Posts Tagged ‘Michelle Obama

31
Jul
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: First Lady Michelle Obama salutes during the singing of the national anthem at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., July 31, 2009

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Today (All Times Eastern)

10:55: The President meets with members of Congress on foreign policy, Cabinet Room

12:0: White House press briefing

1:20: The President delivers remarks and signs an executive order on workplace safety, South Court Auditorium

3:40: Delivers remarks, Department of Housing and Urban Development

7:25: The President and First Lady host ‘A Celebration of Special Olympics and A Unified Generation’, East Room

8:25: Attend a concert commemorating the Special Olympics, State Dining Room

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Times Colonist: Obama To Sign Executive Order Cracking Down On Labor Violations By Federal Contractors

President Barack Obama is preparing to sign an executive order cracking down on labour violations by companies that contract with the federal government, the White House said Wednesday. Obama’s order will require companies seeking federal contracts valued at more than $500,000 to make public any labour law violations in the last three years, a step the Obama administration hopes will incentivize companies to resolve labour disputes such as back wage claims.

Federal agencies will be given more guidance on how labour violations should factor into their decision-making as they award lucrative contracts, officials said, with an eye toward pushing the most egregious violators into remediation agreements before new contracts are granted. Under the order, workers will also be given information each pay period to allow them to determine whether their paychecks are accurate.

More here

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Spandan Chakrabarti: BFD: “Incompetent” Black Man Leads US Economy To Solid, Sustained Growth

The economy grew at a strong 4% rate in the second quarter of 2014, outpacing analyst estimates by almost a full point. The news that is even more encouraging than the topline GDP growth number is where it came from: consumer spending, business investment, and exports. Consumer spending growth doubled since the first quarter, business investment growth grew by more than a factor of 3, and exports saw a near-20-point swing. The reason these particular numbers are so encouraging is that they all point to strong jobs growth.

In an economy that is 2/3rds consumer spending, growth in that area is the predominant factor in creating demand, and therefore, jobs. We have come here in less than six short years after the greatest economic calamity this country has ever seen, save for one. We have arrived here not only without creating a war bubble but while actually deflating the war bubble by ending wars. This is because while nearly everyone else has been busy trying to generate clicks, the President has worked day and night to generate jobs. This is because while the media has been busy looking for poutrage, this president has used his blood, sweat and tears to look for solutions.

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Somini Sengupta: U.N. Says ‘Evidence’ Points To Israel In Gaza School Attack

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Wednesday that “all available evidence” suggested that Israeli artillery had hit a United Nations school in Gaza full of civilians who thought they were in a safe zone. “Nothing is more shameful than attacking sleeping children,” the secretary general told reporters in San Jose, Costa Rica, according to a transcript provided by his office.

It was Mr. Ban’s strongest comments to date on attacks on United Nations installations in Gaza, where Palestinians have been taking shelter. Six United Nations staff members have been killed in the current conflict so far. United Nations officials said that they had informed Israel 17 times of the precise location of the school and that there were civilians sheltering there, including once at 8:50 p.m., just hours before the attack on Wednesday.

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SmartyPants: Chuck Todd Is Finally Embarrassed

Oh…so I see that Chuck Todd is finally embarrassed by Washington because of all the impeachment talk. I have a few questions for Mr. Todd:

Were you embarrassed by the fact that our first African American President was required to produce a birth certificate?

Were you embarrassed when Rep. Joe Wilson shouted “You lie” to President Obama during a SOTU speech?

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Justin Wolfers: What Debate? Economists Agree The Stimulus Lifted The Economy

Here’s a simple case study making the point that our political debates about economics have become largely unhinged from those among actual economists. Take the Obama stimulus plan, known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. If you took your cues from the political rhetoric in Washington — or even from the occasional virulent debate in the economics blogosphere — you would think the whole question of fiscal stimulus is highly contested. But it’s not. There’s widespread agreement among economists that the stimulus act has helped boost the economy. The Initiative on Global Markets at the University of Chicago — hardly a hotbed of liberal or Keynesian thought — regularly surveys a number of the leading American economists about a variety of policy issues.

Recently each of these eminent economists was asked whether the unemployment rate was lower at the end of 2010 than it would have been without the stimulus bill. Of the 44 economists surveyed, 37 responded, yielding a healthy response rate of 84 percent. Among those who responded, 36 agreed that the stimulus bill had lowered the unemployment rate, while one disagreed. That lone disagreeing economist, Harvard’s Alberto Alesina (who was one of my thesis advisers), has been a virulent opponent of the stimulus, although the research that he’s based this upon has come under sustained criticism, particularly from the International Monetary Fund, which views the study as flawed.

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Sahil Kapur: House Votes To Sue President For The First Time In History

House Republicans officially gave Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) their seal of approval on Wednesday to sue President Barack Obama, marking the first time in U.S. history that a chamber of Congress has endorsed a lawsuit against a president. The House adopted the resolution by a vote of 225-201. Five Republicans joined a unanimous Democratic conference to vote against the measure. They were Reps. Thomas Massie (R-KY), Walter Jones (R-NC), Paul Broun (R-GA), Steve Stockman (R-TX) and Scott Garrett (R-NJ). The resolution authorizes Boehner to challenge Obama in court for exceeding his authority by unilaterally delaying deadlines under Obamacare.

Although he has said he’ll target the one-year delay of the health care reform law’s employer mandate penalties, the text of the GOP resolution gives the Speaker room to legally challenge implementation tweaks to other provisions of the law. It’s a politically awkward one for his party given that Republicans despise the employer mandate, and have voted to eliminate and delay it. “Republicans want to sue the president for not enforcing a law they want to repeal,” said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD). “It is wrong. It is a waste of time. It is a waste of money. It is a distraction from the important issues so important to our people. This lawsuit is nothing more than a partisan bill to rally the Republican base.”

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Jesse Rosenfeld: Israel Is Minting The Next Generation Of Hate

The bombs continue falling, more and more people are running for their lives with fewer places to go and as the screams from beneath the wreckage of Israel’s assault become more frequent, a generation of Gaza’s children are being shaped by what they see. And yet, as kids often do, they can still surprise you. Inside a Gaza City UNRWA school that’s been turned into a shelter, children pack the courtyard. Ten-year-old Yasmine al Attar stares at me from under her dark curled bangs. Yasmine’s aunt, Hula al Attar, tells me her son can’t sleep amid the nightly air strikes. Instead he howls and shakes.

“My 11-year-old son saw bodies in the street in the [2008] war and he still can’t forget those images,” says the veiled 29-year-old mother. Yasmine speaks up. She tells me she can’t sleep either, and waits out the attacks by clinging to her mother in a corner classroom. I ask her what she wants to be when she grows up. “I don’t know if I will live,” she says flatly. When pressed for what she would like to be if she does survive, she becomes excited thinking about the possibilities. “I’ll be a doctor,” she says at first. Then she changes her mind. “I’ll be a journalist,” she says, pulling on her brown curls. “I just want to do something that helps people and tells the world what’s happening.”

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Josh Marshall: The Wealth Gap Across Race, Gender And Marriage Status

The chart illustrates a pattern that most of us probably do not find surprising. But the sheer chasm separating single white men from Black and Hispanic single women is still shocking to see visualized so clearly. Single white men have 438 times the assets as single Black women and 365 times that of single Hispanic women. As we can see, marriage is a huge determinant of wealth – but mainly if you’re not white, and especially if you’re a woman.

As the report notes, owning a car is an important way to access more employment opportunities among other things. But that wealth is not easily accessible in dollar terms, which is highly relevant for the following reason. Great disparities of wealth not only have a huge impact on life opportunities and the prospects for wealth accumulation. They are hugely important factor in the precariousness of economic life experienced by different demographic groups.

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On This Day

President Obama talks with Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel outside of the Oval Office on July 31, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

Continue reading ‘Rise and Shine’

29
Jul
14

First Lady Michelle Obama Presents The Most Important Meal Of The Day

29
Jul
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama reacts to a picture presented to him of a younger Robert Gibbs, who played soccer at North Carolina State, following a town hall meeting at Broughton High School in Raleigh, N.C. on July 29, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

11:15: The President meets with a group of House Democrats on economic issues, Roosevelt Room

12:0: White House press briefing

3:0: The President departs White House

3:25: Meets with wounded service members, Walter Reed Hospital

5:15: Departs Bethesda, Maryland

7:0 CT: Arrives Kansas City, Missouri

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The Week Ahead

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Reuters: Table For Five: Obama To Dine With Kansas City Penpals

Valerie, a single mom from Kansas City, Missouri, who owns a small business, wrote to President Barack Obama last week “in the middle of the night,” describing just how hard she works.

On Tuesday, she will get the chance to tell Obama in person as one of four people the president dines with in a visit to the midwestern city – part of a summertime White House campaign to rouse Democratic voters ahead of November midterm elections.

“Are you serious?” said Valerie – whose last name was not provided – to Josh Earnest, Obama’s press secretary, who phoned her to invite her to the dinner.

“Oh my God! I would love it!” she told Earnest in a video made by the White House.

More here

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BBC: Israel Intensifies Gaza Attacks After Netanyahu Warning

At least 60 Palestinians are said to have been killed after Israel intensified its bombardment of Gaza and warned of a long conflict ahead.

Gaza’s only power plant caught fire as Israel carried out 60 air strikes, targeting sites associated with Hamas, the Islamist group which controls Gaza.

UN staff members are said to be among those killed.

….. A huge plume of smoke rose over the strip’s only power plant after one of its fuel tanks was reportedly set alight by Israeli tank shells, and the plant was forced to shut down.

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Jesse Rosenfeld: Israel Creates ‘No Man’s Land’ In Gaza, Shrinking Strip By 40 Percent

To protect itself from Hamas rockets and tunnels, Israel is forcing tens of thousands of people out of their homes, turning their old neighborhoods into a no-man’s land.

BEIT HANOUN, Gaza — This narrow strip of land that used to be called “the Gaza Strip,” already one of the more densely populated places on earth, is growing dramatically smaller. The Israeli military, relentlessly and methodically, is driving people out of the three-kilometer (1.8 mile) buffer zone it says it needs to protect against Hamas rockets and tunnels. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the buffer zone eats up about 44 percent of Gaza’s territory.

What that means on the ground is scenes of extraordinary devastation in places like the Al Shajaya district approaching Gaza’s eastern frontier, and Beit Hanoun in the north. These were crowded neighborhoods less than three weeks ago. Now they have been literally depopulated, the residents joining more than 160,000 internally displaced people in refuges and makeshift shelters. Apartment blocks are fields of rubble, and as I move through this hostile landscape the phrase that keeps ringing in my head is “scorched earth.”

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Michael Hiltzik: Here’s The Single Best Analysis Of The Halbig Anti-Obamacare Ruling

Northwestern University law and political science professor Andrew Koppelman moves past the absurd legal theory underlying the Halbig ruling on the Affordable Care Act — in which a federal appeals court invalidated subsidies provided to insurance buyers on federal, as opposed to state, insurance exchanges — to ask why the lawsuit’s backers brought the case in the first place. We know the consequences of the ruling: If it stands, about 4.8 million Americans will lose their subsidies and likely their health insurance, since it would be rendered unaffordable; there are residents of as many as 36 states that let the federal government establish their exchanges.

But is that what the plaintiffs and their backers really desired? And if not, what was their real goal? Koppelman’s conclusion is that the lawsuit is a product of the “moral dysfunction” infecting the fight over Obamacare. “The opponents of Obamacare,” he writes in the New Republic, “have from the beginning found themselves driven by the logic of their position to make arguments that are increasingly morally repulsive.” In this case and others aimed at overturning the ACA, he writes, the argument is that “if you get sick and you can’t pay for it, that’s your tough luck.” Koppelman doesn’t think the plaintiffs really believe that. He thinks they’re merely out to make a narrow ideological point about government responsibility, and the 4.8 million possible victims of their campaign are merely collateral damage.

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Business Insider: Israel Grants First Golan Heights Oil Drilling License To Dick Cheney-Linked Company

Israel has granted a U.S. company the first license to explore for oil and gas in the occupied Golan Heights, John Reed of the Financial Times reports.

A local subsidiary of the New York-listed company Genie Energy — which is advised by former vice president Dick Cheney and whose shareholders include Jacob Rothschild and Rupert Murdoch — will now have exclusive rights to a 153-square mile radius in the southern part of the Golan Heights.

That geographic location will likely prove controversial. Israel seized the Golan Heights in the Six-Day War in 1967 and annexed the territory in 1981. Its administration of the area — which is not recognized by international law — has been mostly peaceful until the Syrian civil war broke out 23 months ago.

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BBC: Russia ‘Violated 1987 Nuclear Missile Treaty’, Says US

Russia has violated a key arms control treaty by testing a nuclear cruise missile, the US government says.

Russia tested a ground-launched cruise missile, breaking the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty signed in 1987 during the Cold War, the US said.

A senior US official did not provide further details on the alleged breach, but described it as “very serious”.

The bilateral agreement banned medium-range missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 km (300 to 3,400 miles).

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BBC: EU Set To Widen Sanctions On Russia Over Ukraine

The European Union is set to agree new sanctions against Russia, targeting its finance, energy and defence sectors over the conflict in Ukraine.

Top Russian individuals and entities are already subject to EU sanctions for their alleged role in Ukraine’s crisis.

Calls for the EU to act have been fuelled by the downing of flight MH17.

An international team has again failed to access the crash site in eastern Ukraine, amid heavy fighting between government forces and rebels there.

This is the third time in as many days that the team, which includes Dutch and Australian police officers, has had to abandon attempts to reach the site.

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Michael Felberbaum: US Court: Virginia Marriage Is For All Lovers

Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban was ruled unconstitutional on Monday in the first such decision by a federal appellate court in the South. “We recognize that same-sex marriage makes some people deeply uncomfortable. However, inertia and apprehension are not legitimate bases for denying same-sex couples due process and equal protection of the laws,” Judge Henry F. Floyd wrote. The 2-1 ruling applies throughout the circuit that also includes West Virginia, Maryland, and the Carolinas, where the attorneys general split Monday on what they’ll do next. Virginians voted 57 percent to 43 percent in 2006 to amend their constitution to ban gay marriage.

Virginia laws prohibit recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states. Floyd said such measures “impermissibly infringe on its citizens’ fundamental right to marry.” The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond is the second federal appellate court to overturn gay marriage bans, and the first to affect the South, a region where the rising tide of rulings favoring marriage equality is testing concepts of states’ rights that have long held sway. Gay marriage proponents have won more than 20 legal decisions around the country since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act last year. Most are still under appeal. More than 70 cases have been filed in all 31 states that prohibit same-sex marriage. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia allow such marriages.

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CNBC: US Confidence Jumps In July As Consumers See Better Days Ahead

Consumers grew more confident about the economy in July, The Conference Board reported on Tuesday, with stock markets perched near record highs and expectations building for the recovery. The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index rose to 90.9, higher than expectations and above the prior month’s showing of 86.4. That was the component’s highest since October 2007.

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On This Day

 President Obama eats a peach following a town hall meeting at Kroger’s Supermarket in Bristol, Va. on July 29, 2009. Seconds later, the President handed a dollar bill to the CEO of Kroger’s, who attended the event (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama listens to a question at a town hall meeting at Broughton High School in Raleigh, N.C. on July 29, 2009 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

The hands of U.S. Secret Service agents as President Obama shakes hands along a rope line following a health care town hall meeting at Broughton High School in Raleigh, N.C on July 29, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Crime victim Lisa Marie Iyotte gets emotional while introducing President Obama before he signed the Tribal Law and Order Act during a ceremony in the East Room at the White House, on July 29, 2010

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First Lady Michelle Obama greets U.S. military families at Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England, July 29, 2012

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President Obama greets former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Outer Oval Office, July 29, 2013 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

President Obama has lunch with former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on the patio outside the Oval Office, July 29, 2013 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

President Obama meets with Secretary of State John Kerry in the Oval Office, July 29, 2013 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

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24
Jul
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: Senator Barack Obama leaves the stage after making a speech in front of the Victory Column in Berlin on July 24, 2008

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Today

9:50 PDT: The President attends a DNC fundraiser, private residence, Los Angeles

1:25 PDT: Delivers remarks, Los Angeles Trade-Technical College

3:05 PDT: Departs Los Angeles

5:0 EDT The President’s interview with CNBC’s Steve Liesman is aired

10:50 EDT: Arrives White House

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@petesouza: Pres Obama disembarks from AF1 in LA

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LA Times: In Los Angeles, Obama Gives His Die-Hard Supporters A Tough-Love Talk

President Obama delivered a tough-love talk to his biggest boosters  Wednesday, telling Democratic donors gathered in Los Angeles that they need to step it up before November if he’s going to get much done in his last two years in office. “You thought, ‘OK, we elect Barack and that’s it,’” Obama told a crowd big-dollar donors gathered in the lush Hancock Park backyard of TV producer Shonda Rhimes. He reminded them that he’d warned that it wasn’t about electing him but about getting “our democracy to work.” “I have got to have a Congress that has some sense and is willing to work and is willing to compromise and is focused on the American people. And we don’t have that right now.” Obama is often candid about what he describes as Democrats’ chronic problem: low turnout in midterm elections. But his remarks Wednesday came with a sharper ribbing for a crowd he seemed to think could take it.

Democrats like the fun of a presidential campaign, Obama said. But “we’ve got to step it up in the midterms. Not when it’s easy, not when it’s sexy, not when there’s hope posters….” While Democrats “don’t even know there’s an election,” Obama said, Republicans get to the polls. “Lo and behold we’re surprised when John Boehner is speaker of the House! What happened to Nancy Pelosi? What happened is y’all didn’t vote. And that’s when all kinds of … stuff happened,” Obama said, pausing as if deliberating on whether to keep the rant clean. “That’s what it was — stuff.”

More here

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Marketwatch: Jobless Claims Lowest In More Than Eight Years

The number of unemployed workers applying for jobless benefits tumbled in the most recent weekly data to the lowest level in more than eight years, signaling that employers are letting go of very few workers.

Applicants for regular state unemployment-insurance benefits in the week that ended July 19 dropped by 19,000 to 284,000 — the lowest level since February 2006, the U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had expected initial claims of 310,000 in the most recent weekly data.

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Steve Benen: Jobless Claims Improve To Eight-Year Low

The last time the Labor Department published a report on initial unemployment claims this good, the Great Recession hadn’t even started yet:

The number of people who applied for regular state unemployment-insurance benefits in the week that ended July 19 tumbled by 19,000 to 284,000 – the lowest level since February 2006 – signaling that companies have further slowed down the pace of layoffs and are letting go of few workers, according to government data released Thursday….

Regular readers know I run the above chart every Thursday morning, highlighting initial unemployment claims since January 2007, the year the Great Recession started. Look closely, however, and you’ll notice that today’s report is the best since before the chart began.

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Chicago Tribune: U.S. Health Insurers To Pay $330 Million In Premium Rebates

U.S. health insurers will send out about $330 million in rebates to employers and individuals this summer under President Barack Obama’s healthcare law, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said on Thursday.

The law, often called Obamacare, requires insurance companies to refund customers when they spend less than 80 percent or 85 percent of healthcare premiums they collect for medical care.

The rebates will go to about 6.8 million people and have a value of about $80 per family. They are to be sent by Aug. 1 either directly to consumers or to the employer providing the health coverage, who is required to pass the savings onto employees, the agency said in a report.

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Pro Publica: Even After Open Enrollment, Activity Remains Unexpectedly High On Federal Health Insurance Exchange

New federal data, obtained by ProPublica under the Freedom of Information Act, shows nearly 1 million insurance transactions since mid-April.

For months, journalists and politicians fixated on the number of people signing up for health insurance through the federal exchange created as part of the Affordable Care Act. It turned out that more than 5 million people signed up using Healthcare.gov by April 19, the end of the open-enrollment period.

But perhaps more surprising is that, according to federal data released Wednesday to ProPublica, there have been nearly 1 million transactions on the exchange since then. People are allowed to sign up and switch plans after certain life events, such as job changes, moves, the birth of a baby, marriages and divorces.

The volume of these transactions was a jolt even for those who have watched the rollout of the ACA most closely.

More here

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CNN: CNN Poll: Is Obamacare Working?

More than half the public says Obamacare has helped either their families or others across the country, although less than one in five Americans say they have personally benefited from the health care law, according to a new national poll. A CNN/ORC International survey also indicates that a majority of Americans oppose the Affordable Care Act, but that some of that opposition is from people who don’t think the measure goes far enough.

The poll, conducted this past weekend, was released on Wednesday, one day after a federal appeals court upheld Obamacare tax subsidies. That ruling came just a couple of hours after a separate appeals court struck down such subsidies for the millions of Americans enrolled in the federal government’s HealthCare.gov exchange. 53% say that Obamacare has helped either their families or others across the country.

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ThinkProgress: Demonizing Migrant Children Proves An Epic Fail For Anti-Immigrant Groups

Anti-Immigrants can’t even throw a good rally anymore.

Anti-immigrant groups have hit upon the issue of children fleeing violence who are arriving unaccompanied by adults at our southern border. These children are coming from three countries: El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. All three countries have very serious problems with gang violence, murder and child trafficking into prostitution. Under current US federal law these children have the right to have their cases thoroughly evaluated to ensure that no child is returned to a country where they might be killed, injured or trafficked.

… To make their case that Americans are really upset about an increase in unaccompanied children at the border, anti-immigrant groups staged what was supposed to have been a massive number of protests around the country. They staged a “National Day of Protesting Against Immigration Reform, Amnesty & Border Surge”….

…. Despite this all in effort, the anti-immigrants failed miserably to turn people out to protest children. If these rallies around the country were meant to demonstrate the power of the anti-immigrant movement, they may instead signal its end. In many cases, no one showed up at all.

More here

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Brian Beutler: The Conservative Judges Who Ruled Against Obamacare Missed This One Very Important Detail

We now know that two conservative judges on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals have declared it illegal for the government to subsidize Obamacare health plans in states that didn’t set up their own insurance exchanges. In reaching that conclusion, Judge Thomas Griffith, who authored the opinion of the court, sought to rebut each of the Obama administration’s arguments to the contrarythat the law clearly contemplates subsidizing health plans in every state whether or not a state built its own marketplace. But in one instance he based his counterargument on information that became outdated less than one week ago.

And the recent development turns that counterargument on its head. One of the White House’s most straightforward arguments is that neither Congress nor the administration would have approved a punitive system so at odds with the ACA’s ultimate, stated goal of achieving near-universal insurance coverage. The law seeks to achieve near-universal coverage by mandating the purchase of guaranteed, subsidized (and thus affordable) health plans. Take away the subsidies, and the plans are no longer affordable. If the plans aren’t affordable, they’re no longer compulsory. And if they aren’t compulsory and affordable the coverage expansion goal will be unattainable.

More here

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On This Day

Senator Obama waves to the crowd after making a speech in front of the Victory Column in Berlin, July 24, 2008

Sen. Obama waves from his car on July 24, 2008 in Berlin, Germany

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President Obama shares a lighter moment with Vice President Biden in the Oval Office on July 24, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama meets with leaders from the disability community in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on July 24, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama shakes the hand of a young military family member at the Marine Barracks evening parade in Washington, D.C. on July 24, 2009 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama attend the U.S. Marine Barracks evening parade in Washington, D.C. on July 24, 2009 (All photos by Samantha Appleton)

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First Lady Michelle Obama bids farewell to departing staff Eirene Busa, White House Stenographer, center left, and Holli Crawford, White House Communications Agency, center right, aboard Bright Star during a flight from Manchester, N.H., to Joint Base Andrews, Md., July 24, 2011 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)

President Obama and Vice President Biden walk around the South Lawn of the White House, Sunday, July 24, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama greets patrons and restaurant staff during a local stop at the Gateway Breakfast House in Portland, Ore., July 24, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama presents Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., with a birthday cupcake aboard Air Force One, July 24, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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21
Jul
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: Sen. Barack Obama listens as Gen. David H. Petraeus discusses security improvements in Baghdad while giving him and Sens. Jack Reed and Chuck Hagel an aerial tour of the city Monday, July 21, 2008

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Today (all times Eastern)

10:30: The President signs an Executive Order that protects gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees from discrimination by companies that do federal government work, East Room

11:0: The President makes a statement on the situation in Ukraine

11:45: Participates in a town hall focusing on the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative; Walker Jones Education Campus, Washington

1:0: Josh Earnest briefs the press

3:10: The President awards Ryan M. Pitts, U.S. Army, the Medal of Honor, East Room

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The Week Ahead here

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NYT: Obama to Issue Order Barring Anti-Gay Bias by Contractors

President Obama plans to sign an executive order on Monday that protects gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees from discrimination by companies that do federal government work….

The order will also, for the first time, explicitly protect federal employees from discrimination on the basis of gender identity, officials said. Federal workers are already protected based on their sexual orientation.

…. “With the stroke of a pen, the president will have a very real and immediate impact on the lives of millions of L.G.B.T. people across the country,” Chad Griffin, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement on Friday. “These actions from the president have the potential to be a keystone in the arch of his administration’s progress, and they send a powerful message to future administrations and to Congress that anti-L.G.B.T. discrimination must not be tolerated.”

More here

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MSNBC: Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative gets $104 million boost

Six months since the launch of My Brother’s Keeper – the president’s boldest effort since taking office to address the dire state of young minority men – Obama is set to announce that millions are being dedicated to expanding the initiative.

According to a White House official, Obama will announce Monday at the Walker Jones Education Center in Washington new partnerships with public and private groups to the tune of about $104 million in funding to help this demographic succeed at critical stages throughout their lives – from early education to college and career.

Young minority men generally faces some of the worst social, academic and economic outcomes in the country.

“Tomorrow’s announcements are an important next step in continuing to build ladders of opportunity for all and to highlight the President’s commitment to ensuring that all children have a fair shot to succeed in this country,” a White House official said.

More here

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BBC: Gaza crisis: UN calls for ceasefire as deaths pass 500

The UN Security Council has called for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza. It comes as US Secretary of State John Kerry heads to Cairo for talks on the crisis amid a mounting death toll.

Over 500 Palestinians, mainly civilians, have been killed since the Israeli offensive began two weeks ago, Gaza’s health ministry says.

Twenty Israelis – 18 of them soldiers – have died, Israel says, as it seeks to end rocket fire on the country.

On Sunday Gaza saw its deadliest day since the start of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, with 13 Israeli soldiers and more than 100 Palestinians killed. Israel says it has killed at least 120 militants since the ground offensive began on Thursday night.

More here

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Washington Post: Flight 17: U.S. builds case against rebels, Russia in downing of jet in Ukraine

The Obama administration expanded its case Sunday accusing Ukrainian separatists and Russian forces of working hand in hand to acquire and operate a missile battery believed to have shot down a Malaysia Airlines jetliner last week, killing nearly 300 people.

Citing an “enormous amount of evidence,” Secretary of State John F. Kerry accused Russia of providing SA-11 antiaircraft missiles to the pro-Russian rebels and training them how to fire the advanced weapons. He also said U.S. intelligence agencies “saw the launch” of a missile from rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine and recorded its trajectory at the moment the passenger plane vanished from radar.

Meanwhile, in Kiev, the U.S. Embassy said American intelligence analysts had confirmed the authenticity of recorded conversations in which rebel leaders bragged about shooting down what they thought was a Ukrainian military transport plane moments after the Malaysian jetliner was blown apart.

More here

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WH.gov: President Obama to Award the Medal of Honor

On July 21, 2014, President Barack Obama will award Ryan M. Pitts, a former active duty Army Staff Sergeant, the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry.  Staff Sergeant Pitts will receive the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions while serving as a Forward Observer with 2nd Platoon, Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, during combat operations at Vehicle Patrol Base Kahler, in the vicinity of Wanat Village in Kunar Province, Afghanistan on July 13, 2008.

Staff Sergeant Pitts will be the ninth living recipient to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. He and his family will join the President at the White House to commemorate his example of selfless service.

More here

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On This Day

 U.S. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the Multi-National Force in Iraq, and Sen. Barack Obama at Baghdad International Airport, July 21, 2008

 Sen. Obama shakes hands with a U.S. Soldier outside Multi-National Division South East Headquarters in Basra, Iraq July 21, 2008

 Gen. David H. Petraeus gives an aerial tour of Baghdad to Sen.’s Obama, Jack Reed and Chuck Hagel Monday.

Sen. Obama looks on during a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Baghdad, July 21, 2008

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President Obama tapes an interview before an event celebrating country music at the White House on July 21, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

The First Family listens to a performance during an event celebrating country music in the East Room of the White House on July 21, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama and Vice President Biden walk from the Oval Office to the motorcade on the South Lawn driveway, July 21, 2010. They traveled to the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., to sign the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and Vice President Biden ride in the motorcade from the White House to the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., July 21, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama shakes hands with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after signing the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., July 21, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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 First Lady Michelle Obama colors props for a theater production with children during a visit to the Naval Air Station Oceana Summer Camp in Virginia Beach, Va., July 21, 2011 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)

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18
Jul
14

First Lady Michelle Obama Celebrates Kid Chefs

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First Lady Michelle Obama hosts the “Kids State Dinner” in the East Room of the White House. The White House treated more than 50 kid chefs to a “state dinner.” The children earned a seat at the table by whipping up mouth-watering yet healthy meals as part of a nationwide contest sponsored by the food magazine Epicurious and the Education and Agriculture departments

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Text of remarks here

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First Lady Michelle Obama hugs last year’s winner from Delaware, Braeden Mannering

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First Lady Michelle Obama and President Barack Obama confess that their favorite junk foods are french fries (her) and chips and guacamole (him)

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President Barack Obama teases First Lady Michelle Obama when she says she is taking a break from french fries

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@dougmillsnyt: FLOTUS reacts when POTUS reveals that she like likes french fries. FLOTUS says “I’m taking a break” from them.

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17
Jul
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama hikes along the coastline in Acadia National Park, Maine, July 17, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

 11:20: President Obama departs the White House

12:15: Arrives Delaware

2:10: Delivers remarks on Infrastructure, Port of Wilmington, Wilmington

3:15: Departs Delaware

4:0: Arrives New York City

5:45: Attends a DNC fundraiser, private residence, New York City

7:30: Attends a fundraiser for House Democrats, private residence, New York City

9:15: Departs New York

10:30: Arrives White House

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Jelani Cobb: Talking Openly About Obama And Race

In September, 2009, just eight months into Barack Obama’s first term, when it was still possible for unsentimental observers to perceive the Tea Party’s riotous fulminations as a passing blip, Jimmy Carter remarked that opposition to the President’s agenda was driven, largely, by one thing: race. “I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he’s African-American,” Carter said. One hears it in the questioning of Obama’s American birth and legitimacy—the idea that he couldn’t really be President without trickery, that he has stolen something—and his presence in rooms where someone like him shouldn’t be.

Carter’s words are, if not conventional wisdom, then certainly one of those truths that most of us know but few are willing to admit. That reticence, along with a large dose of cynicism, explains the reaction to Eric Holder’s statement, in an interview with ABC News, that the opposition to the Administration (“You know, people talking about taking their country back”) is partly driven by racism. Holder’s assessment that “I don’t think this is the thing that is a main driver, but for some there’s a racial animus” is, on the whole, more tempered than Carter’s words, and far less incendiary than Charlie Rangel’s dismissal of the Tea Party, in 2013, as “the same crackers who fought against civil rights.”

More here

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Thank you Nath, for this perfect summation of America’s history

You know what, Kathleen, President Carter was spot on! For some of us with a little knowledge of history, the reaction to the election of President Obama was reminiscent of the reaction to the election of Black people to local, state and national offices, during the Reconstruction period after the Civil War. Whites made sure that Reconstruction State governments, with substantial Black participation, failed. Black elected officials were routinely accused of ignorance and corruption. Even though those accusations were false. Eventually whites resorted to violence to finally force Blacks from political office. But they were able to accomplish that with the complicity of the media, the Congress and the two political parties. Beginning with the 1877 “Hayes Compromise” the Republican party–the party of Abraham Lincoln– began abandoning Black people. By the beginning of the 20th Century Black folks, especially in the South, had no where to go politically. Lilly white Republicans shunned them and Dixiecrat Democrats were hostile against them. The migration of Blacks from the South to Northern cities during the World War I era began to change the racial demographics of many of those cities. Blacks in Northern cities slowly gained political clout. In 1928, South side Chicago elected the firs black to Congress from the North. In the 1950s Chicago would be joined by other Northern cities like Detroit and New York in electing Blacks to the House of Representatives. Still, two or three members of House of Representatives were never considered a threat to white supremacy.

The situation changed dramatically when Blacks were able to form coalitions to elect mayors to some of the biggest cities in America. White supremacist reaction to the election of Black Mayors in major cities during the late 1960s to 1980s was comparable to white supremacist reaction during Reconstruction, and white supremacist reaction following the election of President Obama. White supremacists on city councils made absolutely sure to obstruct everything the Black Mayors proposed to do. In some cities, major businesses relocated to suburbs or other states so as to deprive cities ruled by Black mayors of tax revenues. The goal: to make cities ruled by black mayors so dysfunctional, and thus to consequently discredit the wisdom of electing Black mayors. This is exactly the playbook the GOP in Congress decided to follow from day one of President Obama’s presidency. Thankfully, in his first two years, the GOP playbook was thwarted by Democrats who controlled both houses of Congress. Then came the 2010 and Republicans gained a majority in the House of Representatives, and enough votes to use the filibuster to paralyze the U.S. Senate.

Basically, the GOP’s goal is the same as the white supremacists’ goal, advocated by Rush Limbaugh: Make sure that President Obama fails! GOP and Rush could care less if President Obama’s failure translates into a failure that affects the vast majority of Americans. Other than their idiotic followers who stand to suffer if President Obama’s policies are defeated, people like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Rupert Murdoch and Fox, GOP members of Congress, and the billionaire Koch brothers, wouldn’t experience that much suffering and hardship. They are, however, certain that if President Obama fails, America will never again make a mistake of electing another Black person President.

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Emily Hauser: Incompetence Or Indifference?

As a peace advocate, I am forever confronted by Israeli and/or American Jews (and the occasional gentile) who take one look at any exchange of fire between Israel and Palestinian militants and say: “Yes, sure, all civilian deaths are terrible — but for Israelis, they’re unintentional. The Palestinians actually target civilians.” And as one of those civilians who used to be targeted on the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, I have no problem saying that intentionally targeting civilians is wrong — is, in fact, a war crime…. But I weary of the desperate clinging to the word “unintentional” on my side of this decades-long war.

From the end of September 2000 through the end of September 2012, Israel was responsible for the deaths of 3,034 Palestinian noncombatants, of whom well more than a third were minors: 1,338. And that’s not counting the noncombatants and children (including several toddlers and at least one pregnant woman) killed in the last week alone. But when I look at those numbers, when I see the pictures of tiny, broken bodies pulled from utter destruction, when I see the wailing of fathers and mothers, their dead children wrapped in white shrouds, never to feel their parents’ arms around them again—I no longer care. Incompetence or indifference, neither can be an excuse anymore. And in the meantime, more children die.

More here

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Michael Grunwald: Lower Health Care Costs Brighten America’s Debt Outlook

Fiscal doom will be delayed thanks to lower health care inflation in recent years. But will Congress take notice? For years, America’s health care costs grew at an unsustainable rate. That was the main reason America’s long-term fiscal position looked unsustainable as well; Medicare, Medicaid, and other health programs were spiraling out of control. But our health care cost inflation is no longer unsustainable. That’s huge news, because it means our long-term deficits should be manageable, too.

Republicans have spent the last five-and-a-half years griping about the budget deficit, and most of their gripes have been absurd. They were wrong to accuse President Obama of creating a record trillion-dollar deficit, which he actually inherited from President Bush. They were wrong to criticize Obama for increasing the deficit with his 2009 stimulus bill, which was an amazingly effective Keynesian response to an economic crisis; the budget-balancing austerity approach the GOP was advocating led to much slower recoveries and double-dip recessions in Europe. And they were wrong to accuse Obama of turning the U.S. into Greece; the deficit has shrunk by more than half during his presidency, dropping from 10 percent of GDP to less than 4 percent as the recovery has progressed.

More here

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Edwin Lyngar: I was Poor, but A GOP Die-Hard: How I Finally Left The Politics Of Shame

I hated government – even as it was the only thing trying to save me. Here’s how, one day, I finally saw the light I was a 20-year-old college dropout with no more than $100 in the bank the day my son was born in 1994. I’d been in the Coast Guard just over six months. Joining the service was my solution to a lot of problems, not the least of which was being married to a pregnant, 19-year-old fellow dropout. We were poor, and my overwhelming response to poverty was a profound shame that drove me into the arms of the people least willing to help — conservatives. Looking around, I saw no other young servicemen. Coming from the white working class, I’d always been taught that food stamps were for the “others” — failures, drug addicts or immigrants, maybe — not for real Americans like me.

I felt my own poverty was a moral failure. To make up for my own failures, I voted to give rich people tax cuts, because somewhere deep inside, I knew they were better than me. They earned it. My support for conservative politics was atonement for the original sin of being white trash. I finally “got it.” In 2012, I shunned my self-destructive voting habits and supported Obama. The people who most support the Republicans and the Tea Party carry a secret burden. Many know that they are one medical emergency or broken down car away from ruin, and they blame the government. They vote against their own interests, often hurting themselves in concrete ways, in a vain attempt to deal with their own, misguided shame about being poor. They believe “freedom” is the answer, even though they live a form of wage indenture in a rigged system. I wish I could take the poorest, struggling conservatives and shake them. I would scream that their circumstances or failures or joblessness are not all their fault. They should wise up and vote themselves a break. Rich people vote their self-interest in every single election. Why don’t poor people?

More here

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Variety: Michelle Obama Calls For Focus On The Arts In Grammy Museum Speech

First Lady Michelle Obama appeared in Los Angeles before a crowd of music professionals, educators and students on Wednesday, as she called for greater recognition of the value of arts education. “We cannot be satisfied until every child in America has some exposure to the arts,” Obama said. Obama’s address was part of the Grammy Museum’s Jane Ortner Education Award Luncheon, named in honor of the late public school teacher Jane Ortner, who promoted music education.Obama said that some 6 million school children have no music or arts classes in their schools, a problem exacerbated by cuts in public education.

She said that for many young people, “the arts are a way to channel that pain and frustration into something meaningful and productive and beautiful.” “For many young people and arts education is the only reason they get out of bed in the morning,” she said, her voice often passionate as she delivered her remarks. She also called on arts organizations across the country to adopt programs that include activities for students, as the Grammy Museum does. The museum participates in an educational component of the White House’s concert series, which airs on PBS as “In Performance at the White House.”

More here

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Mark Thompson: Lawyer: Bergdahl ‘Deeply Grateful’ To Obama

No one’s heard anything yet from Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the former prisoner-of-war freed in a May 31 swap for five Taliban leaders after nearly five years as a Taliban prisoner. He hasn’t spoken to the press—by all accounts, he hasn’t even spoken to his parents. But, in typical American fashion, he has retained—and spoken to—an attorney. “Sergeant Bergdahl is deeply grateful to President Obama for having saved his life,” Eugene Fidell, retained a week ago by the soldier, told TIME on Wednesday.

Fidell has traveled to Texas—where Bergdahl has returned to active duty at a desk job in San Antonio following his “re-integration” back into the service—to discuss with his client the investigation into the circumstances leading up to Bergdahl’s abduction in 2009. The attorney declined to offer any insights into Bergdahl’s mood, legal defense, or relationship with his family. Bergdahl also has an Army lawyer.

More here

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Anne Barnard: Boys Drawn to Gaza Beach, And Into Center Of Mideast Strife

The four Bakr boys were young cousins, the children of Gaza fishermen who had ordered them to stay indoors — and especially away from the beach. But cooped up for nine days during Israeli bombardments, the children defied their parents and went out Wednesday afternoon, the eldest shooing away his little brother, telling him it was too dangerous. As they played on and around a jetty in the late-afternoon sun, a blast hit a nearby shack. One boy was killed instantly. The others ran. There was a second blast, and three more bodies littered the sand. One was charred, missing a leg, and another lay motionless, his curly head intact, his legs splayed at unnatural angles.

The Israeli military acknowledged later that it had launched the strike, which it said was aimed at Hamas militants, and called the civilian deaths “a tragic outcome.” The four dead boys came quickly to symbolize how the Israeli aerial assaults in Gaza are inevitably killing innocents in this crowded, impoverished sliver of land along the Mediterranean Sea. They stood out because they were inarguably blameless, children who simply wanted to play on their favorite beach, near the fishing port where their large extended family keeps its boats.

More here

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L.A. Times: Federal Judge Rules California Death Penalty Is Unconstitutional

A federal judge in Orange County ruled Wednesday that California’s death penalty violates the U.S. Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney, ruled on a petition by death row inmate Ernest Dewayne Jones, who was sentenced to die nearly two decades ago. Carney said the state’s death penalty has created long delays and uncertainty for inmates, most of whom will never be executed. He noted that more than 900 people have been sentenced to death in California since 1978 but only 13 have been executed. “For the rest, the dysfunctional administration of California’s death penalty system has resulted, and will continue to result, in an inordinate and unpredictable period of delay preceding their actual execution,” Carney wrote.

Carney’s ruling can be appealed to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Carney, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, said the delays have created a “system in which arbitrary factors, rather than legitimate ones like the nature of the crime or the date of the death sentence, determine whether an individual will actually be executed,” Carney said. A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge in 1995 sentenced Jones to death for the 1992 rape and killing of Julia Miller, his girlfriend’s mother. Jones killed Miller 10 months after being paroled for a previous rape.

More here

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Reuters: U.S. Retail Sales, Manufacturing Data Point At Firming Economy

A gauge of U.S. consumer spending rose solidly in June, in the latest indication that the economy ended the second quarter on a stronger footing. That momentum appeared to have carried into the third quarter, with another report on Tuesday showing factory activity in New York state expanded sharply in July. “This is not a fragile economy,” said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ in New York. “The consumer continues to play their part in moving the economy forward.”

Core sales, which strip out automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services, increased 0.6 percent last month after rising an upwardly revised 0.2 percent in May, the Commerce Department said. Core sales, which correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic product, were previously reported as being flat in May. Economists had expected them to rise 0.5 percent in June. The report added to signs of the economy’s strengthening fundamentals, which could buoy optimism the recovery is on a self-sustaining path, after output contracted sharply in the first quarter.

More here

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First Lady Michelle Obama hugs six-time Grammy nominee singer Janelle Monae as they attend the Grammy Museum’s Jane Ortner Education Award luncheon honoring Monae and Southern California-based educator Sunshine Cavalluzzi July 16, 2014 in Los Angeles

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On This Day

President Barack Obama attends a bipartisan meeting of freshman House members in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on July 17, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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On a weekend trip to Acadia National Park in Maine, the President showed his daughters, Malia and Sasha, how to skip stones during a hike in the park.” July 17, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama greets tourists and hikers in Acadia National Park, Maine, July 17, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and their daughters Sasha and Malia watch the World Cup soccer game between the U.S. and Japan, from the Treaty Room office in the residence of the White House, Sunday, July 17, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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15
Jul
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day – Pete Souza: “One of the most poignant days of the year was when Ruby Bridges visited the White House. Ruby is the girl portrayed in Norman Rockwell’s famous painting, “The Problem We All Live With,” which depicts Ruby as she is escorted to school on the court-ordered first day of integrated schools in New Orleans in 1960. When the Norman Rockwell Museum loaned the painting to the White House for a short period of time, the President invited Ruby to view the painting while it was on display outside the Oval Office.” July 15, 2011

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Today (All Times Eastern)

11:10: The President tours the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center, McLean, Virginia

11:35: Delivers remarks

12:30: Josh Earnest briefs the press

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The Week Ahead

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

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

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

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President Obama holds up three fingers while talking with three-year-old Holden Fossum and his sisters Ayla, 8, and Alexandria, 4, during a greet with wounded warriors and their families in the East Room of the White House, July 14, 2014. Holden, Ayla, and Alexandria are the children of Staff Sergeant Brendan Fossum and wife Dana of Woodbine, Md (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Paul Krugman: Obamacare Fails To Fail

How many Americans know how health reform is going? For that matter, how many people in the news media are following the positive developments? I suspect that the answer to the first question is “Not many,” while the answer to the second is “Possibly even fewer,” for reasons I’ll get to later. And if I’m right, it’s a remarkable thing — an immense policy success is improving the lives of millions of Americans, but it’s largely slipping under the radar.

How is that possible? Think relentless negativity without accountability. The Affordable Care Act has faced nonstop attacks from partisans and right-wing media, with mainstream news also tending to harp on the act’s troubles. Many of the attacks have involved predictions of disaster, none of which have come true. But absence of disaster doesn’t make a compelling headline, and the people who falsely predicted doom just keep coming back with dire new warnings.

More here

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NYT: Anxious Moments For An Afghanistan on the Brink

It was the Germans who uttered the first alarm that a potentially deadly power struggle might be brewing, after weeks of Western officials’ staying on the sidelines as the Afghan election crisis deepened. Just over a week ago, they threatened to withdraw funding and training troops from Afghanistan if a powerful regional governor declared a breakaway government led by the presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah. What followed was as tumultuous a six-day stretch for Afghanistan as any since the American invasion in 2001. Interviews with Western officials, the two presidential campaigns and other Afghan officials detailed a week that went beyond any

previous political crisis in carrying the risk of a factional conflict that would tear open the wounds of the devastating civil war. According to Mr. Manawi and others, it was a call from President Obama to Mr. Abdullah just after dawn last Tuesday that helped stop a headlong rush into a disastrous power struggle. Mr. Obama warned Mr. Abdullah not to even consider seizing power and to keep calm over the three days until Secretary of State John Kerry could get to Kabul. “Really here the U.S. government did a great favor to the Afghan people,” Mr. Manawi said. “If it was not for the telephone call to Dr. Abdullah, this would not have stopped.”

More here

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Danny Vinik: The Border Crisis Has Nothing To Do With Border Security

By linking them, a GOP congressman could kill Obama’s emergency request On “Fox News Sunday,” House Homeland Security Chairman Mike McCaul floated the idea of tying his border security bill to President Barack Obama’s request for $3.7 billion to help ease the humanitarian crisis unfolding at the Southwest border. That crisis is real and requires immediate action from Congress, but it has nothing to do with border security. McCaul’s attempt to combine the issues only puts the funding request in jeopardy.

Those funds are needed to house and feed the 50,000-plus unaccompanied minors who have entered the U.S. so far this year; find sponsors for them while they await their court proceedings; hire more immigration judges to reduce the case backlog; and, for those who aren’t allowed to stay, transport them home. Obama’s request also includes money for increased border security. This is a reasonable response to the border crisis — one that focuses on treating the kids in a humane way while upholding U.S. law.

More here

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Brian Beutler: Republicans’ Failure To Pass Immigration Reform Has Cost Us $900 Billion

Republicans have raised several objections to the White House’s plan to address the child-migrant crisis, but none so self-discrediting as their objection to the nearly $4 billion cost of the bill.

That objection is self-discrediting for two reasons: First, because Republicans are on record in support of substantially more spending to shore up the border. Second, because with respect to immigration (and everything else) their claims to fiscal probity are a shell game they return to anytime they need a plausible-sounding reason to object to something they oppose for other reasons.

To demonstrate both, one need only look back to the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill, which Republicans helped design and pass just over a year ago.

More here

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Steve Benen: An Abundance Of Rhetoric, A Dearth Of Solutions

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chairman of the House Homeland Security committee, argued yesterday that “some” of the unattended minors from Central America he saw “looked more like a threat to coming into the United States.” How could he tell? McCaul didn’t say.

Soon after, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) argued in support of sending the National Guard to the border. Asked what good Guard troops could under the circumstances, Perry couldn’t say. (In fact, he seemed confused by the question.)

A variety of congressional Republicans have now balked at President Obama’s appeal for emergency resource, insisting the package costs “too much.” What’s the GOP’s alternative response? What’s the proper amount of spending? They wouldn’t say.

More here

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WH.gov: President Obama To Award The Medal Of Honor

In the afternoon of July 21, 2014, President Barack Obama will award Ryan M. Pitts, a former active duty Army Staff Sergeant, the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry.  Staff Sergeant Pitts will receive the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions while serving as a Forward Observer with 2nd Platoon, Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, during combat operations at Vehicle Patrol Base Kahler, in the vicinity of Wanat Village in Kunar Province, Afghanistan on July 13, 2008.

Staff Sergeant Pitts will be the ninth living recipient to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. He and his family will join the President at the White House to commemorate his example of selfless service.

More here

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Michael Tomasky: Hey, Benghazi-Heads, You Stand Down!

Central to the Benghazi conspiracy: the alleged stand-down order that kept help from arriving from Tripoli. It never happened—and now we learn that Republicans have known for months.

Let’s redirect our attention back to Benghazi. When is that special Benghazi committee in the House of Representatives going to get cracking, you may have wondered? Good question. It hasn’t been announced yet. But here’s a better question. What, now, is it going to investigate?

While we’ve all been focused during the past week on the border, there was a pretty major news development on Benghazi that got buried and is in need of a little sunshine. Last week, the Associated Press reported on transcripts of hours of closed-door interviews with nine U.S. military leaders that had been conducted by two House committees, Armed Services and Oversight (the latter is Darrell Issa’s committee). Those military leaders agreed on a, or maybe the, central point as far as this continuing “investigation” is concerned: There was no stand-down order.

More here

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Max Fisher: This Chart Shows Every Person Killed In The Israel-Palestine Conflict Since 2000

It’s no secret that the death tolls in the Israel-Palestine conflict are lopsided, with Palestinians far more likely to be killed than Israelis. But just how lopsided is driven home by looking at the month-to-month fatality statistics, which the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem has been tracking since September 2000. Those numbers also tell some important stories about the conflict, how it’s changed, and maybe where it’s going. Here are the monthly, conflict-related deaths of Israelis and Palestinians since September 2000: You’ll notice right away that the overwhelming majority of the deaths are Palestinian, and have been for the almost 14 years since B’Tselem began tracking.

Overall, the group has recorded 8,166 conflict-related deaths, of which 7,065 are Palestinian and 1,101 Israeli. That means 87 percent of deaths have been Palestinian and only 13 percent Israeli. Put another way, for every 15 people killed in the conflict, 13 are Palestinian and two are Israeli. (Statistics for the past two months are from United Nations Office for the Coordinator of Humanitarian Affairs.) That number is even more staggering when you consider that there are about twice as many Israelis as there are Palestinians. This means, very roughly, that a Palestinian person has been 15 times more likely to be killed by the conflict than an Israeli person

More here

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G. Chambers Williams III: Volkswagen Expansion Continues Win Streak For Tennessee

The South’s auto industry continues its phenomenal growth, as evidenced by recent expansions expected to bring thousands of new jobs and billions of dollars in new investment — including a deal announced Monday that will bring production of a new SUV to the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga. With the Volkswagen win, Tennessee is now at the forefront of the industry’s growth. Recent gains include a new Infiniti engine plant that opened this month in Decherd; a pending expansion that will add two new vehicles to the General Motors plant in Spring Hill; and projects over the past year that have brought new vehicles and significantly bumped up employment at Nissan’s Smyrna plant. The Volkswagen announcement of an expansion that will add 2,000 jobs in auto assembly and 200 in research and development was “pretty impressive,”

said Sujit CanagaRetna, fiscal policy manager for the Atlanta office of the Council of State Governments and a leading expert on the South’s auto industry. “I believe it reinforces that this region has become a real magnet, not only for new plants, but also for expansions,” he said. “BMW in South Carolina is another great example. They’ve been there 20 years and have gone through five or six expansions, with the latest announced in March for $1 billion. “All of the ancillary industries related to the auto companies, such as tire manufacturers, are flourishing in the South as well,” CanagaRetna said. “(Clarksville) Tennessee is getting Hankook Tire, there are four major tire makers in South Carolina, including one recently announced from Singapore, and several in Georgia.”

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On This Day

Sen. Barack Obama smiles as he is introduced prior to his address on Iraq policy and U.S. national security at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center July 15, 2008 in Washington, DC

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President Obama greets the family of newly appointed FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski in the Oval Office prior to his swearing in on July 15, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama greets the Gramajo family, participants with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, in the Oval Office on July 15, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama is interviewed by Chuck Todd, of NBC News, at Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, Mich., July 15, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama sits in an electric Ford Focus alongside Mayor Kurt Dykstra following a groundbreaking ceremony for Compact Power’s new advanced battery factory in Holland, Michigan, July 15, 2010

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First Lady Michelle Obama and kids double-dutch jump rope during a taping for the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA) challenge and Nickelodeon’s Worldwide Day of Play, on the South Lawn of the White House, July 15, 2011 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

President Obama, Ruby Bridges, and representatives of the Norman Rockwell Museum view Rockwell’s “The Problem We All Live With,” hanging in a West Wing hallway near the Oval Office, July 15, 2011. Bridges is the girl portrayed in the painting (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Former President George H. W. Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush present President Obama with a pair of socks in the Map Room of the White House, July 15, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

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First Lady Michelle Obama tours the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka, Kan., May 16, 2014. Stephanie Kyriazis, Chief of Interpretation and Education, leads the tour. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

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President Barack Obama kisses First Lady Michelle Obama during her remarks at an Affordable Care Act reception in the East Room of the White House, May 1, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Barack Obama adjusts a lapel pin for Vice President Joe Biden in the Outer Oval Office, May 23, 2014. Ferial Govashiri, Personal Assistant to the President stands at right. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Barack Obama greets guests during a Federal Judges Association reception in the East Room of the White House, May 6, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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Dr. Jill Biden and White House Assistant Pastry Chef Susie Morrison help children plant scarlet runner beans to be presented during a Joining Forces initiative tea honoring military mothers in the State Dining Room of the White House, May 12, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

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First Lady Michelle Obama joins students from Lame Deer Junior High School for a group photo in the China Room of the White House, prior to the White House Talent Show hosted with the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, May 20, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

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A soldier hugs President Barack Obama following his remarks at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Sunday, May 25, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Barack Obama holds a bobblehead doll of himself in the Outer Oval Office, May 14, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Barack Obama hugs children participating in the White House Healthy Kids & Safe Sports Concussion Summit, in the East Garden Room of the White House, May 29, 2014. The President met with the group indoors when their South Lawn event was canceled due to weather. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama visit La General Hospital in Accra, Ghana, July 11, 2009

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Today (All Times Eastern)

10:50: The President meets with company executives and their small business suppliers, Eisenhower Executive Office Building

12:45: Josh Earnest briefs the press

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Paul Waldman: Why The Border Crisis Is The Exact Opposite Of Katrina

If there’s one thing we’re good at, it’s taking a genuine policy crisis and turning into an inane discussion about “optics,” which is what’s happening now with regard to the situation at the southern border. Both Republicans and the media have become obsessed with the question of whether President Obama should go to the border for a photo opportunity, with the accompanying and bizarre assertion that this is “Obama’s Katrina.” In fact, it’s just the opposite. In that case, it was Bush’s failure of competence and his inability to go beyond photo ops that resulted in so much destruction. In this case, the president’s critics are actually demanding a photo op, while refusing to take any immediate practical steps to address the problem.

… One wonders exactly what all these people believe would happen if Obama went to the border. What sort of change would occur? Would he move closer to the Republican perspective on immigration policy? Are they under the impression that if the President had the opportunity to look into the face of a 9-year-old refugee from Honduras, he’d say, “By god, the Republicans are right. This here’s a terror baby! Get out of America, punk! USA! USA!” … If they had a plan for action, but Obama was the one refusing to do anything, maybe then Republicans could reasonably argue that this is his Katrina. But at the moment, it looks more like theirs. the Obama administration has made a request for funds from Congress and is actually trying to address the problem at the border, while Republicans are refusing to do anything at all. Instead, they’re complaining about Obama’s failure to stage a photo op.

More here

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Business Insider: Major New Study Says Obamacare Is Working – Even For Republicans

The Affordable Care Act has been successful at achieving some major goals in the first year of its full implementation, according to a new study from The Commonwealth Fund. There are three important findings from the study: The uninsured rate is dropping, most people like their new insurance plans (even Republicans!), and most people are finding it easy to visit a doctor. The study found the uninsured rate in the U.S. declined by one-quarter over the last nine months, which included the law’s first, six-month open-enrollment period in which individuals could sign up for private insurance plans through exchanges established by the law.

From the July-to-September 2013 period to the April-to-June 2014 period, the uninsured rate of people between the ages of 19-64 dropped from 20% to 15%, according to the study. The research found 9.5 million people gained insurance, either through the exchanges or through the law’s expansion of the federal Medicaid program. The decline in uninsured was seen across different age groups and races, though the drop was disproportionately high among the young (-10%) and Latinos (-13%).

More here

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LA Times: Rate Of Uninsured Californians Is Halved Under Obamacare, Survey Finds

The percentage of Californians without health insurance was cut in half in the last nine months during the federal health law’s expansion of coverage, a new survey shows. Nationwide, an estimated 9.5 million adults under the age of 65 gained health insurance between late summer 2013 and last month, according to a survey the Commonwealth Fund released Thursday.

Those gains during the rollout of Obamacare dropped the nation’s rate of uninsured from 20% last year to 15% now. The change was even larger in California with the proportion of uninsured declining from 22% in late summer 2013 to 11% by early June, the survey found. .”… The findings suggest that the Affordable Care Act is beginning to achieve its central goal – reducing the number of Americans who are uninsured and improving access to healthcare,” said Sara Collins, the lead researcher and a vice president at the Commonwealth Fund.

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ThinkProgress: The Most Creative Ways That People Are Protesting The Hobby Lobby Ruling

1. Making their own IUDs out of pipe cleaners. Since Hobby Lobby will no longer cover intrauterine devices (IUDs) for their female employees, one satirical video has some tips for workers who may need a new option. “Miss Sandy from Hobby Lobby” — an entirely fictional character — explains how to use pipe cleaners, glue guns, googly eyes, and glitter to create a homemade IUD. The video’s creators specify that all of those craft supplies were actually purchased from Michael’s, one of Hobby Lobby’s direct competitors. Some of the protesters who showed up to rally outside of their local Hobby Lobby stores this past week brought along their own IUDs fashioned out of craft supplies, too.

3. Handing out birth control. Protesters across the country are bringing condoms to Hobby Lobby stores and either handing them out to customers or leaving them on the shelves. Even religious leaders are getting in on the action. In Illinois, a group of clergy handed out condoms in front of a Hobby Lobby to make the point that not all people of faith are opposed to contraception, even though Hobby Lobby supporters claim that the right to drop coverage for birth control is a matter of religious liberty.

More here

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And the Emmy goes to…..

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Veronica Toney: “Between Two Ferns With Zach Galifianakis”: President Barack Obama’s Segment Nominated For An Emmy

The 6 minute 30 second episode of “Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis,” featuring President Barack Obama was nominated for Outstanding Short-Format Live-Action Entertainment Program. Shout out to HeathCare.gov! The episode of the Funny or Die internet parody talk show, which published on March 11, has received 22 million views to date.

Only the executive producers of the segment (Scott Aukerman, Zach Galifianakis, BJ Porter and Mike Farah) were nominated for the award. But if The President had been nominated and won the trophy on August 25, it would have been his third entertainment award. President Obama won Grammy Awards for best spoken word album for 2008′s “The Audacity of Hope” and 2006′s “Dreams from My Father.”

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David Zucchino: Florida Redistricting Illegally Favors Republicans, Judge Rules

Florida judge ruled the state’s congressional district map invalid Thursday night, saying it violates constitutional provisions that require fair districts and instead favors Republicans. In a scathing opinion, Leon County Circuit Judge Terry P. Lewis ruled in Tallahassee that the Legislature’s Republican political consultants had “made a mockery” of the redistricting process, tainting it with “partisan intent.” Lewis said that the districts, drawn by the Republican-controlled Legislature after the 2010 census, flouted voter-passed constitutional amendments intended to eliminate gerrymandering – that is, often-bizarre and irregular lines that make a district safe for one party or the other.

Gerrymandering “has been criticized as allowing, in effect, the representatives to choose their voters instead of vice versa,” he wrote. Specifically, Lewis found that congressional districts 5 and 10 had been drawn to favor the GOP, and that neighboring districts had been affected as well. Those two districts, and any others affected, will need to be redrawn, he said. “I find the congressional redistricting plan adopted by the Legislature to be constitutionally invalid,” he wrote. The case goes “to the very foundation of our representative democracy.”

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SmartyPants: President Obama Plays Tortoise To The Media’s Hare. And We Know Who Wins That One!

I’ve often thought that the best metaphor for the Obama presidency is the fable about the tortoise and the hare. Of course – in the role of the hare is our linkbait-obsessed media that runs from one form of hysteria to another in a constant quest for “Obama’s Katrina,” only to tire almost immediately before the story’s conclusion. The role of the tortoise is played by our President, who is always focused on the long game (“slow and steady wins the race”). As FLOTUS once said: Here’s the thing about my husband: even in the toughest moments, when it seems like all is lost, Barack Obama never loses sight of the end goal.

He never lets himself get distracted by the chatter and the noise, even if it comes from some of his best supporters. He just keeps moving forward. And in those moments when we’re all sweating it, when we’re worried that the bill won’t pass or the negotiation will fall through, Barack always reminds me that we’re playing a long game here. He reminds me that change is slow — it doesn’t happen overnight. As we approach the finish line, we can begin to see who is going to reach the tape first. Here are some recent “long game” headlines:

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Tom Kludt: Pundits Collectively Lose It Over A Quote Obama Didn’t Even Say

Many pundits on Thursday were shocked by the gall of President Obama to say that he doesn’t “do photo-ops,” a mere day after glossy, White House-sanctioned shots surfaced of him sipping beer and shooting pool with the Colorado governor. Except he didn’t actually say that, manifold distortions notwithstanding. Here’s what Obama actually said Wednesday night when defending his decision to not visit the U.S.-Mexico border. This isn’t theater. This is a problem.

I’m not interested in photo-ops; I’m interested in solving a problem. And those who say I should visit the border, when you ask them what should we be doing, they’re giving us suggestions that are embodied in legislation that I’ve already sent to Congress. So it’s not as if they’re making suggestions that we’re not listening to. In fact, the suggestions of those who work at the border, who visited the border, are incorporated in legislation that we’re already prepared to sign the minute it hits my desk. “Gotcha,” the critics cried in unison.

More here

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AP: House GOP Moves Ahead On Suing Obama

House Republicans took the initial step on Thursday to sue President Barack Obama over the administration’s decision to delay the employer mandate of the health care law. The office of Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, released a draft of the resolution that would authorize the House to file suit amid GOP criticism that the president has declined to faithfully execute the laws of the country. “In 2013, the president changed the health care law without a vote of Congress, effectively creating his own law by literally waiving the employer mandate and the penalties for failing to comply with it,” Boehner said in a statement. “That’s not the way our system of government was designed to work. No president should have the power to make laws on his or her own.”

White House press secretary Josh Earnest reiterated that position and linked it to economic initiatives, saying in a statement that “Republican leaders in Congress are playing Washington politics rather than working with the president on behalf of hardworking Americans.” Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, said the effort was a waste of taxpayer dollars. “This lawsuit is just another distraction from House Republicans desperate to distract the American people from their own spectacular obstruction and dysfunction,” Hamill said. Boehner’s actions on the lawsuit come as some Republicans are demanding a far more formidable step — impeachment.

More here

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On This Day

La General Hospital in Accra, Ghana, July 11, 2009

President Obama finishes an address following a tour with his family of Cape Coast Castle in Ghana on July 11, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Sasha and Malia, Marian Robinson and a friend tour Cape Coast Castle in Ghana on July 11, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama tours Cape Coast Castle in Ghana, July 11, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

People wave to President Obama at a hotel in Accra, Ghana, upon his arrival back from Cape Coast July 11, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, along with Malia and Sasha, participate in a departure ceremony at Accra airport in Ghana, July 11, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama speaks to the crowd at the departure ceremony at Accra airport in Ghana, July 11, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama shakes hands at the departure ceremony at Accra airport in Ghana, July 11, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama greets members of the 1963 Loyola University Chicago Ramblers NCAA Championship men’s basketball team in the Oval Office, July 11, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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