Essential Reads

Essential Reads is your one-stop source for the top stories of the day as reported by your favorite Washington Week panelists. It's a simple way to save time and stay informed about the news you need to know. Check it out every day!

Apr 18, 2013

  • Soft Targets Have Concerned Security Officials For Years

    By Tom Gjelten, NPR

    The finish line at the Boston Marathon was a classic soft target for a terrorist: hundreds of people gathered in a close place, with minimal barriers to entry for someone desiring to inflict casualties. The Boston bombing was the first successful attempt of its kind since the 1996 bombing at the Atlanta Olympics. Counterterrorism officials now worry about the danger of copycat bombings, but there may be good reasons attacks like this have not been attempted more often.

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  • National GOP abandons Mark Sanford

    By Karen Tumulty, The Washington Post

    Following revelations that his ex-wife accused him of trespassing on her property earlier this year, former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford (R) has lost the support of his national party. The news comes as controversy continues to swirl around Sanford and his personal life — a process that began with his well-publicized 2009 affair but was inflamed, the Washington Post has learned, when one of the Sanfords’ sons met Mark Sanford’s former mistress for the first time the night he won the GOP nomination.

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Apr 17, 2013

  • Plenty of Clues, Few Leads on Motive of Boston Marathon Bomber

    By James Kitfield, National Journal

    For a generation of Americans that collectively bears the psychic scar tissue of Sept. 11, 2001, any act of terror invokes memories of the terrorist attack that reshaped their lives and largely defined the past decade. So the nearly simultaneous bombings of the Boston Marathon that killed three and injured more than a hundred bystanders instantly suggests the work of al-Qaida or its affiliates in the pantheon of Sunni Islamic extremist groups.

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  • Obama Balances Attack Aftermath, Ongoing Agenda

    By Alexis Simendinger, Real Clear Politics

    The death toll in Boston was smaller than many multi-car traffic accidents around the country, but scores of blast survivors suffered horrific injuries that were plotted by someone -- a killer or killers -- who got away.

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  • We're Safer Than We Think

    By Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times

    After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the most frequently heard forecast was: “This changes everything.”

    Americans would live in constant fear of the next attack, many pundits predicted. The desire for safety would spawn a security state that would trample constitutional freedoms. The economy would take a long-term hit. American life would never be the same.

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  • Letter Sent to Miss. Senator Believed to be Laced with Poison

    By Ed O’Keefe and Paul Kane, The Washington Post

    Federal officials said a letter addressed to a U.S. senator was discovered to contain a potential poison. It was intercepted at an off-site facility in Landover where congressional mail has been examined before delivery since anthrax-laced letters were sent to Capitol Hill in 2001.

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  • Focus on Gun Control and Immigration Reform Diverted After Boston Bombings

    By Beth Reinhard, National Journal

    What was billed as a pivotal week for gun control and immigration reform on Capitol Hill has turned into a mourning period for those killed and injured in the bombings in Boston.

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  • Senate Immigration Bill Looks Promising Despite Some Unease

    By Christi Parsons and Lisa Mascaro, Los Angeles Times

    Complete satisfaction with the Senate's bipartisan immigration proposal was hard to find Tuesday as details of the bill became known, but despite reservations, a growing consensus was developing in favor of the proposal as the best chance in a generation to achieve comprehensive immigration reform.

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  • Most Back New Gun, Immigration Laws, Post-ABC Poll Shows

    By Dan Balz and Jon Cohen, The Washington Post

    Most Americans, including half of all gun owners, say it is possible to enact new laws without infringing on gun rights, and overwhelming majorities support expanded background checks at gun shows and for online gun sales, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

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Apr 16, 2013

  • Obama Vows "Full Weight of Justice" in Boston Bombing

    By Alexis Simendinger, Real Clear Politics

    As federal, state and local authorities scrambled to respond to bomb blasts near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday, President Obama vowed that the perpetrator or “groups” responsible for killing at least three people and injuring scores more would be apprehended.

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  • Republicans Embrace Obama’s Offer to Trim Social Security Benefits

    By Lori Montgomery, The Washington Post

    President Obama’s offer to trim Social Security benefits has perplexed and angered Democrats, but GOP leaders are embracing the proposal and rushing to jump-start a debate that will delve even more deeply into the touchy topic of federal spending on the elderly.

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  • As Debate Begins, Senate Background Check Proposal for Gun Sales Lacks Necessary Votes

    By Ed O’Keefe and Tom Hamburger, The Washington Post

    Debate on a major overhaul of the of the nation’s gun-control laws is scheduled to begin Tuesday in the U.S. Senate, but there were still not enough votes late Monday to assure expansion of the national gun background check program for gun sales, which is the centerpiece of the proposal.

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  • Immigration Reform Isn't Hurting Marco Rubio's Bottom Line

    By Beth Reinhard, National Journal

    Though championing immigration reform is widely viewed as a political gamble for Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, it hasn't stalled his rapidly churning fundraising machine.

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  • Finally, a Phrase to Describe the Agony of Losing Control of Your Gadgets

    By John Dickerson, Slate Magazine

    Have you ever been happily typing along and suddenly had your text disappear? Or you’ve launched a program you didn't intend? You told your iPhone to be silent for your daughter's play, but when you sat up before her crucial scene, you somehow launched iTunes. I'm gonna pop some tags, only got 20 dollars in my pocket.

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Apr 15, 2013

  • Why a Messed Up Immigration Bill Could Still Pass

    By Fawn Johnson, National Journal

    Only one thing really matters in the immigration bill that a bipartisan group of eight senators will unveil this week—11 million immigrants living in the United States without papers who fear deportation every day. Give them a break, and the rest will sort itself out.

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  • Supreme Court Passes on Gun Rights Case

    By Pete Williams, NBC News

    The United States Supreme Court has declined to take up the hottest question about gun rights now dividing the nation's courts: is there a constitutional right to carry a gun outside the home?

    The justices today passed up a challenge brought by five residents of New York's Westchester County to a state law that forbids carrying a gun unless a person desiring to do so can show "proper cause" -- some special need for protection that goes beyond a general desire for self-defense. Those who can demonstrate that need can be granted a license to carry a firearm. The federal appeals courts are split on whether the Second Amendment provides a right to carry a gun in public.

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  • Sandy Hook and Grief: Gun Control Advocates Plead their Case

    By Christi Parsons, Kathleen Hennessey and Michael A. Memoli, Los Angeles Times

    The White House turned over the president’s weekly address to a stand-in Saturday, airing on its website gripping video of Francine Wheeler talking about the life and death of her 6-year-old son, Ben, shot in his classroom at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

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  • Washington Confronts Still-Divided America

    By Dan Balz, The Washington Post

    Bipartisanship and cross-party alliances are suddenly in vogue in the Senate this spring. The question is whether the Senate is a leading indicator of a change in politics or largely an aberration in a nation divided along red and blue lines.

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  • President Obama, Republicans Fight the Class War

    By John F. Harris and Jonathan Martin, Politico

    There was nothing especially subtle about the way Barack Obama played the politics of class resentment against Mitt Romney in 2012.

    “My opponent,” Obama brayed in Virginia Beach last fall, “thinks that someone who makes $20 million a year, like him, should pay a lower [tax] rate than a cop or a teacher who makes $50,000.”

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  • Obama’s Budget Revives Benefits as Divisive Issue

    By Jackie Calmes, The New York Times

    Whether or not Republicans ever agree to a budget deal with President Obama, one thing seems certain: now that he has officially put Social Security and Medicare benefits on the negotiating table, opponents on his party’s left will make that an issue for Democrats in the midterm elections next year — and perhaps in the 2016 presidential contest.

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