Posts Tagged ‘kerry



09
Jun
14

Rise and Shine

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

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Today (All Times Eastern)

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

12:30: Josh Earnest briefs the press

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

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

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

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The Week Ahead

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NYT: Obama Plans Steps To Ease Student Debt

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

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

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

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

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

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By the very wonderful @Chanlowe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sen. Phillip P. Puckett

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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On This Day

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

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

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19
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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I May Never Stop Laughing:

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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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29
Apr
14

Rise and Shine

President Obama shakes hands with a young girl after arriving at Miami International Airport in Miami, Fla., April 29, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today

President Obama is returning from his Asian trip, he is scheduled to arrive at the White House at 6:0 PM EDT

2:30 EDT: Vice President Biden Speaks at an Event Releasing the First Report of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault

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Sara Kliff: Republican Replacement For Obamacare Is Fauxobamacare

Scott Brown, who’s now running for Senate in New Hampshire, has found the perfect position on Obamacare. He’s for it. He’s just not for calling it Obamacare. In an interview with WBUR, he called Obamacare a “disaster.” Then he was asked what he’s for  — and he went on to describe Obamacare. “I’ve always felt that people should either get some type of health care options, or pay for it with a nice competitive fee,” he said. “That’s all great. I believe it in my heart. In terms of preexisting conditions, catastrophic coverages, covering kids, whatever we want to do.”

He even said it could “include the Medicaid expansion [for] folks who need that care and coverage.” Oh, he also promises his plan won’t raise taxes, cut spending on Medicare, or make people drive very far to go to the hospital. So his plan will have more generous insurance options and no way to pay for them. In other words, his plan will be like Obamacare, but even better! Call it Fauxbamacare.

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Brian Beutler: Buzzfeed Chronicles Paul Ryan’s Metamorphosis, Ignores His Frightening Budget

If I had to draw one conclusion from McKay Coppins’ latest Paul Ryan bildungsroman in Buzzfeed, it would be that Ryan wants public documentation of his metamorphosis from tough-love austerian into a tribune for the poor. But that he doesn’t want it captured in the context of everything else he’s done for his entire career.

…. House Republicans passed his budget on April 10. It proposes monumental cuts to social programs for the poor.

But most of that context is invisible in the profile, as is any indication that Ryan’s actually changed his thinking about how to reduce poverty. And it’s thus silent on the basic question of whether Ryan’s serious at all, or playing us for fools.

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Amy Worden: Pa. Judge Won’t Reconsider Voter ID Ruling

A Commonwealth Court judge on Monday denied the Corbett administration’s request to reconsider his ruling overturning the state’s two-year-old voter identification law. In a 29-page decision, Judge Bernard L. McGinley said the law requiring Pennsylvania voters to produce photo ID at the polls failed “to provide liberal access to compliant photo ID” and, as a result, disenfranchised voters. “The evidence showed the voter ID provisions at issue deprive numerous electors of their fundamental right to vote, so vital to our democracy,” wrote McGinley, who struck down the law in January. The Corbett administration has 30 days to file an appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Joshua Maus, spokesman for the Office of General Counsel, said the office was reviewing the ruling. Lawyers representing plaintiffs in the case praised the ruling. “The court confirmed that the photo ID law is unnecessary and disenfranchises hundreds of thousands of people,” said Jennifer Clarke, executive director of the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia. “We call on the governor, the attorney general, and the secretary of state to stop spending our precious state dollars on defending this law, so dangerous to our democratic system.”

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Steve Benen: Poverty, Policy, And Paul Ryan

If it seems every few months brings us another installment in the “Paul Ryan cares about poor people” series, it’s not your imagination. In November, the Washington Post helped get the ball rolling with a front-page article on the House Budget Committee chairman, celebrating the congressman for his efforts “fighting poverty and winning minds.”

The gist of the piece was that the far-right congressman is entirely sincere about using conservative ideas to combat poverty.

In December, BuzzFeed’s McKay Coppins ran a related piece, and today Coppins published another: Ryan is “trying to challenge the notion that his party is out of touch with poor people the old-fashioned way: by talking to some.”

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Mark Berman: Why The World Finally Noticed Donald Sterling’s Appalling History

The Donald Sterling who is dominating headlines and drawing widespread condemnation for allegedly saying a metric ton of racist things is the same Donald Sterling who has a long, long, long history of being accused of saying or doing offensive things. So why is this time — and why are these particular remarks — different? Why has the world suddenly discovered Donald Sterling?
Consider that Bomani Jones wrote a story headlined “Sterling’s racism should be news” in 2006. Again: 2006. Eight years and 351 losses by the Clippers ago. Jones wrote this after Sterling was sued for housing discrimination. In the lawsuit, Sterling was accused of refusing to rent apartments to black people.

Yet, it took an audio recording allegedly capturing Sterling saying astonishingly bigoted things for the world to finally notice. This incident is clearly different, owing to a combination of what he said, the fact that people can hear it for themselves and the era in which he said it. In the past, Sterling’s comments were delivered through testimonies and depositions. Offensive statements made during a deposition and reprinted later can spark an outcry, as Paula Deen can attest to, but the Deen episode occurred with someone who was much more famous than Sterling. This episode with the audio recording combines offensive comments with an easy way for people to hear a real human being say these things.

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Ishaan Tharoor: U.S.-Philippines Security Deal Shows That America Still Has Its Fans

The new 10-year defense agreement is perhaps the most significant achievement of Obama’s four-country tour of Asia, where the Philippines was the final destination. U.S. troops now have expanded access to Philippine facilities and will participate in an increased number of joint military exercises with the archipelago nation. There’s no plan at present for a permanent American troop presence nor a clear indication that the U.S. would come to the Philippines’ defense in the face of an external threat. But the pact represents something an about-face for Manila: more than two decades ago, the last U.S. naval base in the country at Subic Bay — a legacy of nearly half a century of American colonial rule — was shut down. (At the time, Aquino’s mother, Corazon, was the country’s President.)

Manila’s alliance with Washington has strengthened under Aquino.Aquino’s stance perceptibly hardened and he has become perhaps the most forthright statesman in Southeast Asia when it comes to confronting perceived Chinese aggression. Obama, meanwhile, reiterated that the new defense deal with the Philippines was not about containing China. But it’s hard not to view it in the context of a larger geopolitical chess match in the Pacific. The U.S. now has greater operational flexibility when contemplating maneuvers and actions in the South China Sea.

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Jennifer Steinhauer: White House To Press Colleges To Do More To Combat Rape

Reacting to a series of highly publicized rapes on college campuses, the White House on Monday released guidelines that increase the pressure on universities to more aggressively combat sexual assaults on campus. The recommendations urge colleges, among other measures, to conduct anonymous surveys about sexual assault cases, adopt anti-assault policies that have been considered successful at other universities and to better ensure that the reports of such crimes remain confidential. The guidelines are contained in a report by a White House task force that President Obama formed early this year, and

the administration is likely to ask Congress to pass measures that would enforce the recommendations and levy penalties for failing to do so. The government will also open a website, NotAlone.gov, to track enforcement and provide victims with information. “Colleges and universities need to face the facts about sexual assault,” Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said. “No more turning a blind eye or pretending it doesn’t exist. We need to give victims the support they need, like a confidential place to go, and we need to bring the perpetrators to justice.”

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Washington Post: Mr. Boehner Comes Clean On Immigration Reform

IN WASHINGTON, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) peddles one line on immigration reform that is transparently false. In his district in Ohio, he becomes a truth-teller. For months, Mr. Boehner has tried to justify the intransigence of his fellow House Republicans, who have refused to consider a Senate measure to overhaul the broken immigration system. His stated reason was that they could not trust President Obama to enforce any law passed by Congress. But on Thursday, at a meeting at a rotary club lunch in southwestern Ohio, an area Mr. Boehner has represented for more than two decades, he gave it to ’em straight. Asked about immigration reform, the speaker squarely blamed his GOP caucus, with more than a hint of derision.

“Here’s the attitude,” he said, scrunching up his face and delivering the real Republican excuse in a toddler’s whine: “ ‘Ohhhh, don’t make me do this! Ohhhh, this is too hard!’ ” The trouble is that this bracing shot of honesty from Mr. Boehner probably will not fix the underlying problem, which is a Republican Party that cannot see a future for itself, or for the nation, beyond its own predominantly white, aging electorate. House Republicans, rooted in parts of the country demographically distinct from an increasingly diverse nation, are loath to embrace the nation’s Hispanics in part because relatively few of them live or vote in their districts. As they cling to an older America, a new America is rising fast.

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LA Times: White House Will Announce New Measures To Combat Sexual Assault On Campus

The White House will announce new measures Tuesday to deal with campus sexual assault, an issue that in recent years has inflamed college campuses from Yale to UC Berkeley. The recommendations from a task force of federal officials headed by Vice President Joe Biden include publicizing enforcement data, issuing guidelines about confidentiality, and requiring colleges and universities to survey students on their experiences with sexual assault. Colleges and universities will be asked to survey students next year to determine the prevalence of sexual assault on campus and may be required to conduct such a survey in 2016. A website, NotAlone.gov, will be unveiled to make each school’s enforcement data public, and to publish information about student rights and resources.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will release recommendations on how to prevent sexual violence, particularly on how to get bystanders to step in when students are at risk of assault. The federal government will also address the touchy issue of confidentiality. Often victims ask that their names not be revealed to their attackers or the police, putting campus authorities in a bind in conducting investigations. The government will clarify that students can talk to certain guidance counselors in confidence and will issue guidelines on how to deal with confidentiality in resolving reports of violence. Schools will be asked to improve their investigative and adjudicative procedures under guidance from the Justice Department. New guidance will be issued making clear that questions about a victim’s sexual history should not be permitted during school hearings and that a previous sexual relationship does not imply consent.

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Ben Armbruster: Like Kerry, Seniors Israeli Officials Have Warned Of Israel Becoming ‘An Apartheid State’

he Daily Beast reported on Sunday that Secretary of State John Kerry said that Israel risks becoming “an apartheid state” should the Israelis and Palestinians fail to reach a two-state solution to their decades old conflict, a warning that many top Israeli officials themselves have issued. “A two-state solution will be clearly underscored as the only real alternative. Because a unitary state winds up either being an apartheid state with second-class citizens—or it ends up being a state that destroys the capacity of Israel to be a Jewish state,” Kerry reportedly said in a private meeting with world leaders. “Once you put that frame in your mind, that reality, which is the bottom line, you understand how imperative it is to get to the two-state solution, which both leaders, even yesterday, said they remain deeply committed to.”

 A number of very senior Israeli officials have also warned that Israel risks becoming an apartheid-like state absent a two-state solution: 2007 — then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert: “If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights (also for the Palestinians in the territories), then, as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished.” 2010 — then-Israeli Defense Minister and Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak: “The simple truth is, if there is one state” including Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, “it will have to be either binational or undemocratic. … if this bloc of millions of Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state.”

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Zack Ford: United Church Of Christ Sues North Carolina For Right To Marry Same-Sex Couples

The United Church of Christ (UCC), joined by a group of LGBT-friendly clergy and same-sex couples, has filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of North Carolina’s laws and constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Not only does the ban inhibit same-sex couples’ equal protection under the law, the complaint argues, but it also violates the religious liberty of these religious leaders.

That is because North Carolina has a separate law that prohibits ministers from solemnizing a marriage without a license for that marriage. If charged, a minister would be found guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor and charged a fee of $200. Thus, a religious organization like the UCC, which celebrates same-sex marriages, can not even honor that religious ceremony without violating the law. The complaint explains how this hurts both the UCC, as well as the other clergy and couples party to the suit

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Kyle Roerink: Las Vegas Helping Lead Charge In Fight To Reform Minimum Wage

Dalven McClain, a 19-year-old fast-food worker, wants to make more money. McClain works at a Las Vegas McDonald’s to save up for classes at UNLV. He earns $8.79 an hour, 54 cents more than the state minimum wage and $1.54 more than the federal minimum. But he says it’s still not enough. He’s stuck living with his parents and hasn’t been able to afford college. McClain has helped make Las Vegas a hotbed in the national campaign to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10. The battle pits retail and restaurant workers against the businesses that employ them, and congressional Democrats against Republicans.

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, introduced the Minimum Wage Fairness Act in November. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the bill would hit the chamber’s floor for a vote this week. The bill is part of the Democrats’ 2014 midterm election campaign that also includes immigration reform and pay equity between men and women. While workers rallied for bigger paychecks, partisan politics has so far stalled the bill in Washington. President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders say the bill would lift 900,000 Americans out of poverty, citing a February report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. To become law, the bill will have to pass the Republican-controlled House, where both mainstream conservatives and Tea Party backers assail the legislation.

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On This Day

First Lady Michelle Obama volunteers for Feeding America with congressional spouses at the Capitol City Food Bank in northeast Washington, D.C., April 29, 2009 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)

President Obama with senior advisors in the Blue Room after a prime time press conference which was held in the East Room of the White House, April 29, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama walks down the Cross Hall towards the East Room of the White House prior to a prime time press conference, April 29, 2009 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

President Obama approaches the podium prior to a prime time press conference in the East Room of the White House, April 29, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama speaks during a prime time news conference in the East Room of the White House, April 29, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama participates in a ceremony to recognize the National Teachers of the Year in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington on April 29, 2010

President Obama hugs National Teacher of the Year Sarah Brown Wessling of Johnston High School in Johnston, Iowa

First Lady Michelle Obama paints a butterfly at a Congressional Club spouses service event at the Marie Reed Learning Center in the Adams Morgan community of northwest Washington on April 29, 2010

First Lady Michelle Obama gestures to Bo, the Obama family dog, on the South Lawn of the White House, April 29, 2010 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)

President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Vice President Biden bow their heads during the funeral for Dorothy Height at Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., April 29, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama returns to his seat after delivering the eulogy at the funeral for Dorothy Height at Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., April 29, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama talks with participants from the 1968 Memphis sanitation strike, an iconic campaign in civil rights and labor rights history, during a meeting in the Map Room of the White House, April 29, 2011 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama comfort people at Holt Elementary School in Holt, Ala., April 29, 2011. The President and First Lady traveled to Alabama to visit storm damaged neighborhoods and meet with families affected by deadly tornados (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama inspect tornado damage with residents of the Alberta neighborhood in Tuscaloosa, Ala., April 29, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, daughters Malia, left, Sasha, and Astronaut Janet Kavandi walk under the landing gear from beneath the nose of space shuttle Atlantis as they visit Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida on April 29, 2011

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama meet with STS-134 space shuttle Endeavor commander Mark Kelly, right, and shuttle astronauts, from left, Andrew Feustel, European Space Agency’s Roberto Vittori, Michael Fincke, Gregory H. Johnson, and Greg Chamitoff

President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, daughters Sasha and Malia, and Marian Robinson, stand on the viewing platform where they would have watched the launch of the Space Shuttle Endeavor at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., April 29, 2011. The launch was delayed due to an electrical heating problem (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama talks with former President Bill Clinton before an event in McLean, Va., Sunday, April 29, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx delivers remarks after President Obama announced him to be his nominee as the next Transportation Secretary, during a ceremony at the White House on April 29, 2013

President Obama greets Jack Hoffman, 7, of Atkinson, Neb., in the Oval Office, April 29, 2013. Hoffman, who is battling pediatric brain cancer, gained national attention after he ran for a 69-yard touchdown during a Nebraska Cornhuskers spring football game. Hoffman holds a football that the President signed for him (Photo by Pete Souza)

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22
Apr
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama greets members of the audience following his remarks at an Earth Day reception in the Rose Garden of the White House, April 22, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern):

10:05 AM EDT: President Obama departs White House

3:30 EDT: Arrives Paine Field, Washington State

6:50 EDT: Delivers remarks, Oso Firehouse, Oso, Washington

8:0 PDT: Departs Washington for Tokyo, Japan

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Spandan Chakrabarti: The Real Story Of #8Million

Actually, it’s a story of nearly 20 million, if you count everyone who has health insurance directly thanks to the Affordable Care Act. And it could be the story of nearly 6 million more, who are being denied health insurance by Republicans refusing to fully federally funded Medicaid in states they control. It’s a story of tens of millions more, and millions of seniors who now have better coverage and no yearly limits on coverage. But last week’s big number was 8 million. The President announced that 8 million American have enrolled in private health insurance coverage through the exchanges, and in addition, 3 million more are covered under the Medicaid expansion, 3 million young adults can stay on their parents’ plans, and 5 million who bought ACA compliant plans outside the exchanges. I got an email with links to people telling their stories about finally being able to afford health insurance.

The story of these millions, though, is more encompassing than those who gained coverage. The story of the single dad who can no longer be denied health care because of a pre-existing condition, the story of a small business owner who can no longer be charged more just because she’s a woman, the story of a cancer survivor who no longer has to fret that in the third month of the year, she will have reached her annual limit from her insurer – all these stories are possible because of a story that is told far too rarely in the American discourse. That story begins with a young, charismatic newly elected president of the United States for whom health care reform wasn’t just a campaign promise but a deeply rooted cause from which he wouldn’t waver even when his political advisers wanted him to retreat. It begins with the overwhelming election of a president who, in his own words, was willing to become a one-term president to make sure that never again does a mother have to think twice about taking her sick child to the doctor. It’s a story of courage, of overcoming an unprecedented campaign of obstruction, of decoupling progress from ideological checklists.

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Vice President Joe Biden talks with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk during a meeting in Kiev, Ukraine

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Boston Globe: Russia Must ‘Stop Talking And Start Acting,’ Biden Says

US Vice President Joe Biden warned Russia on Tuesday that ‘‘it’s time to stop talking and start acting’’ to reduce tension in Ukraine. Standing alongside acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Biden called on Moscow to encourage pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine to vacate government buildings and checkpoints, accept amnesty and ‘‘address their grievances politically.’’ Biden said Russia needs to act ‘‘without delay,’’ adding, ‘‘We will not allow this to become an open-ended process.’’ The vice president also announced the United States will provide an additional $50 million to help Ukraine’s beleaguered government with political and economic reforms.

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Vice President Joe Biden is greeted by Oleksandr Turchynov, the acting Ukrainian president

The money includes $11 million to help conduct the May 25 presidential election, including voter education, administration and oversight. It also will help fund expert teams from US government agencies to help Ukraine to reduce its reliance on energy supplies from Russia. Other technical advisers will help fight corruption. The White House also announced $8 million in nonlethal military assistance for the Ukrainian armed forces, including bomb-disposal equipment, communications gear and vehicles. In the most high-level visit of a US official since crisis erupted in Ukraine, Biden met privately with Yatsenyuk and acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov.

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Vice President Joe Biden addresses members of the Ukrainian parliament during a meeting

Biden said they have an historic chance now that former President Viktor Yanukovych has fled the country. ‘‘This is a second opportunity to make good on the original promise made by the Orange Revolution,’’ Biden said in a reference to 2004 protests that overturned a widely criticized election that had given Yanukovych the presidency. Yanukovych later took office but left the country after violent protests in February. Biden added, ‘‘To be very blunt about it, and this is a delicate thing to say to a group of leaders in their house of parliament, but you have to fight the cancer of corruption that is endemic in your system right now.’’ He mentioned reforming the courts and finding the right balance of power between the president and Rada.

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CBS: DHS May Limit Deportations Of Illegal Immigrants

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson is considering limiting deportations of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally but without serious criminal records, according to the Associated Press. On President Obama’s orders, Johnson is conducting a politically charged review of U.S. deportation policy. The potential change could shield tens of thousands of immigrants now removed each year solely because of repeated immigration violations, such as re-entering the country after being deported. The possible move was confirmed by two people with knowledge of Johnson’s review: John Sandweg, formerly acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and an immigration advocate who has discussed the review with administration officials but spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions were confidential.

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Department Of Justice: Department Of Justice Announces University Tour By Administration Officials To Raise Awareness Of Campus Sexual Assault

In recognition of the 20th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the Department of Justice today announced a nationwide university tour by top administration officials to raise awareness of campus sexual assault. From April 23-May 1, senior officials from the Departments of Justice and Education will visit campuses across the country, including public and private universities, community colleges, historically black colleges and faith-based and tribal-affiliated institutions around the nation. Officials will speak with campus administrators, local law enforcement, community partners, local service providers and students about how best practices and lessons learned are playing out in areas such as prevention, public awareness and peer support. Visits will also highlight the role that federal, state and local government, working with university administrators, faculty and students, should play.

Each campus on the tour is a recipient of the department’s Office on Violence Against Women’s “Grants to Reduce Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence and Stalking on Campus Program.” The Campus Program funds institutions of higher education to adopt comprehensive responses to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking, creating partnerships among campus entities and with community-based victim services organizations and criminal and civil justice agencies. Campus Program grantees must provide prevention programs for all incoming students; train campus law enforcement or security staff; educate campus judicial or disciplinary boards on the unique dynamics of these crimes; and create a coordinated community response to enhance victim assistance and safety while holding offenders accountable.

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NYT: Obama Names White House Counsel

President Obama announced Monday that he was naming W. Neil Eggleston, a veteran lawyer with extensive experience representing government officials in congressional and criminal investigations, as his next White House counsel. In choosing a veteran of Washington’s recurring oversight wars, the White House may be signaling that it expects the final two years of Mr. Obama’s presidency to be defined by politically charged hearings, demands for information by Republicans in Congress and legal battles over the scope and limits of executive authority.

Mr. Eggleston, 60, a partner at Kirkland & Ellis, one of the nation’s biggest corporate law firms, will succeed Kathryn Ruemmler, who is stepping down after nearly three years. Mr. Eggleston will start the second week of May. “Neil brings extraordinary expertise, credentials and experience to our team,” Mr. Obama said in a statement. “He has a passion for public service, is renowned for his conscientiousness and foresight, and I look forward to working closely with him in the coming years.”

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Your LOL tweet of the morning. This is how the GOP “rebrands”

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Washington Post: Iran Vice President Says Row Over Nuclear Reactor Resolved

Iran will redesign its Arak heavy water reactor to greatly limit the amount of plutonium it can make, the country’s vice president said Saturday, marking a major concession from the Islamic Republic in negotiations with world powers over its contested nuclear program. The comments by Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi come as the talks face an informal July 20 deadline to hammer out a final deal to limit Iran’s ability to build nuclear arms in exchange for ending the crippling economic sanctions it faces.

Iranian state television quoted Salehi, who heads the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, as saying that Iran has proposed to redesign Arak to produce one-fifth of the plutonium initially planned for it. He said that will eliminate concerns the West has that Iran could use the plutonium produced at Arak to build a nuclear weapon. There was no immediate comment from world powers, which include China, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the U.S. and Russia. However, what to do with Arak, a still under-construction 40-megawatt heavy water plant in central Iran, is a key factor in negotiations.

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Lauren Rankin: Blackburn Hasn’t Been Right About The GOP And Women Since The 1970s

After appearing on CBS’ Face the Nation on Sunday, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) made headlines and spurred double-takes with her claim that it is the Republican party — not the Democratic party — that is fighting for women’s rights. If we’re going back through history as Blackburn implores us to do, she’s right. Historically, the Republican party was the stronghold for women’s activists in the early 20th century. But as the two parties essentially switched ideological places from 1970-1973, feminists lost favor with the Republican party. It’s been downhill ever since. So what happened? Well, simply put, the New Right happened. Though initially the New Right was split on women’s issues (some even favored abortion rights and the ERA), they quickly realized the political power of social conservatives who had abandoned the Democratic party as it moved towards racial and gender justice. In order to appeal to disenchanted conservative Democrats, the Republican party trapped itself in a self-imposed ideological jail of religious fundamentalism and extreme conservatism, one from which today’s GOP cannot seem to escape.

Today’s Republican party is basically the embarrassing fanatic uncle of the Republican party of the early 20th century. They have become overtaken by a rabid, radical fringe, one that opposes every single aspect of women’s equality, from abortion and contraception access to equal pay, from access to affordable healthcare to a living wage. What Rep. Marsha Blackburn and other Republicans are banking on by peddling the Republican past as indicative of their present is that no one bothers to pay any attention to the absolutely atrocious record of the Republican party on women’s issues in recent memory, particularly in the last decade. Rather than attempting to beat back the Democratic claims of a “War on Women” by citing history, the Republican party would do well to actually enact some of the current policies they deceptively claim to champion. There isn’t a single women’s rights issue that serves as a bragging right for today’s GOP.

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Greg Sargent: No, Dems Are Not Uniformly Running Away From Obamacare

Mary Landrieu is one of the most vulnerable Senate Democratic incumbents, and her difficult reelection challenges — like those of other endangered Dems – are said to be all about Obamacare. So it’s curious that Senator Landrieu is aggressively campaigning for a major piece of the law that’s dragging her down: the Medicaid expansion currently being debated in her state. Dems there hope to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to get around Governor Bobby Jindal’s opposition that would ask Louisiana voters if they want billions in Medicaid expansion money to cover hundreds of thousands. Getting it on the ballot is a long shot — it would require two thirds of both houses of the legislature — but the fact is that Landrieu held a conference call last week with local media to push the idea. She has met with state editorial boards to advocate for the expansion, winning a positive editorial in the Times-Picayune. She’s going out with an email to her campaign list urging the constitutional amendment and slamming the “Jindal gap,” i.e., the Medicaid gap. She’ll hit opponent Bill Cassidy over the issue.

Landrieu greeted the recent news of high signups by saying that the ACA “holds great promise and is getting stronger every day.” All of this is not to say that Dems are running aggressively on Obamacare. They aren’t. But the widespread claim that they are uniformly running away from it is too simplistic. It’s more complicated than that. In North Carolina, Kay Hagan is airing a radio ad that hits likely GOP foe Thom Tillis over his equivocations on repeal, and she will hit his opposition to the state exchange and Medicaid expansion to build the case that he is anti-middle class. In Alaska, Dems have run an ad for Mark Begich that features a woman discussing how she benefitted from the law in unusually personal terms. Dem Super PACs have run ads in North Carolina and Michigan dramatizing how the GOP repeal stance would take the law’s benefits away.

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Steve Benen: Stuck In The First Stage Of Grief

At a press conference last week, President Obama announced a figure that was hard to even imagine a month ago: 8 million consumers signed up for private insurance through exchange marketplaces during the Affordable Care Act’s open-enrollment period. Obama also took a moment to chide Republicans for having been wrong about practically every aspect of the debate. “I recognize that their party is going through the stages of grief,” he said, “and we’re not at acceptance yet. ”That sounds about right, though I’m not sure the GOP is “going through the stages of grief” so much as it’s stuck on the first one. If the process is believed to have five stages – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance – we have quite a ways to go before “acceptance” is even on the horizon.

Denial still dominates. Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) said Monday he believes the uninsured rate in his state has increased since implementation of the 2010 health care reform law. There are a wide variety of counts when it comes to determining just how many uninsured Americans have been able to get coverage, but all of the reports have something important in common: they all show the rate of the uninsured going down, not up. But to argue that the number of uninsured people is climbing is comparable to arguing that the federal budget deficit is getting larger; the planet is experiencing global cooling; and Obama has pushed use of executive orders to new heights. Oh wait, conservative Republicans often believe all of those bogus claims, too.

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Sahil Kapur: Supreme Court To Hear Case Challenging Ban On Campaign Lies

The Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments Tuesday in an important case about the validity of an Ohio state law banning false statements about political candidates in campaigns. The challenge was brought by the Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion group, which wants to invalidate the Ohio law. In 2010, it sought to put up a billboard claiming Rep. Steve Driehaus (D) supported taxpayer funding of abortion. The advertising company, under pressure from Driehaus who appealed to the Ohio Elections Commission to block the billboard under the statute, refused to put it up. (Driehaus lost reelection anyway.)

A lower court found that the SBA List lacked standing to sue. The 6th Circuit and 8th Circuit courts of appeals have issued split rulings on whether state laws banning false statements are permissible under the First Amendment. There’s a real chance the Supreme Court won’t weigh in on the merits of this case. If the justices conclude that the SBA List has standing, they’re expected to send it back to the lower courts to consider the merits first.

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WTSP: FL Same-Sex Lawsuit Couple Attends W.H. Easter Egg Roll

A Florida couple suing the for marriage equality joined the first family Monday for the Annual White House Easter Egg Roll. The Aleniers were one of six couples that joined Equality Florida Institute to file the lawsuit in pursuit of marriage protections for their family. They, along with their son Ethan, were among the 30,000 people crowded on the South Lawn

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Reuters: U.S. Secretary Of State Urges Russia To Help Implement Ukraine Agreement

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged Russia on Monday to meet Ukraine halfway in trying to implement an agreement to defuse the crisis in the former Soviet republic. Kerry spoke with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov by telephone on Monday morning, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. Russia, Ukraine, the European Union and the United States on Thursday agreed on ways to ease tensions in the worst confrontation between Russia and the West since the Cold War.

“The secretary urged Russia to take concrete steps to help implement the Geneva agreement, including publicly calling on separatists to vacate illegal buildings and checkpoints, accept amnesty and address their grievances politically,” Psaki said at a news briefing. With pro-Moscow separatists showing no sign of surrendering government buildings they have seized in eastern Ukraine, Washington pegged a threat of new sanctions on Russia to how hard Moscow tries to make the Geneva agreement work. “If progress is not made in coming days, we will impose further costs,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

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Reuters: Conservative Koch-Backed Group Uses Soft Touch In Recruiting U.S. Hispanics

The conservative advocacy groups backed by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch are known mostly for spending millions of dollars to pelt Democratic candidates with negative television ads. But this year, one Koch-backed group is using a softer touch to try to win over part of the nation’s booming Hispanic population, which has overwhelmingly backed Democrats in recent elections. The group, known as The Libre Initiative, is sponsoring English classes, driver’s license workshops and other social programs to try to build relationships with Hispanic voters in cities from Arizona to Florida – even as the group targets Democratic lawmakers with hard-edged TV ads. “If they trust us, they may seek our opinion on something else,” said Michael Barrera, a former Bush administration official who now works for Libre, which says it has built a mailing list of 90,000 people during the past three years.

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Libre’s task is complicated by Republican lawmakers’ reluctance to act on a proposed overhaul of the United States’ immigration laws and the harsh rhetoric used by some Republicans that many Americans have seen as anti-Hispanic or anti-immigrant, pollsters say. And even as Libre launches an ad campaign that paints President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act as an expensive failure, Obamacare remains more popular among Hispanics than it is in the overall population. At a recent Hispanic business fair in Orlando, Libre set up panel discussions on family-owned businesses and the shortcomings of Obamacare. Neither event drew much of an audience, but by the end of the day Libre had added 150 names to its mailing list. Several of those who signed up said they were drawn in by the chance to win a tablet computer that was raffled off by Libre, rather than any enthusiasm for conservative ideas. None said they were aware of Libre’s conservative agenda. Libre’s only public filing shows that it took in $2.15 million in revenue during the 12 months that ended June 30, 2012. The report does not say where the money came from, but separate filings show two Koch-backed groups, Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce Inc. and TC4 Trust, gave at least $3.8 million to Libre during an 18-month period that includes the time covered by Libre’s report.

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Brian Beutler: Obamacare’s Success Is Destroying The GOP’s Midterm Strategy

If you’re a decent person, or someone who hasn’t contracted a political bug, the most satisfying thing about the Affordable Care Act’s enrollment total is the knowledge that it’s improved many people’s lives, and contributed to a sizable reduction in the uninsured population. But if you have a lot invested in the law’s success, you’re also relieved to have an answer to everyone trying to create the impression that Obamacare is a slow-rolling fiasco. Republicans won’t stop saying these things, but there’s an amusing tension between calling something a “slow-rolling fiasco” in one breath and then positing that perhaps 10 percent of the millions of new beneficiaries won’t pay their premiums in the next. Or pointing out that the respectable under-35 enrollment rate also includes children. Why nitpick a fiasco?

Taken together, eight million enrollees, lower-than-expected premium increases, and smaller fiscal costs together leave a great void in the political landscape that pathetic enrollment, large premium spikes, and runaway spending were supposed to occupy. In a recent article, conservative political analyst Sean Trende examined how an election that looks so ripe for Republicans could go sour. “The way this could occur is fairly straightforward: The Affordable Care Act improves; there’s no massive rate shock for premiums in September or October; and the economy slowly gains ground. This should propel President Obama’s job approval upward, lifting the collective Democratic boat.” As Danny Vinik has noted, none of this is remotely implausible. And if something along these lines begins taking shape, Republicans would have to revisit the idea that they can just block Democratic legislation, scream “Obummercare!” and let a friendly electoral map do all the work.

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Photos by Pete Souza

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On This Day

Senator Obama holds 10-month-old Claire Von Bergen of Iowa City while shaking hands with supporters after speaking on the Pentacrest at the University of Iowa April 22, 2007

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Senator Obama gets a hug from his wife Michelle Obama after he spoke at the Roberts Stadium, April 22, 2008 in Evansville Indiana

Sen. Barack Obama shakes hands outside of the P&G Pamela’s Diner in the Strip District section of Pittsburgh on the morning of the Pennsylvania Primary election, April 22, 2008

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President Obama and White House staff members prepare to leave Des Moines Airport April 22, 2009, following a visit to Newton, Iowa (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama greets actress Sigourney Weaver after he spoke at an Earth Day reception in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington on April 22, 2010

President Obama waves as he boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, April 22, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama boards Air Force One at Los Angeles International Airport, April 22, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama observes a moment of silence in honor of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings, in the Oval Office, April 22, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama looks at a piece of a wood-alternative fuel made from biomass waste while touring projects presented at the White House Science Fair in the East Garden of the White House, April 22, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

Trying out a bike that powers a water-filtration system built by young student inventors, April 22, 2013

President Obama greets New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz during the White House Science Fair, April 22, 2013

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30
Mar
14

Rise and Shine

President Obama enters the South Portico of the White House following his arrival aboard Marine One on the South Lawn, March 30, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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The Week Ahead:

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Addicting Info: Ted Cruz Tries To Use Facebook To Prove No One Likes Obamacare And It Blows Up In His Face

The Tea Party crusade against the Affordable Care Act (ACA) hit a huge snag this week. On March 24, 2014, Texas Tea Party Senator, Ted Cruz, decided to put up a ‘quick poll,’ about the ACA on his facebook page. Problem? The Koch brothers don’t control the conversation on social media, the people do.

Ask a question, get an answer. The question Rafael ‘Ted’ Cruz asked on facebook was simple. Are you better off now than you were before the ACA, also called Obamacare, was signed into law, four years ago? Nearly 40,000 comments later, the resounding answer from people all across the country was YES.

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NYT: New G.O.P. Bid To Limit Voting In Swing States

Pivotal swing states under Republican control are embracing significant new electoral restrictions on registering and voting that go beyond the voter identification requirements that have caused fierce partisan brawls. The bills, laws and administrative rules — some of them tried before — shake up fundamental components of state election systems, including the days and times polls are open and the locations where people vote. Republicans in Ohio and Wisconsin this winter pushed through measures limiting the time polls are open, in particular cutting into weekend voting favored by low-income voters and blacks, who sometimes caravan from churches to polls on the Sunday before election.

Democrats in North Carolina are scrambling to fight back against the nation’s most restrictive voting laws, passed by Republicans there last year. The measures, taken together, sharply reduce the number of early voting days and establish rules that make it more difficult for people to register to vote, cast provisional ballots or, in a few cases, vote absentee.In all, nine states have passed measures making it harder to vote since the beginning of 2013. Most have to do with voter ID laws. Other states are considering mandating proof of citizenship, like a birth certificate or a passport, after a federal court judge recently upheld such laws passed in Arizona and Kansas. Because many poor people do not have either and because documents can take time and money to obtain, Democrats say the ruling makes it far more difficult for people to register.

Last year, the Supreme Court struck down a central provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The decision allowed a number of mostly Southern states to alter their election laws without the prior approval once required from the Justice Department. A few weeks later, free of the mandate and emboldened by a Republican supermajority, North Carolina passed the country’s most sweeping restrictions on voting.

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Tara Culp-Ressler: Survivors Of Domestic Violence Now Have Better Access To Obamacare Benefits

Survivors of domestic violence who are living separately from an abusive spouse will now be able to claim tax credits to help them afford an Obamacare plan, thanks to new rules being developed by the federal government. Before the change, these individuals were locked out of federal assistance for health care unless they filed joint taxes with their abuser. Obamacare’s tax credits are intended to ensure that insurance plans on the new marketplaces are affordable for the Americans who may otherwise struggle to pay for health care. But in order for married people to qualify, the health law requires them to file their taxes jointly. If they file separately, they lose out on the federal assistance altogether. Domestic violence prevention advocates argue that policy ends up harming victims of abuse —

particularly because domestic violence is more concentrated among low-income households, and the victims who are financially dependent on their abusers are less likely to be able to extricate themselves from the relationship.  Last week, a group of 79 lawmakers, led by Reps. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), urged the Treasury Department to change this policy and safeguard victims of domestic violence. It only took a few days for Treasury officials to agree. “For victims of domestic abuse, contacting a spouse for purposes of filing a joint return may pose a risk of injury or trauma or, if the spouse is subject to a restraining order, may be legally prohibited. Your concerns are consistent to those expressed to us by numerous others in public comments and meetings,” the Treasury Department acknowledged on Wednesday in a written response to Slaughter and Doggett, explaining that the administration will work on finalizing a new rule on this issue.

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Pete Souza: Pres Obama talks on phone to Pres Putin from Saudi Arabia Friday night

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Fareed Zakaria: Obama Pursues The Right Response To Russia’s 19th-Century Behavior

This is not an academic debate. The best way to deal with Russia’s aggression in Crimea is not to present it as routine and national interest-based foreign policy that will be countered by Washington in a contest between two great powers. It is to point out, as Obama did eloquently this week in Brussels, that Russia is grossly endangering a global order that has benefited the entire world. Compare what the Obama administration has managed to organize in the wake of this latest Russian aggression to the Bush administration’s response to Putin’s actions in Georgia in 2008. That was a blatant invasion. Moscow sent in tanks and heavy artillery; hundreds were killed, nearly 200,000 displaced.

Yet the response was essentially nothing. This time, it has been much more serious. Some of this difference is in the nature of the stakes, but it might also have to do with the fact that the Obama administration has taken pains to present Russia’s actions in a broader context and get other countries to see them as such. You can see a similar pattern with Iran. The Bush administration largely pressured that country bilaterally. The Obama administration was able to get much more effective pressure because it presented Iran’s nuclear program as a threat to global norms of nonproliferation, persuaded the other major powers to support sanctions, enacted them through the United Nations and thus ensured that they were comprehensive and tight. This is what leadership looks like in the 21st century.

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Guardian: Kerry To Meet Russia’s Lavrov For Ukraine Talks In Paris On Sunday

Halfway home from Saudi Arabia, US secretary of state John Kerry has abruptly changed course. He will now stay in Europe for talks on Ukraine. The news followed reports from Russia that Kerry had spoken to the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, by phone, a day after President Vladimir Putin called President Barack Obama. The Russian foreign ministry said Washington had initiated the call between Kerry and Lavrov, adding that they discussed Ukraine and plans for further contact.

Flying from Riyadh to Ireland for a refuelling stop, Kerry decided to turn around after speaking to Lavrov from the plane. State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki confirmed on Saturday that Kerry had arrived in Paris and that the meeting would be held on Sunday.

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Kate Nocera: Univision Works Overtime To Get Latinos Enrolled In Obamacare

The Obama administration has been working overtime in recent months to enroll uninsured Latinos — one of the groups most likely to be uninsured — but it’s not just the White House making a concerted effort. For more than a year, the Spanish-language television network Univision has embarked on their own company-wide effort to get Latinos signed up on the exchanges, working through newscasts, special programming, advertising partnerships, and a dedicated health care website. Univision has not only been providing information to their viewers as to how to sign up but openly encouraging them to do so.

The network’s “empowerment initiatives” team — which focuses primarily on health and educational programming — began looking for partners to help their audience find coverage last year. Univision ultimately went with the California Endowment and the Ford Foundation, launching in earnest last April. The company makes no bones about what they were trying to do. Empowerment Initiatives Director Stephen Keppel told BuzzFeed that the company thinks “it’s better to have health insurance than not to have it” and because of the high number of uninsured Latinos, it was an important initiative for them to take on.

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BBC: Vladmir Putin: The Rebuilding Of ‘Soviet’ Russia

On 16 August 1999, the members of Russia’s parliament – the State Duma – met to approve the candidacy of a prime minister. They heard the candidate’s speech, they asked him a few questions, and they dutifully confirmed him in the position. This was President Boris Yeltsin’s fifth premier in 16 months, and one confused party leader got the name wrong. He said he would support the candidacy of Stepashin – the surname of the recently sacked prime minister – rather than that of his little-known successor, before making an embarrassing correction.

If even leading Duma deputies couldn’t remember the new prime minister’s name, you couldn’t blame the rest of the world if it didn’t pay much attention to his speech. He was unlikely to head the Russian government for more than a couple of months anyway, so why bother? That man was a former KGB officer, Vladimir Putin, and he has been in charge of the world’s largest country, as president or prime minister, ever since. Few realised it at the time, because few were listening, but that speech provided a blueprint for pretty much everything he has done, for how he would re-shape a country that was perilously close to total collapse.

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Scott Keyes: It Saves Millions To Simply Give Homeless People A Place To Live

It is cheaper to give homeless people a home than it is to leave them on the streets. That’s not just the opinion of advocates working to end homelessness, nor is it the opinion of homeless people themselves. It is a fact that has been borne out by studies across the country, from Florida to Colorado and beyond. The latest analysis to back up this fact comes out of Charlotte, where researchers from the University of North Carolina Charlotte examined a recently constructed apartment complex that was oriented towards homeless people.

Moore Place opened in 2012 with 85 units. Each resident is required to contribute 30 percent of his or her income, which includes any benefits like disability, veterans, or Social Security, toward rent. The rest of the housing costs, which total approximately $14,000 per person annually, are covered by a mix of local and federal government grants, as well as private donors. In the first year alone, researchers found that Moore Place saved taxpayers $1.8 million. These savings comes from improvements in two primary areas: health care and incarceration.

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Sara Fischer: Biden: Undocumented Immigrants ‘Already American Citizens’

Vice President Joe Biden echoed the West Wing’s “we can’t wait” mantra Thursday, telling a crowd at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Summit that “undocumented aliens” are already American citizens. “You know, 11 million people that are living in the shadows. I believe they’re already Americans citizens,” Biden said. “These people are just waiting, waiting for a chance to be able to contribute fully. And by that standard, 11 million undocumented aliens are already Americans in my view.”

Citing the contribution Hispanics have made to the American economy, Biden stressed the importance of passing immigration reform sooner rather than later, arguing, “It’s the single most significant thing we can do. It’s a game-changer financially for the country.”“Just this one act alone, if we pass the Senate bill, can extend Social Security solvency by two years.” Biden said. “Even Republicans think we should pass the Senate bill,” he later added.

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Chris Geidner: Federal Appeals Court Rejects Challenge To Texas Abortion Restrictions

A federal appeals court rejected Planned Parenthood’s challenge to Texas’ restrictive abortion law passed last summer, save for one small exception. Thursday’s unanimous decision of a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a trial court decision from October finding two provisions in the law unconstitutional.

Planned Parenthood challenged two provisions: One required physicians performing abortions to have admitting privileges “at a hospital no more than thirty miles from the location where the abortion is provided.” The second provision limited medication abortions by requiring that, with few exceptions, abortion-inducing drugs only be used when they “comply with the protocol authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).”

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Michael Cohen: Obama’s Not-Another-Cold-War-Vision: Don’t Hate The Players – Play The Game

From the day Barack Obama took office, his approach to American foreign policy has vacillated between a seemingly irreconcilable set of impulses. There’s been the sentimentalist agitating for reductions in nuclear weapons, calling for a more modest approach – and the commander-in-chief ramping up the US drone war, surging in Afghanistan, going far beyond his mandate to affect regime change in Libya. There was the lawyer and internationalist drawing a redline on Syria’s use of chemical weapons – and the hard-headed realist who, to date, has assiduously avoided any policy that would risk miring the US in that country’s bloody civil war. Yesterday in Brussels, as Obama spoke about the proper response to Russia’s seizure of Crimea, those contending instincts were once again on stark display.

Yet rarely has Obama so effectively navigated the middle ground between them – or quite so lovingly embraced Europe as he cast a distinctly icy glare at Vladimir Putin. In the process, the American president offered perhaps the clearest sense of his own vision on international relations: one that upholds the international system for its role in creating a world of greater peace and security – and explaining why, in an era of retrenchment, that system matters more than ever.In Obama’s formulation, peace is a product of universalist ideals, yes. But it is sustained and reinforced by an international system of laws and norms.

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Betsy Phillips: Creationism Is Not Being Ignored On ‘Cosmos’ — It’s The Focus

Danny Faulkner, a “scientist” working for the same group that runs Kentucky’s creation museum was complaining last week that Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey doesn’t address creationism.Actually, Tyson is deliberately and straightforwardly giving a whole lot of time to creationism. Why did we have to sit through the history of the eyeball? Creationists love to argue that the complexity of the eyeball disproves evolution. Note how he talked specifically about how the eyeball isn’t actually this perfect mechanism, but something that works well enough for what we need it for, but not as well as it does in fish — the whole idea that the eyeball is a perfect, too-complex thing is a creationist argument.

 Another example: Why did Tyson spend so much time explaining the similarities and differences in how polar bears have evolved through natural selection vs. how dogs have changed in the time we’ve been breeding them for certain traits? Because creationists acknowledge that changes within species happen. They just like to pretend like one kind of organism couldn’t really have brought forth another kind of organism. Tyson isn’t ignoring creationism. Creationists wish Tyson were ignoring creationism. Tyson is instead standing on creationism’s home turf and playing by their rules.Tyson is taking creationists’ claims deadly seriously, and showing all the ways they’re wrong.

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Jon Emont: Can Israeli Business Leaders Push Netanyahu Toward A Palestinian Peace Deal?

In late January, the face of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began to appear on scores of billboards in Tel Aviv. The caption read: “A strong state signs the deal. Bibi only you can do it!” The message—to work out a peace agreement with the Palestinians—was idealistic. But the money was all business. The 1 million shekel (around $300,000) advertising campaign was paid for by the Israeli wing of Breaking the Impasse, an alliance of more than 150 Israeli corporate executives. The campaign comes at a crucial time. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is one month away from his April 29 deadline to release a framework agreement that will establish the U.S. government’s principles for a final deal.

After nine months of discussion there is widespread worry that the framework agreement will be dead on arrival. Kerry’s demands from the Palestinians might cause Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, to withdraw from talks or lose his authority to negotiate. At the same time, Kerry’s demands for Israeli concessions over settlements or East Jerusalem might lead the Israeli right to pressure Netanyahu to withdraw from the talks. Israelis are pessimistic about the peace process, and Netanyahu has little domestic incentive to make concessions to spur negotiations. This worries Israeli business executives. They’re concerned that Israel will face increasing international isolation, including an expanded boycott campaign, if the talks founder. BTI represents these business people. It’s planning a well-funded public campaign to pressure Netanyahu to make concessions and sign a deal.

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Katie Zezima: Just How Popular Was Michelle Obama’s Visit To China?

According to a tally by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, photos, videos and stories about Michelle Obama’s visit to China garnered more than 1 billion page views. Yes, that’s billion with a B.It’s probably not too far-fetched of a notion, according to Cheng Li, director of the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution. “This is really Michelle fever in China,” he said.Cheng said Obama and her family –

her mother, Marian Robinson, and daughters, Malia and Sasha, traveled with her — showed respect for Chinese traditions and deftly weaved in diplomacy with lighter moments in a way that made the Chinese want to see what she was doing and where she was going. “Chinese do not only see this leader to leader. They see it family to family and in a broader context the respect of the two great countries,” he said. “This is why people got so excited.”

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Get Covered Illinois: #GCISuccess Stories

Rebecca S.: Rebecca, a 27 year-old Chicago resident, was denied coverage in 2012 because of her pre-existing condition. Upon being rejected in the private market, Rebecca enrolled in a plan for high-risk individuals that was beyond her price range and didn’t cover many of her health care needs. Now, Rebecca is enrolled in a Silver plan that saves her $1,600 per year compared to her previous coverage and covers the majority of her needs. Rebecca sees her new health insurance as more than just comprehensive coverage at a fair price. She believes enrolling in affordable health care is her chance at the American dream to be young and hardworking without the fear that an accident or illness will derail her dreams.

Joe Z.: Joe, a 55 year-old self-employed realtor from Chicago, previously had a COBRA plan that ended in 2013. Preparing for the New Year, Joe enrolled in a Silver plan with Blue Cross Blue Shield through the Marketplace. He was amazed to learn that his premium would be reduced by over 50% and that his new plan offered more extensive coverage. Joe is thankful that he was able to find affordable coverage on the Marketplace, especially with his pre-existing condition. In 2005, Joe underwent open heart surgery and said it was nearly impossible to find reasonable coverage with his medical history until the Affordable Care Act. Since enrolling, he has already used his insurance at his annual checkup with his cardiologist. Joe can rest easy now knowing his medical history will never dictate the type of coverage he can get again.

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On This Day

 Standing on the Colonnade with Phil Schiliro, assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs, prior to the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act Bil signing ceremony in the Red Room of the White House, March 30, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

 President Obama walks to a podium in the Cross Hall, Grand Foyer of the White House, before making a statement regarding the American auto industry, March 30, 2009 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)

President Obama walks away from the podium after delivering a statement regarding the American auto industry in the Cross Hall, Grand Foyer of the White House, March 30, 2009 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

 President Obama and Staff Secretary Lisa Brown on the Colonnade prior to the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act Bill signing ceremony, March 30, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

 

 President Obama conducts interviews in the Map Room of the White House, March 30, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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 President Obama walks towards the Oval Office, after returning to the White House from Northern Virginia Community College in Alexandria, Va., March 30, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and Vice President Biden meet with advisors for a health care implementation meeting in the Oval Office, March 30, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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First Lady Michelle Obama greets actress Hilary Swank and other guest mentors in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House during an event celebrating Women’s History Month, March 30, 2011 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

President Obama shakes hands with members of the audience following his speech on energy security at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., March 30, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

 President Obama greets James Brady in Press Secretary Jay Carney’s West Wing office at the White House, March 30, 2011. Brady, former President Ronald Reagan’s press secretary, was wounded during the assassination attempt on President Reagan 30 years ago. Brady’s wife Sarah, right, and son Scott, center, joined him for the meeting (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama talks with White House correspondents Bill Plante, CBS News, and Savannah Guthrie, NBC News, in the Upper Press Office of the White House, March 30, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama looks out the window of Marine One as he departs the White House South Lawn en route to Joint Base Andrews, Md., for a trip to Vermont, March 30, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama talks with Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Marcelle Leahy aboard Air Force One en route to Burlington, Vt., March 30, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama is reflected in sunglasses as he greets people on the tarmac following his arrival at Portland International Jetport in Portland, Maine, March 30, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

 

09
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14

Rise and Shine

President Obama holds up four-month-old Alia Jawando as her father, William Jawando, Deputy Associate Director of Public Engagement, and her mother Michele look on in the Oval Office, March 9, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today:

The First Family return to Washington DC from Florida

The Week Ahead:

Monday: The President will host a reception for the 2012 and 2013 NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Champions.

Tuesday: Travels to New York to attend DNC and DSCC events.

Wednesday – Friday: Attends meetings at the White House.

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Tara Culp-Ressler: Obamacare Is Already Helping Boost Americans’ Personal Incomes

According to a new report from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), the health reform law is having a positive effect on personal incomes and spending. According to the BEA, Obamacare accounted for about three quarters of the overall rise in Americans’ incomes in January. Personal incomes rose by 0.3 percent during the first month of the year — and the BEA explains that’s partly because of the impact of the health law’s consumer benefits. Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion increased public health insurance benefits by about $19.2 billion.

And the new refundable tax credits under health reform, like the subsidies available to help American purchase new plans in Obamacare’s marketplaces, totaled about $14.7 billion. “Personal income in January was boosted by several provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which affected government social benefit payments to persons,” the BEA concluded. The financial impacts of health reform are most evident among the sectors of the population that are struggling to stay out of poverty. A recent study by the Brookings Institute found that Obamacare has the potential to boost the incomes of the poorest Americans by anywhere from five to seven percent.

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Reuters: Kerry Urges Russia To Exercise Utmost Restraint In Ukraine’s Crimea

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned Russia on Saturday that any steps to annex Ukraine’s Crimea region would close the door to diplomacy, a U.S. State Department official said. Kerry’s latest telephone call with his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, came as the standoff between occupying Russian forces and besieged Ukrainian troops intensified in Crimea. “He made clear that continued military escalation and provocation in Crimea or elsewhere in Ukraine, along with steps to annex Crimea to Russia would close any available space for diplomacy, and he urged utmost restraint,” the official said. President Barack Obama sought to reassure nervous Baltic leaders on Saturday about U.S. support for their security and consulted other European allies about the Ukraine crisis.

He convened a conference call with Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, Latvian President Andris Berzins, and Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves. It was the first time he has spoken with the leaders of the three Baltic states about the crisis. The countries are NATO members with strong economic ties to Russia, and have expressed nervousness about President Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine. “The president reaffirmed the United States’ unwavering commitment to our collective defense commitments under the North Atlantic Treaty and our enduring support for the security and democracy of our Baltic allies,” the White House said in a statement. The United States has moved to reassure its NATO allies, sending six more F-15 fighter jets this week to NATO’s policing mission over the Baltic states. The jets are on call to respond to any violations of Baltic airspace.

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Baye Adofo-Wilson: [IN MEMORIAM] Who Was Chokwe Lumumba?

The Honorable Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, Chokwe Lumumba, an unapologetic revolutionary “New Afrikan” (Black) nationalist, fighting for the human rights and dignity of Black folks in a place that has the reputation of being antithetical to that notion, is dead at age 66. Born, Edwin Findley Taliaferro on August 4, 1947, in Detroit, Michigan. His initial exposure to the issues of human rights and dignity came from his mother, Priscilla.  A native of Alabama, Priscilla showed her children the infamous Jet Magazine cover of a deceased 14-year-old’s bashed in face. It was young Emmett Till, murdered for sassing a White woman. She followed this up with a conversation about racism—Lumumba, an impressible eight years old. He saw his mother organize in their community and raise funds for various causes.  Her strength, discipline and determination gave Lumumba a foundation for organizing and a sense of Black community pride and commitment.

Lumumba’s political watershed moment came as a reaction to the assassination of Martin Luther King, someone he followed closely throughout high school and college. Already a student leader, Lumumba and other students took over a building demanding more scholarships for Black students and an increase in Black faculty. Lumumba returned to law school and graduated top of his class.  He stayed in Detroit for over a decade, practicing criminal defense and human rights law. His law practice grew, representing political activists such as Bilal Sunni Ali, Mutulu Shakur (Tupac Shakur’s stepfather) and former Black Panther Assata Shakur. In 2009, he was elected Jackson City Councilman and was sitting in the Mayor’s chair by June 2013. As Mayor, Chokwe was just getting started.  Within four months he passed a one percent sales tax increase that is estimated to raise $700 million dollars over the next ten years for infrastructure improvements.  He had plans to make Jackson the greenest city in the South, by retrofitting and using renewable energy on all of the municipal buildings.

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TPM: Obama To Expand California National Monument

President Barack Obama will expand the California Coastal National Monument to include the Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands, a White House official said Saturday. Expected Tuesday, the action will permanently protect some 1,665 acres of federal lands on the Mendocino County coast in Northern California, just north of Point Arena. It will expand a national monument created in 2000 by President Bill Clinton to include coastal bluffs and shelves, tide pools, onshore sand dunes, coastal prairies, riverbanks and the mouth and estuary of the Garcia River.

Obama’s designation would follow recent action by the Environmental Protection Agency to block development of Pebble Mine, a massive copper and gold deposit in Alaska’s treasured Bristol Bay region. Obama pledged in this year’s State of the Union address to use his presidential authority to preserve more federal lands for future generations. The action he is taking next week will bypass Congress, which has been slow to act on proposed legislation to preserve public lands.

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Reuters: Ukraine PM Says He Will Go To U.S. To Discuss Crimea Crisis

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said on Sunday he would go to the United States this week to discuss the standoff with Russia over Ukraine’s southern region of Crimea. “I am going to the United states to hold top-level meetings on resolving the situation unfolding in our bilateral and multilateral relations,” Yatseniuk said at the start of a government meeting in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev.

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Henry Austin: Dalai Lama Voices Support For Gay Marriage

The Dalai Lama has come out in support of gay marriage, saying it was “OK” and a personal affair for people of the same sex to commit to each other. “If two people… really feel that way … and both sides fully agree, then okay,” the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader said on Ora.tv’s Larry King Now show. The Nobel laureate was interviewed after he offered the customary prayer that opens each Senate session in Washington D.C.

Ultimately, the Dalai Lama, who like all Tibetan Monks is celibate himself, said gay marriage was up to each government and was ultimately “individual business.” “People who have belief or who have special traditions, then you should follow according to your own tradition. Like Buddhism, there are different kinds of sexual misconduct, so you should follow properly.” “I think (it’s) OK,” he added. “I think that’s an individual’s business.”

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Igor Volsky: Bush’s Defense Secretary Destroys GOP Talking Points Against Obama’s Handling Of Crimea

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates pushed back on Sunday against conservatives who’ve blamed President Obama’s “weak” foreign policy for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Crimea. Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Gates dismissed arguments that Obama’s handling of the conflict in Syria or his efforts to trim the defense budget emboldened Putin, arguing that the Russian president also invaded Georgia during the George W. Bush administration.

“My own view is, after all, Putin invaded Georgia when George W. Bush was president. Nobody ever accused George W. Bush of being weak or unwilling to use military force,” Gates, who served as Defense Secretary for Presidents George W. Bush and Obama said. “So I think Putin is very opportunistic in these arenas. I think that even if — even if we had launched attacks in Syria, even if we weren’t cutting our defense budget — I think Putin saw an opportunity here in Crimea, and he has seized it.” Earlier this week, Gates told the Washington Post that the GOP lawmakers should “tone down” their criticism and “try to be supportive of the president rather than natter at the president.”

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Sharon Bernstein: California Democrats To Adopt Platform As Election Season Begins

California Democrats meeting in Los Angeles on Sunday were set to adopt a platform likely to call for an inflation-adjusted minimum wage, dramatic cuts in military spending, and tighter campaign finance and disclosure laws. Confident going into the 2014 election season with wide majorities in both legislative houses and control of all statewide elected offices, Democratic leaders at the party’s annual convention aimed to push their statewide success eastward in an effort to retake a majority in Congress.

Some 3,000 delegates and guests thronging the downtown Westin Bonaventure hotel were also scheduled to hear from legislative leaders, including top Democrats in the state senate and assembly. The convention had on Saturday showcased Democratic stars in the most populous U.S. state, including California Governor Jerry Brown and the state’s Attorney General Kamala Harris as well as former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whom party leaders are hoping may be able to return to her old job. The draft version of the platform sounds a number of key Democratic themes, including support for anti-poverty programs and increased funding for education.

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Tom Curry: Obama Aide Sees Russian Threat On Arms Inspection As ‘Serious’

Tony Blinken, President Barack Obama’s Deputy National Security Adviser, said Sunday that a Russian threat to cease inspections of nuclear weapons as required by U.S.-Russian arms control treaties would be “a serious development.” Blinken said on NBC’s Meet the Press that he’d seen news reports of those Russian threats — made in response to U.S. sanctions and other penalties for Russia’s seizure of the Crimea region of Ukraine — but that the Russian government had not communicated directly to the Obama administration on that matter. Asked what Obama had accomplished so far in his efforts to deter or penalize Putin for Russia’s seizure of Crimea,

Blinken said the president has been “mobilizing the international community in support of Ukraine to isolate Russia for its actions in Ukraine and to reassure our allies and partners.” Blinken said Obama has invited Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk to the White House on Wednesday to consult with him and to demonstrate American support for the Ukrainian government. Blinked argued that the decline in value of the Russian ruble and the increased uncertainty about foreign investment in Russia are “exacting a real cost and a real consequence” for Putin’s decision to intervene in Crimea.

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Ian Millhiser: Retired Supreme Court Justice Calls For Constitutional Amendment To Prevent Partisan Gerrymandering

Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has a new book out, in which he proposes six potential amendments to the Constitution — including one to prevent lawmakers from drawing legislative maps intended to entrench their own party in power: Districts represented by members of Congress, or by members of any state legislative body, shall be compact and composed of contiguous territory. The state shall have the burden of justifying any departures from this requirement by reference to neutral criteria such as natural, political, or historical boundaries or demographic changes. The interest in enhancing or preserving the political power of the party in control of the state government is not such a neutral criterion.

So long as justices with similar views to Scalia control the Court, however, Congress could probably also use this power to gerrymander congressional maps even more than they are currently. Under Scalia’s view, there is little preventing a Congress controlled by one party from redrawing every state’s map (or, at least, every state with more than one representative’s map) in order to maximize the likelihood that the incumbent party would be elected. This problem cannot be warded off by an act of Congress. And, as discussed above, it won’t be solved by a constitutional amendment either. The only sure way to prevent such widespread gerrymanders is to replace justices like Scalia with justices who understand that partisan gerrymanders are unconstitutional and that egregious gerrymanders must be struck down by the courts.

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Alasdair Baverstock: After A Month Of Violence, Protesters In Venezuela Try Peace

From behind their riot shield barricade, Venezuela’s National Guard cooly surveyed a scene of frustration. Dressed in white t-shirts representing their pacifism, protesters waved their national flags, pledged their commitment to peaceful protest and banged cooking pots in time to songs of government downfall. Saturday’s “empty pots march” had commenced.  Beneath the scorching Caracas sun, one man held up a banner to those who blocked their passage west to the centre of the Venezuelan capital: “If we all have the same problems, then why are we so divided?” The man’s message was not aimed at the authorities, rather the pro-government chavistaswho suffer under the same rampant inflation, chronic shortages of basic goods and massive murder rates that form daily struggles on both sides of Venezuela’s political divide.

After plotting a route to the Ministry of Food in the city center, Saturday’s “empty pots march” stopped short as protestors entered the pro-government Libertador municipality. In an “adapt or perish” bid to spur momentum into a fourth week of protests, Saturday’s demonstration was the first of its kind to emerge from the opposition districts. “We’re testing the water,” said one masked protester, who held his country’s flag upside-down over the lower tier of a freeway that ferries two million vehicles daily along the Caracas valley. “We want to reach out to those who don’t hear our message so that they can see we aren’t the fascists the government says we are.”

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Alyssa Mastromonaco

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AP: Long-Time Obama Aide To Leave White House

A top White House official who has been with President Barack Obama since he first became a senator nine years ago is resigning. Alyssa Mastromonaco is Obama’s deputy chief of staff for operations and often described as the most influential person inside the White House who isn’t well known outside of it. She is responsible for planning presidential events, hiring staff and overseeing the White House complex.

A White House official said Mastromonaco is leaving in May to look for a job in the private sector. The official said Obama insisted as a condition of her departure that she continue to act as an outside adviser. Mastromonaco joined Obama’s Senate office in February 2005 as scheduling director, and oversaw scheduling and advance for his 2008 presidential campaign and during Obama’s first term at the White House. She was promoted to deputy chief of staff in 2011.

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Your laugh of the day

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On This Day:

President Obama signs an Executive Order on stem cell research at the White House March 9, 2009. By signing the order, Obama reverses a Bush administration policy restricting U.S funding for embryonic stem cell research.

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First Lady Michelle Obama presents her inaugural gown to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History March 9, 2010

First Lady Michelle Obama greets Mrs. Ada Papandreou, the First Lady of Greece, in the Yellow Oval Room of the White House, March 9, 2010 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)

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President Obama talks on the phone with President-elect Vladimir Putin of Russia while aboard Air Force One en route to Richmond, Va., March 9, 2012. Alice Wells, Senior Director for Russian Affairs, listens in on the call. (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama speaks at a campaign event at Minute Maid Park, March 9, in Houston

First Lady Michelle Obama participates in the “Bunny Pokey” song and dance with kids in the Kinderbees Activty Room at Penacook Community Center in Penacook, N.H., March 9, 2012 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

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