. :)

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On This Day

President Obama meets with Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor, the nominee to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter, and Vice President Biden, prior to an announcement in the East Room, May 26, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama embraces Sen. Harry Reid during a Las Vegas fundraiser for the senator at Caeser’s Palace, May 26, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama arrive at Stansted Airport, May 26, 2011

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The President and members of the White House staff look out the window of Air Force One to view tornado damage over Moore, Oklahoma. May 26, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama greets Gov. Mary Fallin after arriving at Tinker Air Force base in Midwest City, Sunday, May 26, 2013

President Obama tours tornado damage along a block of Eagle Drive in Moore, Okla., May 26, 2013. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, and local officials accompany him (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

 

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May
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wait in the Map Room of the White House, before welcoming President Felipe Calderón of Mexico and his wife, Mrs. Margarita Zavala, to the White House, May 19, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (all times Eastern)

10:10 Attorney General Eric Holder News Conference on China being charged with hacking for trade secrets (CBS)

12:30: The President meets for lunch with Combatant Commanders, Roosevelt Room

1:0: Jay Carney briefs the press

7:30: The President speaks at a fundraiser for congressional Democrats, private residence, Maryland

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Bob Cesca: Popular Conservative Website Tries and Fails to Debunk Our ’13 Benghazis’

A little more than a year ago, I wrote an article for The Daily Banter titled “13 Benghazis That Occurred On Bush’s Watch Without a Peep From Fox News.” In it I listed 13 terrorist attacks on U.S. consulates and embassies that happened during the years when President Bush was evidently “keeping us safe.” Throughout the past year, the article has sporadically gone viral among one internet clique or another, and at least one graphical meme has been based upon the list.

Late last week, I began to receive a new onslaught of tweets from readers of a website called the IJReview about an article written by Managing Editor Kyle Becker, titled, “’13 Benghazis That Happened Under Bush’ Viral Meme Taken Apart & Destroyed Before Your Very Eyes.” Clearly it was intended to debunk my article — hocus-pocus alakazam! — before our very eyes.

It didn’t.

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TPM: John Kerry To Yale Grads: You’re ‘Donald Sterling’s Worst Nightmare’

Secretary of State John Kerry used his address to this year’s Yale graduates on Sunday to take a swing at America’s favorite punching bag.

Speaking at the school’s Class Day ceremony in New Haven, Conn., Kerry noted the record diversity in this year’s crop of graduates.

“You are graduating today as the most diverse class in Yale’s long history,” Kerry said, according to a transcript provided by the State Department. “Or as they call it in the NBA, Donald Sterling’s worst nightmare.”

The line drew laughter and applause, but the speech also contained a commentary on contemporary affairs, with Kerry lamenting the lack of political action on climate change and immigration reform.

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TPM: Eric Holder: Chief Justice John Roberts Is Wrong On Race

In a rare move, Attorney General Eric Holder took direct aim at U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts on issues of race during a commencement speech Saturday.

“Chief Justice John Roberts has argued that the path to ending racial discrimination is to give less consideration to the issue of race altogether. This presupposes that racial discrimination is at a sufficiently low ebb that it doesn’t need to be actively confronted,” Holder said, speaking at the historically black Morgan State University. “In its most obvious forms, it might be. But discrimination does not always come in the form of a hateful epithet or a Jim Crow-like statute. And so we must continue to take account of racial inequality, especially in its less obvious forms, and actively discuss ways to combat it.”

Holder was referring to the Bush-appointed justice’s famous quote from a 2007 ruling: “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”

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Auburnpub.com: President Obama to visit Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown during latest upstate NY trip

President Barack Obama is heading to upstate New York next week to highlight tourism’s role in boosting the economy.

In his weekly address, the president said he will travel to Cooperstown Thursday to deliver remarks at the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

“I’ll be heading to Cooperstown, New York – home of the Baseball Hall of Fame – to talk about tourism,” Obama said. “Because believe it or not, tourism is an export. And if we make it easier for more foreign visitors to visit and spend money at America’s attractions and unparalleled national parks, that helps local businesses and grows the economy for everyone.”

According to the Baseball Hall of Fame, this will be the first time a sitting president has visited the hall in its history.

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Smartypants: President Obama: Harnessing the power of big business for change

I’ve written before about how President Obama’s time as a community organizer and his understanding of power relations informs his foreign policy and the development of the Obama Doctrine. See if you can connect those dots with why Max Fisher says his strategy of letting Putin hang himself is working:

  Most of this is economic. Russia’s self-imposed economic problems started pretty quickly after its annexation of Crimea in March and have kept up. Whether or not American or European governments sanction Russia’s broader economy, the global investment community has a mind of its own, and they seem to have decided that Russia’s behavior has made it a risky place to put money. So risky that they’re pulling more money out.

    A lot of that may have come from the targeted sanctions that Obama pushed for against individual Russian leaders and oligarchs. Those targeted sanctions did not themselves do much damage to the Russian economy. But, along with Russia’s erratic behavior in Ukraine and the lack of clarity as to whether Europe and the US could impose broader sanctions, it appears to have been enough to scare off global investors — the big, faceless, placeless mass of people and banks who have done tremendous damage to Putin’s Russia, nudged along by the US and by Putin himself…

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Trevor LaFauci (The People’s View): The Man In The Mirror: An Open Letter to Bill O’Reilly Regarding His Very Own White Privilege

Dear William,

As a fellow White male who has also studied history, I felt compelled to write to you today to respectfully disagree with your stance on White privilege in America.  You see, William, on your show The O’Reilly Factor on May 15, you stated that, “I do not believe you are granted favorable treatment in this country because you are White.  You have to work for success.”  This point was conceded as a followup to your May 14th program during which you had a segment discussing how the Kennedy School at Harvard was considering including a portion of its orientation to discuss issues associated with White privilege as a way for students to be made aware of the issue going forward as they began to think about it impact in relation to public policy.  As always William, your guests had some interesting things to say on the topic but unfortunately I don’t think either they or you truly understand what White privilege is.  Allow me to share some of my thoughts as it relates to you and your own life, if I may.

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E.J. Dionne Jr: No more liberal apologies as Elizabeth Warren takes the offensive

Elizabeth Warren is cast as many things: a populist, a left-winger, the paladin against the bankers and the rich, the Democrats’ alternative to Hillary Clinton, the policy wonk with a heart.

… Since the Reagan era, Democrats have been so determined to show how pro-market and pro-business they are that they’ve shied away from pointing out that markets could not exist without government, that the well-off depend on the state to keep their wealth secure and that participants in the economy rely on government to keep the marketplace on the level and to temper the business cycle’s gyrations.

Warren doesn’t back away from any of these facts. In her new book, “A Fighting Chance,” she recalls the answer she gave to a voter during a living-room gathering in Andover, Mass., that quickly went viral.

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ThinkProgress: Obama To Host Summit On Concussions In Youth Sports

As research about concussions in sports continues to pour out, President Obama will host a White House summit later this month focusing on the risk concussions pose to young athletes. According to the Washington Post, which first reported the summit, the May 29 event will include young athletes, parents, coaches, professional athletes, and members of the military.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said this week that the summit will include the announcement of new initiatives to help research and address concussions in youth sports.

“The president will announce new commitments by both the public and private sectors to raise awareness about how to identify treat and prevent concussions, and conduct additional research in the field of sports-related concussions that will help us better address these problems,” Carney said.

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On This Day

President Obama stands in the entrance to the Oval Office, May 19, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama delivers remarks at ceremony honoring National Small Business Award Winners in the East Room of the White House, May 19, 2009

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President Obama and President Felipe Calderón of Mexico stand together during the playing of the national anthem on the South Lawn of the White House, May 19, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

First Lady Michelle Obama and Mrs. Margarita Zavala watch the State Arrival ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House, May 19, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama watches as President Felipe Calderón of Mexico signs the official guest book in the Blue Room of the White House, May 19, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

First Lady Michelle Obama and her Mexican counterpart Margarita Zavala run with second graders during a physical education class as they visit New Hampshire Estates Elementary School May 19, 2010 in Silver Spring, Maryland

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wait to welcome President Felipe Calderon of Mexico and his wife Margarita Zavala to the White House for an official State Dinner, May 19, 2010

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and her husband Paul arrive for the State Dinner for Mexican President Felipe Calderon and his wife Margarita Zavala at the White House, May 19, 2010

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and his wife Dr. Sharon Malone arrive for the State Dinner

Guests board trolleys at the South Portico entrance to the White House, en route to the State Dinner reception in a tent on the South Lawn, May 19, 2010 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

President Obama adjusts his tie in the Yellow Oval Room of the White House, following a private reception in honor of President Felipe Calderón of Mexico and his wife, Mrs. Margarita Zavala, May 19, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and President Felipe Calderón of Mexico descend the Grand Staircase at the White House, prior to the State Dinner, May 19, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, President Felipe Calderón of Mexico, and his wife, Mrs. Margarita Zavala, attend the State Dinner reception in a tent on the South Lawn of the White House, May 19, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

Dr. Jill Biden listens to music during the State Dinner reception in a tent on the South Lawn of the White House, May 19, 2010

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama dance to music performed by the United States Marine Band, during the State Dinner reception in a tent on the South Lawn of the White House, May 19, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks at the Democratic National Committee’s Women’s Leadership Forum National Issues Conference in Washington on May 19, 2011

President Barack Obama arrives to deliver a speech on Mideast and North Africa policy in the Ben Franklin Room at the State Department May 19, 2011 in Washington, DC

First Lady Michelle Obama hugs a child as she paint a mural during a community service activity day at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington on May 19, 2011

President Obama takes the stage before addressing the Women’s Leadership Forum at the Grand Hyatt Hotel May 19, 2011 in Washington, DC

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First Lady Michelle Obama escorts spouses of G-8 leaders on a tour of the White House, May 19, 2012 – L-R: Margarida Barroso (EU), Elsa Antonioli Monti (partially hidden, Italy), Laureen Harper (Canada), Valerie Trierweiler (France), Geertrui Windels van Rompuy (EU) and Hitomi Noda (Japan)

President Obama with French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrive for a family photo during G8 Summit in Camp David, Maryland on May 19, 2012.

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President Obama smiles after delivering the commencement address to over 500 graduating students at the historically black Morehouse College on May 19, 2013, in Atlanta

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15
May
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder attend the 32nd Annual National Peace Officers Memorial Service at the West Front Lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC on May 15, 2013

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Today (All times Eastern)

9:40 AM: The President and First Lady tour the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, New York City

10:0 AM: The President delivers remarks

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Also at White House Live

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11:20 AM: Depart New York City

12:30 PM: Arrive White House

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A quote from Virgil seen during a press preview of the National September 11 Memorial Museum at the World Trade Center site May 14, 2014 in New York

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Morgan Whitaker: Obamacare Saved Consumers Billions, New Report Finds

A new analysis finds American consumers saved billions in 2011 and 2012 thanks to a key provision of the Affordable Care Act. The report from The Commonwealth Fund released Tuesday finds the medical loss ratio provision, which caps profits for health insurance companies, benefited consumers by about $3 billion over the past two years through a combination of rebates from insurance companies and reduced overhead spending. The law’s provision limits insurance companies to spending a minimum of 80-85% of premiums specifically on treatment and medical costs, rather than overhead and profits.

The rebate receipts sent to consumers hit $1 billion in 2011 and about $500 million in 2012, an indication that insurance providers successfully shifted business models to fit the new spending requirements. In addition to the rebates provided to consumers, insurers reduced profits and spending on general overhead by about $1.4 billion, the report finds. “The medical loss ratio requirement of the Affordable Care Act creates a higher-value insurance product for consumers,” said The Commonwealth Fund President David Blumenthal said in the report. “It ensures that a substantial portion of their premium dollar pays for medical care, as opposed to administrative costs and profits. It also encourages insurers to improve the care their customers receive, by investing in initiatives that will help achieve better outcomes for patients.”

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ABC News: Obama Aide To Oversee VA Review

President Barack Obama is dispatching one of his closest White House advisers to oversee a review of the beleaguered Veterans Affairs Department as the agency grapples with allegations of treatment delays and preventable deaths at a Phoenix veterans hospital. White House deputy chief of staff Rob Nabors will be temporarily assigned to the VA to work on a review focused on policies for patient safety rules and the scheduling of patient appointments, officials said Wednesday. The move signals Obama’s growing concern over problems at the department, particularly recent reports that hospital administrators in Phoenix kept an off-the-books list to conceal long wait times as 40 veterans died waiting to get an appointment. Similar problems have since been reported in other states.

“While we get to the bottom of what happened in Phoenix, it’s clear the VA needs to do more to ensure quality care for our veterans,” Obama said in a statement. “I’m grateful that Rob, one of my most trusted advisers, has agreed to work with Secretary Shinseki to help the team at this important moment.” Despite calls for Shinseki to step down, the White House insists that Obama continues to have confidence in the secretary, a retired four-star Army general. Shinseki said he welcomed Nabors’ help in ensuring veterans have access to timely, quality health care. Though Nabors has kept a low public profile, he is one of Obama’s closest advisers and has played key roles in the president’s fiscal battles with congressional Republicans. Nabors, the son of an Army veteran, was appointed deputy chief of staff following Obama’s re-election and previously served as the president’s chief congressional liaison and deputy budget director.

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Rick Ungar: Who Says Obamacare Is Turning Out To Be Good For The Economy? Goldman Sachs Does, That’s Who!

The news just keeps getting better and better for Obamacare. Marketwatch is reporting that an advisory issued by economic researcher Alec Phillips over at Goldman Sachs reports that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) boosted GDP in the first quarter of 2014 and projects that the same will occur in the second quarter. While Phillips—and other Goldman analysts—had initially been quite skeptical about the impact of the government subsidies provided to the many Americans who will now be able to purchase health insurance, the group has turned a corner and now views the subsidies as a major, beneficial contributor to first quarter numbers and what they project to be second quarter growth of 3.9 percent. Of even greater interest is the explanation provided by the Goldman analyst as to why healthcare spending rose 9.9 percent in the first quarter. Phillips pins the rise not on some undesired side-effect of Obamacare but on the fact that people had money in their pocket to spend on the health of their families as a result of $37 billion boost in personal income—something also projected to continue into the second quarter.

While the U.S. Bureau of Economics had predicted a higher spending figure on healthcare for the first quarter than what turned out to be the case, it is worth noting that the Congressional Budget Office—back when first reviewing the Senate bill to reform healthcare—predicted that we would see such a boost following the first enrollment period of Obamacare. Just because healthcare spending increased substantially in the first quarter does not mean that healthcare prices increased—a detail the GOP hopes you will miss. It simply means that more people were able to get the healthcare they were previously unable to afford; not that those of us who already had access to care had to pay more for that care. Phillips sees the trend continuing, suggesting that the positive effects of Obamacare will boost the economy in 2015 and 2016.

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Katie Lobosco: Washington State Defies Minimum Wage Logic

Raising the minimum wage could lift hundreds of thousands of low-wage workers out of poverty, but it’s also a job killer. Right?
Not so fast. In Washington state, small businesses are adding jobs faster than any other state in the country, according to a report from Paychex and IHS. It’s also the state where minimum wage, at $9.32 per hour, is the highest. The federal minimum wage is just $7.25 an hour, and a battle is raging about whether it should be raised to $10.10. Small businesses, often called the engine of the U.S. economy, find themselves at the heart of the debate. Critics of a wage hike say that raising the minimum wage too high and too fast could put them out of business.

But the report from Paychex and IHS, which measured job additions and layoffs at 350,000 small businesses, could dispute that claim. Not only was Washington the strongest state, San Francisco — with a minimum wage of $10.74, the country’s highest — had the greatest job gains in the past year among cities measured. Washington state has been progressive on the issue for years. The state’s minimum wage rate has been tied to inflation since 1998, and the mayor of Seattle is currently pushing to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15.

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Russ Britt: Obamacare Is Good For The Economy, Goldman Sachs Researcher Says

Obamacare is good for the economy? That’s what one venerable Wall Street brokerage is saying. Alec Phillips, economic researcher at Goldman Sachs, said in a note issued late last week to clients that subsidies from the Affordable Care Act boosted gross domestic product during the first quarter and are likely to do the same during the second quarter. Phillips says that he now has a more optimistic view of the second quarter’s GDP growth, with a gain of 3.9% now estimated, and 4.5% annualized growth in real personal consumption.

“While we were initially skeptical of the large estimated effect of the new subsidies on personal income, these now look more reasonable to us in light of revisions, greater enrollment than expected several months ago, and the fact that states are likely contributing to the subsidies on top of the well-known estimates of federal costs,” Phillips said. But the health-care industry won’t be the only one to benefit, Phillips says, as subsidies will free up income for those who had no coverage before, as well as those who had insurance but were paying for it themselves. “Overall, around 40% of the subsidies should find their way to non-health consumption this year,” he wrote.

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America’s Foremost Dumb Dumb

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William Douglas: McCain: Send U.S. Troops To Rescue Kidnapped Girls In Nigeria

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., wants to see more than hashtag messages voicing displeasure over the abduction of nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls by the terrorist group Boko Haram. He wants to see U.S. troops go into Nigera and rescue the girls, even if it means doing so without permission from the Nigerian government. ‘If they knew where they were, I certainly would send in U.S. troops to rescue them, in a New York minute I would, without the permission of the host country,’ McCain said Tuesday. Referring to Nigeria’s president, McCain added: ‘I wouldn’t be waiting for some kind of permission from some guy named Goodluck Jonathan.’

Thus far, the Obama administration has sent a team to Nigeria that includes FBI officials with hostage negotiation skills, five State Department officials, including a team leader, two strategic communications experts, a civiliam security expert and a regional medical support officer. There are also 10 Defense Department planners and advisers who were already in Nigeria and have been instructed to provide support to the kidnapping response, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters.

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TPM: Federal Judge Denies Governor’s Motion To Put Idaho Gay Marriages On Hold

A federal magistrate judge has refused to put gay marriages on hold in Idaho pending an appeal from the state’s governor. U.S. District Magistrate Judge Candy Dale wrote Wednesday morning that Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s appeal isn’t likely to succeed, and so there’s no reason to keep same-sex couples from seeking marriage licenses or marrying on Friday. On Tuesday, Dale struck down Idaho’s same-sex marriage ban in response to a lawsuit from four Idaho couples.

Dale said Idaho’s law unconstitutionally denies gay and lesbian couples their fundamental right to marry and wrongly stigmatizes their families. She said the state must start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples Friday morning. Gay marriage is legal in 17 states and the District of Columbia.

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Greg Sargent: Time To Revisit Conventional Wisdom About Politics Of Obamacare

The initial conventional wisdom about the Arkansas Senate race — that incumbent Mark Pryor is the nation’s preeminent Dead Dem Walking — is rapidly getting revised in the wake of new polls showing him ahead of GOP Rep. Tom Cotton. So perhaps, in the context of the Arkansas race, it’s also worth revisiting the conventional wisdom that Obamacare is nothing but a hideous liability for Democrats, and can only shower Republicans with political gold from now until election day. One of Senator Pryor’s senior campaign strategists tells me Pryor will not shy away from making the case that the state’s “private option” —

its version of the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare — represents Pryor’s brand of good governance, and that Cotton’s repeal stance is extreme and bad for the state. This is particularly relevant right now, as a fascinating new report from David Ramsey of the Arkansas Times demonstrates. Ramsey reports that the bipartisan private option — which uses Medicaid funds to expand private coverage to 150,000 Arkansans — has become a major issue in several state legislative Republican primaries.

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Louise Radnofsky: A Washington State Health Insurer Plans To Cut Rates In 2015

An insurer in Washington state selling plans under the Affordable Care Act is proposing to lower customers’ health premiums next year in what appears to be one of the first such decreases proposed for 2015. The proposal by Molina Healthcare Inc. MOH +0.60% was part of a batch of state rate filings released Monday that included Washington and Indiana. While most carriers are seeking increases, Molina’s filing signals that insurers that priced cautiously for 2014 could face pressure to be more competitive in the second full year of the law’s insurance marketplaces. Molina proposed a decrease averaging 6.8% for Washington customers for 2015. It told state regulators in its rate filing that it was betting that people signing up through the insurance exchange were in better health than the carrier previously thought,

and that it anticipated new entrants when the law’s penalties for not carrying coverage grow next year. Molina, a company that historically has focused on managed Medicaid plans, offered some of the most expensive premiums among insurers selling on the Washington exchange in this year. It said it had only about 1,200 members in 2014. Ben Lynam, vice president for Molina’s actuarial pricing, said in an interview that the company had made conservative assumptions for 2014 about the medical claims likely to be incurred by its enrollees, in part because it hadn’t had much previous commercial experience. “With hindsight and looking at what’s going on across the country…we’ve improved those assumptions and lowered our rates in 2015,” he said.

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Reuters: Jobless Claims Hit Seven-Year Low, Inflation Ticks Up

New applications for U.S. unemployment benefits hit a seven-year low last week while consumer prices recorded their largest increase in 10 months in April, pointing to a firming economy. The economy’s outlook was further brightened by other data on Thursday showing factory activity in New York state expanding at its quickest pace in nearly four years in May. “It conveys the message of solid economic activity. Labor conditions continue to improve and I expect this will be validated by payroll reports over the next few months,” said Anthony Karydakis, chief economic strategist at Miller Tabak in New York.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits declined 24,000 to a seasonally adjusted 297,000, the Labor Department said, offering fresh evidence the jobs market was strengthening. That was the lowest reading since May 2007 and brought claims back to their pre-recession level. Economists had forecast first-time applications ticking up to 320,000 last week. In a second report, the department said its Consumer Price Index increased 0.3 percent last month as food prices rose for a fourth consecutive month and the cost of gasoline surged. The rise in the CPI was the biggest rise since June last year and added to March’s 0.2 percent rise. The combination of a strengthening jobs market and an uptick in inflation pressures should give the Federal Reserve ammunition to continue scaling back its monetary stimulus. However, the U.S. central bank is not expected to start raising overnight interest rates, currently near zero, before the second half of 2015.

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On This Day

President Obama takes a stroll through the White House Rose Garden, May 15, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama walks in the White House Rose Garden, May 15, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama meets with former Secretary of State, General Colin Powell, in the Oval Office, May 15, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins gives President Obama a Phillies jersey and autographed baseball while Obama welcomes the 2008 Major League Baseball World Series Champion Philadelphia Phillies at the White House, May 15, 2009

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First Lady Michelle Obama addresses Spelman graduates at their May 15, 2011 commencement.

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President Obama greets people in the audience at the National Peace Officers Memorial Service, an annual ceremony honoring law enforcement who were killed in the line of duty, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., May 15, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama presents a birthday cake to Admiral Jonathan Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations, during a dinner for Combatant Commanders and senior military leadership in the Blue Room of the White House, May 15, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama and Attorney General Holder attend the 32nd Annual National Peace Officers Memorial Service at the West Front Lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC on May 15, 2013

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President Obama poses with a souvenir jersey as he is flanked by players David Beckham and Landon Donovan, members of the LA Galaxy, Major League Soccer’s Championship team, at the White House, May 15, 2012

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