FBI(WASHINGTON) — FBI Director James Comey did not attend this week’s White House summit on Combating Violent Extremism, while the head of Russia’s Federal Security Service did, prompting questions.

The New York Times pointed out that Comey is “the most senior official charged with preventing terrorist attacks,” making his absence strange.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest explained on Friday that the decision was made “to make sure that there wasn’t a perception that this conference was overly focused on law enforcement tactics.”

Instead, the White House says, “we just invited [Comey’s] boss,” referring to Attorney General Eric Holder in his stead.

As for the Russian attendance at the summit, Earnest said that he was not aware of any hesitancy in hosting the Russian security leader, despite his being on the European Union’s sanctions list.

U.S. State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki said that the Russian attendance was part of “modern day diplomacy,” which she says “requires that we work with some countries on some issues, even when we have strong disagreements on others.”

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Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Responding to comments made earlier this week by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that “people are feeling…sorry for Rudy Giuliani.”

At a private dinner featuring Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on Wednesday, Giuliani said that he “[does] not believe that the president loves America,” Politico said. “He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.”

Earnest and the White House Press Office promised to provide a list of instances in which President Obama has publicly professed his love for the United States.

One example, Earnest said, was at the end of his most recent State of the Union address, when Obama concluded with “God bless this country we love.”

“It’s sad to see when a person who’s received a certain stature and admiration to tarnish that legacy so thoroughly,” Earnest said of the former New York City mayor.

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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.”

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Pete Souza / The White House(WASHINGTON) — President Obama delivered a rallying cry to Democrats at their winter meeting Friday morning, urging their unabashed embrace of his economic record as the party heads into the 2016 campaign.

“We were told by our good friends the Republicans that our actions would crush jobs, explode the deficits and destroy the country. I mean, I want everybody to do a fact check,” Obama told the crowd.

“If we were to look at the evidence, it’s pretty clear whose theory works,” he said.

The president directly addressed the field of likely GOP contenders — including Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, by name — who have adopted economic inequality as an issue for the campaign.

“You can’t just talk the talk. You’ve got to do what? You’ve got to walk the walk,” Obama said. “We’ve been walking the walk.”

As for Republicans, he said, “the shift in rhetoric is good if it leads them to engage in different actions. If it doesn’t, then it’s just spin.”

There was no mention or obvious reference to the controversy surrounding former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s comments about Obama’s patriotism. But the president did offer a spirited close to his address, referring to “this great country’s amazing story” and a full-throated “God bless, America.”

After the speech, Obama is attending his second fundraiser of the year — a $33,400 per head event that’s expected to raise north of $835,000 for the Democratic National Committee.

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(WASHINGTON) — Admit it: February is just as tough to say as it is to spell. That sneaky ‘r’ in there can confuse just about anyone — including the White House.

February’s spelling is posing quite the problem for the White House Press Office over the past few weeks.

On multiple daily guidance and press schedules, the White House spelled the month “FEBURARY.”

Not only has “February” created an obstacle for the White House press office, but President Obama is not a fan of the word either.

Remember the Obama BuzzFeed video, “Things Everybody Does, But Doesn’t Talk About”? Cut to the scene of President Obama looking in the mirror saying, “The deadline to sign up for health insurance is Febru…Febru…that’s not right…Febru…man! FEBRUARY 15th!”

Coincidence, perhaps? Or maybe the White House is intentionally misspelling the word. Who knows?

The solution? Let’s get this White House to March.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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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 →