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!

Jul 23, 2013

  • Obama to Deliver Series of Economic Speeches

    By Alexis Simendinger, Real Clear Politics

    President Obama will travel this week to Illinois, Missouri and Florida to deliver speeches about the slowly recovering U.S. economy and to accuse Republicans of playing politics.

    Obama will speak Wednesday at Illinois’ Knox College, where he spoke before becoming president, and then travel to the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, Mo. By Thursday, the president will be in Jacksonville, Fla.

    “The point is to chart a course for where America needs to go – not just in the next three months or even the next three years, but a steady, persistent effort over the long term to restore this country’s basic bargain for the middle class,” White House Senior Adviser Dan Pfeiffer explained in a blog post Sunday.

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  • On the Economy, Obama is Faltering Under His Own Terms

    By Jim Tankersley, The Washington Post

    President Obama thinks “Washington has largely taken its eye off the ball” on economic issues, and he’s planning a batch of speeches this week to make the case for more action. Good. Because by Obama’s own measures, the economy needs a lot of help.

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  • Conservatives Push to Cut Off Some NSA Funding

    By Janet Hook, Wall Street Journal

    A cadre of conservatives is pushing the House to vote for the first time on reining in a controversial National Security Agency program that collects information about phone calls made by millions of Americans.

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  • Zimmerman Verdict Poll: Stark Reaction By Race

    By Jon Cohen and Dan Balz, The Washington Post

    The not-guilty verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman has produced dramatically different reactions among blacks and whites, with African Americans overwhelmingly disapproving of the jury’s decision and a bare majority of whites saying they approve of the outcome, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

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  • Cybercrime May Cost US Economy $100 Billion, Says New Study

    By Eamon Javers, CNBC

    Quick—how much money does cybercrime cost the U.S. economy every year? Don't know? Neither does anyone else. Like other illegal activity, cybercrime is very hard to count because the crime mostly happens in secret. Think of the wide-ranging estimates for the drug trade, for example, or even insider trading.

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  • What Helen Thomas Taught Us

    By Karen Tumulty, The Washington Post

    I was about a year out of college, still writing wedding announcements and features like the “Auntie Litter” column for my hometown newspaper, when Helen Thomas came to San Antonio to give a speech. For the women in the newsroom, it felt like having the pope in town.

    By the late 1970s, we had arrived in journalism. But it sometimes felt as though we had landed without a map or a translator. So we were not going to miss an opportunity to actually meet the reporter who more than anyone else seemed to have figured it out.

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Jul 22, 2013

  • 2 weeks and counting: What can Congress get done in its final two weeks?

    By Ed O'Keefe, The Washington Post

    Two weeks ago we outlined a July to-do list for Congress and suggested that the prospect of significant achievements rested on what transpired in the weeks before the August recess.

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  • Obama, from Rev. Wright to Trayvon Martin

    By Dan Balz, The Washington Post

    President Obama’s comments on Friday about the killing of Trayvon Martin were remarkable in many respects, but not least because of the distance he has traveled since the equally notable speech he delivered in 2008 during the controversy about his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

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  • “Trayvon Martin Could Have Been Me”

    By John Dickerson, Slate Magazine

    The essential bet of Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign was that the country was ready for an African-American president. He appealed to that same sense of hope again Friday in the White House briefing room. After a week of emotional reactions to the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial, President Obama made a bet that he could contribute something useful in the aftermath, and that despite all of the partisanship of the last five years and America's tragic history with the issue of race, there would be some portion of the audience that would actually listen to what he said. If it was a renewal of his original promise, it was also fulfillment of it for many. No other president could give that talk.

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  • Even the Aide Who Coined the Hastert Rule Says the Hastert Rule Isn't Working

    By Molly Ball, The Atlantic

    House Speaker John Boehner has a tough job -- so tough that Democrats have taken to pitying him. "I feel sorry for the speaker," Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, recently confessed. New York magazine described Boehner as "one of the most beleaguered powerful people in Washington," and quoted one of his closest allies, former Rep. Steve LaTourette, as being unable to fathom what Boehner likes about his job. There's a rumor going around that Boehner's preparing to chuck it all and retire.

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  • Kerry’s Day-and-Night Pursuit Reaps Fragile Mideast Talks

    By Indira A.R. Lakshmanan & Nicole Gaouette, Bloomberg News

    When John Kerry stepped onto his plane in Amman, Jordan, after announcing he had brokered a preliminary deal to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, his staff broke into applause.

    The U.S. secretary of state has invested his prestige and much of his time, through day-and-night shuttle diplomacy in six trips over six months, in reviving negotiations that broke off in September 2010. The immediate goal is for Israeli and Palestinian negotiators to meet in Washington “within the next week or so,” Kerry told reporters on July 19.

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  • NSA Growth Fueled by Need to Target Terrorists

    By Dana Priest, Washington Post

    Twelve years later, the cranes and earthmovers around the National Security Agency are still at work, tearing up pavement and uprooting trees to make room for a larger workforce and more powerful computers. Already bigger than the Pentagon in square footage, the NSA’s footprint will grow by an additional 50 percent when construction is complete in a decade.

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Jul 19, 2013

  • Will George Zimmerman Bring Down a Governor?

    By Beth Reinhard, National Journal

    Rick Scott couldn’t do much worse among black voters than in 2010, when only 6 percent backed him for governor.

    Or could he? African-American leaders outraged by the not-guilty verdict in the death of teenager Trayvon Martin are assailing Scott for supporting the “Stand Your Ground” law that arguably helped Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman, go free. Students protesters are camping out in the governor’s office, musician Stevie Wonder has announced a boycot,t and Attorney General Eric Holder denounced the law at the NAACP convention in Orlando earlier this week.

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  • With Legacy on the Line, Obama Touts Health-Care Implementation

    By Karen Tumulty, The Washington Post

    Transforming the nation’s health-care system stands as Barack Obama’s most crucial piece of unfinished business, with much of his presidential legacy riding on whether it is deemed to have succeeded or failed.

    While other presidents have managed to overcome intense opposition to major new social initiatives, Obama faces a degree of difficulty with health care that has no historic parallel.

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  • U.S. Worries NSA Leaker's Files Could Be Hacked

    With Tom Gjelten, NPR

    The Russian lawyer for NSA leaker Edward Snowden predicts his client will soon get temporary asylum in Russia. Snowden and his allies say his laptops contain files that could be highly damaging to NSA operations. Security experts say it would be challenging but by no means impossible for Russian (or Chinese) cyber technicians to gain access to the files Snowden has with him, in spite of his promises to safeguard them.

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  • N.S.A. Imposes Rules to Protect Secret Data Stored on Its Networks

    By David E. Sanger and Eric Schmidt, The New York Times

    The National Security Agency has imposed new rules designed to sharply restrict the sharing and downloading of top-secret material from its computer networks after a review of how Edward J. Snowden, a former agency contractor, managed to expose several of the country’s most sensitive surveillance programs, two of the Pentagon’s most senior officials said Thursday.

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  • Syrian Refugees Demand Answers From Kerry

    With Martha Raddatz, ABC News

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  • The Cross-Wind Election

    By Amy Walter, Cook Political Report

    Which way will the political winds be blowing in 2014? At this point, it looks more like a cross-wind, with both parties likely to face some resistance, but not the kind of crushing political headwinds faced by Republicans in 2006 or Democrats in 2010.

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Jul 18, 2013

  • Moscow Trip for Obama May Be Off as Snowden Tensions Build

    By Peter Baker, The New York Times

    President Obama may cancel a scheduled trip to Moscow to meet with President Vladimir V. Putin in September as the standoff over the fate of Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor seeking asylum there, takes its toll on already strained relations between the United States and Russia, officials said Thursday.

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  • Health Law: Obama’s Sales Pitch Has Failed, So Far

    By David Wessel, Wall Street Journal

    More than three years after it managed to get its Affordable Care Act through Congress, the White House seems to have realized that it has done a lousy job selling it.

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