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A1: The stories you need to read before your first conference call.
-- Israeli jets hit 15 Hamas targets in Gaza Thursday morning after militants lobbed rockets into southern Israel. Palestinians in Jerusalem clashed with security forces after an Arab teenager was kidnapped and murdered, possibly in retaliation for three Israeli teenagers whose bodies were found earlier this week. (Washington Post)
-- Religious leaders have asked the White House for an exemption from an executive order prohibiting contractors from discriminating against the LGBT community in the wake of the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision earlier this week. One signer, Michael Wear, an Obama campaign veteran, said the Hobby Lobby case would force the administration to deal with religious exemption issues beyond the Affordable Care Act. (TPM)
-- Dare County, N.C. officials are evacuating residents from Hatteras Island in the Outer Banks as Hurricane Arthur bears down on the East Coast. Arthur is expected to reach the Outer Banks by this evening, though most of the storm is expected to stay at sea. Boston has moved its July Fourth concert up a day to avoid any storms on Friday. (USA Today) Thunderstomrs are likely in D.C. through this evening, clearing by tomorrow. (Capital Weather Gang)
-- Hillary Clinton has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees from at least eight universities, including four public schools. The University of Connecticut paid $251,250 for a Clinton appearance in April, after announcing it would raise tuition 6.5 percent. Clinton has also taken money from the University of Buffalo, Colgate, Hamilton College, Simmons College and the University of Miami. (Washington Post) See, it's not only football players who get big checks from The U.
-- If you're reading this, you're truly dedicated to the job. You're also probably the only person in the office. Have a safe and happy July 4th weekend, and we'll see you Monday morning.
-- Front Pages: WaPo, WSJ and NYT lead with violence in Israel. L.A. Times leads with new protests at abortion clinics, and takes a deep dive into the flood of young migrants crossing the border. USA Today reports on new talks between Russia and Ukraine.
National Roundup: What's happening outside the Beltway.
-- WH'16: Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is returning to Iowa in August for a three-day swing. It will be Paul's fourth visit since winning office; he promised last month he would return in August to eat some fried Twinkies at the state fair. Paul has hired veteran strategist Steve Grubbs to manage his affairs in Iowa. (Des Moines Register)
-- Mississippi: A conference call to brief reporters on a controversial runoff election? What could go wrong? Supporters of state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R) hijacked a call run by Sen. Thad Cochran's (R) campaign on Wednesday, cutting off Cochran advisor Austin Barbour and spokesman Jordan Russell. Barbour and Russell hung up; within minutes, McDaniel supporters were playing clips from "Animal House." (Jackson Clarion-Ledger, Roll Call)
-- New Jersey: Gov. Chris Christie (R) vetoed a bill that would have reduced the permitted size of ammunition magazines, substituting language that would make changes to the state's mental health system. Christie called the bill a "trivial approach to the sanctity of human life." (Newark Star-Ledger) Reid's Take: Call this, and Christie's veto last week of higher taxes on the wealthy, the Resume-Building Veto Strategy. You can expect these vetoes to show up in pro-Christie mailers in Iowa and New Hampshire.
-- Missouri: Gov. Jay Nixon (D) has vetoed legislation that would have required a 72-hour waiting period for abortions. Nixon cited a lack of exceptions for rape and incest in his veto message. South Dakota and Utah already require three-day waits. Republicans vowed to try to override Nixon's veto when they return to session in September. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
-- New York: Health insurers are asking the state's health exchhange for significant rate hikes next year, as high as 28 percent for some customers. Insurance companies have asked to raise rates an average of 13 percent in 2015, the state's Financial Services Department said Wednesday. (New York Times) This is the next version of the drip-drip-drip the ACA faced during those first few months of turmoil. Every paper in the country is going to have stories about rate hikes.
-- Minnesota: The Minneapolis City Council will take up a measure to require a $500 filing fee for mayoral candidates, after 35 people qualified to run for an open seat last year. A city Charter Commission voted to raise the fee on Wednesday; the measure would require voter approval to take effect. (Minneapolis Star-Tribune) Clearly an effort to deny us awesome candidates like Jeff Wagner and Captain Jack Sparrow.
DC Digest: What's on tap today in DC.
-- President Obama spends the day in meetings at the White House. He has lunch with Vice President Biden, but no public events. Biden heads to Philadelphia tomorrow for July Fourth events at Independence Hall.
-- Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel welcomes Latvian Defense Minister Raimonds Vejonis to the Pentagon this afternoon. Hagel called to congratulate U.S. goalie Tim Howard yesterday. (Los Angeles Times)
-- D.C. Mayor Vince Gray has called on residents to boycott Maryland's Eastern Shore after Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) attached an amendment to a budget bill that would overturn the city's marijuana decriminalization law. Harris said District residents "know better" than to boycott the Eastern Shore. (Washington Post)
-- All the Fourth of July parties you could ask for, in one click: CBS's Best Fourth of July Parties in D.C.
TV Time Out: Our exclusive look at who's advertising, and where.
-- Tennessee: Sen. Lamar Alexander (R) is running a new ad featuring his high-profile run-in with President Obama over health care reform from way back in February, 2010. Alexander's campaign said Wednesday it had raised $900,000 in the second quarter, and that it has $3.4 million in the bank a month before the primary. (Tennessean)
-- Florida: Well it's not TV, but former Gov. Charlie Crist (D) will get some high-profile attention at the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona when his logo is plastered all over Josh Wise's no. 98 car. The state Republican Party has lodged a complaint. (Miami Herald)
-- North Carolina: Senate Majority PAC is up with another new ad hitting state House Speaker Thom Tillis (R). The Democratic group reported spending $310,000 on the new spot, bringing their total investment in the race to almost $4.6 million. (FEC)
B1: Business, politics and the business of politics
-- Tomorrow's lobbying fight today: The Pentagon will choose between four companies -- Bell Helicopter, Boeing-Sikorsky, AVX Aircraft and Karem Aircraft -- to build next generation helicopters to replace Black Hawks and Apaches. The contract could call for 4,000 choppers, worth up to $100 billion, beginning in the mid-2030s. And the Pentagon wants the new choppers to be able to fly between California and Hawaii on one tank of gas, without a pilot if necessary. (Time)
-- Stocks are up fractionally in pre-market trading after the Dow set another record on Wednesday. Today's a half-day, though: The markets close early for the holiday. Asian markets are down slightly while European markets are trading higher. (CNN)
C1: The long reads you'll need to check out before tonight's cocktail party.
-- Libertarian Utopia, Part I: Zach Baron goes inside Cliven Bundy's ranch, and the community of anti-government activists who helped him beat the BLM. (GQ)
-- Libertarian Utopia, Part II: Ben Terris spent last week at the Porcupine Freedom Festival, a weeklong adventure in the New Hampshire woods for anyone who wants to see what it's like to live without government. Hint: Lots of drugs, lots of guns, and a few topless people to boot. (Washington Post)
C4: The comics page, fun things to read when you're bored at work
-- Burger King has unveiled the Proud Whopper, a burger covered in a rainbow-colored wrapper for sale at a San Francisco location. The company passed out 50,000 rainbow Burger King crowns during last week's Pride Parade. (USA Today) Because heart disease doesn't care about sexual orientation.
-- Speaking of burgers, Consumer Reports says the 32,000 people they surveyed ranked McDonald's burgers as the worst in the nation. KFC has the worst chicken, and Taco Bell makes the worst burritos. Top ranked burgers: Habit Burger Grill, In-N-Out, Five Guys, Smashburger and Fuddruckers. (Washington Post) Your humble author thinks Jack In The Box, ranked second-worst, got robbed.
Attn Matt Drudge: Things conservatives will get outraged by today.
-- About 16,000 Minnesotans who signed up for health care under the MNsure system have been without insurance for as long as six months, thanks to state errors that meant letters seeking corrected information never went out. Minnesota relied on manual work-arounds to repair the problem, Deloitte consultants found, and thousands of cases remain unresolved. (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)
Attn HuffPo: What outrages liberals today
-- Former Rep. Bob Beauprez (R) was dissing the 47 percent before it was cool. In a speech to the Denver Rotary Club in 2010, Beauprez said the high percentage of Americans who don't pay federal income tax (he actually said "47 percent!") are "perfectly happy that somebody else is paying the bill." Beauprez suggested Democrats were keeping half the population "dependent on the largesse of government." (Denver Post)