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"We are closer to reform than we have ever been. But this is the hard part. This is when the special interests and the insurance companies and the folks who want to kill reform fight back with everything they've got. This is when they spread all kinds of rumors to scare and intimidate the American people. This is what they always do." President Obama at a rally for health care reform on Saturday, September 12, 2009, at the Target Center in Minneapolis.

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"The only thing this plan would eliminate is the hundreds of billions of dollars in waste and fraud, as well as unwarranted subsidies in Medicare that go to insurance companies - subsidies that do everything to pad their profits and nothing to improve your care. And we will also create an independent commission of doctors and medical experts charged with identifying more waste in the years ahead." Read the whole speech here.

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"That's how change happens. And that's what has to happen right now. If you want a health care system where insurance companies can't drop your coverage or deny you care, I need you to knock on a few doors and talk to your neighbors. If you want to make sure that you can keep your health care if you lose your job or change your job, I need you to make a few phone calls. If you believe, as our friend Ted Kennedy always said, that health care is not a privilege, but a fundamental right for every American, then I need you to make your voice heard in Washington."

Newscom/Star Tribune




President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama toured a house being built by Habitat for Humanity and then started painting one of the rooms to help out during the National Day of Service in Washington, D.C., September 11, 2009.

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President Obama doesn't need a ladder.

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First Lady Michelle Obama is joined by Julie Bindelglass, a junior at George Washington University, and Shakir Cannon-Moye, a senior, to kick off the First Lady's challenge to GW students to serve.

Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton




The George Washington Community has committed to perform 100,000 hours of community service to secure Mrs. Obama's attendance as their commencement speaker in Spring 2010.

Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton




The President with GW student volunteers.

Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton




Wrapping up the job.

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President Obama, ever the perfectionist.

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Neighborhood youths come out to see the President and First Lady near the house being built by Habitat for Humanity.

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The President and First Lady meet with the Crown Prince and Princess of the Netherlands in the Yellow Oval Room of the White House on September 11, 2009.

Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton




Princess Maxima and Prince Willem-Alexander were visiting the US to celebrate the 400 year anniversary of New York City.

Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton




The 44th President receives a jersey from the Pittsburgh Penguins during a ceremony honoring the team's 2009 Stanley Cup championship at the White House on September 10, 2009.

Newscom/Abaca Press




Penguins Stanley Cup MVP Evgeny Malkin takes a cell phone picture as President Obama congratulates him while hosting the champion Pittsburgh Penguins in the East Room.

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President Obama holds the Stanley Cup with team captain Sidney Crosby. At right is team owner Mario Lemieux.

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It's a big one. The Stanley Cup is made of silver and nickel alloy and weighs 34.5 pounds.

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President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden pose with the full Cabinet for an official group photo in the East Room of the White House on Sept. 10, 2009.

Seated from left: Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr.

Standing second row, from left: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Susan E. Rice, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki, and Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

Back row, from left: Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag, and Council of Economic Advisers Chair Christina Romer.


Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy

[The White House released this statement today from Robert Gibbs.]

"I was deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Jody Powell. As Press Secretary to President Carter, Jody served his country during a difficult time, and he always did the job with grace and good humor. When I needed advice at the start of my own tenure as Press Secretary, he was always generous with his time and wise in his counsel. I'll miss his support and encouragement, and I'll be keeping him and his family in my thoughts and prayers."


,Sotheby's, looking for a buyer for Bernie Madoff's Upper East Side penthouse, has finally posted the listing for the swanky digs. From the listing: "Duplex penthouse affords spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline...an impressive Gallery with an elliptical staircase, a grand Living Room with triple exposures and an elegantly proportioned Dining Room." All this and, of course, the lore attending the biggest Ponzi scheme of all time -- for just $9.9 million.

From The New York Observer, Sotheby's




Dining Room

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Terrace

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More Terrace

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Small Bedroom

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Office

Sotheby's




Library/Bedroom

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Kitchen

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Stair between two floors

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Floor Plan

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Penthouse Entrance

Sotheby's

Rep. Joe ("You Lie!") Wilson's now-legendary exclamation during President Obama's speech to Congress last week was itself essentially untrue, as we've documented.

But in trying to deflect charges of xenophobia in the wake of the outburst, it looks like the South Carolina congressman again played fast and loose with the facts.

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Nice catch by the Legal Times: Looks like Scott Bloch is putting out an interesting spin on the five scandal-plagued years he spent as chief of the Office of Special Counsel.

Bloch's bio page at D.C.-based Tarone & McLaughlin LLP, the business law firm where he now works, says "he attained notoriety as the head of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel."

Indeed.

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FreedomWorks, the main organizers of the Tea Party event in Washington this past weekend, has dramatically lowered its estimate for the size of the crowd at the event from 1.5 million, a number the group now concedes was a mistake, to between 600,000 and 800,000 people -- though this is still substantially more than the tens of thousands that most mainstream media outlets have estimated, and which FreedomWorks wholeheartedly rejects.

The politically charged issue of crowd size is complicated by the fact that there is no official estimate -- not from the Park Service, not from the D.C. Police, nor the Fire Department, etc. In fact, a Fire Department spokesman that I talked to told me that whoever had given a figure of 60,000-70,000 to ABC News had not been authorized to do so. So there's no independent source to verify FreedomWorks' latest number.

"I really wish that the Park Service would come out with a number," said FreedomWorks spokesman Adam Brandon, in an interview with TPM. "I wish I was not doing this. If my mother calls me and asks how many, I'll say this was hundreds of thousands."

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On Hardball today, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich defended himself by pleading ignorance of the Constitution.

In his new book, The Governor, Blagojevich claims White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel asked him to appoint someone to Emanuel's old House seat, in case he wanted to run again in 2010. But House members, unlike senators, are never appointed, only elected.

Chris Matthews asked Blago today how it was possible he and Emanuel -- who served in the House for six years and was chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee -- didn't know that.

"I think you're giving me and Rahm too much credit. It's not like we know the Constitution backwards and forwards without talking to lawyers," he said, calling it a "good" and "appropriate" conversation.

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A new CNN poll finds that Rep. Joe Wilson's (R-SC) "You lie!" outburst remains a minority viewpoint among Americans -- though it is a significant minority.

The poll finds that 32% said that Obama lied while he was speaking to Congress, compared to 60% who don't think so. In addition, only 15% say that it was appropriate behavior for Wilson to shout out that Obama was lying, compared to 85% who say it was inappropriate.

Interestingly enough, an earlier question asks: "If Obama's plan became law, do you think that the federal government would or would not provide insurance to illegal immigrants?" This is the substance of the very matter that caused Wilson to shout out. Here it's much more divided, with 47% thinking it will happen and 49% saying it won't.

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During his seven years in prison, expelled congressman Jim Traficant (D-OH) took up painting to pass the time. When he was released this month, he promised to auction off some of those paintings to raise money for a group of retirees from his district.

Those paintings -- of a horse, Betty Boop and Elvis -- are now available on eBay. We've compiled them all into a Traficant slideshow for your viewing pleasure.

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The money keeps rolling in for both Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) and his Democratic opponent, Iraq War veteran Rob Miller, in the wake of Wilson's "You lie!" incident.

The DCCC just announced that Miller's post-outburst fundraising has now reached over $1.5 million, and has come from over 40,000 individual donors.

On the other side, the NRCC has announced that Wilson has received more than $1.3 million -- which means that there's definitely a market for "You lie!"

This also means that both candidates will be very well-financed for the 2010 election, in what should now be a race that will attract a lot of national attention.

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