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On October 13, 2009, the White House hosted "Fiesta Latina" music night on the South Lawn. This was the third event in a musical event series launched by First Lady Michelle Obama, and celebrated Latin musical heritage. In his remarks at the event, President Barack Obama said of the genre: "In the end, what makes Latin music great is the same thing that's always made America great -- the unique ability to celebrate our differences while creating something new."

Newscom/Alexis C. Glenn/Pool/Sipa Press

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama arrive on the South Lawn for the Fiesta Latina music night.

Newscom/Alexis C. Glenn/Pool/Sipa Press

Actor Jimmy Smits -- who played the president of the United States on The West Wing -- attended the event.

Newscom/Alexis C. Glenn/Pool/Sipa Press

Mexican pop singer Thalia.

Newscom/Alexis C. Glenn/Pool/Sipa Press

Three-time Grammy Award-winning rock band Los Lobos.

Newscom/Alexis C. Glenn/Pool/Sipa Press

Performers Pete Escovedo and Sheila E.

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Performers Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez.

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Actress Eva Longoria Parker.

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President Obama said that Latin music "moves us, and it tends to make us move a little bit ourselves."

Newscom/Alexis C. Glenn/Pool/Sipa Press

Comedian George Lopez and actress Eva Longoria Parker hosted Fiesta Latina. They suggested that President Obama is really Latino, just doesn't know it. Added Lopez: The President "lives in a house that's not his...says he's gonna change and nobody believes him -- very Latino."

Newscom/Alexis C. Glenn/Pool/Sipa Press

Gloria Estefan and Jose Feliciano perform at the event.

Newscom/UPI/Alexis C. Glenn

Sheila E. also takes the stage with Estefan.

Newscom/UPI/Alexis C. Glenn

Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) was among audience members on the South Lawn of the White House.

Newscom/Alexis C. Glenn/Pool/Sipa Press

Rep. Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX) speaks to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar before the performances begin.

Newscom/Alexis C. Glenn /Pool via CNP

Malia and Sasha Obama whisper in the audience during the performance.

Newscom/Alexis C. Glenn/Pool/Sipa Press

First Lady Michelle Obama.

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Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

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Sasha Obama.

Newscom/Alexis C. Glenn/Pool/Sipa Press

President Obama wants Congress to approve another year of stimulus payments to 57 million people including seniors, the disabled and veterans, the White House announced today.

The $250 payments would be equivalent to a 2 percent increase in Social Security benefits for the average retiree, according to the White House. The proposal would be an extension of relief for most recipients, but would also benefit 1 million public employee retirees who didn't qualify for previous benefits.

The total cost of the proposal would be $13 billion.

And tomorrow, the Social Security Administration will announce cost-of-living adjustments for 2010.

This may not get the same amount of press attention as the damning--though ultimately flawed--AHIP/PricewaterhouseCoopers report on the impact of reform measures on the price of premiums. But White House officials are already decrying a new insurance company report alleging that health care reform will cause premiums to spike.

BlueCross BlueShield has sent an analysis to members of Congress--along with a letter, which you can read here--that reaches a similar conclusion to the PwC analysis: The provisions of the health care reform proposals on Capitol Hill that BlueCross don't like will cause people's premiums to skyrocket.

An administration official scoffed at the findings: "This report isn't quite as egregious as the AHIP report...if the AHIP report was a $3.50 bill, this one's a $3.00 bill."

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President Obama will be campaigning next Wednesday for New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, the Corzine campaign has just announced.

The event will be held at the Rothman Center on the Metropolitan campus of Fairleigh Dickinson University, with the doors opening at 3 p.m. ET. (When the line forms is probably beyond the campaign's control, though.)

Corzine is in a tough fight against Republican former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, but has been catching up in the polls after having trailed by wide margins all year. Obama's popularity could potentially make the difference for Corzine in this Democratic-leaning state.

Late Update: The Corzine campaign gives us this comment: "We are thrilled that President Obama is returning to New Jersey to stand with Governor Corzine and Senator Weinberg. Like President Obama, Governor Corzine has been fighting for what matters for New Jersey families- getting health coverage for nearly 100,000 more kids, supporting a woman's right to choose, and passing paid family leave that allows workers to care for their loved ones."

In the hard-fought New Jersey governors race, Democrats are pushing hard on the AP report yesterday that Republican candidate Chris Christie went over the government lodging allowance on 14 of the 16 trips he took last year while he was U.S. attorney,

But an examination by TPMDC of Christie travel recrods from 2004-2008 paints a more nuanced picture than the one of a extravagant federal prosecutor that Democrats are trying to paint.

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Former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack, wife of former Gov. Tom Vilsack, now says she's considering a run for Senate in 2010 against Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley.

"I think I'm qualified to serve, so time will tell." Vilsack told WHO-TV, the central Iowa NBC station.

"You know, I've spent the last 12 years traveling around the state, developing a relationship with the people of Iowa," she explained, "and I just really appreciate the fact that people have been so supportive in suggesting this. But, as I said, time will tell."

Grassley was first elected in the 1980 Reagan landslide, and has been re-elected by comfortable margins ever since, winning 70% of the vote in 2004.

(Via The Political Carnival.)

Simon Rosenberg of left-leaning group NDN wrote senators a letter urging them to think hard before supporting an amendment Republican senators are pushing to force the Census Bureau to ask immigration status during their 2010 count. Here's the full text:

While this Amendment may appear innocent, its intent and practical effect on the process are not. If carried out, it could dramatically disrupt an orderly Census count next year, throw the Census process into a legal and political morass that could also threaten a clean and accurate count, and is part of a broader strategy by Senator Bennett to challenge the upcoming reapportionment process which at this point appears remarkably, and offensively unconstitutional. There are simply too many questions about this Amendment for you to vote yes on it this week.

I will let others address the practicality of adding a new question to the Census at this very, very late stage. But I do want to address Senator Bennett's argument about why getting an accurate count of the non-citizens in the U.S. today is so important - to deny the ability for the undocumented immigrants in each state to count towards the upcoming reapportionment process. In his own statements on the Senate floor, and in his press release, he has made it clear that this reason is behind his Amendment - to start a racially charged effort to disrupt the once every ten year reapportionment process in 2011 and 2012.

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In a meeting with his national security team on Afghanistan and Pakistan today, President Obama received reports on U.S. efforts to train Afghan forces and strengthen the civilian mission, and got an update on the overall political and security situation.

Briefing reporters today, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said a decision on troop levels in Afghanistan will be made "in the coming weeks."

This was the fifth meeting of the team, as the President works on a new strategy for the war in Afghanistan.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is traveling this week, phoned into the meeting, and Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Afghanistan Amb. Karl Eikenberry and Pakistan Amb. Anne Patterson attended the meeting via videoconference.

Also in attendance were Vice President Biden, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, UN Amb. Susan Rice, Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke, Deputy Secretary of State Jack Lew, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen, Gen. David Petraeus, National Intelligence Director Adm. Dennis Blair, CIA Director Leon Panetta, Gen. James Jones, Tom Donilon, John Brennan and Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute.

Gibbs also said the White House is "happy" that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he'd send 500 more troops to Afghanistan.

The new Republican National Committee Web site has been derided for its "GOP Heroes" section -- which teaches us that almost all of the great Republicans lived in the 1800's, and about half of them were black -- but there's another illustrious name on the list: Ronaldus Magnus.

The site's page on Ronald Reagan includes this citation of the party's great hero, giving him a stylized name we might see on a Roman emperor:

Our country has to decide, said Ronaldus Magnus, "whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether to abandon the American Revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capital can plan our lives better than we can plan them ourselves."

And to think that the GOP makes fun of the Democrats for allegedly worshiping Obama.

We've called the RNC office for comment on how this got there, giving them the benefit of the doubt that maybe this is a product of those hackers we've been hearing about as a result of the site's security problems. They have not gotten back to us yet.

Late Update: The page has now been edited, removing Reagan's Latin throne name. It now simply says, "Our country has to decide, said Reagan..."

For the last week folks across Washington - from the Commerce Department to Senate leadership to left-leaning advocacy groups - have had a bad case of heartburn over a potential floor fight on an amendment Republican senators were pushing to force the Census Bureau to ask immigration status during their 2010 count.

I wrote about the issue last week when Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) and Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT) attempted to attach the amendment to the Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations bill outlining spending for the next year.

Senate leaders feared the amendment was getting some support from red-state Democrats so the Obama administration worked furiously to get it stripped from the bill, killed or at least pushed down the road to debate when Congress finally tackles immigration reform.

Commerce Sec. Gary Locke made a tough case to senators asking they oppose the amendment, reminding them such a change would cost "hundreds of millions of dollars," and long delays since the 300 million census forms would need to be reprinted and reshipped.

"It is too late to shift gears at this point in the process," Locke wrote in a memo obtained by TPMDC.

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