READ IN: Monday, July 14, 2014: Bergdahl back at work, IRS backs off smaller non-profits, North Carolina, Alabama runoffs tomorrow, Koch brothers go big in IA SEN, and how Santa gives back to Alaska

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A1: The stories you need to read before your first conference call.

-- Thousands of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip took shelter in U.N. facilities on Sunday after the Israeli Army ordered them to evacuate ahead of intensifying airstrikes. The Palestinian death toll topped 160 over the weekend. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday. (McClatchy)

-- Russia accused Ukraine of firing a shell over the border on Sunday, killing a Russian civilian, while Ukrainian officials said about 100 military vehicles had tried to cross the border from Russia earlier in the day. Russian President Vladimir Putin called for a return to the negotiating table for talks that would include rebels. (Washington Post) Vice President Biden spoke with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko twice over the weekend, the White House said.

-- Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is expected to resume life as a regular Army soldier as early as today when he takes a job at the Army North headquarters at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. Bergdahl has finished therapy and counseling after years as a Taliban prisoner. He is expected to meet with Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dahl, the officer investigating his disappearance from an Army outpost in 2009. (New York Times)

-- The IRS has decided it will no longer screen about 80 percent of the organizations seeking tax-exempt status each year. The decision means any group that declares it has annual income below $50,000 and total assets below $250,000 will be automatically allowed to accept tax-deductible donations. (Time)

-- Front Pages: WaPo, LA Times and WSJ lead with the crisis in Israel and Gaza, where civilians are fleeing their homes. NYT leads with violence at Rikers Island, where 129 inmates were seriously injured by prison employees in just 11 months. Berlin's BILD: "Weltmeister!" (World Champion!) The English-language Buenos Aires Herald: "You made us proud."

National Roundup: What's happening outside the Beltway.

-- WH'16: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) is scheduled to hit three fundraisers in Iowa this Thursday, in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Davenport. Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) will be in Algona on Saturday and Clear Lake on Sunday. (Des Moines Register)

-- More WH'16: A whopping 4 percent of New Hampshire Republican primary voters have definitely decided which candidate they're supporting in 2016. A new WMUR Granite State poll shows Christie leading with 19 percent, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) at 14 percent, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) at 11 percent, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) at 8 percent each. Everyone else clocks in below that. (Newark Star-Ledger)

-- Mississippi: State Sen. Chris McDaniel (R) will hold a press conference Wednesday to discuss what his team says are more than 8,300 questionable ballots from the June 24 runoff election. McDaniel on Friday accused Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann (R) of misleading county clerks by making it more difficult for McDaniel aides to review election records. (Washington Post)

-- North Carolina: Voters head to the polls on Tuesday to pick a Republican nominee to replace retiring Rep. Howard Coble (R), the only Congressional district that required a runoff after the May 6 primary. Rockingham County District Attorney Phil Berger Jr. (R) looks like he's ahead of Baptist minister Mark Walker (R); an outside group has dropped more than $100,000 on Berger's behalf.

-- Alabama: Republicans will pick a nominee to replace retiring Rep. Spencer Bachus (R) in the 6th District on Tuesday, when former think tank president Gary Palmer (R) faces off with state Rep. Paul DeMarco (R). The Club for Growth has dumped about $250,000 into the race on Palmer's behalf, and the only poll out of the race shows him way ahead. The winner will be heavily favored in November. Voters will also decide between two Republicans running for state Auditor, one of whom is businessman Dale Peterson. Yes, Dale Peterson, sponsor of perhaps the single greatest political ad of all time.

-- New Jersey: Christie said this weekend he plans to issue an executive order on Common Core standards, though he wouldn't elaborate on what the order will say or do. A bill to delay linking teacher evaluations to Common Core tests passed the Assembly last month, though the Senate has not yet voted on it. (Newark Star-Ledger) Partial list of governors who have come out against Common Core: Indiana's Mike Pence, Louisiana's Bobby Jindal, Wisconsin's Scott Walker.

-- Florida: Former Rep. David Rivera (R) said Friday he will end his comeback bid against Rep. Joe Garcia (D) and will instead run for a seat in the state legislature in 2016. Rivera is under federal investigation. His decision to quit is good news for the GOP, which united around Miami Dade school board member Carlos Curbelo (R). (Washington Post)

-- Wisconsin and Indiana: The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has put appeals of decisions striking down both states' ban on same sex marriage on a fast track, meaning a decision is likely to come before the midterm elections. Briefings are due by Aug. 4; a three-judge panel including a Clinton appointee, an Obama appointee and Judge Richard Posner will hear the case. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

DC Digest: What's on tap today in DC.

-- President Obama will participate in an Ambassador Credentialing Ceremony in the Oval Office the afternoon. This evening, Obama hosts an Iftar dinner celebrating Ramadan in the State Dining Room.

-- Vice President Biden has lunch with President Obama today, then spends the rest of the day in meetings at the White House.

-- Watch out, Post Offices, you're about to get renamed. The House meets at 2 p.m. today to consider 20 measures under suspension of the rules, 10 of which will rename USPS facilities. The House will begin considering the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations measure. That's the seventh appropriations bill the House has taken up this summer.

-- The House Veterans Affairs Committee will hear testimony today on the VA's efforts to eliminate the backlog of disability claims it's been struggling with for years. The number of backlogged claims dropped to 274,000 last week, down 55 percent from the March 2013 zenith. (Washington Post)

-- The Senate meets at 2 p.m., though with no roll call votes scheduled today. The first roll calls of the week will be cloture votes on two Federal Energy and Regulatory Commission nominees tomorrow afternoon.

-- Since March, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has stumped for Democratic candidates in Ohio, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington and Kentucky. This week, she travels to West Virginia and Michigan. On the trail, she pitches her legislation to let college graduates refinance student loans at lower interest rates. (Associated Press)

-- Keep your umbrella close this week. Showers and thunderstorms are expected in the D.C. area today and tomorrow ahead of the summer Polar Vortex (Revenge of the Vortex? Weekend at Vortex II? Die Another Vortex? We're open to suggestions), which arrives Wednesday. Highs both Wednesday and Thursday look like very pleasant upper 70s to lower 80s. (Capital Weather Gang)

TV Time Out: Our exclusive look at who's advertising, and where.

-- Iowa: On Friday, we told you Freedom Partners, the Koch brothers organization, was dumping about $500,000 into the Iowa Senate race between state Sen. Joni Ernst (R) and Rep. Bruce Braley (D). Turns out, they weren't done buying. The group has now plunked down $1.6 million in ads set to run Sept. 3 through Election Day, or about $180,000 a week on cable stations in five markets.

The Buried Lede: The nuggets that deserve the spotlight.

-- Common Core was a creation of the National Governors Association back in 2009. But now, conservative activists have made the program so radioactive that the Common Core standards weren't even on this weekend's NGA agenda. (Associated Press)

B1: Business, politics and the business of politics

-- Tom Steyer's Next Gen Climate group is trying to do to climate change what anti-smoking activists did to tobacco, accusing opponents of denying basic science. Steyer has already put $16 million into his group this year. And he brushes off Republican attacks that he's a hypocrite because his hedge fund owned big polluters like an Australian coal mine: "Politics is a full-contact sport," he says. (Sacramento Bee)

-- Citigroup will agree to pay $7 billion to the Justice Department to settle an investigation into sales of mortgage-backed securities tied to the 2008 financial crisis, DoJ will announce today. Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase are the only two major U.S. banks to settle in connection with the 2008 financial crisis. Citigroup announces its second-quarter earnings this morning as well. (USA Today)

-- Stock futures are up before the bell after U.S. markets made small gains on Friday. Citigroup is up 1.5 percent in pre-market trading, before the settlement is announced. World markets were up across the board today. (CNN)

C1: The long reads you'll need to check out before tonight's cocktail party.

-- A deep dive into the politics that closed two lanes of the George Washington Bridge ten months ago, a scandal that still dogs New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) as he sets out on the presidential campaign trail, from Vanity Fair. Smart line: "In American politics, mud tends to stick to an elected official when it underscores something we already sense."

-- Former Rep. Ken Gray (D-Ill.), known as the Prince of Pork during his combined 12 terms in office, died Saturday after a long illness at the age of 89. Gray retired from Congress in 1974, citing high blood pressure. He returned to Congress in 1984, but he quit after two terms after getting a tick bite during a CODEL to Brazil. (Associated Press)

C4: The comics page, fun things to read when you're bored at work

-- Santa Claus is giving back to Alaska. The president of the Chamber of Commerce in North Pole, Alaska, Santa Claus (the former Tom O'Connor) will tell his 293,000 Facebook fans and friends about the importance of bringing an F-35 squadron to Alaska. "Social media is unbelievable," Sen. Mark Begich (D) said. "I know," Claus responded. "It's crazy." (Washington Post)

Attn Matt Drudge: Things conservatives will get outraged by today.

-- Long-shot Congressional candidate Estakio Beltran (D), running in Washington's heavily Republican 4th District, took a, well, long shot in a new web video. The video shows Beltran using a pump-action shotgun to blow away an elephant pinata. Beltran's campaign ducked a reporter's questions on the ad, then courageously took it off YouTube on Saturday. (Seattle Times) Imagine if it had been a Republican ad.

Reid Wilson covers state politics and policy for the Washington Post's GovBeat blog. He's a former editor in chief of The Hotline, the premier tip sheet on campaigns and elections, and he's a complete political junkie.
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