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A1: The stories you need to read before your first conference call.
-- As many as 80 Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza Strip after the third day of Israel's military operation against Hamas. About 20,000 Israeli reservists have been called up, and the military says they will focus on uncovering tunnelsin Gaza used by militants. Hamas continued firing rockets toward Israeli cities; nine people died after an Israeli warship fired on a beach cafe where customers had gathered to watch the World Cup. (Washington Post, New York Times)
-- Insurgents in Iraq have seized nuclear materials used in scientific research at Mosul University, the Iraqi government told the United Nations in a letter seeking assistance. Iraq says the university maintained almost 40 kilograms of uranium compounds. U.S. intelligence officials don't believe the uranium is enriched, making it difficult to turn it into a weapon. (Reuters)
-- In Dallas for two days of fundraising, President Obama on Wednesday defended his decision not to visit the Texas border with Mexico during an ongoing immigration crisis, saying he is "not interested in photo ops." Obama said he has told his staff to work with Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) to increase border security, and he's asked Perry to lobby Congress to pass his $3.7 billion border security request. Reps. Henry Cuellar (D-Tex.) and Filemon Vela (D-Tex.) both said Obama should go to the border; Rep. Pete Gallego (D-Tex.) said a presidential visit would divert needed resources. (Washington Post)
-- Chinese hackers broke into Office of Personnel Management files in March, apparently targeting the tens of thousands of government employees who have applied for top-secret clearances. It's unclear how much data the hackers stole before U.S. authorities blocked them from OPM's networks. (New York Times)
-- Newly released testimony from top U.S. military commanders on the attacks in Benghazi suggests the militants who mounted an assault on the CIA complex were different from those who attacked the diplomatic mission, where Ambassador Chris Stevens died. Retired Gen. Carter Ham told Congress the second attack showed clear military training. Officers said the military was unaware of the extent of the U.S. presence in Benghazi. (Associated Press)
-- Front Pages: WaPo leads with the violence in Israel (check out the photo of Israelis waiting by their cars as air raid sirens sound in Tel Aviv). NYT leads with the Chinese hackers scoop and fronts a look at why children are pouring over the U.S. border. WSJ kicks off with Federal Reserve notes (see B1, below). USA Today fronts a five-column report on an escort charged in the death of a Google executive. The Dallas Morning News leads with Obama's meeting with Perry.
National Roundup: What's happening outside the Beltway.
-- Mississippi: True the Vote, the Texas group that backs state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R) over Sen. Thad Cochran (R), has filed a motion seeking a restraining order against the Mississippi Republican Party, claiming records from the June 24 runoff have been destroyed or tampered with. The group withdrew a lawsuit seeking election records from a Northern District court after a federal judge ordered them to show cause; they refiled the suit against the state GOP and 9 election commissions in the Southern District. (Jackson Clarion-Ledger)
-- Utah: Attorney General Sean Reyes (R) will appeal a 10th Circuit Court ruling overturning the state's ban on same-sex marriage to the Supreme Court, his office said Tuesday. It's the first state to appeal a circuit court ruling on gay marriage; five other appellate courts have cases pending, meaning the Supreme Court could wait until one or more of those cases conclude before taking up the petition. (Associated Press)
-- New Hampshire: Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) leads former Sen. Scott Brown (R) 50 percent to 38 percent in a new WMUR Granite Poll, conducted by UNH. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D) and former Rep. Frank Guinta (R) are knotted in a statistical dead heat in the 1st District, with Guinta up 46 percent to 45 percent. In the 2nd District, Rep. Ann Kuster (D) leads former state Sen. Gary Lambert (R) by a 45 percent to 36 percent margin; she leads two state representatives by double digits. (WMUR, twice, pdf)
-- New York: Not much of a surprise here: Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) leads Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino (R) by a 59 percent to 24 percent margin among registered voters in a new Marist survey. Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins takes 6 percent. Cuomo leads among Upstate voters, 47 percent to 32 percent, and he takes 30 percent of registered Republicans, too. (Wall Street Journal, pdf)
-- Louisiana: Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin (D) was sentenced Wednesday to 10 years in federal prison after being convicted of 20 counts of bribery, wire fraud, tax evasion and other charges. Nagin will report to a minimum security prison in central Louisiana on Sept. 8. Federal sentencing guidelines recommended 20 years or more for Nagin's convictions. (New Orleans Times-Picayune)
-- Wisconsin: Gov. Scott Walker (R) raised $8.2 million during the first half of the year and kept $7.6 million on hand, his campaign said Wednesday. That's more than twice the $3.6 million Madison school board member Mary Burke (D) pulled in. Burke had $2.5 million in the bank. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
DC Digest: What's on tap today in DC.
-- President Obama attends a DNC fundraiser in Austin this morning before making remarks on the economy at The Paramount Theater. Obama returns to Washington this afternoon.
-- Vice President Biden meets Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah II at the Naval Observatory this morning. Tonight, he addresses the Roosevelt Institute's Distinguished Public Service Awards Ceremony at the Mandarin Oriental. Biden travels to Nashville tomorrow to address the National Governors Association's annual summer meeting.
-- The House meets at 10 a.m., with first votes expected by 2:30 p.m. They'll complete consideration of the Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill after considering eight amendments.
-- The Senate meets at 10 a.m., and votes on three nominations are expected at 2 p.m., including Shaun Donovan's nomination to head OMB. The Senate will also vote to confirm new ambassadors to Kuwait and Qatar.
-- Former Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-Calif.) is a free man. A federal judge last week approved Cunningham's request to end a supervised release period early. Cunningham has moved to a gated community in Hot Springs Village, Ark., where he works as a volunteer fireman. (Sacramento Bee)
TV Time Out: Our exclusive look at who's advertising, and where.
-- House Majority PAC: The Democratic group will announce another $7.3 million in ad reservation time, bringing their total television time to about $20 million so far. The new reservations include (with associated races): $964,000 in the Boston market and $861,000 in Manchester (NH 01, NH 02, MA 06); $142,000 in Champaign, Ill. and $240,000 in St. Louis (IL 13); $446,000 in the Chicago market (IL 10, IL 11); $595,000 in Denver (CO 06); $153,000 in Des Moines and $215,000 in Omaha (IA 03 and maybe NE 02); $1.18 million in Philadelphia (PA 06, PA 07, PA 08 and NJ 03); $1.3 million in Phoenix (AZ 01, AZ 02 and AZ 09) and another $283,000 in Tucson (AZ 02); $143,000 in San Diego (CA 52); and $736,000 in the Washington, D.C. market (VA 10).
-- Add up the three waves of reservations, and HMP is spending the most in Phoenix. The group has reserved $2.16 million on airtime that can be used to defend Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick (D), Ron Barber (D) and Kyrsten Sinema (D). HMP has reserved more than $1 million in airtime in the Boston, Denver, New York City and Philadelphia markets.
-- Georgia: The Southern Conservatives Fund, an outside group backing Rep. Jack Kingston (R) in the July 22 Senate runoff, has bought about $90,000 in ad time to run beginning today. The Chamber of Commerce is also running about $640,000 in pro-Kingston ads between now and the runoff; those ads started running on Tuesday.
-- Republican Governors Association: The RGA has $70.3 million on hand for the sprint finish, the most money the committee has ever had in the bank. That's a lot of TV time to come. They've raised $60 million since New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) took over in November 2013.
The Buried Lede: The nuggets that deserve the spotlight.
-- No Keystone XL pipeline decision is coming before the midterms. The Nebraska Supreme Court said it will hear oral arguments in September in a suit brought by local landowners, who sued over state legislation allowing the pipeline company to claim eminent domain in negotiating rights-of-way. That means a final resolution is unlikely before October. The State Department has said it will not make a final ruling on the pipeline until after the Nebraska case is settled. (Washington Post)
B1: Business, politics and the business of politics
-- The Federal Reserve is likely to end quantitiative easing, the purchase of tens of billions in government bonds in an effort to keep long-term interest rates down to boost the economic recovery. Notes released Wednesday from the Fed's last meeting suggest the program will come to a close in October. (Washington Post)
-- Lobbying on cybersecurity, privacy and data issues has skyrocketed in the last decade, with a new boom following Edward Snowden's release of NSA documents. In the first quarter of this year, 500 companies reported lobbying Congress on data issues, according to Senate records. Retired Gen. Keith Alexander, the former NSA chief, launched his own lobbying shop this spring. (Politico)
-- Bumpy day ahead: The Dow is down 137 points before the bell. Asian markets were mixed, but European markets fell sharply on new fears about the Continent's recovery. (CNN)
C1: The long reads you'll need to check out before tonight's cocktail party.
-- A look at precinct-level returns from a mostly African American county in Mississippi bolsters the theory that Democratic voters helped Sen. Thad Cochran (R) win his runoff election. Nearly half of Cochran's 7,667-vote margin came from the most Democratic precincts of Hinds County, where President Obama won a combined 97.8 percent of the vote in 2012. (New York Times)
-- The NSA and the FBI have been monitoring emails of prominent Muslim Americans, including a longtime GOP operative who once ran for the Virginia House of Delegates, an attorney who has represented clients in terrorism cases and the executive director of CAIR, according to documents unveiled by Edward Snowden. The NSA monitored almost 7,500 email addresses between 2002 and 2008 under FISA. (The Intercept)
C4: The comics page, fun things to read when you're bored at work
-- The first man to buy legal recreational marijuana in Washington State this week said Wednesday the news coverage showing him in the store cost him his job. Michael Boyer's employer, Labor Ready, said it wants him to pass a drug test by today. Boyer's post on Craigslist: "I regret nothing." (NWCN)
Attn Matt Drudge: Things conservatives will get outraged by today.
-- The most Berkley story ever: Medical marijuana dispensaries must give at least 2 percent of their pot to low-income patients under a new ordinance approved Tuesday by the city council. The free weed would be available to individuals making less than $32,000 a year, or families of four making less than $46,000 a year. (Los Angeles Times)
Attn HuffPo: What outrages liberals today
-- Kentucky state Sen. Brandon Smith (R) on global warming: "I don't want to get into the debate about climate change. But I will just simply point out that I think that in academia we all agree that the temperature on Mars is exactly as it is here. Nobody will dispute that. Yet there are no coal mines on Mars, there's no factories on Mars that I'm aware of. So I think what we're looking at is something much greater than what we're going to do." The average temperature on Earth: 57 degrees. The average temperature on Mars: -81 degrees. Oh, and Smith owns a coal company. (National Journal)