Posts Tagged ‘Crimea

04
Jul
14

Rise and Shine

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)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

11:0: The President speaks at a naturalization ceremony for active-duty service members and civilians

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6:0: The President and First Lady attend the “Salute to the Military” July 4th celebration at the White House; the President delivers remarks

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8:10: USO concert for troops and military families featuring recording artist Pitbull

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9:10: Fireworks show on the National Mall

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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.

More here

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Eugene Robinson: This July 4, Governing In The Spirit Of Revenge

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.

More here

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President Obama’s interview with Marketplace

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Full interview and transcript here

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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:

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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.

More here

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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.

More here

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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.”

More here

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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.

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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.

More here

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The Nightmare Has Begun. Vote. Vote. Vote.

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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.

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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.”

More here

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Good Morning, my fellow Americans. Today, we laugh at the Brits and people who spell words using the letter “u!”🙂

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On This Day

Senator Obama laughs with Sasha before speaking at a campaign stop in Des Moines, Iowa on July 4, 2007

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Senator Obama hugs Malia as they watch a Fourth of July parade in Butte, Mont., July 4, 2008

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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

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27
Jun
14

Rise and Shine

 On This Day: President Barack Obama looks out a cell window as he and First Lady Michelle Obama tour the Maison des Esclaves Museum on Gorée Island, Senegal, June 27, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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 Today

10:50 CT: The President delivers remarks on the economy, Lake Harriet Band Shell, Minneapolis

12:20 CT: Departs Minneapolis

3:45 ET: Arrives White House

5:0 ET: Meets with Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan D Gibson and Rob Nabors

8:45 ET: Attends the Marine Barracks Evening Parade

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“Cynicism’s popular these days, but hope’s better.”

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Jonathan Cohn: Health Care Spending Down – One More Promising Sign About Obamacare

People tell me I worry too much. Maybe they are right. Back in April, I wrote a big article warning that we might be on the verge of another surge in health care spending. To critics of the Affordable Care Act, this apparent turn to health expenditure normalcy proved that the law had done little to control costs—and that it would eventually lead to much more spending. But the worrisome reports came with a huge asterisk. They were based on preliminary estimates and a whole lot of guesswork. As economists like David Cutler and Peter Orszag pointed out, other data points were more encouraging. Among other things, the cost of the federal government’s Medicare program was still rising very slowly. That suggested the health care industry really was reinventing itself and becoming more efficient—thanks, at least in part, to incentives that Obamacare had introduced.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis issued new estimates for how the economy and its component parts performed in the first quarter of 2014. The headlines were all about the economy shrinking. But that was expected, as QED’s Danny Vinik pointed out, given some one-time factors. The real surprise was health care. The supposed surge in health care spending was nowhere to be found. On the contrary, relative to the previous quarter, health care spending actually fell by 1.4 percent. it sure doesn’t look like Obamacare is bankrupting the country, as the critics always said it would. Better still, the law really may be nudging health care in the direction of more efficiency.

More here

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Benjamin Bell: Obama Calls Boehner Lawsuit Threat A ‘Stunt’ (Videos At Link)

Despite Republican House Speaker John Boehner’s threat this week to sue President Obama over his use of executive orders, the president refused to apologize for his actions during an exclusive interview with ABC News and took the Republican Party to task for what he described as its attempt to interfere with the basic functions of government. “You notice that he didn’t specifically say what exactly he was objecting to,” the president said when asked about the suit by ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos during an interview Thursday in Minnesota.

“I’m not going to apologize for trying to do something while they’re doing nothing,” the president added later. What I’ve told Speaker Boehner directly is, ‘If you’re really concerned about me taking too many executive actions, why don’t you try getting something done through Congress?’” the president said. “You’re going to squawk if I try to fix some parts of it administratively that are within my authority while you’re not doing anything?” Obama said, directing his comments toward Republicans.

More here

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(Weird title. Interesting article)

Chemi Shalev: America’s Bye-Bye Bash For President Peres Was Both Bittersweet And Over-The-Top

Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer hosted a gala dinner for President Shimon Peres at the Israeli Embassy on Wednesday, attended by a formidable representation of Washington’s high and mighty. He gave a witty and humorous speech in which he included his personal impressions of the meetings held earlier that day at the White House: “You could not imagine a better relationship than the one between Peres and President [Barack] Obama,” he said. And Dermer should know. He has the right perspective. He is far more familiar than most people with the far frostier relationship between Obama and Dermer’s own superior, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. And “far frostier” is probably an understatement. For Obama, Peres might be the last vestige of the kind of Israel that the American left fell in love with until the Six-Day-War, the polar opposite of Netanyahu’s present-day Israel, adored most fervently by Obama’s enemies in the conservative right-wing.

In Obama’s eyes, Peres seeks peace and pursues it, while Netanyahu pays lips service and then runs for his coalition’s life. Why couldn’t things have been the other way round, with Peres as prime minister and Bibi as President, Obama may have wondered, and Peres would probably join him. Peres’ has also been Obama’s chief defender against the waves of criticism and sometimes hostility directed at the U.S. President in Israel. “I learned from Ben Gurion that one must judge people based on their record, not their image,” Peres told Haaretz. “I think Obama is being judged unjustly, based on an image that he did not create – but was created for him. I think people ignore his record. Tell me one thing in which he hasn’t been consistent in his attitude towards Israel and the Jewish people. He’s just added a billion dollars to the military aid for our anti-missile defense. What do people want from him?”

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Mike Lillis: Democrats: No Bluff, Obama Will Go It Alone On Immigration

The Obama administration is “not bluffing” in its intent to take executive action on immigration policy if House Republicans don’t act soon, top Democratic leaders warned Thursday. President Obama has delayed any potential changes to his deportation policy to allow House GOP leaders time to bring legislation to the floor this summer. But if the Republicans don’t act in July, the Democrats say, unilateral changes by Obama are inevitable. “We’re at the end of the line,” Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said Thursday during a press briefing in the Capitol. “We’re not bluffing by setting a legislative deadline for them to act.

“Their first job is to govern,” Menendez added, “and in the absence of governing, then you see executive actions.” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) piled on. Noting that a year has passed since the Senate passed a sweeping immigration reform bill with broad bipartisan support, he urged House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to bring a similar bill to the floor. “I don’t know how much more time he thinks he needs, but I hope that Speaker Boehner will speak up today,” Durbin said. “And if he does not, the president will borrow the power that is needed to solve the problems of immigration.”

More here

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BBC: EU signs pacts with Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova

Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova have signed partnership agreements with the European Union, in a move strongly opposed by Russia. The pact – which would bind the three countries more closely to the West both economically and politically – is at the heart of the crisis in Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin said making Ukraine choose between Russia and the EU would split it in two. A ceasefire with pro-Russian rebels in east Ukraine is due to end on Friday. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, in Brussels to sign the pact, said he would take a decision on an extension to the truce when he arrived back in Kiev later on Friday.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he would welcome an extension, but not if it were simply an ultimatum for separatists to lay down their arms. Meanwhile the United Nations refugee agency said there had been a sharp rise in the numbers of displaced people in eastern Ukraine in the past week, with 16,400 people fleeing the area. The total number internally displaced has reached 54,400, while a further 110,000 people left Ukraine for Russia this year.

More here

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Ariane de Vogue: One Year After Top Court’s Ruling Gay Marriage Is Legal In 19 States

It’s the one year anniversary of a major Supreme Court decision on gay marriage. A lot can happen in a year. In United States v. Windsor, the justices didn’t squarely address the issue of a state ban on gay marriage. Windsor, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, invalidated part of a federal law that denied benefits to same sex couples legally married in their states. But since June 26, 2013 , federal judges have adopted Kennedy’s equal protection language to strike down bans across the country. The latest ruling came Wednesday when the 10th Circuit Court ruled that Utah’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional.

Look at the statistics: A year ago same sex couples could marry in 10 states and DC. Today, that number has ballooned to 19 states and DC. Almost 44 percent of the country lives in states where same sex marriage is legal, according to Human Rights Campaign. The Supreme Court ruling fueled a social movement of such rapid pace that even veterans of social movements were taken by surprise: Here’s what Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who as a young lawyer fought the battle against gender discrimination, said recently in an interview with the Wall Street Journal: : “I haven’t seen a social change that rapid – ever.”

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Greg Sargent: Get Ready For The Next (Fake) Obamacare Freakout

Health wonks and Dem operatives are quietly mulling the possibility of a new batch of health plan cancellations in October — just before the midterms. Dems believe a round of “cancellation” headlines could greet this development. They think headlines will be out of sync with the actual problem, perhaps dramatically so. But as the gap between last fall’s “horror stories” and subsequent hard data about Obamacare has showed, press coverage of the law tends not to err on the side of proportionality or restraint. According to Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation, the possibility of more cancellations resides in the fact that an untold number of people may have renewed policies before January 1st,

meaning they did not have to meet Obamacare’s minimum standards. Those people with current plans that don’t comply could get cancellation notices 90 days before the end of this year, i.e., in October. “So much of this debate has been driven by anecdote, which can be misleading,” Levitt says. “When there is no data available to see whether the anecdotes are generalizable, they get reported anyway. This could be another example of a relatively small number of negative anecdotes being used by opponents of the law to discredit it.”

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Greg Sargent: The GOP Is Now Officially The Party Of ‘Get The Hell Out’

Exactly one year after the Senate passed an immigration reform bill that built a compromise on an exchange of increased enforcement for legalization for the 11 million, Republicans have now officially abandoned any pretense of a willingness to participate in solving the immigration crisis. Instead, they have committed the party to a course premised on two intertwined notions: There are no apparent circumstances under which they can accept legalization of the 11 million; and as a result, the only broad response to the crisis they can countenance is maximum deportations.

This means it’s now all in Obama’s hands to decide what he can do unilaterally to ease the pace of deportations and address the current unaccompanied migrant crisis. One way to understand what happened here is to trace the evolution of GOP Rep. Bob Goodlatte, chair of the Judiciary Committee. Now fast forward to yesterday. Goodlatte effectively declared immigration reform dead as long as Obama is in office, blaming his decision to defer the deportation of DREAMers for the current crisis of unaccompanied migrants crossing. This tells the entire story. Goodlatte was an early proponent of a form of legalization for the 11 million that could have been the basis for compromise.

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On This Day

Framed through two flags, President Obama takes questions during a press conference at the G20 Summit in Toronto, Canada, Sunday, June 27, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ride an escalator on the way to their bilateral meeting during the G20 Summit in Toronto, Canada, Sunday, June 27, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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 A little boy leans over to kiss President Obama during the Congressional picnic on the South Lawn of the White House, June 27, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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 President Obama participates in a joint press conference with President Macky Sall of Senegal at the Presidential Palace in Dakar, Senegal, June 27, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

June 27, 2013: “The President and his daughter Malia talk on the bow of a ferry traveling to Goree Island, Senegal.” (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama looks out of the “door of no return” during a tour of Goree Island, June 27, 2013, in Goree Island, Senegal

 First Lady Michelle Obama looks out a window at local children during her visit to a cultural center on Gorée Island, Senegal, June 27, 2013 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

 President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet residents as they walk towards the dock on Gorée Island, Senegal, June 27, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

 President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama arrive for an official dinner at the Presidential Palace in Dakar, Senegal, June 27, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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25
Jun
14

Rise and Shine

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)

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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

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The Week Ahead

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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.

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.

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Jonathan Weisman: Cochran Holds Off Tea Party Challenger in Mississippi

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.

More here

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

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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”.

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.

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Annalyn Kurtz: 3 Reasons Not To Freak Out About -2.9% GDP

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Sam Ro: This Is Precisely What Crushed GDP

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%.”

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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.

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Your Laugh Of The Day

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On This Day

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

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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)

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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)

13
Jun
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama present a birthday cake to Assistant Usher Reggie Dickson outside the Usher’s Office of the White House, following a Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony and dinner honoring President Shimon Peres of Israel, June 13, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today

11:25 ET: The President and First Lady depart the White House

1:45 CT: Arrive Bismarck, North Dakota

2:40 CT: The President and First Lady participate in a roundtable discussion with Native American Youth, Cannon Ball Elementary School

3:45 CT: Attend the Cannon Ball Flag Day Celebration and delivers remarks, Cannon Ball Powwow Grounds

5:20 CT: Depart Bismarck

6:20 PT: Arrive Palm Springs, California

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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 adjusts the tie of Coast Guard Military Aide Cdr. Scott S. Phy’s son outside the Oval Office, June 12, 2014. Cdr. Phy and his family were in the Oval Office for an award citation and departure photos with the President (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Amy Lynn Smith: Cancer Patient: ‘If It Wasn’t For Obamacare, I’d Be Dead In 12 Months’

A cancer diagnosis is terrifying enough. The only thing that’s worse? Knowing you don’t have insurance and can’t possibly afford to pay for treatment. Marion N. Seidel has been uninsured since she changed jobs seven years ago. She’s worked the same job ever since, but could never afford her share of the coverage her employer offered: $600/month for herself and her daughter. On the rare occasions they got sick, the 52-year-old single mother would just pay cash for doctor’s appointments. But over the last year, Seidel started having some health issues that kept sending her to the doctor. Every time she missed a day of work, she lost a day’s pay. In April 2014, Seidel was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor on her tonsils that was already affecting her lymph glands. She needed to start treatment right away. Without it, the doctors told her, she had only 12 months to live.

I went everywhere to try to find help, but I kept being told, ‘If you can’t pay we can’t help you.’ But then she learned she could enroll for coverage through Healthcare.gov outside the open enrollment period, because her income had changed and she’d had problems signing up before. Seidel now has comprehensive coverage with low deductibles and co-payments. With the help of tax subsidies, she’s paying just $95/month for her insurance. The specialist told me I have a very high chance of being cured. They told me I’ll go through hell in the next few months but I will come back. That gave me more positivity and I feel I can beat this cancer. Without my insurance, I would not have been able to even see the specialist. If it wasn’t for Obamacare, I’d be dead in 12 months.

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Sahil Kapur: Barbara Boxer: ‘GOP Cheerleaders’ Of Iraq Invasion Are Now Joining ‘Blame-America-First Crowd’

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, torched Republican “cheerleaders” who started the Iraq war and are now criticizing President Barack Obama over the escalating violent insurgency in the country. “Some of the biggest GOP cheerleaders for the disastrous war in Iraq are now joining the blame-America-first crowd rather than working with our Commander-in-Chief to confront this crisis,” Boxer said in a statement Thursday.

She said the current crisis in Iraq “has its roots in an ill-conceived war,” arguing that while the U.S. should “go after” the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the Sunni jihadi organization taking over parts of the country, “any U.S. action must be well-considered and well-executed in coordination with our allies and the Iraqi government and military, which we helped train and arm.”

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Nicole Flatow: CNN Decides Not To Count 80 Percent Of School Shootings

When students are killed, injured, or put in harm’s way on school grounds, when does it “count” as a school shooting? Not all of the time, according to a number of right-wing commentators — and CNN. In a news report published Thursday, CNN amends its prior reporting that there were 74 school shootings since the Newtown Massacre — a number calculated by gun violence prevention group Everytown for Gun Safety — and concludes that there have instead been just 15. “CNN determined that 15 of the incidents Everytown included were situations similar to the violence in Oregon — a minor or adult actively shooting inside or near a school,” the article explains. Except for the times when those criteria don’t apply

Among those incidents not included was a brawl that escalated outside a college basketball game at Chicago State University, a shooting at a Mississippi town’s football game that left a 15-year-old dead, and a Georgia college that saw two shootings in two days. As Everytown points out in response to CNN, these discounted shootings led to 25 deaths and 45 injuries. They included familiar scenes of students hiding under desks and running for cover. And many of them were characterized by CNN as “school shootings” at the time of the incidents. CNN’s coverage does not mention it, but its change of heart followed a series of criticisms from right-wing commentators and outlets.

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First Lady Michelle Obama and West Virginia Department of Education Office of Child Nutrition Executive Director Richard Goff help students from five District of Columbia schools make a meal using the summer crop from the White House Kitchen Garden in the State Dining Room at the White House June 12. The students, who helped plant the garden earlier in the year, were joined by visiting school nutrition directors from Orlando, Dallas and West Virginia, where they have seen success in their new school lunch programs thanks to the standards put in place by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.

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Marlow Stern: Spike Lee’s Tribute to Ruby Dee: ‘A Living Example That One Could Be An Artist And Activist’

Ruby Dee, the legendary actress, poet, and Civil Rights activist, passed away on Wednesday in New York. She was 91. Born Ruby Ann Wallace, the Harlem native was a dynamo on stage and screen, starring in the 1961 film A Raisin in the Sun, winning Obie and Drama Desk Awards for the play Boesman and Lena, and earned a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her turn as the feisty mother to Harlem drug lord Frank Lucas, played by Denzel Washington, in the 2007 film American Gangster. She was also a trailblazer who paved the way for young African-American actors and filmmakers to break through during the height of segregation. Dee was married to Ossie Davis, the actor, activist, and WWII veteran, from 1948 until his death in 2005.

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The pair appeared in 11 stage productions and five films together, including Davis’s first feature film, 1959’s No Way Out, which also starred Sidney Poitier, and later, in the Spike Lee films Do the Right Thing and Jungle Fever. In 2004, Dee and Davis were recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors, who described the duo as “one of the most revered couples of the American stage, two of the most prolific and fearless artists in American culture. As individuals and as a team they have created profound and lasting work that has touched us all. With courage and tenacity they have thrown open many a door previously shut tight to African American artists and planted the seed for the flowering of America’s multicultural humanity.” Indeed, both Dee and Davis were prominent activists in the Civil Rights movement, protesting the trial and execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, and later participating in Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington in 1963.

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Jonathan Capehart: Cantor Loss A Wake-Up Call For Democrats

Tuesday evening, I observed that the Republican Party now in thrall to the extreme far right of its base stands pinched in its own vise. About an hour later, the nation watched that vise pinch the life out of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s political career. But Democrats celebrating the Cantor calamity better check their schadenfreude. There will be more Brats in Congress if they don’t show up at the polls in November, especially in key races that will determine the balance of power in the Senate. Democrats love the president (75 percent), but barely half of them (51 percent) said they were “absolutely certain” to vote in November. Meanwhile, only seven percent of Republicans polled approve of the president’s job performance. But 68 percent of them said they were “absolutely certain” to cast a ballot. It’s data like this that have Obama warning the Democratic base over and over and over again against complacency.

“A lot of the reasons that the president has not been able to move some of the things as fast and big as he’s wanted to move them is ’cause we slept,” a Democratic friend told me recently. “We won big in 2008. And we slept in 2010. And we got what we got. And we are still paying [the] price.” Sure, it’s fun for Democrats to watch Republicans fight amongst themselves and hand their nominations to the fringe of their base. But if Democrats don’t vote in the numbers they need to in November, those folks who are more conservative than the ultra-conservative members already gumming up the works will come to Washington. If the threat of that is not enough of a wake-up call for Democratic voters, I don’t know what is.

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BBC: Sgt Bowe Bergdahl Arrives Back In US

The US soldier held by the Taliban has arrived at a Texas military base after flying in from Germany. Sgt Bowe Bergdahl, 28, is being taken to a military medical centre for the next part of what the military calls a “reintegration mission”. Officials previously said he would be reunited with his family there. Sgt Bergdahl was freed on 31 May in exchange for five Taliban commanders held at Guantanamo bay, a deal criticised by the Republicans.

The US soldier left Ramstein Air Base earlier on Thursday aboard a US military aircraft and arrived in San Antonio early on Friday morning. “Our first priority is making sure that Sgt Bergdahl continues to get the care and support he needs,” Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm John Kirby said in an earlier statement. He had been recuperating at a military hospital in Germany since his release.

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Ryan Cooper: The Case For Optimism On Climate Change

First, I think climate change is the exception to how international relations normally go down. Yes, it’s quite easy to draw an international relations case, based on sound realist reasoning, that developing nations will never cut their emissions in time. This argument largely boils down to China and India since they are so huge; China alone now accounts for twice the total emissions of the United States. By this logic, no nation will harm its short-term interests by slashing emissions unilaterally when the gains are dispersed worldwide. But I think what the pessimists haven’t quite internalized is that China is going to be absolutely hammered by climate change.

Think of it this way: they’ve got an area roughly the size of the United States, with more desert, less farmland, less water, and less raw materials. In that area they’ve got the population of the entire Western Hemisphere, plus Nigeria and Japan. China could easily blow through the world’s carbon budget by itself; to say the Chinese government will choose growth over emissions is to say they will choose national self-immolation for a few measly decades of economic growth. India has it even worse, and similar things hold for most developing nations. I think people underestimate how panicked these nations are going to be, and how serious the international pressure will be for a climate treaty in five to 10 years.

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Yahoo: U.N. Human Rights Spokesman Says Hundreds Killed In Iraq

The number of people killed after Sunni Islamist militants overran the Iraqi city of Mosul earlier this week may run into the hundreds, U.N. human rights spokesman Rupert Colville said on Friday. He said his office had reports the killings included the execution of 17 civilians working for the police and a court employee in central Mosul. Four women had killed themselves after being raped, 16 Georgians had been kidnapped, and prisoners released by the militants had been looking to exact revenge on those responsible for their incarceration, he said.

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NBC News: Ukrainian Forces Surround Separatist-Held Mariupol

Ukrainian forces surrounded the strategic rebel-held port city of Mariupol on Friday in a dawn attack launched as part of a broader military operation to reclaim control of eastern Ukraine. The rebel forces, who oppose the pro-European leadership in the capital Kiev and want to be part of Russia, said five of their fighters had been killed in the battle for Mariupol, Ukraine’s largest Azov Sea port. Mariupol, which has changed hands several times in weeks of conflict, is strategically important because steel is exported through the port and the city lies on

major roads from the southeastern border with Russia into the rest of Ukraine. President Petro Poroshenko intensified the military operation against the separatists after he was elected on May 25. The rebels took several cities and towns in east and southeast Ukraine after Russia annexed Crimea in March following the overthrow of Poroshenko’s Moscow-leaning predecessor.

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Washington Post: McCarthy Consolidating Support For House Majority Leader As Race For Whip Intensifies

The defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) in a Republican primary was an astounding triumph for the tea party movement, but there was little evidence Thursday that the insurgency could take advantage of it by getting one of their own elected to the suddenly vacant leadership position. In the race to replace Cantor, who will step down from his leadership post at the end of July, House Republicans began coalescing around Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), who is more aligned with the establishment wing of the party.

The leadership battle began to crystallize Thursday morning as a popular conservative, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (Tex.), who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, announced that he wouldn’t run for majority leader and Pete Sessions (R-Tex.) entered the race and then withdrew within hours.

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Ann Sanner: Judge Orders 3 Early Voting Days Restored In Ohio

A federal judge ordered Ohio’s elections chief Wednesday to restore the final three days of in-person, early voting in the swing state in a ruling that gives Democrats a victory going into the fall election. The order from U.S. District Judge Peter Economus comes in a long-running dispute that began before the last presidential election. The fight was especially intense because of Ohio’s role as a swing state rich with electoral votes. President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign and Democrats filed a lawsuit in July 2012 against the state’selections chief over an Ohio law that cuts off in-person, early voting for most residents three days before Election Day.

The state law, passed in 2011, ends in-person voting on the Friday evening before a Tuesday election. But it allows an exception for military and overseas voters to cast a ballot in person until Monday. Democrats claimed that amounted to unequal treatment of voters and said everyone should have the chance to vote on the three days before Election Day. Ohio voters may cast an absentee ballot by mail or in person before Election Day without giving any reason.

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Steve Benen: McCain Left Classified Briefing ‘After Only A Matter Of Minutes’

With security conditions deteriorating quickly in Iraq, Sen. John McCain is in high dudgeon. Despite having been wrong about nearly every national security crisis in recent years, the Arizona Republican is doing what one might expect him to do: he’s blaming President Obama, condemning the White House, and urging everyone to pretend he still has credibility. Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, of which McCain is the ranking member, were given a classified briefing this afternoon from military and intelligence officials, keeping lawmakers apprised of the latest developments in the Iraqi crisis. McCain left the closed-door briefing after only a matter of minutes, telling reporters the security situation in Iraq “is the greatest threat since the Cold War.” [emphasis added]

If it’s the great threat to security in a generation, then maybe McCain should have stuck around for the rest of the classified briefing, instead of bolting and heading for the cameras? Except McCain left “after only a matter of minutes” so he could go complain about the president in front of the cameras. If this sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because just last week, McCain attended another closed-door, classified briefing on the prisoner swap that freed an American POW. McCain “walked out shortly after shouting at an official,” roughly half-way through the briefing. He then – you guessed it – headed for the cameras to complain about the president and the lack of compelling information he’d received in the briefing he left in the middle of.

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On This Day

President Obama tours Cree, Inc., a manufacturer of LED lighting, in Durham, N.C., June 13, 2011. Taking part in the tour are Chuck Swoboda, CEO and Chairman of Cree, Inc., left, and Jeff Immelt, CEO, General Electric and Jobs Council Chairman, center (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wave goodbye to President Shimon Peres of Israel on the North Portico of the White House following the Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony and dinner in his honor, June 13, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama and Vice President Biden listen as 9 year-old twins Zea and Luna Weiss-Wynne introduce the President at the LGBT Pride Month celebration in the East Room of the White House, June 13, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama talks with Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., along with members of his family, in the Oval Office, June 13, 2013. Rep. Dingell is the longest-serving Member in the history of the United States Congress (Photo by Pete Souza)

First Lady Michelle Obama and Air Force Pilot Captain Kelly Smith discuss Joining Forces with Hollywood Trade Representatives at the Writers Guild Theatre on June 13, 2011 in Beverly Hills

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05
Jun
14

President Obama At The G7 Summit

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President Barack Obama arrives for the G7 summit at the European Council building in Brussels

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Prime Minister David Cameron and US President Barack Obama attend the first working meeting of the day at the G7 Summit in Brussels. (The Prime Minister’s Office)

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President Barack Obama smiles during the G7 summit at the European Council headquarters in Brussels

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President Barack Obama meets with King Philippe of Belgium, right, and Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo at the Royal Palace in Brussels, Belgium

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President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron speak during a news conference at the G7 summit

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Continue reading ‘President Obama At The G7 Summit’

04
Jun
14

Rise and Shine

President Obama delivers remarks at 25th Anniversary Freedom Event in Castle Square, Warsaw (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today

The President left Poland for Belgium this morning. After arriving he will meet King Philippe and Prime Minister Di Rupo of Belgium, attend the Council of the European Union in Brussels and attend a G-7 working dinner.

1:30 EDT: First Lady Michelle Obama Announces The Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness

White House Live

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President Obama’s speech in Poland this morning – forward to 53 minutes

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The Week Ahead – See Here

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FACT SHEET: U.S. Security Assistance to Ukraine

The United States is working to bolster Ukraine’s ability to secure its borders and preserve its territorial integrity and sovereignty in the face of Russian occupation of Crimea and a concerted effort by Russian-backed separatists to destabilize eastern Ukraine.  President Obama has approved more than $23 million in additional defensive security assistance since early March.

This assistance includes:

A new tranche of $5 million for the provision of body armor, night vision goggles, and additional communications equipment.  This is in addition to the approximately 300,000 Meals Ready to Eat (delivered in March), as well as assistance for the provision of materiel using Foreign Military Financing to support Ukraine’s armed forces with medical supplies, service member equipment (e.g., helmets, sleeping mats, water purification units), explosive ordnance disposal equipment, and handheld radios.

The United States also has allocated Cooperative Threat Reduction funding to support Ukraine’s State Border Guard Service with supplies (e.g., clothing, shelters, small power generators and hand fuel pumps, engineering equipment, communications equipment, vehicles, and non-lethal individual tactical gear).

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Washington Post: Obama vows to defend freedom in Europe, support democratic movements worldwide

Surrounded by throngs celebrating Poland’s 25 years of democracy, President Obama on Wednesday pledged to uphold the United States’ longtime commitment to the defense of Eastern Europe against new threats, using the opportunity to deliver a resounding endorsement of democratic movements across the world.

“Throughout history, the Polish people were abandoned by friends when you needed them most,” Obama said. “I have come to Warsaw today — on behalf of the United States, on behalf of the NATO Alliance — to reaffirm our unwavering commitment to Poland’s security.”

Speaking at the “Freedom Day” event in a historic square by the Royal Castle, the president said he would use the full might of the American armed forces to protect Poland and other Eastern European allies and called out Russia as a threat to regional security and democracy.

“Our free nations will stand united so that further Russian provocations will only mean more isolation and costs for Russia,” he said. “We refuse to allow the dark tactics of the 20th century to define the 21st.”

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Brilliant:

Stonekettle Station: Negotiating With Terrorists

Are we really going to do this?

Is this what it’s finally come down to, is it really?

Look at yourselves, you silly selfish bastards.

Look. At. Yourselves.

Go on, do it, find a mirror and look into your own dead zombie eyes and see the empty void looking back.

This revolting, disgusting display of hypocrisy and moral bankruptcy, is this what we’ve finally become?

Are we now so filled with foul bilious hatred, are we now so consumed with soul-destroying fear, do we now despise our own selves so much that we would actually protest the return of one of our own? Is that it?

Is that what we’ve become?

If so, then the sooner America collapses of its own maggot-ridden gangrenous rot, the better.

No. No, don’t you dare look away.

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Steve Benen: McCain’s reversals on Bowe Bergdahl

It was just last week when Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) delivered a Memorial Day message in which she urged Americans to keep Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl “in our thoughts and prayers.” She added, “I renew my call on the Defense Department to redouble its efforts to find Sergeant Bergdahl and return him safely to his family.”

Less than a week later, the Defense Department announced that Bergdahl had been freed and he’ll be returned safely to his family – prompting a new round of criticism from Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.).

But all things considered, these conflicting statements are mild compared to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and his recent reversals…

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Michael Tomasky: The Bowe Bergdahl Story Is Right-Wing Crack

Never mind that Bush would have done the same as Obama. Republicans are hitting the pipe big time on the ‘deserter’ — and their creepy bottom line is that he should have been left to die.

I was amazed but not surprised by my Twitter feed Monday. More than 200 tweets from conservatives, I would estimate, calling me a host of names and Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl a menu of worse ones. That’s the most ever in one day, I think, even more than for my most scorching anti-NRA columns, which have heretofore set the gold standard for inspiring drooling right-wing vitriol.

I was not, as I say, surprised. This story has every element right-wingers dream of. Every dark suspicion they harbor about President Obama can be wedged into the narrative conservatives are constructing about how Saturday’s prisoner exchange supposedly went down and what the president’s presumed motivations were. So I knew instantly, when I read Michael Hastings’s 2012 Rolling Stone profile of Bergdahl on Sunday afternoon, that this was going to be the next Benghazi. The story is right-wing crack. And sure enough, Republicans are hitting the pipe big time.

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ThinkProgress: Former Bush Official Blasts GOP On Bergdahl: Bush Would Have Done The Same Thing

A former Bush administration official broke with Republicans on Tuesday to defend President Obama’s prisoner exchange, arguing that since “the war in Afghanistan is winding down,” the United States would be required to return prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay back to Afghanistan.

… Asked about reports that Bergdahl deserted his unit, Bellinger added that the former hostage “will have to face justice, military justice.” “We don’t leave soldiers on the battlefield under any circumstance unless they have actually joined the enemy army,” he said. “He was a young 20-year-old. Young 20-year-olds make stupid decisions. I don’t think we’ll say if you make a stupid decision we’ll leave you in the hands of the Taliban.”

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Smartypants: Why the prisoner exchange is a big issue for the neocons

We’re hearing all kinds of hysteria about the prisoner exchange that resulted in the release of Sergeant Bergdahl. The media is indulging claims about Bergdahl’s state of mind, whether or not the President was required to consult with Congress prior to finalizing the exchange and stories about soldiers who may have died trying to rescue him. But that’s all hyperbole designed to gin up the anti-Obama base. I propose that the real issue for conservatives actually centers on the other side of the exchange…the release of the 5 Taliban detainees from Gitmo.

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From Donna Dem:

Good Morning TOD

Before I head out to work let’s make today a Day of Action

We can start by all of us contacting Sen. Dianne Feinstein

Here is her contact information

Phone: (202) 224-3841

Fax: (202) 228-3954

Email

Twitter: @SenFeinstein

We can help her to understand that as a Democrat it should be her primary goal to support this President and if she has issue with anything he does she needs to talk to his staff or him directly about it. It is not necessary for her to run to every open mike and give the Republicans and the media ammunition to bash President Obama.

Have a great O’Day Everyone!!

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TPM: Videos Showed Bergdahl’s Rapidly Deteriorating Health

Some critics of the prisoner swap that exchanged Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban detainees said there was no evidence, as President Barack Obama insisted in a press conference Tuesday, that the soldier’s deteriorating health necessitated swift action to secure his release.

But the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday night that the U.S. intelligence community had evidence of Bergdahl’s failing health, based on a secret analysis of two videos of the soldier in captivity ….

Officials who saw the recent video described Bergdahl’s condition as “alarming.” ….

“We believe they saw Bergdahl as a golden egg. That is why they kept him alive and as healthy as possible. But as he deteriorated, some people believe he became more of a burden to them,” the official told the Journal. “And as the war was ending some of them [Taliban] came to doubt his value. He was more of a liability as his health declined.”

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LA Times Editorial: Editorial Freeing Sgt. Bergdahl: Why it was a good deal for all Americans

The release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a captive of Islamist extremists for almost five years, is good news not only for his family but for all Americans. But the price the Obama administration paid for the 28-year-old soldier’s repatriation was freedom for five detainees at Guantanamo Bay who are hardened Taliban commanders.

…. unless the U.S. were to assert the right to hold the detainees forever without trial, they would have been released at some point. Why not do it now when it helps to secure the release of an American?

…. Congress is free to press the administration about details of the arrangement that won Bergdahl’s freedom. But the president must be equally free to respond to a diplomatic opening that could mean the difference between freedom and captivity for an American soldier.

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Meanwhile in the real world, while the GOP try to distract everyone with Bergdahlzi ->

Steve Benen: ID law blocks 93-year-old voter in Alabama

Two years ago, the nation was introduced to Viviette Applewhite, a 93-year-old widow in Pennsylvania who had marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Applewhite has voted in nearly every election for the last-half century – right up until 2012, when the state told this African-American woman she wouldn’t be allowed to cast a ballot because Republicans policymakers had created a voter-ID law to combat voter fraud that didn’t exist.

After Applewhite’s story garnered national attention, election officials helped get her situation straightened out – and more recently, the law itself was struck down as unconstitutional – but the incident was a reminder about the real-world impact of unnecessary voter-ID laws.

Two years later, Zachary Roth introduces us to a similar face – of the same age – in the “war on voting.”

More here

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ThinkProgress: Major Companies Distance Themselves From U.S. Chamber Campaign Against Obama’s Climate Plan

Days before President Obama’s EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy announced sweeping new rules to limit the amount of carbon pollution that existing power plants can dump into the atmosphere, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a report blasting the then-unreleased regulations as certain to raise electricity prices, kill jobs, and slow the economy. But leading climate-friendly members of Chamber don’t want to be associated with its anti-climate report. Several member companies, contacted by ThinkProgress, declined to endorse the Chamber’s efforts against the administration’s move to address a direct cause of climate change.

ThinkProgress reached out to several dozen of the major corporations that have either contributed to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or had executives currently serving on its board of directors. None endorsed the new report.

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Steve Benen: An exceedingly rare NRA apology

It’s been about four decades since Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal introduced us to an unfortunate catchphrase: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” More recently, I’ve always thought it was better applied to the National Rifle Association, which never has to say it’s sorry, either.

No matter how extreme the far-right group gets, no matter who it offends, no matter the consequences of its policy purism, the NRA just doesn’t apologize for anything, ever.

Once in a great while, however, there are exceptions.

More here

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AP: Brisk demand for SUVs and pickup trucks pushed U.S. auto sales to a nine-year high in May

Chrysler, Nissan and Toyota all reported double-digit sales gains over last May. Even General Motors, battling bad publicity from a mishandled recall, surprised with a 13 percent sales increase.

Ford’s sales rose a better-than-expected 3 percent, while Hyundai’s were up 4 percent. Of major automakers, only Volkswagen’s sales fell.
Video: Is 16M Vehicles the New Normal for Auto Sales?

May is traditionally a strong month for the auto industry, as buyers spend their tax returns and think ahead to summer road trips. This year’s calendar, with five weekends, gave it an extra boost. Sales were particularly strong the last weekend of the month, automakers said.

Sales rose 11 percent to just over 1.6 million in May. That was the highest monthly total since July 2005, according to Kelley Blue Book.

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USA Today: White House to host event on working dads

The White House, which is preparing a summit on working families later this month, sponsors an event Monday devoted to working fathers.

Business leaders, administration officials, and other working fathers will “explore the breadth of roles dads play today at home” and “the new challenges dads experience balancing career and family,” says a White House announcement.

…. Speakers will include New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, and Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers Jason Furman.

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On This Day

President Obama speaks at Cairo University in Cairo, Thursday, June 4, 2009. In his speech, President Obama called for a ‘new beginning between the United States and Muslims’, declaring that ‘this cycle of suspicion and discord must end’. (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama jokingly shows off the hat he was given during his tour of the Pyramids and Sphinx in Egypt on June 4, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama tours the Pyramids and Sphinx with Secretary General of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities, Zahi Hawass (left), Senior Advisor David Axelrod and Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel (right), June 4, 2009. (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama tours the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt on June 4, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama ducks his head to get through an entranceway on a tour of the Pyramids and Sphinx in Egypt, June 4, 2009. At center-right is the hieroglyphic that the President comment on saying it looked like him. (Photo by Pete Souza)

Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, personal aide to the president Reggie Love, and Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett take a ride on camels in Egypt on June 4, 2009. (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama looks out the window of Marine One as they leave the Pyramids of Giza and Sphinx in Egypt, June 4, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama tours the Sultan Hassan Mosque with Dr. Zahi Hawass (left), Iman Abdel Fateh (right), and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Cairo, Egypt, June 4, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza).

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President Obama gestures during a meeting on the response to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, at the Tarmac Field House at Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans, La., June 4, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

 President Obama, at left, eats boiled seafood with residents at Carmandelle’s Live Bait and Boiled Seafood in Grand Isle, La., June 4, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama jokes with members of the Chilean delegation as President Sebastián Piñera of Chile sits at the Resolute Desk following a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office, June 4, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama embraces Myrlie Evers-Williams during her visit in the Oval Office, June 4, 2013. The President met with the Evers family to commemorate the approaching 50th anniversary of Medgar Evers’ death (Photo by Pete Souza)

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03
Jun
14

Hello, Poland!….Or, Cześć Polska!

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

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

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

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

29
May
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Barack Obama consoles a woman at the Joplin Community Memorial Service at Missouri Southern University in Joplin, Mo., May 29, 2011. The President delivered remarks during the service for those impacted by the deadly tornado that struck Joplin on May 22, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

11:10: President Obama delivers remarks at the White House Healthy Kids & Safe Sports Concussion Summit, East Room

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12:30: Jay Carney briefs the press

2:55: The President participates in a clinic as part of the Concussion Summit, South Lawn

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E.J. Dionne Jr: Obama Outlines A Doctrine Where Restraint Makes Us Stronger

By laying out a long-term foreign policy vision in a speech at West Point on Wednesday, President Obama challenged his critics, at home and abroad, not to speak in vague terms about U.S. “decline” or “weakness” but to answer the question: Exactly what would you do differently? This is as close as we have gotten to an Obama Doctrine, and here it is: The United States “will use military force, unilaterally if necessary, when our core interests demand it — when our people are threatened; when our livelihoods are at stake; when the security of our allies is in danger.”

But in other cases, “when issues of global concern do not pose a direct threat to the United States . . . we should not go it alone.”…. the president’s critics [have] an obligation to answer his challenge. Those who believe that the United States should underwrite a world order friendly to our values and interests need to accept that the promiscuous deployment of U.S. troops abroad is the surest way to undermine support for this mission at home. In calling for restraint and realism — and by insisting on raising the threshold for wars of choice — Obama may yet prove himself to be the best friend American internationalists have.

More article here

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Thomas L. Friedman: Putin Blinked

There was a moment at the height of the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962 when Soviet ships approached to within just a few miles of a U.S. naval blockade and then, at the last minute, turned back — prompting then-Secretary of State Dean Rusk to utter one of the most famous lines from the Cold War: “We’re eyeball to eyeball, and I think the other fellow just blinked.”

The crisis in Ukraine never threatened a Cold War-like nuclear Armageddon, but it may be the first case of post-post-Cold War brinkmanship, pitting the 21st century versus the 19th. It pits a Chinese/Russian worldview that says we can take advantage of 21st-century globalization whenever we want to enrich ourselves, and we can behave like 19th-century powers whenever we want to take a bite out of a neighbor — versus a view that says, no, sorry, the world of the 21st century is not just interconnected but interdependent and either you play by those rules or you pay a huge price. In the end, it was Putinism versus Obamaism, and I’d like to be the first on my block to declare that the “other fellow” — Putin — “just blinked.”

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Hunter Walker: Maya Angelou’s Son Shares The Most Important Lesson His Mother Taught Him

According to writer Guy Johnson, his mother, the late poet and author Dr. Maya Angelou, never gave him advice about his craft. Though Angelou didn’t guide his writing, Johnson said he learned many other lessons from his mother.
Johnson shared some of the most important things Angelou taught him and discussed some of his final memories of her in a conversation with Business Insider hours after her death Wednesday, at age 86. Johnson said the main thing he learned from Angelou is that “life’s complexity cannot be taught in a classroom.”

Angelou’s final conversation with her son took place over the phone Tuesday. Johnson said she was “laughing” and in “good spirits.” Johnson described his mother’s “mission” as focused on spreading “respect” and combatting racism. “It had to do with teaching people that we have to give respect to each other and respect this planet … that we are more alike than we are unalike … and that racism is a foolish and divisive construct,” Johnson said.

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Steve Benen: Turning The Conventional Wisdom On Its Ear

It was just a few months ago that the political world took solace in a few obvious facts. The Affordable Care Act was failing; it stood no chance of meeting its enrollment projections; and Republicans would use “Obamacare” as a cudgel for the rest of the year, beating Democrats who would no doubt try to change the subject.

That was then; this is now. All of a sudden, the ACA looks like a great success; the system has already exceeded its enrollment projections; and Democrats are suddenly willing to take the offensive on the issue they were supposed to avoid…the GOP strategy to date — vow to repeal Obamacare and mumble platitudes about replacing it with something or other that does all the things in it that people like – is a bust…. The repeal crusade is over. The right lost. It’s heartening to see the conventional wisdom start to catch up.

More here

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Simon Maloy: GOP’s New Obamacare Strategy: Why Their “Repeal” Cries Have Suddenly Shifted

As benefits take hold, Republicans’ message falls victim to the inevitable onset of nuance. A moment of silence, if you please, for the Republican “repeal Obamacare” message. It’s not dead yet, but it has fallen victim to a deadly terminal illness: nuance. The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire blog delivered the diagnosis this morning, noting that the Republican candidate field, as it transitions out of primary season, is discovering that simply calling for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act is not the winning strategy that it was once assumed to be.

The millions of people who gained coverage through the ACA, and would stand to lose it were the law to be scuttled, obviously would like to know what comes next. “Republicans won’t back off their push to repeal the law,” Washington Wire notes, “but the message is likely to be more nuanced, said Bill McInturff, a Republican pollster who has long studied the politics of health care.” “Nuance” in this sense means that Republicans are going to start using terms like “fix” and “reform” alongside (or in place of) “repeal.”

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Michael Kelley: Edward Snowden Says The US Stranded Him In Russia – Here Are 4 Problems With That Claim

Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden told “Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams in Moscow that he “never intended to end up in Russia.” The 30-year-old asserts that the U.S. State Department stranded him in Moscow after he arrived from Hong Kong on June 23. There are several issues with the claim that the U.S. stranded Snowden in Russia. Here are the most glaring: 1. Snowden couldn’t have left Russia because he had no valid travel documents when he landed at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport.

The U.S. revoked Snowden’s passport the day before he left. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange then acquired an unsigned Ecuadorian travel document — ostensibly for safe passage to Latin America — that was void when Snowden landed in Moscow. 2. WikiLeaks told him to go to Russia and stay there. Assange told Janet Reitman of Rolling Stone magazine in December that he advised Snowden against going to Latin America because “he would be physically safest in Russia.” WikiLeaks, who advised Snowden in Hong Kong while paying for his lodging and travel, reiterated the statement on May 1.

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Michael Tomasky: Mitch McConnell’s Big Obamacare-Kynect Lie

The Senator’s latest election-trail mistake? Vowing to repeal Obamacare while disingenuously promising to protect his state’s own Obamacare-funded health-care exchange, which serves 413,000 Kentuckians. Here’s why all the super-smart insidery people privately say they think that in the end, Alison Lundergan Grimes will not beat Mitch McConnell in Kentucky. Her strategy, they say, is to keep it close, keep her distance from Obama, hold her own in debates, try to match him attack ad for attack ad, and just hope McConnell makes a mistake.

And the super-smart people agree: You may admire or loathe McConnell, but if he’s proven one thing in umpteen elections, it’s that he doesn’t make mistakes. That’s what the insiders say. There’s just one problem with it. McConnell has made about a mistake a week so far! He’s run an awful campaign. And he’s given anybody no reason at all to think he won’t just keep making them.

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Brett Logiurato: Obama Gives Boehner One Last Deadline For Immigration Reform

President Barack Obama has provided House Speaker John Boehner with a final deadline of sorts for moving immigration reform legislation through the House of Representatives. A White House official confirmed Obama asked Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to delay his completion of a review of U.S. deportation policies until the end of the summer. The White House said this would give Boehner more time to act because Obama believes there is still a “window” of opportunity for immigration reform legislation to pass in the House. Some advocates believe the House could pass immigration reform legislation after the end of Republican primaries, in which immigration has become a thorny issue. “The President’s priority is to enact a permanent solution for people currently living in the shadows and that can only come with immigration reform,” a White House official said in an email.

“Legislation should also continue to strengthen our border security, modernize the legal immigration system, and hold employers accountable. He believes there’s a window for the House to get immigration reform done this summer, and he asked the Secretary to continue working on his review until that window has passed. There’s a bipartisan consensus. It’s time for them to act and the President didn’t want the discussion of the Secretary’s review to interfere with the possibility of action in the House.” In March, Obama directed Johnson to lead an administrative review of whether deportation policies could be made more “humane,” a move aimed at reassuring immigration activists. It is largely expected Obama will take unilateral action to lessen deportations if Congress doesn’t act. Potomac Research analyst Greg Valliere said Obama’s message was clear. “If you fail to act, deportation policy will be liberalized; if you want to negotiate, deportations are on the table — your choice,” Valliere wrote in a research brief this morning.

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Brian Beutler: Mitch McConnell’s Dangerous, Deceptive Retreat From Obamacare Repeal

It took the winding down of GOP primary season for the Republican Party’s increasingly incoherent position on the Affordable Care Act to attract national media attention, and nobody did more to thrust it under the press’ nose than Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — the original gangster of anti-Obamacare absolutism. This will only strike you as ironic if you ignored ACA’s stunning successes in Kentucky, and the uncompromising demands of McConnell’s primary, as they unfolded simultaneously.

Now as a general election candidate, he must square his root-and-branch repeal position with the inescapable fact that full repeal would reverse those successes and leave nearly a half a million newly covered Kentuckians without health insurance. On Friday, McConnell attempted to obscure this obvious conundrum by claiming the fate of Kynect — the state’s popular and prosperous online insurance exchange — is “unconnected” from the fate of the ACA statute itself. I surmised by implication that McConnell was actually playing a far more deceitful game.

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Paul Krugman: Cheap Climate Protection

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce just came out with its preemptive strike against Obama administration regulations on power plants. What the Chamber wanted to do was show that the economic impact of the regulations would be devastating. And I was eager to see how they had fudged the numbers.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the diatribe. The Chamber evidently made a decision that it wanted to preserve credibility, so it outsourced the analysis. And while it tries to spin the results, what it actually found was that dramatic action on greenhouse gases would have surprisingly small economic costs.

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First Lady Michelle Obama: The Campaign for Junk Food

When we began our Let’s Move! initiative four years ago, we set one simple but ambitious goal: to end the epidemic of childhood obesity in a generation so that kids born today will grow up healthy. To achieve this goal, we have adhered to one clear standard: what works. The initiatives we undertake are evidence-based, and we rely on the most current science. Research indicated that kids needed less sugar, salt and fat in their diets, so we revamped school lunch menus accordingly. When data showed that the lack of nearby grocery stores negatively affected people’s eating habits, we worked to get more fresh-food retailers into underserved areas. Studies on habit formation in young children drove our efforts to get healthier food and more physical activity into child care centers.

Today, we are seeing glimmers of progress. Tens of millions of kids are getting better nutrition in school; families are thinking more carefully about food they eat, cook and buy; companies are rushing to create healthier products to meet the growing demand; and the obesity rate is finally beginning to fall from its peak among our youngest children. So we know that when we rely on sound science, we can actually begin to turn the tide on childhood obesity. But unfortunately, we’re now seeing attempts in Congress to undo so much of what we’ve accomplished on behalf of our children.

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Chicago Tribune: First Lady To Appear At Keel-Laying Ceremony For USS Illinois

First Lady Michelle Obama will appear at a ceremony next week that recognizes the start of construction on a submarine named after her home state. At the June 2 keel-laying ceremony, the first lady will deliver remarks and meet the USS Illinois’ crew and their families, according to a release issued today from her office. Obama is also the “official sponsor” of the USS Illinois. She will chalk her initials on a metal plate that will later be mounted on the submarine, the release stated.

More here

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USA Today: White House Designates 12 ‘Manufacturing Communities’

The Obama administration named one dozen new “Manufacturing Communities” on Wednesday that will receive federal help for plans to try and attract global businesses. The Manufacturing Communities Partnership, launched in September, brings federal agencies together with local officials to develop strategies “that strengthen their competitive edge in attracting global manufacturers and their supply chains,” the administration said.

The 12 local communities are:

— Southwest Alabama led by the University of South Alabama

— Southern California led by the University of Southern California Center for Economic Development

— Northwest Georgia led by the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission

More here

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Perfect Snark Of The Day

Andy Borowitz: Obama Defends Controversial Policy Of Not Invading Countries For No Reason

President Obama raised eyebrows with his West Point commencement address Wednesday by offering a defense of his controversial foreign-policy doctrine of not invading countries for no reason. Conservative critics were taken aback by Obama’s speech, which was riddled with incendiary remarks about only using military force for a clearly identified and rational purpose.

Obama did not shy away from employing polarizing rhetoric, often using words such as “responsible” and “sensible” to underscore his message. Harland Dorrinson, a fellow at the conservative think tank the Center for Global Intervention, said that he was “stunned” to see Obama “defend his failure to engage the United States in impulsive and random military adventures.”

More here

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Coral Davenport: President Planning To Be Planning To Use Executive Authority On Carbon Rule

President Obama will use his executive authority to cut carbon emissions from the nation’s coal-fired power plants by up to 20 percent, according to people familiar with his plans, and will force industry to pay for the pollution it creates through cap-and-trade programs across the country. Mr. Obama will unveil his plans in a new regulation, written by the Environmental Protection Agency, at the White House on Monday. It would be the strongest action ever taken by an American president to tackle climate change and could become one of the defining elements of Mr. Obama’s legacy.

Cutting carbon emissions by 20 percent — a substantial amount — would be the most important step in the administration’s pledged goal to reduce pollution over the next six years and could eventually shut down hundreds of coal-fired power plants across the country. The regulation would have far more impact on the environment than the Keystone pipeline, which many administration officials consider a political sideshow, and is certain to be met with opposition from Republicans who say that Mr. Obama will be using his executive authority as a back door to force through an inflammatory cap-and-trade policy he could not get through Congress.

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Greg Sargent: Mitch McConnell Effectively Abandons Obamacare Repeal

Today we have a big break in the Case of the Pathologically Dissembling Senate Minority Leader. As you know, Mitch McConnell has been struggling to articulate his position on the Affordable Care Act, ever since he laughably declared that the fate of Kentucky Kynect — the state exchange that has signed up over 400,000 people for coverage and is more popular than the hated Obamacare — is “unconnected” to his push to repeal the law.

His subsequent clarification only obfuscated matters more. Now, however, the McConnell campaign has issued a new statement to Post fact checker Glenn Kessler that, in effect, abandons his commitment to repeal. In the statement, a McConnell spokesman suggests he might largely retain the Medicaid expansion, which has expanded coverage to hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians.

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On This Day

Sen. Obama speaks at the Medical Education and Biomedical Research Facility at the University of Iowa May 29, 2007 in Iowa City. Obama introduced his plan to reduce health care costs and ensure affordable health care for all Americans.

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NBC video and sound crews capture footage of the “First Dog” in the Rose Garden outside the Oval Office for their prime-time broadcast “Inside the Obama White House,” May 29, 2009 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)

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President Obama takes a walk down the street from his Chicago home accompanied by his daughter Sasha, May 29, 2010

…. accompanied by his mother-in-law Marian Robinson

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The President visited Joplin, Mo., following a devastating tornado. Here he greets Hugh Hills, 85, in front of his home. Hills told the President he hid in a closet during the tornado, which destroyed the second floor and half the first floor of his house. May 29, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama greets residents during a tour of neighborhoods impacted by the deadly tornado in Joplin, Mo., May 29, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama is greeted by Father Justin Monaghan at a memorial service on the campus of Missouri Southern State University during a visit to the community that was devastated by a tornado in Joplin, May 29, 2011

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First Lady Michelle Obama greets Sherri Shepherd of “The View” at the show’s studio in New York, N.Y., May 29, 2012 (Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)

President Obama talks with Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Toni Morrison in the Blue Room of the White House, May 29, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

Novelist Toni Morrison and President Obama share a moment after she was presented with a Presidential Medal of Freedom during an East Room event May 29, 2012 at the White House

Bob Dylan is presented with a Presidential Medal of Freedom

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President Obama talks to the pilots aboard Marine One after landing at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, May 29, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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27
May
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama waits to be introduced at a fundraiser in Los Angeles on May 27, 2009. (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (all times Eastern)

11:15: The President views Science Fair projects, State Dining Room

11:45: Delivers remarks at the White House Science Fair, East Room

1:0: Jay Carney briefs the press

* The First Lady is hosting a discussion with school leaders on nutrition (don’t have the time for the event yet)

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The Week Ahead

Wednesday

The President travels to West Point, New York to deliver the commencement address at the United States Military Academy at West Point

Thursday

The President will host a summit at the White House on youth sports safety and concussions, where he will be joined by stakeholders, including young athletes, parents, coaches, experts, professional athletes, and military service members. At the White House Healthy Kids and Safe Sports Concussion Summit, the President will announce new commitments by both the public and private sectors to raise awareness about how to identify, treat and prevent concussions, and conduct additional research in the field of sports-related concussions that will help us better address these problems

Friday

The President will attend a hurricane preparedness meeting at FEMA Headquarters

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National Memo: VoteVets Chair Jon Soltz: Critics Demanding Shinseki Resignation Are ‘Hypocrites’

Jon Soltz is a co-founder and chairman of VoteVets, a political advocacy group with over 200,000 supporters that is the largest progressive organization of veterans in the United States – and has produced some of the most effective advertising in the last several election cycles…..

Joe Conason: How bad are the problems at the VA?

Jon Soltz: The problems at the VA have always been there. At times they’ve been worse than others. I think part of the reason we’re seeing the backlog right now is that President Obama has opened up the claims process [in the VA health care system] to a lot of people. So he made it easier for a lot of people to make claims. Under previous administrations, you used to have to fight to make a claim if you were a Vietnam veteran affected by Agent Orange, or a Gulf War veteran with Gulf War syndrome…..

Conason: Do you believe that General Eric Shinseki, the VA Secretary, should resign — as some veterans groups have demanded?

Soltz: The only veterans organization making that demand is the American Legion. Nobody else has. I find that hypocritical because they supported a bill that was in the Senate – the $21 billion veterans package sponsored by Senator Bernie Sanders – and it was stopped by Mitch McConnell, yet they haven’t called for Mitch McConnell to resign. So there’s obviously a lot of partisan politics here. The issue with General Shinseki is [that] he was right about the Iraq War. It’s sort of unconscionable to fire somebody who is now trying to clean up the mess that was left by a prior administration: All of these new Iraq and Afghanistan veterans were not created by Barack Obama and his administration.

More here

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Pete Souza: White House colonnade, May 26

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Steve Benen: Vets to Burr: ‘You clearly represent the worst of politics’

For Republicans, the politics of the VA scandal were pretty straightforward. All GOP officials had to do was express outrage – an emotion that spanned the partisan and ideological spectrum – and demand that the White House improve the system through which veterans receive care.

But Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, apparently couldn’t leave well enough alone.

The conservative Republican, who never served a day in the military, decided it’d be a good idea to start condemning veterans’ groups that had not yet called for VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign….

It’s hard to know what Burr was thinking. Perhaps the senator assumed he could pressure the veterans’ groups, bullying them into calling for Gen. Shinseki’s ouster. But if that was the Republican’s strategy, it became clear over the weekend that Burr’s gambit did not go according to plan.

More here

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Jonathan Cohn: Obama’s New Rules for Coal Plants Are a B.F.D. The Ensuing Political Fight May Be Even Bigger

Conventional wisdom holds that second term presidencies rarely yield accomplishments and that this second term president, in particular, has lost the ability to get much done. In one week, President Obama has a chance to prove that the conventional wisdom is wrong.

And he can do it while helping to stop the planet from cooking.

On June 2, Obama will to unveil a new set of federal regulations on power plants, designed primarily to keep coal-fired plants from spewing so much carbon into the atmosphere. The hope is that these new regulations will slow down climate change—at first incrementally, by reducing emissions from existing plants in the U.S., and then more dramatically, by providing the Administration with more leverage to negotiate a far-reaching, international treaty on emissions from multiple sources.

Along with other steps the administration has taken, like setting higher fuel standards for cars and trucks, the new regulations could make climate change action one of Obama’s signature achievements—something historians will cite alongside Obamacare, rescue of the auto industry, and the Recovery Act.

More here

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ThinkProgress: Lawmakers Push For Background Checks After Victim’s Family Slams NRA

After Christopher Michaels-Martinez, 20, died in a shooting near University of California, Santa Barbara, his father blamed the pro-gun lobby’s “craven, irresponsible” politics for preventing legislation that could have saved Christopher’s life. Seven people, including the shooter, died Friday.

“Our family has a message for every parent out there: You don’t think it will happen to your child until it does,” an anguished Richard Martine told reporters. “Why did Chris die? Chris died because of craven, irresponsible politicians and the NRA. They talk about gun rights. What about Chris’s right to live? When will this insanity stop? When will enough people say: ‘Stop this madness. We don’t have to live like this?’ Too many have died. We should say to ourselves: Not one more.”

At least five lawmakers and officials have joined the anguished father’s call to confront the NRA, reviving demand for congressional action on gun violence.

More here

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Washington Post: Obama plans trip to Indian reservation, officials say

President Obama is planning to travel to a Native American reservation in North Dakota in June, a rare visit by a sitting U.S. president to Indian country, according to officials familiar with the plans.

The Obama administration has supported a series of measures to improve the welfare of Native Americans. The president has also signed the Tribal Law and Order Act to address the high crime rate in tribal communities and the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, which included a historic provision to allow the nation’s 566 federally recognized tribes to prosecute non-Indians who commit certain crimes of violence against Native women.

More here

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BBC: Nigeria army ‘knows where Boko Haram are holding girls’

The Nigerian military say they know where the girls kidnapped by Boko Haram are but they will not attempt a rescue.

Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff said it was “good news for the parents,” although he admitted the military would not risk “going there with force.”

More than 200 girls were abducted by Boko Haram gunmen from their school in northern Nigeria in April.

Earlier, the BBC learned that a deal to release some of the girls was close but was called off by the government.

More here

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@WhiteHouse: “Today, we pause to remember our fallen troops, to mourn their loss & to pray for their loved ones.” — President Obama

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UK Independent: European elections 2014: Will surge in support for far right parties bring down the EU and its governments?

So is the bloc’s implosion just a matter of time?

Hardly. Despite the blustering rhetoric from Ms Le Pen and Nigel Farage, pro-European forces still dominate the 751-seat parliament.

The centre-right European People’s Party has 213 seats in current projections, and the Socialists and Democrats group – which includes Labour MEPs – has 190 seats. Combine that with the 117 seats shared between the Liberals and the Greens, and there is a clear majority of moderates. These parties are also united in their abhorrence of the extreme right, so have extra incentive to form alliances to block the influence of the fringe parties.

Who exactly are these fringe parties that have made the gains?

More here

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On This Day

Sen. Obama greets supporter Peggy Pound of Nevada after speaking about home foreclosures at the College of Southern Nevada May 27, 2008

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President Obama waits backstage to speak at a fundraiser in Los Angeles, May 27, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama speaks at a fundraiser in Los Angeles, May 27, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama is reflected in a mirror as he speaks at a fundraiser in Los Angeles, May 27, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama sits in a pilot seat while talking with Sen. Harry Reid before speaking at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas on May 27, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama appears in front of a bank of solar panels as he speaks about using American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds to invest in solar energy May 27, 2009 at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nevada

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President Obama receives a jersey from players Brian Zoubek and Jon Scheyer of the Duke Blue Devils during a Rose Garden event May 27, 2010 at the White House

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President Obama greets veterans following a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw, Poland, May 27, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama greets community leaders and Holocaust survivors after a wreath laying ceremony at the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial in Warsaw, Poland, May 27, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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From left: First Lady Michelle Obama; Brenda Linnington, the wife of U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Michael S. Linnington, the commanding general of the Military District of Washington; Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel; Hagel’s wife, Lilibet; Deanie Dempsey; and Dempsey’s husband, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stand by as President Barack Obama, second from right, and Linnington, right, arrive for a Memorial Day wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, May 27, 2013

President Obama hugs a relative of a family member buried at section 60 in Arlington Cemetery, May 27, 2013

First Lady Michelle Obama greet visitors to Section 60 on Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery, May 27, 2013

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MoooOOOooorning! Completely ran out of time so missing lots of news – will try to catch up through the day.

26
May
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama and Vice President Biden escort Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the East Room of the White House where the President will introduce her as his nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court to replace retiring Justice David, May 26, 2009 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

9:15 AM: The President hosts a breakfast in the State Dining Room in honor of Memorial Day. The Vice President and Dr. Biden will also attend

11:0 The President and First Lady travel to Arlington National Cemetery where the President will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

11:20: The President delivers remarks

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The Week Ahead

Tuesday

The President will host the 2014 White House Science Fair and celebrate the student winners of a broad range of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) competitions from across the country. The President will also announce new steps as part of his Educate to Innovate campaign, an all-hands-on-deck effort to get more girls and boys inspired to excel and to provide the support they need to succeed in these vital subjects

Wednesday

The President travels to West Point, New York to deliver the commencement address at the United States Military Academy at West Point

Thursday

The President will host a summit at the White House on youth sports safety and concussions, where he will be joined by stakeholders, including young athletes, parents, coaches, experts, professional athletes, and military service members. At the White House Healthy Kids and Safe Sports Concussion Summit, the President will announce new commitments by both the public and private sectors to raise awareness about how to identify, treat and prevent concussions, and conduct additional research in the field of sports-related concussions that will help us better address these problems

Friday

The President will attend a hurricane preparedness meeting at FEMA Headquarters

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President Barack Obama waves as he returns from a surprise trip to Afghanistan

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Adrianna McIntyre: 21 Things Obamacare Does That You Didn’t Know About

1. Obamacare makes funds available for “training for adulthood.” True story. The law makes funds available for “personal responsibility” programs aimed at preparing young adults for being grown-ups. Per federal law, all of these programs must include efforts to educate young adults prevention of both pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Beyond that, they’re expected to touch on other “adulthood preparation subjects”, including but not limited to: financial literacy, healthy relationships, communication and interpersonal skills, educational and career success, body image, goal-setting, decision making, and stress management. 6. The law authorizes funding for grants that target postpartum depression. The Secretary of HHS is authorized to make grants available for treating individuals who have postpartum depression and psychosis (conditions that occur in women following childbirth). The law also encourages the National Institute of Mental Health to conduct long-term study from 2010-2019 on how pregnancy affects women’s mental health. This piece of the Affordable Care Act is called the Melanie Blocker Stokes CARE Act; it is named for a woman who tragically committed suicide in 2001 after suffering from postpartum depression despite three admissions to Chicago-area hospitals following her delivery.

10. Young adults who age out of the foster system at 18 receive benefits until they’re 26. Before the Affordable Care Act, states had the option — but not the requirement — of extending Medicaid coverage up to age 21 for kids who aged out of the foster system at 18. This is an incredibly vulnerable population that suffers from high rates of homelessness, poverty, and unemployment. Under reform, states have to offer these young adults Medicaid coverage until they turn 26. 13. Employers are required to provide reasonable break time for nursing mothers. Employers must provide a reasonable amount of break time — and a private place that isn’t a bathroom — for an employee to express breast milk for up to one year after giving birth. Breastfeeding the first six months, at a minimum, is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Prior to health reform, there was no federal law that protected nursing mothers; state laws on the issue tended to be very general.

More here

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Bob Small: First Memorial Day Created By Blacks Here In Hampton Park

Memorial Day may signal the beginning of the summer for many. A time for cook-outs and being with friends and family, but few know that the first widely publicized event, then called “Decoration Day”, was held in Charleston to honor the Union dead and was put together by many of the newly freed Black men and women. On May 1, 1865, more than 10,000 black freedmen and women including 3,000 children gathered at the old Race Track now known as Hampton Park track to honor dead Union soldiers who were buried there. They cleaned up the area and placed flowers on the graves of the unknown soldiers. The event was highly publicized and covered by a number of newspapers nationally. To many of the white citizens it was looked upon more as an Emancipation for the newly freed black men and women. Preachers and white northern missionaries gave speeches and thanks to those who had lost their lives in the Civil War. A war that claimed over 600,000 lives on both sides.

Charleston had been a holding place for captured Union Soldiers and at least 257 soldiers died while in the custody of Confederate soldiers. They were buried in hastily dug unmarked graves around the race track as Confederates fled the city from advancing Union troops. Northern missionaries who helped organize the events for Decoration Day participated in songs and speeches. The response by the Black population was tremendous. Freedmen came from all over the state to participate. Many feeling that the Union soldiers had given their lives for their freedom rather than to bring the seceded states back into the Union. They cleaned up the burial grounds and erected an enclosure with an arch that read, “Martyrs of the Race Course.” Many of those in attendance brought flowers to lie on the graves. For the newly freed people it was their way of honoring those who had given their lives for their beliefs and the black population’s newfound freedom.

More here

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Sahil Kapur: What Obama Can – And Cannot Do – On Immigration Reform By Executive Action

Amid fading prospects for immigration reform in Congress, President Barack Obama has signaled he’ll take executive action on enforcement to ease the burden for certain people in the country illegally who don’t have criminal records. On his order, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson is conducting a review of U.S. enforcement policies in order to determine how to implement the law in  the smartest and most humane way. One area where DHS feels confident in its authority to act is the prioritization enforcement resources, sources familiar with the matter say. Under the legal theory of “prosecutorial discretion,” the department could decide, for instance, to prioritize removal of dangerous criminals who pose serious safety threats, such as gang members, drug dealers and repeat offenders. It could in turn de-prioritize action against those who have not committed crimes, (or committed lower-level crimes like DUIs) and steer resources away from those who have family ties in the U.S. and have lived here for a certain period of time. Under this approach, undocumented immigrants would technically remain subject to deportation. They’d simply be less likely to get picked up by the system.

A second category of executive action is more contentious: to formally let certain subsets of immigrants temporarily live in the U.S. without fear of deportation and perhaps apply for employment authorization. This would build upon the Obama administration’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program which granted two-year relief to certain young people brought to the country as children, referred to as DREAMers. The Obama administration feels less comfortable with expanding DACA because the legal issues are trickier. Granting a reprieve to a narrow, specific population arguably falls within the realm of enforcement discretion. But applying it to broader populations becomes problematic and may backfire legally and politically, as some immigration law experts have cautioned. “Republicans may challenge his actions in Court saying that they constitute a violation of the Separation of Powers,” said Eli Kantor, an immigration lawyer based in Beverly Hills, California. The one thing the president certainly cannot do is grant legal status to anyone in the country without proper documentation. “That’s absolutely Congress’s authority,” Chen said. That means any executive action Obama takes would, by definition, be temporary and theoretically reversible by the next president.

More here

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NYT: Insurers Once On the Fence Plan To Join Health Exchanges In ’15

In a sign of the growing potential under the federal health care law, several insurers that have been sitting on the sidelines say they will sell policies on the new exchanges in the coming year, and others plan to expand their offerings to more states. “Insurers continue to see this as a good business opportunity,” said Larry Levitt, a health policy expert at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “They see it as an attractive market, with enrollment expected to ramp up in the second year.” Eight million people have signed up for coverage in 2014, and estimates put next year’s enrollment around 13 million.

In New Hampshire, for example, where Anthem Blue Cross is the only insurer offering individual coverage on the state exchange, two other plans, both from Massachusetts, say they intend to offer policies next year. UnitedHealth Group and Cigna, which were notable in their caution about the exchanges last year, are expected to enter more markets this year. In Washington State, United is among four new insurers that have told state regulators they are interested in offering plans in 2015.

More here

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NYT: After Revival In San Antonio, Washington Comes Calling

When Mayor Julián Castro of San Antonio and local officials traveled to Washington in 2012 to meet President Obama’s housing secretary, Shaun Donovan, the agenda was about housing policy. But for Mr. Castro, it was personal, too. The meeting was about revitalizing the Wheatley Courts public housing project on San Antonio’s impoverished Eastside, once the heart of the city’s black community. But it also hit home for Mr. Castro, who grew up near the low-rent projects in the Mexican-American barrio on the other side of town. His mother worked for the housing authority, and his father lived in the projects on the city’s Westside as a teenager. Two years after that meeting in Washington, the Eastside is now the focus of a public and private revival, fueled in part by a nearly

$30 million grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to demolish and redevelop Wheatley Courts as housing for a broader mix of incomes, including low- and moderate-income families and market-rate households. If he receives Senate confirmation, Mr. Castro, whose twin brother, Joaquin, is a Democratic congressman representing San Antonio, apparently would become the first housing secretary in the 48-year history of the position whose parents lived and worked in public housing projects. “It’s precisely because he’s lived out the American dream that he’ll work his tail off to make sure more people can travel that same path and earn their own dreams as well,” Mr. Obama said as Mr. Castro and Mr. Donovan stood next to him at the White House.

More here

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AP: Far Right, Euroskeptics Make Big Gains In EU Vote

Far-right and Euroskeptic parties made sweeping gains in European Parliament elections Sunday — triggering what one prime minister called a political “earthquake” by those who want to slash the powers of the European Union or abolish it altogether. Voters in 21 of the EU’s 28 nations went to the polls Sunday, choosing lawmakers for the bloc’s 751-seat legislature. The other seven countries in the bloc had already voted in a sprawling exercise of democracy that began Thursday in Britain and the Netherlands. One of the most significant winners was France’s far-right National Front party, which was the outright winner in France with 26 percent support— or 4.1 million votes.

“The sovereign people have spoken … acclaiming they want to take back the reins of their destiny,” party leader Marine Le Pen said in a statement. She called the results “the first step in a long march to liberty.” The National Front like other far-right parties across Europe promote anti-immigrant and often anti-Semitic policies. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, in an impassioned televised speech, called the National Front win “more than a news alert … it is a shock, an earthquake.” French President Francois Hollande’s office announced he would hold urgent talks first thing Monday with top government ministers in what French media called a crisis meeting.

More here

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Austin Frakt: Staying On Parents’ Plan May Lead To Healthier Paychecks

One of the earliest pieces of the health-care law to go into effect — and one of the easiest to understand — was the one that allowed adults under age 26 to remain on their parents’ insurance plan. It has long been clear that the policy has somewhat increased the insurance rate among young adults. Now a new study suggests the effects may be much broader, also leading to increases in educational attainment and the wages of young adults. The findings suggest that the health law has given young adults more flexibility to make decisions they think are best for them financially, rather than making decisions simply to obtain health insurance.

With coverage from their parents’ plans, they can remain in college or graduate school, rather than leaving to take a job that provides health insurance. With coverage in place, once students leave school, they can consider a broader range of jobs, including some that do not offer good health insurance or any health insurance. This finding is consistent with the academic literature on “job lock,” which has consistently shown that people who do not need to take a job with employer-based coverage have more flexibility, resulting in better employment matches with higher wages on average.

More here

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Benjamin Goad: Administration Demands Equal Education For Ilegal Immigrants

Schools cannot require students or their parents to provide Social Security numbers, birth certificates or other documentation showing citizenship status as a condition of enrollment under formal Obama administration guidance issued. The directive to all public school districts, meant to ensure equal access to education for the nation’s illegal immigrants, comes amid reports that some children have wrongfully been denied enrollment. Attorney General Eric Holder said such policies “have a chilling effect on student enrollment, raising barriers for undocumented children and children from immigrant families who seek to receive the public education to which they are entitled.” “Public school districts have an obligation to enroll students regardless of immigration status and without discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin,”

Holder said. “We will vigilantly enforce the law to ensure the schoolhouse door remains open to all.” The new guidance from the departments of Justice and Education is an update of similar guidelines issued three years ago. The mandate to provide equal education to all children stems from the Supreme Court’s 1982 Plyler vs. Doe ruling, which prohibited a school district from charging illegal immigrants extra tuition fees. The new guidance makes clear that schools may request certain documentation showing the age and address of children in order to determine whether they are eligible to enroll. But they may not ask about a child or family’s citizenship status, or deny enrollment on grounds that a student is an illegal immigrant.

More here

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Audrey Dutton: Idaho Medicaid Enrollment Climbs 

The number of people on Medicaid in Idaho rose almost 6 percent since the launch of Idaho’s health-insurance exchange last fall even though Idaho is one of the states that has not expanded Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act. The increase is sharper than usual. That’s partly because more people discovered they qualified for Medicaid during the process of shopping for health insurance to comply with the Affordable Care Act, which requires all Americans to be insured.

It’s also because Idaho is now using federal systems to check information for Medicaid renewals, making the process smoother for people already enrolled in the program, according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. “This is a positive change for Idaho, as it ensures that those who are eligible for Medicaid can maintain coverage without burdensome administrative processes that cause individuals to [lose Medicaid] unnecessarily, causing problems for families and providers,” said Tom Shanahan, spokesman for the department. He said the change also cuts down on administrative costs.

More here

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TPM: Obama Administration Will Let Veterans Seek Care At Private Hospitals

The Obama administration’s decision to allow more veterans to get care at private hospitals could take some pressure off backlogged Veterans Affairs facilities struggling to cope with new patients from the wars on terrorism as well as old soldiers from prior conflicts. Agreeing to recommendations from lawmakers, the administration said Saturday it will allow more veterans to obtain treatment at private hospitals and clinics in an effort to improve care.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki also said VA facilities are enhancing capacity of their clinics so veterans can get care sooner. In cases where officials cannot expand capacity at VA centers, the Department of Veterans Affairs is “increasing the care we acquire in the community through non-VA care,” Shinseki said. Lawmakers from both parties have pressed for this policy change as the VA confronts allegations about treatment delays and falsified records at VA centers nationwide.

More here

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Brian Beutler: Mitch McConnell’s Obamacare Spin Misleads Kentucky’s ACA Beneficiaries

Now that Mitch McConnell’s emancipated himself from the exigencies of the Republican primary process, he’ll need to figure out how to square his primary-friendly view that Obamacare should be wiped off the books with the complicating fact that over 400,000 Kentuckians obtained insurance through the Affordable Care Act over the past several months. He just took a new line of obfuscation for a test drive. Assuming it’s been accurately characterized, it’s incredibly misleading. “McConnell told reporters Friday that the fate of the state exchange is unconnected to the federal health care law,” according to the Associated Press.

“Yet the exchange would not exist, if not for the law that created it.” If McConnell successfully wipes Obamacare off the books next year (which he won’t), Kynect might not go away. But the Medicaid expansion will. And the private insurance subsidies will. And the rules allowing and requiring uninsured people of all health statuses to become customers will, too. Insurance carriers will follow. Or else they’ll replace the plans they currently offer with much less generous ones. And hundreds of thousands of people will lose their coverage anyhow.

More here

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NYT: In Russia, Tune Changes About Leader In Ukraine

Petro O. Poroshenko, the billionaire businessman who won Ukraine’s presidential election on Sunday, was portrayed last month in a bilious campaign profile on Russian television here as money-grubbing, devious, a radical sympathizer — in short, a run-of-the-mill Ukrainian politician to Russian eyes. The program on NTV, a Kremlin ally, said he owned a mansion resembling the White House, clear evidence of dangerous Western sympathies. The report mocked him as “The Chocolate Rabbit,” twisting his usual nickname, “The Chocolate King,” from his confectionary fortune.

A scientist, or at least someone wearing a white coat, materialized on screen to denounce his popular Roshen chocolate brand as riddled with carcinogens. Then as Mr. Poroshenko emerged as the front-runner, a change occurred. The attacks ceased, and his chocolate factory in southern Russia, which government police had shuttered, was allowed to operate again. President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia even mentioned the chocolates in passing on TV as edible, and, in recent days, he has said on various occasions that he would work with whatever new leadership emerges in Kiev.

More here

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Bryce Covert: Workers At This Giant Retail Company Are Really Happy With Their Pay

In an analysis of employee feedback shared on Glassdoor over the past year, just one retailer comes in the top 25 for top marks on pay and benefits: Costco. In fact, the company is ranked at number two on the list, although has the same rating — 4.4 — as the top rated company, Google. It also beats out some big tech companies, which are often thought of as paying well and giving workers good perks, like Facebook, Adobe, and Microsoft. Costco has become known for paying its workers more than is typical in the retail sector, where median pay is $10.29 an hour.

Its starting pay is $11.50 an hour and even the lowest paid positions report on Glassdoor that they make $11.80 on average. Across all positions, its average pay is nearly $22. It also offers benefits, with 88 percent of employees enrolled in company-sponsored health insurance. On top of that, it offers significant room for advancement: 70 percent of its warehouse managers, who can expect to make about $22 an hour on average, started in the company’s lower ranked positions. This engenders high levels of worker loyalty, as its turnover rate is just 5 percent for those who have been there for more than a year.

More here

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Future Obamacrats and proud of it.🙂

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On This Day

President Obama meets with Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor, the nominee to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter, and Vice President Biden, prior to an announcement in the East Room, May 26, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama embraces Sen. Harry Reid during a Las Vegas fundraiser for the senator at Caeser’s Palace, May 26, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama arrive at Stansted Airport, May 26, 2011

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The President and members of the White House staff look out the window of Air Force One to view tornado damage over Moore, Oklahoma. May 26, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama greets Gov. Mary Fallin after arriving at Tinker Air Force base in Midwest City, Sunday, May 26, 2013

President Obama tours tornado damage along a block of Eagle Drive in Moore, Okla., May 26, 2013. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, and local officials accompany him (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

 

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