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!

Jun 11, 2014

  • U.S. Attorney General Slams Boy Scouts Over Gay Scoutmaster Ban

    By Pete Williams, NBC News

    Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday that the refusal by the Boy Scouts of America to allow gay adults to be scout leaders "perpetuates the worst kind of stereotypes."  In remarks for delivery to a gay rights organization, Lambda Legal, Holder said with the repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, "courageous lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals routinely put their lives on the line" in the armed services.

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Jun 10, 2014

  • Looks like Hillary Clinton won't be running for president on Obama's record

    By Doyle McManus, LA Times

    Hillary Rodham Clinton’s memoir of her time as secretary of State isn’t officially being released until Tuesday, but thanks to a deluge of excerpts, we already know most of what’s in the book, and that makes it easy to figure out why she wrote it. If there was any remaining doubt that Clinton is planning to run for president, “Hard Choices“ should remove it. Her spokespeople insist that she hasn’t made the final decision. But she’s propping the door wide open with her 656-page bestseller-to-be.

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  • 4 of ‘Taliban 5’ Will Likely Fight Again, U.S. Spies Say

    By Kimberly Dozier and Eli Lake, The Daily Beast

    Obama’s top intelligence officers warned that four out of the five Taliban prisoners swapped for Bowe Bergdahl would return to the battlefield. A top intelligence official told lawmakers in a classified Senate briefing last week that he expected four out of the five Taliban leaders released by the Obama administration to eventually return to the battlefield.

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  • Student loan relief: Obama's order caps payments at 10% of income

    By Christi Parsons, Tribune Newspapers

    President Obama on Monday signed an executive order that lets millions of college graduates cap their student loan payments at 10% of their income, a move he says will help “open the doors of opportunity for all.” By amending student loan regulations to put the cap in place, Obama is making use of his executive powers to help alleviate the burden for young Americans increasingly saddled with student loans.

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  • INSIGHT-US law firms flock to gay-marriage proponents, shun other side

    By Joan Biskupic, Reuters

    As U.S. lawsuits seeking gay-marriage rights move toward a likely showdown at the Supreme Court next year, major law firms are rushing to get involved - but only on the side of the proponents. A Reuters review of more than 100 court filings during the past year shows that at least 30 of the country's largest firms are representing challengers to state laws banning same-sex marriage. Not a single member of the Am Law 200, a commonly used ranking of the largest U.S. firms by revenue, is defending gay marriage prohibitions.

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  • U.S. Leads Push to Get Iran Nuclear Talks Back on Track

    By Indira Lakshmanan and Kambiz Foroohar, Bloomberg News

    U.S. and Iranian officials are holding an extra round of meetings to revive momentum in the push for an accord on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. The two sides will reconvene today after they met for five hours in Geneva yesterday. The bilateral sessions were needed because “we are a critical juncture in the talks” and time is running short, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in Washington. Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said they were “held in a positive and constructive atmosphere,” the Iranian news agency IRNA reported.

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Jun 09, 2014

  • Obama Plans Steps to Ease Student Debt

    By Jackie Calmes, The New York Times

    President Obama on Monday will take executive actions to ease the burden of college loan debt for potentially millions of Americans, in a White House event coinciding with Senate Democrats’ plans for legislation to address a concern of many voters in this midterm election year. Before an East Room audience, Mr. Obama is scheduled to announce “new steps to further lift the burden of crushing student loan debt,” said a White House official, who declined to be identified describing the actions in advance of the president’s event. Despite past actions by the administration, borrowers’ debt load is growing and retarding the ability to buy homes, start businesses or otherwise spend to spur the economy, economists say.

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  • 'This Week': New Details of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's Captivity

    With Martha Raddatz, ABC News

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  • When the book is the hook

    By Todd Purdum, POLITICO

    She already has two best-sellers under her belt. She has 100 percent name recognition, prohibitive political support in the polls — and more money than most ordinary people could ever dream of. So why does Hillary Clinton need another book, much less one that’s pre-sold a million copies and dominated news coverage even before its official release? The answer: Her forthcoming book tour and the attendant multiplatform media blitz are about everything but the book and the bucks. To begin with, the rollout of “Hard Choices,” which officially begins Tuesday, presents a perfect way to gather priceless retail consumer data that can later be put to political use.

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  • Ted Cruz returns to the Texas Republican convention a conquering hero

    By Karen Tumulty, The Washington Post

    The last time Ted Cruz showed up at a Texas Republican Party convention, it was as the scrappy insurgent who had come from nowhere to force the establishment’s anointed one into a run-off for a U.S. Senate seat.  More than 8,000 Republicans gathered here again Thursday for their three-day biennial meeting. And just two years after he first appeared on their stage, the junior senator from Texas bestrode the world inside the Fort Worth Convention Center as a colossus.

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  • Critics of P.O.W. Swap Question the Absence of a Wider Agreement

    By David Sanger and Matthew Rosenberg, The New York Times

    When the heads of the two major intelligence committees criticized the Obama administration on Sunday for swapping Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five members of the Taliban, they homed in on one part of the deal that the White House has struggled for a week, unsuccessfully, to explain. The question is why the five were released without any commitments to a larger agreement, under which the Taliban would renounce international terrorism, and begin a process of reconciliation with the government of Afghanistan.

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Jun 06, 2014

  • Safe Choices

    By John Dickerson, Slate Magazine

    During the 2008 campaign, Hillary Clinton ran a blunt television ad asking whether Barack Obama could handle a foreign policy crisis. In it, a phone rang and a variety of children were shown in their beds. “It’s 3 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep. Who do you want answering the phone?” asked the narrator. After the parade of adorables, the ad showed Clinton on the phone. It was a contrivance since she’d never answered a red phone either. But now she has, and over more than 600 pages of Hard Choices, her memoir of her time as secretary of state, Clinton details what it’s like to steer U.S. diplomacy in a dangerous and changing world.

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  • Obama Honors Moment of Liberation in Normandy

    By Peter Baker, The New York Times

    At a time of renewed tension harking back to a darker era, the leaders of the United States, Canada, Europe and Russia put aside their differences for a few hours on Friday to honor the moment decades ago when their predecessors joined forces to liberate a continent from tyranny.

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  • Taliban's Bowe Bergdahl Exchange Video: Analyzing the Signs

    With Martha Raddatz, ABC News

    Why the white flag? What did the number 41 mean? Experts weigh in on shocking Taliban video.

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  • Fears for Sergeant’s Life Led to Secrecy About Swap, Obama Official Says

    By David E. Sanger and Peter Baker, The New York Times

    A senior Obama administration official said Thursday that the operation to free Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was kept a closely held secret because of fear that splits within the Taliban could lead gun-wielding guards to kill the soldier before he was turned over to American forces last weekend.

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  • Senators reach bipartisan deal on bill to fix VA

    By Ed O’Keefe, The Washington Post

    Senators announced a broad proposal Thursday to address health-care failures at the Department of Veterans Affairs that would authorize spending $500 million to hire more doctors and nurses, allow veterans to be cared for outside the overburdened system and give the next veterans secretary greater authority to fire employees for incompetence.

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  • Newest Cabinet Member Is Never Far From Her Roots

    By Jackie Calmes, The New York Times

    When President Bill Clinton had thrashed out his first difficult budget with advisers, he turned to one of his younger aides for the final word, a seal of approval. “Sylvia, are the folks in Hinton going to think we’ve done right by them?” he said.

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Jun 05, 2014

  • Senators' doubts persist as administration explains Bergdahl deal

    By Michael A. Memoli and Christie Parsons, Tribune Newspapers

    Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl appeared "drugged" and "very weak" in a Taliban video shown to senators Wednesday during a classified briefing, the administration's most broad-ranging consultation with lawmakers after a controversial prisoner swap.

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  • Behind P.O.W.’s Release: Urgency and Opportunity

    By Eric Schmitt, Mark Mazzetti, David E. Sanger and Helene Cooper, The New York Times

    Weeks before a Black Hawk helicopter lifted off in the dying light of eastern Afghanistan, carrying with it an American soldier who had spent five years in the hands of the Taliban, American officials grew increasingly worried that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s life might be in jeopardy.

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  • Obama, Seeking Unity on Russia, Meets Obstacles

    By Peter Baker, The New York Times

    President Obama started his day in Warsaw struggling to convince his friends in Central and Eastern Europe that the United States is being tough enough with Russia. He ended his day in Brussels, still struggling, but this time to persuade America’s core Western allies to stay tough with Russia.

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