Posts Tagged ‘kerry



16
Jun
14

Rise and Shine

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

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Today

10:0 am PT: President Obama departs Palm Springs

5:30 pm ET: Arrives White House

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The Week Ahead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bloomberg: Taliban Fighters Warn Foreign Investors To Leave Pakistan

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

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

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LA Times: Actors, Musicians Are Big Beneficiaries Of Obamacare

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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TPM: SCOTUS Rules On ‘Straw Purchaser’ Gun Law

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

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

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On This Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

09
Jun
14

Rise and Shine

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

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Today (All Times Eastern)

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

12:30: Josh Earnest briefs the press

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

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

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

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The Week Ahead

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NYT: Obama Plans Steps To Ease Student Debt

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

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

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

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

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

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By the very wonderful @Chanlowe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sen. Phillip P. Puckett

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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On This Day

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

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

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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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