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A1: The stories you need to read before your first conference call.
-- Thailand's army chief has declared a military coup and ordered key political leaders detained after months of protests and internal turmoil. Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha said Thursday the military would run the country, two days after declaring martial law. It is the country's 19th successful or attempted coup since 1932. (Washington Post)
-- Armed security forces at the nuclear missile facility at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana last year failed a drill simulating a takeover by hostile forces when they were unable to quickly retake control of a captured nuclear weapon. Nine days after the failed simulation, the base's head of security forces was fired. (Associated Press) The commander of the 341st Missile Wing later quit amid revelations that up to 100 officers cheated on proficiency tests.
-- The top executive at the Phoenix VA Health Care System has been ordered to repay an almost $10,000 bonus she received last month, just before allegations of delayed care that caused deaths at the Phoenix center, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki said Wednesday. The executive has been placed on leave. The House passed legislation that would make it easier for Shinseki to fire top VA officials by a 390-33 margin on Wednesday. (Arizona Republic)
-- Obama finally addressed the VA scandal in a press conference Wednesday in which he seemed to open the door to Shinseki's departure. But the scandal has already given Republicans, wary of hitching their wagons to Benghazi's star, something to use in November. Reps. John Barrow (D-Ga.) and David Scott (D-Ga.) on Wednesday became the first Democrats to call on Shinseki to quit. (USA Today)
-- Shot: If Shinseki "does not think he can do a good job on this and if he thinks he's let our veterans down, then I'm sure that he is not going to be interested in continuing to serve," Obama said Wednesday. Chaser: HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius "doesn't write code … she wasn't our IT person," he said in November. (National Journal)
-- After days of negotiations and consultations, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday said she would appoint five Democrats to the House Select Committee investigating the attacks in Benghazi. Pelosi tapped Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.). (Washington Post) Smith, who represents south Seattle, had to miss the White House event celebrating his Seahawks to attend the Benghazi presser. (Washington Post)
-- Environmental activist and billionaire Tom Steyer will spend about $100 million to back Democrats in Senate races in Iowa, New Hampshire, Colorado and Michigan and governor's races in Pennsylvania, Florida and Maine, his strategists say. (New York Times) Conspicuously absent: Arkansas, North Carolina, Alaska and Louisiana, the four states that will decide the balance of power in the Senate.
-- The Republican National Committee's site selection committee will meet by phone today to review bids from the six cities still in the running to host the 2016 convention. Committee members are expected to narrow the list, perhaps to as few as three cities, which they will visit in June. (Kansas City Star) Kansas City, Dallas, Denver, Cincinnati, Las Vegas and Cleveland are still in the running.
-- Front Pages: WaPo leads with the Obama administration's struggle to shift strategies in the war on terror. NYT fronts Russia and China's 30-year gas deal. WSJ highlights Obama's VA press conference and shows Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin doing shots. And USA Today leads with eBay's warning to members to change their passwords.
National Roundup: What's happening outside the Beltway.
-- WH'16: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) is having trouble, again, navigating through the mine fields of pro-Israel politics. Christie addressed leading pro-Israel activists, including Sheldon Adelson, this past weekend in New York City, but he didn't utter the word "Israel." Coming after he referred to the "occupied territories," the omission got Adelson's attention. (New York Magazine) Mastering the political lexicon of pro-Israel politics requires some serious study. Remember, it's a boundary, not a border.
-- Wisconsin: A new Marquette University Law School survey shows Gov. Scott Walker (R) leading former state finance official Mary Burke (D) by a 48 percent to 45 percent margin among likely voters. They're tied at 46 among registered voters. Walker's job rating stands at 49 percent approve, 46 percent disapprove. Forty-six percent of voters have no opinion of Burke. In March, Walker led by 7. (Marquette)
-- Nebraska: Former state Sen. Chip Maxwell, a tea party activist and host of a conservative talk radio show, will gather the signatures necessary to run against Rep. Lee Terry (R) as an independent. Maxwell only needs to collect 2,000 signatures by September 1 to make the ballot. Splitting the GOP vote could give state Sen. Brad Ashford (D) a chance to steal the seat. (Associated Press)
-- New York: Rep. Michael Grimm (R) maintained his alter-ego as a mob-connected stockbroker even after coming to Congress, according to court documents. As recently as 2012, prosecutors sought a court's permission to track his calls on a cell phone registered to Michael Garibaldi, Grimm's nom de mob. Grimm left the FBI in 2006. (New York Daily News) After he was charged with 20 federal counts last month, Republicans privately concede Grimm's seat is almost certainly gone.
-- More New York: Rep. Charlie Rangel (D) leads state Sen. Adriano Espaillat (D) 41 percent to 32 percent in advance of next month's Democratic primary, according to a new New York Times/NY1/Siena College poll. Pastor Michael Walrond (D) and activist Yolanda Garcia (D) stand in the single digits. Rangel's favorable rating among Democratic voters is only at 52 percent, and 46 percent say they prefer someone new for Congress. (New York Times)
-- Georgia: About 600,000 voters cast ballots for Senate candidates in Tuesday's primary. Republican candidates reported spending $13.2 million through the end of April, and outside groups spent another $17.5 million. That means everyone combined to spend almost $30 per vote. (Associated Press) Heck, that's nothing. Mike Bloomberg spent $183 per vote to get re-elected in 2009.
-- Oregon: No matter how much Republicans complain, a since-revoked stalking allegation against physician Monica Wehby (R) took their toll. Voters who cast their ballots before last Friday, when the revelations came out, backed Wehby by a much wider margin than voters who cast ballots after the news dropped. (The Oregonian)
DC Digest: What's on tap today in DC.
-- President Obama meets with travel and tourism industry executives in the Roosevelt Room this morning before traveling to Cooperstown, N.Y. Obama will tour the Baseball Hall of Fame and discuss a travel and tourism agenda. Obama then heads to Chicago for two DSCC fundraisers at private homes.
-- Vice President Biden met with His Beatitude Chrysostomos II, the Archbishop of Cyprus, this morning, before visiting the Presidential Palace and Republic of Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades. This afternoon, Biden visits Turkish Cypriot leader Dr. Dervis Eroglu. Biden has dinner this evening -- about noon Eastern Time -- with loaders from both Cypriot communities. Biden heads back to D.C. this evening.
-- The House meets at 9:00 a.m. to debate the USA FREEDOM Act and the defense authorization bill. First and last votes are expected between 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.
-- The Senate will vote to confirm First Circuit Court nominee David Barron this afternoon, after Barron's nomination received enough votes to proceed on Wednesday. The Senate will also take up the Water Resources Development Act, passed by a wide margin in the House on Tuesday. Only took the 113th Congress 17 months to pass their third conference report. (The email version of Read In cited an incorrect number of conference reports this Congress has passed)
-- Half the Senate has signed a letter to the NFL urging the league to convince the Redskins to change its name. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) collected a total of 50 signatures from Senate Democrats. Both Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) signed the letter, but Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) did not. (New York Times)
TV Time Out: Our exclusive look at who's advertising, and where.
-- New York: House Majority PAC has reserved $175,000 in last-minute television time on behalf of Rep. Dan Maffei (D) in NY-24. The ads are scheduled to run October 28 through November 3.
-- Illinois: House Majority PAC is also making early reservations for last-minute time in Chicago, Springfield and the Quad Cities for ads aimed at protecting Reps. Brad Schneider (D-IL 10) and Cheri Bustos (D-IL 17) and ousting Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL 13). The group has bought a total of about $385,000 across the three media markets over the final week.
-- Florida: Guess who? That's right, House Majority PAC is buying last-minute ads here, too. The super PAC reserved $225,000 in FL-02, where Gwen Graham (D) is challenging Rep. Steve Southerland (R). And they've purchased a whopping $520,000 in West Palm Beach, where Rep. Patrick Murphy (D) faces a crowded field of Republicans. Both ad flights run October 21 through November 3.
-- Kentucky: With friends like these, who needs an ad budget? We told you about the pro-McConnell outside groups spending big for their guy, and now the buys are being filed. The Kentucky Opportunity Coalition bought $1.1 million in ads set to run between June 5 and August 14, an average of about $225,000 a week on cable channels in ten markets.
The Buried Lede: The nuggets that deserve the spotlight.
-- Attn Sabato, Cook, Rothenberg and, well, all of us: "A legislative committee will decide Tuesday whether to recommend if Nevada should allow betting on federal election races, making available here bets that can already be placed overseas."
-- State Sen. Tick Segerblom (D-Best Name Ever) introduced a similar measure in 2013 that passed the Senate but died in the Assembly. Segerblom said British gamblers placed 20 million pounds worth of wagers on the 2012 presidential election. (Las Vegas Sun)
B1: Business, politics and the business of politics
-- The CEO and chief technology officer of Symplicity, a vendor that sells mail tracking software to U.S. Senate offices, will resign after admitting they illegally logged into competitors' websites. About one in five Senate offices rely on the company. Symplicity will hire House Judiciary Committee counsel Samuel Romero Ramar as its general counsel. (Roll Call)
-- The Transportation Department on Wednesday proposed that airlines be required to provide detailed information on fees for checked bags, advance seat assignments and carry-on bags. Airlines must only disclose bag fees under current rules. Airline trade groups hate the idea; Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx says he hopes the rules will become final within the next year. (Associated Press)
-- Stock futures are up in pre-market trading, a day after the Dow gained nearly 1 percent. The Nikkei rose 2 percent today, and most other world markets are trading higher across Asia and Europe. (CNN)
C1: The long reads you'll need to check out before tonight's cocktail party.
-- Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan "Grimes, unabashedly embracing the political upside of her gender, is suggesting that McConnell, 72, is not taking this female challenger (or other women) as seriously as he should."
-- "McConnell demonstrated that he might prefer to run against other men — Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), Obama, perhaps even Grimes’s father, former state Democratic Party chairman Jerry Lundergan — than focus on his toe-to-toe matchup with Grimes. 'A vote for my opponent is a vote for a guy who says coal makes you sick,' McConnell said, referring to Reid’s support for environmental regulations that many lawmakers from Kentucky and coal-producing states decry as harmful to the industry." (Washington Post)
C4: The comics page, fun things to read when you're bored at work
-- President Obama golfed last weekend at the Robert Trent Jones course on the shores of Lake Manassas with former U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, Halliburton board member Milton Carroll and lobbyist Joe O'Neill, who represents Bain Capital and the Edison Electric Institute. Kirk set up the foursome, though Obama knew Carroll from Chicago. Check out the accompanying graphic on Obama's golf partners, the vast majority of whom work for him. (Time)
Attn Matt Drudge: Things conservatives will get outraged by today.
-- Why don't some people like the Affordable Care Act? "[T]hey don't want it to work because they don't like the president. Maybe he's of the wrong color, something of that sort. I've seen a lot of that and I know a lot of that to be true," Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said Wednesday. (Daily Caller) A Democratic senator suggesting race plays some part in negative views of a Democratic president: If there was ever a more perfectly crafted segment for Fox News, we haven't heard it.
-- Wait, wait, we found one: Oregon decided last month to scrap its badly damaged health exchange program and latch onto the federal Healthcare.gov site. But Cover Oregon director Bruce Goldberg, who was fired by Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) in March, continues to draw a $14,425 monthly salary -- and he'll continue to get paychecks until July. (The Oregonian) Moving to the federal exchange will cost the state $40 million, so what's a paltry $14,425 a month?
Attn HuffPo: What outrages liberals today
-- In a speech to the organic farm trade association, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Wednesday called a Republican effort to allow some schools to opt out of rules requiring fresh fruits or vegetables in school lunches "outrageous." Republicans have attached a rider to the agriculture appropriations bill that would allow schools facing financial hardships to circumvent the rules. (San Francisco Chronicle)