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Republican woes help Democratic Alaskan governor

Democratic Sen. Mark Begich probably couldn’t ask for a better start in his re-election campaign, with the state Republican Party emerging from a chaotic year and gearing up for a divisive primary as it hunts for a strong challenger to run against him. Even so, the freshman senator — who has a political pedigree, a wad of campaign cash and a reputation as a scrappy campaigner — brushes off the notion of anything short of a tough race even as he casts himself as a moderate in hopes of attracting voters from across the political spectrum. “We’re going to continue
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Delay increases concern about Obamacare

The sudden delay of a major part of President Barack Obama’s historic health care overhaul is raising questions about other potential problems lurking in the homestretch. The requirement that many employers provide coverage is just one part of a complex law. But its one-year postponement has taken administration allies and adversaries alike by surprise. White House officials said Wednesday that the delay was firm and won’t be extended after a year — and that the overhaul will still be fully implemented by the time Obama leaves office. But the officials, who were not authorized to discuss internal deliberations on the
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A White House barbeque to thank troops

President Barack Obama is noting that it’s not just the nation’s birthday, it’s his daughter Malia’s, too. At a sun-splashed Independence Day barbeque on the White House South Lawn, the president and first lady Michele Obama thanked members of the military for their service to the nation. The Declaration of Independence was adopted 237 years ago on July 4, 1776. Malia Obama turned 15 on Thursday. The Obamas spoke to the crowd and then spent about 10 minutes shaking hands and posing for pictures with babies dressed in red, white and blue ahead of evening fireworks on the National Mall.
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The Fourth of July

As America pauses to celebrate the Fourth of July, Capitol Hill Blue founder and publisher Doug Thompson, who is also a photographer and filmmaker, put together a short video on Independence Day. Even tough Thompson earlier wrote a column expressing doubts that America is truly a free or independent nation today, this video clip expresses no political opinion or doubts about the nation. “I do find it incredible that some who responded to my column about the lack of American independence doubted my love of country,” Thompson says.  “To the contrary, it is love of country that made the column
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Key element of Obamacare delayed

President Barack Obama’s health care law, hailed as his most significant legislative achievement, seems to be losing much of its sweep. On Tuesday, the administration unexpectedly announced a one-year delay, until after the 2014 elections, in a central requirement of the law that medium and large companies provide coverage for their workers or face fines. Separately, opposition in the states from Republican governors and legislators has steadily undermined a Medicaid expansion that had been expected to provide coverage to some 15 million low-income people. Tuesday’s move — which caught administration allies and adversaries by surprise — sacrificed timely implementation of
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Illinois governor vetoes part of state’s new concealed carry law

Illinois governor Pat Quinn on Tuesday vetoed parts of a gun bill that would have allowed people to carry more than one gun, carry guns into some places that serve alcohol, and carry a partly exposed gun. Flanked by parents of gun violence victims, Democrat Quinn said at a press conference that he objected to at least nine provisions of the new Illinois concealed carry measure that was passed by the legislature. “This is a flawed bill with serious safety problems that must be addressed,” Quinn said. After the press conference, House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton,
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Budget cuts hurt federal funding to fight wildfires

This year’s across-the-board budget cuts are slicing tens of millions of dollars from the federal government’s funds for battling wildfires, reductions that have meant fewer firefighters and could cause agencies to dip into other programs designed to prevent future blazes. The U.S. Forest Service‘s $2 billion-a-year firefighting budget, which comprises the bulk of the federal effort, has been reduced by 5 percent, a cut that has meant 500 fewer firefighters and 50 fewer fire engines than last year, agency officials say. The Interior Department‘s $37.5 million reduction has meant 100 fewer seasonal firefighter positions and other lost jobs as well,
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Americans swamped, angered by flood insurance changes

Just a year after Congress imposed significant changes in the government’s oft-criticized flood insurance program, howls of protest from homeowners facing higher premiums have coastal lawmakers pressing for delays that would preserve below-cost rates for hundreds of thousands of people in flood-risk areas. The government can’t say how many people could confront higher premiums, but homeowners in places like Staten Island, N.Y., along the battered New Jersey coast and in low-lying areas of Louisiana, Florida and Texas face the prospect that new government surveys could produce flood insurance premium increases so big that they could be forced from their homes
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So, what’s a little spying among friends?

President Barack Obama had a simple answer to European outrage over new allegations that the U.S. spies on its allies: The Europeans do it too. Obama said Monday during his trip to Africa that every intelligence service in Europe, Asia and elsewhere does its best to understand the world better, and that goes beyond what they read in newspapers or watch on TV. It was an attempt to blunt European reaction to new revelations from National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden that the U.S. spies on European governments. “If that weren’t the case, then there’d be no use for an
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Snowden withdraws request for Russian asylum

NSA leaker Edward Snowden’s attempts to seek refuge outside the United States hit hurdles Tuesday, after Russian media reported he canceled his asylum bid in Russia and several European countries said such applications wouldn’t be considered if they were made from abroad. Russian news agencies Tuesday quoted President Vladimir Putin‘s spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying that Snowden withdrew his request when he learnt about the terms Moscow has set out. Putin said on Monday that Russia is ready to shelter Snowden as long as he stops leaking U.S. secrets. At the same time, Putin said he had no plans to
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