Posts Tagged ‘reform



03
Aug
13

Rise and Shine

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Pete Souza: National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice cleans a stain on VP Joe Biden’s suitcoat today

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Jonathan Bernstein: Hey Reporters! Do Health Insurance Boycott Organizers Carry Insurance Themselves?

conservative activists are organizing boycotts of health insurance within the exchanges. We’ve had great reporting by Sarah Kliff, and today by Christopher Flavelle, who interviewed Twila Brase, an Obamacare boycott organizer with something called the “Citizens’ Council for Health Freedom.” What I really want to know, however, neither Flavelle nor Kliff asked: Are the people organizing these boycotts going without health insurance? Are they going without their own ACA-regulated, government-subsidized health insurance?

Flavelle gets Brase to talk about what a supposedly bad idea health insurance is for her target group. It really doesn’t seem far-fetched to ask whether she subjects herself to the horrors of insurance. Of course, if she does, and if employees of FreedomWorks and the other Obamacare boycott organizers also use health insurance themselves, then we might begin to suspect that this is just a fundraising scam by “political” activists who are willing to raise money off of their irresponsible rhetoric and are actually willing to destroy young conservatives’ lives by encouraging them to make stupid financial choices for the cause.

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President Barack Obama and personal aide Reggie Love stand in a hallway of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the White House after dropping by an African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) meeting, Aug. 3, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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Mike Lillis: Pelosi Predicts No Farm Bill By October Deadline

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Friday she has little faith in Congress to pass a farm bill by the Oct. 1 deadline.”[I'm] not confident, unfortunately,” Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol. The Democratic leader said the news that Republicans want $40 billion cut from the food stamp program would move the House bill so far to the right that a conference with the Senate bill could prove unworkable.

She urged GOP leaders to take the farm bill they passed earlier in the month, which extends current farm policy but doesn’t include food stamp provisions, and send that to the bargaining table with the Senate. “Let’s just go to the table,” she said. “Even with that bill, as horrible as it was, at least it’s a path to the conference table. But to put their members on record as supporting $40 billion in cuts really makes the path back even harder.”

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President Barack Obama talks with Members of Congress after signing the Fair Sentencing Act in the Oval Office, Aug. 3, 2010. Participants include, from left, Attorney General Eric Holder, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin, D-Ill., Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-Texas, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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Nicole Flatow: Slashing Racist Crack Sentences Has Already Saved 16K Prison Years And Half A Billion Dollars

In 2010, Congress mitigated a blight on the U.S. justice system by reducing a racist drug sentencing disparity. Before the passage of the Fair Sentencing Act, crack offenses, which disproportionately ensnare African Americans, carried mandatory minimum sentences that were 100 times those for powder cocaine sentences, which are more often doled out to whites. In the compromise measure, Congress reduced that disparity to 18 to 1. While the law initially applied only to future sentences, the U.S. Sentencing Commission opted a year later to apply the new law to sentences retroactively.

Just two years later, the results of the Sentencing Commission’s action have been striking. More than 7,300 inmates convicted of crack offenses have received average 29-month sentence reductions, meaning a total of 16,000 years in prison saved, according to calculations on new U.S. Sentencing Commission data by sentencing expert Doug Berman. These reductions have already saved the Bureau of Prisons half a billion dollars by conservative estimates. That is a big chunk of change for an agency whose total budget is $7 billion, and already exceeds initial Bureau of Prison estimates

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President Barack Obama talks with kids attending a Let’s Move! tennis clinic on the South Lawn of the White House, Aug. 3, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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Tara Culp-Ressler: Plan B Finally Hit Pharmacy Shelves This Week

Women’s health advocates have fought for over-the-counter access to emergency contraception for more than a decade, and their efforts were finally realized this week. Thursday, August 1 marked the day that pharmacies and grocery stories across the country were supposed to begin stocking Plan B on their shelves, available for purchase without a prescription.

The “Healthcare In Our Hands” campaign is celebrating by encouraging Americans to submit photos of Plan B on pharmacy shelves. On the campaign’s Tumblr page, the photos from states around the country are accompanied by captions like, “Thumbs up for emergency contraception over the counter, and increased access!”

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President Barack Obama waits with Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the Amir of Kuwait, outside the Oval Office, as they were about to walk to the State Dining Room on Aug. 3, 2009.
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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Ian Millhiser: Senate Confirms Top Gun Cop For The First Time In American History

By the narrowest of margins — and after a lengthy vote held open due to one senator’s absence — the Senate voted Wednesday evening to break a Republican filibuster of B. Todd Jones to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Susan Collins (R-ME), Lindsay Graham (R-SC), Mark Kirk (R-IL), John McCain (R-AZ) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) crossed over to vote with all 54 Democrats to break the filibuser. Shortly after this vote, Jones was confirmed 53-42 — the first time in American history that an ATF Director has been confirmed.

Prior to 2006, the ATF Director could be appointed directly by the president without going through the Senate confirmation process. That changed after theNational Rifle Association successfully lobbied to insert a provision into a law reauthorizing the PATRIOT Act requiring Senate approval of any such Director.

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President Barack Obama greets members of the delegation traveling with Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the Amir of Kuwait, during a lunch in the Old Family Dining Room of the White House, on Aug. 3, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Barack Obama has lunch at Good Stuff Eatery in Washington, D.C., with staff members who worked on the debt negotiations, Aug. 3, 2011. From left are: Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew; National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling; Rob Nabors, Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs; and Bruce Reed, Chief of Staff to the Vice President. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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26
Jul
13

Rise and Shine

President Obama greets the audience after speaking at the Jacksonville Port, July 25

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Today – all times Eastern

9:30 AM: President Obama departs Joint Base Andrews en route to Camp David where he will will host Cabinet members and their families

7:0: Returns to the White House

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Patheos

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Paul Krugman: Republican Health Care Panic

Leading Republicans appear to be nerving themselves up for another round of attempted fiscal blackmail. With the end of the fiscal year looming, they aren’t offering the kinds of compromises that might produce a deal and avoid a government shutdown …. they’re threatening, once again, to block any rise in the debt ceiling, a move that would damage the U.S. economy and possibly provoke a world financial crisis.

Yet even as Republican politicians seem ready to go on the offensive, there’s a palpable sense of anxiety, even despair, among conservative pundits and analysts. Better-informed people on the right seem, finally, to be facing up to a horrible truth: Health care reform, President Obama’s signature policy achievement, is probably going to work.

And the good news about Obamacare is, I’d argue, what’s driving the Republican Party’s intensified extremism. Successful health reform wouldn’t just be a victory for a president conservatives loathe, it would be an object demonstration of the falseness of right-wing ideology. So Republicans are being driven into a last, desperate effort to head this thing off at the pass……

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Greg Sargent: Even Republicans are openly worried about GOP’s sabotage governing

The notion that GOP sabotage governing tactics could ultimately prove counter-productive and self defeating for the Republican Party is now being increasingly voiced by Republicans themselves.

….. with Republicans hurtling towards another set of crises over the debt limit and funding the government they are openly nervous about the GOP’s continued embrace of its intransigent scorched earth governing posture…

…. More public disunity from Republicans about their tactics – even as Dems remain relatively united behind their insistence that they won’t negotiate over the debt limit and will continue to demand new revenues as part of any budget deal – will only encourage the White House to hold a harder line.

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And see Steve Benen: Senate GOPer calls shutdown threat ‘the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard’

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Washington Post: White House hardens stance on budget cuts ahead of showdown with Republicans

Senior White House officials are discussing a budget strategy that could lead to a government shutdown if Republicans continue to demand deeper spending cuts, lawmakers and Democrats familiar with the administration’s thinking said Thursday.

The posture represents a more confrontational approach than that of this spring, when President Obama decided not to escalate a fight over across-the-board reductions known as sequestration in an earlier budget battle with Republicans.

The change in tone has been evident in repeated and little-noticed veto threats over the past few weeks by Obama, who has rarely issued the warnings with such frequency. He has made it clear that he will not sign into law Republican spending bills that slash domestic programs even more deeply than sequestration.

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Steve Benen: Either job creation is the top priority or it isn’t

…. In addition to the voluminous list of documented problems, just over the last few days we’ve gotten a better sense of the ways in which [sequestration cuts are] hurting the military, public schools, parks, and the justice system. The poor and minorities are disproportionately suffering.

Did the political world care about these stories? Not really…. So what made yesterday different? This did:

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office on Thursday estimated that keeping the spending cuts from sequestration in place through fiscal 2014 would cost up to 1.6 million jobs …. Canceling the cuts, on the other hand, would yield between 300,000 to 1.6 million new jobs, with the most likely outcome being the addition of 900,000, the CBO said.

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CNN: Organizing for Action, the political advocacy group aligned with President Barack Obama, has turned the hour-long speech the president delivered in Illinois on Wednesday into a 60-second television spot that will air on national cable.

Clips of the president are spliced together with photographs of construction workers, manufacturers, students, and families, all designed to promote the economic message the White House says will be their focus on the coming months.

More here

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Kurt Eichenwald: Zimmerman, Abortion, and Obamacare: 25 Contemplations on Current Events

…. It makes no sense to argue that you support Stand Your Ground and then condemn Trayvon Martin for confronting a guy who was following him. You can’t pick and choose who gets to stand their ground based on a perception of threat. Which is why that law is so obscene.

….. All anti-abortion protesters should be presented, on the spot, with an application to sign up as foster parents. They should also be given the names of children in their area in need of adoptive parents. And if they won’t sign or volunteer, they should shut up.

…. If Obamacare is so awful, why do conservatives have to lie so much about what it really does? (See death panels, government takeover of health care, preventing folks from choosing their own doctors, and pretty much anything any Republican has said about the program over the last few years.)

…. The fact that some folks learned something in school does not make them elitist. It makes them educated.

Full post here – must-read!

Twitter: @kurteichenwald

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Steve Benen: What ‘conservatives gone wild’ looks like in North Carolina

….. [In North Carolina} …. the most sweeping voter-suppression efforts seen anywhere in the United States in generations ….. the proposal is remarkable in its scope, including a needlessly discriminatory voter-ID provision, new limits on early voting, blocks on voter-registration drive, restrictions on extended voting times to ease long lines, an end to same-day registration, new efforts to discourage youth voting, and expanded opportunities for “vigilante poll-watchers to challenge eligible voters.”

How many North Carolina Republican lawmakers supported these suppression tactics for no apparent reason? Each and every one of them…..

More here

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President Obama winks as he speaks at an Iftar dinner celebrating Ramadan in the State Dining Room of the White House, July 25

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Ratchet-Ass Lawyer (The Week in Blackness): Drone Policy Is the Most Important Racism

Salon’s arc of fail last week began with David Sirota’s meditation that “we are all targets now,” which spawned a minor revolution on social media and inspired TWiB Prime to break its hiatus for the “This Motherfucker Right Here Hour.” Now, Cornel West, among many others, has repeated the parallel, alleging that Obama is a “global George Zimmerman” because the Administration has sanctioned the use of drones for targeted killing in Yemen and elsewhere.

The strange essence of the critique is that Obama is a hypocrite for publicly, personally identifying with one murdered Black boy while the Administration’s foreign policy justifies the murders of innocent brown people abroad. This inappropriate parallel between Obama and Zimmerman erases the suffering of Black people and other marginalized groups in America, allows white men to co-opt the conversation while claiming that they are anti-racist, ignores crucial differences between vigilante justice and foreign policy, and requires Obama to be superhuman to maintain authority.

There are several incidents of privilege-blindness among the mostly white male drone-obsessed elite….

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You can donate to Wendy Davis’ campaign here

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Dallas News: In Washington, Wendy Davis represents a progressive Texas

It was her stance on abortions that carried Texas Sen. Wendy Davis into the national spotlight, but it wasn’t the reason behind Thursday’s trip to Washington.

A more progressive Texas, not abortion, was the focus of Davis’s trip, which included two fundraisers and multiple meetings with members of Congress and local groups,

“People all across Texas are starting to stand and see that basic Texas values are being abused and abandoned by state leaders,” she told a group of 400, who paid between $25 and $250 to crowd into a bar on Thursday evening to hear Davis speak.

“Those weren’t just Democrats assembled to complain about Republicans,” she said referring to the hundreds who flooded the Texas capitol building last month during her filibuster. “They were Texans.”

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NYT: The Gun Lobby Takes Vengeful Aim

One welcome surprise in gun safety occurred this year in Colorado, where the Democratic-led Legislature dared to defy the gun lobby and mandated universal background checks on firearm sales and 15-round limits on ammunition magazines.

The ink was barely dry, however, before the National Rifle Association was vindictively pressing for recall votes against two supporters of the stronger law….

The recall vote, set for Sept. 10, could hardly be more important as a barometer of whether the public, which repeatedly registers support for tougher gun controls in surveys, will show up at the ballot to defend politicians who bucked the gun lobby.

Full editorial here

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USA Today: Obama’s Fed pick: Yellen or Summers?

An intense, behind-the-scenes battle is going on for one of the world’s most powerful jobs: Chairman of the Federal Reserve. Backers of two major candidates – current Fed member Janet Yellen and former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers – are busy lobbying the only voter who counts in this type of campaign: President Obama.

Yellen is the Fed’s vice chair and has helped develop the policies of current chairman Ben Bernanke – a point made by both supporters and critics. Bernanke is expected to retire when his term expires in January.

Senate Democrats are circulating a petition in support of Yellen, and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi endorsed her in an interview with Bloomberg Television.

More here

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OFA

OFA fellows are fired up and ready for you to join them

Organizing for Action is looking for passionate new leaders who are interested in tackling our country’s big issues for our OFA Fall Fellowship program. This three-month volunteer program is explicitly designed to train the next generation of OFA leaders – if that sounds like you, you can apply today.

Fall Fellows will be working on important issues affecting our country—from protecting Obamacare, to combating climate change, to passing comprehensive immigration reform, Fellows do work that matters every single day.

More here

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On this day…..

President Obama laughs with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius following the official Cabinet group photo in the Grand Foyer of the White House, July 26, 2012. Pictured, from left, are: Energy Secretary Steven Chu; Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood; Education Secretary Arne Duncan; and Attorney General Eric Holder (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama with Vice President Joe Biden and Chief of Staff Jack Lew in the Oval Office, July 26, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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MooooOOOOoooorning!

PS

Pete Souza: Just ran into Bo on the colonnade

13
Jul
13

Chat Away

09
Jul
13

Rise and Shine

@vj44: Perfect day in DC for the start of the season and visit to the @whitehouse

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Today:

10:20: Live From the Kids’ State Dinner: Entrances (WH Live)

10:30: The President meets with members of the Congressional Black Caucus

10:45: White House Public Health and Climate Change Champions of Change (WH Live)

11:25: Live From the Kids’ State Dinner (WH Live)

11:55: First Lady Michelle Obama hosts the second annual Kids’ State Dinner (WH Live)

12:45: Press Briefing by Jay Carney (WH Live)

1:0: Kids State Dinner: Rachel Crow Musical Performance (WH Live)

2:0: Vice President Biden Speaks at Fire Fighter Memorial Service, Prescott Valley, Arizona (WH Live)

2:35: The President meets with Secretary of the Treasury Lew

4:30: Meets with Secretary of Defense Hagel

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President Obama meets with his Cabinet and senior officials in the Cabinet Room of the White House, July 8 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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NYT: U.S. Considers Faster Pullout in Afghanistan

Increasingly frustrated by his dealings with President Hamid Karzai, President Obama is giving serious consideration to speeding up the withdrawal of United States forces from Afghanistan and to a “zero option” that would leave no American troops there after next year, according to American and European officials.

Mr. Obama is committed to ending America’s military involvement in Afghanistan by the end of 2014, and Obama administration officials have been negotiating with Afghan officials about leaving a small “residual force” behind. But his relationship with Mr. Karzai has been slowly unraveling, and reached a new low after an effort last month by the United States to begin peace talks with the Taliban in Qatar.

Mr. Karzai promptly repudiated the talks and ended negotiations with the United States over the long-term security deal that is needed to keep American forces in Afghanistan after 2014.

More here

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Steve Benen: …. We’re left with a dynamic that the political establishment still finds difficult to fully grasp: GOP officials could make the federal health care system better and more to their liking, but they see no value in that. They’d rather sabotage it, regardless of the real-world consequences. They could help get rid of a mandate they oppose, but they’d rather keep the policy they hate in the hopes it won’t work, people will feel adverse consequences, and there will be new fodder for 30-second attack ads a year from now.

Some people pursue public service want to build things, and some pursue public service because they just want to watch things burn.

…. The most generous thing I can say about their approach is that it’s fundamentally unserious about helping anyone. The least generous thing I can say is probably inappropriate for a family-friendly blog.

Full post here

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Ezra Klein: Obamacare just got easier to implement, not harder

This hasn’t been a banner news week for Obamacare. But can it really be true, as my colleague Jennifer Rubin writes, that “Everyone now agrees: Obamacare can’t be implemented”?

Er, no.

I asked around …. Larry Levitt, vice president of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation: “….. If anything the delay removes some potential administrative complexities from the plates of the implementers……” …. Timothy Jost, a health law expert at Washington and Lee University’s School of Law, was even blunter. “Implementation just got easier rather than harder,” he said.

Well, so much for “everyone.”

As those interviews indicate, the thinking among health-care experts is closer to the precise opposite of Rubin’s bombastic headline: The Obama administration has decided to accept some bad media coverage now, and some higher costs later, in order to make Obamacare much, much simpler to implement next year…..

More here

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@KennettDems

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Steve Benen: On Friday, when he hoped no one was looking, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) approved sweeping new restrictions on reproductive rights, including a requirement that women receive a medically unnecessary ultrasound before terminating a pregnancy, and regulatory measures that would close half of the state’s abortion clinics.

The law was supposed to go into effect statewide yesterday. A federal court had other ideas…..

More here

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ThinkProgress: Sorry, Republicans, Your Own Investigation Proves No Dead People Voted In South Carolina….

South Carolina never found a single dead voter in recent elections. At least, that is the final word from the State Election Commission investigation into whether 900 people voted using a dead person’s name….

…. When Attorney General Alan Wilson demanded the original investigation, he cited “an alarming number” of cases reported by the DMV that “clearly necessitates an investigation into criminal activity.” ….

…. [This] will not prevent state Republicans from redoubling strict voter ID efforts, invigorated by the recent Supreme Court decision on the Voting Rights Act. In fact, Wilson celebrated the decision, calling the Voting Rights Act an “extraordinary intrusion” and pledging to implement voter ID ….

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ThinkProgress: Bush-Appointed Judge Slams Decision Striking Voting Rights Act — Court’s Reasoning Was ‘Made Up’

If a leading conservative scholar and former judge were now on the Supreme Court instead of Chief Justice Roberts or Justice Alito, it is likely that the Voting Right Act would remain intact.

Judge Michael McConnell was a leading conservative law professor at the time President George W. Bush named him to the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in 2002 …. McConnell was also widely viewed as a possible Supreme Court nominee during the Bush Administration.

In an interview with NPR’s Nina Totenberg, McConnell has harsh words for the five conservative justices’ recent decision neutering much of the Voting Rights Act — labeling the reasoning that drove that decision “made up.”

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Continue reading ‘Rise and Shine’

06
Jul
13

Rise and Shine

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President Barack 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. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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ThinkProgress: While the unemployment rate for all veterans fell below the national unemployment rate months ago, one group of veterans — those who have served since September 11, 2001 in Iraq and Afghanistan — continued to lag behind as the rest of the job market recovered. But in the last few months, the unemployment rate for so-called Gulf War II era veterans —defined by the BLS as those who served in the Armed Forces sometime since September 2001 and have since returned to civilian life — has steadily declined, even eventually dipping below the national unemployment rate for the first time since February 2012. That trend continued on Friday, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its June jobs report showing that the unemployment rate for this newest group of veterans fell to just 7.2 percent last month, its lowest level ever since the BLS regularly began tracking veterans’ unemployment rates in 2009. June also marks the fifth consecutive month in which the unemployment rate for new veterans has fallen.

The unemployment rate for veterans overall still remains lower than the national average, at just 6.3 percent. A coalition of businesses and officials in the Obama administration have placed a premium on the hiring of veterans. Legislation like the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 offer businesses tax credits for each veteran a company hires and strengthens federal transition assistance programs, while companies like Tesla Motors, Southwest Airlines and JPMorgan Chase have been commended by veterans groups like the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) for their commitment towards the hiring of returning veterans.

First Lady Michelle Obama has also made a big effort to help transition veterans into civilian jobs upon their return, most recently with the announcement of a new credentialing program that aims to help veterans acquire the necessary civilian certification for jobs in the IT industry.

More here

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Bryce Covert: Rhode Island state House voted 53-18 to pass a bill that would allow workers to take paid time off to care for a new child or a sick or injured family member. The Senate had previously passed the bill, but due to a technical change in the House version it headed back for a final vote in the Senate. That vote will send it to Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s (D) desk, who activists expect will sign it into law.

 The bill expands the state’s current Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) program, which currently only covers those who need time off for a work-related illness or injury, to cover those who need family leave. Temporary Caregiver Insurance (TCI) will allow workers to pay into the program through a payroll deduction and then, starting January 2014, take up to four weeks of paid leave, which would rise to six weeks the year after and eight weeks by 2016. Paying into the program would cost someone making $43,000 a year 83 cents a week. The minimum weekly payment for the TDI program is currently $72 and the maximum is $752. It would cover nearly 80 percent of the state’s workforce. California and New Jersey are the only other two states that have programs similar to this one, which allow employees to pay into paid leave insurance. Connecticut also took a step toward creating such a program recently by setting up a task force to study the feasibility.

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Bryce Covert: All but 12 House Republicans voted for the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act two weeks ago, which would ban abortions in the country 20 weeks after fertilization. But for the party of supposed fiscal restraint, such a move comes with a cost. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scored the bill last week and found that it would increase government spending and deficits. This should surprise no one, however. Reducing access to women’s reproductive choices comes with a high price tag for taxpayers. In scoring the House bill, the CBO said, “Depending on the number of additional births under H.R. 1797, such Medicaid costs could range from about $75 million over the next 10 years to more than $400 million over that period.” The bill would increase the deficit by $75 million between 2014 and 2018 and by $225 million from 2014 to 2023. These costs are thanks to the fact that 40 percent of all births are paid for by Medicaid and additional births will drive up those costs.

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Texas, however, should know that cutting off reproductive choices can drive up the government’s costs. In 2011, state legislators slashed funding for family planning services by $73 million in an attempt to deny Planned Parenthood taxpayer dollars because it provides abortions, despite the fact that the clinics that receive state subsidies didn’t provide the service. Denying low-income women access to family planning services was going to mean the delivery of 24,000 babies that they wouldn’t otherwise have had, which were going to cost Texans as much as $273 million thanks to medical expenses and covering their infants under Medicaid. After staring down those numbers, Texas lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have started working to reinstate the funds.

More here

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Guests take pictures as President Barack Obama signs HR 4348, the Transportation and Student Loan Interest Rate bill, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, July 6, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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Jamelle Bouie: Today’s story from the New York Times on IRS “filtering” should be the final word on whether this was political targeting or a more mundane instance of mistakes and misjudgments from overworked bureaucrats. Of the nearly 200,000 applications for tax-exempt status the IRS received between 2010 and 2012, it flagged 22,000 for further review. Of those, just 296 came from partisan political groups. In other words, notes the Times, “most of the applications pulled aside for further scrutiny in those years had nothing to do with politics, conservative or liberal, just as most of the red flags thrown up by the I.R.S.’s lookout lists were not overtly political.”

What were some of the other groups flagged by the IRS? “Medical marijuana purveyors, organizations formed to carry out President Obama’s health care law, and open source software developers who create software tools for computer code writers and distribute them free of charge.” Unless Republicans can prove that the White House has it out for open-source developers as well as tea party activists, it’s hard to see how they continue to stand by their claims.

More here

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President Barack Obama listens during a communications planning meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, July 6, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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Neil Irwin: Usually, we are among the first to insist that the monthly jobs report matters not for the wild swings it can create on financial markets but for what it tells us about the state of the U.S. economy and the employment and earnings prospects of our 300 million fellow citizens. Not today. The jobs numbers were pretty good: The nation added 195,000 positions in June, and job creation was significantly stronger than it seemed in April and May. The unemployment rate was unchanged, but more people joined the workforce. All in all, things seem to be getting better, and maybe getting better more quickly than it had seemed 24 hours ago.

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Tom Kludt: The 7-year-old Virginia boy who was struck by a stray bullet while on his way to watch a Fourth of July fireworks display died Friday, according to Richmond-based NBC affiliate WWBT. Police said the accident was likely the result of someone firing a gun in the air to celebrate the holiday. It is still unknown who fired the shot.

The boy and his father were walking to watch a fireworks show in Brandermill, Va. when the youngster fell behind before suddenly dropping to the ground. His father thought his son had passed out until he noticed the bullet wound on top the boy’s head. The boy died at Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center in Richmond, Va.

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Zoe Schlanger: A South Dakota man fell asleep on his back porch while holding a loaded handgun, and accidentally shot himself in the midsection when a relative turned on the porch light, the Daily Republic reported.

The 34-year-old man suffered minor flesh wounds and was able to transport himself to the hospital.

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TPM: Baltimore man Lassiter Basket, 82, was careful to use blanks and shoot indoors when he fired his handgun to celebrate the Fourth of July, the Baltimore Sun reported. Fragments of a blank moved through his great-granddaughter’s bedroom wall, and burned into her wrists and leg.

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LOLGOP: As some debate whether this country has become more like George Orwell’s 1984 of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, keep in mind that for millions of Americans who have no time to debate such a lofty question, actual oppression exists. This oppression isn’t a overwhelming fear of a the Thought Police or even a steady drugging that manufactures consent. It isn’t theoretical or some slippery slope that slowly envelops true liberty. It’s a never-ending concern about survival and sustenance. It’s a need to keep children fed, clothed and well. It’s knowing that disaster lurks every time your boss is unhappy with you.

The dystopian future we may fear already exists for millions. If you’re expecting fascism to come with a cross and a flag, you’re immune — due to over or underexposure — to the actual economic feudalism that has always trapped the working poor in the country. It’s called wage slavery. The easiest way to trap someone into a life of wage slavery is deny them education and have them start a family before they can afford it. Texas Republicans have this formula for a lifetime of poverty worked out to a science.

The Texas GOP’s jihad against family planning and Planned Parenthood creates unintended pregnancies and leaves poor women with no options. This creates generational poverty and a low-wage workforce with no time to consider how the petrol-funded theocracy of the Lone Star state is designed to make the rich richer and workers less safe and more dependent on the corporations that have indentured them.

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President Barack Obama shares his strawberry pie with a boy during a lunch stop at Kozy Corners restaurant in Oak Harbor, Ohio. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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Christopher S. Rugaber: U.S. employers added a robust 195,000 jobs in June and many more in April and May than previously thought. The job growth raises hopes for a stronger economy in the second half of 2013. The unemployment rate remained 7.6 percent. That was because more people started looking for work in June — a healthy sign. Once people without jobs start looking for one, the government counts them as unemployed. Pay also rose sharply in June, the Labor Department’s monthly jobs report Friday showed. Pay has now outpaced inflation over the past year.

Stock index futures rose shortly after the report was released at 8:30 a.m. EDT. And the yield on the 10-year Treasury note jumped from 2.56 percent to 2.65 percent, a sign that investors think the economy is improving. Friday’s report showed that the economy added 70,000 more jobs in April and May than the government had previously estimated — 50,000 in April and 20,000 in May. Average hourly pay rose 10 cents to $24.01, 2.2 percent higher than a year ago. The hotels, restaurants and entertainment industry added 75,000 jobs last month. Retailers added 37,000. Temporary jobs rose 10,000. Manufacturing shed 6,000 jobs. But construction added 13,000, and health care gained 20,000.

Auto sales in the January-June period topped 7.8 million, their best first half since 2007, according to Autodata Corp. and Ward’s AutoInfoBank. Sales of previously occupied homes exceeded 5 million in May, the first time that’s happened since November 2009. New-home sales rose at their fastest pace in five years.

More here

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First Lady Michelle Obama huddles with children during a Joining Forces event with military families at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

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President Barack Obama gets a hug from a little girl as he greets Wounded Warriors and their families in the State Dining Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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Have A Frank Lampard Winning Streak Day! :D

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05
Jul
13

Rise and Shine

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Today:

2:30: President Obama departs Joint Base Andrews en route Camp David

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Steve Benen: U.S. job growth improves, exceeds expectations

Going into this morning, most economists projected job growth from June to be about 155,000 new jobs. With this in mind, the new report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows not only good news, but unexpectedly good news…..

The U.S. economy added a better-than-expected 195,000 jobs in June and employment gains for May and April were revised sharply higher, the U.S. government said Friday. The unemployment rate was unchanged at 7.6%, but the size of the labor force increased by 177,000, according to the Labor Department said.

…. Perhaps the most important – and most heartening – detail in this new report is the upward revisions for the previous two months…

More here

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Business Insider: It’s a beat!

195K new private sector jobs was well ahead of the 165K new jobs that was expected.

More here

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Ah, funny how this didn’t get much attention….

NYT: I.R.S. Scrutiny Went Beyond the Political

In 2010, a tiny Palestinian-rights group called Minnesota Break the Bonds applied to the Internal Revenue Service for tax-exempt status. Two years and a lot of prodding later, the I.R.S. sent the group’s leaders a series of questions and requests almost identical to the ones it was sending to Tea Party groups at the time.

…. The controversy that erupted in May has focused on an ideological question: Were conservative groups singled out for special treatment based on their politics, or did the I.R.S. equally target liberal groups? But a closer look at the I.R.S. operation suggests that the problem was less about ideology and more about how a process instructing reviewers to “be on the lookout” for selected terms was applied to any group that mentioned certain words in its application.

More here

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ThinkProgress: What The Mainstream Media Misses About Texas’ Ongoing Abortion Battle

Over the past week, Texas has captured national attention with a dramatic show-down between a Republican-controlled legislature and thousands of reproductive health advocates…. but many of the narratives the media is crafting aren’t actually getting at the full scope of the story.

In addition to criminalizing abortion services after 20 weeks, the other provisions in Texas’ abortion proposals would impose harsh restrictions on abortion providers. By subjecting abortion clinics to new regulations that would force them to make expensive updates to their facilities — unnecessary measures that major medical groups, like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, oppose — Texas’ bill would force 90 percent of the state’s clinics to close their doors. That would leave just five abortion clinics in the entire Lone Star State, which happens to be the second most populous state in the country.

…. And the real catch? Outside of the debate about abortion access after 20 weeks — even outside of the fight for abortion rights altogether — the “abortion clinics” in question are often providing health services that encompass much more than helping women terminate a pregnancy. Many of them also provide preventative care, family planning counseling, STD testing, and cancer screenings. And they offer those health services to Texans of both genders who are typically uninsured.

More here

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News Observer: Gov. Pat McCrory doled out handshakes and hailed parade-goers as he rode in this Rowan County town’s Fourth of July parade Thursday, but he wouldn’t say what he’d do about a controversial abortion bill if it reaches his desk.

That question has been on many minds in North Carolina this week, after the N.C. Senate Wednesday approved sweeping new rules that could limit abortions. The bill now goes to the N.C. House.

The legislation would require N.C. abortion clinics to meet tougher standards similar to those governing outpatient surgery clinics. As a result, critics say, it would effectively close the majority of the state’s 16 abortion clinics. It would also require doctors to be present when women take pills to induce abortions.

More here

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Oh boy…..

Mediaite: Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez, the Archbishop of Santo Domingo, was a little shocked when reporters switched from questioning him about the U.S.’s openly gay nominee for Ambassador to the Dominican Republic to the subject of the regional egg trade: “We go from faggots and lesbians to this?” he said, laughing. “We’re jumping to chickens now?”….

More here

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Woah – nice voice! Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin E. Dempsey sings the National Anthem at the Washington Nationals versus Milwaukee Brewers at Nationals Park on July 4:

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MooooOOOOoooorning!

PS:

03
Jul
13

This and That

President Barack Obama meets with members of his national security team to discuss the situation in Egypt, in the Situation Room of the White House, July 3 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Statement by President Barack Obama on Egypt:

As I have said since the Egyptian Revolution, the United States supports a set of core principles, including opposition to violence, protection of universal human rights, and reform that meets the legitimate aspirations of the people.  The United States does not support particular individuals or political parties, but we are committed to the democratic process and respect for the rule of law.  Since the current unrest in Egypt began, we have called on all parties to work together to address the legitimate grievances of the Egyptian people, in accordance with the democratic process, and without recourse to violence or the use of force.

The United States is monitoring the very fluid situation in Egypt, and we believe that ultimately the future of Egypt can only be determined by the Egyptian people. Nevertheless, we are deeply concerned by the decision of the Egyptian Armed Forces to remove President Morsy and suspend the Egyptian constitution. I now call on the Egyptian military to move quickly and responsibly to return full authority back to a democratically elected civilian government as soon as possible through an inclusive and transparent process, and to avoid any arbitrary arrests of President Morsy and his supporters. Given today’s developments, I have also directed the relevant departments and agencies to review the implications under U.S. law for our assistance to the Government of Egypt.

The United States continues to believe firmly that the best foundation for lasting stability in Egypt is a democratic political order with participation from all sides and all political parties —secular and religious, civilian and military. During this uncertain period, we expect the military to ensure that the rights of all Egyptian men and women are protected, including the right to peaceful assembly, due process, and free and fair trials in civilian courts.  Moreover, the goal of any political process should be a government that respects the rights of all people, majority and minority; that institutionalizes the checks and balances upon which democracy depends; and that places the interests of the people above party or faction. The voices of all those who have protested peacefully must be heard – including those who welcomed today’s developments, and those who have supported President Morsy. In the interim, I urge all sides to avoid violence and come together to ensure the lasting restoration of Egypt’s democracy.

No transition to democracy comes without difficulty, but in the end it must stay true to the will of the people. An honest, capable and representative government is what ordinary Egyptians seek and what they deserve. The longstanding partnership between the United States and Egypt is based on shared interests and values, and we will continue to work with the Egyptian people to ensure that Egypt’s transition to democracy succeeds.

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NYT: Congressional Budget Analysts Release Positive Economic Assessment of Immigration Overhaul

Congressional budget analysts on Wednesday released a positive economic assessment of the broad overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws that passed the Senate last week, saying that the new legislation would cut more than $800 billion from the federal deficit over the next two decades and lead to 9.6 million new legal residents in the country.

Though the Congressional Budget Office had offered in June a similar estimate of the immigration bill that was then being debated in the Senate — in a report that found the benefits of an increase in legal residents from the immigration overhaul would outweigh the costs — the new report provides an analysis of the actual bill recently passed by the Senate.

More here

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Steve Benen: Koch brothers push GOP officials to sign anti-climate pledge

The Republican Party is certainly fond of its pledges. Grover Norquist, of course, has his infamous anti-tax pledge that has interfered with federal policymaking in recent decades, and in 2011, GOP presidential candidates were pushed to endorse an anti-gay pledge from the National Organization for Marriage.

But as it turns out, there’s another pledge that’s taken root in Republican politics that’s received far less attention. The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer reports this week on the “No Climate Tax Pledge” pushed by Charles and David Koch….

More here

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Too funny….

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Atlantic Wire: The Tale of the Re-Routed Bolivian President’s Plane Is Falling Apart

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