Review Category : Poltics

Vice President Biden Speaks of Community College Proposal in Weekly Address

Photo by David McNew/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — In this week’s address, Vice President Joe Biden laid out his and President Obama’s plan to make two years of community college free for responsible students.

Biden spoke of the access to higher education, which he argued has a tangible impact on a student’s success.

“Consider that by the end of the decade, two out of three of all jobs will require an education beyond high school, from an 18-week certificate to a two-year associate’s degree to a four-year bachelor’s, or a PhD,” Biden said.

The Vice President argues that making two years of community college free is good for workers, good for companies, and good for the nation’s economy.

“It’s a simple fact that community colleges are the most flexible educational institutions we have,” Biden said.

Read the full transcript of the vice president’s address:

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is Joe Biden and I’m here filling in for President Obama, who is traveling abroad.

And I’m here with a simple message: middle-class economics works.

Our economy has gone from crisis to recovery to now to resurgence—with the longest streak of consecutive job growth ever recorded in the history of this country and more than all other advanced countries combined.

But to make sure everyone is part of this resurgence, we need to build on what we know widens the path to the middle class—and you all know what it is, access to education.

Folks, the source of our economic power and middle class strength in the 20th Century was the fact that we were among the first major nations in the world to provide twelve years of free education for our citizens.

But in the 21st Century, other countries have already caught up and twelve years is simply no longer enough—a minimum of fourteen years is necessary for families to have a surer path to the middle class and for the United States to be able to out-compete the rest of the world.

Consider that by the end of the decade, two out of three of all jobs will require an education beyond high school, from an 18-week certificate to a two-year associate’s degree to a four-year bachelor’s, or a PhD.

And consider that folks with an associate’s degree earn 25% more than someone who graduated just from high school. And folks who graduate with a four-year degree make 70% more.

But today, the cost of higher education is too high for too many Americans. Too many folks are priced out of a piece of the middle-class dream.

And that’s why the President and I have a straightforward plan to remove that barrier and expand the pathway to the middle class—by bringing the cost of community colleges down—down to zero.

Zero—for anyone willing to work for it and for the institutions that meet certain basic requirements.

Our plan is no give-away. Students must keep up their grades and stay on track to graduate. States must contribute funding and hold community colleges accountable for the results. And community colleges must maintain high graduation and job placement rates.

And here’s a key point—community colleges will have to offer courses that are directly transferrable to a four-year degree.

If two years of community college are free—and credits can transfer to a four-year university—that means the cost of a four-year degree will be cut in half for a lot of working families struggling to send their children to college, qualified children.

And under our plan, students from low-income families will be able to keep the benefits that flow from other financial aid, like Pell grants, to cover childcare, housing, transportation—costs that often keep them from attending class and completing a degree in the first place.

But here’s another key point. Not every good-paying job will require a two-year or four-year degree. Some of these jobs will require just a training certificate that can be earned in just a few months.

For example, you can go to an 18-week coding bootcamp—with no previous experience in computers—and become a computer programmer making up to $70,000 a year.

There are other jobs in fields like advanced manufacturing and energy that pay $40,000, $50,000, $60,000 a year—jobs you can raise a family on.

It’s a simple fact that community colleges are the most flexible educational institutions we have. I’ve traveled all over this country, from New York to Iowa to California, to see how community colleges create partnerships with Fortune 500 companies and local businesses to generate jobs; support apprenticeships with organized labor, and prepare hardworking students for good-paying jobs in the areas in which they live.

Making community colleges free is good for workers, it’s good for companies, and it’s good for our economy.

Here’s what we propose: Close loopholes for the wealthiest investors and levy a .07% fee on the biggest banks to discourage the kind of risky behavior that crashed our economy just a few years ago.

Doing just that would pay for free community college—and provide a leg up for working families through tax credits to cover necessities like childcare.

That’s what middle-class economics is all about—giving folks a fair chance to get ahead. A fair tax code. No guarantees. Just a fair chance.

It’s simple folks, two years of community college should become as free and as universal as high school is today if we’re to make this economic resurgence permanent and well into the 21st Century.

So I want to thank you all for listening. I hope you have a great weekend and God bless you all and may God protect our troops.

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GOP Weekly Address: Bring Accountability to the IRS

US Congress(WASHINGTON) — In this week’s Republican address, Rep. Charles Boustany of Louisana discussed the commitment to bring much-needed transparency and accountability to the Internal Revenue Service.

Boustany also spoke of the need to provide tax relief for middle-class Americans.

“As Tax Day approaches, Americans need no reminder of how expensive and difficult it is just to be compliant with the law,” Boustany said. “And no agency elicits more frustration and distrust than the Internal Revenue Service.”

Boustany also spoke about the proposed Taxpayer Bill of Rights, which would require the agency to fire employees that use their position for political purposes and prohibit IRS employees from using personal email accounts to conduct official business.

Read the full transcript of the Republican address:

Hello, I’m Charles Boustany, and I have the great honor of representing Louisiana’s Third Congressional District.

Every day, Republicans are listening to the American people and focusing on your priorities.

Because too often, it seems the administration in charge in Washington doesn’t have your best interests at heart. It takes more and more money for the government while limiting opportunities for hardworking families.

Nowhere is this disconnect more pronounced than in our tax code. As Tax Day approaches, Americans need no reminder of how expensive and difficult it is just to be compliant with the law. And no agency elicits more frustration and distrust than the Internal Revenue Service.

Just last week at a town hall meeting in my hometown of Lafayette, Louisiana, a small business owner told me compliance with the IRS alone costs her nine-person business the equivalent of hiring one new worker. And just think, the president’s budget calls for raising taxes by more than $2 trillion, further squeezing families and small businesses who are trying to make ends meet.

Republicans are offering a better approach.

First, that means fixing our tax code. Today, it’s a volumes-long jumble of outdated provisions held together with scotch tape and glue. That doesn’t help create jobs, and it doesn’t serve the best interests of the American people.

Second, we must address the people’s misgivings with the IRS itself. This agency still operates in the shadow of a scandal in which it admitted to targeting organizations based on their political beliefs. The investigation is ongoing – but the IRS still refuses to admit that some of its employees engaged in intentional wrongdoing. To successfully carry out its mission, the IRS must be viewed by the American people as an unbiased arbiter of the law. It cannot do that without coming clean.

Next week, the House will act on several initiatives to require more accountability and transparency at the IRS. This includes enacting a Taxpayer Bill of Rights complete with common-sense sense steps like requiring the IRS to fire employees that use their position for political purposes, prohibiting the IRS employees from using personal email accounts to conduct official business, and improving access to the courts for groups that feel they’ve been wronged by the IRS.

We’re also going to act to provide more tax relief for American families. This is in addition to legislation we’ve already passed to provide permanent tax relief to small businesses, a move that would help create nearly 200,000 jobs.

Fixing our tax code and reforming the IRS: this is all part of Republicans’ focus on making government address your priorities and work for the people it is it’s elected to serve.

I thank you for listening.

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Obama ‘Pleased’ Cuba At Summit Of The Americas For First Time

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(PANAMA CITY) — Just hours before he could have his first interaction with Cuban leader Raul Castro, President Obama said he was “pleased” Cuba is participating in the Summit of the Americas for the first time.

“I am proud to be with you at this first-ever official gathering of civil society leaders at the Summit of the Americas,” president Obama said at a Civil Society Forum in Panama City Friday. “And I’m pleased to have Cuba represented with us at this summit for the very first time.”

President Obama’s comments came at the Civil Society Forum, which brought together dissidents and supporters of the Cuban government. Speaking of the United States’ renewed relationship with Cuba, President Obama said the two countries will disagree from time to time, but noted the U.S. will be willing to speak out against Cuba if its actions do not correspond with the United States’ “set of universal values.”

“As the United States begins a new chapter in our relationship with Cuba, we hope it will create an environment that improves the lives of the Cuban people – not because it’s imposed by us, the United States, but through the talent and ingenuity and aspirations, and the conversation among Cubans from all walks of life so they can decide what the best course is for their prosperity,” the president said.

“As we move toward the process of normalization, we’ll have our differences, government to government, with Cuba on many issues — just as we differ at times with other nations within the Americas; just as we differ with our closest allies. There’s nothing wrong with that,” he said.
“When we do speak out, we’re going to do so because the United States of America does believe, and will always stand for, a certain set of universal values. And when we do partner with civil society, it’s because we believe our relationship should be with governments and with the peoples that they represent.”

The president did not comment on the clashes between Cuban dissidents and the supporters of the Cuban government in the days leading up to the summit.

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White House Releases the President’s Tax Returns

Miljan Mladenovic/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The White House released the 2014 income tax returns for the president and vice president on Friday.

The Obamas’ adjusted gross income was $477,383 — slightly less than in 2013, continuing a downward trend from recent years when they were collecting high book royalties.

The president’s government salary is $400,000 annually. The first couple paid $93,000 in taxes and gave $70,000 in donations to charity. The president’s effective tax rate is 19.6 percent.

The Bidens’ adjusted gross income in 2014 was $388,844. They paid $90,506 in taxes, and made $7,380 in donations to charity. The vice president’s effective tax rate is 23.3 percent.

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Hillary Clinton Writes New Epilogue for “Hard Choices”

Photo by JP Yim/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Ahead of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy for president of the United States, she has penned a new epilogue for the paperback version of her memoir Hard Choices.

The epilogue, published in the Huffington Post on Friday, discusses Clinton’s last days as Secretary of State, her granddaughter Charlotte’s birth, her new life as a grandmother – and how her new role has changed her outlook on the future and encouraged her to speed up and get to work.

“Becoming a grandmother has made me think deeply about the responsibility we all share as stewards of the world we inherit and will one day pass on,” she writes. “Rather than make me want to slow down, it has spurred me to speed up.”

Clinton adds: “If the United States continues to lead the world in the years ahead, as I believe it can and must, it will be because we have learned how to define the terms of our interdependence to promote more cooperation and shared prosperity and less conflict and inequality….The United States and the other great democracies have to redouble our efforts to empower moderates and marginalize extremists everywhere, and to stand firmly and united in pursuit of a more just, free, and peaceful world. That’s the world I want for Charlotte and for all our kids.”

She concludes by discussing a “memory quilt” a woman sent her after Charlotte’s birth.

“In just a few months, Charlotte had already helped me see the world in new ways. There was so much more to do. So many more panels waiting to be filled in,” she writes. “I folded up the quilt and got back to work.”

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Sen. Rand Paul Has Another Testy Interview

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Republican Presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul had another testy interview Friday, engaging on a new live-streaming platform for the first presidential candidate interview with The Guardian’s Paul Lewis on Periscope.

Prior to the interview, Lewis told viewers that he believed he had eight minutes to conduct the interview. The full interview lasted 4 minutes, 56 seconds.

“I’m going to try to push that a bit,” Lewis said. “Eight minutes seems a little bit stingy to me.”

The interview began normally, with Sen. Rand Paul launching on the attack against one of his presumptive Democratic rivals, Hillary Clinton. He then fielded five additional questions related to Paul’s aim to change racial discrimination in the justice system.

ON WALTER SCOTT:

“One of the reasons that I think federal politicians don’t like to weigh into specific cases is that’s sort of what grand juries are for, and there’s people who look at all the facts,” Paul said. “I have said and said it in multiple interviews yesterday that I was horrified by the video and from the appearance of the video it’s, you know, something that just shouldn’t, should never happen.”

After a couple of follow up questions, Lewis asked Paul for a specific law he would like to see repealed that disproportionately incarcerates African-Americans and Hispanics. But Paul’s answer was in generalities.

“The reference is primarily really to non-violent drug laws and when you look at the statistics of the war on drugs in our country, what you find is that there’s been a disproportionate impact on African Americans and Hispanics,” Paul answered. “And so when you look at broad surveys of whether or not, who uses illegal drugs among teenagers, it’s really about the same percentage of white kids as it is of black kids and Hispanic kids, but when you look at the prison population it turns out our prisons are full of poor people, and a disproportionate amount of African Americans, Hispanics, and so I think that is a real problem and I want to be part of the solution.”

THE MOMENT THE INTV FELL APART:

The reporter then pressed Paul for a specific law, and that’s when the interview seemed to turn sour.

“So that’s your answer, but I did ask specifically which law, which piece of legislation you would want repealed,” the reporter pressed. “Not in general terms but in specific bills.”

“We have a host of bills,” Paul said. “We’d love for you to learn about them.” Paul then began ticking off various measures to change various laws, when he stopped short when the reporter attempted to intercede.

“Let me answer the question,” Paul said. “You complained I don’t answer the question.”

“I haven’t complained yet, have I senator?” Lewis responded.

“I’m giving you the specifics,” Paul said. “So here’s the thing is, we also have a civil forfeiture bill, we also have a voting rights restoration.”

Paul then told Lewis, “I’ve got time for one more [question].”

Lewis then replied, perhaps a little condescendingly, “Sorry, we sometimes have to be a bit forceful. When you stand for president, you get pressed on questions and you understand that.”

Paul answered another question, this one questioning how he’ll sell his message of reform to white Republicans who Lewis said do not think criminal law is applied an unfair way.

“I think your premise is incorrect,” Paul said. “Actually I think that I can take that message into a white evangelical church anywhere in Iowa and give exactly the same speech and be received well.”

As Lewis attempted to continue the interview, Paul smiled to Lewis, and walked off camera. Lewis then turned to the camera and attempted to wrap the interview when the lights in the room suddenly went out. He later tweeted that a CNN producer in the room had turned them off in preparation for a later interview.

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Silly Video Instructs Philadelphia Residents to Wear Bubble Wrap on Streets

f11photo/iStock/Thinkstock(PHILADELPHIA) — Heads up, Philly. No, literally, you need to lift your gaze up from your phones.

The Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities in Philadelphia wants to prevent accidents resulting from distracted drivers and pedestrians absorbed in their mobile devices. The office’s latest tactic to raise awareness? A new, silly video that seems more like an SNL skit than a PSA.

It’s Road Safety Not Rocket Science” jokingly recommends building bubble-wrap safety suits to protect people from oncoming cars so Philly residents never have to miss a social media update on the go. Because that’s the obvious solution for avoiding death, right?

Jokes aside, traffic safety is a serious issue in Philadelphia, said Andrew Stober, chief of staff for the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities.

“On average, every five hours a pedestrian is hit by a car in the city,” Stober told ABC News. “It’s really important to us that we’re making Philadelphia a safer place to get around.”

To combat a rising number of pedestrian deaths and injuries that occurred between 2009 and 2012, Philadelphia was one of three American cities awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration last year.

The $525,000 in funds designated for the City of Brotherly Love is being used for increasing police visibility, ticketing during high-risk hours in 20 high-crash locations, and marketing to reach residents.

“We particularly wanted to target young adults, ages 18 to 24 and 24 to 35,” said Stober, whose office worked with the LevLane Advertising agency to produce the video. “And we wanted to find a way to engage them in a place where they spend a lot of time, like online.”

But will the kids think “It’s Road Safety Not Rocket Science” is cool?

“I think the video is funny and is a good way to get to the point without looking like its trying to preach at people,” said Philadelphia resident Christa Poblete, 35, a public relations consultant unaffiliated with the project. “But it’s a bit long and people might not get to the end of it.”

While Stober said his office did not have data supporting the idea that those over 35 put away their phones more often on the road, “you do tend to be less risk-taking when you’re older,” he said.

To view the complete video and learn more about the campaign, visit itsroadsafety.com.

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“Clinton the Musical” Looks Back, Just in Time for 2016

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Hillary Clinton is expected to make her plans to run for president in 2016 official at any moment. And this week, she’s hitting the stage, with Bill by her side, for her debut in a new starring role — but not the one you think.

These two Washington royals invite you to join them not for Hillary’s long-anticipated announcement, but instead to watch as they sing and dance their way through the drama of the infamously scandal-clad Clinton White House, laughing all the way.

But don’t expect the real-life Hillary and Bill Clinton showing off their acting chops. In the new off-Broadway play Clinton the Musical, the professional actors depict the trials and tribulations of the former president and first lady for a live audience. And in its comedic fictional account of the 1990s Clinton White House, Hillary has not one, but two Bills to deal with.

“Billy is a kid at heart…[he] is the side of us that we try to keep hidden. Sometimes his choices get him into trouble,” explained Duke Lafoon, who plays “Billy Clinton,” a character meant to represent the lecherous, trouble-making, and perhaps more immature traits of the 42nd president.

“W.J., I would say he’s more of the politician, more of the public face,” added Tom Galantich, who plays the role of “William Jefferson” or “W.J.,” the serious, more image-conscious side of the musical’s two-sided Bill Clinton character.

While the real former president has yet to share his feelings on his wife’s likely bid for the Democratic nomination, Billy and W.J. didn’t shy away from expressing what they think their respective Bill Clinton characters would have to say on the matter.

“Billy Clinton’s just happy that she’s out of the house…[he] can have more fun that way,” Lafoon joked.

“I guess there are some faces there I don’t mind seeing again, if you know what I mean,” he added, presumably nodding to President Clinton’s affair with then-White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

Also in character, Galantich added as W.J., “Aside from myself, Hillary’s probably the best person for the job…if you look at all the candidates.” On whether he’s interested in a second stint in the White House, Galantich added with a sarcastic chuckle, “Perhaps, in one way or another — but we’ve got so much going on that I probably have to stay up in Chappaqua and take care of business there.”

The Monica Lewinsky affair plays a central role in the musical, which features characters involved in the real-life scandal, such as former Vice President Al Gore, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, then-special prosecutor for Clinton’s impeachment trial Ken Starr and, of course, Monica Lewinsky.

A spokesman for the Clintons did not immediately respond to a request for comment and it’s unclear whether the former president and secretary of state are even aware of the musical.

Although the musical pokes fun at a difficult, trying period for the Clintons under the national spotlight, the actors insisted their intentions are to make humor out of that moment in time, not to present a political stand on the pair.

“I think most of the play is a loving roast to all the people involved,” Lafoon said. “This is not meant to make any grand political statement we’re just having fun up there.”

Added Galantich, “Absolutely, [we’re] equal opportunity satirists.”

As for Hillary, actress Kerry Butler mirrored the light-hearted sentiment of her two faux-husbands, even divulging that before playing Hillary on stage, she volunteered for Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign.

“I was just manning the phones, calling up people, asking them to donate, and it was fun,” she said. “People are really nice when you’re calling other Democrats.”

While Butler said it wasn’t a role she ever imagined playing, after months of rehearsing in character for the musical’s grand opening at the New World Stages in Manhattan April 9, she has mastered her impression of the former secretary of state, even down to her laugh.

“I started doing her moves…she’s in me now,” Butler said.

And just like the actors who play the two sides of her fictional husband, Butler shared her take on the expected 2016 Clinton presidential run, declaring “she’s ready.”

“She knows what she has to do now, she’s had all this time, she’s developed all this hard skin to get through this stuff…now I think she knows she has to show her softer side,” she explained.

“I think she’s going to do well,” Butler later added.

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Obama, Cuban President Expected to Meet on Saturday

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza | FEDERICO PARRA/AFP/Getty Images(PANAMA CITY) — A historic meeting between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez in Panama Thursday night brought the highest level talks between the two estranged countries since the Cuban revolution.

But it may be soon surpassed by a highly anticipated, face-to-face, bilateral meeting between President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro expected to take place Saturday.

Castro and Obama arrived within minutes of each other at the same military air field in Panama Thursday night for the Summit of the Americas. Shortly after arrival, the two presidents spoke by phone, according to a Facebook post by Jorge Leganoa, the deputy director of Cuba’s state-run National Information Agency. According to the post, the call came “minutes before” the meeting between Kerry and Rodriguez.

A White House official confirmed to ABC News that a call occurred, but said it actually happened earlier.

“I can confirm that President Obama spoke with President Castro on Wednesday, before President Obama departed Washington,” the official said.

The call marks the second time the two leaders spoke by phone. The first lasted approximately 45 minutes and occurred shortly before a Dec. 17 announcement that began the restoration of diplomatic ties between and the U.S. and Cuba.

The summit is the seventh chief-of-state-level gathering among North, Central and South American countries, but the first to include Cuba, which had been previously blocked from attendance by the United States.

The talks come as the U.S. State Department delivered its review of Cuba’s status on the states-who-support-terrorism list to the White House.

The review was delivered to the White House Wednesday, according to sources, and is in the president’s hands. It recommends Cuba be removed from the list, as Obama hinted in Jamaica Thursday.

“Throughout this process, our emphasis has been on the facts,” Obama said in Jamaica. “We want to make sure that, given this is a powerful tool to isolate those countries that genuinely do support terrorism, that when we make those designations we’ve got strong evidence that’s the case, and as circumstances change that list will change, as well.”

Obama could announce his decision while at the summit and is only awaiting sign-off from cabinet members who oversee national security, according to White House sources.

The terror list has been a major hurdle for the Cuban government, which wanted it lifted before full diplomatic ties are restored. Both countries are expected to announce the opening of embassies and an easing of travel restrictions for their diplomats soon.

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Polls Show Paul Ahead of Clinton in Colorado, Iowa

ABC News(HAMDEN, Conn.) — A new Quinnipiac University Poll suggests that Hillary Clinton has some damage control ahead of her if she decides to run for president, an announcement that could come as soon as this weekend.

The Democrat has apparently been hurt in some key battleground states by the recent news that she exclusively used her personal email account while serving as secretary of state.

Clinton is now running even with just about every potential GOP challenger in Colorado and Iowa with Kentucky Senator Rand Paul actually pulling ahead of her in both states.

Virginia, on the other hand, remains solidly behind the presumed frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, at least for now.

Voters’ views of Clinton’s honesty and favorability have dipped in both Colorado and Iowa, likely because of the email controversy.

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