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Thursday, Jul 02nd

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Senate Gives Obama Huge Win On Trade

Senate voteThe Senate on Tuesday handed President Barack Obama the biggest legislative victory of his second term, with a dramatic vote clearing the way for major trade agreements with Pacific Rim nations and the European Union.

The 60-37 vote all but ensures the passage of legislation that will allow Obama to "fast-track" his negotiated trade pacts through Congress, preventing filibusters or amendments. Liberals have long assailed Obama's trade agenda, but Republicans successfully wooed a bloc of Democrats led by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) to secure enough votes to overcome a filibuster.

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Virginia to Phase Out Confederate Plates

Terry MccauliffeVirginia will phase out vehicle license plates featuring the Confederate battle flag, the state's governor said on Tuesday, following the fatal shootings of nine black worshipers at a historic South Carolina church, allegedly by a white gunman.

The state, which was part of the pro-slavery Confederacy in the U.S. Civil War, will no longer allow specialty license plates for the Sons of Confederate Veterans group that feature the flag, said Governor Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat.

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In twist, scientists join tobacco companies to fight cancer

E-cigarettes hire scientistsPhilip Morris International Inc has hired more than 400 scientists and technical staff at its research facility in Neuchatel, Switzerland, including toxicologists, chemists, biologists, biostatisticians and regulatory affairs experts.

Altria Group Inc, makers of Marlboro, has recruited dozens of scientific and healthcare experts, as have independent e-cigarette companies such as NJOY. They bring experience developing inhalation devices and navigating the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, valuable knowledge in the new world of electronic cigarettes.

They say they're trying to improve public health.

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Meryl Streep asks Congress to revive ERA

Meryl StreepNo actor or actress can match Meryl Streep's 19 Academy Award nominations, and only Katharine Hepburn has bested her three Oscars for acting. So maybe it's conceivable that Streep's letter Tuesday to each member of Congress can somehow revive the Equal Rights Amendment, politically dormant since its high-water mark four decades ago.

"I am writing to ask you to stand up for equality - for your mother, your daughter, your sister, your wife or yourself - by actively supporting the Equal Rights Amendment," Streep writes. Each packet includes a copy of "Equal Means Equal," a book by Jessica Neuwirth, president of the ERA Coalition.

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U.S. to put military equipment in several European countries

Ash CarterThe U.S. will spread about 250 tanks, armored vehicles and other military equipment across six former Soviet bloc nations to help reassure NATO allies facing threats from Russia and terrorist groups, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced Tuesday.

Carter’s announcement, made as he stood with defense chiefs from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, comes a day after he announced that the U.S. would have other weapons, aircraft and forces, including commandos, ready as needed for NATO’s new rapid reaction force, to help Europe defend against potential Russian aggression from the east and the Islamic State and other violent extremists from the south.

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U.N. Report Asks All the Right Questions of Israel

UN report on GazaWhen the shouting dies down and folks take the time to read the actual content of the United Nations report on last summer’s Gaza war — all 183 pages plus side documents — you might see some very red faces in the world of pro-Israel activism.

Well, maybe you won’t. The leaders and friends of Israel’s current governing coalition aren’t in the habit of admitting mistakes, especially where Palestinians are involved. But this one will be hard to dodge.

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Walmart, Sears removing Confederate flag items

Walmart, Sears remove confederate wareWalmart and Sears said they would stop selling products bearing the Confederate flag, days after a white gunman shot nine people dead at a historically black South Carolina church.

The move by the major retailers came the same day South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley called on lawmakers to take down the Confederate battle flag at the state capitol grounds, and a Mississippi lawmaker called for the removal of the Confederate emblem from the state flag.

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Chile’s largest city temporarily shut down due to smog 'emergency'

Santiago smogAuthorities in Chile’s capital shut down hundreds of businesses and ordered hundreds of thousands of cars off the streets on Monday as a grey carpet of smog caused an environmental emergency in the city hosting the Copa America soccer tournament.

The emergency was declared ended on Monday evening after air quality improved. But the Santiago government said it still would order about 300,000 vehicles off the streets on Tuesday, a little less than half the estimated 680,000 that had to be parked on Monday, especially older cars.

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Former ambassador's bizarre attack on Obama lays bare strains in US-Israeli ties

OrenIt’s a peculiar feature of American relations with Israel that more than a few senior diplomats posted from Jerusalem to Washington were once US citizens.

The present Israeli ambassador, Ron Dermer, was born in Miami Beach and carried an American passport until he renounced it in 2005 in order to serve as the Jewish state’s economic envoy in DC.

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