Democrats ask: Where’s FLOTUS?

From Politico:

First lady Michelle Obama is the most popular member of the Obama administration, and Democrats say she’s the one they want to see more of in the midterms. She’s a woman and an African-American, with a direct appeal to two groups that the Democrats need to turn out in major numbers in November. She can bring the Obama brand without the baggage of President Barack Obama himself. She can go to states where he can’t. She’s a fresh draw for donors and voters. So where is she? Democrats want an answer — they desperately need the help, and especially the cash.

Campaign officials are worried about keeping up with the flow of spending by super PACs and political nonprofits. Field operations alone are going to cost many multiples of what they did in 2012, and tough decisions about which races to cut off are getting closer by the day. But her distaste for politics and fundraising is well-known, and her relationships with members of Congress don’t tend to be extensive. She has met donors only a couple of times and filmed a commit-to-vote video she put out Sunday for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The video’s had fewer than 30,000 hits as of Tuesday afternoon.

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President Obama And Vice President Biden Along With Wives Make Joining Forces Initiative Announcement

4 teens charged with capital murder in beating death of USC student

From the L.A. Times:

Four teenagers, including two juveniles, were charged Tuesday with capital murder in connection with beating a USC graduate student to death with a bat as he walked near campus. Jonathan DelCarmen, 19; Andrew Garcia, 18; Alberto Ochoa, 17; and Alejandra Guerrero, 16; each face one count of murder in connection with the death of Xiran Ji, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office said. The four also face a special allegation that the death occurred during an attempted robbery.

Ochoa, Garcia and Guerrero face an additional special circumstance allegation that they personally used a bat during the crime, prosecutors said. The four are scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday afternoon. Prosecutors have yet to decide whether they will seek the death penalty against Garcia and DelCarmen. Ochoa and Guerrero are not eligible for the death penalty because of their age, prosecutors said, and instead face life in prison without the possibility of parole if they are convicted.

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from the L.A. Times

War on waste: Pentagon auditor spotlights US billions blown in Afghanistan

From Fox News:

Another day, another report of rampant waste of U.S. taxpayer money in the effort to rebuild Afghanistan. John Sopko, the inspector general charged with monitoring aid sent by the U.S. to Afghanistan, has identified potentially billions of dollars wasted in Afghanistan, including donation of planes the local government doesn’t need or can’t use, weapons that disappear as soon as they’re handed over and and construction of brand new buildings that are basically firetraps. In a steady stream of audit reports, Sopko’s office of Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, has spotlighted seemingly endless waste in the war-torn nation.

In recent days, Sopko’s team has reported: Afghanistan probably can’t even use two $40.5 million C-130 transport planes the U.S. government plans to give to its motley air force. Some 285 buildings, including barracks, medical clinics and even fire stations built by the Army are lined with substandard spray insulation so prone to ignition that they don’t meet international building codes.

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10 years later: Obama’s hits and blunders

From Politico:

Barack Obama’s Democratic National Convention keynote delivered 10 years ago Sunday evening started his journey to the White House. Those 18 minutes in Boston reshaped American politics. Obama spent a long passage of his speech extolling Democratic nominee John Kerry, but he wasn’t the one whose presidential prospects most people left the Fleet Center buzzing about. Caught by surprise by a convention keynote that was actually worth watching, the crowd went wild. Even Hillary Clinton and Jesse Jackson were spotted clapping for him.

A decade later, the speech remains a road map to the Obama agenda — and the many places where he’s fallen short in his term and a half so far. The parts that hold up well: transitioning from a manufacturing base, the pursuit of enemies (like Osama bin Laden), a cooperative economy, voting rights, solving the “health care crisis,” “a road to opportunity” for the middle class. But parts come across as the oratorical equivalent of an embarrassing hairdo in a high school yearbook.

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Lightning strikes that killed man at Venice Beach could return

From the L.A. Times:

The unusual weather conditions that created a deadly lightning storm over Venice Beach on Sunday are expected to linger through about noon Monday, potentially bringing more lightning and thunder, forecasters said. Sunday’s approximately 15-minute thunderstorm struck as more than 20,000 people were visiting the southern portion of Venice Beach; at least four direct lightning strikes hit at about 2:20 p.m. A 20-year-old man who was pulled from the water was killed and at least seven others were injured — one of them critically.

Lightning from the same storm hit Catalina Island about 90 minutes earlier, injuring a 57-year-old man on a golf course in Avalon and igniting two brush fires, officials said. Witnesses said the thunder and lightning were so explosive that it shook homes, triggered car alarms and caused dogs to start barking. The possibility of a second round of lightning and thunder over the coastal areas was expected to linger through the morning Monday, but the related weather system was forecast to move out after noon and set up over the region’s mountains, said Andrew Rorke, a senior meteorologist with National Weather Service.

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US evacuates embassy in Libya amid clashes in Tripoli

From Fox News:

The United States suspended operations at its embassy in Libya Saturday and evacuated its diplomats to neighboring Tunisia under U.S. military escort amid a significant deterioration in security in Tripoli as fighting intensified between rival militias, the State Department said.  “Due to the ongoing violence resulting from clashes between Libyan militias in the immediate vicinity of the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, we have temporarily relocated all of our personnel out of Libya,” spokeswoman Marie Harf said.

The withdrawal underscored the Obama administration’s concern about the heightened risk to American diplomats abroad, particularly in Libya where memories of the deadly 2012 attack on the U.S. mission in the eastern city of Benghazi are still vivid and the political uproar over it remain fresh ahead of a new congressional investigation into the incident. A senior military official told Fox News the Pentagon has been advising the State Department leave the post for weeks.  “Securing our facilities and ensuring the safety of our personnel are top department priorities, and we did not make this decision lightly,” Harf said. “Security has to come first. Regrettably, we had to take this step because the location of our embassy is in very close proximity to intense fighting and ongoing violence between armed Libyan factions.”

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A more compassionate GOP?

From The Hill:

The Republican Party’s biggest names are seeking ways to broaden out the GOP base, as they seek to learn from their mistakes in the 2012 election. House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (Wis.), the GOP’s vice presidential nominee two years ago, became the latest leading Republican official to venture into areas not known to be friendly to the party, rolling out a broad anti-poverty draft this week. Other top Republicans rumored to be 2016 presidential contenders, such as Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.) and Marco Rubio (Fla.), have made similar efforts in recent months, searching for a more compassionate approach to the poor and also dipping into areas like voter rights and criminal justice reform.

Many Republicans say the party desperately needs to embrace those methods as it seeks to bounce back from Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” comments in 2012 and a variety of other comments that allowed the GOP to be pilloried as in the corner of the wealthy. “We don’t do those kind of things, we’re going to morph into a minority party,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.). “I’ve been in a minority party before. I don’t want to go back.” But GOP lawmakers also acknowledge that the most conservative reaches of their party might not be attracted to those new tactics, even when they come from a Republican with the stature of Ryan.

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How Obama’s court strategy may help save Obamacare

From Politico:

Last fall, President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid deployed the “nuclear option” to help get three liberal judges onto the D.C. Circuit appeals court. Tuesday’s ruling on Obamacare is a dramatic example of why they forced the issue. On Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued a 2-1 decision that could gut much of Obamacare by preventing the federal government from offering subsidies to many Americans. The two judges in the majority were appointed by Republican presidents.

But the full court now has seven judges appointed by Democrats and four by Republicans. It took only an hour or so for the administration to announce that it plans to ask the entire bench to review the decision. When Obama took to the Rose Garden last June to launch an aggressive campaign to confirm the slate of three new judges to the D.C. Circuit, experts pointed to the critical role that court plays in overseeing federal regulations — something especially important for a president now focused on implementing his agenda through executive actions in the face of the gridlock on Capitol Hill.

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Obama’s immigration flip flop

From Politico:

President Barack Obama insisted for years that he had absolutely no legal authority — none whatsoever, zero, zilch — to slow deportations on a broad scale. Forget everything he’s said. Obama’s pledge to use his executive powers by the end of the summer marked both a dramatic reversal in rhetoric and a major strategic shift on immigration. The president is no longer emphasizing his own powerlessness but rather his determination “to fix as much of our immigration system as I can on my own, without Congress.”

The administration is examining how far it can go, legally and politically, to protect millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation. Despite the flow of young Central American children across the southwestern border, Obama remains committed to taking significant action, according to senior advisers and advocates who have attended recent meetings with White House officials. In other words, Obama has signaled that he intends to do exactly what he’s long said he’s unable to do. “I take executive action only when we have a serious problem, a serious issue, and Congress chooses to do nothing,” Obama said last month in his Rose Garden announcement. “And in this situation, the failure of House Republicans to pass a darn bill is bad for our security, it’s bad for our economy, and it’s bad for our future.”

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Obama wants new OK for ‘evolving’ terror fight

From Politico:

A top White House official suggested Saturday that Congress pass new legislation to support President Barack Obama’s authority to act against an array of terrorist groups not clearly linked to the September 11 attacks. White House counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco said the Authorization for the Use of Military Force passed three days after the 2001 strikes is dated and becoming less useful as radical groups with an anti-American bent metastasize to various parts of the world.

“The 2001 AUMF has provided us authority to go after terrorist actors and address the threats that they pose that fit within that definition. We are now 13, 14 years on from that and we’re seeing the emergence of other actors,” Monaco said during an appearance at the Aspen Security Forum. “I think there absolutely is a reason to have an authority to enable us to take the fight to these evolving terrorists that we’ve talked about.” In a speech last year, Obama said the U.S. shouldn’t be “on a perpetual wartime footing” and he appeared to call for a wind-down of the 2001 measure, which was akin to a declaration of war.

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President Obama Delivers Statement On Death Of Nelson Mandela