Posts Tagged ‘naacp

07
Jul
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama greets departing Associate Counsel to the President Alison J. “Ali” Nathan, left, Meg Satterthwaite, and their twin sons Oliver and Nathan, in the Outer Oval Office, July 7, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

11:30: Josh Earnest briefs the press

12:10: The President hosts a group of teachers for lunch

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The Week Ahead

Tuesday: The President will welcome NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen to the White House, ahead of the NATO summit in Wales this September. In the evening, he will depart for Denver, Colorado, where he’ll spend the night.

Wednesday: In Denver, the President will attend a DSCC fundraising event. He will then travel to the Dallas, Texas area for a DCCC event. In the evening, he will travel to Austin, Texas, where he’ll attend a DNC event and remain overnight.

Thursday: While in Austin, the President will attend a DNC event, and will deliver remarks on the economy, before returning to the White House.

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

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Spandan Chakrabarti: Barack Obama Bests Bill Clinton’s Private Sector Job Creation Record

the Labor Department released the employment figures for June, and the jobs numbers blasted through market predictions. June saw an addition of 288,000 jobs, compared to the 215,000 predicted by analysts. The unemployment rate fell to 6.1%, the lowest since before the beginning of the Bush economic collapse in September of 2008 – that’s a 1.4 percentage point drop in the last 12 months, the sharpest decline in nearly 30 years. The economy under President Obama’s leadership – and despite the Great Wall of Republican obstructionism – is not only showing signs of completing recovery from the worst economic calamity in American history save for the Great Depression,

it is now showing signs of coming back to the life it had before the previous administration began to mess with it. June marks 52 straight months of private sector job growth, the longest ever on record, beating out Bill Clinton’s record of 51 continuous months of private sector job growth from February 1996 to April 2000. The economy has added more than 200,000 jobs for five months in a row now, the longest such streak since 1999. In the first half of this year alone the economy has added 1.4 million jobs, another accomplishment not seen since 1999.

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Darlene Superville: First Lady Bucks GOP On School Lunch Rules

First ladies typically avoid getting into public scraps, but Michelle Obama has jumped into perhaps her biggest battle yet. She’s fighting a House Republican effort to soften a central part of her prized anti-childhood obesity campaign and says she’s ready “to fight until the bitter end.” Mrs. Obama even mocked the GOP effort in an opinion column and argued her case on Twitter. “Remember a few years ago when Congress declared that the sauce on a slice of pizza should count as a vegetable in school lunches?” she wrote in The New York Times. “You don’t have to be a nutritionist to know that this doesn’t make much sense. Yet we’re seeing the same thing happening again with these new efforts to lower nutrition standards in our schools.” Mrs. Obama lobbied largely behind the scenes four years ago for the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which requires more fruit, vegetables and whole grains in school meals, along with less sodium, sugar and fat.

It was a major achievement, the first update to school lunch rules in decades designed to make school meals more nutritious. Mrs. Obama says the requirements are based on sound science and that 90 percent of schools are meeting them. The association says districts are unprepared to meet the newest standards. “I’m going to fight until the bitter end to make sure that every kid in this country continues to have the best nutrition that they can have in our schools,” the first lady said at a White House event where she showcased elementary school students preparing and then eating a salad lunch using vegetables they had planted in her garden on the South Lawn. The White House has threatened to veto the House bill. The Senate version does not include the one-year waiver.

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Sally Kohn: Dear Speaker Boehner: Do Your Job Instead

President Theodore Roosevelt enacted 1,081 executive orders during his presidency. President Dwight Eisenhower had 484. President Ronald Reagan had 381. And President George W. Bush had 291. President Barack Obama has enacted 182 executive orders — yet the GOP accuses him of being an “imperial president,” and Republican members of the House of Representatives are preparing to sue him for violating the Constitution. With all due respect, Speaker Boehner, it’s as though the fog of extreme partisanship that has colored your dealings with President Obama since day one has suddenly turned into a full-on fever of irrationality. Think about this for just a second: House Republicans are using taxpayer dollars to fund a lawsuit against a President who has literally done not only what every president before him has done but has done it less often and is doing so now only because

House Republicans repeatedly refuse to even vote on legislation, let alone pass anything. And you have the gall to accuse the President of being the one in violation of the Constitution? Even more frustrating is how your repeated attacks on the President fall factually flat. In your essay for CNN, you write: “After years of slow economic growth and high unemployment under President Obama, they are still asking, ‘where are the jobs?’ ” This is a particularly laughable assertion given last week’s jobs report, which noted our economy added 288,000 jobs in June, marking 52 straight months of continuous job growth. Overall, under President Obama’s leadership, the private sector has added 9.7 million jobs and an economy that was in free fall when he was elected is now in a steady recovery.

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Matt Apuzzo: Students Joining Battle To Upend Laws On Voter ID

Civil rights groups have spent a decade fighting requirements that voters show photo identification, arguing that this discriminates against African-Americans, Hispanics and the poor. This week in a North Carolina courtroom, another group will make its case that such laws are discriminatory: college students. Joining a challenge to a state law alongside the N.A.A.C.P., the American Civil Liberties Union and the Justice Department, lawyers for seven college students and three voter-registration advocates are making the novel constitutional argument that the law violates the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age to 18 from 21. The amendment also declares that the right to vote “shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of age.” Over the past decade, Republicans have campaigned to tighten rules for voters, including requirements for photo ID, in the name of preventing fraud. Democrats have countered that the real purpose of those laws is to make voting more difficult for people who are likely to vote Democratic.

In Ohio, legislators proposed a law that would have cost colleges millions of dollars for helping out-of-state students vote locally. The measure died amid criticism from state schools. In Maine, the Republican attorney general — at the behest of the state party chairman — investigated 200 students for fraud. After finding no evidence, he sent the students a letter warning them to register their cars in Maine or to cancel their voter registrations. In Texas, voters must show a photo ID. A state handgun license qualifies, but a state university identification card does not. North Carolina students have also complained of government efforts, distinct from the new voting law, to shut down voting sites at Appalachian State University and Winston-Salem State University.

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BBC with the “DUH!” question of the day. But, a very interesting article nonetheless.

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Philip Rucker: Bloomberg’s Gun Group To Start 2014 Midterms Strategy By Surveying Candidates

The gun-control group founded by former New York mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (I) will begin surveying all federal candidates in the 2014 midterm elections on gun issues Monday as it tries to become a political counterweight to the National Rifle Association. Bloomberg’s group, Everytown for Gun Safety, is asking all Senate and House incumbents and candidates to complete a 10-part questionnaire stating publicly where they stand on issues such as expanding background checks for gun buyers, limiting the capacity of ammunition magazines and toughening gun-trafficking statutes.

Bloomberg has since started the new group, Everytown, merging the mayors coalition and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Everytown’s goal is to create a grass-roots movement to pressure not only Congress but also state legislatures. It is using data-driven organizing techniques from Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns to expand its network of supporters, which now totals nearly 2 million.

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Grant Smith: U.S. Seen As Biggest Oil Producer After Overtaking Saudi Arabia

The U.S. will remain the world’s biggest oil producer this year after overtaking Saudi Arabia and Russia as extraction of energy from shale rock spurs the nation’s economic recovery, Bank of America Corp. said. U.S. production of crude oil, along with liquids separated from natural gas, surpassed all other countries this year with daily output exceeding 11 million barrels in the first quarter, the bank said in a report today. The country became the world’s largest natural gas producer in 2010. The International Energy Agency said in June that the U.S. was the biggest producer of oil and natural gas liquids.

“The U.S. increase in supply is a very meaningful chunk of oil,” Francisco Blanch, the bank’s head of commodities research, said by phone from New York. “The shale boom is playing a key role in the U.S. recovery. If the U.S. didn’t have this energy supply, prices at the pump would be completely unaffordable.” Oil extraction is soaring at shale formations in Texas and North Dakota as companies split rocks using high-pressure liquid, a process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The surge in supply combined with restrictions on exporting crude is curbing the price of West Texas Intermediate, America’s oil benchmark.

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NBC News: Pope Francis Meets Abuse Victims, Begs Forgiveness For Church

Pope Francis begged forgiveness for the Church on Monday and cited the need for “reparation” as he met with victims who had suffered at the hands of Roman Catholic priests. The pontiff invited six victims of abuse from Ireland, Germany and Britain to attend an early-morning private Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the residence next to St. Peter’s Basilica where he lives. Francis called the abuse a “grave sin” decrying how it was hidden for “so much time” and “camouflaged with a complicity that cannot be explained.” “I ask for the grace to weep, the grace for the Church to weep and make reparation for her sons and daughters who betrayed their mission, who abused innocent persons,” the pope said in his homily. “I beg your forgiveness, too, for the sins of omission on the part of Church leaders who did not respond adequately to reports of abuse.”

He said abusive priests’ actions “profane the very image of God” and are “more than despicable.” Francis strongly praised the victims’ courage in speaking up and shedding “light on a terrible darkness,” telling the mass he is deeply aware of their deep and unrelenting pain. The pope then met privately with the victims, spending at least half an hour with each. While Francis’ predecessor met with abuse victims several times during his pontificate, this was the first time a pope had received victims inside the Vatican. The meeting was first announced by the pope on his flight back from a visit to the Holy Land, when Francis noted called child sex abuse “very serious” and “like celebrating a satanic mass.”

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The Denver Post: Colorado Claims Contraceptive Program Caused Big Drop In Teen Birth Rates

A state health initiative to reduce teen birth rates by providing more than 30,000 contraceptive devices at low or no cost has led to a 40 percent drop in five years, Gov. John Hickenlooper said Thursday. The Colorado Family Planning Initiative, funded by a private anonymous donor for five years, has provided intrauterine devices and other implants to low-income women at 68 family-planning clinics across Colorado since 2009. The clinics are in local health departments, hospitals and private nonprofit facilities. The program also provided training and technical assistance to family planning clinics statewide. “When families are planned and women have children when they’re ready and want them … it’s really a better situation for everyone,” Hickenlooper said during his state Capitol news conference. Seven of every 10 teen pregnancies in Colorado are unintended, officials said.

The decline in births among girls 15 to 19 years old served by the program accounted for three-quarters of the overall decline in the Colorado teen birth rate, the state said in a news release. That rate has fallen from 37 births per 1,000 girls in 2009 to 22 in 2013, officials said. The teen abortion rate dropped 35 percent from 2009 to 2012 in those counties where the initiative is in place, Hickenlooper said. The family-planning program has saved $5.68 in Medicaid costs for every dollar spent on the contraceptives, the state said. The state has saved millions in health care expenditures — $42.5 million in public funds in 2010 alone based on the latest available data.

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On This Day

First Lady Michelle Obama hugs an elderly nurse while holding a traditional Russian matreshka nesting doll during a visit to the Sisters of Mercy St. Dmitry Nursing College in Moscow, July 7, 2009

President Obama meets with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin at his dacha outside Moscow, Russia, July 7, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama meets with Mikhail Gorbachev, former leader of the Soviet Union, in Gostinny Dvor, Russia, Tuesday, July 7, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama greets attendees, including Oksana Yurievna the top graduating student, at the New Economic School graduation in Gostinny Dvor, Russia, July 7, 2000 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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First Lady Michelle Obama leaves the Department of Treasury, in Washington, D.C., July 7, 2010, following her 20th agency visit to thank employees for their public service (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

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20
May
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day – Pete Souza: “‘How cool is this,’ the President said after he threw a football at Soldier Field following the NATO working dinner in Chicago. I think he was especially excited to be on the home turf of his beloved Chicago Bears.” May 20, 2012

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Today (All Times Eastern)

10:45: President Obama meets with business leaders on jobs, Roosevelt Room

12:25: Jay Carney briefs the press

2:50: First Lady Michelle Obama speaks at the White House Turnaround Arts Talent Show

2:50 The White House Turnaround Arts Talent Show

5:0: The President meets with Secretary of Defense Hagel

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Ferdous Al-Faruque: Insurers Give $1.5B In Rebates Under O-Care

Insurance companies returned over $1.5 billion in rebates to consumers between 2011 and 2012, according to a report issued on Tuesday. The reason is an ObamaCare requirement meant to force companies to spend a higher proportion of premiums on medical costs or quality improvements. The new law states that 80-85 percent of premiums must be used by companies to pay for treatment and medical costs. Companies that fail to meet that ratio must pay rebates.

The report also said consumer rebates fell from $1 billion in 2011 to $513 million in 2012, which indicates more insurers now are in compliance with the provision. Consumer rebates fell most dramatically, 71 percent, for large insurers, from $388 million in 2011 to $111 million in 2012. The rule also led insurance companies to reduce their own profit margins, spending on brokers fees, marketing and others administrative costs to the tune of $1.4 billion. These costs are overhead fees that insurance companies have typically pushed on to their customers.

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Zachary Roth: Republicans Drag Their Feet On Fixing The Voting Rights Act

The Republican lawmaker in a key position to help bolster the Voting Rights Act (VRA) isn’t convinced new legislation is needed, and wants more evidence that current laws aren’t strong enough to stop racial discrimination in voting, according to people involved in the discussions. Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s go-slow approach—which comes as efforts to pass the bipartisan measure before this fall’s midterm elections enter a critical phase—is causing frustration among voting-rights advocates. Goodlatte chairs the House Judiciary Committee. Before agreeing to hold a hearing on the bill, Goodlatte has asked for examples of voting discrimination that have occurred since the Supreme Court weakened the VRA last year in Shelby County v. Holder, as well as information on how such incidents would have been stopped by the proposed legislation. Lobbyists with the NAACP responded to Goodlatte’s request last week with a 16,000-word document outlining a slew of discriminatory voting changes stopped by the VRA before the Shelby decision, as well as several new ones that went into effect after the landmark civil rights law was eroded.

The Shelby ruling invalidated the VRA’s most important provision, Section 5, which made certain states and localities with a history of voting discrimination got federal signoff—known as “pre-clearance”—before changing their voting laws. The ruling left in place Section 2, which lets victims of racial discrimination in voting file suit. In January, a bipartisan group of lawmakers unveiled legislation, known as the Voting Rights Act Amendment (VRAA), that aims to reactivate Section 5, by updating the formula that determines which areas are subject to pre-clearance. Rep. Eric Cantor, the House majority leader who played a key early role in discussions over the VRAA bill before it was unveiled, also remains non-committal. In part, Goodlatte and Cantor are channeling the views of the GOP caucus. Republicans are aware that measures like voter ID and cuts to early voting—which might be more easily blocked under a revamped VRA—tend to help their party by making it harder for Democratic-leaning groups to vote.

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Katie Zezima: Obama To Host Business Executives Tuesday

President Obama will hold a round-table discussion with business executives Tuesday whose companies have recently chosen to invest in the United States or have redoubled their commitment to do business in the country. Obama will host high-level executives from companies including Lufthansa, Ericsson and Ford, which plans to add 5,000 additional jobs in the United States this year. “Taken together these companies are investing billions of dollars that will help build our economy and support thousands of new U.S. jobs,” said National Economic Council Director Jeff Zients. The administration also announced that it will hold a second SelectUSA summit in Washington next year. SelectUSA is based in various U.S. embassies around the world and encourages businesses in those countries to invest in the United States. According to the White House SelectUSA has facilitated $18 million in U.S. investment in two years.

The report, “Winning Business Investment in The United States,” was released by the White House and Department of Commerce. Fixed investments accounted for 20 percent of the rebound in real GDP since 2009, the report said, and the U.S. manufacturing sector jobs are growing at their fastest pace since the 1990s. The report also cited surveys, including one by AT Kearney which said that in a 2013 survey of 300 global executives the United States ranked as the top destination for business investment, and a Boston Consulting Group survey showing that the number of U.S. executives considering bringing manufacturing back to the United States from China rose to 54 percent, compared to 37 percent surveyed 18 months earlier.

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Yahoo: Biden Arrives In Romania To Show U.S. Backing Over Ukraine

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Bucharest on Tuesday, beginning a three-day trip to reassure Washington’s European allies they have American backing in the confrontation with Russia over Ukraine. A former communist state on the Black Sea, Romania joined NATO a decade ago and the European Union in 2007. It has been among the most vehement advocates of Western sanctions against Moscow after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine. “The Vice President will underscore the United States’ ironclad commitment to the collective defense of NATO under Article 5, and express appreciation for Romania’s contributions to regional and global security,” Biden’s White House office said.

Romania, which neighbors Ukraine, has said NATO must reposition its resources in the wake of Moscow’s maneuvers. It is especially wary that Moldova – a tiny state bordering Romania with a Russian-speaking minority – could be next in Moscow’s sights. Biden is due to meet American and Romanian troops conducting a joint “capacity-building” exercise. He will hold talks with President Traian Băsescu and Prime Minister Victor Ponta on Wednesday and address the need to deepen economic ties, recommit to strengthening democratic institutions and undertake sustained efforts to bolster Europe’s energy security.

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TPM: Credit Suisse Case Called Warning To Foreign Banks

Credit Suisse AG’s guilty plea and $2.6 billion payment in a high-profile case brought by the Justice Department are being held out as a warning to foreign banks believed to be helping U.S. taxpayers conceal assets. Culminating a yearslong criminal investigation, Switzerland’s second-largest bank pleaded guilty Monday to helping wealthy Americans avoid paying taxes through secret offshore accounts. Credit Suisse was the largest bank to plead guilty in more than 20 years. The settlement resolves the investigation into allegations that Credit Suisse, Switzerland’s second-largest bank, recruited U.S. clients to open Swiss accounts, helped them conceal the accounts from the Internal Revenue Service and enabled misconduct by bank employees.

The case is part of an Obama administration crackdown on foreign banks believed to be helping U.S. taxpayers hide assets. Justice Department officials said their investigations into secret bank accounts held by Americans in Switzerland and other countries likely will bring forth additional resolutions. Switzerland’s largest bank, UBS, in 2009 entered a deferred prosecution agreement with the Justice Department in which it agreed to pay $780 million in fines and turn over the names of thousands of customers suspected of evading U.S. taxes. The country’s oldest bank, Wegelin & Co., pleaded guilty in January 2013 to U.S. tax charges, admitting that it helped American clients hide more than $1.2 billion from the IRS. The $2.6 billion in penalties — which happens to be roughly equivalent to Credit Suisse’s net income for 2013 — will be paid to the Justice Department, the Federal Reserve and the New York State Department of Financial Services.

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Washington Post: Indiana Gov. Mike Pence Is Taking Obamacare Money And Running With It

For the first time since Obamacare split the country in two, the conditions for a cease-fire have begun to appear. An architect of this detente — although he denies any such intent — is Mike Pence, who as a conservative Republican congressman in 2010 fought bitterly against the law and who as governor of Indiana refused to implement it. But Pence, after intensive negotiations with the Obama administration, just announced his intent to take the money Obamacare provides for Medicaid expansion and to use it on his own terms to broaden health-care coverage for the working poor. Pence, a former head of the conservative Republican Study Committee in the House, was a tea party Republican before there was a tea party. But running a state has given him an elevated perspective.

“Debates that happen in Washington, D.C., pretty easily get far afield of the real-world impacts on real people,” he told me in an interview Monday afternoon. “It will not be enough for new Republican majorities in the Congress and a Republican president to cut government spending,” he added, calling instead for money to be sent to the states so they can “solve the intractable problems.” Pence isn’t about to admit it, but Obamacare does that. He thinks he has a conservative alternative to the new law’s expansion of Medicaid: He wants to broaden the “Healthy Indiana” plan started by his predecessor Mitch Daniels (R) by using financial incentives to get the working poor to contribute to their health coverage under a private alternative to Medicaid. The Obama administration appears likely to grant Indiana a waiver for the experiment — and if it works, other states will be free to follow the example.

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Amy Lynn Smith: Pharmacy Technician Sees Obamacare Working Everyday

If you want to see the Affordable Care Act (ACA) at work, stand behind a pharmacy counter. That’s what Desirae Clayborn does, and she’s seen nothing but positive experiences. One customer’s story was especially meaningful for Clayborn. A woman in her 40s came into the pharmacy with tears in her eyes, because she was so excited to be filling a prescription for the first time in her adult life. After proudly handing me her insurance information, she made it a point to tell me that she had just returned from a physical — something that she hadn’t had the opportunity to do since she was a child. The grateful look in this woman’s eyes is something I will never forget.

She was in tears because she could finally be treated for chronic conditions she didn’t even know she had. If she hadn’t been to the doctor’s office, she never would have known. The conditions weren’t life-threatening yet, but the Affordable Care Act could have potentially added years to her life. The customer’s co-pay was less than $10, which Clayborn says the woman was “ecstatic” about. Some people are only thinking about how the ACA impacts them individually. But this isn’t just about one person. It’s something that’s good for the whole country. People get so caught up in the politics that they lose sight of what’s really important. The Affordable Care Act isn’t a political thing. It’s a people thing.

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Bloomberg: Obama Said To Put Personal Push Behind EPA Emission Rules

President Barack Obama plans to personally unveil proposed carbon-emissions rules for power plants, elevating climate change policy as a top tier issue for his final two years in office, according to two people familiar with White House strategy. Obama is preparing to make the announcement with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, who said this week the rules are on track to be proposed by June 2, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the schedule is still being planned. McCarthy said on May 13 that her agency is on course to put forward new regulations

for existing power plants to limit carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act by June 2. That would meet the deadline Obama set a year ago in an executive memorandum directing the EPA to propose the standards. “We are going to show you that you can get significant reductions from the energy sector in a way that’s going to continue to provide reliable and cost-effective electricity, that is going to be continuing our quest to address the issue of climate change and that recognizes that we’re all in this together,” McCarthy said May 13 during a speech to the Association of Climate Change Officers Climate Strategies Forum in Washington.

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ABC News: Oregon Ruling Marks 13th Gay Marriage Win In A Row

A federal judge threw out Oregon’s same-sex marriage ban Monday, marking the 13th legal victory for gay marriage advocates since the U.S. Supreme Court last year overturned part of a federal ban. State officials earlier refused to defend Oregon’s voter-approved ban and said they wouldn’t appeal. The National Organization for Marriage sought to intervene, but both U.S. District Judge Michael McShane in Eugene and a federal appeals court rejected its attempts to argue in favor of the ban. Many county clerks in the state began carrying out same-sex marriages almost immediately after Monday’s ruling, as jubilant couples rushed to tie the knot. “It’s the final step to be truly a family,” said Patty Reagan, who waited in line in Portland to get a marriage license with partner Kelly. “Everyone else takes for granted that they have this right.”

HOW MANY STATES ALLOW SAME-SEX MARRIAGE? Gay and lesbian couples can legally marry in 17 states and the District of Columbia. The two most recent states to make the unions legal were New Mexico and Hawaii, both of which did so in late 2013. Oregon’s ruling is not expected to be challenged, which would make it the 18th state where gay marriage is legal. IS GAY MARRIAGE GETTING CLOSE TO BECOMING LEGAL IN OTHER STATES?. In 11 states, federal or state judges recently have overturned same-sex marriage bans or ordered states to recognize out-of-state marriages. Appeals courts are reviewing those decisions. Ten are in the hands of federal appeals courts, and one is with a state appeals court. WHERE HAVE OTHER PRO-GAY MARRIAGE RULINGS COME DOWN? They’ve been all over the country. Federal or state judges in Idaho, Oklahoma, Virginia, Michigan, Texas, Utah and Arkansas recently have found state same-sex marriage bans to be unconstitutional. Judges also have ordered Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee and Indiana to recognize same-sex marriages from other states. The New Mexico Supreme Court declared the state ban unconstitutional in a ruling that is not being challenged.

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On This Day

President Obama reads a letter outside the Oval Office on the steps leading into the Rose Garden, May 20, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

First Lady Michelle Obama prepares to speak at a meeting of the Corporation for National and Community Service at the Department of Commerce in Washington, D.C., May 20, 2009 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)

President Obama waits to greet arriving foreign ambassadors in the Oval Office, May 20, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama shakes hands with a foreign ambassador as he entered the Oval Office to present his credentials on May 20, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and his senior advisors sit in the Rose Garden after moving their meeting outdoors on a warm spring day, May 20, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama stands in a shaft of light while playing football outside the Oval Office May 20, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza.)

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Pete Souza: “The President talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel as they walk from the Oval Office to the South Lawn drive of the White House following their meetings.” May 20, 2011

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06
Mar
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama signs the prosthetic arm of Sgt. Carlos Evans, USMC, after greeting wounded warriors in the East Room during their tour of the White House, March 6, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern):

11:0 The First Lady hosts a workshop for students – “I’m Every Woman: The History of Women in Soul”

11:35: President Obama participates in a town hall, Newseum, Washington

7:0: Hosts “In Performance at the White House: Women of Soul”

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Elijah Wolfson: How Obamacare May Lower The Prison Population More Than Any Reform In A Generation

While many have focused on the individual mandate, and the online (and glitchy) insurance exchanges, one of the most potentially impactful elements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) has flown more or less under the radar. It may be the biggest piece of prison reform the U.S. will see in this generation. In 1980, the number of Americans incarcerated for drug-related offenses was around 41,000. Then, in 1982, the country’s “War on Drugs” officially commenced, and by 2011, that number had shot up to 500,000. In conjunction with funding the front on drug users, President Ronald Reagan defunded federal mental health programs, dropping total mental health spending by over 30 percent. As a result, many of the nation’s mentally ill lost what was essentially their home and place of work, and many ended up on the street.

Today, a good portion of those make their beds in prisons and jails. The last major study on mental health in prisons, conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, found that 64 percent of inmates in state and federal prisons met the criteria for mental illness at the time of their booking or during the twelve months leading up to their arrest. Many hope and believe that change is on its way. The Justice Department estimates suggest that with the expansion of Medicaid, 5.4 million ex-offenders currently on parole or probation could get the health care they need. (It’s important to note that 25 states plus Washington, D.C. have implemented the Medicaid expansion as of 2014. However, many policy experts expect the remaining states to fall in line, citing the historical example of how CHIP was initially rejected by many states when it rolled out in 1997, but is now utilized in every state in the country.)

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Carol E. Lee: Obama To Donors: Don’t Let Democrats Get ‘Walloped’

President Barack Obama pleaded with Democratic donors not sit on the sidelines in the midterm elections, warning them the party could get “walloped” if their voters don’t turn out this November. Mr. Obama indicated at a fundraiser Wednesday that he’s concerned Democrats could suffer losses this fall because they are already so focused on the 2016 presidential campaign. No one will work harder than he will to make sure a Democrat succeeds him in office, he said, because he wants to “consolidate and solidify” the gains he’s made over two terms. But right now, he said, the party needs to focus on 2014.

“I’m going to need you,” Mr. Obama told about 70 donors at a dinner held at the Artists for Humanity EpiCenter. “The progress we’ve made is on the ballot.” Mr. Obama said Democrats will stand for policies designed to boost the middle class. He pointed to polls showing broad support among Americans for his proposed increase in the federal minimum wage as evidence of what he described as a political system in Washington that’s not reflecting the views of the country. “This counts,” the president said, imploring the well-heeled crowd to “step up.”

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Catherine Thompson: Pope Signals Church Could Support Civil Unions In Some Cases

Pope Francis signaled that the Catholic Church could support some civil unions, particularly in order to guarantee property rights or medical care for nonmarried couples. The pontiff made the comment in a wide-ranging interview with Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera published Wednesday. While the pope’s remark opens the door to support for same-sex civil unions, he did not endorse them outright. The Catholic News Service noted “until now, no pope has indicated even tentative acceptance of civil unions.”

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Isaac Chotiner: Meet Vladmir Putin’s American Apologist

Given that I don’t watch much Russian state television, I naively assumed it would be possible (and even desirable) to go through an entire day without hearing a solid defense of Vladimir Putin’s warmongering. But when confronted with the figure of NYU Professor Stephen F. Cohen, this becomes impossible. In a piece for The Nationand an appearance on Fareed Zakaria’s CNN show, Cohen gave his best defense of Putin’s Ukraine policy, and inadvertantly showed why making excuses for an autocratic regime makes the apologist look worst of all.

Cohen’s discussion with Fareed Zakaria was brief but telling. After first denying that Putin was a “rank dictator” and saying that he is not “a thug” or “anti-American” (would Putin even deny this last bit anymore?), Cohen got to the main point of his argument: Notice that Cohen initially argues that some sort of control over Ukraine is a requirement of Russian greatness. And then, after explaining this, he says the whole crisis was “imposed” on Putin! This is apologetics done well: first you explain why bad behavior is actually sensisble, and then you say that the bad behavior wasn’t really under the control of the bad actor.

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Greg Sargent: Culture War Paranoia Lives On As Dems Sink An Obama Nominee

In a setback for President Obama, the Senate today sank his nomination to head the Justice Department’s civil rights division, at a time when the war over voting is increasingly central to our politics, after seven Senate Dems joined Republicans to vote No. They were apparently spooked by Republican attacks on Debo Adegbile for his role in representing Mumia Abu-Jamal, whose case became an international story after he was convicted of killing a cop in Philadelphia in 1981. The New York Times adds: “As the head of the N.A.A.C.P. legal fund, Mr. Adegbile was not directly involved in Mr. Abu-Jamal’s defense, and the group stepped into the case 25 years after the murder.” Dems who supported Adegbile argued he should not be blamed for the conduct of the man he represented, and that so doing undercuts the foundations of the legal system.

One possible explanation for what happened: Culture war paranoia is alive and well among Democrats. At a time when Dems are increasingly emboldened to take stands on gay rights, gun control, immigration and even abortion that once would have given them far more trepidation, echoes of a battle that feels culturally and politically out of a bygone era were enough to sink a nominee that would have been central to the battle over voting access, which is increasingly important to Dems and their core constituencies in the present. This, even though the once-feared label “soft on crime” seemed to have lost much of its potency against Dems long, long ago.

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National Journal: Americans Cared More About Obamacare Than The Olympics

Nearly six in 10 Americans (58 percent) reported following the health law’s implementation “very” or “fairly” closely in February, according to a new poll, while only 47 percent said they followed the Winter Olympics coverage as intently. Among the most popular health care stories was the decision by CVS to stop selling tobacco products in its stores, as well as news that some employers would have an extra year to comply with the Affordable Care Act’s requirement to provide workers with coverage. More Americans–nearly 70 percent–also paid more attention to the U.S. economy than the Olympics.

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Imani Gandy: Black Women Are An Electoral Voting Force. Recognize

The 2014 midterm elections are fast approaching, and Planned Parenthood Action Fund has just rolled out its campaign to help educate voters about candidates’ positions on women’s health. “We know that women’s health is a winning issue and that no candidate will be able to win without a plurality of women,” the group’s president, Cecile Richards, said in a statement announcing the launch of the effort, dubbed the “Women are Watching” campaign, which is expected to spend more than $18 million in at least 14 states. A week later, the most prominent and well-funded reproductive rights advocacy organization in the nation has demonstrated that it will be relying on the same old campaign formulas designed to educate “key voters” about candidates’ position on abortion and birth control. The problem with this approach is that it is blind to the fact that most women in this country are concerned about more than just birth control and abortion. It’s that broader group of women—Black and Latina women, specifically—who will be delivering electoral victories for Democrats, which, essentially, also means we will be delivering reproductive rights victories in 2014, just as they have in elections dating back to 1980.

Consider the recent election of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. In each of those races, Black women propelled the candidates to victory. Left in the hands of white women, Republican candidate Ken Cucinelli, who would have been a disaster for reproductive rights, would be in the Virginia governor’s mansion right now. Let’s also not forget that if it wasn’t for Black women, we would be face-palming our way through a Mitt Romney presidency right now.  For example, one of the most important issues facing Black women in the 2014 election cycle—as in the 2012 election cycle—is voter suppression. Republican voter suppression efforts target us because they know that we make up the “gender gap” that has, since 1980, helped Democrats win in election after election. Considering that the upcoming midterm elections will be the first major election since theSupreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in Shelby v. Holder, and considering the intensity with which lawmakers in states like Texas, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Georgia have pushed barriers to voting, it seems to me that reproductive rights organizations must place voter suppression at the top of their priorities list.

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Josh Marshall: Obama’s Critics Should Put Up Or Shut Up

Do you remember when President Bush’s political adversaries starting ragging on him during the first days after 9/11? Or during the first days of the invasion of Iraq? Me neither. Whatever you think of the holder of the presidential office, if you are actually concerned about the nation’s welfare you don’t go on TV mocking him and saying he’s weak. The President’s critics talk about “resolve” and “leadership” and “toughness” because there are not any actual actions they can point to that they think he should do but isn’t. These phrases are plastic, can mean anything and can be puffed up with all manner of wish-projection and foreign policy fantasy untethered to any concrete and specifics actions.

It recalls the glory days of #RomneyStrength. It’s really that clear. Vague and ambiguous phrases are used to conceal this. What President Obama could do is give Putin an ultimatum to leave Crimea or be forcibly expelled. Then we’d have a real test of strength and Putin would see deep potential costs to his actions. But even the President’s toughest critics recognize this would be insane. It’s really not a good idea to get into a land war with the world’s other major nuclear power on their own terrain. (And whatever we think of the relationship between Russia and Ukraine now they were part of a single country for centuries and in terms of experience, tactics and knowledge it’s home ground for the Russian Army.)

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Jesse Wegman: The Senate’s Hierarchy Of Victimhood

Debo Adegbile did his job, and for that he was deemed unfit by the Senate to become the head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. His misstep, specifically, was helping represent a death-row inmate while he was director of litigation at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. With this excuse in hand, Senate Republicans and seven cowardly Democrats, three of whom are up for re-election in November, managed to shut down Mr. Adegbile’s nomination. The final, shameful vote was effectively 51-48 (Senator Harry Reid supported Mr. Adegbile but voted no for procedural reasons). But wait: didn’t the Senate vote to confirm John Roberts to the Supreme Court, even after learning that he, too, had assisted in the defense of a death-row inmate? That man, John Errol Ferguson, killed eight people. (Despite the help of one of the nation’s top lawyers, Ferguson was executed in Florida last year.)

So why does John Roberts get a pass but not Debo Adegbile? Because Mr. Adegbile represented Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted and sentenced to death in 1982 for killing a Philadelphia police officer named Daniel Faulkner. For three decades the case has reverberated across the region, which now apparently includes the constituency of Delaware Senator Chris Coons, the last and least expected Democratic vote against the nomination. Some have called Mr. Adegbile a “cop-killer advocate.” Another word for that might be “lawyer.” In representing people like John Ferguson and Mumia Abu-Jamal, Chief Justice Roberts and Mr. Adegbile were doing what lawyers everywhere are trained to do. Particularly in death-penalty cases, it is critical to ensure that a defendant has adequate representation and that his trial, conviction and sentence do not violate the Constitution.

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Sulia: Russia Today Anchor Resigns Live On Air Over ‘Whitewashing’ Of Putin’s Actions Against Crimea

RT news called it a ‘self promotional’ stunt, but I call it brave:  “Russia Today America anchor Liz Wahl resigned Wednesday live on air, saying she could no longer work at the Kremlin-funded network after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Wahl said she feels “many ethical and moral challenges” especially since her grandparents fled Hungary during the Soviet era, “ironically to escape the Soviet Union.”

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EJ Dionne: Blaming Obama First

…. Moreover, Republicans were utterly unrestrained in casting opposition to Bush’s policies as disloyalty to the nation. When Nancy Pelosi accused Bush in 2004 of being “incompetent,” Tom DeLay, then the House majority leader, denounced the top House Democrat for being “so caught up in the partisan hatred for President Bush that her words are putting American lives at risk.”

…. There’s also this. A remarkably broad cross-party consensus has quickly coalesced around two propositions: (1) we will not commit American military forces in this crisis, but (2) we should use every realistic form of pressure at our disposal to contain and then reverse Putin’s assault on Ukraine’s sovereignty. Must we pretend to disagree even when we agree?

More here

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Persona Non Grata: The First Victim

It is often said, “In war, the first victim is truth.” It applies just as much today and perhaps even more so given the many means technology now provides us to seek and find information. The information is then problematic because it is increasingly difficult to sort truth from lies, distortion from disinformation, half-truths from wholly fabricated falsehoods. Perhaps no better example of this is the recently leaked audio recording of a conversation between Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet and Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy for the European Union.

The recording is being claimed as proof that Kyiv’s new “Euromaidan” government itself hired the snipers who killed dozens in Ukraine in February. If true, this would be a world-shaking revelation. But is it? What does the audio recording reveal to us, actually? Here are some observations: 1. Even diplomatic meetings are today subject to unauthorized interception & retransmission. This not only threatens the freedom of diplomats to freely exchange views and information, it also makes it easy for third parties to use the released information and present it out of context.

More here

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John Harper: Afghanistan Veteran William Kyle Carpenter To Receive Medal Of Honor

President Barack Obama will award medically retired Marine Lance Cpl. William Kyle Carpenter the Medal of Honor later this year in recognition of Carpenter’s heroic actions during a November 2010 grenade attack in Afghanistan. Carpenter, 24, would be the 10th U.S. servicemember — and the second Marine — to receive the Medal of Honor from the war in Afghanistan. Carpenter was nominated for the nation’s highest award for valor following reports that he covered a grenade to save the life of his friend,

Lance Cpl. Nicholas Eufrazio, during an insurgent attack in the Marjah district of Helmand province as the two Marines were standing guard on a rooftop on Nov. 21, 2010. Carpenter and Eufrazio survived the blast, but suffered severe wounds. Carpenter lost an eye and most of his teeth and shattered his jaw; his arm was also broken in several places. Damage from shrapnel to the frontal lobe of Eufrazio’s brain left him unable to speak for two years.

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TPM: 41 GOP Senators Try To Filibuster Judge, Then Confirm Him Unanimously

Forty-one Republican senators voted Wednesday to filibuster Pedro A. Delgado Hernandez of Puerto Rico, a nominee to be a U.S. district court judge. Their attempt failed because under new rules established by Democrats, “cloture” on most presidential nominees requires a simple majority, rather than 60 votes. So the nominee moved forward, 57-41. Then the Senate proceeded to a final vote on the nomination, which passed 98-0, capturing the Republican senators who had just attempted to filibuster Delgado.

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Caitlin MacNeal: 5 Year-Old Boy Accidentally Shoots And Kills Himself In California

A 5-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed himself with a gun he found inside his Riverside County, Calif. home on Tuesday, police told NBC Los Angeles. A neighbor called 911 to report the incident, and police pronounced the boy dead when they arrived at the scene, according to NBC.

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Washington Post: U.S., Allies Slowly Put Squeeze On Russia

The United States and its European allies incrementally tightened the noose of their disapproval around Russia on Wednesday, agreeing to send more money to Ukraine, dispatching international observers and more U.S. aircraft to the region, and edging closer to direct sanctions against Moscow. With little movement reported on the ground in Crimea, the autonomous Ukrainian region where Russian troops have taken control, attention focused on a chaotic day of diplomatic meetings in Europe. Secretary of State John F. Kerry held his first direct meeting with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, since street protests in the Ukrainian capital turned deadly last month and led to the ouster of Kiev’s pro-Russia government. No progress was reported after the session, held at the home of Russia’s ambassador to France, but Kerry and Lavrov agreed to keep talking.

No similar quips emerged from a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council in Brussels. A NATO diplomat, describing the session as “tense,” said alliance members one by one confronted Alexander V. Grushko, Russia’s representative to NATO, with charges that Moscow was violating international law in Crimea and concocting threats against ethnic Russians there to justify its actions. “It was quite an uncomfortable meeting,” said the diplomat, speaking on the condition of anonymity about the closed-door session. When it was over, NATO announced that it was suspending collaboration with Russian armed forces on several fronts, including planning for Russia to provide a maritime escort for the U.S. ship that is to destroy Syrian chemical weapons at sea in the spring. E.U. representatives gave preliminary approval to a $15 billion aid package of loans and grants to Ukraine over the next several years, on top of a U.S. announcement Tuesday of $1 billion in energy loan guarantees.

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Reuters: Iran Cutting Sensitive Nuclear Stocks, Much Work Remains: IAEA

Iran is reducing its most proliferation-prone nuclear stockpile as required by its landmark deal with world powers but much work remains to be done to resolve all concerns about Tehran’s activities, the U.N. atomic watchdog chief said. Among measures Iran is taking since the interim agreement took effect on January 20 is the dilution of its stock of higher-enriched uranium to a fissile concentration less suitable for any attempt to fuel an atomic bomb. Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), indicated that Iran had made sufficient progress in this regard to receive a scheduled March 1 installment of $450 million out of a total of $4.2 billion in previously blocked overseas funds. The IAEA has a pivotal role in checking that Iran is living up to its part of the six-month accord in curbing its disputed nuclear program in exchange for some easing of sanctions that have impaired its oil-dependent economy.

“As of today, measures agreed under the Joint Plan of Action are being implemented as planned,” Amano said, referring to the November 24 agreement struck in Geneva between Iran and the United States, Germany, France, Russia, China and Britain. These included “the dilution of a proportion of Iran’s inventory” of 20 percent uranium gas to a lower enrichment level, which “has reached the halfway mark”, he told the IAEA’s 35-nation board, according to a copy of his speech. Under the accord, Iran suspended enrichment of uranium to 20 percent fissile concentration – a relatively short technical step away from the level required for nuclear bombs – and is taking action to neutralize its holding of the material. In return, Iran is gradually winning access to $4.2 billion of its oil revenues frozen abroad and some other sanctions relief. The funds will be paid out in eight transfers on a schedule that started with a $550 million payment by Japan on February 1. Last month, banking sources said South Korea was set to make two payments in March totaling $1 billion.

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LA Times: Weekly Jobless Claims Drop Sharply To 323,000 As Layoffs Ease

Initial jobless claims fell sharply last week to their lowest level in three months, the Labor Department said Thursday, as a private report showed layoffs eased in February. About 323,000 people filed for first-time unemployment benefits in the week ending Saturday, down from 349,000, the previous week, the Labor Department said. The falloff was steeper than that expected by analysts, who had forecast 338,000 first-time claims. Last week’s figure was the lowest since the end of November.

Weekly jobless claims below 350,000 indicate moderate labor market growth. The four-week moving average dropped by 2,000 last week, to 336,500. Planned layoffs last month were down 24% from a year ago and marked the lowest February total since 2000, Challenger said. Announced job cuts in the first two months of the year were 9.2% less than for the same period in 2013. Banks and other financial firms had the most announced job cuts in February, with 9,791, about double the amount in January.

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Trevor LaFauci: Deafening Silence: Why Conservatives Fear Obama’s Foreign Policy

What’s ironic about the Republican arguments against President Obama’s current course of action is the fact that they clearly aren’t based in reality and only serve to further embarrass the party.  For a political party that used to pride itself on foreign policy victories, today’s Republican Party has officially become paranoid after a string of victories by the Obama administration.  The problem focuses on the fact that diplomacy is now seen as a viable solution to solving major international conflicts.  This undermines the entire Republican foreign policy of flexing our military muscle first and asking questions later.

It also hurts the Republican Party where it matters most:  its wallet.  You see, if there are no boots on the ground or no planes overhead then our friends at Boeing and Haliburton can’t make a few million bucks producing products with that profit then trickling down to their shareholders who just happen to be Republican government officials.  If American diplomacy not only is implemented, but also works, then maybe, just maybe, people might begin to suggest that this tactic always be used first when an international incident occurs.  If that happens, if we actually have dialogue between major world leaders, if we actually have economic pressures and sanctions placed against countries that violate law, if we freeze a nation’s assets, then this could lead to a world where American diplomacy, rather than American destroyers, ends up solving international conflicts. And that, for Republicans, is a very scary world.

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Two Years Ago Today:

President Obama on GOP hawks lusting after war with Iran:

“…. those folks don’t have a lot of responsibilities. They’re not Commander-in-Chief. And when I see the casualness with which some of these folks talk about war, I’m reminded of the costs involved in war. I’m reminded that the decision that I have to make in terms of sending our young men and women into battle, and the impacts that has on their lives, the impact it has on our national security, the impact it has on our economy.

This is not a game. There’s nothing casual about it. And when I see some of these folks who have a lot of bluster and a lot of big talk, but when you actually ask them specifically what they would do, it turns out they repeat the things that we’ve been doing over the last three years, it indicates to me that that’s more about politics than actually trying to solve a difficult problem.

Now, the one thing that we have not done is we haven’t launched a war. If some of these folks think that it’s time to launch a war, they should say so. And they should explain to the American people exactly why they would do that and what the consequences would be.  Everything else is just talk.”

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On This Day:

President Obama shoots hoops on the White House South Lawn basketball court, March 6, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama walks towards the White House with friend Eric Whitaker, right and Personal Assistant Reggie Love after shooting hoops at the South Lawn basketball court, March 6, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama arrives at Port Columbus International Airport. Columbus, Ohio with Sen. Sherrod Brown, Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy, and Secret Service, March 6, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama ride in the presidential limousine on the way to attending a parent teacher meeting, March 6, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama shoots baskets on the White House basketball court with Justin Friedlander and his family, July 6, 2010. Friedlander, who was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor in March, 2009, has launched an initiative called “Justin’s Quest,” in which he will shoot 63,000 basketball shots, one for every person diagnosed with a primary brain tumor each year in the United States (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama at a news conference in the White House press briefing room, March 6, 2012

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First Lady Michelle Obama drops by a Partnership for a Healthier America board meeting in the Map Room of the White House, March 6, 2013 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Gabrielle Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly visit the site of a shooting in Tucson, Ariz., that left her critically wounded, March 6, 2013

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27
Feb
14

“My Brother’s Keeper”

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Youth Guidance: President Obama Invites BAM Program Back To The White House

President Obama has invited Youth Guidance’s Becoming a Man (B.A.M.) program back to Washington D.C. to kick off a new White House initiative called “My Brother’s Keeper.” Three B.A.M. students from Hyde Park High School, along with B.A.M. Lead Supervisor, Marshaun Bacon, and Youth Guidance Board Member, Stuart Taylor, will visit the White House Thursday and Friday. The President’s initiative will support young male minorities by bringing foundations and companies together to find ways to keep young men in school and out of the criminal justice system.

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USA Today: Obama Plans Program To Aid Minority Men

As part of the new effort, businesses and foundations would seek to develop strategies designed to help young men at critical and vulnerable parts of their lives. Goals range from helping boys get to school on time to avoiding problems with the criminal justice system. Ideas include promoting literacy, early childhood education and healthy lifestyles, as well as disrupting what one official called “the school-to-prison pipeline.” “My Brother’s Keeper” also involves a review of existing federal programs designed to address the challenges facing young men, discarding those that don’t work and improving those that do — “all within existing federal resources,” one official said. One official said the goal of “My Brother’s Keeper” is “to make sure that every young man of color who is willing to work hard and lift himself up has an opportunity to get ahead and reach his full potential.”

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Yahoo: Obama Embraces A Lifelong Cause: Helping Minority Boys Succeed

“I never signed a Father’s Day card before,” the young man explained as the president opened the card. “I’ve never signed a Father’s Day card, either,” Obama replied, according to an aide, improbably closing the distance between the Chicago teens and the American president. It was an intimate, private moment that moved him. On Thursday afternoon, Obama will be addressing the same set of issues in a far more public way. Three of the BAM teens will return to the White House for Obama’s unveiling of a new initiative partly inspired by the Chicago program. As part of “My Brother’s Keeper,” as the new campaign is known, the White House will bring together nonprofits, foundations and private businesses to endorse and test out programs designed to help young minority men graduate from high school, stay out of juvenile detention centers and prisons, and train for and get good jobs.

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Continue reading ‘“My Brother’s Keeper”’

17
Jul
13

Rise and Shine

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Today (all times Eastern)

10:50: The President delivers a statement on the confirmation of Richard Cordray as the Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

12:45: Press Briefing by Jay Carney

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NYT: Individuals buying health insurance on their own will see their premiums tumble next year in New York State as changes under the federal health care law take effect, state officials are to announce on Wednesday.

State insurance regulators say they have approved rates for 2014 that are at least 50 percent lower on average than those currently available in New York. Beginning in October, individuals in New York City who now pay $1,000 a month or more for coverage will be able to shop for health insurance for as little as $308 monthly. With federal subsidies, the cost will be even lower.

Supporters of the new health care law, the Affordable Care Act, credited the drop in rates to the online purchasing exchanges the law created, which they say are spurring competition among insurers that are anticipating an influx of new customers. The law requires that an exchange be started in every state.

“Health insurance has suddenly become affordable in New York,” said Elisabeth Benjamin, vice president for health initiatives with the Community Service Society of New York. “It’s not bargain-basement prices, but we’re going from Bergdorf’s to Filene’s here.”

“The extraordinary decline in New York’s insurance rates for individual consumers demonstrates the profound promise of the Affordable Care Act,” she added.

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AG Eric Holder: “So Trayvon’s death last spring caused me to sit down to have a conversation with my own 15-year-old son, like my dad did with me. This was a father-son tradition I hoped would not need to be handed down. But as a father who loves his son and who is more knowing in the ways of the world, I had to do this to protect my boy. I am his father, and it is my responsibility, not to burden him with the baggage of eras long gone, but to make him aware of the world that he must still confront. This is a sad reality in a nation that is changing for the better in so many ways.”

Full NAACP speech from yesterday (transcript here):

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Michael Tomasky: Reid Crushes McConnell

…. Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell struck a deal, abetted apparently by John McCain, that averted the invocation of the nuclear option by Reid and the Democrats. Reid got just about everything he wanted. The Senate is going to pass through all seven nominees that Reid brought up in this skirmish….

…. About as clear a win for one party over another as we’ve seen in a long time. Why did it happen? Because everyone in the room knew that the Democrats had the 51 votes to change the rules. Stand together or fall apart, as the old cliche goes. It’s true. It’s still pathetic that it had to come to this for the president to fill his cabinet (and sub-cabinet), but it goes to show that holding the line as a group works.

Full post here

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Steve Benen: …. Will what transpired in the Senate yesterday actually, you know, matter? …. The cautious answer is that it’s evidence of incremental progress, the results of which will have a real-world impact on the lives of real people.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, for example, looks out for consumers against predatory excesses from the financial industry. As Sen. Elizabeth Warren told Chris Hayes last night, in light of yesterday’s deal and Richard Cordray’s confirmation, “We know this agency is here to stay. No more clouds over what it legally is entitled to do. No more attacks that say maybe we’re going to be able to undercut it in this way or weaken it in that way. We’ve got a full-fledged watchdog. The one we fought for, and [Cordray] is going to be there to fight for us.”

…. I’ve heard plenty of criticisms of yesterday’s agreement, and detractors have raised fair concerns … But in today’s environment, incremental progress is still progress, and there’s ample reason to believe yesterday’s deal moves the ball forward.

Full post here

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McClatchy: Congress revisits Voting Rights Act

Congress is taking the first steps toward bringing back pre-clearance of voting laws under the Voting Rights Act this week, as activists express tempered optimism in lawmakers’ willingness and ability to act.

The U.S. Supreme Court last month tossed out the Voting Rights Act’s formula that determined which jurisdictions must submit their voting law changes to the federal government before enacting them. The 5-4 ruling did not get rid of pre-clearance altogether but said Congress must come up with an updated standard to enforce it rather than the 1965 version that covered Georgia and other Deep South states with a history of overt discrimination.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will kick off the congressional response with a hearing Wednesday featuring Congress’ civil rights conscience: Atlanta Democratic U.S. Rep. John Lewis.

More here

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Michael Tomasky: …. the narrative about the IRS targeting Obama’s enemies has been thoroughly debunked….

The IRS “scandal,” lately dormant, is returning soon to cable-news channel near you: Tomorrow, Russell George, the Treasury Department inspector general who produced the original report at Darrell Issa’s request, is going back before Issa’s committee, and this time he’s in for some pretty serious grilling from Democrats. The evidence is now even more preponderant than it already was that there was absolutely no political agenda in the IRS’s review of 501(c)(4) applications. In fact, evidence is mounting that if anyone was behaving politically here, it was George — and, of course, Issa and the other Republicans who launched into their baseless tirades about “enemies lists” and other such nonsense.

…. what about the mainstream media that swallowed whole from the Republican-conservative spoon, running huge headlines and ominous editorials, all those breathy stories that got nearly half the American public believing, on the basis of zero hard evidence, that the White House was involved here? It’s not in the nature of the beast to run huge headlines saying “No Scandal Here.” But it should be in the beast’s nature to take a much harder look at Issa, George, and the other perpetuators of this non-story. And it should start tomorrow, when George testifies.

Full post here

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Reuters: President Barack Obama on Tuesday for the first time admitted that it was unlikely that the Republican-led House of Representatives would pass sweeping immigration reforms before lawmakers left Washington for a month-long break in August.

In television interviews taped with four Spanish-language newscasts, Obama said he thinks many Republicans need more time to grapple with concerns about border security and the changing demographics of America.

…. Obama has insisted that reforms must include the path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. “It does not make sense to me, if we’re going to make this once-in-a-generation effort to finally fix the system, to leave the status of 11 million people or so unresolved,” he told Telemundo’s Denver affiliate.

Many House Republicans oppose that measure, calling it “amnesty” for people who have broken existing immigration laws. But Obama said ignoring the problem would resign undocumented immigrants to “a lower status.” “I think that’s not who we are as Americans,” he said.

More here

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Wendy Davis and San Antonio mayor Julián Castro (left) and his twin brother, Congressman Joaquín Castro, in Austin on July 7, 2013

Texas Monthly: The Life and Death (and Life?) of the Party

Democrats once ruled Texas. Then came five decades of steady decline. Can Wendy Davis, the Castro brothers, and Team Obama’s vaunted field operation return their party to power? And if they can’t, can anyone?

“Somebody has to step up,” Wendy Davis observed one evening in late May over drinks at the bar of the Four Seasons Hotel in Austin. “As long as the Democrats continue to buy into the same bullshit that some of the Republicans are saying — ‘Oh no, it’s Texas, it’s hopeless’ — and continue to act like it won’t happen for six, eight, twelve, sixteen years from now, that perpetuates the problem.”

“So are you going to run for statewide office?” I asked.

Her green eyes sparkled. “One day, someday,” she said coyly.

One day, someday, about a month later, on the morning of June 25, the petite fifty-year-old Democratic state senator from Fort Worth fixed herself a single boiled egg for breakfast. It would be her only meal of the day. She slipped on a pair of pink tennis shoes, headed over to the Capitol, and stepped up……

More here

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President Obama hosted members of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority at the White House on Tuesday as the group gather in Washington for their annual convention. The Oval Office meeting marked the 100th anniversary of the African-American sorority and the 51st anniversary of its convention. Obama met with members including the sorority’s president, Cynthia Butler-McIntyre.

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@petesouza: Pres Obama with make-a-wish visitor Suhail Zaveri, 14, and his family in the Oval Office

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CBS: Cuban and U.S. officials will hold the first migration talks between the two nations since 2011 in Washington on Wednesday. Analysts believe both countries have a strong interest in getting them off the ground again.

…. The Bush Administration broke off these twice-yearly talks, along with taking other measures such as severely restricting the rights of Cuban Americans to travel back to the island – limiting them to only one visit every three years.

President Obama reestablished the rights of Cuban Americans to visit their homeland as much as they want and resumed the talks, only to break them off over the detention and jailing of U.S. contractor Alan Gross, which the State Department has repeatedly said remains a major obstacle to any improvement in relations between the two neighboring countries.

More here

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Morning!

13
Jul
12

Rise and Shine

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Cagle

Michael Tomasky: With his incendiary speech to the NAACP, Mitt crossed an ugly line. No longer simply spineless and disingenuous, he’s now become a race-mongering pyromaniac.

Until yesterday, I thought of Mitt Romney as a spineless, disingenuous, and supercilious but more or less decently intentioned person who at least wasn’t the race-mongering pyromaniac that some other Republican candidates of my lifetime have been. Then he gave his speech to the NAACP, and now I think of him as a spineless, disingenuous, supercilious, race-mongering pyromaniac who is very poorly intentioned indeed, and woe to us if this man sets foot in the White House as anything but a tourist.

Let’s bat the easy charges out of the way first. Spineless? Please. He’s taken every position the Tea Party base has asked and a few they didn’t. Disingenuous? Easy. Either he’s lying now about health care, abortion rights, his support for Ronald Reagan, and his posture toward Grover Norquist’s no-tax pledge, or he was lying then. Supercilious? Seems appropriate and perhaps even a bit mild for a man who made fun of NASCAR fans’ rain ponchos and a working-class family’s cookie service.

But he wasn’t a race-baiter until yesterday….

More here

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Cagle

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Today:

9:40: President Obama departs the White House

10:40: Arrives in Norfolk, Virginia

12:55: Delivers remarks at a campaign event at Green Run High School in Virginia Beach

2:40: Departs Norfolk, Virginia en route Hampton, Virginia

3:05: Arrives in Hampton

4:25: Delivers remarks at a campaign event at Phoebus High School, Hampton

5:30: Departs Hampton, Virginia en route Roanoke, Virginia

7:05: Speaks to supporters at a fire station in Roanoke

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Morning everyone ;-)




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