Posts Tagged ‘Sasha



27
Jun
14

The President and First Lady’s Day

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President Barack Obama gives an economic policy speech at the Lake Harriet Bandshell

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The Erler family listens to President Barack Obama talk about the economy while at the Lake Harriet Band Shell

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The National Memo: Obama Brings Middle-Class Message To Minnesota

President Barack Obama began a two-day visit to Minneapolis on Thursday sharing cheeseburgers with a local working mother and bringing a middle-class message tailor made to aid Democrats fearful of massive losses in the upcoming election. Obama said he shares the frustrations of people who went to college, work hard, and still struggle to buy homes, pay for child care, and dig out from student loan debt. “You are the reason I ran for office,” he told a crowd of about 350 people gathered for a town hall forum near Minnehaha Falls. In his early life, he said, “I was you guys … You are the ones I am thinking about every single day.”

Obama talked about progress his administration has made curbing greenhouse gases and making college more affordable, but devoted much of his time to touting the need for a higher minimum wage and equal pay and benefits for women. Those issues resonate strongly in Minnesota, where Gov. Mark Dayton (D) and a Democratic-controlled Legislature enacted the largest minimum wage increase in state history this year and approved a menu of economic protections for women in the workplace. “The idea that they would not be paid the same or not have the same opportunities … is infuriating,” Obama said of female workers. “If you are doing the same job, you should get the same salary. Period. Full stop.”

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Pete Souza: President Obama waves to the crowd after speaking at Lake Harriot Band Shell in Minneapolis

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Pete Souza: President Obama greets people in the crowd following his speech at Lake Harriot Band Shell in Minneapolis

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President Barack Obama greets audience members after he delivers remarks on the economy, at the Lake Harriet Bandshell in Minneapolis, Minn. (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Barack Obama walks on the South Lawn of the White House upon his return to Washington from Minneapolis

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President Barack Obama holds 6-month-old Olivia Hughes, granddaughter of ABC News reporter Ann Compton, on the South Lawn of the White House upon his return to Washington from Minneapolis

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President Barack Obama waves as he and daughter Sasha walk out of BLT Steak after eating dinner

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President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama arrive for the Marine Barracks Evening Parade

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President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, are escorted to their seats by Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos and his wife Bonnie Amos

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President Obama pets Sgt. Chesty XIV at the Marine Barracks Evening Parade

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President Obama stands for the national anthem during the Marine Barracks Evening Parade

18
Jun
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Barack Obama greets baseball fans during a Washington Nationals vs. Chicago White Sox baseball game at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., June 18, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

10:0: Live from the First White House Makers Faire

10:45: President Obama views “Maker Faire” projects devoted to using science and technology to advance business, South Lawn

11:30: Delivers remarks at the White House Maker Faire, East Room

12:15: Meets with economists for lunch, Roosevelt Room

12:45: Jay Carney briefs the press

3:0: The President meets with members of the Congressional Leadership

5:10: Meets with Secretary of State Kerry

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President Barack Obama and Press Secretary Jay Carney disembark from Air Force One upon arrival at Joint Base Andrews, Wednesday night, June 17, 2014. It was Carney’s last flight on Air Force One as White House Press Secretary. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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The Week Ahead

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

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

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President Obama speaks at the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) fundraiser gala in Gotham Hall, Tuesday, June 17

You can see a video of the President’s remarks here

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NYT: Obama Is Said To Consider Selective Airstrikes On Sunni Militants

President Obama is considering a targeted, highly selective campaign of airstrikes against Sunni militants in Iraq similar to counterterrorism operations in Yemen, rather than the widespread bombardment of an air war, a senior administration official said on Tuesday. Such a campaign, most likely using drones, could last for a prolonged period, the official said. But it is not likely to begin for days or longer, and would hinge on the United States’ gathering adequate intelligence about the location of the militants, who are intermingled with the civilian population in Mosul, Tikrit and other cities north of Baghdad. Even if the president were to order strikes, they would be far more limited in scope than the air campaign conducted during the Iraq war, this official said, because of the relatively small number of militants involved, the degree to which they are

dispersed throughout militant-controlled parts of Iraq and fears that using bigger bombs would kill Sunni civilians. At a meeting with his national security advisers at the White House on Monday evening, the official said, Mr. Obama was presented with a “sliding scale” of military options, which range from supplying the beleaguered Iraqi Army with additional advisers, intelligence and equipment to conducting strikes targeting members of the militant group, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Much of the emphasis at the meeting, the official said, was on how to gather useful intelligence about the militants. They are not wearing uniforms or sleeping in barracks; and while there may be periodic convoys to strike, there are no columns of troops or vehicles.

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David D. Kirkpatrick: Brazen Figure May Hold Key To Mysteries

Ahmed Abu Khattala was always open about his animosity toward the United States, and even about his conviction that Muslims and Christians were locked in an intractable religious war. During the assault on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, on the night of Sept. 11, 2012, Mr. Abu Khattala was a vivid presence. Witnesses saw him directing the swarming attackers who ultimately killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. Afterward, he offered contradictory denials of his role, sometimes trying to say that he did not do it but strongly approved. He appeared to enjoy his notoriety. Captured by military commandos and law enforcement agents early on Monday, Mr. Abu Khattala may now help address some of the persistent questions about the identity and motives of the attackers.

The thriving industry of conspiracy theories, political scandals, talk show chatter and congressional hearings may now confront the man federal investigators say played the central role in the attack. On the day of the attack, Islamists in Cairo had staged a demonstration outside the United States Embassy there to protest an American-made online video mocking Islam, and the protest culminated in a breach of the embassy’s walls — images that flashed through news coverage around the Arab world. As the attack in Benghazi was unfolding a few hours later, Mr. Abu Khattala told fellow Islamist fighters and others that the assault was retaliation for the same insulting video, according to people who heard him.

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(Dislike the title. Intriguing article.)

Ben Geman: Obama’s Coded Climate Politics

President Obama’s climate speech Saturday got plenty of press for its lengthy assault on global-warming denial. But what excited an aggressive wing of the climate movement were just a few cryptic words elsewhere in the commencement address at the University of California (Irvine): “You need to invest in what helps, and divest from what harms.” Activists pushing universities and other institutions to dump their financial holdings in coal and oil-and-gas companies believe they heard an unmistakable White House endorsement.

“People are thrilled about it,” Jamie Henn of 350.org, one of the groups leading the divestment movement, said of Obama’s comments Saturday. “Students will be taking the president’s message to their college presidents and boards of trustees,” he said of the fossil-fuel-divestment campaign, which also includes the Energy Action Coalition, the Responsible Endowments Coalition, the Sierra Student Coalition, and groups on specific campuses. The founder of 350.org, Bill McKibben, a high-profile climate activist, has been a major divestment advocate.

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NYT: U.S. Defends Prosecuting Benghazi Suspect In Civilian Rather Than Military Court

Conservative lawmakers on Tuesday sharply criticized the Obama administration’s decision to prosecute the suspected leader of the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, in the civilian criminal justice system, arguing that he should be questioned and tried by the military. The White House quickly pushed back. “Some have suggested that he should go to Gitmo,” said Caitlin Hayden, a White House spokeswoman. “Let me rule that out from the start.” “We have had substantial success delivering swift justice to terrorists through our federal court system,” she added. Greg Doherty, the brother of one of the attack’s victims, Glen A. Doherty, said he supported the decision to try Mr. Abu Khattala in a civilian court. “I think that’s what we should do with criminals, which is try them,” he said.

The Obama administration has sought to close the Guantánamo prison and refused to send newly captured prisoners there, instead using federal courts to prosecute terrorism cases that arose after Mr. Obama took office. The military commissions system, which the Bush administration established and Congress revised in 2009, has struggled. Appeals courts have vacated the convictions of the only two Guantánamo detainees who were tried for war crimes before a military commission — as opposed to pleading guilty without a trial and giving up a right to appeal — because of flaws that would likely not have been a problem in civilian court.

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Daily Beast: Why Delta Force Waited So Long To Grab A Benghazi Ringleader

The mission to capture Ahmed abu Khatallah, one of the ringleaders of the September 11, 2012 attacks on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya was more than a year in the making. In the months leading up to the raid, teams from the Army’s 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, or Delta Force, practiced the extradition on a mock-up of abu Khatallah’s compound at Fort Bragg, according to a U.S. military contractor familiar with the planning for the mission. Eventually, it was a Delta Team with embedded FBI agents on Sunday that snagged the man wanted for the murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens, State Department officer Sean Smith and CIA contractors Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty. The Obama administration has come under withering criticism because the whereabouts of abu Khatallah have been generally known.

But other U.S. officials, who spoke to The Daily Beast anonymously because they were not authorized to talk to the press, said the mission to grab abu Khatallah had been planned for more than a year. Indeed, the Benghazi ringleader had been in the sights of Delta Force operators at the end of August, according to these sources, but no order was given at the time. A senior administration official told The Daily Beast that the delay in apprehending the suspect was due in part to requests from the Justice Department to gather appropriate evidence to prosecute him in criminal court. The practice and patience paid off, apparently. Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Sunday’s raid resulted in no casualties. “Khatallah currently faces criminal charges on three counts, and we retain the option of adding additional charges in the coming days,” said Attorney General Eric Holder in a statement Tuesday.

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CBS Local: New York, Chicago, Hawaii Bid For Obama Presidential Library

At least six locations in three different states, including New York, entered official bids by Monday’s deadline in an effort to house Barack Obama’s presidential library. Columbia University, where Obama got his undergraduate degree, pitched a West Harlem site.
Four of the confirmed bidders are from Chicago, the president’s hometown, and a fifth was expected. Obama’s birth state of Hawaii also offered an oceanfront location in Honolulu.

While the Obama Foundation, which is planning the library, declined to confirm the bids it has received, planners for the six widely reported potential locations all confirmed they had submitted proposals. All see the library and museum as a potential driver of economic development. The University of Chicago cited a study it commissioned that concluded the library would draw 800,000 visitors a year and create 1,900 permanent jobs.

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Simon Maloy: Stop Treating War-Crazy Buffoons As Experts! They Got It Wrong, Remember?

If you were asked to identify a single moment that best captures the failure of elite media outlets to act as agents of accountability, you could do worse than David Gregory asking Paul Wolfowitz on “Meet the Press” this weekend what we should do, “as a policy matter,” to deal with the deteriorating situation in Iraq. Wolfowitz, as deputy secretary of defense from 2001 to 2005, was one of the chief visionaries and supporters of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. And he got just about everything wrong, from the cost of the war to the presence of WMD. And he doesn’t particularly care. In an interview with the Sunday Times last March, Wolfowitz made the argument that even though they got it wrong on WMD in 2003,

everything they said was happening (but wasn’t) would likely have happened later. “We would very likely either have had to go through this whole scenario all over but probably with higher costs for having delayed, or we’d be in a situation today where not only Iran was edging towards nuclear weapons but so was Iraq and also Libya.” What price did Wolfowitz pay for his part in the biggest American foreign policy disaster of that last generation? George Bush nominated him to the presidency of the World Bank. While at the World Bank he violated ethics rules and caused a scandal that paralyzed the institution. He was forced to resign after governments around the world called for him to be fired.

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Travis Waldron: In Landmark Decision, U.S. Patent Office Cancels Trademark For Redskins Football Team

The United States Patent and Trademark Office has canceled six federal trademark registrations for the name of the Washington Redskins, ruling that the name is “disparaging to Native Americans” and thus cannot be trademarked under federal law that prohibits the protection of offensive or disparaging language. The U.S. PTO’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board issued a ruling in the case, brought against the team by plaintiff Amanda Blackhorse, Wednesday morning. “We decide, based on the evidence properly before us, that these registrations must be cancelled because they were disparaging to Native Americans at the respective times they were registered,” the board wrote in its opinion.

“The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board agreed with our clients that the team’s name and trademarks disparage Native Americans. The Board ruled that the Trademark Office should never have registered these trademarks in the first place,” Jesse Witten, the plaintiffs’ lead attorney, said in a press release. “We presented a wide variety of evidence – including dictionary definitions and other reference works, newspaper clippings, movie clips, scholarly articles, expert linguist testimony, and evidence of the historic opposition by Native American groups – to demonstrate that the word ‘redskin’ is an ethnic slur.”

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Sen. Harry Reid The Awesome!

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Bonus

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On This Day

President Obama walks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi backstage at a Democratic fundraiser in Washington, D.C., June 18, 2009 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

President Obama meets with Senior Advisors in the Oval Office in the White House, June 18, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama (background in Oval Office) chats before a lunch with members of the press in his private dining room, on June 18, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama listens to Nancy-Ann DeParle, director of the White House Office for Health Reform, in a meeting on health care reform in the Roosevelt Room in the White House, June 18, 2009. From left: OMB Director Peter Orszag, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, DeParle, and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner (Photo by Pete Souza)

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After playing a round of golf, President Obama has a drink with Vice President Joe Biden, Speaker of the House John Boehner, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, at Joint Base Andrews, June 18, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama walks with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton following a bilateral meeting with President Vladimir Putin of Russia at the Esperanza Resort in San Jose Del Cabo, Mexico, June 18, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama talks with Chief of Staff Jack Lew at the Esperanza Resort in San Jose Del Cabo, Mexico, before the start of a bilateral meeting with President Vladimir Putin of Russia, June 18, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama waits with advisors before a bilateral meeting during the G8 Summit at the Lough Erne Resort in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, June 18, 2013. Pictured, from left, are: Wendy Sherman, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs; National Security Advisor Tom Donilon; President Obama; Rob Nabors, Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy; and Caroline Atkinson, Special Assistant to the President for International Economic Affairs (Photo by Pete Souza)

First Lady Michelle Obama with Sasha and Malia during a visit to Glendalough in the Wicklow Mountains National Park in Ireland, on June 18, 2013.

President Obama walks with Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada on the grounds of Lough Erne Resort during the G8 Summit in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, June 18, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

16
Jun
14

Rise and Shine

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

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Today

10:0 am PT: President Obama departs Palm Springs

5:30 pm ET: Arrives White House

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The Week Ahead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bloomberg: Taliban Fighters Warn Foreign Investors To Leave Pakistan

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

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

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LA Times: Actors, Musicians Are Big Beneficiaries Of Obamacare

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More here

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TPM: SCOTUS Rules On ‘Straw Purchaser’ Gun Law

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

More here

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

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On This Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

15
Jun
14

Happy Father’s Day, 44!

Happy Father’s Day also, to the men of TOD – be you biological, adopted, step, father figure. Thank you for having our backs, thank you for the smiles, thank you for the encouragement, thank you for your bad dad jokes, thank you for the embarrassment, thank you for the hi-5’s, thank you for letting us know that as long as we give it our best shot, we are more than good enough; thank you for the foundation that allows us to lift our heads high as we venture out into the world. Thanks for being great dads!

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U.S. President Barack Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha, watch on television as first lady Michelle Obama takes the stage to deliver her speech at the Democratic National Convention, in the Treaty Room of the White House in Washington

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Obama Returns To Iowa For Rally In Des Moines

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12
Jun
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: Sen. Barack Obama speaks at a town hall meeting at Kaukauna High School June 12, 2008 in Wisconsin

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Today (all times Eastern)

10:55: The President meets with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott (spare a thought for 99ts at this difficult time)

12:30: Jay Carney briefs the press

2:05: The President honors WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx, East Room

3:30: The First Lady joins local students and school nutrition directors from across the country to harvest the summer crop from the White House Kitchen Garden (See here)

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The Week Ahead

Friday: The President and the First Lady will travel to the Cannonball, North Dakota area to visit the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Following their visit to Indian Country, they will travel to Palm Springs, CA.

Saturday: The President will deliver the commencement address at University of California, Irvine on the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the UC Irvine campus by President Lyndon B. Johnson. The President and the First Lady will return to Washington, D.C on Monday.

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Steve Benen: Crisis grips Iraq, spurring a familiar U.S. debate

The security crisis gripping Iraq is real and intensifying. Closer to home, however, there’s a familiar domestic political debate starting anew.

In Iraq, militant insurgents, led by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) – an al Qaeda offshoot considered too radical for some in the terrorist network – have seized control of two major cities and may yet launch an attack on Baghdad. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki wants Parliament to declare a state of emergency, while also quietly reaching out to U.S. officials, inviting military intervention.

The White House is “deeply concerned” about the deteriorating conditions, but by all accounts, President Obama is not at all eager to recommit military forces to Iraq, choosing instead to focus on Iraq’s capacity to defend itself.

But elsewhere in Washington, a predictable dynamic is taking shape: the same conservatives who were wrong about the war in Iraq before are not only blaming the U.S. president for Iraq’s current crisis, they’re also suggesting Americans re-enter the fight.

More here

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BBC: Six things that went wrong for Iraq

The borders of the modern Middle East are in large part a legacy of World War One. They were established by the colonial powers after the defeat and dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire.

Those borders could now be in peril for two main reasons – the continuing fighting and fragmentation of Syria and the ISIS assault in Iraq Unless the military gains of ISIS can be reversed, the Iraqi state is in peril as never before. The dual crises in Syria and Iraq combine to offer the possibility of a “state” encompassing eastern Syria and western Iraq where the jihadists of ISIS hold sway.

This would have huge implications for the region and beyond. Iraq has to a large extent staggered from crisis to crisis, so what went wrong?

More here

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Kevin Drum: No, Staying in Iraq Wouldn’t Have Changed Anything

… I find it fantastical that anyone could read about what’s happening and continue to believe that a small US presence in Iraq could ever have been more than a Band-Aid. I mean, just read the report. Two divisions of Iraqi soldiers turned tail in the face of 800 insurgents. That’s what we got after a decade of American training. How can you possibly believe that another few years would have made more than a paper-thin difference? Like it or not, the plain fact is that Iraq is too fundamentally unstable to be rebuilt by American military force. We could put fingers in the dikes, but not much more.

More here

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ThinkProgress: One Chart That Shows Why The Middle East Is Now One Giant Warzone

What started as a crackdown against democratic protests three years ago, has become a region-wide conflict that now has Iraq descending back into chaos. The countries of the region — along with the United States and various non-state actors — all have a hand in creating this moment, as money, fighters, weapons, and a desire to control the Middle East have come together to produce an extremely volatile and terrifying situation.

More here

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@BarackObama: Retweet if you agree with the President

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Jonathan Cohn: More Evidence That Obamacare Is Helping

The uninsured rate in Minnesota has plunged 40 percent, according to a new study

…. The number of people without health insurance fell from about 445,000 to 264,000. That’s roughly a 40 percent decline in the number of uninsured, lowering the state’s overall rate from 8.2 percent to 4.8 percent. That looks a lot like what happened in Massachusetts after similar reforms passed there, and it’s right in line with what Congressional Budget Office has predicted for the country as a whole….

…. a big reason for the decline in Minnesota was the high enrollment in Medicaid, which Minnesota lawmakers enthusiastically agreed to expand. In about half of the country, more conservative lawmakers have blocked their states from undertaking similar changes.

Of course, that’s a pretty powerful demonstration of the benefits that these conservative officials are denying to their citizens.

Full post here

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Charles Pierce: The Next Big Whack At The Voting Rights Act

While we were all being entertained by the slandering of a returning POW, and then by the road company production of Weasel’s End in Virginia, the Supreme Court quietly accepted for review yet another case that involves the franchise, and the rights of minority voters to exercise it. Before we get to what it all might mean for the country that is still in the throes of John Roberts’s Day Of Jubilee, we should pause for a moment and gaze in awe at the glorious legal hypocrisy of the state of Alabama.

More here

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Steve Benen: Senate GOP blocks student-loan refinancing

President Obama this week issued an executive order to help millions of young people with student-loan payments, lowering payments based on income and loan duration. The program already existed, but the new White House policy greatly expanded eligibility.

But while making the announcement on this on Monday, Obama also endorsed the next logical step: approval of Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) proposal to make it easier for students to refinance their loans.

[Yesterday] morning, Senate Republicans blocked the chamber from voting on the idea.

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Politicususa: Elizabeth Warren Declares War on Mitch McConnell After He Blocked Her Student Loan Bill

On MSNBC [last] night, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) virtually declared war on Mitch McConnell after he blocked her student loan bill. Warren told viewers to donate money to Alison Lundergan Grimes, and announced that she will be going to Kentucky to campaign for the Democrat.

…. Warren is angry, because Mitch McConnell blocked her student loan reform bill, which would have helped 40 million borrowers cut their interest rate nearly in half. The bill came up just short of passage. McConnell had signaled that he intended to block the bill because it was paid for by raising taxes on millionaires.

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ThinkProgress: Could A Democrat Win Eric Cantor’s House District?

After his historic upset of U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) on Tuesday, economics professor Dave Brat (R) will now face his Randolph-Macon College colleague, sociology professor Jack Trammell (D) in the November general. While the gerrymandered district has a distinct Republican tilt, a few signs suggest that the race could potentially be competitive.

According to the Cook Political Report, Virginia’s 7th Congressional district is an “R+10″ area — meaning that it votes, on average, 10 points more Republican than the nation as a whole. Currently, just 3 of the 199 Democrats in the U.S. House represent districts more Republican leaning than that.

But a victory for Trammell in the 7th would not be unprecedented.

More here

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Charles Pierce: The Friends Of Dave Brat

The most revelatory piece about how Dave Brat came to be the likely new congressman from the Seventh Congressional District of the Commonwealth of Virginia ran in Tiger Beat On The Potomac back on April 17. (We noted it at the time.) It also undermines the emerging character of Dave Brat, Ordinary Joe. A lot of the credit for his upset is going (rightly) to various radio hosts who took the payola from wingnut sugar daddies as described by Ken Vogel and MacKenzie Weinger. Mark Levin took almost $800,000 from Americans For Prosperity. Laura Ingraham was on the arm, too. Brat also seems to owe his job to Cato Institute president John Allison.

More here

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Ed Kilgore: Congressional Republicans: Nobody Here But Us Christians

Among the many shocking things about Eric Cantor’s defeat yesterday, the one that shocked me most is the realization that he is currently the only publicly-identified non-Christian Republican in Congress. Not just the highest-ranking Jewish Republican, or the highest-ranking non-Christian Republican, but the only non-Christian Republican in either chamber, at least according to a Pew analysis of the religious affiliations of Members of Congress conducted after the 2012 elections. It’s always possible, I suppose, that a non-Christian GOPer can be nominated later this year and elected in November, but for now, the estimated 27% of Americans who don’t identify themselves with some form of the Christian faith will likely have no representation among Republicans House and Senate members come next year.

More here

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ThinkProgress: David Brat: Embrace Christian Capitalism, Or Hitler Will Come Back

When David Brat defeated House Majority leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) in the Republican primary of Virginia’s 7th Congressional District last night, House Republicans likely lost their only Jewish representative. In his place, they may have gained a radically pro-capitalist Christian theologian.

Christian Tea Party candidates are certainly not unusual, but a trail of writings show that Brat, an economics professor at Randolph-Macon college, has an especially radical theology to support his right-wing politics. Brat’s CV lists him as a graduate of Hope College, a Christian school in Michigan, and Princeton Theological Seminary, a Presbyterian Church U.S.A. seminary in New Jersey. He claims to be a “fairly orthodox Calvinist,” but several of his published writings expose a unsettling core theology that is centered around lifting up unregulated, free-market capitalism as a morally righteous system that churches should embrace—or else.

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The People’s View: Cantor’s Loss Undermines Media’s “Dem Enthusiasm Gap” Meme

… GOP’s chief political arsonist House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his own primary in his home district by double digit margins. Everyone agrees that it was a political earthquake the likes of which are essentially without parallel. This upset is most often being hailed as a Tea Party victory, and there is little doubt that it is that. But the most important lesson for Democrats and progressives should be something different: throw away all the polls and get out the vote.

The much-mocked internal poll conducted last month and released last week by Eric Cantor’s campaign that showed their candidate up by 34 points, and even right wing pollsters showed Eric Cantor up by 11 points at the same time. The pendulums swung between 22 and 45 points last night to give Cantor’s xenophobic Tea Party opponent a margin of victory of over 10 points.

How did the pollsters get it so wrong? ….. let’s discuss precisely what they got wrong.

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Smartypants: A lazy media once again misses how politics has changed

Today the media pundits are tripping over themselves to tell us what Cantor’s primary defeat means for the future of national politics. But one word of caution about listening to their prognostications: these are the very same people who never saw this one coming. At some point we have to question their predictive capacities. Unless/until they are willing to do a little self-examination to uncover why they were so wrong, we should take their current machinations with one HUGE grain of salt.

I’ve been hesitant to say this outright, but I think one of the biggest reasons they get so much wrong is that too many of these pundits are lazy. Its much easier (and more conducive to lucrative linkbait) to simply run with the latest hysteria craze created by the right wingnuts. Over the last few years we’ve watched them become consumed with everything from presidential birth certificates to literally buying wingnut lies about an American POW before we have the facts. When it comes time for an election, they are quick to point out that American voters STILL say that job creation is their number one concern. And yet they spend all their time running after fake scandals….because its easy.

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Paul Krugman: Fall of an Apparatchik

… Cantor’s loss is part of a process that could well unravel movement conservatism as we know it.

…. it turns out that being a movement conservative apparatchik is no longer a safe career choice. This is a very big deal. Conservatives, as I said, will always be with us. But the structure that shaped them into a cohesive movement is now starting to unravel, at a time when movement progressivism — which is much less cohesive and much less lucrative, but nonetheless now exists in a way it didn’t 15 years ago — is on the rise.

Meanwhile, don’t cry for Eric Cantor.

Full post here

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TPM: Five Major Cases The Supreme Court Will Decide This Month

The Supreme Court has already delivered major rulings this year on campaign finance and prayer in public meetings. By the end of June, the Court is expected to hand down several more important decisions that could dramatically alter the law and affect Americans’ lives.

Here are key decisions to watch for.

More here

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NBC: President Obama: I’m a ‘fun dad who teeters on the edge of being embarrassing’

As Father’s Day approaches, President Obama shared his thoughts about fatherhood and raising kids in the White House during an exclusive interview with TODAY’s Jenna Bush Hager, who knows what it’s like to have a dad who is the commander-in-chief.

Obama said his two daughters, Malia, 15, and Sasha, who turned 13 this week, would describe him as a good, fun dad who “teeters on the edge of being embarrassing sometimes.”

More here

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Today:

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On This Day

President Obama and Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett chat outside the Oval Office in the White House, June 12, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama talks on the phone in the Oval Office with British Prime Minister David Cameron, Saturday, June 12, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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First Lady Michelle Obama signs her new book “American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America” during a book signing at Barnes & Noble on June 12, 2012 in Washington, DC

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President Obama greets patrons during an unannounced stop at Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe in Boston, Mass., June 12, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and Congressman Ed Markey wave to the crowd as Obama attends a rally for Markey at the Reggie Lewis Center in Roxbury, June 12, 2013

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MoooOOOooorning!

02
Jun
14

Elections Matter

Obama Wins

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Washington Post: Obama Judges Tip Appeals Court To Democrats

When President Bush II left the White House in 2009, the 13 U.S. courts of appeal were firmly under Republican appointees’ control. Ten appeals courts had majority GOP judges, two were evenly split and only one had a majority of Democrats. President Obama’s 49 appeals court appointees have dramatically altered the landscape. As of the Senate’s recess on May 23, nine of those courts had majority Democratic appointees and four had Republican majorities.

(There are 10 vacancies in the circuit courts. One Obama nominee is awaiting a Senate vote and three nominees pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee.) The change, much feared by Republicans, is not necessarily shocking. But the transformation, in just 5 1/2 years, said University of Pittsburgh law professor Arthur D. Hellman, an authority on the federal circuit courts, marks ”a huge shift in a very short period of time.” And it means that Democratic appointed judges “have the ability to control every important case if they wish to” in those nine circuits, he said.

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Timothy B. Lee: Obama Has Secured Democratic Majorities On Most Federal Appeals Courts

A president’s Supreme Court nominees get a lot of attention, but presidents shape less visible parts of the judiciary too. Barack Obama is no exception. The Washington Post has a chart showing how the president has changed the composition of the nation’s appeals courts over the last five and a half years: Now, it’s important to say that courts are not supposed to be partisan institutions.

Still, Democratic judicial nominees tend to be more liberal than Republican nominees. And so the growing number of Democrat-appointed judges in our appeals courts will push American jurisprudence to the left on a wide range of issues. And because Obama’s nominees will stay on the bench long after Obama leaves office, these nominations will be one of his most durable legacies.

More here

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02
Jun
14

Early Bird Chat

June 2, 2010 – Pete Souza: “Paul McCartney sings “Michelle” to First Lady Michelle Obama during an event honoring McCartney as winner of the annual Gershwin Prize. I knew this was a special moment but didn’t have a full realization of its significance until when I later heard the President telling others that his wife could never have imagined as an African-American girl growing up on the South side of Chicago that someday a Beatle would be singing this song to her as First Lady of the United States.”

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MoooOOOooorning – Happy Monday!

20
Apr
14

The First Family Celebrates Easter

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President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama depart from the North Portico of the White House to attend Easter services at the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church

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So I tweeted this hours ago

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GQ has responded with this

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How much do we looooove the Obamas? They know hand-me-downs are a way of life

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20
Apr
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama prepares to board Air Force One before his departure from Andrews Air Force Base, April 20, 2011

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The President has no public events scheduled today

See here for ‘The Week Ahead’

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Zachary Roth: Obamacare Helping Millions Register To Vote

It’s the right’s worst nightmare: Obamacare working to boost not just the number of Americans who have affordable health insurance — but also the number who are registered to vote. And it could be coming true. Under the terms of an agreement between California and an alliance of good government groups, the state will mail voter registration forms to 4 million people who applied for Obamacare via California’s online exchange. The deal could end up creating 400,000 new registered Golden State voters — the actual numbers will be available later this year.

Nationwide, Obamacare could ultimately be responsible for registering anywhere from 3 to 7 million voters — potentially over 10% of the total number of eligible voters who aren’t registered today — over the next eight years. Here’s why: Under the 1993 National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), which aimed to boost voter registration, people applying for public assistance—as well as DMV customers—must be offered the chance to register to vote. That means every state insurance exchange like California’s, as well as the federal exchange, will need to ask people whether they want to register. Even those people who end up getting covered via Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion or through other parts of the law, rather than through the private market, will still be offered the chance to register to vote.

More here

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Washington Post: White House Announces Itinerary For Obama’s Asia Trip

President Obama will meet with the leaders of four Asian nations, answer questions at a town hall-style event at a university in Malaysia and address U.S. service members in South Korea during a week-long trip that begins Tuesday, the White House announced. Administration officials hailed the president’s visit to Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines as a chance to underscore the United States’s commitment to the Asia-Pacific, with an emphasis on regional allies.

“Unlike many of the president’s overseas trips, particularly to Asia, there are no large summits involved,” National Security Adviser Susan Rice said while briefing reporters on Obama’s itinerary Friday. “So the agenda in each country can focus intensively on energizing our bilateral relationships and advancing the different elements of our Asia strategy.” The town-hall event at Malaya University will be with young leaders from 10 Southeast Asian nations, and Obama also will meet with civil-rights leaders in Malaysia, as the United States attempts to promote democratic values.

More here

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Wendy George: After 17 Years, I’m Bringing My Little Sister Home From Prison

When we were little, we used to tell our mama she had good ears. My little sister and I would whisper under the covers in our bed after lights out, and somehow mom could always hear us. She’d tell us to quit talking and go to sleep. Tomorrow I’m going to pick up my sister from prison. She’s been away for 17 years, and until last December I thought she would never come home. I can’t wait to drive back to my house, get in bed, and tell each other everything like we used to. You’d think I had a twin. As kids, my sister and I looked a lot alike. Our mom used to dress us the same. Even as we got older, we wore the same kinds of clothes. We raised our small kids together. We both wanted to style hair for a living. Since she’s been gone, a part of me has been missing. A part of me has been locked up for years.

Stephanie was 26 with four small kids when she was sentenced. Even though the judge objected, a mandatory minimum law meant that she got life without the possibility of parole for being “a girlfriend and bag holder and money holder” in a drug conspiracy. When Stephanie was sentenced, I took her kids into my home and raised them. I am grateful I had the strength to keep pushing on to make sure that her kids got to the prison to visit their mom. She told me horror stories of some of the women in there who didn’t have a family outside to help with the kids. It was a rough role, but I thank God for giving me the strength to raise them all. I talked to my sister on the phone last week and joked that once she gets home, I am going to take a month vacation. She said I deserve it. Even when they said she had a life sentence, I never accepted that. I’ve been praying and fighting for this day since day one. And the fighting has paid off. Finally, my sister’s sentence has been commuted by President Obama.

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NYT: Republicans See Political Wedge In Common Core

The health care law may be Republicans’ favorite weapon against Democrats this year, but there is another issue roiling their party and shaping the establishment-versus-grass-roots divide ahead of the 2016 presidential primaries: the Common Core. A once little-known set of national educational standards introduced in 44 states and the District of Columbia with the overwhelming support of Republican governors, the Common Core has incited intense resistance on the right and prompted some in the party to reverse field and join colleagues who believe it will lead to a federal takeover of schools. Conservatives denounce it as “Obamacore,” in what has become a surefire applause line for potential presidential hopefuls. Other Republicans are facing opprobrium from their own party for not doing more to stop it.

The learning benchmarks, intended to raise students’ proficiency in math and English, were adopted as part of a 2010 effort by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers to bolster the country’s competitiveness. Unlike the health care law, the Common Core retains bipartisan support and has the backing of powerful elements of the business community. The Republican revolt against the Common Core can be traced to President Obama’s embrace of it, particularly his linking the adoption of similar standards to states’ eligibility for federal education grants and to waivers from No Child Left Behind, the national education law enacted by President George W. Bush. “There is a great deal of paranoia in the country today,” said Sonny Perdue, a former governor of Georgia, who was also instrumental in creating the program. “It’s the two P’s, polarization and paranoia.”

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Kathy Lally: Ukraine, Short On Military Budget, Starts Fundraising Drive

Ukraine’s new government inherited an army so bereft of modern equipment and training that when Russian troops entered Crimea and agitators stormed government offices in eastern Ukraine, the country proved helpless to protect its borders and citizens. The corruption that had darkened all the nation’s institutions had provoked demonstrators to stand their ground in Kiev until the old leaders fled. But the depth of the damage took the country by surprise when the Crimean Peninsula was easily lost to Russian annexation last month, revealing a military profoundly weakened by theft and neglect. “Our army has been systematically destroyed and disarmed,” Deputy Defense Minister Petro Mehed said at a briefing this past week, “and its best personnel dismissed.” In the east, militants have occupied buildings in more than a dozen cities and on Saturday showed no signs of giving up their positions.

The army was sent in and looked more anemic than ever when small knots of civilians managed to block armored personnel carriers simply by standing in front of them. Ukraine’s position is dire. The new government found the treasury empty when it took over Feb. 27. The Ministry of Defense was so desperate for money that it went to the public for help. People across the country have responded by pulling together for the Support the Ukrainian army fundraising drive, trying to repair the damage done by years of thieving governments. Children have held fairs and bake sales to raise money. Adults have delivered food and water to tent encampments. Community groups have collected shoes, clothes and canned goods. Ukrainian businesses and individuals had raised more than $9 million for the military as of Friday, the Defense Ministry reported. Of that, $2 million came from cellphone users who made 50-cent donations from their accounts by calling a designated number.

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Michael Laris: Voting-Rights Quest In Va. Will Soon Become Easier For Ex-Prisoners Held On Serious Drugs Charges

Those convicted in Virginia of manufacturing drugs, distributing drugs, having the intent to distribute drugs or “accommodating” the sale of drugs will now be put in the same category as those who were found guilty of mail fraud, check kiting, embezzlement or simple drug possession when it comes to processing requests to have their voting rights restored. The drug-dealing and other major drug charges had been on the state’s “violent/more serious” list of offenses. Bumping them to the list of nonviolent crimes will have far-reaching implications. Since McDonnell’s reforms, those types of lesser offenses are processed in a faster, more streamlined fashion, taking weeks or months rather than years. Unlike most states, Virginia requires ex-felons to proactively pursue their voting rights — they are not automatically restored.

Virginia law, the American Civil Liberties Union says, has prevented hundreds of thousands of people — many convicted of drug crimes — from voting, and advocates point to racial disparities. About 45 percent of those arrested for drug offenses are black, said Edward Hailes, general counsel for the Advancement Project, a civil rights group active on the issue. “We should see a large number of African Americans in Virginia getting their rights restored more automatically,” he said, adding that one in five can’t vote because of felony convictions. “Virginia is making progress but is still far behind most of the states in the union.” Attorney General Eric Holder, speaking at the Georgetown University Law Center this year, called for further changes in Virginia and elsewhere. “Eleven states continue to restrict voting rights to varying degrees even after a person has served his or her prison sentence and is no longer on probation or parole,” Holder said. “It is time to fundamentally reconsider laws that permanently disenfranchise people who are no longer under federal or state supervision.”

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Lucia Graves: Good News For Obamacare Is Bad News For Conservative Pundits

Conservatives were sure at every turn that Obamacare would fail, but as the numbers roll in, those convictions are looking increasingly ideological. First they said nobody would enroll. Then they said first-year premiums would be through the roof. And later, they warned of a “death spiral,” wherein premiums would go up uncontrollably. My colleague Sam Baker has written an excellent analysis of the situation, the upshot of which is that Obamacare is on a winning streak. The next great frontier of conservative hyperbole concerns premiums for 2015, with critics warning that costs will double or even triple next year. As of this week, we have good evidence to the contrary.

Health insurance premium rates are expected go up just 7 percent—a rate of increase much lower than what critics were predicting. And the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is predicting that premium hikes will be relatively modest. “The double-rate increases we’ve been hearing are probably exaggerated,” Dave Axene, a fellow with the Society of Actuaries, told USA Today. “That’s not what we’re seeing from the actuarial organizations—I guess we’re being a little bit more optimistic.” “A little bit more optimistic” is something of an understatement. For weeks, pundits have been spouting apocalyptic notions about the costs of insurance premiums, warning Americans that “the worst is yet to come.”

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Derek Thompson: Get Rich, Live Longer: The Ultimate Consequence Of Income Inequality

Brookings economist Barry Bosworth crunches the data on income and lifespans for the Wall Street Journal, and the numbers tell three clear stories. 1. Rich people live longer. 2. Richer people’s lifespans are growing at a faster rate. 3. The problem is worse for women than for men. First, let’s look at the guys. A rich man (top decile) born in 1940 can expect to live 10 years longer after he turns 55 than a poor man (bottom decile). That longevity gap grew by four years in one generation. Women live longer than men, overall. But their inequality gap getting worse. A rich woman at 55 can expect to live a decade longer than a poor woman, too. But this gap grew even more between the Silent and early Boomer generations, by six years.

The typical guy in McDowell County, West Virginia, makes less than $30,000 a year and doesn’t live to 65. Five hours north on the highway, a typical man living in Fairfax County, Virginia, makes more than $100,000 and lives more than 80 years. The two Virginian counties are two different countries. When somebody in Washington proposes raising the retirement age for Social Security or Medicare, he typically says something like: “We can afford it, because we are living longer.” Yes, We can afford it, when the We in that sentence applies to an audience of white rich old men and women who really are seeing their lifespans grow by leaps and bounds. But We doesn’t apply to the millions of poor women whose lifespans are actually declining. Raising the Social Security retirement age disproportionately reduces lifetime benefits for the very people Social Security was invented to protect.

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USA Today: New Data Signal Smaller Jump In Health Care Costs

Several new reports also hint at a bend in the health cost curve — even as health spending picks up with the improving economy. The change after years of large increases in how much health care costs seems to be coming for several reasons, the reports find: Americans are using their prescribed medications more often, which may be keeping them out of the hospital; payment systems have begun to reward quality over quantity, which has encouraged a team-based, data-driven approach; and record numbers of medications have been developed to address chronic disease, while older medications have come off their expensive patents. The week’s findings include a report from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics that found that even as health care spending has rebounded with the economy, the growth rate remains lower than usual. In addition, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected lower health insurance premiums than originally expected.

Aitkin says people spent more on drugs and less on follow-up visits and hospitalizations, which could be key to keeping the growth rate low. Health experts have long held that if people can afford — and take — prescribed medications, it may keep them safe from heart attacks or low blood sugar levels, and ultimately keep their overall health costs lower. Aitkin says 23% of prescription drugs had no co-pays in 2013, mostly because of provisions within the Affordable Care Act, including the one for coverage of contraceptives as preventive medications. Women saved $483 million in out-of-pocket costs in 2013 for contraceptives alone. And hospitalizations from emergency room visits decreased 14.6%, possibly because consumers were encouraged to try other options first. This week, the CBO downgraded its original premium projections by about 15% lower than projected in the fall of 2009, in part due to “lower projected health care costs for the federal government and the private health sector.”

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Frank Newport: Newly Insured In 2014 Represent About 4% of U.S. Adults

Four percent of Americans are newly insured this year, reporting that they have health insurance now but did not last year. A little more than half of that group, or 2.1% of the U.S. population, got their new insurance through health exchanges. The rest got it using some other mechanism. Overall, 11.8% of U.S. adults say they got a new health insurance policy in 2014. One-third of this group, or 4% nationally, say they did not have insurance in 2013. Another 7.5% got a new policy this year that replaced a previous policy. The ACA envisioned that the new healthcare exchanges would be the main place where uninsured Americans would get their insurance this year, but it appears that a sizable segment of the newly insured Americans used another mechanism.

These sources presumably include employee policies, Medicaid, and other private policies not arranged through exchanges. The newly insured are, on average, much younger than the overall population, with most younger than age 65. Within the 18 to 64 age range, the newly insured are slightly more overrepresented in the 18 to 29 age category than in the 30 to 49 and 50 to 64 age categories. These data suggest that the ACA’s efforts to add previously uninsured young people to the ranks of the insured have been modestly successful. The newly insured who signed up outside of the exchanges are substantially younger than those who signed up through the exchanges.

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Energy.Gov: Energy Department Announces $15 Million To Help Communities Boost Solar Deployment

In support of the Administration’s goal of doubling renewable energy generation for a second time by 2020, the Energy Department today announced $15 million to help communities develop multi-year solar plans to install affordable solar electricity for homes and businesses. The United States continues to be a global leader in solar, with total U.S. solar energy installations reaching 13 gigawatts last year. As the cost of solar energy continues to decline, more states and local communities are deploying solar energy projects to meet their electricity needs.

“As part of the President’s all-of-the-above energy strategy, solar energy is helping families and businesses throughout the U.S. access affordable, clean renewable power,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “The Energy Department is committed to further driving down the cost of solar energy and supporting innovative community-based programs – creating more jobs, reducing carbon pollution and boosting economic growth.”

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Maggie Fox: Obamacare Helped Up To 10 Million Get Insurance, Gallup Finds

Obamacare has helped as many as 9.9 million people to get new health insurance, and more than 4 percent of all Americans have gotten health insurance for the first time, according to a new Gallup poll. It’s the largest poll yet to assess the effects of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, and the findings add to what’s been reported in earlier surveys and the government tally of how many people signed up through the new online exchanges. The percentage of the U.S. population that has no health insurance has plummeted from an all-time high of 18 percent during the last quarter of 2013 to just 15 percent this past March, says Dan Witters, lead researcher for the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

About half got insurance on the new state and federal online health exchanges, the survey found, and half got it through Medicaid, an employer or bought it directly from an insurance company. “We feel pretty comfortable attributing much of this change to the Affordable Care Act,” Witters told NBC News. The survey confirms that people started getting insurance in the last months of 2013 and really started signing up in the first three months of 2014. “There is no evidence that the exchanges only signed up extremely sick people,” said Frank Newport, Gallup’s editor in chief. Gallup found younger people aged 18-29 tended to gravitate to buying health insurance directly, not on the exchanges, while those signing up on the new exchanges tended to be in the 50-64 age group. Overall, 30 percent of those getting insurance for 2014 were 18 to 29; 24 percent bought insurance on the exchanges and 37 percent got it elsewhere.

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Christopher Ingraham: Your Taxes Are Really, Low, In One Chart

Taxed enough already? Hardly. According to the Congressional Budget Office, your effective federal tax rates are near historic lows.
One of the great ironies of the rise of the tea party movement was that it coincided with the lowest total tax burdens seen in at least 30 years. The chart below plots effective federal tax rates since 1979 by income group. The key word here is “effective” — these are the tax rates people actually pay after factoring in things like the mortgage interest deduction, the child tax credit and the myriad other deductions and credits written into the U.S. tax code. Values for 2011 and 2012 aren’t yet available, but the CBO does provide projections for 2013 tax filings, which I’ve plotted, as well.

Overall the trend is downward. The average filer saw her effective tax rate drop from 22 percent in 1979 to 18.1 percent in 2010. Rates on the bottom 20 percent of tax filers went from 7.5 percent to 1.5 percent, while the top 20 percent of earners saw a more modest decrease, from 27.1 to 24.0 percent over the same period. The effect of crisis-era policy is clearly visible in the sharp drop in rates from 2007 to 2008, mostly from tax provisions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Tax rates hit rock bottom in 2009, right as the tea party movement was gaining steam.

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National Journal: Obamacare Is On A Winning Streak

The headlines about the Affordable Care Act have turned positive lately, and they’re starting to pile up. The most dire predictions from the law’s critics simply haven’t panned out, and now Democrats are headed into another big health care fight—the confirmation of a new Health and Human Services secretary—with stronger real-world evidence than they’ve had before. Narratives feed on themselves, and there was a time when Obamacare just kept losing. But over the past few weeks, the news has started to roll in the other direction. Enrollment has surged beyond expectations. Costs are coming in lower than predicted. Various reports say the number of uninsured Americans is falling. Now it’s good news snowballing, and it’s critics who increasingly seem to have missed the mark with their warnings of inevitable collapse.

Critics still promise that the law cannot work as intended, but the evidence keeps piling up in the other direction. The opportunities for failure keep falling away, and worst-case predictions keep going bust. There was no death spiral, nor will there be one. And there was never going to be a “death panel.” The next big warning is about premiums for 2015. Critics say premiums will skyrocket because not enough healthy people signed up this year. some insurers are looking to expand their presence in the exchanges next year, and others have indicated they might jump in for the first time, after taking a wait-and-see approach this year. So far, no large plans have said they intend to leave the exchange marketplace. All of that indicates that insurers see the market as stable. And more plans competing for more new customers will likely keep premium increases in check. According to Gallup, the percentage of Americans without health insurance has fallen from 18 percent in to 15 percent.

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The Obamas leaving the White House today for Easter Services at the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church

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Malia Obama follows her father President Barack Obama, her mother First Lady Michelle Obama and her sister Sasha as they depart for Easter Services at the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church.

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WH.gov: The 10 most eggcellent moments from past Easter Egg Rolls

1. That time Bo wore bunny ears


2. Playing H-O-R-S-E with the P-O-T-U-S


3. 30-Love


4. YOU get an egg, and YOU get an egg, and YOU get an egg!


5. That time 30,000 people were on the South Lawn like “NBD”


6. When everyone did the “Wild Rumpus”


7. When we had a Kid POTUS


8. When Bo did an Easter egg hunt and was all like “Found it!”


9. Float like a butterfly, hop like a bunny.

10. And we went “Hip hop hooray!”

See the full Easter Egg Roll program here

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On This Day

Sen. Barack Obama with Caroline Kennedy before addressing supporters at a rally in Scranton, Pa., April 20, 2008

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President Obama with Tiger Woods in the Oval Office April 20, 2009

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On This Day: First Lady Michelle Obama greets students after talking to them about the importance of exercise as part of the “Let’s Move!” initiative at River Terrace Elementary School in Washington on April 20, 2010

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President Obama speaks at a “town hall” at Facebook headquarters, with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in Palo Alto, California on April 20, 2011

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President Obama signs a proclamation to designate federal lands within the former Fort Ord as a national monument under the Antiquities Act in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, April 20, 2012. Fort Ord is a former military base located on California’s central coast and is a world-class destination for hikers, mountain bikers, and outdoor enthusiasts

President Obama greets members of the military and their families during the kick off event for the Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride on the South Lawn of the White House April 20, 2012

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