On This Day: President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama visit La General Hospital in Accra, Ghana, July 11, 2009
Today (All Times Eastern)
10:50: The President meets with company executives and their small business suppliers, Eisenhower Executive Office Building
12:45: Josh Earnest briefs the press
Paul Waldman: Why The Border Crisis Is The Exact Opposite Of Katrina
If there’s one thing we’re good at, it’s taking a genuine policy crisis and turning into an inane discussion about “optics,” which is what’s happening now with regard to the situation at the southern border. Both Republicans and the media have become obsessed with the question of whether President Obama should go to the border for a photo opportunity, with the accompanying and bizarre assertion that this is “Obama’s Katrina.” In fact, it’s just the opposite. In that case, it was Bush’s failure of competence and his inability to go beyond photo ops that resulted in so much destruction. In this case, the president’s critics are actually demanding a photo op, while refusing to take any immediate practical steps to address the problem.
… One wonders exactly what all these people believe would happen if Obama went to the border. What sort of change would occur? Would he move closer to the Republican perspective on immigration policy? Are they under the impression that if the President had the opportunity to look into the face of a 9-year-old refugee from Honduras, he’d say, “By god, the Republicans are right. This here’s a terror baby! Get out of America, punk! USA! USA!” … If they had a plan for action, but Obama was the one refusing to do anything, maybe then Republicans could reasonably argue that this is his Katrina. But at the moment, it looks more like theirs. the Obama administration has made a request for funds from Congress and is actually trying to address the problem at the border, while Republicans are refusing to do anything at all. Instead, they’re complaining about Obama’s failure to stage a photo op.
Business Insider: Major New Study Says Obamacare Is Working – Even For Republicans
The Affordable Care Act has been successful at achieving some major goals in the first year of its full implementation, according to a new study from The Commonwealth Fund. There are three important findings from the study: The uninsured rate is dropping, most people like their new insurance plans (even Republicans!), and most people are finding it easy to visit a doctor. The study found the uninsured rate in the U.S. declined by one-quarter over the last nine months, which included the law’s first, six-month open-enrollment period in which individuals could sign up for private insurance plans through exchanges established by the law.
From the July-to-September 2013 period to the April-to-June 2014 period, the uninsured rate of people between the ages of 19-64 dropped from 20% to 15%, according to the study. The research found 9.5 million people gained insurance, either through the exchanges or through the law’s expansion of the federal Medicaid program. The decline in uninsured was seen across different age groups and races, though the drop was disproportionately high among the young (-10%) and Latinos (-13%).
LA Times: Rate Of Uninsured Californians Is Halved Under Obamacare, Survey Finds
The percentage of Californians without health insurance was cut in half in the last nine months during the federal health law’s expansion of coverage, a new survey shows. Nationwide, an estimated 9.5 million adults under the age of 65 gained health insurance between late summer 2013 and last month, according to a survey the Commonwealth Fund released Thursday.
Those gains during the rollout of Obamacare dropped the nation’s rate of uninsured from 20% last year to 15% now. The change was even larger in California with the proportion of uninsured declining from 22% in late summer 2013 to 11% by early June, the survey found. .”… The findings suggest that the Affordable Care Act is beginning to achieve its central goal – reducing the number of Americans who are uninsured and improving access to healthcare,” said Sara Collins, the lead researcher and a vice president at the Commonwealth Fund.
ThinkProgress: The Most Creative Ways That People Are Protesting The Hobby Lobby Ruling
1. Making their own IUDs out of pipe cleaners. Since Hobby Lobby will no longer cover intrauterine devices (IUDs) for their female employees, one satirical video has some tips for workers who may need a new option. “Miss Sandy from Hobby Lobby” — an entirely fictional character — explains how to use pipe cleaners, glue guns, googly eyes, and glitter to create a homemade IUD. The video’s creators specify that all of those craft supplies were actually purchased from Michael’s, one of Hobby Lobby’s direct competitors. Some of the protesters who showed up to rally outside of their local Hobby Lobby stores this past week brought along their own IUDs fashioned out of craft supplies, too.
3. Handing out birth control. Protesters across the country are bringing condoms to Hobby Lobby stores and either handing them out to customers or leaving them on the shelves. Even religious leaders are getting in on the action. In Illinois, a group of clergy handed out condoms in front of a Hobby Lobby to make the point that not all people of faith are opposed to contraception, even though Hobby Lobby supporters claim that the right to drop coverage for birth control is a matter of religious liberty.
Veronica Toney: “Between Two Ferns With Zach Galifianakis”: President Barack Obama’s Segment Nominated For An Emmy
The 6 minute 30 second episode of “Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis,” featuring President Barack Obama was nominated for Outstanding Short-Format Live-Action Entertainment Program. Shout out to HeathCare.gov! The episode of the Funny or Die internet parody talk show, which published on March 11, has received 22 million views to date.
Only the executive producers of the segment (Scott Aukerman, Zach Galifianakis, BJ Porter and Mike Farah) were nominated for the award. But if The President had been nominated and won the trophy on August 25, it would have been his third entertainment award. President Obama won Grammy Awards for best spoken word album for 2008′s “The Audacity of Hope” and 2006′s “Dreams from My Father.”
David Zucchino: Florida Redistricting Illegally Favors Republicans, Judge Rules
Florida judge ruled the state’s congressional district map invalid Thursday night, saying it violates constitutional provisions that require fair districts and instead favors Republicans. In a scathing opinion, Leon County Circuit Judge Terry P. Lewis ruled in Tallahassee that the Legislature’s Republican political consultants had “made a mockery” of the redistricting process, tainting it with “partisan intent.” Lewis said that the districts, drawn by the Republican-controlled Legislature after the 2010 census, flouted voter-passed constitutional amendments intended to eliminate gerrymandering – that is, often-bizarre and irregular lines that make a district safe for one party or the other.
Gerrymandering “has been criticized as allowing, in effect, the representatives to choose their voters instead of vice versa,” he wrote. Specifically, Lewis found that congressional districts 5 and 10 had been drawn to favor the GOP, and that neighboring districts had been affected as well. Those two districts, and any others affected, will need to be redrawn, he said. “I find the congressional redistricting plan adopted by the Legislature to be constitutionally invalid,” he wrote. The case goes “to the very foundation of our representative democracy.”
SmartyPants: President Obama Plays Tortoise To The Media’s Hare. And We Know Who Wins That One!
I’ve often thought that the best metaphor for the Obama presidency is the fable about the tortoise and the hare. Of course – in the role of the hare is our linkbait-obsessed media that runs from one form of hysteria to another in a constant quest for “Obama’s Katrina,” only to tire almost immediately before the story’s conclusion. The role of the tortoise is played by our President, who is always focused on the long game (“slow and steady wins the race”). As FLOTUS once said: Here’s the thing about my husband: even in the toughest moments, when it seems like all is lost, Barack Obama never loses sight of the end goal.
He never lets himself get distracted by the chatter and the noise, even if it comes from some of his best supporters. He just keeps moving forward. And in those moments when we’re all sweating it, when we’re worried that the bill won’t pass or the negotiation will fall through, Barack always reminds me that we’re playing a long game here. He reminds me that change is slow — it doesn’t happen overnight. As we approach the finish line, we can begin to see who is going to reach the tape first. Here are some recent “long game” headlines:
Tom Kludt: Pundits Collectively Lose It Over A Quote Obama Didn’t Even Say
Many pundits on Thursday were shocked by the gall of President Obama to say that he doesn’t “do photo-ops,” a mere day after glossy, White House-sanctioned shots surfaced of him sipping beer and shooting pool with the Colorado governor. Except he didn’t actually say that, manifold distortions notwithstanding. Here’s what Obama actually said Wednesday night when defending his decision to not visit the U.S.-Mexico border. This isn’t theater. This is a problem.
I’m not interested in photo-ops; I’m interested in solving a problem. And those who say I should visit the border, when you ask them what should we be doing, they’re giving us suggestions that are embodied in legislation that I’ve already sent to Congress. So it’s not as if they’re making suggestions that we’re not listening to. In fact, the suggestions of those who work at the border, who visited the border, are incorporated in legislation that we’re already prepared to sign the minute it hits my desk. “Gotcha,” the critics cried in unison.
House Republicans took the initial step on Thursday to sue President Barack Obama over the administration’s decision to delay the employer mandate of the health care law. The office of Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, released a draft of the resolution that would authorize the House to file suit amid GOP criticism that the president has declined to faithfully execute the laws of the country. “In 2013, the president changed the health care law without a vote of Congress, effectively creating his own law by literally waiving the employer mandate and the penalties for failing to comply with it,” Boehner said in a statement. “That’s not the way our system of government was designed to work. No president should have the power to make laws on his or her own.”
White House press secretary Josh Earnest reiterated that position and linked it to economic initiatives, saying in a statement that “Republican leaders in Congress are playing Washington politics rather than working with the president on behalf of hardworking Americans.” Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, said the effort was a waste of taxpayer dollars. “This lawsuit is just another distraction from House Republicans desperate to distract the American people from their own spectacular obstruction and dysfunction,” Hamill said. Boehner’s actions on the lawsuit come as some Republicans are demanding a far more formidable step — impeachment.
On This Day: President Obama greets departing Associate Counsel to the President Alison J. “Ali” Nathan, left, Meg Satterthwaite, and their twin sons Oliver and Nathan, in the Outer Oval Office, July 7, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Today (All Times Eastern)
11:30: Josh Earnest briefs the press
12:10: The President hosts a group of teachers for lunch
The Week Ahead
Tuesday: The President will welcome NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen to the White House, ahead of the NATO summit in Wales this September. In the evening, he will depart for Denver, Colorado, where he’ll spend the night.
Wednesday: In Denver, the President will attend a DSCC fundraising event. He will then travel to the Dallas, Texas area for a DCCC event. In the evening, he will travel to Austin, Texas, where he’ll attend a DNC event and remain overnight.
Thursday: While in Austin, the President will attend a DNC event, and will deliver remarks on the economy, before returning to the White House.
Friday: The President will attend meetings at the White House.
American auto industry added 463,100 jobs over 5 yrs; best growth since 90s. June also best auto sales since '06. http://t.co/EZWR5wKuvO
the Labor Department released the employment figures for June, and the jobs numbers blasted through market predictions. June saw an addition of 288,000 jobs, compared to the 215,000 predicted by analysts. The unemployment rate fell to 6.1%, the lowest since before the beginning of the Bush economic collapse in September of 2008 – that’s a 1.4 percentage point drop in the last 12 months, the sharpest decline in nearly 30 years. The economy under President Obama’s leadership – and despite the Great Wall of Republican obstructionism – is not only showing signs of completing recovery from the worst economic calamity in American history save for the Great Depression,
it is now showing signs of coming back to the life it had before the previous administration began to mess with it. June marks 52 straight months of private sector job growth, the longest ever on record, beating out Bill Clinton’s record of 51 continuous months of private sector job growth from February 1996 to April 2000. The economy has added more than 200,000 jobs for five months in a row now, the longest such streak since 1999. In the first half of this year alone the economy has added 1.4 million jobs, another accomplishment not seen since 1999.
First ladies typically avoid getting into public scraps, but Michelle Obama has jumped into perhaps her biggest battle yet. She’s fighting a House Republican effort to soften a central part of her prized anti-childhood obesity campaign and says she’s ready “to fight until the bitter end.” Mrs. Obama even mocked the GOP effort in an opinion column and argued her case on Twitter. “Remember a few years ago when Congress declared that the sauce on a slice of pizza should count as a vegetable in school lunches?” she wrote in The New York Times. “You don’t have to be a nutritionist to know that this doesn’t make much sense. Yet we’re seeing the same thing happening again with these new efforts to lower nutrition standards in our schools.” Mrs. Obama lobbied largely behind the scenes four years ago for the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which requires more fruit, vegetables and whole grains in school meals, along with less sodium, sugar and fat.
It was a major achievement, the first update to school lunch rules in decades designed to make school meals more nutritious. Mrs. Obama says the requirements are based on sound science and that 90 percent of schools are meeting them. The association says districts are unprepared to meet the newest standards. “I’m going to fight until the bitter end to make sure that every kid in this country continues to have the best nutrition that they can have in our schools,” the first lady said at a White House event where she showcased elementary school students preparing and then eating a salad lunch using vegetables they had planted in her garden on the South Lawn. The White House has threatened to veto the House bill. The Senate version does not include the one-year waiver.
Sally Kohn: Dear Speaker Boehner: Do Your Job Instead
President Theodore Roosevelt enacted 1,081 executive orders during his presidency. President Dwight Eisenhower had 484. President Ronald Reagan had 381. And President George W. Bush had 291. President Barack Obama has enacted 182 executive orders — yet the GOP accuses him of being an “imperial president,” and Republican members of the House of Representatives are preparing to sue him for violating the Constitution. With all due respect, Speaker Boehner, it’s as though the fog of extreme partisanship that has colored your dealings with President Obama since day one has suddenly turned into a full-on fever of irrationality. Think about this for just a second: House Republicans are using taxpayer dollars to fund a lawsuit against a President who has literally done not only what every president before him has done but has done it less often and is doing so now only because
House Republicans repeatedly refuse to even vote on legislation, let alone pass anything. And you have the gall to accuse the President of being the one in violation of the Constitution? Even more frustrating is how your repeated attacks on the President fall factually flat. In your essay for CNN, you write: “After years of slow economic growth and high unemployment under President Obama, they are still asking, ‘where are the jobs?’ ” This is a particularly laughable assertion given last week’s jobs report, which noted our economy added 288,000 jobs in June, marking 52 straight months of continuous job growth. Overall, under President Obama’s leadership, the private sector has added 9.7 million jobs and an economy that was in free fall when he was elected is now in a steady recovery.
Matt Apuzzo: Students Joining Battle To Upend Laws On Voter ID
Civil rights groups have spent a decade fighting requirements that voters show photo identification, arguing that this discriminates against African-Americans, Hispanics and the poor. This week in a North Carolina courtroom, another group will make its case that such laws are discriminatory: college students. Joining a challenge to a state law alongside the N.A.A.C.P., the American Civil Liberties Union and the Justice Department, lawyers for seven college students and three voter-registration advocates are making the novel constitutional argument that the law violates the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age to 18 from 21. The amendment also declares that the right to vote “shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of age.” Over the past decade, Republicans have campaigned to tighten rules for voters, including requirements for photo ID, in the name of preventing fraud. Democrats have countered that the real purpose of those laws is to make voting more difficult for people who are likely to vote Democratic.
In Ohio, legislators proposed a law that would have cost colleges millions of dollars for helping out-of-state students vote locally. The measure died amid criticism from state schools. In Maine, the Republican attorney general — at the behest of the state party chairman — investigated 200 students for fraud. After finding no evidence, he sent the students a letter warning them to register their cars in Maine or to cancel their voter registrations. In Texas, voters must show a photo ID. A state handgun license qualifies, but a state university identification card does not. North Carolina students have also complained of government efforts, distinct from the new voting law, to shut down voting sites at Appalachian State University and Winston-Salem State University.
Philip Rucker: Bloomberg’s Gun Group To Start 2014 Midterms Strategy By Surveying Candidates
The gun-control group founded by former New York mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (I) will begin surveying all federal candidates in the 2014 midterm elections on gun issues Monday as it tries to become a political counterweight to the National Rifle Association. Bloomberg’s group, Everytown for Gun Safety, is asking all Senate and House incumbents and candidates to complete a 10-part questionnaire stating publicly where they stand on issues such as expanding background checks for gun buyers, limiting the capacity of ammunition magazines and toughening gun-trafficking statutes.
Bloomberg has since started the new group, Everytown, merging the mayors coalition and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Everytown’s goal is to create a grass-roots movement to pressure not only Congress but also state legislatures. It is using data-driven organizing techniques from Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns to expand its network of supporters, which now totals nearly 2 million.
Grant Smith: U.S. Seen As Biggest Oil Producer After Overtaking Saudi Arabia
The U.S. will remain the world’s biggest oil producer this year after overtaking Saudi Arabia and Russia as extraction of energy from shale rock spurs the nation’s economic recovery, Bank of America Corp. said. U.S. production of crude oil, along with liquids separated from natural gas, surpassed all other countries this year with daily output exceeding 11 million barrels in the first quarter, the bank said in a report today. The country became the world’s largest natural gas producer in 2010. The International Energy Agency said in June that the U.S. was the biggest producer of oil and natural gas liquids.
“The U.S. increase in supply is a very meaningful chunk of oil,” Francisco Blanch, the bank’s head of commodities research, said by phone from New York. “The shale boom is playing a key role in the U.S. recovery. If the U.S. didn’t have this energy supply, prices at the pump would be completely unaffordable.” Oil extraction is soaring at shale formations in Texas and North Dakota as companies split rocks using high-pressure liquid, a process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The surge in supply combined with restrictions on exporting crude is curbing the price of West Texas Intermediate, America’s oil benchmark.
NBC News: Pope Francis Meets Abuse Victims, Begs Forgiveness For Church
Pope Francis begged forgiveness for the Church on Monday and cited the need for “reparation” as he met with victims who had suffered at the hands of Roman Catholic priests. The pontiff invited six victims of abuse from Ireland, Germany and Britain to attend an early-morning private Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the residence next to St. Peter’s Basilica where he lives. Francis called the abuse a “grave sin” decrying how it was hidden for “so much time” and “camouflaged with a complicity that cannot be explained.” “I ask for the grace to weep, the grace for the Church to weep and make reparation for her sons and daughters who betrayed their mission, who abused innocent persons,” the pope said in his homily. “I beg your forgiveness, too, for the sins of omission on the part of Church leaders who did not respond adequately to reports of abuse.”
NEW: Pope Francis meets abuse victims, begs forgiveness for sins of omission on part of Church leaders nbcnews.to/1r2MGb9
He said abusive priests’ actions “profane the very image of God” and are “more than despicable.” Francis strongly praised the victims’ courage in speaking up and shedding “light on a terrible darkness,” telling the mass he is deeply aware of their deep and unrelenting pain. The pope then met privately with the victims, spending at least half an hour with each. While Francis’ predecessor met with abuse victims several times during his pontificate, this was the first time a pope had received victims inside the Vatican. The meeting was first announced by the pope on his flight back from a visit to the Holy Land, when Francis noted called child sex abuse “very serious” and “like celebrating a satanic mass.”
The Denver Post: Colorado Claims Contraceptive Program Caused Big Drop In Teen Birth Rates
A state health initiative to reduce teen birth rates by providing more than 30,000 contraceptive devices at low or no cost has led to a 40 percent drop in five years, Gov. John Hickenlooper said Thursday. The Colorado Family Planning Initiative, funded by a private anonymous donor for five years, has provided intrauterine devices and other implants to low-income women at 68 family-planning clinics across Colorado since 2009. The clinics are in local health departments, hospitals and private nonprofit facilities. The program also provided training and technical assistance to family planning clinics statewide. “When families are planned and women have children when they’re ready and want them … it’s really a better situation for everyone,” Hickenlooper said during his state Capitol news conference. Seven of every 10 teen pregnancies in Colorado are unintended, officials said.
The decline in births among girls 15 to 19 years old served by the program accounted for three-quarters of the overall decline in the Colorado teen birth rate, the state said in a news release. That rate has fallen from 37 births per 1,000 girls in 2009 to 22 in 2013, officials said. The teen abortion rate dropped 35 percent from 2009 to 2012 in those counties where the initiative is in place, Hickenlooper said. The family-planning program has saved $5.68 in Medicaid costs for every dollar spent on the contraceptives, the state said. The state has saved millions in health care expenditures — $42.5 million in public funds in 2010 alone based on the latest available data.
On This Day: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama watch the fireworks over the National Mall from the roof of the White House, July 4, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Today (All Times Eastern)
11:0: The President speaks at a naturalization ceremony for active-duty service members and civilians
6:0: The President and First Lady attend the “Salute to the Military” July 4th celebration at the White House; the President delivers remarks
8:10: USO concert for troops and military families featuring recording artist Pitbull
9:10: Fireworks show on the National Mall
David Horsey: Unsung Civil Rights Heroes Fought And Died For Our Freedom
On the Fourth of July, as on all national holidays, we are encouraged to think about the men and women who have fought and died for our freedoms; the likes of Washington, Lincoln and all the soldiers who have fought in our wars. This standard roster of heroes is venerable, but it is far from complete. … in 1955, a weary black woman refused to give up the seat she had taken in the white section of a bus in Montgomery, Ala. In 1957, one lone black girl walked into Little Rock’s Central High School amid the jeers of a furious mob.
In 1958, a few young blacks sat down at the whites-only counter at the Dockum Drug Store in Wichita, Kan., and refused to leave. In 1961…. …. Rosa Parks, John Lewis, James Meredith, Fannie Lou Hamer, Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, Medgar Evers and so many others showed bravery as great as that of any soldier. They stood firm, sacrificed and, in many cases, died for our freedom. This Independence Day, think of them and stand in awe.
As we celebrate the Fourth of July, who can argue that our democracy is working the way the Founders intended? And who can deny that most of the blame for dysfunction must fall to the Republican Party? … Whatever the motivation, Republicans have paralyzed our government in a way that would have shocked and depressed the Founders. Compounding the outrage, Republicans have the temerity to criticize Obama for using his executive powers in the national interest. This is dangerously close to nihilism.
Think about this for a moment. Urgently needed legislation has been passed by the Senate, is supported by the president and has enough votes in the House. Yet it goes nowhere, as chaos on the border worsens and thousands of children remain in limbo. Is this what the Founders had in mind? Today’s Republican Party opposes the Affordable Care Act, so it refuses to work with the Obama administration in legislating technical fixes that would make the law work more smoothly. Is this in any sense patriotic? the GOP cares more about ideology, reelection and opposing Obama’s every initiative than about the well-being of the nation. It is scant comfort, on Independence Day, to remember that the republic has survived worse.
Danny Vinik: Recovery Summer May Finally Have Arrived Finally, A Jobs Report Routs Expectations
For the past few years, it was like clockwork: A disappointing summer of job growth would give way to a much stronger winter. Economists would hesitantly forecast that the economy was about to kick into second gear. Then the summer would come and the disappointing data would return. But finally, it looks like we are ready to break that trend: The economy added 288,000 jobs in June, soundly beating economists’ expectations of 211,000, and the unemployment rate fell to 6.1 percent.
… Consumers, businesses and investors are all showing renewed confidence in the economy. On Monday, pending home sales hit a four-year high. Automakers also reported surprisingly high sales. Many economists even expect wage growth in the second half of the year. The June jobs report only adds further support for the recovery summer. … There are few commentators on Twitter who parse the jobs report better than economist Justin Wolfers. In recent years, it was often him who urged caution as the economy picked up in the winter and would shoot down any reporters showing too much optimism. But even he couldn’t find anything to be pessimistic about in this jobs report:
There is simply no bad news in this jobs report. Go on, dig into the detail, and see if you can find it. I dare you.
NYT: Hiring Is Strong And Jobless Rate Declines To 6.1%
American companies are finally getting comfortable enough with the economy’s prospects to add new workers at a very healthy pace, after years of saying they lacked the confidence to hire people aggressively during a fitful recovery. Employers added 288,000 jobs in June, the Labor Department said Thursday, the fifth month in a row that hiring has topped the 200,000 mark. The unemployment rate dipped to 6.1 percent last month, the best reading since September 2008, when the collapse of Lehman Brothers turned what had been a mild recession into an economic rout. Factoring in June’s increase and upward revisions for estimated hiring in April and May, employers added an average of 231,000 workers a month in the first half of 2014, the best six-month run since the spring of 2006. “We’re clicking on all cylinders in terms of job growth,” said Dean Maki, chief United States economist at Barclays. Just as significant as the headline figures,
Mr. Maki said, is that June’s hiring was broad-based, as industries as varied as health care, manufacturing, financial services and retailing all added workers. “Every major sector showed job growth in June, including the private service sector, where the bulk of jobs in the U.S. are created,” Mr. Maki said. In an important turnabout, there were encouraging gains not just in well-paid white-collar professions, or in low-wage sectors like retail and restaurants, but also in the vast middle tier of jobs that enable workers to gain a foothold in the middle class. For example, manufacturers hired 16,000 workers, while transportation companies added 17,000 employees and the long-dormant public sector saw an addition of 26,000 positions.
Sally Kohn: Hobby Lobby: Sex, Lies, And Craft Supplies
“Birth control is cheap.” Hobby Lobby was about four forms of contraception that are not cheap (PDF). Plan B costs $35 to $60. Ella costs around $55. An IUD costs anywhere from $500 to $1,000. As the Notorious RBG (known to some as Ruth Bader Ginsburg) pointed out in her scathing 35-page dissent, “the cost of an IUD is nearly equivalent to a month’s full-time pay for workers earning the minimum wage.” Similarly, for someone making $7 an hour — even if she’s lucky enough to get 40 hours of shifts in a week, which is rare — the cost of Plan B or Ella is roughly 10 percent of her take-home pay before taxes.
“Whatever, Hobby Lobby still covers 14 other kinds of contraception.” Funny thing, it actually provided all 20 until the lawyers behind the Hobby Lobby case contacted the company to see if they wanted to file suit. It was only then that the company discovered its insurance plan covered Plan B, and the two IUDs at issue—and then stopped covering them. And then Hobby Lobby sued the government for making it do something that up until that moment it had been doing on its own. Even today, Hobby Lobby’s 401(k) plan still invests not only in the manufacturers of these forms of birth control but also companies that make drugs used in medical abortions.
Irin Carmon: Female Justices Issue Searing Dissent Over New Contraceptive Case
The fierce disagreements dividing the Supreme Court over this week’s Hobby Lobby decision were laid bare Thursday in a searing dissent from Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who said the Justices’ decision in a separate contraceptive case “undermines confidence in this institution.” The dissent was signed by all three female Justices. The dissent was in an order to grant an emergency request from Wheaton College, an evangelical college in Illinois. At issue is the “accommodation” the Obama administration worked out for religiously-identified non-profits: Sign a form certifying your objection, and the insurer will provide the coverage directly, without the objecting organization having to pay.
As of now, 122 non-profits have sued, claiming that signing the opt-out form for someone to get contraception violates their religious liberty. “Let me be absolutely clear: I do not doubt that Wheaton genuinely believes that signing the self-certification form is contrary to its religious beliefs,” Sotomayor wrote. “But thinking one’s religious beliefs are substantially burdened … does not make it so.” She added, “Not every sincerely felt ‘burden’ is a ‘substantial’ one, and it is for courts, not litigants, to identify which are.”
Jeanna Smialek: Trade Gap In U.S. Shrinks More Than Forecast On Record Exports
The trade deficit in the U.S. narrowed more than forecast in May on record exports, signaling a pickup in global growth that will boost American manufacturers. The gap shrank by 5.6 percent, the biggest drop since November, to $44.4 billion from the prior month’s $47 billion, Commerce Department figures showed today in Washington. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of 69 economists called for a contraction to $45 billion.
Sales to foreign customers climbed 1 percent on growing demand for autos and parts, petroleum products and aircraft engines. Economic expansions abroad that are gaining traction will probably continue to invigorate demand for American goods. A narrowing deficit would mean trade becomes less of a drag on gross domestic product in the second quarter after the world’s largest economy contracted in the first three months of 2014.
Lucia Graves: One Big Thing Everyone Is Missing In Hobby Lobby
The ruling is not just about sex, it’s about health. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in her scathing dissent of the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in the Hobby Lobby case this week, made an important point about women’s health that’s been almost entirely overlooked elsewhere: For many American women, the birth-control pill has nothing to do with controlling births. It’s a life-saving medicine. “The coverage helps safeguard the health of women for whom pregnancy may be hazardous, even life-threatening,” wrote Ginsburg. “And the mandate secures benefits wholly unrelated to pregnancy, preventing certain cancers, menstrual disorders, and pelvic pain.”
The decision, which found that closely held corporations may refuse for religious reasons to cover contraceptives in their health plans, may affect millions of women who suffer from a variety of medical conditions. These women depend on the pill to regulate their hormones and do everything from ease pain to reduce the risk of cancer. These medical benefits have nothing to do with sex or the prevention of pregnancy, which have become the sole focus of political debate around the decision. Even if these women never have sex once in their lives, they need to be on birth control.
ThinkProgress: Missouri Governor Vetoes 72-Hour Abortion Waiting Period: ‘This Is Insulting To Women’
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) rejected a measure on Wednesday that would have required women to wait three full days before being allowed to have an abortion procedure. His veto prevents Missouri from joining Utah and South Dakota, which are the only two states in the nation that currently have a 72-hour abortion waiting period on the books. But on Wednesday, Nixon explained that he couldn’t approve the bill because it’s unnecessary in light of his state’s existing 24-hour waiting period. “Lengthening the already extensive waiting period serves no demonstrable purpose other than to create emotional and financial hardships for women who have undoubtedly already spent considerable time wrestling with perhaps the most difficult decision they may ever have to make,” the governor said in a statement.
“Expanding the mandatory waiting period presupposes that women are unable to make up their own minds without further government intervention. This is insulting to women, particularly in light of what the law already requires.” Nixon also pointed out the measure demonstrates a “callous disregard” for women’s well being by failing to include an exception for victims of rape and incest — which means that women who become pregnant through those crimes would be put through a potentially emotionally damaging wait before they’re allowed to end the pregnancy. “It victimizes these women by prolonging their grief and their nightmare,” the governor noted.
Yahoo: Putin Tells Obama He Wants Better Ties, Equal Treatment
President Vladimir Putin called for an improvement in ties between Russia and the United States on Friday in an Independence Day message to Barack Obama, urging Washington to treat Moscow as an equal partner. Relations between the two presidents and countries are at a low ebb following disagreements over the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, and over human rights, democracy and defence matters.
“The head of the Russian state expressed hope that … ties between the two countries will develop successfully on the basis of pragmatism and equality despite difficulties and disagreements,” the Kremlin said in a statement, outlining a telegram sent to Obama on the July 4 holiday. “Vladimir Putin also highlighted that Russia and the United States, as countries carrying exceptional responsibility for safeguarding international stability and security, should cooperate not only in the interests of their own nations but also the whole world.”
Senator Obama laughs with Sasha before speaking at a campaign stop in Des Moines, Iowa on July 4, 2007
Senator Obama hugs Malia as they watch a Fourth of July parade in Butte, Mont., July 4, 2008
President Obama kisses a baby while greeting military families at the White House on July 4, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet military families at the White House on July 4, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama watch the fireworks over the National Mall from the White House on July 4, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama pretend to march to music in the Blue Room of the White House, July 4, 2010, before delivering remarks to military families during a Fourth of July celebration (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama greets military families gathered for July 4th festivities on the South Lawn of the White House on July 4, 2010
President Obama greets guests during the Fourth of July celebration on the South Lawn of the White House, July 4, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
A young girl salutes President Obama as he shakes hands along a ropeline with members of the military and their families during the Fourth of July celebration on the South Lawn of the White House, July 4, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama watch fireworks from the roof of the White House, July 4, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama holds a baby while greeting guests during an Independence Day celebration on the South Lawn of the White House, July 4, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama watch from the White House roof as fireworks erupt over the National Mall, July 4, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama holds a baby as he greets members of the military and their families during a Fourth of July celebration on the White House’s South Lawn, July 4, 2013
On This Day: President Obama greets members of the Byrd family at the West Virginia State Capitol in Charleston, W.Va., July 2, 2010. The President and Vice President Joe Biden attended the memorial service for Sen. Robert Byrd, who died June 28, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Today (all times Eastern)
12:0: The President meets with economists for lunch, Old Family Dining Room
12:30: Josh Earnest briefs the press
4:05: The President meets with Secretary of Treasury Lew
We get the government we deserve, and we are on track for one that is heedless of concern for women’s health, and poised to eliminate unions.
… Over the weekend, I watched the PBS documentary on Freedom Summer, the effort 50 years ago to register African Americans to vote in the state of Mississippi, the effort that cost so many people so dearly, especially the families of Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Mickey Schwerner, who were beaten and shot to death, and buried in a dam, because the state of Mississippi had local police forces shot through with the Ku Klux Klan.
Now, five decades later, with a Republican House far gone into nihilistic vandalism, and with the Senate hanging in the balance, and a Supreme Court one septuagenarian’s heartbeat away from a return to the golden days of the last Gilded Age, and a Democratic president in the White House on whom those responsible for the previous three phenomena have painted a bullseye, we keep hearing about how hard it is going to be for the Democratic party to turn out its voters this fall to take advantage of the opportunities for which Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner gave their lives, and did so in my lifetime, not in a distant antebellum episode in some backwater.
VoteRiders is a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to ensure that all citizens are able to exercise their right to vote. Through resources and media exposure, VoteRiders supports on-the-ground organizations that assist citizens to secure their voter ID and inspires local volunteers and communities to sustain such programs and galvanize others to emulate these efforts.
How We Started
Knowing that millions of potential voters may be disenfranchised by the increasing number of stringent voter ID laws, Kathleen Unger decided to take action. With her extensive professional and volunteer experience in the non-profit sector, Ms. Unger decided to start her own non-profit dedicated to helping citizens to obtain their voter ID so they can exercise their fundamental right to vote. It was important to Ms. Unger that VoteRiders not duplicate what other organizations are doing to protect the right to vote. Thus, VoteRiders was founded in April 2012.
Steve Benen: Obama no longer cares whether the GOP is outraged
It’s become clear in recent weeks that President Obama and congressional Republicans are reading from very different scripts. The notion that the two institutional forces are butting heads is plainly wrong – they are two trains on separate tracks moving in completely different directions.
…. Clearly, the president’s willingness to keep governing without them has only enraged congressional Republicans – who were already livid. But it’s now obvious that the president simply does not care. Not even a little. The more GOP lawmaker scream, “No more executive actions!” the more Obama thinks to himself, “I wonder what other executive actions I can take.”
….. this is a president who no longer cares whether his unhinged critics are unhappy.
ThinkProgress: Meet The People, And The Families They Care For, Whose Lives Just Got Harder Thanks To The Supreme Court
When Dorothy Glenn and Flora Johnson, two home care workers who belong to the SEIU Healthcare Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Kansas, first started out in their line of work, both made just $1 an hour. By the end of this year, thanks to the collective bargaining agreement reached by their union, they’ll be making $13 an hour. They also now have health care and paid training opportunities thanks to agreements obtained by the union. Such benefits could now become harder to secure.
On Monday, the Supreme Court issued a decision in the case Harris v. Quinn that was not as wide-sweeping as some labor advocates had worried — making it so that any public employees could opt out of paying union dues even if a union is negotiating on their behalf — but still ruled that home care workers in Illinois, who are paid by the state through Medicaid, no longer have to pay union fees. That loss of money could make it harder for the union to continue its organizing work.
ThinkProgress: What Every Governor Really Believes About Climate Change, In One Handy Map
With all the recent talk at the federal level about the EPA’s proposed carbon regulations for new and existing power plants, it’s easy to forget about the executives that have front row seats to cutting American carbon pollution. And though climate deniers run rampant through the halls of Congress, a new analysis from the CAP Action War Room reveals that half of America’s Republican governors agree with the anti-science caucus of Congress.
Fifteen out of twenty-nine sitting Republican governors deny climate science despite the overwhelming level of scientific consensus, the enormous cost to taxpayers, and the critical place governors occupy in implementing new limits on carbon pollution. None of the country’s Democratic governors have made public statements denying climate change.
Orlando Sentinel: In Orlando, Michelle Obama calls counselors key to school success
School counselors have one of “the most underappreciated jobs” in the country but are key to in the White House’s goal to have more students pursue education after high school, first lady Michelle Obama said Tuesday in Orlando.
“You’re the one planting the seeds about college” and creating a climate where “higher education is the expectation, not the exception,” Obama told hundreds of counselors at an annual convention.
But counselors, she said, too often struggle with an “outrageous” caseload — one counselor to 451 students is the average in Florida — and school policies that view them as an extra that can be cut during lean budget years or asked to do other duties, such as serve as proctors during testing.
“School counseling should not be an extra or a luxury,” Obama said to loud applause. “School counseling is a necessity.”
Counselors at the American School Counselor Association’s convention at a Walt Disney World resort cheered the first lady’s remarks, saying she had validated their profession and frustrations.
Forbes: Leadership Lessons From Admiral Michelle Howard, The Highest Ranking Woman In Naval History
This morning, in a ceremony at the Women In Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, Howard became the first woman in the U.S. Navy’s 236-year history to be promoted to four-star admiral and Vice Chief of Naval Operations, the second highest position in the Navy.
While today’s precedings make history, Howard is no stranger to firsts. In 1999 she became the first African American woman to command a Naval ship, the amphibious dock landing ship USS Rushmore. Howard was also the first African American woman in any branch of the military to reach three stars. In the past she’s been deployed to Indonesia for tsunami relief efforts, participated in Maritime security operations in the North Arabian Gulf, and served as commander of a Counter-Piracy Taskforce where–three days into the job–she spearheaded the rescue of Captain Phillips from Somali pirates.
President Obama tests out the new Federal Government IT Dashboard outside of the Oval Office on July 2, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama gestures as he speaks on innovation and jobs in the Rose Garden of the White House as business leaders listen July 2, 2009
President Obama heads a soccer ball at Ubungo Power Plant in Dar es Salaam July 2, 2013. The ball called a “soccket ball” has internal electronics that allows it to generate and store electricity that can power small devices
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama shake hands with the crowd gathered for their arrival at the State House in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, July 1, 2013
Today (All Times Eastern)
10:55: The President holds a Cabinet meeting
1:0: Josh Earnest briefs the press
2:20: The President delivers remarks on the economy
Aaron Carroll: It’s Getting Hard To Ignore Insurance Numbers (UPDATED)
Five percent of Americans report being newly insured in 2014. More than half of that group, or 2.8% of the total U.S. population, say they got their new insurance through the health exchanges that were open through mid-April. Given the population of the United States, this means that more than 15 million about 10-11 million American adults are newly insured this year. Almost 9 million of them received private insurance through the exchanges. There’s more (emphasis mine): The newly insured using exchanges are mostly under age 65, as would be expected, given that most Americans 65 and older are covered by Medicare.
Thus, the representation of newly insured Americans is higher across all three age groups younger than 65 than is true for the general population. More specifically, newly insured Americans using the exchanges in the 18 to 29 age category are eight percentage points more prevalent than their percentage in the overall adult population, while representation of those 30 to 49 and 50 to 64 are five and four points higher, respectively.This means that the fears that the young would refrain from buying insurance, thereby fracturing the risk pools, don’t seem to be coming to pass either.
Spandan Chakrabarti: Re-Igniting War On Women, Supreme Court Makes Case For Democratic Congress (#HobbyLobby)
5 conservative men on the Supreme Court decided that a core part of women’s health cannot be part of required employer-provided insurance coverage – even if the additional coverage costs nothing – at least as applied to private, family-owned corporations. All of the court’s female justices were joined by Justice Breyer in a strong and scathing dissent. it does, however, leave Democrats a major political opening when it comes to contraception. First, the majority explicitly held that HHS could in fact levy a contraception mandate – on insurance companies. In its language, the opinion refers to the method of contraception coverage HHS uses for employers already exempt from the contraception mandate (churches and other religious nonprofits) – requiring insurance companies to provide the coverage, outside of the employers’ policies but with no additional cost to the insured.
Secondly, and more importantly, the decision relies on a law passed by Congress – the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (1993 thanks, Bill Clinton) – and not the First Amendment. it can be overridden by an act of Congress. Therein lies the major opening for Democrats in 2014 and in 2016. This decision not only puts the Right wing’s war on women back on the forefront just in time for the midterms, it points to a specific cure: have Congress change the law to override the Court’s decision. If Democrats wanted to run on a single issue from now to November, it should be a promise to write into the law protections for contraceptive coverage should we win back the House and keep the Senate. It is time that we, as Americans, found out what everyone asking for our votes stands on women’s health. Leave behind all of your trepidation about why the Democratic party isn’t perfect and how President Obama has “disappointed” you. You have no right to be outraged by today’s decision if you do not show up to the polls in November and ensure the election of a Congress that will override the law that the Supreme Court says allows for employers to control the reproductive lives of their employees.
Energy.Gov: Energy Department Project Captures And Stores More Than One Million Metric Tons Of CO2
Following the one year mark since the release of the President’s Climate Action Plan, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) – in partnership with Air Products and Chemicals Inc. – today announced a major milestone, successfully capturing more than one million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) at the hydrogen-production facility in Port Arthur, Texas. Using an innovative technology called vacuum swing adsorption, the project captures more than 90 percent of the CO2 from the product stream of two commercial-scale steam methane reformers that would otherwise be emitted into the atmosphere.
In addition to the secure storage, captured carbon from the project will be used to help produce additional, hard-to-access resources from existing nearby oil fields. In total, Department of Energy projects have captured and securely stored nearly 7.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide to date, equivalent to taking more than 1.5 million cars off the road for a year. In just the last year since the release of the President’s Climate Action Plan, these Department-supported projects have stored approximately 2.8 metric tons.
Steve Benen: Boehner Gives Up On Immigration, Obama Moving Forward
Almost exactly a year ago, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in no uncertain terms that he would ignore the popular, bipartisan immigration reform bill passed by the Senate. The plan may have been endorsed by business leaders, labor unions, law enforcement, immigration advocates, leaders from the faith community, economists, and deficit hawks, but the Republican leader said it didn’t matter: the Senate bill was dead on arrival. Even if it had the votes to pass, it would never reach the House floor. But, Boehner said at the time, immigration reform was very much alive. “The House is going to do its own job in developing an immigration bill,” the Speaker vowed. “It is time for Congress to act. But I believe the House has its job to do, and we will do our job.” That was 51 weeks ago.
And while Boehner probably meant what he said, the House Speaker made a commitment he could not keep. House members “will do our job”? Well, no actually, as is too often the case, the Republican-led chamber will do nothing. No longer willing to watch the GOP-led House do nothing, President Obama intends to move forward without legislative action. For his part, Boehner’s spokesperson, Michael Steel, told reporters this afternoon, “Speaker Boehner told the President exactly what he has been telling him: the American people and their elected officials don’t trust him to enforce the law as written. Until that changes, it is going to be difficult to make progress on this issue.” As talking points go, I find it hard to imagine any adult seriously believing an argument so transparently foolish. For one thing, Boehner himself already discredited the argument from Boehner’s office, admitting publicly that immigration reform hasn’t happened because his own Republican allies are afraid of hard work.
Alan Gomez: Obama Rips GOP On Immigration, Says He Will Act Alone
After more than a year of urging Congress to pass an immigration law, President Obama gave a fiery White House speech Monday, saying the time had come for him to act alone on the issue. “The failure of House Republicans to pass a darn bill is bad for our security, it’s bad for our economy and it’s bad for our future,” he said. “If Congress won’t do their job, at least we can do ours.” The president laid out in a letter to congressional leaders Monday several steps his administration has taken in recent weeks to respond to an unprecedented surge in children caught crossing the border. The president ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate the federal agencies that have been catching, processing and housing the children. The Department of Justice is in the process of reassigning immigration judges and U.S. attorneys to the border to speed up hearings in immigration court, and
A fact everyone will politely forget: GOP leaders themselves have repeatedly said immig status quo unacceptable & legalization necessary
the Department of Health and Human Services has scoured the country to find places to put those children. In March, Obama ordered Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to conduct a systemwide review of deportation practices to see how they could be done “more humanely.” Obama later asked that the results of that review be postponed until the end of the summer to give Congress time to work through an immigration bill. Monday, with 28 days left in the legislative calendar, Obama said the review would be completed soon and would include changes to the country’s immigration enforcement structure. Obama said the only response from Republicans has been to use the crisis as their “newest excuse to do nothing.”
Washington Post: Illinois To Allow Same-Day Registration, Expand Early Voting Hours
Illinois will dramatically expand access to the ballot box this year by allowing voters to register on Election Day, and by significantly extending the hours early-vote locations will be open. Gov. Pat Quinn (D) has said he will sign the measure, passed by the legislature late last month. The bill expands both the number of days during which early voting locations are open and the number of hours each day they remain open. Voters who cast a ballot early will not have to show a photo identification.
“Democracy works best when everyone has the opportunity to participate,” Quinn said in a statement. “By removing barriers to vote, we can ensure a government of the people and for the people.” Meanwhile, students at public universities will have an easier time casting a ballot under the new measure. The bill allows students attending public schools to change their residences from their hometowns to college campuses, giving them easier access to polling places on campus.
Harold Meyerson: Supreme Court Rules Disadvantaged Workers Should Be Disadvantaged Some More
The conservative majority on the Supreme Court today took up the case of some of America’s most disadvantaged workers, and ruled that they should be disadvantaged some more. The five-to-four ruling in Harris v. Quinn goes a long way to crippling the efforts that unions have made to help these workers get out of poverty. The case concerned some 28,000 home care aides in Illinois whose paychecks come from Medicaid. Before the state agreed in 2003 that they could form a union, they made the minimum wage. (It’s the state that sets their wage rate, since their pay comes entirely from Medicaid.) Currently, as a result of their union contract, they make $11.85 an hour rather than the minimum of $7.25. Tomorrow, by the terms of their contract, their hourly rate is raised to $12.25, and on December 1st to $13. The right to hire and fire these workers remains solely, of course, that of their home-bound patients and their families.
The workers, then, are joint employees of both their patients and the state. And since the state allowed them to vote on whether to join a union, and since they voted to join the Service Employees International Union, these 28,000 workers have seen their pay doubled and have received, for the first time, health care coverage. Like all unionized public employees, they don’t have to pay that portion of their union dues that goes to their union’s political activities, but they do have to pay that portion of dues that goes to the union’s bargaining with the state that has produced their contract. Pamela Harris, who works at home caring for her disabled son, didn’t like those dues obligations, however, and sued to get them overturned. So, Ms. Harris had to pay $650 for her raise? Actually, no. She belongs to a different category of home-care workers, and unlike the workers who voted to join SEIU, her group voted against joining a union. She pays no dues to anybody.
Katie McDonough: SCOTUS Gets Hobby Lobby Horribly Wrong: Why This Isn’t A “Limited” Ruling
In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled Monday that Hobby Lobby can ignore federal law and deny its employees comprehensive health insurance because of its “sincerely held religious beliefs.” Analysis of the case has so far called this a limited ruling because it only applies to closely held corporations and “only” impacts contraceptive coverage. But this framing completely ignores the fact that more than 90 percent of corporations in the United States are closely held, and that the court just effectively ruled that it’s fine for employers to discriminate against half of the labor force. There’s nothing limited about it. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted in her powerful dissent, far from being narrow in its ruling, the high court just “ventured into a minefield.” The ruling sends a strong message that women’s health and women’s rights — as individuals and employees — do not matter as much as so-called religious liberty.
It also shows once again that medically inaccurate ideas about healthcare can dictate the terms of a debate and ultimately win the day. To sum it up, five male justices ruled that thousands of female employees should rightfully be subjected to the whims of their employers. That women can be denied a benefit that they already pay for and is guaranteed by federal law. That contraception is not essential healthcare. That corporations can pray. That the corporate veil can be manipulated to suit the needs of the corporation. That bosses can cynically choose à la carte what laws they want to comply with and which laws they do not. Each specific finding opens a door to a new form of discrimination and unprecedented corporate power. If you think this ruling won’t affect you, you haven’t been paying attention. If you think these corporations are going to stop at birth control, you’re kidding yourself.
On This Day: President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama talk backstage before an event for the “United We Serve” service project with at Fort McNair in Washington DC, June 25, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Today (All Times Eastern)
10:45: The President meets with HHS Secretary Burwell
11:45: Meets with Israeli President Shimon Peres, drops by a meeting with American Jewish leaders, Roosevelt Room
12:20: Lunch with Israeli President Peres
12:35: Josh Earnest briefs the press
1:25: The President meets with Israeli President Peres
2:55: Honors NASCAR Champion Jimmie Johnson, East Room
5:0: Meets with Senate Democrats, The State Floor
7:10: Delivers remarks to the League of Conservation Voters, Ronald Reagan Building
Spandan Chakrabati: Putin Completes Surrender To Obama: Syria Disarms, Russia Backing Off Ukraine
Yesterday, weapons inspectors confirmed that Syria handed over all declared chemical and biological weapons to an international inspection team for destruction, completing a major foreign policy coup for the Obama administration (or in the media version, a triumph for Vladimir Putin in a negotiation over Syria where Obama got everything and Putin got nothing) – disarming a middle eastern power of its weapons of mass destruction in the midst of a civil war without firing a single shot. ISIS – the Islamic militant group that is gaining ground in Iraq – many Americans will be surprised to learn stands for Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Incidentally, these were the same rebels McCain was urging US arms in Syria. The same media couldn’t get enough the “weak black guy” narrative then. But now that his strategy of strength, fairness and diplomacy has born major fruit? Nary a peep.
Russian lawmakers rescind resolution allowing the use of military in Ukraine on Vladimir Putin’s request: yhoo.it/1yMTQVt
Vladimir Putin has formally asked the upper house of the Russian parliament to rescind their March 1 authorization for Putin to attack Ukraine. President Obama spoke with Putin on this matter just yesterday. Putin is backing off, with his tail between his legs. This yet another crowning foreign policy achievement for this president. Ending two wars. Securing the world’s loose nukes. Killing Osama bin Laden. Bringing the last American POW home. Disarming a middle-eastern madman without firing so much as a water balloon. Dashing Putin’s hope of a new Soviet empire. If this were any other president – let me clarify, if this were any white president – the work of carving their face on Mount Rushmore would have already begun.
With an unusual assist from African-American voters and other Democrats who feared his opponent, Senator Thad Cochran on Tuesday beat back a spirited challenge from State Senator Chris McDaniel, triumphing in a Republican runoff and defeating the Tea Party in the state where the movement’s hopes were bright. “We all have a right to be proud of our state tonight,” Mr. Cochran said at his victory party in Jackson, Miss. “This is your victory.”
Mr. McDaniel, speaking in Hattiesburg, was angry, and he did not hesitate to say so. “There is something a bit strange, there is something a bit unusual about a Republican primary that’s decided by liberal Democrats,” he said. He accused Mr. Cochran of abandoning the conservative movement. “So much for principles,” he said. The 76-year-old senator ran a largely sleepy campaign until the primary on June 3, when he was edged out by Mr. McDaniel but won enough votes to keep his opponent from outright victory. Mr. Cochran, who is seeking his seventh term, used the past three weeks to turn out Democratic voters — especially African-Americans — to make up that deficit.
BBC: Iraq PM Nouri Maliki Rejects Calls For Unity Government
Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has rejected calls for a national salvation government to help counter the offensive by jihadist-led Sunni rebels. Such calls represented a “coup against the constitution and an attempt to end the democratic experience”, he warned. The US has led appeals to the country’s political leaders to rise above sectarian and ethnic divisions. Government forces have been unable to recapture the territory seized by the rebels this month. Almost half of the 300 US military advisers assigned to help the Iraqi security forces have arrived and are to start work on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the crisis in Iraq is being discussed by Nato leaders meeting in Brussels. They have been joined by US Secretary of State John Kerry, who has just returned from a two-day visit to Baghdad and Irbil.
In his weekly televised address, Mr Maliki called on “all political forces to reconcile” in the face of a “fierce terrorist onslaught”. But the Shia prime minister gave no promise of greater representation in government for the minority Sunni Arab community, whose anger at what they say are his sectarian and authoritarian policies has been exploited by jihadist militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis). Mr Maliki said forming an emergency administration that included all religious and ethnic groups would go against the results of April’s parliamentary elections, which were won by his State of Law alliance. “The dangerous goals of forming a national salvation government are not hidden,” he said. “It is an attempt by those who are against the constitution to eliminate the young democratic process and steal the votes of the voters.”
Ari Berman: Fifty Years After Freedom Summer, The Voting Rights Act Is Needed More Than Ever
Fifty years ago, Andrew Goodman, a 20-year-old anthropology major at Queens College, went down to Mississippi for Freedom Summer. His first stop was Philadelphia, Mississippi, where he and Mickey Schwerner, a 24-year-old graduate student in social work at Columbia University, and James Chaney, a 21-year-old volunteer with the Congress for Racial Equality from Meridian, Mississippi, were sent to investigate a church burning. Schwerner and Chaney had spoken at Mount Zion Methodist Church over Memorial Day, urging local blacks to register to vote. On June 21, 1964, the young civil rights activists were arrested by the Neshoba County police and then abducted by the Klan. Their bodies were found forty-four days later in an earthen dam. Goodman and Schwerner, both white, had been shot once. Chaney, who was African-American, had been mutilated beyond recognition. The fiftieth anniversary of Freedom Summer happens to coincide with the first anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder, where the Supreme Court’s conservative majority invalidated Section 4 of the VRA on June 25, 2013. As a result, states like Mississippi, with the worst history of voting discrimination, no longer have to clear their voting changes with the federal government.
Since the 2010 election, twenty-two states have passed new voting restrictions, according to the Brennan Center. This includes requiring strict voter ID to cast a ballot, cutting early voting, making it harder to register to vote and rescinding voting rights for non-violent ex-felons. New restrictions will be in place for the first time in fifteen states in the 2014 election. All across the country, we’re seeing the most significant push to restrict voting rights since Reconstruction. Partisanship is a strong motivating factor for the voting changes—GOP legislatures or governors enacted eighteen of the twenty-two new restrictions. So is race. According to the Brennan Center: “Of the 11 states with the highest African-American turnout in 2008, 7 have new restrictions in place. Of the 12 states with the largest Hispanic population growth between 2000 and 2010, 9 passed laws making it harder to vote.”
The wreckage of a Ukrainian helicopter downed near Sloviansk on Tuesday
BBC: West Warns Russia Of Sanctions Amid Ukraine Fighting
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in Berlin that new sanctions could be applied if efforts to stabilise the situation were not speeded up. UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said inaction by Russia would mean a stronger case for sanctions. President Petro Poroshenko warned he might end the truce due to violations. However, his foreign minister, Pavlo Klimkin, told reporters at a Nato meeting in Brussels on Wednesday that Ukraine would “stick to our unilateral ceasefire”. The ceasefire began on Friday. On Tuesday, a Ukrainian military helicopter was shot down with the loss of nine lives. There was also fighting overnight near the Russian border in Luhansk region. The Ukrainian military accused the rebels on Wednesday of breaking the ceasefire 44 times since it began. A separatist leader said there had “been no ceasefire”.
Putin demands upper house of Russian parliament to cancel resolution allowing use of military in Ukraine yhoo.it/1v5huYp
The truce is part of Ukraine’s plan to end two months of fighting between government troops and pro-Russian insurgents who control key buildings in towns and cities across the east. More than 420 people have been killed in the region since mid-April, the UN estimates. Mrs Merkel welcomed the surprise decision by Russian President Vladimir Putin to cancel a parliamentary resolution authorising him to use Russian forces in Ukraine. The cancellation was ratified by Russia’s upper house of parliament on Wednesday. While Mrs Merkel said the decision was “psychologically important”, she told German parliament that Ukrainian soldiers continued to die. “Progress is slow… Diplomatic solutions are always preferable but if nothing else works, sanctions can be put back on the agenda,” she said.
The U.S. economy shrank in the first quarter of the year, and new revisions by the Bureau of Economic Analysis show the decline was even deeper than reported. Gross domestic product — the broadest measure of economic growth — contracted at a 2.9% annual rate in January through March. That’s the weakest quarter for the U.S. economy since the first quarter of 2009, amid the Great Recession. But economists aren’t too worried, for three key reasons. 1) They blame the weather: Much of the downturn was due to a brutal winter. Blizzards slowed shipments both domestically and abroad and kept consumers away from shopping malls, car lots and open houses more than usual this winter.
2) It’s not a final number: Some economists take this GDP number with a grain of salt because it will be revised again next month when the Bureau of Economic Analysis makes historical revisions. 3) Last, but certainly not least, other data show the economy is improving. Hiring slowed in December, but it has since picked up again. In the last five months, the economy added 1.1 million jobs. Hiring at that level is consistent with an economy that is growing modestly around 2% to 3% a year — not an economy that is contracting.
NYT: Iran Secretly Sending Drones And Supplies Into Iraq, U.S. Officials Say
Iran is flying unarmed surveillance drones over Iraq from an airfield in Baghdad and is secretly supplying Iraq with tons of military equipment, supplies and other assistance, American officials said. Tehran has also deployed a unit there to intercept communications, the officials said. The secret Iranian programs are part of a broader effort by Tehran to gather intelligence and help Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s government in its struggle against Sunni militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the head of Iran’s paramilitary Quds Force, has paid at least two visits to Iraq to help Iraqi military advisers plot strategy. And Iran has deployed about a dozen other Quds Force officers to advise Iraqi commanders, and help mobilize more than 2,000 Iraqi Shiite militia members from the country’s south, American officials said. Iranian transport planes have also been making two daily flights of military equipment and supplies to Baghdad — 70 tons per flight — for Iraqi security forces.
Nigel Duara: Judge: People On No-Fly List Must Have Due Process
When it comes to its no-fly list, the U.S. government has a choice to make. More than a dozen Muslims sued after learning they were likely on the list — something the government still won’t confirm — and they found their only recourse was to fill out an online appeal form. Then on Tuesday, a federal judge in Oregon ruled that the Department of Homeland Security must give people a better avenue to pursue a claim that they were wrongly put on the list. Now, the government can seek some way around U.S. District Judge Anna Brown’s order. Or, they can do what she asked. But Brown didn’t want to dictate the rules. In fact, federal prosecutors specifically told her in court, “We urge you not to take over the policymaking.”
Instead, Brown set out a handful of guidelines that were issued by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in an unrelated case. She said the government must tell people what unclassified information was used to put them on the list. And if the information’s classified, at least tell them the nature and extent of it. She said it shouldn’t leave people without an option to challenge their status or make blanket rulings that ignore the specifics of people’s lives. “The (challenge) process falls far short of satisfying the requirements of due process,” Brown wrote in her ruling Tuesday. U.S. Justice Department spokeswoman Dena Iverson said government attorneys were reviewing the decision.
Philip Klein: Health Care Spending Actually Shrunk 1.4 Percent In First Quarter Of Obamacare, BEA Says
Health care spending actually shrunk 1.4 percent during the first quarter of the year, the Bureau of Economic Analysis now says, after previously saying it soared 9.1 percent — a massive revision that will shake up the debate over how President Obama’s health care law is affecting medical spending. To give an idea of the magnitude of the swing, the 9.1 percent growth rate would have been the fastest growth in health spending since 1980,
and now the BEA says it actually shrunk more than any quarter since the first quarter of 1982 — or 32 years. The revised data suggest medical spending slowed despite the expansion of coverage. So what explains the revision? The short and easy answer is that BEA gained access to more data.
Pretty much everyone was stunned to see Q1 GDP growth slashed to -2.9% from an earlier estimate of -1.0%.
The revision largely boils down to one thing: healthcare spending. “Two thirds of the revision is in consumption, cut to +1.0% from +3.1%,” said Pantheon Macroeconomics Ian Shepherdson. “Almost all of this huge hit is in the healthcare services component, cut to -1.4% from +9.1%.” According to the BEA, healthcare spending went from adding 1.01 percentage points to subtracting 0.16 from the headline GDP growth number. “So much for the BEA’s initial view that the start of Obamacare triggered a surge in spending on healthcare,” said Shepherdon.
Most economists and strategists are brushing this off. First of all, it reflects activity from Q1, which ended in March. Second, the bulk of the more recent data has been positive. “If GDP were truly so weak, we would not expect aggregate hours worked to climb 3.7% annualized through May, jobless claims to remain near cycle lows, consumer confidence to hit a cycle high, industrial production to climb 5.0% at an annual rate over the first five months of the year, core capital goods orders to be up 5.8%, ISM to be above 55, and vehicle sales to hit their strongest annualized selling pace for the year,” said Renaissance Macro’s Neil Dutta. “GDP is the outlier in these data points. I will roll my eyes and move on. Most of the data we just mentioned is consistent with underlying growth over 3.0%.”
Steve LeVine: How A US Decision To Allow Oil Exports Could Change The World’s Energy Balance
The Obama Administration has taken a bold step toward loosening the grip of tense geopolitics on oil prices, reports the Wall Street Journal (paywall), giving the first permission in four decades for the export of unrefined American oil. The decision—not made public but announced in the form of private letters from the US Commerce Department to two oil companies, according to the paper–seems certain to cause a stir in global oil markets and perhaps send prices lower. Global oil prices have surged because of the political turmoil in the Middle East and Africa–the march of Islamic militants in Iraq, the stoppage of oil exports from Libya, and the broad turbulence in Nigeria.
The US decision allows two Texas companies—Pioneer Natural Resources and Enterprise Products Partners—to export a form of extremely light oil called condensate. The Journal’s report does not provide the volume. US condensate production in 2012, the last year provided by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), was about 250,000 barrels a day. That is not much, relatively speaking, but the exports could have a dramatic impact if the Commerce Department provides a broader definition of what counts as condensate for export purposes.
President Obama meets with members of Congress for a roundtable discussion about immigration reform, June 25, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama with actress Reese Witherspoon in the Oval Office on June 25, 2009. The president was also joined by actors Paul Rudd and Jake Gyllenhaal; they are filming a movie in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama cheers on a child attempting to dunk Press Secretarty Robert Gibbs at the Congressional Luau on the South Lawn of the White House, June 25, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama shakes hands with attendees of the Congressional Luau on the South Lawn of the White House, June 25, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama laughs as First Lady Michelle Obama does a little dance while making remarks during a United We Serve event at Fort McNair June 25, 2009
President Obama talks with Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, before a meeting with African Outreach Leaders at the G8 Summit in Muskoka, Canada, June 25, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama greets guests before an event at Oyster River High School in Durham, N.H., June 25, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama eats a hot fudge sundae as he talks with patrons at the UNH Dairy Bar on the University of New Hampshire campus in Durham, N.H., June 25, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama waves to the audience after delivering remarks at Symphony Hall in Boston, Mass., June 25, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)