Review Category : Poltics

President Obama Touts College Affordability Plan In Weekly Address

File photo. (The White House)(WASHINGTON) — President Obama is scheduled to deliver two commencement addresses this week, but before he does the president will tout his own efforts to make college more affordable and tout a Senate Democratic bill that would allow students to refinance their debt.

“I’ve taken action on my own to offer millions of students the opportunity to cap their monthly student loan payments to 10% of their income,” Obama says in his weekly address.

“But Congress needs to do its part. The good news is that Senate Democrats are working on a bill that would help more young people save money,” Obama says. “Just like you can refinance your mortgage at a lower interest rate, this bill would let you refinance your student loans. And we’d pay for it by closing loopholes that allow some millionaires to pay a lower tax rate than the middle class.”

Here is the full text of the president’s address:

Hi, everybody. This is commencement season, a time for graduates and their families to celebrate one of the greatest achievements of a young person’s life. But for many graduates, it also means feeling trapped by a whole lot of student loan debt. And we’ve got to do more to lift that burden.

See, in a 21st century economy, the surest pathway into the middle class is some form of higher education. The unemployment rate for workers with a bachelor’s degree is just 3.3 percent – about half what it is for high school graduates. The typical graduate of a four-year college earns $15,000 more per year than someone with just a high school degree.

But at a time when college has never been more important, it’s also never been more expensive.

That’s why, since I took office, I’ve worked to make college more affordable. We reformed a student loan system that gave away billions of taxpayer dollars to big banks and invested that money where it makes a bigger bang – in helping more young people afford a higher education.

But over the past three decades, the average tuition at a public four-year college has more than tripled. The average undergraduate student who borrows for college now graduates owing almost $30,000. And I’ve heard from too many young people who are frustrated that they’ve done everything they were supposed to do – and now they’re paying the price.

I’ve taken action on my own to offer millions of students the opportunity to cap their monthly student loan payments to 10% of their income. But Congress needs to do its part. The good news is that Senate Democrats are working on a bill that would help more young people save money. Just like you can refinance your mortgage at a lower interest rate, this bill would let you refinance your student loans. And we’d pay for it by closing loopholes that allow some millionaires to pay a lower tax rate than the middle class.

That’s the choice that your representatives in Congress will make in the coming weeks – protect young people from crushing debt, or protect tax breaks for millionaires. And while Congress decides what it’s going to do, I will keep doing whatever I can without Congress to help responsible young people pay off their loans – including new action I will take this week.

This country has always made a commitment to put a good education within the reach of all who are willing to work for it. That’s what made us an economic superpower. That’s what makes us special. And as long as I hold this office, I’ll keep fighting to give more young people the chance to earn their own piece of the American Dream. Thanks, and have a great weekend.

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Rand Paul Suggests Obama Trade Dems for US Marine

ABC News(FORT WORTH, Texas) — Speaking at the Texas Republican Convention in Fort Worth on Friday, Sen. Rand Paul said that since the president “loves to trade people,” he ought to exchange five Democrats for the U.S. Marine who’s been held for months in jail for bringing his guns across the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Mr. President, you love to trade people. Why don’t we set up a trade? But this time instead of five Taliban, how about five Democrats?” Paul asked to cheers.

“I’m thinking John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi. Couldn’t we send them to Mexico?” Paul said.

Paul said a convention attendee gave him the idea, in bringing up the case of Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi. The 25-year-old Afghanistan war vet has been in Mexican custody since late March. Stopped at a checkpoint south of the border, Tahmooressi claims he accidently drove into Mexico with three firearms in his trunk, not knowing it was a violation of Mexican law.

DNC press secretary Michael Czin said Paul’s comments Friday are “completely out of line.”

“Comments like this are just the latest example of the GOP politicizing important national security matters to feed to their base,” Czin said.

Democrats are circulating Paul’s comments, which have been posted on YouTube here.

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CIA’s Secret History of Phrase ‘Can Neither Confirm Nor Deny’

The Central Intelligence Agency(WASHINGTON) — It seems the Central Intelligence Agency has a keenly honed sense of irony.

The CIA chose the phrase “can neither confirm nor deny” to make its first foray into the Twittersphere on Friday — a wording that originated in the spy agency in 1975 during the height of the Cold War and has since become a staple of evasion, both in official circles and now even in pop culture.

The so-called “Glomar response” was created by the CIA in reaction to media inquiries about a covert agency program, which created a salvage vessel named the Glomar Explorer to recover a sunken Soviet submarine.

Glomar is a contraction of Global Marine, the company that the CIA commissioned to build the Glomar Explorer.

By stating that the agency could “neither confirm nor deny” the existence of the covert program, the CIA avoided saying the program did not exist, which would have been a lie, and simultaneously avoided revealing the existence of the program by confirming it, which would have tipped off the Soviet Union.

The tricky evasion has become the bane of watchdogs and journalists — but its utility for those seeking to keep things on the QT has withstood the test of time, as evidenced by its proliferation, even among private companies and celebrities.

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Dan Pfeiffer to Lead US Delegation at World Cup Opening

William B. Plowman/NBC(WASHINGTON) — The White House has unveiled who President Obama has chosen to represent the United States at the opening of the World Cup in Sao Paolo next week.

In a statement Friday, it announced that White House senior aide and former communications director Dan Pfeiffer will lead the delegation in Brazil on June 12.

Joining Pfeiffer will be two star athletes — former beach volleyball player Gabrielle Reece and former soccer player Michelle Akers — and Liliana Ayalde, the U.S. ambassador to Brazil.

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Hillary Clinton Won’t Second Guess Obama’s ‘Hard Choice’ on Bergdahl

ABC News’ Diane Sawyer interviews former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington, D.C. on June 5, 2014. (Martin H. Simon/ABC)(WASHINGTON) — In an exclusive interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer, Hillary Clinton defended President Obama’s decision to swap five Taliban prisoners for U.S. solider Bowe Bergdahl, saying she won’t second guess him.

Sawyer asked Clinton whether the president made “a deal with the devil” by releasing the Taliban detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay prison in exchange for Bergdahl.

“I think this was a very hard choice, which is why I think my book is aptly named,” Clinton said. “If you look at what the factors were going into the decision, of course there are competing interests and values. And one of our values is we bring everybody home off the battlefield the best we can. It doesn’t matter how they ended up in a prisoner of war situation.”

The full interview will air during a one-hour ABC News prime time special on Monday, June 9, at 9 p.m. ET.

ABC’s Robin Roberts will follow up with Clinton’s first live interview, on Tuesday, June 10, on Good Morning America.

Since Bergdahl’s release last Saturday, the administration has faced a barrage of questions about how he fell into enemy hands in the first place.

“It doesn’t matter?” Sawyer asked the former secretary of state and potential 2016 presidential candidate during her first televised interview ahead of the release of her new memoir, Hard Choices, which will be published on June 10.

“It doesn’t matter,” Clinton said. “We bring our people home.”

Clinton also suggested that questions about the circumstances of Bergdahl’s disappearance still need to be answered but emphasized that the Obama administration was right to focus first on his safe return.

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VA to Release Detailed Report of Wait Times, Field Audit

Department of Veterans Affairs(SAN ANTONIO) — The Department of Veterans Affairs says a detailed report of wait times at veterans medical centers around the country will be released next week.

“Monday we expect to announce the detailed results of the field access audit that we’ve completed over the last couple of weeks. And we will also release detailed wait time information, down to the individual medial center level, for the entire VA system,” acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson said on Friday, one week after he was appointed to lead the agency following the resignation of his predecessor, Eric Shinseki.

Speaking at a VA Medical Center in San Antonio, Gibson said the 1,700 veterans on wait-lists in Phoenix — the clinic that sparked a federal investigation — are being served.

“We have completed reaching out to all of those veterans, many hundreds of those have already been scheduled for appointments and care,” he said.

Gibson said he will take more action when he has the inspector general’s full report.

“We’ve got work to do. I intend to move out and get it done. I’m not going to wait for anybody or anything to do that,” he said.

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D-Day Vet Recalls Promises to God He Made 70 Years Ago

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Meet Cosmo Uttero — a D-Day veteran who returned to Normandy for the first time this week since he stormed Omaha Beach 70 years ago on Friday.

Uttero was a 20-year-old private when he took part in the largest amphibious assault in history. Now 90, Uttero, who came to Normandy under the sponsorship of the National World War II museum, traveled from his home in Bradenton, Florida, to see the beaches where he and Allied forces fought. He recounted that day to ABC News.

“Coming in I see bodies in the water and bodies on the beach, a ship on fire, and the battleship firing, and small arms coming over the cliffs,” Uttero said. “I was wondering what’s it like to die. I thought I was going to die and I didn’t know whether it was going to hurt, whether it was going to be quick. That’s one thought that struck me.”

“You become religious very quickly. Oh yes, made a lot of promises,” Uttero said. “That’s why I still believe in God.”

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CIA Joins Twitter, Facebook

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — “We can neither confirm nor deny that this is our first tweet.”

And with that, the Central Intelligence Agency finally came in from the digital cold and joined Twitter and Facebook, the spy agency announced on Friday.

“By expanding to these platforms, CIA will be able to more directly engage with the public and provide information on CIA’s mission, history, and other developments,” CIA Director John Brennan said in a public release. “We have important insights to share, and we want to make sure that unclassified information about the Agency is more accessible to the American public that we serve, consistent with our national security mission.”

The agency said that in addition to posting “the latest news, statements, and career information from CIA, the Agency’s social media updates will also feature artifacts and other information from the CIA’s Museum — the best museum most people never get to see.”

The CIA’s latest foray into social media — adding to its existing accounts on Flickr and Youtube — follows a public relations push by the American intelligence community (IC) at large, including the establishment of the website IC On the Record, in the wake of the flood of disclosures about the National Security Agency’s domestic and foreign surveillance programs by disillusioned contractor Edward Snowden.

Other U.S. government departments have attempted to use social media to not only get out their message, but at times to actively combat America’s enemies in sometimes bizarre spats. The State Department’s Think Again Turn Away Twitter account, for instance, directly engages in arguments with pro-jihadi computer users. Terrorist groups, like the Taliban and the al Qaeda allied al-Shabab in Somalia, already have a robust social media presence, which they use to spread their own propaganda.

The CIA’s (verified) Twitter account, @CIA, shows only the one tweet as of publication of this report. Similarly, its Facebook, Facebook.com/Central.Intelligence.Agency, has only posted a single picture of its headquarters.

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POLL: Americans’ Ideology and Age Drive Gay Marriage Views

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Ideology and a vast age gap mark public attitudes about gay marriage, supported in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll by 77 percent of adults under age 30 — vs. just half as many seniors.

Most Americans overall, 56 percent, support allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally, not significantly different from the all-time high, 59 percent, three months ago, and a majority consistently since crossing that line in early 2011. Thirty-eight percent are opposed.


[See PDF with full results and charts here.]


Half also see gay marriage as a constitutional right, vs. 43 percent who don’t — a key question making its way to the doorstep of the U.S. Supreme Court.

A string of federal courts have handed down rulings in favor of gay marriage since the high court found part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional a year ago. Gay marriages now are legal in 19 states and Washington, D.C.

Despite the flurry of court action, the issue’s not on the front burner in this year’s midterm elections: A third of Americans say gay marriage is important to their vote preferences, last on a list of eight issues. By contrast, 84 percent call the economy a top concern, and it’s about seven in 10 apiece for the deficit, the new health care law and “the way Washington is working.”

GROUPS –
As noted, age and ideology are the biggest drivers of views on gay marriage. A statistical analysis holding other factors constant, including partisanship, finds that these two are the strongest independent correlates of attitudes on the issue.

Topline data in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, support that conclusion. In addition to 77 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds (63 percent “strongly”), gay marriage is broadly backed by 30- to 39-year-olds, 68 percent. That falls to half of 40- to 64-year-olds, and bottoms out at 38 percent of seniors.

Similarly, it’s favored by 84 and 62 percent of liberals and moderates, vs. just 37 and 22 percent of “somewhat” and “very” conservatives, respectively.

While those two are the strongest independent predictors, partisanship and religion also bear a close relationship to opinions on gay marriage. Support is much higher among Democrats and political independents than Republicans (67 and 58 percent, vs. 37 percent, respectively). And just 28 percent of evangelical Protestants back gay marriage, compared with 61 percent of Catholics, 65 percent of non-evangelical Protestants and 82 percent of those with no religious affiliation.

Fifty-eight percent of whites overall support gay marriage, including, notably, 75 percent of white women with a college degree. Support is significantly lower among blacks, 44 percent. Hispanics fall between the two, at 52 percent support.

There’s greater-than-average support for gay marriage among Northeasterners, college graduates, $100,000-plus income earners and opponents of the Tea Party movement. And support falls below a majority among Southerners, those who haven’t gone beyond high school, those living in rural areas and Tea Party supporters.

METHODOLOGY – This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone May 29-June 1, 2014, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,002 adults, including landline and cell-phone-only respondents. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 points, including design effect.

The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York, N.Y., with sampling, data collection and tabulation by Abt-SRBI of New York, N.Y.

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Senate Confirms Sylvia Mathews Burwell to Be HHS Secretary

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The Senate on Thursday confirmed Sylvia Mathews Burwell to be the next Health and Human Services secretary.

Senators voted 78 to 17 to have Burwell, the White House’s budget director, replace Kathleen Sebelius, who announced her resignation in April.

Earlier, explaining his opposition to Burwell, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said President Obama might as well have nominated Sisyphus, the Greek mythological figure who endlessly tried to push a boulder up a hill.

“Ms. Burwell has been asked to do the impossible here,” McConnell, R-Ky., said, referring to the trouble she’ll face implementing the Affordable Care Act.

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