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Weekly Address: Pass the USA Freedom Act

WASHINGTON, DC — In this week's address, the President addressed critical pieces of national security business that remained unfinished when the Senate left town. This Sunday at midnight, key tools used to protect against terrorist threats are set to expire. The USA Freedom Act strikes a balance between security and privacy, reauthorizing important measures that give our national security professionals the authorities they use to keep us safe, while also implementing reforms that enhance the privacy and civil liberties of our citizens. But currently, a small group of senators is standing in its way. The President asked Americans to speak with one voice to the Senate to put politics aside, put the safety of the American people first, and pass the USA Freedom Act now.


The audio of the address and video of the address will be available online at at 6:00 a.m. ET, May 30, 2015.


Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
May 30, 2015 

Hi, everybody. As President and Commander in Chief, my greatest responsibility is the safety of the American people. And in our fight against terrorists, we need to use every effective tool at our disposal -- both to defend our security and to protect the freedoms and civil liberties enshrined in our Constitution.

But tomorrow -- Sunday, at midnight -- some important tools we use against terrorists will expire. That’s because Congress has not renewed them, and because legislation that would -- the USA Freedom Act -- is stuck in the Senate. I want to be very clear about what this means.

Today, when investigating terrorist networks, our national security professionals can seek a court order to obtain certain business records. Our law enforcement professionals can seek a roving wiretap to keep up with terrorists when they switch cell phones. We can seek a wiretap on so-called lone wolves -- suspected terrorists who may not be directly tied to a terrorist group. These tools are not controversial. Since 9/11, they have been renewed numerous times. FBI Director James Comey says they are “essential” and that losing them would “severely” impact terrorism investigations. But if Congress doesn’t act by tomorrow at midnight, these tools go away as well.

The USA Freedom Act also accomplishes something I called for a year and a half ago: it ends the bulk metadata program -- the bulk collection of phone records -- as it currently exists and puts in place new reforms. The government will no longer hold these records; telephone providers will. The Act also includes other changes to our surveillance laws -- including more transparency -- to help build confidence among the American people that your privacy and civil liberties are being protected. But if Congress doesn’t act by midnight tomorrow, these reforms will be in jeopardy, too.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The USA Freedom Act reflects ideas from privacy advocates, our private sector partners and our national security experts. It already passed the House of Representatives with overwhelming bipartisan support -- Republicans and Democrats. A majority of the Senate -- Republicans and Democrats -- have voted to move it forward.

So what’s the problem? A small group of senators is standing in the way. And, unfortunately, some folks are trying to use this debate to score political points. But this shouldn’t and can't be about politics. This is a matter of national security. Terrorists like al Qaeda and ISIL aren’t suddenly going to stop plotting against us at midnight tomorrow. And we shouldn’t surrender the tools that help keep us safe. It would be irresponsible. It would be reckless. And we shouldn’t allow it to happen.

So today, I’m calling on Americans to join me in speaking with one voice to the Senate. Put the politics aside. Put our national security first. Pass the USA Freedom Act -- now. And let’s protect the security and civil liberties of every American. Thanks very much.

Presidential Proclamation-- National Oceans Month, 2015


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This summer, millions of Americans will take in the beauty and natural splendor of our oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes.  As destinations for recreation and tourism, these bodies of water rejuvenate our spirit and cultivate a love of our great outdoors.  And no matter where you live or who you are, a healthy and thriving ocean is essential to all people all year.  Our marine environments contribute to our food supply, bolster our economy, strengthen our national defense, and support important scientific research and innovation.  They are some of humanity's greatest treasures and central to who we are as a people.  During National Oceans Month, we celebrate these lifesustaining ecosystems, and we reaffirm our vital role as stewards of our planet.

Ensuring the long-term health, resilience, and productivity of our marine environments requires us to act to protect and preserve them in the face of a range of threats.  Climate change is causing sea levels and ocean temperatures to rise, and these effects can harm coral reefs and force certain species to migrate.  Carbon pollution is being absorbed by our oceans, causing them to acidify and changing entire ecosystems.  And illegal fishing continues to threaten our global and economic security, as well as the sustainability of our world's fisheries.

My Administration is committed to doing all we can to combat these threats and leave our children and grandchildren clean and vibrant oceans.  As part of my National Ocean Policy, we are creating a coordinated, science-based approach to managing our coasts and oceans, and we are focused on implementing specific, on-the-ground actions to improve our ocean economy and bolster ocean health.  We continue to make meaningful progress toward ending overfishing, and the Federal Government is partnering with State, local, and tribal leaders to promote marine conservation.  As President, I continue to use my authority to preserve our most precious ecosystems, including last year when I expanded the largest marine reserve in the world -- ensuring more of our pristine tropical marine environments are off limits to commercial resource extraction.

We are heirs to a vast expanse of oceans and waterways that have sustained our ancestors for centuries.  As caretakers of our planet, we share an obligation to protect these magnificent ecosystems for generations to come.  This month, let us work to do our part and recommit to leading the way toward a safer, cleaner, more stable world.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2015 as National Oceans Month.  I call upon Americans to take action to protect, conserve, and restore our oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes. 

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-ninth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand fifteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-ninth.



Presidential Proclamation - Great Outdoors Month, 2015


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America's vast and varied landscapes have always been central to the character of our Nation and the story of our people.  Their rugged beauty reflects our national history and heritage -- as pioneers who forged new paths and explorers who dared to venture into the unknown -- and continues to inspire new generations of outdoor enthusiasts.  Our mountains and rivers are part of who we are, and they are the birthright of all our people.  Today, one-third of all our Nation's land is publicly owned and set aside for the use and enjoyment of every American.  These are the places that make our country great, and as heirs to this extraordinary legacy of conservation, we have an obligation to make sure our children and grandchildren can enjoy the everlasting bounty of the great outdoors.

Our Nation's public lands and waters fuel our economy and support our industries.  Home to living laboratories and wondrous playgrounds, they spark boundless curiosity and innovation, and in the desolate wilderness, adventurers rediscover the spirit of independence that unites all Americans.  As President, I am committed to ensuring every child in America -- regardless of who they are or where they live -- has the opportunity to explore these treasured spaces.  That is why earlier this year I launched the Every Kid in a Park initiative, which will provide all fourth graders and their families with free admission to our National Parks and other Federal lands and waters for a full year.  And I invite all Americans to "Find Your Park" and celebrate some of the most beautiful landscapes and waterscapes in the world.

As a Nation, we must work to safeguard nature's splendor for generations to come.  Climate change threatens our lands and waters, as well as the health and well-being of future generations.  That is why my Administration has taken commonsense actions to combat climate change, ensure the resilience of our natural resources, and protect our children.  I am proud to have protected more than 260 million additional acres of public lands and waters -- more than any other President -- which includes the establishment or expansion of 16 National Monuments through my Executive authority.  For more than a half-century, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has helped to protect these iconic places and make it easier for families to spend time outside.  The Fund has advanced over 40,000 local projects by making critical investments, including in battlefields, National Parks, baseball fields, and community green spaces, and I continue to call for the full and permanent funding of this vital tool of environmental stewardship.

During Great Outdoors Month, Governors, communities, business leaders, and organizations will host thousands of events across the country to celebrate our unparalleled outdoors.  I encourage Americans to participate in these activities and to take the time to experience the natural grandeur of our Nation.  As we enjoy these magnificent places, let us rededicate ourselves to doing our part to preserve them for all our future explorers, adventurers, and environmental stewards.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2015 as Great Outdoors Month.  I urge all Americans to explore the great outdoors and to uphold our Nation's legacy of conserving our lands and waters.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-ninth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand fifteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-ninth.



Presidential Proclamation-- LGBT Pride Month, 2015


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From the moment our Nation first came together to declare the fundamental truth that all men are created equal, courageous and dedicated patriots have fought to refine our founding promise and broaden democracy's reach.  Over the course of more than two centuries of striving and sacrifice, our country has expanded civil rights and enshrined equal protections into our Constitution.  Through struggle and setback, we see a common trajectory toward a more free and just society.  But we are also reminded that we are not truly equal until every person is afforded the same rights and opportunities -- that when one of us experiences discrimination, it affects all of us -- and that our journey is not complete until our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law.

Across our Nation, tremendous progress has been won by determined individuals who stood up, spoke out, and shared their stories.  Earlier this year, because of my landmark Executive Order on LGBT workplace discrimination, protections for Federal contractors went into effect, guarding against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  The Federal Government is now leading by example, ensuring that our employees and contractors are judged by the quality of their work, not by who they love.  And I will keep calling on the Congress to pass legislation so that all Americans are covered by these protections, no matter where they work.

In communities throughout the country, barriers that limit the potential of LGBT Americans have been torn down, but too many individuals continue to encounter discrimination and unfair treatment.  My Administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors because the overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrates that it can cause substantial harm.  We understand the unique challenges faced by sexual and gender minorities -- especially transgender and gender non-conforming individuals -- and are taking steps to address them.  And we recognize that families come in many shapes and sizes.  Whether biological, foster, or adoptive, family acceptance is an important protective factor against suicide and harm for LGBTQ youth, and mental health experts have created resources to support family communication and involvement.

For countless young people, it is not enough to simply say it gets better; we must take action too.  We continue to address bullying and harassment in our classrooms, ensuring every student has a nurturing environment in which to learn and grow. Across the Federal Government, we are working every day to unlock the opportunities all LGBT individuals deserve and the resources and care they need.  Too many LGBTQ youth face homelessness and too many older individuals struggle to find welcoming and affordable housing; that is why my Administration is striving to ensure they have equal access to safe and supportive housing throughout life.  We are updating our National HIV/AIDS Strategy to better address the disproportionate burden HIV has on communities of gay and bisexual men and transgender women.  We continue to extend family and spousal benefits to legally married same-sex couples.  And because we know LGBT rights are human rights, we are championing protections and support for LGBT persons around the world.

All people deserve to live with dignity and respect, free from fear and violence, and protected against discrimination, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation. During Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, we celebrate the proud legacy LGBT individuals have woven into the fabric of our Nation, we honor those who have fought to perfect our Union, and we continue our work to build a society where every child grows up knowing that their country supports them, is proud of them, and has a place for them exactly as they are.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2015 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month.  I call upon the people of the United States to eliminate prejudice everywhere it exists, and to celebrate the great diversity of the American people.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-ninth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand fifteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-ninth.



President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals to key Administration posts:

  • Marie Therese Dominguez – Administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, Department of Transportation
  • Sarah Feinberg – Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, Department of Transportation

President Obama also announced his intent to appoint the following individuals to key Administration posts:

  • Rebecca Richards-Kortum – Member, President’s Committee on the National Medal of Science
  • Andrew Viterbi – Member, President’s Committee on the National Medal of Science  

President Obama said, “It gives me great confidence that such dedicated and capable individuals will serve the American people as part of this Administration.  I look forward to working with them.”

President Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individuals to key Administration posts:

Marie Therese Dominguez, Nominee for Administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, Department of Transportation
Marie Therese Dominguez serves as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works at the Department of Defense, a position she has held since 2013.  Prior to this position, she served as Vice President for Government Relations and Public Policy for the United States Postal Service from 2007 to 2013.  From 2004 to 2007, Ms. Dominguez was a Partner at Fieldworks, LLC and from 2006 to 2007, she was Senior Advisor to Governor Mark Warner at Forward Together PAC.  Prior to that role, she was the Director of Human Capital and Performance at Resource Consultants, Inc. from 2001 to 2004.  From 2000 to 2001, Ms. Dominguez served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works at DOD.  Previously, she served as the Deputy Chief of Staff and Counsel for the Federal Aviation Administration at the Department of Transportation from 1998 to 2000.  From 1997 to 1998, Ms. Dominguez served as Special Assistant to the President and Associate Director of Presidential Personnel at the White House.  Previously, she was Special Assistant to a Member of the National Transportation Safety Board from 1996 to 1997.  Ms. Dominguez received a B.A. from Smith College and a J.D. from Villanova University School of Law.
Sarah Feinberg, Nominee for Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, Department of Transportation
Sarah Feinberg serves as the Deputy Administrator and Acting Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration at the Department of Transportation (DOT), positions she has held since January 2015.  Prior to this role, she was Chief of Staff at DOT from 2013 to 2014.  From 2011 to 2013, Ms. Feinberg was the Policy and Crisis Communications Director at Facebook.  She was the Director of Global Communications and Business Strategy at Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Government from 2010 to 2011.  From 2008 to 2010, Ms. Feinberg served as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Advisor to the Chief of Staff at the White House.  Before that, she was the Communications Director for the House Democratic Caucus and Chairman Rahm Emanuel from 2007 to 2008.  From 2005 to 2006, Ms. Feinberg served as the National Press Secretary at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and as the National/Leadership Press Secretary in the Office of Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle from 2003 to 2004.  She also previously served as the Deputy Director of the Senate Democratic Communications Committee.  Ms. Feinberg received a B.A. from Washington and Lee University.

President Obama announced his intent to appoint the following individuals to key Administration posts:

Dr. Rebecca Richards-Kortum, Appointee for Member, President’s Committee on the National Medal of Science
Dr. Rebecca Richards-Kortum is the Stanley C. Moore Professor of Bioengineering and Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Rice University, positions she has held since 2005.  Dr. Richards-Kortum has been Director of Rice 360°: Institute for Global Health Technologies since 2007, Director of the Institute of Biosciences and Bioengineering since 2014, and Founder of Beyond Traditional Borders since 2006.  She was named a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor in 2002 and 2006.  Dr. Richards-Kortum is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  She is a past member of the National Academies Committee on Conceptual Framework for New Science Education Standards and was an inaugural member of the National Advisory Council for Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering for the National Institutes of Health.  Dr. Richards-Kortum is a fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Biomedical Engineering Society, the Optical Society of America, and the National Academy of Inventors.  She is the recipient of the Sharon Keillor Award for Women in Engineering Education, the Presidential Young Investigator and Presidential Faculty Fellow awards from the National Science Foundation, and the Chester F. Carlson Award from the American Society for Engineering Education.  Dr. Richards-Kortum received a B.S. from University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and an M.S. and Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Dr. Andrew Viterbi, Appointee for Member, President’s Committee on the National Medal of Science
Dr. Andrew Viterbi is Presidential Chair in the Department of Electrical Engineering at the University of Southern California’s Viterbi School of Engineering, a position he has held since 2004.  He is also President of the advisory and investment firm The Viterbi Group, LLC, a position he has held since 2000.  Dr. Viterbi held various positions at Qualcomm Incorporated, which he co-founded in 1985, including Vice Chairman from 1985 to 2000 and Chief Technical Officer from 1985 to 1996.  He co-founded LINKABIT Corporation in 1968 and served as President from 1980 to 1983 and Executive Vice President from 1969 to 1980.  Dr. Viterbi was a Professor at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Engineering and Applied Science from 1963 to 1973.  He published the Viterbi algorithm in 1967.  Dr. Viterbi is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and served on the President’s Information Technology Advisory Committee from 1997 to 2001.  He is a member of the Board of Trustees of the University of Southern California.  He has received numerous awards which include: the John Fritz Medal in 2011, the IEEE Medal of Honor in 2010, the National Medal of Science in 2007, and the Franklin Medal for Electrical Engineering in 2005.  Dr. Viterbi received an S.B. and S.M. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. from the University of Southern California.

Presidential Proclamation - National Caribbean-American Heritage Month, 2015


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For centuries, Americans have been united with our Caribbean neighbors not just by friendship and economic cooperation, but also by our common values and ties of kin.  From a region of extraordinary beauty, generations of immigrants have brought their enormous spirit, unique talents, and vibrant culture to the United States.  Their contributions have enriched our Nation and strengthened the deep bonds between our peoples.  This month, we celebrate the Caribbean Americans whose legacies are woven into the fabric of our Nation, and we reaffirm our belief that throughout the region, we all share a stake in one another's success.

As partners, our nations have reached for progress together, and in our diverse cultures and complex histories, we see a common trajectory toward a more free, equal, and prosperous community.  Throughout the Caribbean, courageous peoples have thrown off the yoke of colonial rule, seizing the right to chart their own destinies, and they have overcome the stains of slavery and segregation to widen the circle of opportunity for all.  Here in America, Caribbean Americans have followed in the footsteps of their ancestors, joining their voices with the chorus of patriots and carrying forward the baton of justice -- from the battlefield and the outfield, in places like Selma and Seneca Falls, and through powerful song, poetry, and prose.

Just as our nations' pasts are shared, our futures are inextricably linked.  As millions of Caribbean Americans continue to innovate and thrive in the United States, my Administration is committed to lifting up hardworking individuals throughout the Caribbean and partnering with governments to build the foundation for the next century of progress and prosperity.  We are investing in young business leaders and civil society activists, working to expand what is possible for the next generation of Caribbean leaders, and supporting entrepreneurship, student exchanges, and more effective job training.  With new partnerships, we are helping to move the region toward cleaner, more affordable energy.  And as the United States begins to normalize our relations with Cuba, we have the potential to empower a nation and end a legacy of mistrust in our hemisphere.

America is and always has been a Nation of immigrants, and today -- as pillars of family and leaders in their communities -- Caribbean Americans strengthen every aspect of our society.  We must ensure our Nation remains a magnet for the best and the brightest around the world.  Because of my 2012 DACA policy, thousands of DREAMers from the Caribbean have been able to live up to their potential, and last year, I announced my intent to take action that would allow more high-skilled immigrants, graduates, entrepreneurs, and families to contribute to our economy, including by expanding the existing DACA policy and creating a new policy to provide temporary relief to certain undocumented parents of American citizens and lawful permanent residents.  And I continue to call on the Congress to finish the job by passing comprehensive immigration reform.

Caribbean Americans have shaped the course of our country since the earliest chapters of our history, and they continue to drive our Nation to realize the promise of our founding.  During National Caribbean-American Heritage Month, we honor the courage and perseverance of the Caribbean-American community, and we rededicate ourselves to building opportunity and protecting human rights for all our citizens.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2015 as National Caribbean-American Heritage Month.  I encourage all Americans to celebrate the history and culture of Caribbean Americans with appropriate ceremonies and activities. 

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-ninth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand fifteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-ninth.



Presidential Proclamation - African-American Music Appreciation Month, 2015


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For centuries, African-American musicians have shaped our Nation and helped tell our story.  By melding enduring truths with new sounds, they have pioneered entire genres and contributed to the foundation of our musical landscape -- capturing an essential part of who we are as Americans.  During African-American Music Appreciation Month, we recognize the artists who have enriched our lives and the ways their beats and harmonies have advanced our unending journey toward a more perfect Union.
With all the energy and diversity of our great Nation, the stirring sounds of the American experience have expanded our minds and lifted our souls, helping us better understand ourselves and one another.  When the tides of injustice and hardship have seemed too great, melodies of hope have given us strength, and in moments of joy, powerful songs speak to the audacity that fuels our dreams.  Through momentous change -- above the jangling discord of a people determined to write their own destiny and the consonance of great progress -- our music has remained a constant source of inspiration, bringing us together and empowering us to reach for what we know is possible.
By honoring the timeless sounds that define our past and help transform our future, we celebrate not only the musicians who move us, but also the spirit of resilience and renewal they embody.  This month, let us remember the essential role music plays in breaking the barriers of our time and guiding us toward a more inclusive and more equal tomorrow.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2015 as African-American Music Appreciation Month.  I call upon public officials, educators, and all the people of the United States to observe this month with appropriate activities and programs that raise awareness and foster appreciation of music that is composed, arranged, or performed by African Americans.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-ninth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand fifteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-ninth.


Press Gaggle by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz en route Joint Base Andrews, 5/28/2015

Aboard Air Force One
En Route Joint Base Andrews

 *Please see below for a correction, marked with an asterisk.

3:02 P.M. EDT

MR. SCHULTZ:  Good afternoon, everyone.  Welcome aboard Air Force One en route back to Washington, back from Miami where the President had a really worthwhile day touring the National Hurricane Center, discussing climate change, and then as you saw, spending a few minutes online, on Twitter, taking questions.  The President very much enjoyed that activity this afternoon, and then stopping by the shrine on the way to the airport.  But with that, I will take your questions.
Q    On Cuba -- tomorrow is the day that Cuba is supposed to be released from the state sponsors of terrorism list.  How close are the U.S. and Cuba to announcing that they’ll be opening -- or reopening embassies in each other’s countries?
 MR. SCHULTZ:  Darlene, our two governments continue to discuss the reestablishment of diplomatic relations and opening embassies in Havana, including different matters that relate to how our embassies will operate.
As you know, there was a round of talks last week at the State Department, led by Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Roberta Jacobson.  The State Department released that those talks were productive.  But we don’t have any definitive announcements for you at this time.
Q    I know that one of the sticking points has been the issue of how freely U.S. diplomats can roam around Cuba and who they can talk to.  Will the U.S. accept anything less than 100 percent for them to be able to go wherever they want and talk to whoever they want to?  
MR. SCHULTZ:  Darlene, I'm not immersed in the details of those discussions, so I'm not going to be in a position to negotiate with you.  Right now I will say that we feel like we’ve made significant progress in the last five months, and we’re much closer to reestablishing relations and reopening embassies.  These are the first steps in the long process of normalizing the relationship that’s going to allow us to represent better U.S. interests and increased engagement with the Cuban people.
As you know, the President feels strongly that after 55 years of a policy that wasn’t working, reestablishing normal relations is not only in the interest of the American people, but also the Cuban people as well.
Q    Eric, I want to follow up on the FIFA decision from yesterday; there’s been a little bit of time.  Since that came out, does the President now have a reaction to it?  And maybe more specifically, does he have -- or the White House have any feeling on whether or not the head of the organization should step down?
MR. SCHULTZ:  Jeff, I don’t have any more of a presidential reaction to readout to you, and the reason for that is pretty simple.  This is an ongoing case, an ongoing investigation at Department of Justice.  So we take great pains to not only make sure that we do not interfere with an ongoing investigation, or that our comments aren’t misinterpreted as appearing to interfere.  So we’re not going to have much for you from the White House on this.
Q    What about the President of Russia sort of suggesting that this prosecution of FIFA is somehow an attempt to take the World Cup away from Russia in 2018?  Does the White House want to respond to that?
MR. SCHULTZ:  I did see some press reports on that, Darlene.  All I would say is that we have total and complete confidence in the prosecutors at the Department of Justice.  Clearly, this was a complicated case that took quite a while to prepare, and so we’re going to leave it to them to prosecute it.
Q    On the immigration decision, it looks like timing wise it's going to be the summer of next year before this situation is resolved.  Does the President regret waiting so long to actually put in place the executive actions?  You know he delayed the decision until after the elections, and now it looks like the situation is not going to be resolved until he’s almost out of office.
MR. SCHULTZ:  Well, I think it’s important to take a few steps back on that.  First, a lot of what the President has done on this front is already being implemented.  So if you look at what the court ruled in that Fifth Circuit, we understand that the deferred action guidelines announced last November have been put on hold.  But everyone should be aware that the existing 2012 policy that provides deferred action to certain DREAMers is still in place.  Additionally, the administration’s enforcement priorities, including our focus on deporting felons and not families, and many other executive actions on immigration continue to move forward.
We do want the courts to move expeditiously through this.  We feel strongly that we are on solid legal ground.  We’ve explained that a multitude of times.  And what guides our legal strategy is that -- unfortunately, the litigation has created a great deal of uncertainty for people who would have been able to seek relief under these new deferred action policies.  And so with that in mind, we’re proceeding in a way that provides clarity for them, gives us the best chance of success, and puts on a sustainable path to implementing the President’s common-sense policies.
Q    What do you say to people who would normally be applying for this program, but now they’re hearing from Republican candidates that as soon as they get into office they’re going to restrict this executive action, and right now it’s going to be in the courts until we’re really close to the next election?  What do you say to people who are afraid of putting their names out there and potentially becoming targets for deportation?
MR. SCHULTZ:  First, it would be a shame if an issue so critical like this became mired in a political dispute.  But to your point, that is the reason why we want the courts to move expeditiously through this, and that’s why there’s an important hearing on July *10th 6th, where the government will make the case on the underlying merits.
Q    On FIFA, I’m going to try again.  Did the President follow up the investigation with the Attorney General, Loretta Lynch?  Did he speak to her about it?  Even if you cannot comment on the ongoing investigation, was he aware of what was going on?
MR. SCHULTZ:  Laura, I don’t unfortunately have any conversations to read out to you between the President and the Attorney General on this.  But suffice it to say he is aware of what was announced a few days ago.
Q    And is he concerned about the allegations regarding Qatar?
MR. SCHULTZ:  Again, I have not spoken with him about the details of the allegations contained in the suit that was brought.
Q    Any updates on the Patriot Act and what’s going on with Congress?  Any phone calls the President has been making while he’s been in Miami the last two days?
MR. SCHULTZ:  Kimberly, as you know, this has been on the President’s mind not just in the past few days or weeks, or even months, but dating back to last January, where he made clear that he wanted to take into account the concerns of a lot of civil libertarians and privacy concerns, and make sure that our intelligence community had the tools they needed to investigate and prosecute terrorists, but while still protecting those concerns.
So that’s why his national security team worked closely on legislation called the USA Freedom Act, which passed the House of Representatives by 338 votes.  That’s 338 Democrats and Republicans coming together to pass a significant and complicated piece of legislation.  That’s the piece of legislation he feels should pass the Senate without delay.
Q    Hey, Eric, without commenting on the investigation -- back to FIFA -- but does the President believe there’s a need for fresh faces at FIFA, or at least that the elections should be postponed for now given all the investigation going on?
MR. SCHULTZ:  I have not spoken with him about the leadership at FIFA.
Q    On NSA, just to go back, you said the President is engaged and is watching what’s happening, but what actually is he doing in terms of trying to get this passed before the deadline?
MR. SCHULTZ:  Well, Toluse, one of the things he did was deploy our national security team to work with House and Senate Republican and Democratic leadership, and specifically the committee chairs tasked with this, to make sure they understood how valuable this program was to our intelligence community, and also how we could make changes and reforms to it to take into account the concerns raised by civil libertarians.  So that’s number one.
Number two, I think everybody on the Hill is crystal clear on, A, how important this is to the intelligence community, and, B, what the deadline was.  This wasn’t a deadline that should have snuck up on anyone.  This is a deadline that’s been known for a very long time.
Q    This morning, the President went to see the family of a journalist who was killed by ISIS.  How was this meeting and how did it happen?
MR. SCHULTZ:  Laura, thank you for the question.  This was a private session at the hotel this morning before the President left for the National Hurricane Center.  We put out a very brief readout, but I don’t have anything more to add.
Q    Do you have any update on the actual review of the hostage policy?  It’s been almost a year since that review was put underway, and there are still questions about what the U.S. government should be doing with hostages and their families.
MR. SCHULTZ:  Sure.  You are right that that review continues in earnest.  We’ve been consulting with a number of folks, both sort of experts and scholars, national security experts and, yes, the families of previously held hostages.
I don’t have an update for you on that review.  As you know, it’s principally focused on our communications with the families and how we can better streamline that process.  I know that one of the ideas that’s been floated is what some are calling a fusion cell, to make sure that communications with the family is streamlined and they’re not getting any mixed messages from different entities within the federal government.
Q    Since there were actually arguments in court today over the House lawsuit on the health care law, did you have anything to add on that?  When we asked about it yesterday, there had been no arguments yet.
Q    Good.
MR. SCHULTZ:  Darlene, yes, thank you for asking.  Because this is the kind of litigation from House Republicans that does nothing to solve any of the problems facing the American people.  I believe the last thing the American people want is to relive the political disputes over the Affordable Care Act that weren’t just from months -- weeks or months ago, but from literally years ago.  And we are much more focused on actually implementing the law.
We’ve now made sure that over 16 million Americans are benefitting from the Affordable Care Act.  We know that House Republicans have been engaged in a systematic repeal effort, voting to repeal the bill over 50 times, and, failing to do so, now resorting to the courts.  We find that unfortunate and a colossal waste of taxpayer dollars.
Q    I have a question about Baghdad.  There have been reports that Sunnis fleeing from Ramadi have been turned back or blocked as they’ve gone into Baghdad.  Does the President have any concerns about that?  You all have talked about the government of Iraq governing in a multi-sectarian way, but it seems like there’s some questions about that as Sunnis are being turned away as they head towards predominantly Shia Baghdad.
MR. SCHULTZ:  Toluse, I hadn’t seen those reports.  I’d refer you to the Department of Defense for any take on what’s going on on the ground in Baghdad.
As you point out, generally speaking, we are encouraged by the Iraqi military forces mobilizing at the order of the Prime Minister.  This is, as they’ve said, an effort to push back to retake Ramadi and other parts of Anbar Province.  They’re doing this in close coordination with the Popular Mobilization Forces and local the Sunni fighters.  And we do believe it is critical that all of Iraqi security forces do so under the command and control of the Iraqi government.
Q    All right.  On a completely different topic -- Nebraska.  The legislature there voted to end the death penalty, overriding the governor’s veto.  Do you, does the President have a comment or reaction on that?
MR. SCHULTZ:  Toluse, I saw those developments over the past few days.  I know that it was unclear whether the Nebraska legislature had the votes to override the President’s veto; clearly, they did.  I believe --
Q    Governor’s veto.
MR. SCHULTZ:  The governor’s veto, thank you.  Clearly, they did.  I don’t have any reaction from the White House for you.  I know that in the past the President has expressed concern about the disparate application of the death penalty, but I don’t have any new position to read out on that right now.
Q    Hillary Clinton was in Florida also today.  Just wondering if the President was aware they were going to both be there around the same time.  And have the two had any interactions lately?
MR. SCHULTZ:  I don’t know of any new meetings they’ve had, and I don’t know if the President was aware of her visits today.
Great.  Thank you, guys.
3:16 P.M. EDT

Remarks by the President at the Annual Hurricane Season Outlook and Preparedness Briefing

National Hurricane Center
Miami, Florida1

2:09 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I am here at the National Hurricane Center for our annual update on preparations for hurricane season, which begin on Monday.  And I want to thank our NOAA Administrator, Kathy Sullivan; FEMA Administrator, Craig Fugate, and their teams for helping to lead this briefing.
Before we talk a little bit about the hurricane season, obviously our thoughts and prayers are still with the families and the communities that have been devastated by the flooding in Texas and Oklahoma.  Lives have been lost, and our condolences go out to the families that have been affected.  But there’s going to be a lot of work that has to be done for rebuilding.
Craig just informed me, gave me an update on the coordination that we’re doing between federal and state and local respondents.  The coordination is good.  They appear to have the assets they need at this stage to respond, but there’s going to be a lot of rebuilding.  And we as a nation are going to have to help the same way we do anytime that folks are affected by these natural disasters.
And so we will stay in close coordination with them to make sure that our response is quick, that we’re cutting through bureaucracy, and that we’re helping them recover.  And there’s still going to be some weather events over the next several days that will potentially make things a little tougher for folks, but I’m confident, obviously, that these communities will ultimately get back on their feet.
It does remind us that it is never too early for disaster preparation.  Today, FEMA released our national preparedness report, summarizing new progress at a national level, along with submissions from across the country.  We are in constant coordination with our state and local partners to make sure that their action plans are up to date.
We’re joined today by our state partners who are critical in all this work, because they are the first responders -- the people on the ground who are actually making a difference and taking a lot of the information that we get here and funneling that to local communities.  So we’ve got partners from Florida, North Carolina, Virginia; they’ve done great work to prepare for hurricane season.
The truth is, we are better prepared than ever for the storms of today.  The technology has improved, the forecasting has improved, the tools we have to model what may happen with something like storm surge has all gotten a lot better.  And so not only do we have better information, but we have new mechanisms to disseminate it.
We’re also focusing on making ourselves more resilient to the impacts of a changing climate that are having significant effects on both the pace and intensity of some of these storms.  The best climate scientists in the world are telling us that extreme weather events like hurricanes are likely to become more powerful.  When you combine stronger storms with rising seas, that’s a recipe for more devastating floods.
Climate change didn’t cause Hurricane Sandy, but it might have made it stronger.  The fact that the sea level in New York Harbor is about a foot higher than a century ago certainly made the storm surge worse.  And that’s why we are seeking to work with Congress to make sure that we are focused on resilience and the steps we can take to fortify our infrastructure in these communities.  We’re fortunate to have a couple of outstanding members of Congress here on a bipartisan basis.  Congressman Curbelo and Congressman Ted Deutch both represent Florida, and obviously have a shared interest in making sure that we are building the kind of resilience that we may need.
Miami, for example, already has to spend hundreds of millions of dollars just to adapt its water system to the more frequent flooding that it’s already experiencing from rising seas.  That’s why I put forward America’s first Climate Action Plan two years ago.  I called for a climate resilience toolkit to help families and business owners in communities plan for the impacts of a changing climate, and that toolkit is now online at
Responding to a hurricane is a team effort.  From the federal to the local levels, we all have a role to play.  So I encourage every American, no matter where you live, to check out -- -- where you will find information on making plans for your family, building an emergency supply kit, knowing what to do when disaster strikes.  This is something that Administrator Fugate has been like a broken record about every single year, but he’s absolutely right that the best preparedness is the preparedness that’s being taken by individual families, homeowners, business owners.  If they have a plan, if they have ideas about how they will respond to warnings, and they’re paying attention, then the collective effort obviously goes a lot more smoothly.
Finally, I just want to thank all the hardworking public servants who help America prepare for and respond to, and recover from emergencies.  Sometimes we take for granted what our public servants do.  Sometimes we spend a lot of time griping about government, and we spend a lot of time complaining about folks that we’re not seeing.  And bureaucrats don’t really appreciate that basic information, like what the weather is like, when storms come, how we’re going to respond.  That all involves our public servants at the federal, state and local levels.  And they may be in the background until a disaster strikes, and suddenly we realize how much we depend on them.
And so I think now is a good time for us to remind ourselves and make sure we’re properly resourcing folks who in dire straits we really depend on to make sure we’re safe, our families are safe, and that we can recover from really devastating attacks by mother nature.
And I also want to thank our military, our National Guard, for the work that they do.  But our first responders and our folks at the local level, they’ve been doing some outstanding work.
I really want to lift up in particular some of the men and women who deploy on search and rescue, not just here domestically, but internationally.  We’ve just had a couple of teams made up of expert, finely trained, local first responders who essentially volunteer.  They just came back from Nepal, where they saved a couple of lives.  In the past, they have saved lives in places like Haiti, after the devastating earthquake there.  They’ve been working around the clock in Texas.  They are always ready to do the selfless work that we should all be very, very proud of.  So thank you so much for the outstanding working that you do.
All right, everybody, thank you.
12:17 P.M. EDT

Announcing the White House Conference on Aging

WASHINGTON, DC – On Monday, July 13, President Obama will host the White House Conference on Aging.  The White House has held a Conference on Aging each decade since the 1960s to identify and advance actions to improve the quality of life of older Americans.  This year marks the 50th anniversary of Medicare, Medicaid, and the Older Americans Act, as well as the 80th anniversary of Social Security.  The conference is an opportunity to recognize the importance of these key programs while bringing together older Americans, caregivers, government officials, members of the public, business leaders, and community leaders to discuss the issues that will help shape the landscape for older Americans in the next decade.  This year’s regional forums in Tampa, FL; Phoenix, AZ; Seattle, WA; Cleveland, OH and today’s event in Boston, MA provided opportunities for Americans across the country to engage in policy discussions, submit input on their priorities and share their stories ahead of the White House event.  Additional details about the conference will be released at a later date.


Phyllis Schlafly bemoans that today's immigrants aren't white enough to her liking
Author Phyllis Schlafly addresses the Faith and Freedom Coalition Road to Majority Conference in Washington, June 14, 2013. REUTERS/Mary F. Calvert (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS RELIGION HEADSHOT) - RTX10NT9
Phyllis Schlafly has always been a racist, right-wing jackass, but at least she's honest about it. In a radio address for the Eagle Forum earlier this month, Schlafly let loose her hate for the browns. She wasn't the least bit shy about it either.
One of the biggest political issues in America today is Obama’s plan to give illegal amnesty to 5 million South Americans. Obama is already admitting tens of thousands of aliens from South America and trying to justify it by repeating the line that "we are a nation of immigrants." The problem is that the immigrants coming into our country today are not the same sort as the immigrants who contributed so much to building our great country. The immigrants who came to America in the 1920s and ‘30s were different – with very different motives.

Today, May 11, is the birthday of one of our most famous immigrants. Born the son of a rabbi, he emigrated with his family from Russia to New York. Falling in love with America, he served as a sergeant during World War I. After taking up a career in music, he wrote some of our all-time popular songs, such as "White Christmas" and "God Bless America." He gave the royalties from those two songs to the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts. His name was Irving Berlin. In 1945, President Harry Truman awarded him the Army’s Medal of Merit. In 1955 he received the Congressional Gold Medal from President Eisenhower, and in 1977 he received the Freedom Medal from President Ford. Irving Berlin’s devotion to America was so eloquently expressed in the song that all Americans so frequently sing today: “God Bless America, Land that I love, Stand beside her, and guide her, through the night with the light from above. From the Mountains, to the prairies, to the oceans white with foam, God bless America – my home sweet home.”

It’s quite true that America was built by hard working people from all over the world who sought a place of freedom where they could succeed if they had a dream, worked hard, and no tyrannical king or dictator could keep them down. But the illegal immigrants today are not the same as those who built this country. They don’t want to leave their homes and become Americans, accepting all that comes along with it. Many of them just want to reap the rewards of our free nation without accepting American culture, the English language, and the rule of law.

Please join me below the fold.

Released Hillary Clinton emails further debunk Benghazi conspiracy theories
As the Republicans and their propagandists at Fox "News" would have it, the release of Hillary Clinton's State Department emails is bound to reveal that she conspired to cover-up the truth about the murderous 2012 terrorist attack on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya. According to this consistently debunked example of boilerplate right-wing lunacy, the Obama administration in general, and Clinton in particular, deliberately promoted a false story attributing the attack to a spontaneous mass demonstration over an offensive YouTube video, because they didn't want it known that the attack was premeditated, and that the administration should have prevented it but was asleep at the wheel. Well, if Republicans are experts at anything, it's at being asleep at the wheel despite clear warnings of an impending terrorist attack, but what they don't want anyone to remember about their own party's recent history of catastrophic failure is not paralleled by the Democrats. And Hillary Clinton's just released emails make that clear:
One of the most intriguing of the released emails, however, suggests that Clinton and the State Department might not have been kept fully informed on what was known to other government agencies, particularly the CIA, about the Sept. 11, 2012, attack, when armed men stormed the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi and set the main building on fire.
Which is what the administration has been saying all along. The administration has repeatedly explained that its initial claim that the Benghazi attack was a spontaneous mass reaction was mistaken, but it was made in good faith according to the best available evidence it had at the time.
The initial description of the events as a demonstration that had turned violent had been widely discredited within two weeks. But Clinton still seemed surprised on Oct. 19 when she wrote her chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, asking about a news report she’d heard that morning on National Public Radio.

“I just heard on npr a report about the CIA station chief in Tripoli sending a cable on 9/12 saying there was no demo, etc. Do you know about this?” Clinton wrote at 6:57 a.m. Mills also seemed surprised. “Have not seen – will see if we can get,” she responded 28 minutes later.

A CIA spokesman said Friday he was unable to comment on whether Clinton had been informed of the station chief’s email.

In other words, Clinton and Mills were actually initially out of the loop on the real nature of the Benghazi attack. The administration's initial understanding of what had triggered the attack wasn't fully informed. There was, in fact, no cover-up, rather the administration was trying to report the information it had on hand. The administration's information initially was incomplete, and as more facts became known, the story inevitably evolved. The administration wasn't lying, it was reporting what it knew as it knew it. Not that such facts will in any way dissuade the Republicans and their propagandists at Fox "News" from continuing to project their own inveterate dishonesty onto others.

Tattooed Christian rappers for Ted Cruz is a thing
Texas Senator Ted Cruz speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor in Maryland  February 26, 2015.  REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque  (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS) - RTR4RBW7
He's feelin' it.
Wow, I so did not need to know that a "Christian rap group" has devoted one of its recent "songs" to supporting Ted Cruz:
Published Wednesday, “Set it on Fire” rhymes in support of a Reagan-style revolution led by the junior Texas senator.

“When power is concentrated centrally and federally/ it creates dependency that’s medically like leprosy.”

Please stop. And technically leprosy would be like things falling off the government, not—
“Collectivism, everyone’s a victim like the reds do,” the song goes. “And for our next president, we’re all in for Ted Cruz.”
Why are you not stopping. What kind of Christians are you?
“Just as many churches in Germany sang louder on Sunday mornings to drown out the sounds of wailing Jews in boxcars on the way to the concentration camps,” the group’s website’s “About” page says, “the majority of pulpits and pews in the American churches have been willfully ignoring the stench of blatant evil rising in this once godly nation.”
Ah. That kind.

Well, there you have it. Ted Cruz has clearly sown up the "people who like Christian rap and comparing things to Hitler" demographic.

Oh, right—no doubt some of you want the link to the song. Yeah, um, no. I don't want that on my conscience. The Politico link above has it, if you have only a few weeks to live and want to just end everything right the hell now.

Also, Ted Cruz couldn't "revolution" himself out of a paper bag, so unless your "revolution" consists of pointless grandstanding and shutdowns of the government for no achievable purpose—which it might—you might want to look for a revolutionary leader whose record of accomplishment consists of something more substantial than demanding everyone else in his party repeatedly shoot themselves in the feet.

Spotlight on green news & views: Hot Alaska; Hot India; Hot Pacific; Doomsday clock adjusted
Red earred slider
Red-Earred Slider. See Lenny Flank's photo diary.
Many environmentally related posts appearing at Daily Kos each week don't attract the attention they deserve. To help get more eyeballs, Spotlight on Green News & Views (previously known as the Green Diary Rescue) normally appears twice a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The most recent Saturday Spotlight can be seen here. More than 22,700 environmentally oriented diaries have been rescued for inclusion in this weekly collection since 2006. Inclusion of a diary in the Spotlight does not necessarily indicate my agreement with or endorsement of it.
Texas & Alaska Floods: El Nino & Hot Oceans Start a Year of Hellish Weather. It Will Get Worse.—by FishOutofWater: "Global CO2 levels have rapidly risen above 400ppm causing a large imbalance between incoming and outgoing radiation levels. Almost all of the difference between incoming and outgoing amounts of energy has gone into heating the oceans. The warm subtropical waters of the global oceans expanded, the Indian ocean warmed and a large, deep pool of hot water grew around the Philippines. But then three
supertyphoons rocked the Pacific in late fall 2013. Typhoon Haiyan, with had the strongest winds ever recorded at landfall, 'broke the dam' created by years of stronger than normal tropical convection and strong trade winds that held an enormous body of hot water close to the Philippines. A first surge of hot water moved across the Pacific in spring 2014, lowering the height of the seas around the Philippines but stronger than normal trade winds kept blowing in the south Pacific holding huge amounts of excess heat near Indonesia. Then supercyclone Pam and the strongest convective burst ever recorded near Indonesia and Australia, sent a massive wave of hot water towards the Americas. Now a super El Niño is developing. [...] This is just the beginning of the hurricane season in the eastern and central Pacific but hot water already covers a huge area from the tropics south of Hawaii to the huge warm pool off of the southwest coast of Mexico. A tropical disturbance is now in the process of organizing. I was stunned to find that the model of potential tropical cyclone intensity is off scale, The potential intensity, which will not be reached for this disturbance, is lower than the lowest pressure in history. While this disturbance will likely not have enough time over warm water to become a major hurricane, conditions will be more favorable later in the season for extremely intense hurricanes to develop. Warmer than normal water extends across the tropical north Pacific. Conditions are potentially developing for this to become the most intense Pacific tropical cyclone season on record."

You can find more excerpts from green diaries below the orange spill.

Politico talks pantsuits like it's not more of the same sexist double standard
U.S. presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talks to reporters with a Secret Service agent looking on (L) in an auto shop as she campaigns for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination at Kirkwood Community College in Monti
Okay, okay, it's in Politico's gossip column, but nonetheless, it is 2015 and once again we are looking at a political publication focusing on what clothes women in politics wear like it's newsworthy. In this case, we get an interview with Nina McLemore, who makes expensive women's professional clothing worn by Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, and others. Surprise! McLemore thinks we should be talking more about what women wear, not because she stands to profit from it but because it's important.
As McLemore says, “People often harp on the whole concept of ‘we shouldn’t be talking about what a female candidate is wearing,’ but we should. It’s a very important topic, in fact. I don’t think a lot of people, women in particular, realize how strong the power of how we look really is.”
Women don't realize how important looks are? Uhhh ... how do we explain the vast industries dedicated to women's appearance, then? Seems like if there's one thing that gets drummed into women at an early age, it's that looks are important.

I think it's generally understood that appearance matters for politicians, and for the women in particular, but many of us get that that's a bad thing, because it's yet another way to trivialize women. You know, somehow when we talk about appearance, it's the women and their pantsuits, not the darker side of dadbod as demonstrated by Ted Cruz, or whatever that mess on Rand Paul's head is; someone get that man to Devacurl, stat.

Then again, McLemore seems to need no help trivializing women:

“TV is where charisma and attractiveness count for more than substance,” says McLemore, with all the seriousness of a political consultant. “I personally think it’s hard for women to have charisma, where some men have it in spades. We can’t change the fact that we’re women, but we can put forth our best image for the result we want.”
There are interesting observations to be made about how, in our culture, charisma tends to be defined in terms of attributes more commonly held by men. These are not them. FFS, "we can't change the fact that we're women, but ... " we sure can try to fit into the male professional mold by wearing a pantsuit! And then parlay that into media coverage trivializing women in politics! Sweet!

Time for Republican obsession with border security to catch up with immigration realities
People at an immigration rally with signs saying
Republicans say that before Congress can possibly think about passing immigration reform with a path to citizenship, the United States needs to secure the borders and perhaps even build a dang fence. To hear them talk, you would think that the borders were being flooded, but reality is that:
As the Department of Homeland Security continues to pour money into border security, evidence is emerging that illegal immigration flows have fallen to their lowest level in at least two decades. The nation’s population of illegal immigrants, which more than tripled, to 12.2 million, between 1990 and 2007, has dropped by about 1 million, according to demographers at the Pew Research Center.

A key — but largely overlooked — sign of these ebbing flows is the changing makeup of the undocumented population. Until recent years, illegal immigrants tended to be young men streaming across the Southern border in pursuit of work. But demographic data show that the typical illegal immigrant now is much more likely someone who is 35 or older and has lived in the United States for a decade or more.

Beefed-up border security isn't the only explanation for that—when the U.S. economy cratered, fewer people thought it was a great place to come to find economic opportunity, and demographic changes in Mexico could also account for part of the drop. But whatever the explanation, the drop in undocumented immigrants coming in, and the fact that many of those who are here have been here long enough to become embedded in their communities, means that the Republican emphasis on border security is not just inhumane but outdated. While it's not the only outdated position Republicans like to promote, at some point the general public starts to notice these things and national political debates shift with or without Republicans.

Bernie Sanders is popular despite messy hair, and Politico is On It
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) holds a news conference after he announced his candidacy for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, on Capitol Hill in Washington April 30, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst  - RTX1B06L
Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT)
It's kind of hilarious watching the media try to wrap its collective head around the idea that of Hillary Clinton's two Democratic primary challengers, the one who's getting more traction is Sen. Bernie Sanders, not former Gov. Martin O'Malley. As Politico's Annie Karni describes the contrast:
One candidate is 73, with a shock of wispy white hair and a famously rumpled demeanor that makes him look more like a mad scientist than a politician.

The other is central casting’s image of a presidential candidate: square-jawed, athletic-looking and 52 years old — the ideal age that Fortune 500 companies look for in a CEO and that voters find appealing in a president.

But ... but ... his hair!

Karni quotes the usual assortment of anonymous "strategists," "insider" sources "with ties to the Clinton world," and one-time (but they're not saying when) Bill Clinton advisers to make the point that Hillary Clinton's campaign is more worried about Sanders than O'Malley. Like so:

Insiders familiar with the Clinton campaign’s thinking described it as “frightened” of Sanders — not that he would win the nomination, but that he could damage her with the activist base by challenging her on core progressive positions in debates and make her look like a centrist or corporatist. The source described the campaign as “pleased,” at least, that O’Malley and Sanders will split the anti-Clinton vote. A Clinton spokesman declined to comment.
It shouldn't really be breaking news that the guy polling at 15 percent in the Iowa caucus is more threatening than the guy polling at 1.8 percent, but such is the power of media assumptions about what a presidential candidate looks like, I guess.

Where dark money and the Christian right collide
Demonstrators stage a protest near the U.S. Supreme Court building, on the anniversary of the Citizens United decision, in Washington, January 20, 2012. Under the banner 'Occupy the Courts,' organizers expect thousands of people to rally on Friday at 150

Politico lifts the curtain on one big player in the Republicans' dark money game in this long profile of Ohio lawyer David Langdon. It also demonstrates the devil's bargain the GOP has made with the Christian right. Here's a little bit about Langdon, who runs what's basically a dark money laundering business out of a nondescript law office in West Chester, Ohio.
Langdon is a critical behind-the-scenes player among the small army of lawyers working to keep secret the origins of millions of dollars coursing through the American political system. Thanks to his work, this unremarkable suburb is a home base for nonprofits and super PACs that pour millions of dollars into elections.

Langdon is also an unswerving legal warrior for conservative, often Christian, nonprofit organizations that together spend millions more to influence public policy and wield great influence among evangelical voters.

Since the 2010 election cycle, at least 11 groups connected to Langdon or his firm have collectively spent at least $22 million on federal and state elections and ballot initiatives around the country, according to a Center for Public Integrity review of records.[…]

Langdon was a lead author of a state constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman, which Ohio voters passed in 2004. The U.S. Supreme Court last month heard arguments on whether the Ohio ban on same-sex marriage is constitutional.

He has donated thousands of work hours to Alliance Defending Freedom, which describes itself as a nonprofit Christian legal ministry and specializes in religious freedom cases.

In addition to that, he's helping the tea party sue the IRS and represented the anti-choice Susan B. Anthony List in a free speech case before the Supreme Court. His past actions include having "acted as a defense lawyer for abortion clinic protesters, filed a brief in another case on behalf of the Christian Coalition of Ohio and represented groups opposing a lesbian couple's efforts to share equal custody of their children." Given all that, and the fact that he's in Ohio, it's not surprising that he also was instrumental in helping then-Secretary of State Ken Blackwell implement and defend voter suppression efforts.

His current activities, though, are pretty shadowy, revolving around the ever-evolving network of Super PACs that form and dissolve and transfer money back and forth in order to make it nearly impossible to track where any of the money originally came from. That's, of course, by design and "appears pretty clearly to be geared toward opaqueness," said Robert Maguire, an investigator for the Center for Responsive Politics.

The problem for the GOP with relying on a guy like Langdon is that a guy like Langdon wants candidates who will adhere to his kind of hardcore conservative social policies. And that is driving them into a demographic ditch.

In weekly address, Obama asks Senate to pass USA Freedom Act
President Obama used this week's video address to ask the Senate to quickly pass the USA Freedom Act, a revised but still controversial renewal of some of the now-expiring provisions of the Patriot Act.
Today, when investigating terrorist networks, our national security professionals can seek a court order to obtain certain business records.  Our law enforcement professionals can seek a roving wiretap to keep up with terrorists when they switch cell phones.  We can seek a wiretap on so-called lone wolves—suspected terrorists who may not be directly tied to a terrorist group.  These tools are not controversial.  Since 9/11, they have been renewed numerous times.  FBI Director James Comey says they are “essential” and that losing them would “severely” impact terrorism investigations.  But if Congress doesn’t act by tomorrow at midnight, these tools go away as well.

The USA Freedom Act also accomplishes something I called for a year and a half ago: it ends the bulk metadata program—the bulk collection of phone records—as it currently exists and puts in place new reforms.  The government will no longer hold these records; telephone providers will.  The Act also includes other changes to our surveillance laws—including more transparency—to help build confidence among the American people that your privacy and civil liberties are being protected.  But if Congress doesn’t act by midnight tomorrow, these reforms will be in jeopardy, too.

To read the transcript in full, check below the fold or visit the White House website.

This week in science: from icy worlds to warm-blooded dinos
Images of Pluto returned by New Horizons. Click image for background on mission
This week more images of Pluto were released by the New Horizons team showing what appear to be polar caps. We'll know more soon!
As you can see, surface features are getting easier to discern (note that a different part of Pluto was seen by the probe on each day, so you're seeing different features). It’s not just light and dark patches, but they have some shape to them as well. It actually reminds me a bit of seeing Mars through a small ‘scope. Note that on the May 10 image there appears to be a dark chunk taken out of Pluto’s side; that’s an illusion due to that spot being particularly dark; it blends in with the blackness of space and fools your eye into thinking Pluto’s missing a piece.
  • Climate change could strip the Himalayas of ice and snow.
  • If only robots could heal themselves ...
    Scientists claimed that they have invented a robot which is able to recover itself when damaged. This is an ideal creation in a world of machines that impersonate the incredible adaptive powers of both humans and animals. ... Jean-Baptiste Mouret of the Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris said “The idea is to have robots that can survive in hostile environments such as a Fukushima-type nuclear disaster.”
  • A new study finds, in my view anyway, that dinos might have made great deep space astronauts: they were warm-blooded enough to sprint like a cheetah, but they could also rest like a turtle, and possibly even hibernate or close to it.
  • Move over A. afarensis also known as Lucy. Paleo-anthropologists have found another possible human ancestor which lived at about the same time and place as the most famous human fossil ever uncovered:
    Anthropologist Yohannes Haile-Selassie and his team have named the new species Australopithecus deyiremeda. They found fossilized upper and lower jaw fossils at a paleontological dig site in the Afar region of central Ethiopia in 2011, and after four years of study, they’ve published their findings in the journal Nature.


E.P.A. Proposal Will Put Bigger Trucks on a Fuel Diet
The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to propose rules requiring heavy trucks to increase their fuel economy by up to 40 percent by 2027.

First Draft: Martin O’Malley’s Star-Spangled, Snafu-Speckled Debut
The former governor and mayor had a gorgeous backdrop but a few snags at his presidential campaign announcement on Saturday.

After Speakership, Hastert Amassed His Millions Lobbying Former Colleagues
J. Dennis Hastert’s years as a lobbyist explain how he was able, according to federal officials, to promise $3.5 million to a former student who claims Mr. Hastert molested him.

Yorkville Journal: Yorkville, Where Hastert Taught, Is Shaken by Charges for ‘Denny’
J. Dennis Hastert worked for 16 years as a teacher and coach in the Illinois city, which has long taken pride in its ties to the former speaker of the House.

Martin O’Malley Announces Presidential Campaign, Pushing Image of Vitality
At 52, former Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland aims to contrast himself with the Democratic candidates Hillary Rodham Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

First Draft: Martin O’Malley Reached Out to Hillary Clinton Ahead of Campaign Announcement
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley reached out to Hillary Rodham Clinton ahead of his campaign announcement.

Martin O’Malley on the Issues
The former Maryland governor, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, is positioning himself to the left of Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Martin O’Malley Announces Presidential Campaign, Pushing Image of Vitality
At 52, former Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland aims to contrast himself with the Democratic candidates Hillary Rodham Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

National Briefing | West: Idaho: Abortion Ban Found Unconstitutional
An Idaho law that prohibits abortions of fetuses 20 or more weeks after fertilization is unconstitutional, a federal appeals court ruled on Friday.

Families Press for Changes in Policy on Hostages
A White House-ordered review is expected to produce recommendations such as a new interdepartmental “fusion cell” for recovering American captives, but not a shift in the government’s stance against ransom payments.


Hendrik Hertzberg: Anthony Weiner’s all-digital sex scandal.
It’s been another political season of impressively gaudy sex scandals, further confounding America’s hard-won reputation as a nation of censorious puritans. The paradox isn’t so surprising, when you think about it: the broader the range of sex-related activities deemed immoral, unnatural, or . . .

John Cassidy: Don’t give up on Detroit.
If you were to visit the Detroit Institute of Arts, home to Diego Rivera’s magnificent murals depicting scenes at the Ford Motor Company in the early nineteen-thirties, and then take a stroll through the surrounding streets, you might be surprised at what you would find: coffee shops . . .

Jelani Cobb: The folly of Stand Your Ground laws.
For some years, the N.R.A.’s approach to gun-rights advocacy has amounted to a variant of the old Maoist dictum, to the effect that democracy flows from the barrel of a gun. In March, the group provided a novel twist on the theme of sidearm liberty when it . . .

George Packer: Why Egypt is a foreign-policy puzzle.
American foreign aid has always been an awkward exercise in high-minded self-interest—humanitarian goals balanced uneasily with strategic calculations. Whenever these two come into conflict, Presidents inevitably find a way out of their loftier commitments. In 1947, when Secretary of State George C. Marshall proposed a huge . . .

Jeffrey Toobin: The end of DOMA and the future of gay rights.
The Supreme Court’s embrace of gay rights last week had an almost serene majesty. The obvious correctness of the Court’s judgment, its curt dismissal of a monstrous injustice, had a grandeur that requires little elaboration. Yet the decision had its roots in something prosaic and largely . . .

Steve Coll: Obama sends weapons to Syria.
The carved minaret above Aleppo’s twelfth-century Umayyad Mosque collapsed in April. The city, which is Syria’s most populous, has endured Hittite, Macedonian, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman rule, little of it benevolent. But this year, forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have delivered a distinctly . . .

Hendrik Hertzberg: Difficult questions about the N.S.A.
Since the first week of June, when the Washington Post and London’s Guardian, doing the work that journalism is supposed to do, published detailed news of the National Security Agency’s gigantic programs of cell-phone and Internet information-gathering, the world has been riveted. These were . . .

Steve Coll: Why journalists deserve better protections.
In 1969, when nothing excited the public’s interest like the depredations of drug fiends, the Louisville Courier-Journal sent a reporter named Paul Branzburg to penetrate Kentucky’s marijuana underground. He published eyewitness accounts; a photograph accompanying one of them showed hands hovering over a pile of . . .

William Finnegan: The struggle for immigration reform.
It was edifying while it lasted. A bipartisan immigration bill, supported by an unusually wide coalition of business, labor, church, and humanitarian groups, made its way through the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, the baying over Benghazi and the Internal Revenue Service was fierce and rising . . .

Elizabeth Kolbert: What’s at stake in Obama’s Keystone decision.
A lot of what’s known about carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can be traced back to a chemist named Charles David Keeling, who, in 1958, persuaded the U.S. Weather Bureau to install a set of monitoring devices at its Mauna Loa observatory, on the island of Hawaii. By . . .

60 MINUTES +/-

60 Minutes Presents: War Stories
For Memorial Day weekend, a special edition of "60 Minutes Presents"

A Monumental Project
It took over 80 years, but a museum dedicated to African-American history and culture is finally taking shape on the National Mall in Washington

Falling Apart
Steve Kroft reports on why America's roads, bridges, airports and rail lines are outdated and need to be fixed

Preview: A Monumental Project
It took over eight decades, but a museum dedicated to African-American history and culture is finally taking shape on the National Mall in Washington

Behind the scenes at CrossFit HQ
If you thought CrossFit creator Greg Glassman was outrageous in his 60 Minutes interview, wait until you meet his corporate mascot, "Pukie the Clown"

The Unknown America
With over 50 percent of our nation lying underwater, huge discoveries await, says explorer Robert Ballard

King of CrossFit
Sharyn Alfonsi profiles Greg Glassman, a brash, former gymnast who created the CrossFit workout, now the basis for a chain of gyms that has become the largest in history

The Spy Among Us
Jack Barsky held a job at some of the top corporations in the U.S. and lived a seemingly normal life -- all while spying for the Soviet Union

Misty Copeland
Ballet has lifted Misty Copeland from poverty, over assumptions about race and through injury. But she wants it to take her higher

Preview: The Spy Among Us
Jack Barsky held a job at some of the top corporations in the U.S. and lived a seemingly normal life -- all while spying for the Soviet Union

More than half of the U.S. lies underwater?
With over 50 percent of our nation lying underwater, huge discoveries await, says explorer Robert Ballard

CrossFit creator calls for Adidas to sell Reebok
Greg Glassman tells 60 Minutes that he wants athletic giant Adidas to sell Reebok, CrossFit's partner brand, to "someone young, fresh"

60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll: Conspiracy
Americans share their opinions on conspiracy theories in the May edition of the 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll

Whisky Island
Steve Kroft and Bob Simon report on the Scottish Island of Islay, home to some of the world's premium single-malt scotch whiskies

Morley Safer profiles David Rubenstein, a billionaire investor who's pledging a good part of his fortune to save America's history

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