Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — Speaking at an event Monday promoting My Brother’s Keeper, an initiative designed to help at-risk youth navigate tough school districts, President Obama reflected on the principles that got him all the way to the White House.

The president, who has remarked that he sees himself reflected in struggling young men of color just like the ones who crowded into D.C. Walker Jones Educate Campus to hear him speak, said he hopes the My Brother’s Keeper Mentor program can keep boys from slipping through the cracks.

Here are Obama’s top five tips for success:

1. Find Out What Makes You Tick

“Figure out what it is that you care about passionately, something that you think is important to you, because if nothing’s important to you, you’re not going to put in the work,” the president told the kids.

“Everybody’s got different talents and everybody’s got different passions, and some — part of the goal of My Brother’s Keeper is to expose you to more things so that you don’t think that the only thing you can be passionate about is what you’re seeing on TV,” the president said.

“Part of the problem with young men of color is oftentimes the only thing they see to be passionate about is basketball or rap,” he added. “We want to make sure you get exposed to graphic design or you’re exposed to engineering or you’re exposed to being a lawyer, so that maybe you will be passionate about that.”

2. Practice Makes Perfect

“Work — it’s a pretty simple concept,” Obama said. “There is nothing worthwhile where it just falls in your lap.”

Explaining that just as basketball players must build muscle in order to nail the shot, academics must hone their craft. But the metaphor, the president noted, often gets lost in translation.

“It’s interesting, you talk to the young people about basketball, and they kind of understand that [practice is necessary],” the president said.

“But for some reason, you think the same doesn’t apply to school. There is no reason why you should think that you will be a good reader if you don’t read a lot, and read books that are hard, as opposed to just books that are easy. There’s no reason to think that you will be good at mathematics if you are not doing math problems and pushing yourself and trying math problems that are hard, not just ones that are easy,” Obama said, drawing applause from the crowd.

3. There Is No ‘I’ in Team

“Understand that you will not achieve by yourself, which means that you’ve got to be able to invest in relationships with other people who you can learn from, who will support you, who you will support in turn,” said Obama, who said he plans to take on a mentee through the My Brother’s Keeper program.

“You have to expand your network of people who can support you, give you ideas, buck you up when you’re down,” he continued. “Of course, the flip side is, though, you can’t just take. You also got to give. So you’ve got to show enthusiasm. You’ve got to want to be involved. You’ve got to be curious.”

4. No Slacking

“I don’t care how bad your school is. There’s a teacher in there somewhere who, if you went up to her or him and said, ‘I really want to learn. Can you help me?’ that teacher would snatch you up in a second, because they want to feel like they’re doing a good job,” the president said.

“But if you’re just sitting in the back of the class slouching and complaining about how bad the school is, well, then, you know — you may be right to be angry that you don’t have enough school supplies or the building’s bad or what have you — but it’s not going to help you,” he said.

5. Haters Gonna Hate, but That’s Okay

“When you’re young, it is natural to care a lot about what your peers think of you. That’s, that’s just human. And there’s nothing wrong with that,” said Obama, who is currently grappling with some of the lowest approval numbers of his presidency.

“At some point, to be a man or a woman, to be an adult, to be a full-grown person, you have to move beyond just what other people think and you have to make a determination about what do you believe in,” he said.

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Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) — A trio of Democratic politicians are about to find out what it’s like to be poor.

Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, Rep. Jan Schkowsky, D-Ill., and Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, announced Monday that they plan to “step into the shoes of a minimum wage worker and live for one week on just $77.”

It’s part of the Live the Wage Challenge starting Thursday— marking the fifth anniversary since Congress last increased the nation’s minimum wage.

From July 24 to July 30, the three politicians will chronicle their experiences on social media in an effort to shed light on the challenges facing minimum wage workers across the country.

A minimum wage of $10.10 pegged to cost-of-living increases would provide Americans who “work hard and play by the rules” a chance at joining the middle class, Ryan said during a call with reporters.

Strickland echoed the congressman’s sentiments, saying that full-time workers should not have to “live in poverty or have to choose between food and electricity every month.”

The federal minimum wage in the United States is currently set at $7.25 an hour — and has not been increased by Congress since 2009. The federal minimum wage for tipped workers has remained at $2.13 an hour since 1991.

According to a statement on its website, “the Live the Wage Challenge has called on elected officials, community leaders, advocates and anyone concerned about the growing inequality in this country to walk in the shoes of a minimum wage worker by living on a minimum wage budget for one week.”

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Miner Gary Fox is pictured. (Courtesy Fox family)(WASHINGTON) — Lawmakers have called a hearing to address concerns that for years a federal labor program may have unfairly denied benefits for coal miners who suffer from black lung disease.

“The current system of black lung claims has proven to be rife with problems, leading to undue denials and lengthy delays in miners’ pursuit of justice,” said Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa., who is part of an effort in Congress to reform the program.

Casey said he called the Senate committee hearing, scheduled for Tuesday, to “begin to look at the root causes of these issues and begin to outline possible legislative solutions.”

Flaws with the federal black lung program were highlighted last fall in a year-long ABC News investigation with the Center for Public Integrity, and already, the U.S. Department of Labor has pledged to take a fresh look at cases that relied on the medical opinions of a leading Johns Hopkins doctor whose work for coal companies helped lead to benefits being denied to thousands of miners over the last two decades.

The reports demonstrated examples of miners who were denied benefits based on doctors’ conclusions that they did not have severe black lung, only to have autopsies prove — after their deaths — that they had the disease.

Casey is among several lawmakers from coal producing states who have voiced concern following the ABC News-CPI report.

In an interview for ABC News’ original report, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a Democrat from West Virginia, called the findings “a total, national disgrace.”

“The deck is stacked in theory and in practice against coal miners, men and women, and it is tragic,” he said.

Casey said the “serious and thought provoking” news reports “helped provide momentum” for the congressional hearing.

“There’s still a good deal of legislative work we have to do to make sure we’re putting in place a law, or the elements of a law, so that this kind of fraud can’t be perpetrated again,” he told ABC News in June.

One of those scheduled to testify before the Senate Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety is the Labor Department’s senior attorney, Patricia Smith. She told ABC News in June that the agency is preparing to notify every miner whose benefits were denied based in part on the doctor’s X-ray readings that they should consider reapplying for those benefits.

“This sends a signal that the Department of Labor hasn’t sent in a long time,” Casey said. “That they’re not going to tolerate a system that’s rigged.”

The Labor Department action came in response to the report by ABC News and the Center for Public Integrity that found the head of the Hopkins black lung program, Dr. Paul S. Wheeler, had not reported a single instance of severe black lung in the more than 1,500 claims that the news outlets reviewed going back to the year 2000. Labor department officials said they were unaware of Wheeler’s record until the ABC News report was broadcast.

“It was shocking,” Smith said.

A Labor Department bulletin sent out to district directors in June instructed them to “(1) take notice of this reporting and (2) not credit Dr. Wheeler’s negative readings… in the absence of persuasive evidence” that challenge the conclusions of the news organizations.

“My judgment of his credibility is that unless someone can convince us otherwise, that anyone who has done that many readings and never found black lung isn’t probably credible,” Smith said.

In court testimony in 2009, Wheeler said the last time he recalled finding a case of severe black lung, a finding that would automatically qualify a miner for benefits under a special federal program, was in “the 1970’s or the early ’80’s.”

Hopkins suspended Wheeler’s black lung unit a few days after the ABC News/CPI report was broadcast and posted online.

Hopkins said it would conduct its own internal investigation, which a spokesperson said remains ongoing.

“We take these allegations very seriously and are still conducting the investigation into the [black lung] program,” Hopkins spokeswoman Kim Hoppe said in a June email. “While our investigation is ongoing, nobody at Hopkins — including Dr. Wheeler — is performing” black lung X-ray readings.

Reached by phone in June, Wheeler said he hopes to be cleared by the internal Hopkins investigation — which he said is being conducted by the Washington, D.C., law firm Patton Boggs.

“The hospital still believes in my approach,” he said.

Wheeler told ABC News then he was unmoved by the Labor Department bulletin.

“They’re not doctors,” he said. “If they were from qualified medical institutions, I would be very unhappy.”

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Two months of Republican-on-Republican badmouthing will finally come to an end in Georgia on Tuesday.

Either Rep. Jack Kingston or former Dollar General CEO David Perdue will become the GOP candidate for the state’s open Senate seat, to be vacated by retiring GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss, kicking off what’s expected to be one of the most hotly contested elections in the country.

The top two finishers in a seven-way May 20 primary, Perdue (30.6 percent in that vote) and Kingston (25.8 percent) have run an intensely negative race against each other ever since.

Each candidate has sought to be regarded as the more conservative.

Perdue, the cousin of former Gov. Sonny Perdue, has aired a string of TV ads assailing Kingston as a big spender who will continue Washington’s current ways.

In his own series of negative ads, Kingston has relentlessly questioned Perdue’s business record, pointing to layoffs, offshoring and a bailout by a government agency at companies with which Perdue was involved. Kingston has also hit Perdue for failing to vote in previous GOP primaries and has accused him of backing the Common Core education plan, which Perdue has said numerous times he does not.

Prompted by none of the seven initial-round primary candidates surpassing 50 percent of the vote in May, the runoff has bought time for Democrat Michelle Nunn, a candidate who has raised Democratic hopes of taking a Senate seat in a deep-red GOP stronghold.

The daughter of former Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn and the former CEO of President George H.W. Bush’s Points of Light Foundation, Nunn has faced questions about her stance on Obamacare (she supports modifications to it, won’t say whether she would have voted for it and has opposed repeal), but Nunn has largely avoided direct attacks from the Republican candidates running against each other.

Polling has shown a real possibility of Nunn winning in November: In early May, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution survey showed her beating Perdue by one percentage point (statistically even) and topping Kingston by 10 in prospective matchups.

Despite an electorate comprised of 41 percent minorities among active registered voters, no Democrat has won a statewide election in Georgia since Sen. Zell Miller in 2000, and no Democratic presidential candidate has come within 5 percentage points of winning Georgia since Bill Clinton carried it in 1992, eking out a win from George H.W. Bush by fewer than 1 percentage point.

After the runoff, the winner can be expected to ramp up attacks on Nunn. A conservative group, the Ending Spending PAC, reportedly bought air time last week to attack her with a round of ads.

“After the Republican primary run off, the joyride for Michelle Nunn will come to an abrupt end,” Georgia GOP spokesman Ryan Mahoney said.

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Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Obama on Monday warned that the United States has “serious concerns about the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths and the loss of Israeli lives.”

Speaking to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House, the president said “it now has to be our focus and the focus of the international community to bring about a cease-fire that ends the fighting and that can stop the deaths of innocent civilians, both in Gaza and in Israel.”

Obama noted that Secretary of State John Kerry has departed for the Middle East, where he has instructed Kerry to push for an immediate cease-fire.

“Obviously, there are enormous passions involved in this and some very difficult strategic issues involved. Nevertheless, I’ve asked John to do everything he can to help facilitate a cessation of hostilities. We don’t want to see anymore civilians getting killed,” Obama said.

Once again, the president reiterated Israel’s right to defend itself and said “as a result of its operations, Israel has already done significant damage to Hamas’ terrorist infrastructure in Gaza.”

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The White House(WASHINGTON) — Issuing a stern call for “immediate and full access” to the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, President Obama on Monday said the behavior of the Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine begs the question, “what exactly are they trying to hide?”

“They have repeatedly prevented international investigators from gaining full access to the wreckage,” the president said. “These Russian-backed separatists are removing bodies from the crash site, oftentimes without the care that we would normally expect from a tragedy like this. And this is an insult to those who’ve lost loved ones. It’s the kind of behavior that has no place in the community of nations.”

“Our immediate focus is on recovering those who were lost, investigating exactly what happened and putting forward the facts. We have to make sure that the truth is out and that accountability exists,” Obama told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House.

Delivering his strongest statement yet on the crash and investigation, the president said the burden is on Russia, and particularly President Vladimir Putin, to compel the separatists to cooperate with the investigation.

“President Putin says that he supports a full and fair investigation. And I appreciate those words, but they have to be supported by actions,” Obama said. “The burden now is on Russia to insist that the separatists stop tampering with the evidence, grant investigators who are already on the ground immediate, full and unimpeded access to the crash site. The separatists and their Russian sponsors are responsible for the safety of the investigators doing their work.”

“Now is the time for President Putin and Russia to pivot away from the strategy that they’ve been taking and get serious about trying to resolve hostilities within Ukraine in a way that respects Ukraine’s sovereignty and respects the right of the Ukrainian people to make their own decisions about their own lives. And time is of the essence,” he said.

Obama reiterated that he still prefers to find a diplomatic resolution to the crisis in Ukraine.

“I believe that can still happen. That is my preference today. And it will continue to be my preference,” he said.

But Obama also warned Russia that if Moscow continues to violate Ukraine’s sovereignty and back the separatists, “then Russia will only further isolate itself from the international community and the costs for Russia’s behavior will only continue to increase.”

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The White House(WASHINGTON) — President Obama said on Monday that the behavior of Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine, who are controlling the crash site of downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, “begs the question, what exactly are they trying to hide?”

Obama said that the separatists and their “Russian sponsors” must allow investigators “immediate, full, and unimpeded access” to the wreckage of the downed plane.

“We have to make sure…accountability exists,” the president added. “Our immediate focus is on recovering those who were lost, investigating exactly what happened, and putting forward facts.”

Investigative teams are standing by, ready to conduct protocols, Obama said, but pro-Russian separatists are preventing the investigators from entering the crash zone.

In addition, separatists’ refusal to allow workers to recover the bodies “is an insult to those who’ve lost loved ones,” Obama said.

Last week, the president said the crash that killed nearly 300 was an “outrage of unspeakable proportions” and called for an immediate cease-fire and an international investigation, and pledged the support of the National Transportation Safety Board and FBI.

So far, U.S. intelligence suggests Russia may have armed and trained the pro-Russian separatists accused of shooting down the jet, officials say.

“There are an enormous array of facts that point at Russia’s support for and involvement in this effort,” Secretary of State John Kerry told ABC News’ George Stephonopolous on This Week Sunday.

Given the separatists’ irreverent treatment of the crash site — allegedly tampering with evidence, blocking investigators, and even looting bodies — Russia must “step up and be part of the solution, not part of the problem,” Kerry said.

“President Putin should publicly call on the separatists. He should engage in a public support for the cease-fire,” he added.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., was less circumspect, calling on Russian President Vladimir Putin to “man up” on CNN Sunday.

“I would say, Putin, you have to man up. You should talk to the world. You should say this was a mistake, if it was a mistake,” she said.

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Credit: The White House(WASHINGTON) — President Obama spoke with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Sunday night regarding the situation surrounding the Malaysia Airlines plane that was shot down over eastern Ukraine last week.

Obama and Abbott agreed that the ongoing international investigation must be “prompt, full, unimpeded and transparent.” Speaking for the second time in three days, the leaders also agreed that Russia has a responsibility to use its “extraordinary influence with the pro-Russian separatists who control the crash site” to inspire cooperation, a readout of the call said.

The two nations agreed to continue to coordinate closely during the course of the investigation. The Sunday call echoed the main points made during the initial call between Obama and Abbott on Friday afternoon.

Obama, speaking from the South Lawn of the White House on Monday, said Russian-backed separatists, who are controlling the crash site, need to allow investigators to recover bodies. He said they had previously fired their weapons in the air when investigators approached the scene and have tampered with evidence.

“Russia, and President Putin in particular, has a direct responsibility to compel them to cooperate with the investigation,” Obama said.

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iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — President Obama is set to honor a veteran from the war in Afghanistan with the Medal of Honor on Monday, the ninth living recipient of the award from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Pitts fought off attackers and protected his fellow soldiers six years ago last week. Pitts will receive the honor in a ceremony slated to begin at 3 p.m. Monday.

According to the U.S. Army, Pitts, a New Hampshire native, enlisted in 2003. He deployed twice to Afghanistan, with tours of duty beginning in 2005 and 2007.

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The White House(WASHINGTON) — President Obama signed an executive order at the White House on Monday that will protect LGBT employees from discrimination.

The order will prohibit federal contractors from discriminating against their LGBT employees or from discrimination based on gender identity in federal employment.

While it is already illegal to discriminate in hiring based on race, religion, gender and a number of other grounds, Obama believes more can still be done to further protections on sexual identification.

Despite the action taken by Obama on Monday, Congress would have to act to extend such protections to private employers.

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