Posts Tagged ‘Student Loans

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.

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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.

More here

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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.

More here

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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.

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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.

More here

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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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Oh Dear:

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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!

11
Jun
14

Rise and Shine

President Obama’s signature on a wall in a health classroom at Southwest High School in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where he attended a town hall meeting on health care, June 11, 2009. The physical education and health staff left a note asking the President to sign the wall for future students to see (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

10:50 President Obama meets with the United States Sentencing Commission, Roosevelt Room

1:50: Departs White House

3:20: Arrives Worcester, Mass.

4:0: The President delivers remarks at the Worcester Technical High School Commencement

7:0: Delivers remarks and answers questions at a fundraiser for House Democrats, private residence, Weston, Mass.

8:20: Departs Worcester

10:0: Arrives White House

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Later This Week

Thursday: The President will hold a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Tony Abbott of Australia at the White House. In the afternoon, the President will welcome the WNBA Champion Minnesota Lynx to the White House to honor the team and their victory in the WNBA Finals.

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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President Obama and Tumblr’s founder, David Karp

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Adam Vaccaro: No, Obama’s Student Debt Executive Order Doesn’t Incentivize Colleges To Raise Tuition

When President Barack Obama announced yesterday that he would extend the “Pay as You Earn” federal student loan repayment program to older, previously ineligible debtors, it was met with a common contention. I’ve seen it in a few places, including the comments section in our article on the action. In short, people say that the order will make it easier for students to manage their debt, and that will incentivize schools to raise tuition. The assertion doesn’t make any sense. The Pay as You Earn program, which limits monthly payments to 10 percent of a borrowers’ income and can allow for loan forgiveness after 20 years of repayments, had previously only been available to new student borrowers. In order to be eligible, debtors could not have taken out a student loan before October 2007, and could not have stopped taking payments before October 2011.

In other words, the program was essentially put in place for the high school class of 2008 and later classes—meaning those currently in school are already eligible for the program. If the program incentivizes colleges to raise tuition—again, probably a fun debate, though it ignores that tuition was already skyrocketing well before the program was put in place—it was already happening. Obama’s action, meanwhile, extends the option to older borrowers—those who have already graduated and are making repayments, some at much higher rates than the program allows. The vast majority of those people are by definition already out of school. Who, then, would colleges raise tuition on that they couldn’t already?

More here

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Washington Post: Republican House Majority Leader Succumbs To Tea Party Challenger Dave Brat

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.), the chamber’s second-ranking Republican, was badly beaten in a primary contest Tuesday by an obscure professor with tea party backing — a historic electoral surprise that left the GOP in chaos and the House without its heir apparent. Cantor, who has represented the Richmond suburbs since 2001, lost by 11 percentage points to Dave Brat, an economist at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Va. It was an operatic fall from power, swift and deep and utterly surprising.

As late as Tuesday morning, Cantor had felt so confident of victory that he spent the morning at a Starbucks on Capitol Hill, holding a fundraising meeting with lobbyists while his constituents went to the polls. By Tuesday night, he had suffered a defeat with few parallels in American history. Historians said that no House leader of Cantor’s rank had ever been defeated in a primary. That left stunned Republicans — those who had supported Cantor, and even those who had worked to beat him — struggling to understand what happened.

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Nick Wing: If It’s A School Week In America, Odds Are There Will Be A School Shooting

Since the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, there have been an average of 1.37 school shootings for each school week, according to data maintained by Everytown for Gun Safety, a group fighting to end gun violence. Including Tuesday’s incident at a high school in Troutdale, Oregon, 74 school shootings have taken place in the approximately 18 months since the Dec. 14, 2012, Newtown shooting. The average school year typically lasts about 180 days, which means there have been roughly 270 school days, or 54 weeks, of class since the shooting at Newtown.

With 74 total incidents over that period, the nation is averaging well over a shooting per school week. The data maintained by Everytown for Gun Safety also shows that these shootings have occurred throughout the country. In all, 31 states have had an incident of gun violence at a school. Georgia has witnessed far more incidents than others, with 10 happening at schools there since Sandy Hook. There have been seven school shootings in Florida, five in Tennessee, four in North Carolina and four in California.

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Caitlin MacNeal: Obama: ‘We Should Be Ashamed’ Of Failure To Address Gun Violence

President Obama on Tuesday slammed the failure to curb gun violence in the United States. “My biggest frustration so far is the fact that this society has not been willing to take some basic steps to keep guns out of the hands of people who can do just unbelievable damage,” he said during a Tumblr Q&A. “This is becoming the norm,” he continued about school shootings. “We should be ashamed.”

The President addressed lawmakers who blame mass shootings on mental health, not access to guns. “The United States does not have a monopoly on crazy people. It’s not the only country that has psychosis. And yet, we kill each other in these mass shootings at rates that are exponentially higher than any place else,” he said.

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Rob Wile: Small Business Confidence Surges

The NFIB’s small business confidence index came in at 96.6 for May — the highest reading since 2007. That also beat expectations for 95.8. Pantheon Macro’s Ian Shepherdson says this index is more important than payrolls, and sees this jump to the as a major shift. “At last, small businesses are on the move. We have been waiting for four years for a clean break to the upside, and it’s finally here. The rise in the headline largely reflects a 9-point jump in economic expectations and a 5-point rise in sales expectations, but several other components rose too.”

 More here

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You built this racism, GOP.

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John B. Judis: Dave Brat And The Triumph Of Rightwing Populism

“Eric is running on the Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable principles,” Brat told a Tea Party audience. “They want amnesty for illegal immigrants. They want them granted citizenship. And it’s in the millions — 40 millions coming in. if you add 40 million workers to our labor supply, what will happen to the wage rate for the average American?” Brat’s appeal was frankly demagogic. Cantor was not supporting amnesty, and there are about 10 million illegal immigrants currently in the United States. Some of Brat’s Tea Party supporters took it a step further. Larry Nordvig, the head of the Richmond Tea Party, told a joke at Brat rally.

“A politician, a Muslim, and an illegal alien walk into a bar, and you now what the bartender said? Good evening, Mr. President.” If he is elected in November, Brat may, of course, jettison the anti-Wall Street and anti-big business side of his politics. His actual economic views appear to be close to those of the Cato Institute and Ayn Rand. His solutions for America’s flagging economy consist in flattening the tax code and cutting spending – positions that will certainly not alienate the Chamber of Commerce or Business Roundtable.

More here

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Jonathan Cohn: The GOP Just Got a Wake-Up Call: Eric Cantor’s Loss Proves The Tea Party Refuses To Rest In Peace

It’s going to take a while to figure out precisely what happened Tuesday night in Virginia’s 7th House District. Nobody thought Eric Cantor, the second most powerful Republican in the House, would lose his primary campaign to Dave Brat, an anonymous college professor too busy grading exams to attend campaign events. Not too many people even thought it’d be close. Robert Costa of the Washington Post wrote about Brat’s surprising popularity a month ago, but the rest of the political press barely noticed.

The obvious explanation for Cantor’s defeat is immigration. And in this case, the obvious explanation is probably right. Brat hammered Cantor for his supposed support of “amnesty.” Cantor swore the charge was untrue and, lord knows, he wasn’t doing anything to advance the cause of immigration reform publicly. It appears the voters didn’t believe him. Brat also attacked Cantor for his supposed cooperation with, and enabling of, Obama. This charge may seem strange to the White House and, for that matter, most sentient beings. Few Republicans have spent more energy fighting Obama and the Democrats. And Cantor played a pivotal role in killing the grand bargain that Obama was trying to negotiate with House Speaker John Boehner in 2011

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Julia Edwards: Obama Administration To Make Push On American Indian Voting Rights

Concerned that American Indians are being unfairly kept out of the voting process, the Obama administration is considering a proposal that would require voting districts with tribal land to have at least one polling site in a location chosen by the tribe’s government, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced on Monday. Holder said the Justice Department would begin consulting tribal authorities on whether it should suggest that Congress pass a law that would apply to state and local administrators whose territory includes tribal lands. The announcement came as President Barack Obama was expected to travel to an American Indian reservation in North Dakota on Friday.

Last Thursday, Holder addressed a tribal conference in the same state. Associate Attorney General Tony West on Monday will expand upon Holder’s announcement in Anchorage, Alaska, where he will address a conference held by the National Congress of American Indians. “Our proposal would give American Indian and Alaska Native voters a right that most other citizens take for granted: a polling place in their community where they can cast a ballot and receive voter assistance to make sure their vote will be counted,” West is expected to say, according a statement from the Justice Department.

More here

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Daniel Strauss: Cantor Conquerer Caught Off Guard By Policy Questions In Interview

David Brat, who defeated House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) in the Republican primary for Virginia’s 7th Congressional District, was surprised when he appeared on MSNBC on Wednesday that he would be asked policy questions. In his interview with MSNBC’s Chuck Todd Brat punted when Todd asked him both about the minimum wage and Syria. “Let me ask you a few other issue questions. Where are you on the minimum wage? Do you believe in it and would you raise it?” Todd asked. “Minimum wage, no, I’m a free market guy,” Brat responded.

“Our labor markets right now are already distorted from too many regulations. I think Cato estimates there’s $2 trillion of regulatory problems and then throw Obamacare on top of that, the work hours is 30 hours a week. You can only hire 50 people. There’s just distortion after distortion after distortion and we wonder why our labor markets are broken.” Todd then pressed Brat on the question. “Um, I don’t have a well-crafted response on that one,” Brat finally conceded. “All I know is if you take the long-run graph over 200 years of the wage rate, it cannot differ from your nation’s productivity. Right? So you can’t make up wage rates.”

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CBS News: Judge Strikes Down Teacher Tenure In California

A judge struck down tenure and other job protections for California’s public school teachers Tuesday, saying such laws harm students – especially poor and minority ones – by saddling them with bad teachers who are almost impossible to fire. In a landmark decision that could influence the gathering debate over tenure across the country, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu cited the historic case of Brown v. Board of Education in ruling that students have a fundamental right to equal education. Siding with the nine students who brought the lawsuit, he ruled that California’s laws on hiring and firing in schools have resulted in “a significant number of grossly ineffective teachers currently active in California classrooms.” He agreed, too, that a disproportionate number of these teachers are in schools that have mostly minority and low-income students.

The judge stayed the ruling pending appeals. The case involves 6 million students from kindergarten through 12th grade. The California Attorney General’s office said it is considering its legal options, while the California Teachers Association, the state’s biggest teachers union with 325,000 members, vowed an appeal. “Circumventing the legislative process to strip teachers of their professional rights hurts our students and our schools,” the union said. Teachers have long argued that tenure prevents administrators from firing teachers on a whim. They contend also that the system preserves academic freedom and helps attract talented teachers to a profession that doesn’t pay well. Other states have been paying close attention to how the case plays out in the nation’s most populous state. The lawsuit was backed by wealthy Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Welch’s nonprofit group Students Matter, which assembled a high-profile legal team including Boutrous, who successfully fought to overturn California’s gay-marriage ban.

More here

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Brian Beutler: Eric Cantor Lost Because He Exploited Conservatives, Not Immigration

Cantor practices a cunning, devious brand of politics. He played legislative strategy the same way he played intra-conference intrigue—devising too-clever-by-half schemes to seize momentary advantage, often at the expense of bigger picture goals. They frequently blew back at him. When Republicans took back the House, he advocated strategies that culminated in dangerous brinksmanship over funding the government and increasing the debt limit, exactly as conservatives demanded. But he also attempted to set the bizarre precedent of offsetting emergency spending for natural disaster relief with cuts to unrelated social spending programs. He never prevailed, but his position became extremely awkward when a rare and sizable earthquake severely damaged his own district in August 2011. After Obama’s re-election, Cantor had to reverse course and orchestrate ransomless debt limit increases, to the great dismay of Republican hardliners. He then pandered to those same hardliners in ways that frequently undermined John Boehner’s best-laid plans. These priorities were incongruous, and suggestive of an effort to situate himself as the Speaker’s heir apparent, rather than of a commitment to conservative causes.

Just two months ago, Cantor end ran around those same conservatives to secure passage of a bill protecting Medicare physicians from a substantial pay cut. For more than a year now, Cantor’s stable of influential operatives and former operatives have done battle with the purity obsessed hardliners and opportunists who tried to seize control of the party’s legislative strategy. Many of them sought retribution by taking aim at Cantor in his district. In the end the right’s beef with him—as with McConnell—was about more than just affect. It was about his willingness to use power politics and procedural hijinks to cut conservatives out of the tangle when expedient. The lesson of his defeat isn’t that immigration reform is particularly poisonous, but that the right expects its leaders to understand they can’t subsume the movement’s energy for tactical purposes, then grant it only selective influence over big decisions.

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On This Day

President Obama checks how much time he has left during a health care reform town hall meeting at Southwest High School in Green Bay, Wisconsin, June 11, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama speaks with White House Counsel Gregory Craig in the Oval Office, June 11 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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First Lady Michelle Obama sits with class valedictorian Jordan Smiley during the graduation ceremonies for Anacostia Senior High School on June 11, 2010 in Washington, DC

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President Obama talks with Betty White in the Oval Office, June 11, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Bo waits to greet President Obama in the Outer Oval Office, June 11, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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09
Jun
14

President Obama Reduces The Burden Of Student Loan Debt

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President Barack Obama applauds during an event in the East Room of the White House, where he signed a Presidential Memorandum on reducing the burden of student loan debt. The president said the rising costs of college have left America’s middle class feeling trapped. He says no hard-working young person in America should be priced out of a higher education. President Obama signed a presidential memorandum he says could help an additional 5 million borrowers

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Text of the President’s remarks here

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President Barack Obama signs a Presidential Memorandum on reducing the burden of student loan debt

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Chicago Tribune: Obama Moves To Ease Student Loan Burdens, Urges Congress To Act

President Barack Obama on Monday signed an executive order making it easier for up to 5 million people to pay off college tuition debt, and scolded congressional Republicans for opposing legislation that would lower student-loan borrowing costs. Obama signed an executive order allowing more people to limit repayments of federal student loans to 10 percent of their monthly incomes. The action will not take effect until December 2015. The administration will also try to lower student costs by renegotiating government contracts with companies like Sallie Mae that service student loans, he said.

The president said Congress should also take steps to ease debt burdens on students, 71 percent of whom earn bachelor’s degrees with debt, which averages $29,400. Senate Democrats have proposed legislation that would allow millions of Americans to refinance both federal and private undergraduate student loans at lower interest rates. The bill is unlikely to overcome the opposition of Republicans. “If you’re a Big Oil company, they’ll go to bat for you,” he said. “If you’re a student, good luck.”

More here

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And later….

09
Jun
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Barack Obama talks with kids from the Children’s Miracle Network in the East Room of the White House, June 9, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

10:50: The President meets with nurses to discuss immigration reform

12:30: Josh Earnest briefs the press

1:45: The President delivers remarks and signs a Presidential Memorandum on reducing the burden of student loan debt, East Room

2:40: Meets with governors of Western States via video teleconference

4:15: Welcomes the UConn men’s and women’s NCAA champion basketball teams

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The Week Ahead

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NYT: Obama Plans Steps To Ease Student Debt

President Obama on Monday will take executive actions to ease the burden of college loan debt for potentially millions of Americans, in a White House event coinciding with Senate Democrats’ plans for legislation to address a concern of many voters in this midterm election year. Mr. Obama’s main action will be to expand on a 2010 law that capped borrowers’ repayments at 10 percent of their monthly income. The intent is to extend such relief to an estimated five million people with older loans who are currently ineligible — those who got loans before October 2007 or stopped borrowing by October 2011.

But the relief would not be available until December 2015, officials said, given the time needed for the Education Department to propose and put new regulations into effect. Also, Mr. Obama will announce that the department will renegotiate contracts with companies that service federal loans to give them additional financial incentives to help borrowers avoid delinquency or default. The Education and Treasury Departments are to work with the nation’s largest tax-preparation firms, H&R Block and Intuit Inc., to ensure that borrowers are aware of repayment options and tax credits for college tuition.

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Josh Hicks: Kerry: Leaving Soldier Behind Would Be ‘Offensive And Incomprehensible’

Secretary of State John F. Kerry in an interview aired Sunday pushed back against criticism of the prisoner swap for U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was captured by the Taliban after he left his post in Afghanistan in 2009. “It would have been offensive and incomprehensible to consciously leave an American behind, no matter what,” Kerry said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Republicans have accused the Obama administration of placing U.S. troops at greater risk by encouraging enemies to take prisoners for leverage, essentially putting a target on the backs of American troops. Responding to those concerns, Kerry said that the U.S. combat role in Afghanistan is over and that “we’re going to have very few people in that kind of position.”

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By the very wonderful @Chanlowe

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Simon Maloy: GOP’s Quiet Obamacare Disaster: How This Week’s Biggest Story Got Overlooked

While everyone obsessed over the Bergdahl flap, the real story was revealed by a nomination hearing and new data

Right around noon on Wednesday, the Senate voted to invoke cloture on Sylvia Mathews Burwell’s nomination to be the next secretary of Health and Human Services. The all-out Obamacare brawl that Republicans had promised when Burwell’s nomination was announced never materialized. Instead, it ended with a quiet, respectful display of bipartisan comity.

Losing the opportunity to grandstand on the Burwell nomination, however, was the least of the Republicans’ troubles this week when it came to the Affordable Care Act. We’re only six days into June, and opponents of the ACA have already had a terrible month.

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Las Vegas Review-Journal: Shooters In Metro Ambush That Left Five Dead Spoke Of White Supremacy And A Desire To Kill Police

Two Las Vegas police officers were killed Sunday in what appears to be a politically motivated ambush in a pizza restaurant that spilled over to a nearby Wal-Mart, where the two shooters committed suicide after killing a woman in the store. Details are sketchy, but Metropolitan Police Department sources close to the investigation say the shooters shouted that “this is the start of a revolution” before opening fire on the officers, and draped their bodies with cloth showing a Revolutionary War-era flag. Investigators have also found paraphernalia associated with white supremacists. The shooters then stripped the officers of their weapons and ammunition and badges, according to a law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation. They then covered the officers with something that featured the Gadsden flag, a yellow banner with a coiled snake above the words, “Don’t tread on Me.”

The flag is named for Christopher Gadsden a Revolutionary War general who designed it. It has recently come back in vogue as an adopted symbol of the American tea party movement. Brandon Monroe, 22, has lived in the complex for about two weeks. He said the man who lived in the apartment that was being searched often rambled about conspiracy theories. He often wore camouflage or dressed as Peter Pan to work as a Fremont Street Experience street performer. A woman lived with him, Monroe said, but he didn’t see her as often. They were weird people, Monroe said, adding that he thought the couple used methamphetamine. “The man told Monroe he had been kicked off Cliven Bundy’s ranch 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas while people from throughout the U.S. gathered there in protest of a Bureau of Land Management roundup of Bundy’s cattle.” Jessica Anderson, 27, said.

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Dan Diamond: Since Obamacare Passed 50 Months Ago, Healthcare Has Gained Almost 1 Million Jobs

Obamacare was once called “The Job-Killing Health Care Law.” But the latest jobs report suggests that the broader economy—and the health care sector, specifically—is adding jobs at a healthy rate. Since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in March 2010, the health care industry has gained nearly 1 million jobs—982,300, to be more precise—according to Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates released on Friday.

Meanwhile, the rest of the economy has added 7.7 million jobs since March 2010, and for the first time, more people are working since the recession began five years ago. Private-sector jobs also grew for the 51st straight month, Justin Wolfers observes at The Upshot, which ties the longest consecutive streak on record and overlaps with the passage of Obamacare 50 months ago. But that streak is piddling compared to health care, which just reported its 131st straight month of job gains.

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Tiffany HSU: Job Recovery In Southern California Is Outpacing U.S. Gains

Southern California fell harder in the recession than the rest of the country and took longer to recover, but now the region’s job gains are outpacing the national employment upswing. Each month since April 2012 except one, Los Angeles County has seen at least 2% year-over-year job growth, compared with a 1.7% average across the country. On Friday, the Labor Department reported that all the jobs lost in the downturn are now back nationwide, with 217,000 net new jobs added in May. The unemployment rate stayed put at 6.3%, the lowest in more than five years. But a steadily growing population means that millions of people are still out of work. In Los Angeles County, only 330,800 jobs have returned, compared with the 435,400 jobs lost from December 2007 to January 2010.

Cheery economic reports showing rising home prices in Southern California, along with steadily recovering personal income, will help boost optimism, Kleinhenz said. But new opportunities will lure more job hunters into the labor force, requiring employers to add more jobs to keep unemployment rates low. But an LAEDC report this week showed promising signs. In April, Los Angeles County employers added 90,800 nonfarm jobs — a 2.6% boost from a year earlier. The area’s jobless rate improved to 9.8% last year from 10.9% a year earlier. LAEDC expects the gauge to fall to 8.7% this year and then continue sliding to 7.8% in 2015.

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Sen. Phillip P. Puckett

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Laura Vozzella: Va. Lawmaker To Resign, Paving Way For Jobs For Self, Daughter, According To Associates

Republicans appear to have outmaneuvered Gov. Terry McAuliffe in a state budget standoff by persuading a Democratic senator to resign his seat, at least temporarily giving the GOP control of the chamber and possibly dooming the governor’s push to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Sen. Phillip P. Puckett (D-Russell) will announce his resignation Monday, effective immediately, paving the way to appoint his daughter to a judgeship and Puckett to the job of deputy director of the state tobacco commission, three people familiar with the plan said Sunday. The news prompted outrage among Democrats — and accusations that Republicans were trying to buy the Senate with job offers in order to thwart McAuliffe’s proposal to expand health coverage to 400,000 low-income Virginians.

In a statement, McAuliffe (D) acknowledged that Puckett’s resignation had created “uncertainty” for his plan to expand the federal-state health program for the poor to 400,000 uninsured Virginians. But he contended that he still had a majority of the Senate on his side. “I am deeply disappointed by this news and the uncertainty it creates at a time when 400,000 Virginians are waiting for access to quality health care, especially those in Southwest Virginia,” McAuliffe said. “This situation is unacceptable, but the bipartisan majority in the Senate and I will continue to work hard to put Virginians first and find compromise on a budget that closes the coverage gap.” Senate Republicans, meanwhile, issued a statement praising Puckett. “Although Senator Puckett has decided to end his tenure in the Senate of Virginia, his legacy there will endure,” said Senate Minority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. (James City). “And, his commitment and service to the people of Southwest, who honored him with their votes in five successive elections, will continue.”

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Reuters: U.S. Deaths In Afghanistan May Have Only Tenuous Link To Bergdahl

The frantic search for Bowe Bergdahl began the moment his comrades discovered he was no longer inside the fragile outpost in a rock-strewn valley in one of the most hostile corners of Afghanistan. Exactly why Bergdahl left is subject to intense scrutiny. But accounts by two Taliban sources as well as several U.S. officials and fellow soldiers raise doubt over media reports that he had sought to join the Taliban, and over suggestions that the deaths later that year of six soldiers in his battalion were related to the search for him.

His dramatic release on May 31 after five years in captivity in return for five Taliban commanders sparked a national controversy over whether President Barack Obama paid too high a price for his freedom. That was fueled by allegations by some in his battalion that he was a deserter, and that soldiers died because they were looking for him after his disappearance in the early hours of June 30, 2009. While many questions remain, a Reuters reconstruction of his disappearance indicates that at the time when Bergdahl’s six comrades in the 1st Battalion of the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment were killed in August and September 2009, his fallen comrades were on other missions like securing the Afghan elections and, according to one U.S. military official, the period of intensive ground searches had already ended.

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Jason Millman: Obamacare Is Adding Insurers Where They’re Most Needed

State health insurance marketplaces that offered consumers very few health plan choices in 2014 are starting to add more insurers — slowly, in most cases. But this is a sign that insurers are feeling confident about the second year of the Affordable Care Act’s coverage expansion. The development is important for a few reasons. For one, recent research suggests that more competition in the exchanges could help temper premium increases. Other new analysis shows that exchange plans, on average, are cheaper than individual plans offered outside the insurance marketplaces. And given the narrow networks in exchange plans, more insurers could mean better access to providers.

In New Hampshire, the exchange’s only insurer last year had excluded 10 of 26 hospitals in the state from its network, meaning the exchange’s customers were limited in their choice of care providers. In 2015, though, New Hampshire will have five insurers selling individual and family health plans on the exchange, state officials announced this week. That also includes the expansion of two non-profit, co-op plans that received start-up funding from the Affordable Care Act. Then there’s West Virginia, a poorer state and one of the least healthy in the country — not exactly an attractive market for insurers. Just one insurer sold 2014 exchange plans, but a second insurer from Kentucky, another co-op, will join in 2015. Kentucky Health Cooperative, which signed up 75 percent of the approximately 82,000 people who selected private plans in Kentucky’s exchange, will sell plans statewide in West Virginia next year.

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EPIC Moment Number One: Audra McDonald wins a historic 6th Tony; beating Angela Lansbury and Julie Harris’s previous records of 5 wins

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EPIC Moment Number Two: Bravo, Quest Love for the beats and arrangements, and bravo to T.I., Hugh Jackman, and LL Cool J

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On This Day

President Obama listens to a point being made in a meeting with senior advisors in the Oval Office, June 9, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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First Lady Michelle Obama greets Debra Ness, president of the national partnership for women and families, before speaking to their 40th anniversary luncheon in Washington, DC, on June 9, 2011

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Rise and Shine

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are introduced at the “Christmas in Washington” taping at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., Dec. 13, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern):

1:0: Jay Carney briefs the press

2:15: President Obama and VP Biden meet with newly elected mayors

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Michael Tomasky: Told You So: Obamacare’s Back

From an atrocious starting point, enrollment on HealthCare.gov is essentially quadrupling. As predicted, by next fall, the law is going to be a net plus for Obama and the Democrats.

….. if we could graph it, the bar line of enrollment would make for a pretty impressive ski slope: After just 27,000 people signed up in the whole of October, about 100,000 people signed up in November, and then, in the first week of December alone, 112,000 chose plans …. If that pace were to continue, the 7 million figure would be cleared in March.

…… I would definitely and unflinchingly bet on the central proposition I argued last week:  By next fall, HealthCare.gov is going to be a net plus for Obama and the Democrats.

…. The thing is that all this isn’t going to make the papers and the cable channels much. There isn’t a lot of inherent news value in a free cervical-cancer screening or a prescription-drug refill. But these millions of people live real lives, not on TV, and they and their families and friends will know what has happened.

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PCTC: Ever See An Insurance Company’s Pre-Existing Conditions? They’re Scary

If you’re wondering why so many people claim they liked their old health insurance, the answer is simple. Very few people with health insurance ever use it for anything other than health maintenance, like doctor visits and annual checkups and the like.

What many people seemed to be unaware of was that, under their old insurance policy, their company could simply refuse to sell them insurance, or cancel their insurance, and/or deny payment of a claim if, at any point, they decided they had a pre-existing condition.

…. And if you think pre-existing conditions were limited to extremely serious conditions, think again. Here is a list of pre-existing conditions from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, issued in 2011 (see link)

…. Be happy for Obamacare. Your insurance is better, because it’s now actually insurance.

Full post here

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Detroit Free Press: Ford To Hire 5,000 U.S. Workers In 2014

Ford will hire about 5,000 employees in the U.S. next year, during which it plans to launch 16 new vehicles in North America, including the 2015 Mustang and F-Series, and seven in the rest of the world.

The jobs will include salaried and hourly positions and are in addition to 14,000 added during the last two years in preparation for the new product onslaught coming, said Joe Hinrichs, Ford president of the Americas.

…. The expansion comes as the U.S. industry wraps up its best sales year since 2007, fueled by easier credit and rising consumer confidence.

…. “2014 will be our biggest year for product launches in our 111-year history,” Hinrichs said. “We keep investing in product.”

More here

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Get Covered

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Michael Daly: What If The Founding Fathers Saw Newtown?

In a home built 45 years before the Second Amendment, six scared kids hid after their teacher and 20 classmates were shot dead. Our nation’s fathers would be weeping with the angels. Forget the Sandy Hook killer, but remember the Sandy Hook heroes such as 6-year-old Jesse Lewis, who had just seen his teacher shot when the gunman’s rifle jammed. Rather than use this moment to save himself, Jesse called to some fellow first graders who were standing off to the side, holding hands. “Run!” he told them. In the next moment, Jesse was killed, but the other youngsters escaped. Six of them, four boys and two girls, ended up outside a small yellow frame house nearby that is home to a psychologist named Gene Rosen.

 “We can’t go back to school,” one of the boys reportedly told Rosen. “Our teacher is dead.” In the mid-afternoon, I found the house empty and still, the stuffed animals where the children had left them as they headed home, having escaped the killer thanks to the monumental courage of a tiny hero. I took note of a wood plaque that attested to the year the house had been built. “1746” That was 30 years before the Declaration of Independence, 45 years before the ratification of the Second Amendment. I wondered what the founding fathers—whom the gun rights people love to invoke—would have said if they had happened to pass by here back then and been suddenly bestowed with the gift of prophesy.

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Suzy Khimm: Budget Deal Passes The House

In sharp contrast to the strife and infighting that led to the government shutdown, the House easily passed a bipartisan accord that sets spending levels for the next two years. The budget deal, which passed 332-94, marks a key victory for Speaker John Boehner, who struggled mightily to contain the GOP’s right flank just weeks earlier. The deal would reverse about one-third of sequestration’s automatic cuts for the next two years and reduces the deficit by $23 billion through higher fees and federal pension cuts, among other measures.

Thirty-two Democrats also voted against the bill, with many blasting the bill for failing to include an extension of federal unemployment insurance, which will expire at the end of December for 1.3 million jobless Americans. It was the last day the House was in session this year, leaving Democratic leaders resigned to revisiting the issue in early 2014. “Embrace the suck,” Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi told her caucus earlier Thursday. “We need to get this off the table, so we can go forward.”

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Des Moines Register: Branstad, Feds Reach Agreement On Health Insurance Program For Tens Of Thousand Of Poor Iowans

Gov. Terry Branstad and federal officials have reached an agreement that will allow tens of thousands of poor Iowans to gain public health insurance. The two sides had been negotiating for months over details of the Iowa Health and Wellness Plan, which is an alternative to expanding Medicaid. The new program is to take effect Jan. 1, so time was running short. If no agreement had been reached, more than 50,000 people who now have public coverage would have become uninsured.

Federal officials announced Tuesday that they had approved the proposal, except for one part. They said they could not allow Iowa to charge monthly premiums to people who make less than the poverty level if they failed to comply with healthy activities, such as undergoing annual health assessments. Under the agreement, the state will be allowed to charge a few dollars per month in premiums for such people starting in 2015, but it won’t kick them off the insurance if they fail to pay. The Iowa Health and Wellness Plan will offer health insurance to Iowa adults who make up to about $11,500 per year. A related program, the Marketplace Choice Plan, will offer insurance to people making between that amount and about $15,900. People who think they might qualify can sign up by contacting the Iowa Department of Human Services. Go to https://dhsservices.iowa.gov/apspssp/ssp.portal, call 855-889-7985, or visit a local DHS office.

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BBC: Ukraine Court Frees Protesters Held After Kiev Clashes

A Ukrainian court has freed nine people arrested during clashes between pro-EU protesters and riot police, a key demand of the protest movement. The nine were arrested during a violent crackdown on 30 November to drive protesters away from the presidential administration in the capital Kiev. Amid the international outrage, US Secretary of State John Kerry expressed “disgust” at the use of force. Protest leaders have joined talks with President Viktor Yanukovych.

Hundreds of demonstrators remain camped out in freezing temperatures on Kiev’s Independence Square, their numbers swelling each evening as thousands of others join them. The protests erupted last month after President Yanukovych pulled out of an association agreement with Brussels, which would have been a crucial step towards the former Soviet republic’s integration into the EU. His government continues to give conflicting signals over whether it will press ahead with the agreement after all.

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Senate.Gov: Senate Confirms Seven Nominations

Cornelia T.L. Pillard, of the District of Columbia, to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the District of Columbia Circuit. Chai Rachel Feldblum, of D.C., to be a Member of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Elizabeth A. Wolford, of New York, to be U.S. District Judge. Landya B. McCafferty, of N.H., to be U.S. District Judge. Patricia M. Wald, of D.C. to be a Member of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. Brian Morris, of Montana, to be U.S. District Judge for the District of Montana. Susan P. Watters, of Montana, to be U.S. District Judge for the District of Montana

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Philip Elliot: Changes Ordered For College Loans For Gay Couples

Students in same-sex marriages will be treated the same as their straight married classmates when it comes to federal college loan applications, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Friday in a shift that reflects this year’s Supreme Court ruling that broadened gay rights. “We must continue to ensure that every single American is treated equally in the eyes of the law, and this important guidance for students is another step forward in that effort,” Duncan said in a statement. The Education Department also revised its required Free Application for Federal Student Aid to reflect more inclusive language about students and their parents. The department said it would recognize a student — and parents — as legally married if the couple was legally married in a state that permits same-sex marriages.

The new application forms do not distinguish between gay or straight marriages. The department also said students’ eligibility for federal aid would be the same in all 50 states, regardless of where the student attends school. For instance, a same-sex couple from Massachusetts, where gay marriage is legal, would be treated the same as a straight couple if one or both applied for a federal student loan to attend a school in one of the 34 states that do not permit gay marriage. The same standards would apply to parents in same-sex marriages. Before the Supreme Court ruled this summer, the Education Department was bound by the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibited all federal agencies from recognizing same-sex marriages. The Clinton-era law defined marriage as between one and one woman and hurt many applicants in same-sex marriages.

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Brian Beutler: Obama’s Shutdown Critics Look Like Morons After Budget Deal

Guess what, tired Beltway pundits: Obama’s successful leadership from October brought an end to GOP hostage-taking. most conservatives, and several allies of convenience in the mainstream media, argued that Obama needed to get his hands dirty and negotiate a settlement of both issues, even if it meant paying a modest ransom to the GOP. That his refusal to be extorted, to haggle over the terms of his own surrender — to say nothing of his prior inability to strike a grand bargain with the same hostage-taking party — amounted to a failure of leadership. Many said his position was unsustainable. National Journal’s Ron Fournier argued paradoxically that while Obama couldn’t cave to GOP ransom demands, he also needed to negotiate a ransom. Or that a more adroit leader would have been able to wring a mutually agreeable budget deal out of uncompromising House Republicans.

The budget agreement Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. struck this week — mutually agreeable to many Democrats and many Republicans — badly discredits both arguments. “We’ve got to find a way to make divided government work,” Ryan told reporters Wednesday. It’s very hard to look back at the events of the past couple months and not credit Obama with provoking this volte-face. The deal he struck with Murray, by contrast, wasn’t negotiated under threat of default. As such, it contain no fruits of the right’s extortion fantasies. No cuts to big social insurance programs. No pound of Obamacare flesh. In that sense his refusal to negotiate in October wasn’t a failure of leadership, but precisely the tough-minded act of leadership Republicans needed to reach an understanding of the limits of their power.

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On This Day:

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama address guests in the Grand Foyer of the White House during a holiday party, Dec. 13, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

Christmas in Washington, December 13, 2009

First Lady Michelle Obama greets patients and staff at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., Dec. 13, 2010 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)

President Obama pretends to shave a boy while filling care packages with Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers during a NBA Cares service event at the Boys and Girls Club at THEARC December 13, 2010

President Obama is joined by members of the 2010 NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers for an NBA Cares service project at the Boys and Girls Club at THEARC in Washington, D.C., Dec. 13, 2010. Lakers’ Head Coach Phil Jackson is at right ( House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama checks his BlackBerry en route to the Oval Office, Dec. 13, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)


President Obama signs the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 into law at Harriet Tubman Elementary School in Washington, D.C., Dec 13, 2010




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