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First Read's Morning Clips

A roundup of the most important political news stories of the day

OBAMA AGENDA: Latest out of Ukraine

The latest in Ukraine, from the Wall Street Journal: "While Kiev made significant advances against rebels in the country's east in recent days, Ukrainian and U.S. officials say Russian weapons are continuing to pour over the border. The escalation in fighting suggests Russian President Vladimir Putin has no intention of dialing back his support for the separatists, denting Western hopes that international attention from the airliner crash would force him to change course."

Another missing plane? Reuters: "Contact lost with Air Algerie plane carrying 116 people from Burkina Faso"

The New York Times looks at the claim of "human shields" being made regarding the escalating death toll in the Gaza conflict. "There is no evidence that Hamas and other militants force civilians to stay in areas that are under attack — the legal definition of a human shield under international law. But it is indisputable that Gaza militants operate in civilian areas, draw return fire to civilian structures, and on some level benefit in the diplomatic arena from the rising casualties. They also have at times encouraged residents not to flee their homes when alerted by Israel to a pending strike and, having prepared extensively for war, did not build civilian bomb shelters. Israel, for its part, says it takes precautions to avoid killing civilians, but has also accepted as inevitable that there will be large numbers of civilian casualties when it strikes at certain targets, like Hamas members in their houses, or offices, or mosques."

The Washington Post looks at how the ties between the U.S. and Israel both help and hinder efforts to negotiate a cease-fire as the fighting continues.

Another health care story to add to this week's whiplash, from the AP: "A new study estimates that more than 10 million adults gained health insurance by midyear as the coverage expansion under President Barack Obama's law took hold in much of the country."

The AP: "Six years ago the Social Security Administration embarked on an aggressive plan to replace outdated computer systems overwhelmed by a growing flood of disability claims. Nearly $300 million later, the new system is nowhere near ready and agency officials are struggling to salvage a project racked by delays and mismanagement, according to an internal report commissioned by the agency."

CONGRESS: Boehner’s demand for any border relief

House Speaker John Boehner is prodding Obama to voice his support for changes to the 2008 migrants law -- something that Republicans are calling a must-have before authorizing border money. But many Democrats are resisting the change, calling it inhumane.

More from the AP: "Unless Democrats capitulate, "We're going to be at an impasse and we will have earned even greater disdain from the American people than we already have," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said. But Republicans were having difficulty agreeing even among themselves."

Questioning of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen over those missing Lois Lerner emails continued at a House Oversight Committee hearing Wednesday. The Wall Street Journal: "The IRS chief's comments to a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee confirmed a report Monday that some of the backup tapes—which perhaps contain copies of the missing emails—might not have been reused, as the IRS previously said."

A potential bright spot amid the gridlock? The Washington Post reports that a compromise bill on surveillance reform could be introduced as soon as today.

OFF TO THE RACES: On the House Republicans running for the Senate

Notes the Washington Post's Paul Kane: "Despite the record levels of unpopularity of Congress, both parties are fielding members of the House as candidates in races that will probably determine control of the Senate. Five of the most critical races feature a House member as the nominee: House Republicans are challenging Democratic Senate incumbents in Arkansas, Colorado and Louisiana, and House Democrats are trying to defend seats vacated by retiring Democratic senators in Iowa and Michigan."

Rick Perry's going BACK to Iowa for another four days next month, the Des Moines Register reports.

NBC’s Andrew Rafferty notes how Marco Rubio spoke yesterday about defending “traditional marriage” while also acknowledging discrimination against gays and lesbians.

ARIZONA: Gov. Jan Brewer is calling for a review of the state's lethal injections after the death of a convicted murderer took more than 90 minutes Wednesday.

GEORGIA: The New York Times previews the fall campaign between Democrat Michelle Nunn and Republican David Perdue.

And the Upshot writes that "no other plausibly competitive state — not Nevada or Virginia, not Colorado or North Carolina — has had a change in the racial composition of the electorate that’s as favorable for Democrats."

HAWAII: The AP: “ Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie is launching a radio ad featuring President Barack Obama supporting the governor's bid for re-election … In the ad, Obama says Abercrombie is "like ohana to me." He says Abercrombie knew his parents "before I was a twinkle in their eye."

MICHIGAN: Democrat Mark Shauer admits that he voted in the 2012 Republican primary, "likely for Rick Santorum in order to embarrass Mitt Romney in his home state," POLITICO reports.

The Free Press: "Less than two weeks before a make-or-break primary and facing a well-financed challenger who leads in the polls, U.S. Rep. Kerry Bentivolio, R-Milford, has yet to air a TV ad or appear in a debate. He spent less in the last three-month period than he did in the previous one. "

MONTANA: Here's Jonathan Martin's scoop on Sen. John Walsh's alleged plagiarism: "[O]ne of the highest-profile credentials of Mr. Walsh’s 33-year military career appears to have been improperly attained. An examination of the final paper required for Mr. Walsh’s master’s degree from the United States Army War College indicates the senator appropriated at least a quarter of his thesis on American Middle East policy from other authors’ works, with no attribution."

Here's what Walsh told the AP: "I don't want to blame my mistake on PTSD, but I do want to say it may have been a factor," the senator said. "My head was not in a place very conducive to a classroom and an academic environment."

TENNESSEE: Sarah Palin endorsed Joe Carr on her Facebook page. "Unfortunately, advocating and voting for amnesty, cash for clunkers, bailouts, raising the debt ceiling, and many controversial Obama administration nominees has marred the incumbent’s record. It’s time for a change."

WISCONSIN: A new Marquette poll shows Scott Walker and challenger Mary Burke in a dead heat, with Walker leading 46%-45% among registered voters.


*** Thursday’s “The Daily Rundown” line-up: NBC’s Chuck Todd interviews Rep. Jim Clyburn, NBC’s Ayman Mohyeldin, NBC’s Martin Fletcher, NBC’s Jim Maceda, Sen. James Inhoffe, EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock.

*** Thursday’s “News Nation with Tamron Hall” line-up: Craig Melvin interviews TIME’s Simon Shuster on the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17; Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) on MH 17 and the Mideast crisis; Shanesha Taylor the mother who was arrested after leaving her kids in the car when she went on a job interview and Amanda Bishop, the organizer of a fundraiser in Taylor’s name.

*** Thursday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell interviews Chief of the PLO Delegation in Washington Maen Areikat, Arab American Institute President James Zogby, Israeli journalist Ari Shavit, Sen. Robert Menendez, NBC’s Tom Costello and Pete Williams, the Atlantic’s Molly Ball, the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza and Jonathan Capehart and Asian America editor Amna Nawaz.