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First Read’s Morning Clips

OBAMA AGENDA : The latest in Gaza

The latest in Gaza, from the New York Times: "After failing to win a deal to end fighting in Gaza last week, Secretary of State John Kerry is trying to salvage Plan B: a succession of temporary cease-fires that he hopes might yet open the door to Israeli and Palestinian negotiations for a long-term solution. On Sunday, however, Mr. Kerry was having difficulty accomplishing even that, despite a phone call in which President Obama, in a sign of mounting impatience, urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to embrace an “immediate, unconditional humanitarian cease-fire” while the two sides pursued a more lasting agreement."

"At least three civilians were killed in overnight fighting in eastern Ukraine and government troops pressed ahead with their campaign against pro-Russian rebels, taking a strategic point close to where Malaysian flight MH17 crashed, officials said on Monday," Reuters reports.

From the Washington Post: " A U.S.-backed effort to arm the moderate Syrian opposition is finally ramping up along the Turkey-Syria border, but it may come too late to save the rebels from defeats on two fronts, by President Bashar al-Assad’s government and by the extremists seeking to carve out an Islamic state."

An op-ed in the Washington Post from Treasury Secretary Jack Lew: "Our tax system should not reward U.S. companies for giving up their U.S. citizenship, and unless we tackle this problem, these transactions will continue. Closing the inversion loophole is no substitute for comprehensive business tax reform, but it is a necessary step down the path toward a fair and more efficient tax system, and a step that needs to be in a place for tax reform to work."

CONGRESS : Deal reached on VA

Roll Call reports that, after talks broke down last week, members have reached a deal on a $15 billion VA health care bill. "According to a summary of the agreement obtained by CQ Roll Call, the negotiators agreed to $15 billion in emergency mandatory spending — $10 billion for a new private care option for veterans and another $5 billion for improvements within the VA, like hiring doctors and nurses and upgrading facilities. That’s $5 billion more than Miller offered on Thursday and about $10 billion less than Sanders sought."

New House Majority Whip Steve Scalise wouldn't say over the weekend if he would take impeachment proceedings against the president off the table.

Your United States Congress, ladies and gents: "A new member of Congress was the butt of Twitter jokes galore Friday after he appeared to repeatedly treat two senior State and Commerce Department officials with Indian surnames as members of the Indian government."

OFF TO THE RACES : GOP Senate prospects looking bright

Our own Perry Bacon Jr. on both parties' fight for the African American vote: "In key Senate races in Georgia, North Carolina, and Louisiana this fall, Democratic candidates will struggle to gain the support of even a third of white voters, who are increasingly conservative in the South. But the party can win those races if they combine that fraction of the white vote with recent levels of Democratic support among African-Americans, who will likely make up more than 20 percent of voters in all three states."

The Wall Street Journal: "With 100 days to go until the midterm election, unexpectedly strong bids by several Republican candidates and President Barack Obama's continued sagging approval ratings are boosting GOP chances of capturing a Senate majority."

The New York Times notes the lay of the land when it comes to outside money in the midterms. "An explosion of spending on political advertising on television — set to break $2 billion in congressional races, with overall spots up nearly 70 percent since the 2010 midterm election — is accelerating the rise of moneyed interests and wresting control from the candidates’ own efforts to reach voters."

Rand Paul 2016 watch, via the Wall Street Journal: "In the latest sign Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is ramping up for a presidential bid, his leadership PAC has hired Republican consultant John Yob as national political director and chief strategist of its Michigan operation.Mr. Yob is the third state-level hire by RANDPAC in the last month, following the hirings of Steve Grubbs in Iowa and Mike Biundo in New Hampshire."

Sarah Palin has started her own subscription-based online network.

The Washington Post digs into how the pension battle in New Jersey will be a test of leadership for Gov. Chris Christie.

ALASKA: The Alaska Dispatch News profiles Senate candidate Joe Miller, who's making another bid to head to Washington.

GEORGIA:The New York Times calls the gubernatorial campaign of Jason Carter - grandson of the former Democratic president - "the nation’s most awkward legacy campaign."

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution quotes Jimmy Carter describing his role in the campaign thusly: "“I would say a minimal role in the campaign itself. But when he asks us to do something, we’ll make every effort to do so."

KENTUCKY: Bill Clinton is headed back to Kentucky to campaign with Alison Lundergan Grimes on August 6.

MICHIGAN: Rep. Justin Amash is confident ahead of his primary even though the Chamber of Commerce is endorsing his opponent.

MISSISSIPPI: Thad Cochran will face high stakes in his speech at the Neshoba County Fair, writes the Clarion-Ledger.

NEW HAMPSHIRE: In a new ad, Scott Brown takes on the "pro-amnesty policies of President Obama and Senator Shaheen."

TENNESSEE: The Hill’s Jessica Taylor looks at Tea Party challenger Joe Carr’s fight against Lamar Alexander. “[W]ithout significant monetary help from powerful national groups, the challenger’s hopes are unlikely to bring down the muscle Alexander still commands throughout the state.

VIRGINIA: The New York Times looks at the political culture in Virginia, riled by the corruption trial of former Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife. "A state government long known for a go-along, get-along culture is now a place where compromise is seen as collaborating with the enemy."

WEST VIRGINIA: Democrat Natalie Tennant is up with her first ad, which focuses on – you guessed it – coal.

PROGRAMMING NOTES.

*** Monday’s “The Daily Rundown” line-up: NBC’s Chuck Todd interviews NBC’s Martin Fletcher, NBC’s Ayman Mohyeldin, Jerusalem Fund’s Yousef Munayyer, Washington Post’s Dan Balz, Cook Political’s Amy Walter, Rothenberg Report/Roll Call’s Nathan Gonzales

*** Monday's "News Nation with Tamron Hall" line-up: Tamron Hall interviews Quartz, qz.com managing editor, Bobby Ghosh on the Mideast crisis ; Attorney Eric Guster on the murder trial for man who shot Renisha McBride; and Tunette Powell, whose three year-old son has been suspended five times, she wrote an article for the Washington Post on fair discipline for black families.