Obama’s weak policy leaves homeland at risk

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Buzz Cut:
• Obama’s weak policy leaves homeland at risk
• Dems move to change religious freedom act
• Iowa Dems seek changes to favor Hillary in 2016
• Power Play: Tar Heel Senate race heats up after ObamaCare decision
• Lost and found hound

On the eve of its 238th birthday, the nation is faced with troubling news that threatens the security of the homeland and illustrates the crumbling of Obama administration foreign policy. President Obama’s failure to act decisively in Syria’s chaotic civil war, which has spilled over to Iraq, has yielded an increased threat from Al Qaeda associated terrorists. A pipeline from Syria to Europe is open for jihadists, many holding western passports, and lawmakers and intelligence officials worry about the possibility of an attack. As predicted, the failure to effectively fight the militants overseas has pushed the front to Europe, just a plane ride away.

High alert in the air - Fox News: “The federal government is increasing security measures at some international airports with direct flights to the United States, based on recent intelligence about the continuing, worldwide terror threat, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Wednesday. Johnson gave no information about a specific threat, saying only that the change was based on the U.S. and its allies ‘continually (assessing) the global threat environment.’ However, the beefed up security is almost certainly a response to recent intelligence reports suggesting that Al Qaeda-linked terrorists in Syria are working with members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to blow up a commercial aircraft headed to the U.S. or Europe… Another U.S. official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said the increased security measures had nothing to do with the upcoming July Fourth holiday or any specific threat.”

Washington Examiner: “Liberal groups and congressional Democrats are moving forward with plans to reform the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling Monday [overruling ObamaCare’s mandate that private companies cover contraceptive methods that violate their religious beliefs.] Originally passed in 1993 with overwhelming bipartisan support, the law — on which the case was decided — forbids government from imposing significant burdens on a person’s religious convictions, unless that burden is in furtherance of a compelling government interest and pursued by the least restrictive means possible. Some Democratic lawmakers who supported the bill in 1993 issued statements Monday condemning the Supreme Court’s interpretation. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the RFRA ‘was not intended to extend the same protection to for-profit corporations, whose very purpose is to profit from the open market,’ and called the decision ‘dead wrong.’ The White House also signaled the hope that Congress will pursue a legislative remedy.”

NYPost: “Insurance firms participating in New York’s ObamaCare health exchange are seeking double-digit hikes for patient medical premiums in 2015, new figures reviewed by The Post reveal. The average hike sought by insurers for individual plans is 12 percent—but a number of firms serving large numbers of patients want to boost individual premiums by nearly 20 percent. Leading the charge is Excellus Health Plan, which is seeking to sock more than 24,000 customers with a 19.7 percent hike. The even larger MVP Health Plan, with nearly 33,000 customers, is seeking a 19 percent boost. While a number of smaller plans put in for lesser increases or, in a number of cases, decreases, Health Republic Insurance of New York — the largest on the exchange with more than 68,000 members — requested a 15.2 percent increase for individual plans.”

Scientist have found “The Ocean on Saturn’s Moon Is as Salty as the Dead Sea”: “The level of salt in Titan's ocean may mean we have to rethink the chance of present-day life on Saturn's largest moon. Scientists say the ocean within Saturn’s largest moon may be as salty as the Dead Sea. A new analysis of data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, which has been studying Saturn’s moon Titan for the last ten years, allowed researchers to create a model structure for Titan, including its icy shell and the ocean of water and other minerals that lies beneath. Based on Titan’s gravity, they determined that the moon’s ocean must be relatively dense. That suggests it contains a large a portion of salts–likely composed of sulfur, sodium and potassium–on par with Earth’s saltiest bodies of waters. Sadly, no taste test was involved. The latest findings about Titan were published in this week’s edition of the journal Icarus.”

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Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval
: Approve –41.6 percent//Disapprove – 53.4 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 26.5 percent//Wrong Track – 63.3 percent
Generic Congressional Ballot:  Democrats – 42.8 percent// Republicans 41.4 percent

Democrats in Iowa are looking into changing the way they conduct their presidential caucus with many on the blue team looking to craft ways to help Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, who lost the first in the nation primary to Barack Obama in 2008. According to LAT, Dems are looking to include absentee ballots and online voting for those who are physically absent to participate in the caucus. “As Democrats, we’re always looking for ways to expand the electorate,” Scott Brennan, chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party told the Times. “Is there something else we can do to make [the caucuses] better?” Voting in a caucus varies from a traditional election. Caucus elections consist of early morning, time consuming precinct-level meetings where attendees can only vote after the discussion. LAT: “Mindful of the Democrats’ deliberations, Iowa GOP leaders recently expressed skepticism about the use of absentee ballots in their caucuses, which are run separately. Part of the reason was concern that anything akin to a ‘mini-primary’ might antagonize New Hampshire officials and jeopardize the alliance that has kept the states No. 1 and No. 2 in presidential balloting for several decades.”

Tuition too high?  WaPo: “At least eight universities, including four public institutions, have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for Hillary Rodham Clinton to speak on their campuses over the past year, sparking a backlash from some student groups and teachers at a time of austerity in higher education. In one previously undisclosed transaction, the University of Connecticut — which just raised tuition by 6.5 percent — paid $251,250 from a donor fund for Clinton to speak on campus in April. Other examples include $300,000 to speak at the University of California at Los Angeles in March and $225,000 for a speech scheduled for October at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. The potential 2016 Democratic presidential candidate also has been paid for speeches at the University at Buffalo, Colgate University and Hamilton College in New York, as well as Simmons College in Boston and the University of Miami in Florida. Officials at those five schools refused to say what they paid Clinton. But if she earned her standard fee of $200,000 or more, that would mean she took in at least $1.8 million in speaking income from universities in the past nine months.”

[Hillary Clinton’s “Hard Choices” sales drop another 46 percent in third week on the shelves.]

In this week’s edition of “Power Play Political Pros,” host Chris Stirewalt chats with Democratic strategist Tony Welch and Republican strategist Brian Donahue to explore how the recent Supreme Court decision on ObamaCare’s contraception mandate will impact the North Carolina Race between Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., and Republican state Speaker of the House Thom Tillis. Will Tillis’s pro-life stance on birth control affect the race? Find out here. Then, political pros Brian Donahue and Tony Welsh discuss whether Republicans can take over Sen. Mary Landrieu’s, D-La., seat in this fall. Although she has been running a strong campaign, will Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La., be able to keep his slight lead in the polls? How will tea party candidate Col. Rob Maness factor into the already tight race?  Watch here to find out.

New GOP ad bashes Hagan for ObamaCare support - (N.C.) The News & Observer: “A Republican outside group is out with a new ad criticizing U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan for her support for the Affordable Care Act. Crossroads GPS (Grassroots Political Strategies) announced on Wednesday that the new ad will run for one week on TV…The ad says small businesses are struggling under the Affordable Care Act, cutting worker hours and freezing new hires. It said it could reduce employment in the state by 74,000 jobs, a reference to a Congressional Budget Office projection in February for the next 10 years. The ad’s final point repeats something state Republicans have been saying a lot - that Hagan cast the ‘deciding vote’ for the Affordable Care Act.”

Although state Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Miss, believes the July 24 runoff election against Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., is a “sham” with “thousands of irregularities.” During a conference call set up by Cochran’s campaign Wednesday, Cochran’s campaign advisor, Austin Barbour, calls the illegal voting claim “baseless” and said “it’s time for the McDaniel campaign to put up or shut up.” Barbour said that although McDaniel “ran a great campaign…Sadly, the time has come now that we can no longer sit still with all these baseless accusations that are being fed by the McDaniel campaign and their out-of-state allies.” Barbour challenged the campaign to bring forth hard evidence, “but quit talking about exaggerated numbers that they know are not true and we know are not true.” McDaniel’s campaign claims they have more than 3,000 invalid votes. He needs nearly 6,800 votes to beat Cochran.

Crashed conference call – Daily Caller: “The campaign of Republican Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran attempted to hold a conference call with the media on Wednesday, but was forced to cancel it midway through after someone highjacked the call with provocative questions about race.…[Austin Barbour] told the activist he would answer questions after he was done giving his statement…. It was not immediately known who the questioner was. But prior to the call, McDaniel supporter Charles C. Johnson — who published a story Wednesday accusing Cochran’s campaign of buying off black voters — tweeted out details on how people could access the conference call.” According to The (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion-Ledger: “Some 30 minutes after the call started, someone was playing soundbites from President Barack Obama, Animal House and news shows. Eventually, some of the clips became racist and vulgar.”

Washington Examiner: “Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor’s campaign demanded an apology Wednesday from Republican Rep. Tom Cotton after he questioned the depth of Pryor’s religious faith. In an interview Tuesday with a Fayetteville, Ark., radio station, Cotton was asked about the Supreme Court’s decision to allow some businesses to opt out of health coverage for contraceptives, citing religious freedoms. ‘Barack Obama and Mark Pryor think that faith is only something that happens at 11 o'clock on Sunday mornings,’ Cotton said. ‘That’s when we worship, but faith is what we live every single day.’… Pryor expressed disappointment in what he called Cotton's ‘deeply personal’ attack. ‘[Cotton] and I may disagree on issues, but for him to question my faith is out of bounds,’ Pryor said. But in a statement passed along by a spokesperson, Cotton did not apologize for his remarks. ‘Sen. Pryor is a man of faith and practices it with commendable openness, which I respect, but I wish he would respect Arkansans' right to practice our faith,’ Cotton said [in a statement].’”

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., launched a new ad Wednesday featuring a his back and forth between President Obama bashing ObamaCare and announced that he raised more than $900,000 in the second quarter of fundraising this year. In the 30 second spot Alexander plays a clip during the White House Healthcare Summit in Feb. 2010. “When you said, ‘premiums go up,’ that’s just not the case,” Obama says in the clip to Alexander. “The Congressional Budget Office report says that premiums will rise,” Alexander replies. Obama cuts Alexander off saying, “No, no, no, no, and this is an example of where we’ve got to get our facts straight.” Alexander then quips, “That’s my point.” Alexander faces tea party backed candidate Joe Carr in the GOP primary on Aug. 7. 

[New on Fox News Radio: Former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass., stumps for New Hampshire Senate hopeful Scott Brown, and whose giving the Louisiana’s ‘Kissing Congressman’ a run for his money in the GOP primary in this week’s Balance of Power podcast.]

Republicans have their sights set on six seats to win back control of the Senate from Democrats. So which seats are most likely to flip from blue to red? The current consensus among Fox News First readers: Arkansas, Montana, Louisiana, South Dakota, North Carolina and West Virginia

Share your top six picks. Email them – just your top six, please – to FOXNEWSFIRST@FOXNEWS.COM or tweet @cstirewalt.

Judge Andrew Napolitano examines the conclusions of a “secret” White House memo from 2010 released last week and how the memo stretches President Obama’s executive power beyond constitutional limits. “…[H]istory has recorded no memo before this one that has advised a president in writing that he is free to kill an American who is not engaging in violence. The logic of the memorandum states that Americans overseas who join organizations that promote acts of terror are the equivalent of enemy soldiers in uniform in wartime. It follows, the memo argues, that because Congress has authorized the president to kill foreign terrorists when they are in foreign lands, he can kill Americans there, as well.”

#mediaBuzz: Media bias at 1600 - Host Howard Kurtz welcomes special guest Dana Perino, former White House press secretary under George W. Bush, on the differences in media coverage between the President Obama’s and Bush’s tenure at the White House.

[Former Press Secretary Jay Carney reflects on his tenure in the White House in a NYT Magazine interview. For all those wondering, no, Carney has never driven Vice President Joe Biden’s Corvette.]

WAOW: “A [Wisconsin] woman found a special surprise in an unlikely place. Five years ago, Lois Matykowski lost her wedding ring. Matykowski had given up all hope finding it, until her dog, Tucker, led her to a shocking discovery. Tucker is your typical mutt.’… He’s known in the family to be the food burglar,’ said Matykowski. It’s because of that nickname, a secret hiding in his belly would be revealed. Two weeks ago, Matykowski and her granddaughter were eating popsicles outside. ‘After I turn around and look at my granddaughter and the popsicle is gone and there’s Tucker smacking his jaws,’ she said.” But that summer treat didn’t sit well in Tucker’s stomach. What came back wasn’t a popsicle stick though, Matykowski found her missing wedding ring in the ensuing mess. The ring eating pet’s vet said the popsicle may have helped to dislodge the wedding band inside Tucker’s tummy. Hopefully Tucker will now stick to Kibbles and keep jewelry out of his midday snacks.

“People talk about [President Obama] doing the best he can because he’s good at campaigning. Americans are discovering that’s what he does best. But when you’re in your sixth year, campaigning and speeches mean nothing. He talks about Ukraine, he does nothing. He talks about Syria and Iraq and does nothing. And he’s talked throughout his presidency increasing America’s standing in the world. We’re despised in the world, ignored in the world.”  –Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier” Watch here.

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up