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OBAMA AGENDA: ISIS overruns another area

From the AP: “Islamic State militants overran the famed archaeological site at Palmyra early on Thursday, just hours after seizing the central Syrian town, activists and officials said, raising concerns the extremists might destroy some of the priceless ruins as they have done in neighboring Iraq.”

From Dante Chinni: "For the last eight years the state of the economy - and the need to fix it - has been front-and-center in American politics. As the next presidential race begins, it may be time to consider whether that will still be the case in 2016."

The New York Times: "The United States and Cuba are closer than ever to reaching an agreement to fully restore diplomatic relations and reopen embassies, officials in both countries say, as negotiators prepare to meet Thursday in Washington for another round of talks to iron out remaining details and discuss possible dates."

CONGRESS: Rand’s Stand

After more than 10 hours, Rand Paul ended his long speech (it wasn’t a filibuster) to oppose renewal of the Patriot Act.

Here's where things stand on the NSA issue now, via the Washington Post: "A bitter ideological divide in Congress appeared destined Wednesday to at least temporarily end the bulk collection of Americans’ phone records as government officials warned they would have to begin shuttering the program after Friday if lawmakers do not act."

The New York Times has a fun look at how the sage grouse is ruffling feathers in Congress - to the tune of $612 billion.

POLITICO sums up the messy end to this session, writing that "intraparty warfare is reaching a boil as Congress struggles to conclude a messy session of legislating and head home for a weeklong vacation."

OFF TO THE RACES: Jeb: People who say climate science is decided are “arrogant”

The big news yesterday afternoon: FOX News has determined qualifications for the first GOP presidential debate. "The network will require contenders to place in the top 10 in an average of the five most recent national polls in the run-up to the event, narrowing what is expected to be a field of 16 or more by the Aug. 6 event in Cleveland."

The Washington Post writes that Republicans hope to turn the Islamic State into a problem for Democrats: "After more than a decade bearing the political burden of Iraq, Republicans are making a dogged effort to shed it by arguing that the Islamic State’s gruesome ascent is a symptom of Obama’s foreign policy, rather than a byproduct of the 2003 invasion they once championed."

BUSH: In New Hampshire last night, he weighed in on climate change: "For the people to say the science is decided on this is really arrogant, to be honest with you," he continued. "It's this intellectual arrogance that now you can't have a conversation about it, even. The climate is changing. We need to adapt to that reality."

The Boston Globe writes that New Hampshire Republicans are taking more of a wait-and-see approach to Jeb Bush’s candidacy.

CARSON: He told The Hill that it was a mistake to invade Iraq.

CLINTON: The New York Times reports that the State Department is set to release the first batch of emails from Hillary Clinton's private email address soon, and their focus is expected to be her concerns about Libya.

And here are about a third of those documents, online at the New York Times now

The Wall Street Journal writes about the problems Priorities USA Action has had raising money.

HUCKABEE: In a Des Moines Register editorial, he said he will not participate in the Iowa Straw Poll: "I have concluded this year's Iowa Straw Poll will serve only to weaken conservative candidates and further empower the Washington ruling class and their hand-picked candidates."

Here's more, from one of us(!).

And around the country...

FLORIDA: POLITICO looks at the "grand ambitions" of Democrat Alan Grayson, who's creating plenty of headaches for his party.

KENTUCKY: The Lexington Herald-Leader's Sam Youngman: "Call it limbo, purgatory or a holding pattern, but the Republican Party of Kentucky is in a strange and uncomfortable position, and the coming week will be among the longest in the history of the party."

PROGRAMMING NOTES.

*** Thursday’s “News Nation with Tamron Hall” line-up: Tamron Hall speaks with Former FBI Profiler and MSNBC contributor Clint Van Zandt about the DC arson and quadruple murder case, California Department of Fish and Wildlife Public Information Officer Steve Gonzalez about the latest on the Santa Barbara oil spill, NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel about ISIS capturing a large ancient city in Syria, Actor and comedian Nick Cannon about his 24 hour dance-a-thon for Red Nose Day, and Actor and Literacy Advocate LeVar Burton about the latest on Reading Rainbow’s digital library “Skybrary” and the 2016 reboot of Roots.

*** Thursday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Peter Alexander fills in for Andrea and will interview Doug Hughes, the gyrocopter pilot who landed on the Capitol lawn, Fmr. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez updates us on U.S./Cuba talks, Fmr. David Letterman lead writer Steve O’Donnell talks about Dave’s last show, NPR’s Ari Shapiro reports on Ireland’s historic vote on same sex marriage, the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza and Ruth Marcus discuss Sen. Rand Paul’s filibuster, CNBC’s Scott Cohn reports from the Santa Barbara oil spill, NBC’s Richard Engel reports on ISIS seizing 50% control of Syria and Fmr. ATF Agent in Charge Jim Cavanaugh on the new developments in the DC mansion murders.