Posts Tagged ‘nato

08
Jul
14

The President’s Day

@dougmillsnyt: President Obama meets with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in the Oval Office

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Yahoo: NATO Chief Warns Afghanistan Must Sign Security Pact By Early September

NATO’s chief warned Tuesday that, despite a disputed election, Afghanistan must sign a security pact on a post-combat international training mission by September, or there will be “severe” problems for the Western alliance. Anders Fogh Rasmussen said after meeting President Barack Obama that allegations of poll fraud were a “grave concern”

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@dougmillsnyt: [President] Obama steps off Marine One and boards Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base for a trip to Denver, Colorado

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President Obama steps from Air Force One upon his arrival in Denver with Rep. Ed Perlmutter

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President Obama greets people at Wazee Supper Club in Denver, July 8

03
Jun
14

Videos: The President in Poland

President Obama’s press conference with President Komorowski this morning

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Continue reading ‘Videos: The President in Poland’

03
Jun
14

Hello, Poland!….Or, Cześć Polska!

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President Barack Obama and Poland’s President Bronislaw Komorowski, wave at Belveder residence in Warsaw, Poland. President Obama came to Poland to meet regional leaders and attend ceremonies marking 25 years of Poland’s democracy

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President Barack Obama and Poland’s President Bronislaw Komorowski make statements and meet with U.S. and Polish troops at an event featuring four F-16 fighter jets, two American and two Polish, as part of multinational military exercises

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President Barack Obama answers a question during a joint news conference with Poland’s President Bronislaw Komorowski

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Continue reading ‘Hello, Poland!….Or, Cześć Polska!’

21
May
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama greets graduating Joplin High School seniors before their commencement ceremony at Missouri Southern State University’s Leggett & Platt Athletic Center in Joplin, Mo., May 21, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

10:45: President Obama makes a statement in the briefing room after a meeting with Sec. Eric Shinseki

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11:35: The President participates in an ambassador credentialing ceremony

12:45: Jay Carney briefs the press

2:10: The President honors the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, East Room

4:10: The President delivers remarks on the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument Designation, Department of Interior

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Washington Post: Obama: ‘In Five Years It Will No Longer Be Called Obamacare.’

Just about everyone calls the Affordable Care Act “Obamacare” — even the White House. But is President Obama returning to his old stance that the health-care law should not have his name attached to it?

At a fundraiser in Potomac, Md., Monday night, Obama backed off the term that his administration shunned, and then embraced.

“First of all, in five years it will no longer be called Obamacare, because when something is working, they’re definitely not going to — there will be a whole renaming process similar to National. (Laughter.) I don’t know if it will be “Reagancare,” but it will definitely be — it will be something different,” Obama told the crowd.

(For those of you outside the Washington area, Obama was referring to Washington National Airport, which was renamed Reagan National Airport in 1998).

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NYT: Memo Approving Targeted Killing Of U.S. Citizen To Be Released

Facing the potential defeat of an appeals court nominee, the Obama administration decided Tuesday to publicly release much of a classified memo written by the nominee that signed off on the targeted killing an American accused of being a terrorist. The solicitor general, Donald B. Verrilli Jr., made the call to release the secret memo — and not appeal a court order requiring its disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act — and informed Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. of his decision this week, according to two administration officials. The White House was informed Tuesday. But the memo will not be released right away because officials said they needed time to redact it and to prepare an appeal asking the court not to reveal classified sections of a federal appeals court ruling last month requiring that most of the memo be made public. The memo was written by David J. Barron, a Harvard Law professor and former acting chief of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, who is Mr. Obama’s choice to fill a vacancy on the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston.

As a Justice Department lawyer, Mr. Barron wrote two memos concluding that it would be lawful to kill Anwar al-Awlaki, a United States citizen living in Yemen, based on intelligence agencies’ conclusion that he was a senior operational terrorist plotting attacks against the United States and that his capture was not feasible. The lawsuit focused on the second and longer of those memos. Mr. Awlaki was killed by an American drone strike in September 2011. Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, had promised to slow down Mr. Barron’s confirmation if the administration did not allow senators to view all of Mr. Barron’s memos or release redacted versions to the public. Libertarian-leaning senators in both parties had expressed reservations about the nomination, and some conservatives also argued that he was too liberal on other issues. A spokesman for Mr. Paul said the senator would still take the Senate floor on Wednesday for a filibuster-style protest of Mr. Barron’s nomination. Last year, Mr. Paul used the nomination of John O. Brennan to lead the Central Intelligence Agency to stage a nearly 13-hour filibuster.

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Philly.com: U.S. Judge Strikes Down Same-Sex Marriage Ban In Pa.

A federal judge on Tuesday struck down Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriages, a landmark ruling that appeared to clear the way for the Commonwealth to become the latest state to legalize gay marriage. The decision by U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III marked the first and most significant to date in a series of court challenges to the state’s 1996 ban. “We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them onto the ash heap of history,” Jones wrote in the 39-page opinion. “By virtue of this, ruling, same-sex couples who seek to marry in Pennsylvania may do so, and already married same-sex couples will be recognized as such in the Commonwealth.”

“What a great day!” said Mark Aronchick, one of the plantiffs lawyers in the case. “The court, in a bell-ringing opinion, has explained in crystal clear language why the promises of our Constitution extend to all Pennsylvanians. We urge the commonwealth to take whatever steps are necessary to allow marriages to proceed and the celebrations to begin immediately.” In Philadelphia, Register of Wills Ron Donatucci’s office immediately began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Guy Sabelli, the city’s marriage license supervisor, said 12 female couples and 6 male couples had obtained licenses by the time the office closed at 5:30 p.m. The office reopens at 8 a.m. Wednesday with extended hours until 7 p.m.

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TPM: WTF?

I’m not sure why this isn’t a bigger deal. I hadn’t heard about it other than in this brief passage tucked away in a Politico article about the House GOP agriculture bill. But it takes a small program intended provide meals to children in the school lunch program during the summer months and says it can now only be used to benefit kids in “rural areas”.

In other words, “urban” kids are now out of luck.

Here’s the passage in question ..

And in a surprising twist, the bill language specifies that only rural areas are to benefit in the future from funding requested by the administration this year to continue a modest summer demonstration program to help children from low-income households — both urban and rural — during those months when school meals are not available.

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ThinkProgress: President Obama Is Set To Create His Largest National Monument So Far

On Wednesday, President Obama will create his second national monument of the year, designating the Organ Mountains in New Mexico a protected area. The Organ Mountains, located at the southern end of New Mexico, will be the 11th and largest national monument of Obama’s presidency. The White House says that the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument will create $7.4 million in new annual economic activity in the region, a finding that first appeared in a 2013 report.

That report also found the monument would double the number of outdoor recreation and tourism jobs in the region and contribute $560,000 in state and local tax revenue. The monument encompasses a total of 496,000 acres, land which contains Native American petroglyphs in its canyons and is one of the most botanically diverse mountain ranges in New Mexico, home to about 870 vascular (i.e. plants with roots, stems, and leaves) plant species and a recorded 210 species of birds.

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Brentin Mock: EPA Takes On Three Villains At Once: Pollution, Climate Change, And Racism

You may have read something recently about the air being racist, which is of course ridiculous. It is true that if you are white in America you will tend to breathe air of a more premium quality. A recent study from the University of Minnesota found that black and brown Americans are more often trapped in neighborhoods laden with nitrogen dioxide than their white fellow Americans. This is not news to us. Our abnormally high asthma and cancer rates testify to this. President Obama’s first Environmental Protection Agency chief, Lisa Jackson, promoted environmental justice to top priority status in the agency’s overall mission in 2009. The resulting strategy, which the EPA began rolling out in March, is called Plan EJ 2014, and its primary goal is to end the culture of entitlement among polluters that dump toxic byproducts into the air, soil, and water of marginalized communities. Why is this a big deal?

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Because if you believe that the health and lives of people of color are no less precious than white people’s, this plan helps bring environmental laws in harmony with those values. If you think that clean air is Don Sterling (I like black people. I feed them with oxygen and give them wind. I just don’t want them breathing me.), then you want to know who the Adam Silver is who can commission a smack down. Because civil rights protections in America have been taking a beating lately. Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court, we now have weakened voting rights protections, weakened affirmative action policies, and we were this close to losing valuable housing discrimination protections (which would have had negative implications for environmentalists).
While civil rights have been getting pushed backwards, environmental justice is been slowly rolling along progressively. That’s no small feat, especially for an agenda that was attacked almost immediately upon Obama claiming the White House in 2009.

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ABC News: Biden: Punish Russia If It Meddles In Ukraine

Russia must be punished if it seeks to derail Ukraine’s presidential election this weekend, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday. Speaking during a tour of Eastern European nations, Biden urged European allies to use their influence and “promote a stable and positive environment” so Ukrainians can vote unhindered on Sunday. “If Russia undermines these elections … we must remain resolute and impose greater costs to Russia and (be) equally resolute to invest in the NATO alliance,” Biden said after talks with Romanian President Traian Basescu. The U.S. and the EU have imposed travel bans and asset freezes on President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle over Russia’s annexation of Crimea and have threatened to target entire sectors of the Russian economy if Russia tries to grab more land from Ukraine.

Biden urged Romania to develop its natural gas resources, which analysts say could be exported it to other countries in the region, including neighboring Moldova, which is 100 percent dependent on Russian gas. Romania imports about one-fifth of its natural gas from Russia and has its own supplies in the northwest Transylvania region. “We need to ensure that Russia can no longer use its energy resources as a weapon against anyone in the region,” Biden said. “The development of a secure, diverse and inter-connected energy market is the next great step for our European colleagues.”

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ThinkProgress: Chipotle Asks Customers To Keep Guns Away From Its Stores

On Monday, Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. formally requested that customers refrain from bringing guns into its restaurants. The announcement came after gun rights advocates entered a Texas restaurant with “military-style assault rifles.”

Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America distributed a petition calling for firearms bans in stores like Chipotle after “open-carry gun activists” entered a Chipotle in Dallas.

According to Chipotle, “the display of firearms in our restaurants has now created an environment that is potentially intimidating or uncomfortable for many of our customers.” It remains unclear whether or not the chain is implementing a complete ban on all firearms, but the official statement also claims that the company has previously adhered to local gun rights laws.

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Caroline F. Pearson: Avalere Analysis: Exchange Enrollment Outpaces Expectations In 22 States

A new analysis from Avalere Health finds that exchange enrollment meets or exceeds expectations in 22 states (44%), even after accounting for any attrition due to nonpayment of premiums. Assuming 15 percent of enrollees do not take the final enrollment step and pay their premiums, over 6.8 million people who enrolled through April 19 will have coverage effective as of May 1.

“The large uptick in enrollment in March and early April brought many states over the finish line in terms of projected enrollment for 2014,” said Caroline Pearson, Vice President at Avalere. “Even after accounting for potential non-payment, enrollment exceeds 100 percent of projections in nearly half of states.”

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The White House Turnaround Arts Talent Show: The Full Show:

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Paul Pillar: The President Strikes A Nerve

President Obama has gotten much attention from a single extended response he gave to a question about his foreign policy from Ed Henry of Fox News in a press conference in Manila. The apparently strongly felt need, on the part of some of the president’s hardline critics, to strike back at his remarks and to try to discredit them indicates that he spoke some embarrassing truths. Garden-variety disagreement with the substance of the president’s policies and what he has said to support them would never have stimulated this kind of response. The president made several perceptive observations about the less productive aspects of current discourse in Washington about Ukraine, Syria, and other difficult issues, but if there was a single “ouch” line that made the critics most uncomfortable it may have been Mr. Obama’s comment that “for some reason many who were proponents of what I consider to be a disastrous decision to go into Iraq haven’t really learned the lesson of the last decade, and they keep on just playing the same note over and over again.”

It must be painful for Mr. Obama’s opponents to be reminded how right he was about this issue while so many others—Democrats as well as Republicans—were wrong. If subsequent commentary by the critics were to be believed, the main takeaway from the president’s remarks was that he was accusing his political opponents of being warmongers. But the president explicitly acknowledged, in referring to debates over Syria and Ukraine, that the opponents he has in mind have disavowed wanting to send U.S. troops into such conflicts. Mr. Obama’s main point was instead that after making such disavowals, the critics either (1) fail to spell out what other action they have in mind, beyond what the administration already is doing; or (2) to the extent they do mention an alternative, fail to assess carefully the likely consequences both good and bad, and instead just make unsupported assertions that acting more boldly or aggressively will somehow help to solve the problem at hand.

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WPRI: 91% In RI Pay First Premiums For Obamacare Plans

The vast majority of individuals who signed up for private insurance plans through Rhode Island’s new Obamacare marketplace finished the process by paying their first premiums, the agency’s leader confirmed Friday. Christine Ferguson, executive director of HealthSource RI, said 91% of the 27,968 individuals who signed up for private plans during the open enrollment period from Oct. 1 to March 31 paid their first premiums by the April 23 deadline. Analysts have pointed to that percentage as a key test of whether the enrollment figures were as strong as they looked. A total of 25,879 individuals had signed up for a private plan through HealthSource RI and paid their first premiums as of April 30, the agency said. In addition, more than 70,000 people have now used the marketplace to sign up for Medicaid, the government insurance plan for low-income Americans, far more than were expected to do so.

Ferguson also confirmed that HealthSource RI is “in very serious discussions” with executives at UnitedHealth Group Inc. to have United start selling plans for individuals on the Rhode Island marketplace this fall. “I will say that there’s a very good chance that United will,” she said. Executives at United, the nation’s largest health insurer, have signaled in recent weeks that they plan to start selling Obamacare plans in more states during the next open enrollment period this fall. While United is already selling plans to small businesses through HealthSource RI, the marketplace currently has only Blue Cross & Blue Shield and Neighborhood Health Plan offering individual plans.

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Amy Lynn Smith: Obamacare Success Stories Keep Coming, With A Rosy Forecast For 2015

So much good news, it’s hard to know where to begin. In Michigan, 272,539 people signed up for coverage through Healthcare.gov, in addition to thousands more who have enrolled in the Healthy Michigan Plan, the state’s Medicaid expansion program that launched April 1. Numbers don’t lie, but even more compelling are the stories of people like Karen Marshall of Oak Park, Mich. Until about four years ago, she’d always had health insurance through work. But when she lost her job, she couldn’t get even the most expensive private insurance because the insurance company claimed she had a pre-existing condition.

Marshall has always considered herself fortunate to be healthy, but she never felt luckier than she did after getting health insurance that kicked in on January 1, 2014. On a trip the week before, she slipped on the ice and fell, breaking her wrist in three places. She saw an orthopedic surgeon on January 3 and had surgery the following week. Everything was covered by her insurance, leaving her only having to pay her deductible and her $6,000 out-of-pocket maximum for the year. She’s now had two surgeries, one hospitalization, and has physical therapy and follow-up visits ahead.

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On This Day

Sen. Barack Obama greets supporters during a campaign rally at the St. Pete Times Forum, May 21, 2008 in Tampa, Florida

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President Obama and the Pittsburgh Steelers pack care packages for distribution by the USO during an event on the South Lawn of the White House May 21, 2009 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

President Obama meets with Judge Sonia Sotomayor in the Oval Office on May 21, 2009. The President nominated Judge Sotomayer to the U.S. Supreme Court on May 26, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs (left) and Senior Advisor David Axelrod review President Obama’s address on national security outside the Oval Office on May 21, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama delivers an address on national security at the National Archives May 21, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama prepares to take a group photo with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the East Room of the White House, May 21, 2009 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

President Obama meets with Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete in the Oval Office Thursday, May 21, 2009. This was the President’s first meeting with an African Head of State. A bust of Martin Luther King is at far left (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama chats with journalists in a dining room located in the in the White House Navy Mess, May 21, 2009. (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama’s personal secretary, Katie Johnson, tries on a Pittsburgh Steelers football helmet outside the Oval Office, May 21, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama is reflected in a mirror during a impromptu drop-by visit with speechwriters in David Axelrod’s office in the West Wing of the White House on May 21, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama surprises members of the Office of the Staff Secretary in the West Wing of the White House during an impromptu drop-by visit on May 21, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama shares a laugh with Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., left, Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., right, and others during a meeting in the Oval Office, May 21, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama disembarks Air Force One upon his arrival at Joplin Regional Airport in Joplin, Mo., May 21, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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@PeteSouza: ‘POTUS receives update this am on Oklahoma tornado aftermath from Sec Napolitano et al’ May 21, 2013

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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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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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Attorney-Debo-Adegbile

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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?

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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.

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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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