(1) President Obama greets 95-year-old Lewis Coffield, a retired U.S. Army Corporal and “buffalo soldier,” at Stewart Air National Guard Base prior to departure from Newburgh, N.Y., May 28, 2014. With them is fellow “buffalo soldier” Sanders H. Matthews, Sr., 93, a retired U.S. Army Staff Sergeant (Photo by Pete Souza)
(2) First Lady Michelle Obama tours the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka, Kan., May 16, 2014. Stephanie Kyriazis, Chief of Interpretation and Education, leads the tour (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
(These two photos were neck and neck all the way, so I took the easy option and named them joint winners – so they’ll both be included in your final choice for 2014 Photo of the Year)
Your June Winner:
(3) WWII veterans greet President Obama following the 70th French-American Commemoration D-Day Ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer, France, June 6, 2014 (Photo by Pete Souza)
(1) President Obama gets a hug from Special Olympics athlete Tim Harris, from Albuquerque, N.M
(2) President Obama greets the crowd outside Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque after having dinner with individuals who had written letters to him, in Kansas City, Mo. (Photo by Pete Souza)
(3) President Obama holds the baby daughter of former staff members Darienne Page Rakestraw and London Rakestraw in the Ground Floor Corridor of the White House (Photo by Pete Souza)
(4) President Obama greets audience members after he delivers remarks on the economy at the Paramount Theatre in Austin, Texas (Photo by Pete Souza)
(5) President Obama greets patrons at Canter’s Delicatessen in Los Angeles, Calif. (Photo by Pete Souza)
(6) First Lady Michelle Obama and Jennifer Lopez pose for a selfie before the 85th Annual League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) National Convention and Exposition in New York, N.Y. (Photo by Amanda Lucidon)
(7) President Obama talks with a little girl at the Charcoal Pit restaurant in Wilmington, Del. (Photo by Pete Souza)
(8) President Obama greets Emmitt and Pat Smith and family, and Team 22 on the Rose Garden steps of the White House (Photo by Pete Souza)
(9) President Obama talks with a young girl as he and the First Lady greeted military personnel and their families during the Fourth of July celebration on the South Lawn of the White House (Photo by Pete Souza)
(10) President Obama greets the family of departing staff member Archana Snyder, Council of Economic Advisers, in the Outer Oval Office (Photo by Pete Souza)
(1) President Obama during a statement on the situation in Ferguson, Missouri and Iraq (Photo by Doug Mills)
On This Day: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama watch the fireworks over the National Mall from the roof of the White House, July 4, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Today (All Times Eastern)
11:0: The President speaks at a naturalization ceremony for active-duty service members and civilians
6:0: The President and First Lady attend the “Salute to the Military” July 4th celebration at the White House; the President delivers remarks
8:10: USO concert for troops and military families featuring recording artist Pitbull
9:10: Fireworks show on the National Mall
David Horsey: Unsung Civil Rights Heroes Fought And Died For Our Freedom
On the Fourth of July, as on all national holidays, we are encouraged to think about the men and women who have fought and died for our freedoms; the likes of Washington, Lincoln and all the soldiers who have fought in our wars. This standard roster of heroes is venerable, but it is far from complete. … in 1955, a weary black woman refused to give up the seat she had taken in the white section of a bus in Montgomery, Ala. In 1957, one lone black girl walked into Little Rock’s Central High School amid the jeers of a furious mob.
In 1958, a few young blacks sat down at the whites-only counter at the Dockum Drug Store in Wichita, Kan., and refused to leave. In 1961…. …. Rosa Parks, John Lewis, James Meredith, Fannie Lou Hamer, Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, Medgar Evers and so many others showed bravery as great as that of any soldier. They stood firm, sacrificed and, in many cases, died for our freedom. This Independence Day, think of them and stand in awe.
As we celebrate the Fourth of July, who can argue that our democracy is working the way the Founders intended? And who can deny that most of the blame for dysfunction must fall to the Republican Party? … Whatever the motivation, Republicans have paralyzed our government in a way that would have shocked and depressed the Founders. Compounding the outrage, Republicans have the temerity to criticize Obama for using his executive powers in the national interest. This is dangerously close to nihilism.
Think about this for a moment. Urgently needed legislation has been passed by the Senate, is supported by the president and has enough votes in the House. Yet it goes nowhere, as chaos on the border worsens and thousands of children remain in limbo. Is this what the Founders had in mind? Today’s Republican Party opposes the Affordable Care Act, so it refuses to work with the Obama administration in legislating technical fixes that would make the law work more smoothly. Is this in any sense patriotic? the GOP cares more about ideology, reelection and opposing Obama’s every initiative than about the well-being of the nation. It is scant comfort, on Independence Day, to remember that the republic has survived worse.
Danny Vinik: Recovery Summer May Finally Have Arrived Finally, A Jobs Report Routs Expectations
For the past few years, it was like clockwork: A disappointing summer of job growth would give way to a much stronger winter. Economists would hesitantly forecast that the economy was about to kick into second gear. Then the summer would come and the disappointing data would return. But finally, it looks like we are ready to break that trend: The economy added 288,000 jobs in June, soundly beating economists’ expectations of 211,000, and the unemployment rate fell to 6.1 percent.
… Consumers, businesses and investors are all showing renewed confidence in the economy. On Monday, pending home sales hit a four-year high. Automakers also reported surprisingly high sales. Many economists even expect wage growth in the second half of the year. The June jobs report only adds further support for the recovery summer. … There are few commentators on Twitter who parse the jobs report better than economist Justin Wolfers. In recent years, it was often him who urged caution as the economy picked up in the winter and would shoot down any reporters showing too much optimism. But even he couldn’t find anything to be pessimistic about in this jobs report:
There is simply no bad news in this jobs report. Go on, dig into the detail, and see if you can find it. I dare you.
NYT: Hiring Is Strong And Jobless Rate Declines To 6.1%
American companies are finally getting comfortable enough with the economy’s prospects to add new workers at a very healthy pace, after years of saying they lacked the confidence to hire people aggressively during a fitful recovery. Employers added 288,000 jobs in June, the Labor Department said Thursday, the fifth month in a row that hiring has topped the 200,000 mark. The unemployment rate dipped to 6.1 percent last month, the best reading since September 2008, when the collapse of Lehman Brothers turned what had been a mild recession into an economic rout. Factoring in June’s increase and upward revisions for estimated hiring in April and May, employers added an average of 231,000 workers a month in the first half of 2014, the best six-month run since the spring of 2006. “We’re clicking on all cylinders in terms of job growth,” said Dean Maki, chief United States economist at Barclays. Just as significant as the headline figures,
Mr. Maki said, is that June’s hiring was broad-based, as industries as varied as health care, manufacturing, financial services and retailing all added workers. “Every major sector showed job growth in June, including the private service sector, where the bulk of jobs in the U.S. are created,” Mr. Maki said. In an important turnabout, there were encouraging gains not just in well-paid white-collar professions, or in low-wage sectors like retail and restaurants, but also in the vast middle tier of jobs that enable workers to gain a foothold in the middle class. For example, manufacturers hired 16,000 workers, while transportation companies added 17,000 employees and the long-dormant public sector saw an addition of 26,000 positions.
Sally Kohn: Hobby Lobby: Sex, Lies, And Craft Supplies
“Birth control is cheap.” Hobby Lobby was about four forms of contraception that are not cheap (PDF). Plan B costs $35 to $60. Ella costs around $55. An IUD costs anywhere from $500 to $1,000. As the Notorious RBG (known to some as Ruth Bader Ginsburg) pointed out in her scathing 35-page dissent, “the cost of an IUD is nearly equivalent to a month’s full-time pay for workers earning the minimum wage.” Similarly, for someone making $7 an hour — even if she’s lucky enough to get 40 hours of shifts in a week, which is rare — the cost of Plan B or Ella is roughly 10 percent of her take-home pay before taxes.
“Whatever, Hobby Lobby still covers 14 other kinds of contraception.” Funny thing, it actually provided all 20 until the lawyers behind the Hobby Lobby case contacted the company to see if they wanted to file suit. It was only then that the company discovered its insurance plan covered Plan B, and the two IUDs at issue—and then stopped covering them. And then Hobby Lobby sued the government for making it do something that up until that moment it had been doing on its own. Even today, Hobby Lobby’s 401(k) plan still invests not only in the manufacturers of these forms of birth control but also companies that make drugs used in medical abortions.
Irin Carmon: Female Justices Issue Searing Dissent Over New Contraceptive Case
The fierce disagreements dividing the Supreme Court over this week’s Hobby Lobby decision were laid bare Thursday in a searing dissent from Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who said the Justices’ decision in a separate contraceptive case “undermines confidence in this institution.” The dissent was signed by all three female Justices. The dissent was in an order to grant an emergency request from Wheaton College, an evangelical college in Illinois. At issue is the “accommodation” the Obama administration worked out for religiously-identified non-profits: Sign a form certifying your objection, and the insurer will provide the coverage directly, without the objecting organization having to pay.
As of now, 122 non-profits have sued, claiming that signing the opt-out form for someone to get contraception violates their religious liberty. “Let me be absolutely clear: I do not doubt that Wheaton genuinely believes that signing the self-certification form is contrary to its religious beliefs,” Sotomayor wrote. “But thinking one’s religious beliefs are substantially burdened … does not make it so.” She added, “Not every sincerely felt ‘burden’ is a ‘substantial’ one, and it is for courts, not litigants, to identify which are.”
Jeanna Smialek: Trade Gap In U.S. Shrinks More Than Forecast On Record Exports
The trade deficit in the U.S. narrowed more than forecast in May on record exports, signaling a pickup in global growth that will boost American manufacturers. The gap shrank by 5.6 percent, the biggest drop since November, to $44.4 billion from the prior month’s $47 billion, Commerce Department figures showed today in Washington. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of 69 economists called for a contraction to $45 billion.
Sales to foreign customers climbed 1 percent on growing demand for autos and parts, petroleum products and aircraft engines. Economic expansions abroad that are gaining traction will probably continue to invigorate demand for American goods. A narrowing deficit would mean trade becomes less of a drag on gross domestic product in the second quarter after the world’s largest economy contracted in the first three months of 2014.
Lucia Graves: One Big Thing Everyone Is Missing In Hobby Lobby
The ruling is not just about sex, it’s about health. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in her scathing dissent of the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in the Hobby Lobby case this week, made an important point about women’s health that’s been almost entirely overlooked elsewhere: For many American women, the birth-control pill has nothing to do with controlling births. It’s a life-saving medicine. “The coverage helps safeguard the health of women for whom pregnancy may be hazardous, even life-threatening,” wrote Ginsburg. “And the mandate secures benefits wholly unrelated to pregnancy, preventing certain cancers, menstrual disorders, and pelvic pain.”
The decision, which found that closely held corporations may refuse for religious reasons to cover contraceptives in their health plans, may affect millions of women who suffer from a variety of medical conditions. These women depend on the pill to regulate their hormones and do everything from ease pain to reduce the risk of cancer. These medical benefits have nothing to do with sex or the prevention of pregnancy, which have become the sole focus of political debate around the decision. Even if these women never have sex once in their lives, they need to be on birth control.
ThinkProgress: Missouri Governor Vetoes 72-Hour Abortion Waiting Period: ‘This Is Insulting To Women’
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) rejected a measure on Wednesday that would have required women to wait three full days before being allowed to have an abortion procedure. His veto prevents Missouri from joining Utah and South Dakota, which are the only two states in the nation that currently have a 72-hour abortion waiting period on the books. But on Wednesday, Nixon explained that he couldn’t approve the bill because it’s unnecessary in light of his state’s existing 24-hour waiting period. “Lengthening the already extensive waiting period serves no demonstrable purpose other than to create emotional and financial hardships for women who have undoubtedly already spent considerable time wrestling with perhaps the most difficult decision they may ever have to make,” the governor said in a statement.
“Expanding the mandatory waiting period presupposes that women are unable to make up their own minds without further government intervention. This is insulting to women, particularly in light of what the law already requires.” Nixon also pointed out the measure demonstrates a “callous disregard” for women’s well being by failing to include an exception for victims of rape and incest — which means that women who become pregnant through those crimes would be put through a potentially emotionally damaging wait before they’re allowed to end the pregnancy. “It victimizes these women by prolonging their grief and their nightmare,” the governor noted.
Yahoo: Putin Tells Obama He Wants Better Ties, Equal Treatment
President Vladimir Putin called for an improvement in ties between Russia and the United States on Friday in an Independence Day message to Barack Obama, urging Washington to treat Moscow as an equal partner. Relations between the two presidents and countries are at a low ebb following disagreements over the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, and over human rights, democracy and defence matters.
“The head of the Russian state expressed hope that … ties between the two countries will develop successfully on the basis of pragmatism and equality despite difficulties and disagreements,” the Kremlin said in a statement, outlining a telegram sent to Obama on the July 4 holiday. “Vladimir Putin also highlighted that Russia and the United States, as countries carrying exceptional responsibility for safeguarding international stability and security, should cooperate not only in the interests of their own nations but also the whole world.”
Senator Obama laughs with Sasha before speaking at a campaign stop in Des Moines, Iowa on July 4, 2007
Senator Obama hugs Malia as they watch a Fourth of July parade in Butte, Mont., July 4, 2008
President Obama kisses a baby while greeting military families at the White House on July 4, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet military families at the White House on July 4, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama watch the fireworks over the National Mall from the White House on July 4, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama pretend to march to music in the Blue Room of the White House, July 4, 2010, before delivering remarks to military families during a Fourth of July celebration (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama greets military families gathered for July 4th festivities on the South Lawn of the White House on July 4, 2010
President Obama greets guests during the Fourth of July celebration on the South Lawn of the White House, July 4, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
A young girl salutes President Obama as he shakes hands along a ropeline with members of the military and their families during the Fourth of July celebration on the South Lawn of the White House, July 4, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama watch fireworks from the roof of the White House, July 4, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama holds a baby while greeting guests during an Independence Day celebration on the South Lawn of the White House, July 4, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama watch from the White House roof as fireworks erupt over the National Mall, July 4, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama holds a baby as he greets members of the military and their families during a Fourth of July celebration on the White House’s South Lawn, July 4, 2013
President Barack Obama feels the hair of a youngster as he greets staff and their family members at the U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, July 2, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
First Lady Michelle Obama greets children during a visit to Sterling Farms Grocery Store in Marrero, Louisiana, July 23, 2013. The store was opened last year by actor Wendell Pierce as part of the “Alliance For A Healthier Generation.” (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden lay a wreath with Tara Gandhi Bhattacharjee, granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi, and Amb. Nancy Powell, left, at the Martyr’s Column at the Gandhi Smriti Museum in New Delhi, India, July 22, 2013. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)
President Barack Obama talks with departing staff member Ruchi Bhowmik and her family in the Oval Office, July 12, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
President Barack Obama listens to Vice President Joe Biden following a meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang and State Councilor Yang Jiechi on the margins of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, in the Oval Office, July 11, 2013. Standing with them from left are: U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke; Caroline Atkinson, Special Assistant to the President for International Economic Affairs; National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling; Deputy Secretary Bill Burns; National Security Advisor Susan Rice; Treasury Secretary Jack Lew; Danny Russel, Senior Director for Asian Affairs; and Evan Medeiros, Director for China, Taiwan, and Mongolia Affairs. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama visits with Make-A-Wish child Suhail Zaveri, 14, from Anaheim, Calif., in the Oval Office, July 16, 2013. Accompanying Suhail are his parents, Sandeep and Asmi Zaveri, and younger brother Arsh Zaveri. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama greets line workers at the Amazon fulfillment center in Chattanooga, Tennessee, July 30, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
President Barack Obama presents Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., with a birthday cupcake aboard Air Force One, July 24, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama greets young reporters at the Kids’ State Dinner in the East Room of the White House, July 9, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
On a day like today, the realities of this country’s past, who we are, and where we are headed must not be forgotten. This is a powerful piece. I encourage you take the time to read it, in its entirety.
Goldie Taylor: Growing up in East St. Louis, the Fourth of July holidays hold some of my fondest memories. My cousin Booky and I woke at daybreak to help my Uncle Ross clean the grill and get a first crack at the box of fireworks. When Aunt Gerry wasn’t looking, he’d sneak us a few boxes of sparklers and a book of matches he knew we weren’t supposed to have. Booky, a crafty Svengali, always managed to come up with a cache of forbidden bottle rockets.
Uncle Ross placed the large American flag into a metal bracket affixed to a freshly-painted white column on our front porch. He was proud of that flag, proud of his Army, proud to have served his country in the Korean War. Back in 1976, we were brown, small and indifferent to the world swirling around us. Unbeknownst to us, we were living history too, the children of the Great Migration. Our grandparents had joined the movement of six million African-Americans out of the rural South, in search of good paying jobs, housing and a basic fairness they had never known. My mother’s family had come north from Tunica, Mississippi, my father’s family from tiny Spadra, Arkansas. Some took jobs in factories, others as domestic workers. But that was everybody’s story. It wasn’t unusual for somebody’s cousin to be visiting from “down South.”
We were 134 years beyond the Declaration of Independence when the migration began around 1910. However, it had to be abundantly clear to my grandparents that despite the passage of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, rights on paper did not always equate to rights in practice. Today, East St. Louis is nearly 98 percent black, largely impoverished and mostly forgotten. It is no longer useful to measure how many students don’t graduate from high school. Many do not reach the 9th grade. The cycle of poverty begins and is perpetuated in the halls of a junior high school. That Fourth of July night in 1976, Grandma Alice and I sat at the windowsill in her upper room, listening to the Cardinal game on a transistor radio, then watching the fireworks over Busch Stadium. “What kind of free is this?” she said, stroking my head. “What kind of free is this, child?”