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A1: The stories you need to read before your first conference call.
-- The number of people who signed up for health care under the Affordable Care Act more than doubled in March and April in the 36 states that didn't set up their own marketplaces, according to figures released by the administration Thursday. In Texas and Florida alone, almost 1 million people signed up in the final month of open enrollment. Another 4.8 million obtained coverage through Medicaid and CHIP. But enrollment among Hispanics remains weak, administration officials said. (Washington Post)
-- A day after warning that warring parties in South Sudan were headed toward genocide, Secretary of State John Kerry landed in Juba Friday to help establish peace talks between President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar. Kerry said outside countries would deploy a predominantly African peace-keeping force in South Sudan to supplement the 9,000 U.N. peace keepers already there. (Washington Post)
-- Talks aimed at a new intelligence agreement between Germany and the U.S. have broken down in the wake of the NSA scandal. The two countries had hoped to have an agreement to sign when Chancellor Angela Merkel visits the White House today. Germany demanded the U.S. end spying activity on its soil, a level of commitment beyond even what the U.S. has with the U.K. and Canada. (New York Times)
-- The Kremlin said Friday that any remaining hope for a settlement in Ukraine was gone as violence escalates in the eastern part of the country. Two Ukrainian military helicopters were shot down Friday by separatists wielding shoulder-fired missiles. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday called for Ukrainian forces to withdraw from eastern parts of their own country. (New York Times)
-- Republicans hoping to knock off Democratic senators in North Carolina and Louisiana may have to deal with a warchest-sapping runoff before getting a clean shot at incumbents. Georgia's crowded GOP field is almost certainly headed to a runoff, and polls show North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis (R) sitting right on the edge of the 40 percent threshold he would need to hit to avoid a second round. (Associated Press)
-- Front Pages: WaPo leads with defiant tech companies taking on the feds. NYT fronts a new agreement with teachers unions. WSJ delves into ObamaCare numbers. The new sign-up figures got attention all over the country, from USA Today to the Bradenton (Fla.) Herald, the Austin American-Statesman, the Columbus Dispatch (Bonus: Spider-Man appearance) and the Charlotte Observer.
National Roundup: What's happening outside the Beltway.
-- WH'16: George W. Bush hasn't talked to brother Jeb about running for President, the former POTUS said in an interview. Bush said he hopes his brother runs. "I noticed he's moving around the country quite a bit," Bush said. (CNN) Meanwhile, donors scared by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's George Washington Bridge scandal are increasingly considering backing Jeb Bush. (New York Times) Reid's Take: More Acela Corridor buzz. Common Core and "acts of love" are hard sells in Iowa and New Hampshire.
-- Pennsylvania: In the race to take on Gov. Tom Corbett (R), businessman Tom Wolf (D) leads Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D) and Treasurer Rob McCord (D) among Democratic voters in advance of the May 20 gubernatorial primary. Wolf takes 38 percent, compared with 13 percent for Schwartz and 11 percent for McCord in the Muhlenberg College poll. (Allentown Morning Call) Schwartz and McCord are piling on to Wolf, but that early ad blitz looks like it's really paying off.
-- Florida: Rick Scott, progressive hero? The Republican governor with an almost down-the-line conservative record has been burnishing his cross-aisle resume lately. Scott says he will sign a measure that passed the legislature on Thursday that will allow the children of undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition, and a bill that would legalize marijuana for medical purposes. (Tampa Bay Tribune, Miami Herald) Reid's Take: Scott's actions may not be entirely altruistic. A medical marijuana measure is on the ballot this fall, and some Democrats hoped it would boost turnout among younger voters.
-- Colorado: Vice President Joe Biden will campaign for Sen. Mark Udall (D) on May 27, according to an invitation to a Denver fundraiser. (Denver Post) Looks like this is Biden's first campaign event west of the Mississippi this year. He's raised money for Georgia Senate candidate Michelle Nunn and DCCC chair Steve Israel so far, but he hasn't ventured out West in a while.
-- Virginia: Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) has consulted lawyers, health-care experts and legislators on whether and how to unilaterally expand Medicaid, bypassing the Republican-led House of Delegates that has blocked legislative efforts. Attorney General Mark Herring's (D) office has been researching how to side-step the legislature too. (Washington Post)
-- More Florida: Candidates, get those papers in order. Today's the filing deadline.
DC Digest: What's on tap today in DC.
-- President Obama meets German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the Oval Office this morning. They will discuss economics, trade, NATO and "supporting democracy in Europe's east," followed by a Rose Garden press conference. This afternoon, Obama meets with Asian American and Pacific Islander community leaders on immigration.
-- Vice President Biden sits in on morning meetings with Merkel, then delivers remarks at the MPAA's second annual Creativity Conference at the Newseum.
-- The House and Senate are gone today. The Senate convenes at 2 p.m. on Monday to consider a judicial nomination and a State Department post.
-- The Silver Line will receive a $1.9 billion loan from the federal government to expand service to Dulles Airport and beyond into Loudoun County after Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx signed the paperwork Thursday. Commuters on the Dulles toll road will pay the bulk of the $5.6 billion price tag for construction on the 23-mile line. The first phase of the Silver Line is set to open this summer, with stops in Tysons Corner and Reston. (Washington Post)
-- A window into House Democrats' thinking these days: DCCC staffers are walking around with coffee mugs that read, "We will fight in the shade." Remember the scene from "300"?
TV Time Out: Our exclusive look at who's advertising, and where
-- Kentucky: Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) is going up with her first ads next week. Her campaign on Thursday purchased $37,000 in airtime in the Louisville and Lexington markets, her first foray onto the airwaves. No word yet on what the ad will look like. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is the only candidate advertising at the moment; he's bought about $90,000 in ads in advance of the May 20 primary.
-- Georgia: The Chamber of Commerce is riding to Rep. Jack Kingston's (R) rescue. They've bought $32,000 in ads to run before the May 20 primary in the Macon and Augusta markets, though those buys will likely increase. Kingston has spent the most on TV ads so far, accounting for about a quarter of overall TV ad spending in the race.
-- Alabama: The race to replace retiring Rep. Spencer Bachus (R) is hitting the airwaves. Businessman Will Brooke (R) has spent most aggressively, dropping about $268,000 on advertising so far. State rep. Paul DeMarco (R) has put $50,000 on the air, including about $21,000 running this week on Birmingham broadcast. And Gary Palmer (R), the former head of the conservative Alabama Policy Institute, began running his first ads this week, a $52,000 buy in the Birmingham market. The winner of the June 3 primary -- or, if necessary, the July 15 runoff -- is going to cruise in this heavily GOP district.
-- Nebraska: 60 Plus is the latest outside group to weigh in for former Bush administration official Ben Sasse (R). The Koch-connected group will spend about $220,000 on cable and broadcast between Saturday and May 12, boosting Sasse's late TV spending advantage.
-- Senate Conservatives Fund: A reminder that all spending doesn't happen on TV: SCF, the Jim DeMint-connected outsider PAC, has reported spending $25,000 for Iowa Senate candidate Joni Ernst (R), $32,000 for Mississippi challenger Chris McDaniel (R), $25,000 for Nebraska contender Ben Sasse (R) and $25,000 for former Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon (R), all on mail pieces sent out this week. (Side note: Joni Ernst, the candidate Gov. Terry Branstad recruited, is the conservative in that race? SCF must need a win.)
The Buried Lede: The nuggets that deserve the spotlight.
-- "Mark Pryor graduated from Walt Whitman High School in suburban Maryland, where football teammates called him 'Donny' because he looked a little like Donny Osmond. And that might be the single most colorful fact in the entire Mark Pryor biography."
-- The Post's David Fahrenthold spends time with Pryor on the campaign trail in Arkansas and finds an almost militantly neutral centrist. Pryor likes to ask fellow senators what got them started in politics. It was the Vietnam War, or Ronald Reagan, some big ideological moment in U.S. history. "Pryor himself can’t come up with an answer like that. 'I don’t really have that one issue, or one cause that has gotten me involved in this,' Pryor said. 'I just believe in good government, and working hard.'" (Washington Post)
B1: Business, politics and the business of politics
-- Big U.S. technology firms have largely stopped complying with federal demands for email records and online data and are alerting users to any requests. Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Google and others are updating policies to issue routine notifications to users unless specifically gagged by a judge. The Justice Department says the new rules put crime victims at risk. (Washington Post)
-- Stock futures are almost flat after an uneven day on Wall Street. Asian and European markets are mixed; the Nikkei lost a fraction while the FTSE 100 in London is trading slightly higher. (CNN)
C1: The long reads you'll need to check out before tonight's cocktail party.
-- "Not even the most sophisticated and well-funded turnout effort can fix" the fact that younger Democratic-leaning voters don't turn out in midterms. "Strong turnout operations can help Democrats at the margins. The Democratic turnout problem, however, is not marginal." So argues Nate Cohn, citing the inevitably older, whiter midterm electorate destined to show up this year. It may not be 2010, but the electorate won't resemble 2012, either. (New York Times)
C4: The comics page, fun things to read when you're bored at work
-- Southern politicians have to be photographed with a gun. Politicians in the Mountain West do well when they show up on horseback. And if you're trying to convince voters you're a manly Californian, you chop some wood. That's what former TARP administrator Neel Kashkari (R), running a long-shot bid to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown (D), is doing in his first mailer. Kashkari calls himself a "conservative Republican" in the piece, which drops about a month before the June 3 primary. (Sacramento Bee)
Attn Matt Drudge: Things conservatives will get outraged by today.
-- Retired Brig. Gen. Robert Lovell, who monitored the attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi at U.S. Africa Command's headquarters in Germany, was harshly criticized by a member of Congress for testifying Thursday that U.S. forces should have tried to get to the site of the attack to save U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. The member who attacked Lovell? House Armed Services Committee chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.). McKeon said Lovell "did not serve in a capacity that gave him reliable insight into operational options available to commanders during the attack." (Associated Press)
-- HHS is expected to end a blanket Medicare ban on sex-reassignment surgeries after a panel concludes a review process. The panel was reviewing a challenge brought by LGBT groups. (BuzzFeed)
Attn HuffPo: What outrages liberals today
-- Focus on the Family President James Dobson said Thursday at a National Day of Prayer event in the U.S. Capitol that President Obama "made it very clear that he wanted to be the abortion president." Rep. Janice Hahn (D-Calif.) walked out to protest what she called the overly partisan remarks. (Huffington Post)