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A1: The stories you need to read before your first conference call.
-- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday he will not agree to any cease-fire proposal that doesn't allow Israel to finish destroying Hamas's network of tunnels in Gaza. The number of Palestinians killed in the 24-day clash stands at 1,370, while 56 Israeli soldiers, two civilians and a Thai civilian have died. Israel said it was investigating shelling of a U.N. school on Wednesday that killed 20 people; it's the sixth U.N. school in Gaza to be hit by explosions in the last three weeks. (Washington Post, New York Times)
-- The president of Sierra Leone has declared a public health emergency and promised to quarantine sick patients as an Ebola outbreak that's killed 670 people continues to spread. The virus has reached three African capitals with international airports. (Associated Press)
-- The U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of 4 percent during the second quarter, significantly better than economists predicted, the government said Wednesday. The data showed growth during the beginning of the economic recovery was worse than initially reported, but that momentum began to pick up in 2013. ADP said the economy added 218,000 new jobs in July, ahead of the Bureau of Labor Statistics analysis coming out tomorrow. (Washington Post)
-- The Senate on Wednesday advanced a measure to pay for emergency operations on the Texas border as a flood of immigrants pours into the country. Senators voted 63 to 33 to begin debate on the $2.7 billion measure, which also contains funding for fighting wildfires and $225 million in emergency aid for Israel. Eleven Republicans voted for the bill, while two Democrats -- Sens. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.) -- voted against. (Washington Post) Meanwhile, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is whipping House conservatives against their version of the bill, which provides $659 million in border funding. (Washington Post)
-- The House voted Wednesday to authorize a lawsuit over President Obama's executive actions. Though the lawsuit concerns a small corner of the Affordable Care Act, House Speaker John Boehner on Wednesday cited a series of executive actions, dealing with everything from climate change to immigration to the minimum wage. It's the first time the House of Representatives as a whole has filed suit against an administration. (Washington Post)
-- Businessman Jonnie Williams testified Wednesday that former Virginia First Lady Maureen McDonnell said she would help him sell his nutritional supplements for $65,000, with the blessing of Gov. Bob McDonnell (R). Maureen McDonnell told Williams she and her husband had discussed filing for bankruptcy, he testified. He takes the stand again today. (Washington Post)
-- Front Pages: WaPo, USA Today and WSJ lead with the rebounding economy. LA Times leads with the strike on the U.N. shelter in Gaza. NYT looks at an American suicide bomber who returned home to Florida before blowing himself up in Syria.
National Roundup: What's happening outside the Beltway.
-- WH'16: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) will be a guest at influential fundraiser Bruce Rastetter's annual summer party this weekend in Hardin Co., Iowa. Call it the Republican version of the Harking steak fry: Rastetter hosted Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) in 2013, and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) in 2012. (Des Moines Register)
-- New York: U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has threatened to investigate Gov. Andrew Cuomo's (D) administration for possible obstruction of justice or witness tampering after Cuomo ended an anti-corruption panel his own administration had created. Bharara's office has been investigating the cases the commission had opened since it shuttered in April. In a letter, Bharara's office said it had reason to believe the Cuomo administration had asked members of the panel to make public statements backing Cuomo's decision to shut it down. (New York Times)
-- Nevada: More than 37,000 residents who signed up for health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act will have to sign up again, after the state decided to drop its own health exchange and opt into the federal Healthcare.gov website. The federal portal needs new data, not the data collected by Xerox, which ran the state exchange before being fired in May. (Las Vegas Sun)
-- Indiana: Gov. Mike Pence (R) met with HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell Wednesday to make an in-person pitch for his proposal for an alternative to Medicaid expansion. Pence has asked to restructure the state Medicaid program, and to use federal money made available by the Affordable Care Act to cover low-income residents. (Indianapolis Star) If Pence runs for president, expect to hear a lot about this program -- both from his campaign and from his opponents.
-- Virginia: The Department of Elections mistakenly mailed notifications to about 125,000 voters raising questions about whether they are registered in other states. The letter asks voters to update or cancel their registration; it was sent to voters who moved within the Commonwealth, not out of state. (Richmond Times-Dispatch)
-- Mississippi: Attorney General Jim Hood (D) said his office investigated claims of vote-buying in last month's U.S. Senate runoff election. A reporter at a conservative news website paid a Meridian minister $2,000 for an interview in which the minister alleged Sen. Thad Cochran's (R) campaign paid people to vote; the minister later recanted his story, both to newspapers and to Hood's office. (Jackson Clarion-Ledger)
DC Digest: What's on tap today in DC.
-- President Obama meets with members of Congress this morning on foreign policy before lunching with Vice President Biden. This afternoon, Obama signs an executive order requiring federal contractors to disclose labor law violations. Later, Obama delivers remarks at HUD, where new Secretary Julian Castro is still arranging his new desk. This evening, Obama hosts an event recognizing the anniversary of the Special Olympics in the East Room.
-- The House on Wednesday passed a measure to overhaul the Department of Veterans Affairs after Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) agreed on a reconciled version of the legislation. The vote was 420 to 5. (Washington Post) That leaves the House waiting for the Senate on a border bill, with a fix to the Highway Trust Fund still up in the air as August looms.
-- The Senate meets at 9:30 a.m. to continue debating the $2.7 billion border bill. Votes are up in the air as Congress races to finish up its work before the August recess. A vote on the VA bill is expected, too.
-- Saving you a Google search: "School's Out" Youtube video here.
-- Today is House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's last day in leadership. Deputy chief of staff Doug Heye, who is among those leaving the Hill when Cantor gives up his office, says he's thinking of taking a different path: "I hear the Yankees need a new shortstop next season," Heye wrote in a farewell email.
TV Time Out: Our exclusive look at who's advertising, and where.
-- Iowa: NextGen Climate Action, the super PAC funded by billionaire activist Tom Steyer, launched a $667,000 ad blitz against state Sen. Joni Ernst (R) on Wednesday with what has to be the weirdest ad of the cycle so far. The group is spending $200,000 this week, then about $130,000 a week until Sept. 2 on the ad.
-- West Virginia: Just a day after Secretary of State Natalie Tennant (D) jumped on television, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R) followed, buying $183,000 in broadcast ads running this week in the Clarksburg, Charleston, Beckley and Wheeling markets.
-- Colorado: AFSCME is the latest Democratic group to weigh in against Rep. Cory Gardner (R) in his bid to oust Sen. Mark Udall (D). The union is spending $590,000 on broadcast and cable ads set to begin on Friday and run through Aug. 14. It's their first foray into the race.
-- Michigan: Former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land (R) has spent almost $1 million over the last two weeks on cable and broadcast ads, according to data from a Democratic source. Land's campaign is double tracking -- running two different ad flights -- between July 22 and Aug. 6.
The Buried Lede: The nuggets that deserve the spotlight.
-- The Supreme Court's decision to throw out aggregate campaign donation limits has cost top K Street donors dearly. At least ten lobbyists have already contributed more than the $123,200 allowed by law this election cycle, including Heather Podesta, Sam Geduldig, Steve Elmendorf and Vic Fazio. Ken Kies, of the Federal Policy Group, leads the pack, having given $177,000 this cycle. (Roll Call)
B1: Business, politics and the business of politics
-- Talks between Argentina and its creditors collapsed late Wednesday, sending the South American nation into its second default in 13 years. Hedge funds creditors refused to accept a compromise, Argentina's finance minister said. A U.S. court prevented Argentina from making a $539 million payment to bondholders who had accepted a restructuring deal. (Associated Press)
-- The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's parent company will sell its broadcast television assets to Scripps, while Scripps will hand control of its newspapers to Journal Media. The newspaper company will distribute 14 daily papers, including the Memphis Commercial Appeal. Scripps will become the country's fifth-largest independent TV company, with 34 television stations. It will also own 35 radio stations. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
-- Markets are trading more than half a percentage point lower before the bell after a mixed day on Wall Street on Wednesday. Most world markets traded lower today. (CNN)
C1: The long reads you'll need to check out before tonight's cocktail party.
-- Richard Nixon took advantage of rivalries between his aides, felt jealous of John F. Kennedy's place in history and ordered a break-in at the Brookings Institution that never took place. All that and more comes from the more than 3,000 hours of recordings of Oval Office meetings in two new books out this summer. (The Atlantic)
C4: The comics page, fun things to read when you're bored at work
-- Three serious-looking guys in Air Force One jackets stopped at Oklahoma Joe's, a Kansas City barbecue joint, and purchased ribs, pork, sausage and sides, the owner said. The total tab came to $1,400. But just like Arthur Bryant's, Oklahoma Joe's marketing manager Doug Worgul said his place was fresh out of coleslaw. (Kansas City Star)
-- Smoking marijuana in public is still illegal in Washington State, despite a ballot initiative legalizing weed went into effect in January. The Seattle Police Department has issued 83 tickets for smoking marijuana in public in the first half of the year -- 66 of which were written by one officer. That officer sometimes referred the cases to Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, a legalization advocate, by writing "Petey Holmes" on tickets. (Seattle Times)
Attn Matt Drudge: Things conservatives will get outraged by today.
-- Republicans say Democrats are using the phony threat of impeachment to raise money. And it turns out, they have a point: MSNBC had mentioned impeachment 448 times in July, through Tuesday afternoon, compared with just 95 times on Fox News. That's about once every 22 minutes. (FiveThirtyEight) Funny, 448 is the same number of fundraising emails the DNC and DCCC have sent out in the last week.
Attn HuffPo: What outrages liberals today
-- Rep. Steve Palazzo (R-Miss.) wants Gov. Phil Bryant (R) to send National Guard troops to the Texas border. He also wants to change federal law to prevent children born in the U.S., whom he referred to as "anchor babies" during a Monday tele-town hall meeting with constituents, from being able to stay in the country. (Jackson Clarion-Ledger)