Review Category : Poltics

Cuba: Five Clear Signs Change Is Already Coming

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The relationship between the United States and Cuba is changing fast, and that change is already making waves in not just the political sphere, but throughout the private sector as well.

The U.S. public supports the shift more than ever, with a recent Gallup poll revealing that 46 percent of Americans view the island nation favorably — the highest number since the company started polling the question in 1996, when only 10 percent of Americans felt the same way.

Here are five indications that, even though the relationship is new, it is already shifting:

The Talks Continue: The negotiations between the United States and Cuba, which began in January in Havana after Obama’s December announced goal to improve relations, are slated to continue on Feb. 27, this time in Washington. The Cuban delegation will meet with Roberta Jacobson, head of the U.S. negotiating team, who has acknowledged the “profound differences” between the two sides but remains confident in the countries’ ability to move forward.

Congress Visits: Since the historic announcement, there has been one trip after another with congressmen and women heading to the island nation. Most recently, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California and a group of Democratic delegates made the voyage to Cuba Tuesday in an effort to “build on the work done by many in Congress over the years,” she said in a statement. The statement also outlined that the delegation’s main focus will be on “agriculture and trade.”

Web Availability Increases: While home connections remain illegal, Internet access via nationwide state-run cafes has become cheaper, at least for the time being. Whereas Cubans had to pay $4.50 an hour before, now they will be required to pay $2.21 per hour of online time, at least until this coming April.

Netflix Opens Doors: The streaming giant recently made its service available to Cubans, announcing that those with access to the Internet and “international payment methods” will be able to watch movies and shows from a “curated selection.” But even with a Netflix subscription, don’t forget they’d still have to pay for that Internet access.

Entrepreneurs Get Busy: With the United States relaxing its regulations on travel to Cuba, an enterprising Fort Lauderdale, Florida man is aiming to start a ferry service using his 200-passenger catamaran that whisks tourists from Marathon City Marina in Florida to Havana in four hours. Brian Hall, who is in the process of applying for the Office of Foreign Assets Control license that would allow his venture to take place, says that he plans to charge $169 per one-way trip and hopes to launch Dec, 1. Even though the first trip is months away, “inquiries are through the roof,” he says. “People are ready to go.”

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Tax Form Error Affects 800,000 HealthCare.gov Customers

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Nearly a million Americans who signed up for subsidized coverage through HealthCare.gov may have to wait longer to get their tax refunds this year.

The Obama administration says a critical tax form that HealthCare.gov customers need to complete their 2014 returns was flawed for about 800,000 customers. The document in question — Form 1095-A — was sent to customers earlier this month.

“About 20 percent of the tax filers who had Federally-facilitated Marketplace coverage in 2014 and used tax credits to lower their premium costs — about 800,000 (< 1% of total tax filers) — will soon receive an updated Form 1095-A because the original version they were issued listed an incorrect benchmark plan premium amount," a blog post from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on Friday reads.

Affected customers are being asked to hold off on filing their returns until the first week of March, when they will receive the new form, or go online to get the correct information before they file.

“For those who have filed their taxes — approximately 50,000 (< 0.05% of total tax filers) — the Treasury Department will provide additional information soon," the CMS blog post says.

The Obama administration is still investigating the root cause of the problem.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Jeb Bush Releases Emails, But Will Other Governors Follow Suit?

William Thomas Cain/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush released more than 275,000 emails from his time as governor earlier this month. He released the massive cache in the name of “transparency,” but will other governors or former governors mulling a 2016 campaign for the White House follow suit?

ABC News reached out to every former or current governor mulling or even just flirting with a presidential bid and no one said they would release their emails in a similar fashion, though some declined to comment.

It’s important to note that given Florida’s accessible open records laws, it’s likely Bush also knew his emails would be released whether he was behind it or not. News organizations, including ABC News, got access to the emails before Bush released them thanks to those open records laws.

[READ ABC’s FULL REPORT ON JEB BUSH’s EMAILS]

An aide to former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley — the only Democrat in the group — said he had no plans to release his emails.

An aide to former Texas Gov. Rick Perry said his emails “were requested and released through public information requests,” while he was in office and noted Perry didn’t rely heavily on email, saying he typically conducted business over the phone or in person while in office for 14 years.

Open records laws in the state are very different than Florida, though. During Perry’s administration, emails were deleted every seven days and it was up to Perry’s staff to determine which emails would be considered public record and those would be printed or saved for seven days before being deleted, according to the Houston Chronicle, which points out the controversial policy has now been changed under Gov. Greg Abbott.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, and former New York Gov. George Pataki — all Republicans — all declined to comment.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee — also all Republicans — all did not respond to requests for comment.

In his e-book released this month, Bush wrote that when he was inaugurated in 1999, he “didn’t want to disappear into the governor’s office” and e-mail was the way he could “keep track of what Floridians were thinking. I needed their energy and passion and wisdom.”

Bush served two terms and said he “earned the nickname ‘The eGovernor,’” because he wrote back and forth with constituents, staff and even children “very early in the morning, late at night, or on Saturday.” He writes that he tried to reserve Sundays for his wife and three children, with “no emails,” but “didn’t always succeed.”

Each state does have their own open records laws and they can vary widely. It’s also important to note Bush was well out of office, since 2007, when he released his emails. Five of the governors we asked are still in office, including Christie, Pence, Jindal, Walker and Kasich.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Meet the Adorable Second-Graders Who Scored an Interview with President Obama

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — It’s an opportunity many professional journalists can only dream of: An interview with the president of the United States. But for a group of second-graders in Kansas, that dream has already become a reality.

A class of students from Belinder Elementary School in Prairie Village, Kansas, submitted questions to President Obama on behalf of their school newspaper, and the president answered.

“What advice do you have for second-graders and other students?” the students wrote to President Obama.

“Dream big dreams,” President Obama responded. “You are fortunate to live in a country where if you work hard, do the right thing and listen to your parents, you can be anything you want to be.”

The interview is now published in the latest edition of The Belinder School’s newspaper, The Marbel News.

So how exactly does a group of second-graders from Kansas land an interview with the president?

Their teacher attributes their success in part to what he calls the “the cuteness factor.” It also helped that a parent of one of the students in the class knows White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, and Earnest agreed to pass along some questions to the president’s desk.

“I thought it would be really cool to interview the president because he’s, like, famous,” one student said.

“I thought it was awesome, but I also thought it was too good to be true and I was just having a dream,” commented another.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Jeb Bush Releases Emails, But Will Other Governors Follow Suit?

William Thomas Cain/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush released more than 275,000 emails from his time as governor earlier this month. He released the massive cache in the name of “transparency,” but will other governors or former governors mulling a 2016 campaign for the White House follow suit?

ABC News reached out to every former or current governor mulling or even just flirting with a presidential bid and no one said they would release their emails in a similar fashion, though some declined to comment.

It’s important to note that given Florida’s accessible open records laws, it’s likely Bush also knew his emails would be released whether he was behind it or not. News organizations, including ABC News, got access to the emails before Bush released them thanks to those open records laws.

[READ ABC’s FULL REPORT ON JEB BUSH’s EMAILS]

An aide to former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley — the only Democrat in the group — said he had no plans to release his emails.

An aide to former Texas Gov. Rick Perry said his emails “were requested and released through public information requests,” while he was in office and noted Perry didn’t rely heavily on email, saying he typically conducted business over the phone or in person while in office for 14 years.

Open records laws in the state are very different than Florida, though. During Perry’s administration, emails were deleted every seven days and it was up to Perry’s staff to determine which emails would be considered public record and those would be printed or saved for seven days before being deleted, according to the Houston Chronicle, which points out the controversial policy has now been changed under Gov. Greg Abbott.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, and former New York Gov. George Pataki — all Republicans — all declined to comment.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee — also all Republicans — all did not respond to requests for comment.

In his e-book released this month, Bush wrote that when he was inaugurated in 1999, he “didn’t want to disappear into the governor’s office” and e-mail was the way he could “keep track of what Floridians were thinking. I needed their energy and passion and wisdom.”

Bush served two terms and said he “earned the nickname ‘The eGovernor,’” because he wrote back and forth with constituents, staff and even children “very early in the morning, late at night, or on Saturday.” He writes that he tried to reserve Sundays for his wife and three children, with “no emails,” but “didn’t always succeed.”

Each state does have their own open records laws and they can vary widely. It’s also important to note Bush was well out of office, since 2007, when he released his emails. Five of the governors we asked are still in office, including Christie, Pence, Jindal, Walker and Kasich.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Meet the Adorable Second-Graders Who Scored an Interview with President Obama

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — It’s an opportunity many professional journalists can only dream of: An interview with the president of the United States. But for a group of second-graders in Kansas, that dream has already become a reality.

A class of students from Belinder Elementary School in Prairie Village, Kansas, submitted questions to President Obama on behalf of their school newspaper, and the president answered.

“What advice do you have for second-graders and other students?” the students wrote to President Obama.

“Dream big dreams,” President Obama responded. “You are fortunate to live in a country where if you work hard, do the right thing and listen to your parents, you can be anything you want to be.”

The interview is now published in the latest edition of The Belinder School’s newspaper, The Marbel News.

So how exactly does a group of second-graders from Kansas land an interview with the president?

Their teacher attributes their success in part to what he calls the “the cuteness factor.” It also helped that a parent of one of the students in the class knows White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, and Earnest agreed to pass along some questions to the president’s desk.

“I thought it would be really cool to interview the president because he’s, like, famous,” one student said.

“I thought it was awesome, but I also thought it was too good to be true and I was just having a dream,” commented another.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

President Obama Receives Update on Selection Process for Site of Presidential Library

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(CHICAGO) — While in Chicago on Thursday, President Obama received an update on the site selection process for his presidential library.

Obama met with Marty Nesbitt, chair of the board of directors for the Barack Obama Foundation, and other members of the team at his Chicago residence. The Obama family is expected to make a decision on the site of the library this spring.

In December, the Barack Obama Foundation announced that the finalists for the site of the library included bids from the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Chicago, Columbia University in New York and the University of Hawaii.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Former New York State Assembly Speaker Indicted on Three Charges

Photo by Yana Paskova/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — A grand jury returned an indictment against former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on Thursday.

The former speaker is accused of depriving voters of his honest services by taking “millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks masked as legitimate income” in exchange for legislative favors. No date was set for Silver’s arraignment.

Silver was arrested last month after more than 20 years as speaker.

According to the indictment, “from at least in or about 2000 up to and including in or about January 2015,” Silver used “the power and influence of his official position to obtain for himself millions of dollars.” In total, Silver allegedly obtained $4 million in corrupt payments, the indictment said.

Silver faces charges of honest services mail fraud, honest services wire fraud and extortion.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Justice Department Looking at Links Between What Attracts Young People to Gangs, Violent Extremism

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Attorney General Eric Holder will address preliminary research that links the factors that draw young people into criminal gangs to drawing those same individuals towards violent extremism in remarks at the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism on Thursday.

The Department of Justice is currently funding a pair of studies which aim to explore the connection. If the link is shown to exist, the department notes that several anti-gang strategies have proven effective in recent years — including the community-based intervention model. There is hope that similar plans could be utilized to curb homegrown terrorism.

“We are learning that there may be similarities in the factors that lead to gang involvement and violent extremism,” Holder planned to say, according to remarks prepared before the event. “In both instances, the sense of belonging to a cause, however misguided, may be a lure for disaffected young people — and understanding this potential link may help us tackle the problem of violent extremism.”

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

President Obama Lends a Hand to Rahm Emanuel in Chicago Mayoral Race

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(CHICAGO) — During his trip to the frozen city of Chicago Thursday, President Obama squeezed in some time to help out an old friend who is locked in a tight re-election battle — Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The president first appeared alongside Emanuel, who served as White House chief of staff from 2009 to 2010, at an event designating three new national parks, including the Pullman District in Chicago.

“Rahm hasn’t just fought for a national park in Pullman, he’s fought for new opportunity and new jobs in Pullman, and for every Chicagoan, in every neighborhood, making sure every single person gets the fair shot at success that they deserve,” the president said in a speech at Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy. “I could not be prouder of him and the extraordinary service that he’s provided.”

Later in the afternoon, the president and Emanuel visited a campaign office in Kenwood, where the president thanked volunteers for their efforts to re-elect Emanuel.

Speaking to volunteers who were phone banking, the president described Emanuel as “somebody who cares deeply about this city.”

“Everybody knows that he is passionate and he is tough and he is dogged in making sure the city of Chicago is not just the coldest city but also the greatest city,” he said. “I have confidence as a voter and as a resident of Chicago that he’s going to continue to do a good job.”

The president’s visit comes just five days before Chicagoans cast their ballots for mayor. Emanuel, who is facing off against four other candidates, is currently leading in the polls, but the incumbent Chicago mayor may not reach the 50-percent threshold needed to avoid a run-off.

If the mayoral race were to head into the run-off, Emanuel’s position as mayor could be at risk if voters whose candidate did not reach the run-off decide to solidify behind another candidate.

A Chicago Tribune poll released earlier this week found Emanuel at 45 percent support, with Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia trailing him with 20 percent support. Alderman Bob Fioretti and businessman Willie Wilson each received 7 percent support in the poll, while community activist William “Dock” Walls garnered about two percent, with about 18 percent of those polled saying they were undecided.

The White House said the trip to Chicago was conducted as official White House business and not intended to be a campaign event for Mayor Emanuel.

“Today’s [national park] designations are the latest of 16 that we’ve done around the country,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz told reporters aboard Air Force One. “This is not something out of the ordinary for us.”

Before Thursday, the president had recorded a radio ad for Emanuel, but it’s unknown if that ad has aired.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio
Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →