Posts Tagged ‘college



11
Jun
14

Rise and Shine

President Obama’s signature on a wall in a health classroom at Southwest High School in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where he attended a town hall meeting on health care, June 11, 2009. The physical education and health staff left a note asking the President to sign the wall for future students to see (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

10:50 President Obama meets with the United States Sentencing Commission, Roosevelt Room

1:50: Departs White House

3:20: Arrives Worcester, Mass.

4:0: The President delivers remarks at the Worcester Technical High School Commencement

7:0: Delivers remarks and answers questions at a fundraiser for House Democrats, private residence, Weston, Mass.

8:20: Departs Worcester

10:0: Arrives White House

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Later This Week

Thursday: The President will hold a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Tony Abbott of Australia at the White House. In the afternoon, the President will welcome the WNBA Champion Minnesota Lynx to the White House to honor the team and their victory in the WNBA Finals.

Friday: The President and the First Lady will travel to the Cannonball, North Dakota area to visit the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Following their visit to Indian Country, they will travel to Palm Springs, CA.

Saturday: The President will deliver the commencement address at University of California, Irvine on the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the UC Irvine campus by President Lyndon B. Johnson. The President and the First Lady will return to Washington, D.C on Monday.

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President Obama and Tumblr’s founder, David Karp

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Adam Vaccaro: No, Obama’s Student Debt Executive Order Doesn’t Incentivize Colleges To Raise Tuition

When President Barack Obama announced yesterday that he would extend the “Pay as You Earn” federal student loan repayment program to older, previously ineligible debtors, it was met with a common contention. I’ve seen it in a few places, including the comments section in our article on the action. In short, people say that the order will make it easier for students to manage their debt, and that will incentivize schools to raise tuition. The assertion doesn’t make any sense. The Pay as You Earn program, which limits monthly payments to 10 percent of a borrowers’ income and can allow for loan forgiveness after 20 years of repayments, had previously only been available to new student borrowers. In order to be eligible, debtors could not have taken out a student loan before October 2007, and could not have stopped taking payments before October 2011.

In other words, the program was essentially put in place for the high school class of 2008 and later classes—meaning those currently in school are already eligible for the program. If the program incentivizes colleges to raise tuition—again, probably a fun debate, though it ignores that tuition was already skyrocketing well before the program was put in place—it was already happening. Obama’s action, meanwhile, extends the option to older borrowers—those who have already graduated and are making repayments, some at much higher rates than the program allows. The vast majority of those people are by definition already out of school. Who, then, would colleges raise tuition on that they couldn’t already?

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Washington Post: Republican House Majority Leader Succumbs To Tea Party Challenger Dave Brat

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.), the chamber’s second-ranking Republican, was badly beaten in a primary contest Tuesday by an obscure professor with tea party backing — a historic electoral surprise that left the GOP in chaos and the House without its heir apparent. Cantor, who has represented the Richmond suburbs since 2001, lost by 11 percentage points to Dave Brat, an economist at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Va. It was an operatic fall from power, swift and deep and utterly surprising.

As late as Tuesday morning, Cantor had felt so confident of victory that he spent the morning at a Starbucks on Capitol Hill, holding a fundraising meeting with lobbyists while his constituents went to the polls. By Tuesday night, he had suffered a defeat with few parallels in American history. Historians said that no House leader of Cantor’s rank had ever been defeated in a primary. That left stunned Republicans — those who had supported Cantor, and even those who had worked to beat him — struggling to understand what happened.

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Nick Wing: If It’s A School Week In America, Odds Are There Will Be A School Shooting

Since the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, there have been an average of 1.37 school shootings for each school week, according to data maintained by Everytown for Gun Safety, a group fighting to end gun violence. Including Tuesday’s incident at a high school in Troutdale, Oregon, 74 school shootings have taken place in the approximately 18 months since the Dec. 14, 2012, Newtown shooting. The average school year typically lasts about 180 days, which means there have been roughly 270 school days, or 54 weeks, of class since the shooting at Newtown.

With 74 total incidents over that period, the nation is averaging well over a shooting per school week. The data maintained by Everytown for Gun Safety also shows that these shootings have occurred throughout the country. In all, 31 states have had an incident of gun violence at a school. Georgia has witnessed far more incidents than others, with 10 happening at schools there since Sandy Hook. There have been seven school shootings in Florida, five in Tennessee, four in North Carolina and four in California.

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Caitlin MacNeal: Obama: ‘We Should Be Ashamed’ Of Failure To Address Gun Violence

President Obama on Tuesday slammed the failure to curb gun violence in the United States. “My biggest frustration so far is the fact that this society has not been willing to take some basic steps to keep guns out of the hands of people who can do just unbelievable damage,” he said during a Tumblr Q&A. “This is becoming the norm,” he continued about school shootings. “We should be ashamed.”

The President addressed lawmakers who blame mass shootings on mental health, not access to guns. “The United States does not have a monopoly on crazy people. It’s not the only country that has psychosis. And yet, we kill each other in these mass shootings at rates that are exponentially higher than any place else,” he said.

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Rob Wile: Small Business Confidence Surges

The NFIB’s small business confidence index came in at 96.6 for May — the highest reading since 2007. That also beat expectations for 95.8. Pantheon Macro’s Ian Shepherdson says this index is more important than payrolls, and sees this jump to the as a major shift. “At last, small businesses are on the move. We have been waiting for four years for a clean break to the upside, and it’s finally here. The rise in the headline largely reflects a 9-point jump in economic expectations and a 5-point rise in sales expectations, but several other components rose too.”

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John B. Judis: Dave Brat And The Triumph Of Rightwing Populism

“Eric is running on the Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable principles,” Brat told a Tea Party audience. “They want amnesty for illegal immigrants. They want them granted citizenship. And it’s in the millions — 40 millions coming in. if you add 40 million workers to our labor supply, what will happen to the wage rate for the average American?” Brat’s appeal was frankly demagogic. Cantor was not supporting amnesty, and there are about 10 million illegal immigrants currently in the United States. Some of Brat’s Tea Party supporters took it a step further. Larry Nordvig, the head of the Richmond Tea Party, told a joke at Brat rally.

“A politician, a Muslim, and an illegal alien walk into a bar, and you now what the bartender said? Good evening, Mr. President.” If he is elected in November, Brat may, of course, jettison the anti-Wall Street and anti-big business side of his politics. His actual economic views appear to be close to those of the Cato Institute and Ayn Rand. His solutions for America’s flagging economy consist in flattening the tax code and cutting spending – positions that will certainly not alienate the Chamber of Commerce or Business Roundtable.

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Jonathan Cohn: The GOP Just Got a Wake-Up Call: Eric Cantor’s Loss Proves The Tea Party Refuses To Rest In Peace

It’s going to take a while to figure out precisely what happened Tuesday night in Virginia’s 7th House District. Nobody thought Eric Cantor, the second most powerful Republican in the House, would lose his primary campaign to Dave Brat, an anonymous college professor too busy grading exams to attend campaign events. Not too many people even thought it’d be close. Robert Costa of the Washington Post wrote about Brat’s surprising popularity a month ago, but the rest of the political press barely noticed.

The obvious explanation for Cantor’s defeat is immigration. And in this case, the obvious explanation is probably right. Brat hammered Cantor for his supposed support of “amnesty.” Cantor swore the charge was untrue and, lord knows, he wasn’t doing anything to advance the cause of immigration reform publicly. It appears the voters didn’t believe him. Brat also attacked Cantor for his supposed cooperation with, and enabling of, Obama. This charge may seem strange to the White House and, for that matter, most sentient beings. Few Republicans have spent more energy fighting Obama and the Democrats. And Cantor played a pivotal role in killing the grand bargain that Obama was trying to negotiate with House Speaker John Boehner in 2011

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Julia Edwards: Obama Administration To Make Push On American Indian Voting Rights

Concerned that American Indians are being unfairly kept out of the voting process, the Obama administration is considering a proposal that would require voting districts with tribal land to have at least one polling site in a location chosen by the tribe’s government, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced on Monday. Holder said the Justice Department would begin consulting tribal authorities on whether it should suggest that Congress pass a law that would apply to state and local administrators whose territory includes tribal lands. The announcement came as President Barack Obama was expected to travel to an American Indian reservation in North Dakota on Friday.

Last Thursday, Holder addressed a tribal conference in the same state. Associate Attorney General Tony West on Monday will expand upon Holder’s announcement in Anchorage, Alaska, where he will address a conference held by the National Congress of American Indians. “Our proposal would give American Indian and Alaska Native voters a right that most other citizens take for granted: a polling place in their community where they can cast a ballot and receive voter assistance to make sure their vote will be counted,” West is expected to say, according a statement from the Justice Department.

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Daniel Strauss: Cantor Conquerer Caught Off Guard By Policy Questions In Interview

David Brat, who defeated House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) in the Republican primary for Virginia’s 7th Congressional District, was surprised when he appeared on MSNBC on Wednesday that he would be asked policy questions. In his interview with MSNBC’s Chuck Todd Brat punted when Todd asked him both about the minimum wage and Syria. “Let me ask you a few other issue questions. Where are you on the minimum wage? Do you believe in it and would you raise it?” Todd asked. “Minimum wage, no, I’m a free market guy,” Brat responded.

“Our labor markets right now are already distorted from too many regulations. I think Cato estimates there’s $2 trillion of regulatory problems and then throw Obamacare on top of that, the work hours is 30 hours a week. You can only hire 50 people. There’s just distortion after distortion after distortion and we wonder why our labor markets are broken.” Todd then pressed Brat on the question. “Um, I don’t have a well-crafted response on that one,” Brat finally conceded. “All I know is if you take the long-run graph over 200 years of the wage rate, it cannot differ from your nation’s productivity. Right? So you can’t make up wage rates.”

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CBS News: Judge Strikes Down Teacher Tenure In California

A judge struck down tenure and other job protections for California’s public school teachers Tuesday, saying such laws harm students – especially poor and minority ones – by saddling them with bad teachers who are almost impossible to fire. In a landmark decision that could influence the gathering debate over tenure across the country, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu cited the historic case of Brown v. Board of Education in ruling that students have a fundamental right to equal education. Siding with the nine students who brought the lawsuit, he ruled that California’s laws on hiring and firing in schools have resulted in “a significant number of grossly ineffective teachers currently active in California classrooms.” He agreed, too, that a disproportionate number of these teachers are in schools that have mostly minority and low-income students.

The judge stayed the ruling pending appeals. The case involves 6 million students from kindergarten through 12th grade. The California Attorney General’s office said it is considering its legal options, while the California Teachers Association, the state’s biggest teachers union with 325,000 members, vowed an appeal. “Circumventing the legislative process to strip teachers of their professional rights hurts our students and our schools,” the union said. Teachers have long argued that tenure prevents administrators from firing teachers on a whim. They contend also that the system preserves academic freedom and helps attract talented teachers to a profession that doesn’t pay well. Other states have been paying close attention to how the case plays out in the nation’s most populous state. The lawsuit was backed by wealthy Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Welch’s nonprofit group Students Matter, which assembled a high-profile legal team including Boutrous, who successfully fought to overturn California’s gay-marriage ban.

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Brian Beutler: Eric Cantor Lost Because He Exploited Conservatives, Not Immigration

Cantor practices a cunning, devious brand of politics. He played legislative strategy the same way he played intra-conference intrigue—devising too-clever-by-half schemes to seize momentary advantage, often at the expense of bigger picture goals. They frequently blew back at him. When Republicans took back the House, he advocated strategies that culminated in dangerous brinksmanship over funding the government and increasing the debt limit, exactly as conservatives demanded. But he also attempted to set the bizarre precedent of offsetting emergency spending for natural disaster relief with cuts to unrelated social spending programs. He never prevailed, but his position became extremely awkward when a rare and sizable earthquake severely damaged his own district in August 2011. After Obama’s re-election, Cantor had to reverse course and orchestrate ransomless debt limit increases, to the great dismay of Republican hardliners. He then pandered to those same hardliners in ways that frequently undermined John Boehner’s best-laid plans. These priorities were incongruous, and suggestive of an effort to situate himself as the Speaker’s heir apparent, rather than of a commitment to conservative causes.

Just two months ago, Cantor end ran around those same conservatives to secure passage of a bill protecting Medicare physicians from a substantial pay cut. For more than a year now, Cantor’s stable of influential operatives and former operatives have done battle with the purity obsessed hardliners and opportunists who tried to seize control of the party’s legislative strategy. Many of them sought retribution by taking aim at Cantor in his district. In the end the right’s beef with him—as with McConnell—was about more than just affect. It was about his willingness to use power politics and procedural hijinks to cut conservatives out of the tangle when expedient. The lesson of his defeat isn’t that immigration reform is particularly poisonous, but that the right expects its leaders to understand they can’t subsume the movement’s energy for tactical purposes, then grant it only selective influence over big decisions.

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On This Day

President Obama checks how much time he has left during a health care reform town hall meeting at Southwest High School in Green Bay, Wisconsin, June 11, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama speaks with White House Counsel Gregory Craig in the Oval Office, June 11 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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First Lady Michelle Obama sits with class valedictorian Jordan Smiley during the graduation ceremonies for Anacostia Senior High School on June 11, 2010 in Washington, DC

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President Obama talks with Betty White in the Oval Office, June 11, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Bo waits to greet President Obama in the Outer Oval Office, June 11, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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09
Jun
14

President Obama Reduces The Burden Of Student Loan Debt

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President Barack Obama applauds during an event in the East Room of the White House, where he signed a Presidential Memorandum on reducing the burden of student loan debt. The president said the rising costs of college have left America’s middle class feeling trapped. He says no hard-working young person in America should be priced out of a higher education. President Obama signed a presidential memorandum he says could help an additional 5 million borrowers

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Text of the President’s remarks here

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President Barack Obama signs a Presidential Memorandum on reducing the burden of student loan debt

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Chicago Tribune: Obama Moves To Ease Student Loan Burdens, Urges Congress To Act

President Barack Obama on Monday signed an executive order making it easier for up to 5 million people to pay off college tuition debt, and scolded congressional Republicans for opposing legislation that would lower student-loan borrowing costs. Obama signed an executive order allowing more people to limit repayments of federal student loans to 10 percent of their monthly incomes. The action will not take effect until December 2015. The administration will also try to lower student costs by renegotiating government contracts with companies like Sallie Mae that service student loans, he said.

The president said Congress should also take steps to ease debt burdens on students, 71 percent of whom earn bachelor’s degrees with debt, which averages $29,400. Senate Democrats have proposed legislation that would allow millions of Americans to refinance both federal and private undergraduate student loans at lower interest rates. The bill is unlikely to overcome the opposition of Republicans. “If you’re a Big Oil company, they’ll go to bat for you,” he said. “If you’re a student, good luck.”

More here

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And later….

16
May
14

First Lady Michelle Obama At Senior Recognition Day

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First Lady Michelle Obama smiles after being introduced during Topeka Public Schools Senior Recognition Program in Topeka, Kansas

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KCTV5: Michelle Obama Urges Topeka Seniors To Help Break Barriers

To mark the 60th anniversary of a landmark school desegregation decision, first lady Michelle Obama traveled to Topeka on Friday to address graduating high school seniors.  First lady Michelle Obama said that young people who’ve grown up with diversity must lead a national fight against prejudice and discrimination because after six decades, the Brown v. Board of Education ruling against school segregation is “still being decided every single day.” Obama is participating in “senior recognition day,” in which she spoke to 1,000 seniors from Topeka’s public schools during an event at Landon Arena. “It’s really an honor. I’m glad to see her here,” Topeka High senior Corrie Barnes said. “We never have people really professional to come down here.” The White House noted that Topeka is home to the historic case that outlawed racial desegregation and declared education “must be made available to all on equal terms.” Her speech came the day before the 60th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 decision in the Brown case, which takes its title from a federal lawsuit filed by parents in Topeka.

She noted that her special assistant, Kristen Jarvis, is the grandniece of Lucinda Todd, a leader with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Topeka in the 1940s and 1950s, the first parent to sign onto the lawsuit challenging the city’s segregated schools. She said Todd, who died in 1996, is an example of people who “choose our better history.” “Every day, you have that same power to choose our better history — by opening your hearts and minds, by speaking up for what you know is right, by sharing the lessons of Brown v. Board of Education, the lessons you learned right here in Topeka, wherever you go for the rest of your lives,” Obama said in remarks prepared for delivery. Jasmine Drone was excited about the address. “My sister graduated last year and she’s like, ‘I don’t remember who spoke,’ and that was just last year. It’s an honor because I’m going to remember this,” Drone said. Lauren Sherwood, who was picked to introduce Obama, concurred, saying having a first lady in Topeka is an honor. “If anyone would overshadow my graduation, I think first lady Michelle Obama would be the person to get away with that,” Sherwood said. “So I’m perfectly content with that.”

More here

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First Lady Michelle Obama speaks during Topeka Public Schools Senior Recognition Program in Topeka, Kansas

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Brad Cooper: Michelle Obama Challenges Topeka Grads To Fight Inequality

Our water fountains aren’t segregated. Our movie theaters aren’t segregated. And our schools aren’t segregated. But in many ways we are still a separate-but-equal country, First Lady Michelle Obama told graduating seniors from five Topeka high schools Friday night. “Our laws may no longer separate us based on our skin color, but there’s nothing in our Constitution that says we have to eat together in the lunch room or live together in the same neighborhoods,” Obama told a full house at the 8,000-seat Kansas Expocentre. “There’s no court case against believing in stereotypes or thinking that certain kinds of hateful jokes or comments are funny. Many school districts, she said, are withdrawing efforts to integrate their students and communities are becoming less diverse as people flee cities for the suburbs. “As a result, many young people in America are going to school with kids who look just like them,” Obama said. “And too often, those schools aren’t equal, especially ones attended by students of color, which too often lag behind with crumbling classrooms and less experienced teachers.”

“Too many folks are still stopped on the street because of the color of their skin, or they’re made to feel unwelcome because of where they’re from, or they’re bullied because of who they love.” The Brown decision, she said, isn’t about the past. It’s about the future. She called on students to battle deep-seated prejudices that persist years after the civil rights movement swept across the country. “Graduates, it’s up to all of you to lead the way and drag my generation and your grandparents’ generation along with you,” she said. “When you meet folks who think they know all the answers because they’ve never heard any other viewpoints, it’s up to you to help them see thing’s differently.” Students were moved by the speech, especially Lauren Sherwood who introduced Obama on Friday night. “It’s absolutely insane. I can’t believe it just happened,” the Topeka High School student said afterward. “It will be hard for anything else in my life to top this.” Sherwood called the address “everything you could have hoped for in a graduation speech plus more.” “I had a little tear in my eye because it was just beautiful,” she said.

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First Lady Michelle Obama meets with high school students participating in the Wichita State University GEAR UP program as part of her Reach Higher initiative in Topeka, Kansas

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First Lady Michelle Obama listens to a question during a roundtable

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First Lady Michelle Obama leads the discussion during a roundtable with high school students at Monroe School in Topeka, Kansas

02
May
14

The First Lady Encourages Students To #ReachHigher

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Jennifer R. Lloyd: First Lady Michelle Obama Speaks At UTSA Today

San Antonio’s college-going efforts got a palpable push from first lady Michelle Obama, who spoke Friday at College Signing Day at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Clad in a the t-shirt of her Princeton University alma mater, the first lady told a rowdy crowd of about 2,100 seniors from 37 area high schools at UTSA’s convocation center to look ahead to finishing the college journey they’re embarking upon. “I also want to talk to you about another big day that is on the horizon for you and that is the day you graduate from college,” Obama said. “Reaching a milestone like this means you’ve just raised the bar for yourself.” “Just getting into college isn’t the ultimate goal,” she continued. “You have got to stay focused once you get there and you’ve got to get that degree or that certificate.”

The visit by Obama took its place among her national efforts to promoting the Reach Higher Initiative, which includes helping students understand their college and career options and their financial aid legibility. The effort feeds into the president’s 2020 goal of landing the United States on top of the list of nations with the highest proportion of college graduates. Friday’s event came toward the end of the city’s fourth annual Destination College week, which culminates Saturday with a summit at San Antonio College for high school students to learn about college and scholarship applications and career pathways.

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First Lady Michelle Obama speaks to high school students at the University of Texas San Antonio (UTSA), during College Signing Day, an annual celebration of San Antonio high school seniors committing themselves to higher education, in San Antonio, Texas

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San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro and First Lady Michelle Obama greet high school students during College Signing Day

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First Lady Michelle Obama leads high school students in a pledge for higher education during College Signing Day

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KSAT: Michelle Obama Challenges San Antonio Students

First Lady Michelle Obama on Friday joined a growing annual celebration of San Antonio high school seniors who are committing themselves to higher education. Obama was the star attraction as some 2,100 students from 38 high schools around the area participated in “College Signing Day,” part of Mayor Julian Castro’s long-term initiative to improve the area’s high school graduation rates and increase the number of residents with college degrees. She talked about the importance of pursuing and completing some form of higher education.

“While we adults have to do our part, really at the end of the day, the most important person is you,” Obama said. Obama urged students to complete their education beyond high school. “While it’s good news that high school graduation levels are high, we know that in today’s world, it’s simply not enough,” she said. The first lady said she knows the challenges facing today’s higher education students, recalling her days at Princeton, where she attended college. “I learned that the same things that got me through high school would get me through Princeton and law school,” she said. “Those moments when you feel anxious, or insecure, those are the moments when you shape into who you want to be.”

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02
May
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama listens during a briefing on the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, aboard Air Force One en route to New Orleans, La., Sunday, May 2, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

9:55 AM: President Obama holds a bilateral meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel

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11:40: Holds a joint press conference with Chancellor Merkel, Rose Garden

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12:15: The First Lady Speaks at College Signing Day at the University of Texas at San Antonio

White House Live

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12:45: The President holds a working lunch with Chancellor Merkel

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3:50: Meets with Asian American Business and Faith Leaders to discuss common sense Immigration Reform, Roosevelt Room

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AP: Health Law: 8 Million Chose New Plan Under Law

Blue or red, a majority of states have exceeded their health care sign-up targets under President Barack Obama’s law. strong state-by-state performance indicates that the health care law is making inroads around the country, even as Republicans insist repealing “Obamacare” will be a winning issue in the fall congressional elections. An Associated Press analysis of the government numbers found that 31 states met or exceeded enrollment targets set by the administration before the insurance exchanges opened. Twenty of those are led by Republican governors, many of whom were hostile to the program. The Health and Human Services Department said 8 million Americans chose a health plan through the new insurance markets in the first year of the historic health care overhaul. Some 4.8 million more gained coverage through Medicaid and children’s insurance programs.

A surge in enrollments since March 1 doubled sign-ups in some states, including Texas, Georgia and Florida. Blacks and Asians signed up at higher-than-expected rates. Blacks make up 13.3 percent of those eligible for marketplace coverage, but represented 16.7 percent of those who chose a health plan and disclosed their race. Asians make up 3.3 percent of the eligible pool, but were 7.9 percent of enrollees who volunteered racial information. -Nearly a third of people who chose a health plan on the federal exchanges didn’t report their race or ethnicity, or chose “Other.” The next enrollment period for private health insurance coverage for 2015 under the health law is scheduled to run Nov. 15 through Feb. 15.

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Steve Benen: Where Are The Jobs? They’re Right Here

The new report from Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the U.S. economy added 288,000 jobs in April, well ahead of expectations, and one of the highest totals of any month in several years. The overall unemployment rate, meanwhile, dropped to 6.3% – its lowest point since September 2008, nearly six years ago. For the third consecutive month, public-sector layoffs did not drag down the overall employment figures. Though jobs reports over the last few years have shown monthly government job losses, in April, the private sector added 273,000 while the public sector added 15,000.

The latter may not sound like much, but when you get used to that total being negative, it’s a breath of fresh air. Better yet, the job totals for both February and March were both revised up, pointing to an additional 36,000 jobs that had been previously unreported. All told, over the last 12 months, the U.S. economy has added over 2.36 million jobs overall and 2.37 million in the private sector. What’s more, April was the 50th consecutive month in which we’ve seen private-sector job growth.

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Reuters: U.S. Says 13 Million Enrolled In Private/Public Health Plans

Nearly 13 million people signed up for public and private health coverage during Obamacare’s open enrollment period. The total includes 8 million people who selected private plans through state and federal insurance marketplaces and another 4.8 million who enrolled in the Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program, two government programs that serve lower income Americans.

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Ari Berman: ACLU Lawsuit: Ohio Early Voting Cuts Violate Voting Rights Act

Voting rights advocates, after successfully challenging Wisconsin’s voter ID law this week, filed suit today challenging early voting restrictions in Ohio. The GOP-controlled Ohio legislature, after repeatedly attempting to cut early voting in 2012, earlier this year eliminated the state’s first week of early voting—the “Golden Week” when voters could also register at the polls. In addition, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted issued a directive abolishing the last two days of early voting before Election Day and eliminating early voting hours on weeknights and Sundays, when African-American churches traditionally organize “Souls to the Polls” drives. In 2012, 157,000 Ohioans cast ballots during early voting hours eliminated by the Ohio GOP, according to a lawsuit filed by the ACLU on behalf of groups including the Ohio NAACP and the League of Women Voters.

As in Wisconsin, the lawsuit contends that such cuts violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) by disproportionately burdening black voters. Blacks in Ohio were far more likely than whites to vote early in 2008 and 2012. “In the November 2008 election in [Cleveland’s] Cuyahoga County, African Americans voted early in person at a rate over twenty times greater than white voters,” according to the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights. In cities like Cincinnati, Columbus and Dayton blacks voted early in numbers far exceeding their percentage of the population. In the 2004 election, before Ohio adopted early voting, there were extremely long lines in large urban counties and African-American voters waited nearly three times as long as white voters to vote. One survey estimated that 130,000 Ohioans left the polls without casting a ballot. George W. Bush won the state by only 119,000 votes.

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Alan Pyke: Seattle Announces $15 Minimum Wage, Highest In The U.S.

Seattle will raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour over the coming years under a deal brokered by Mayor Ed Murray and blessed by labor and business groups alike, city leaders announced Thursday afternoon. The new pay floor will phase in at different speeds for businesses of different sizes, but all employers will have to meet the $15 minimum wage by the end of the decade. Businesses with more than 500 employees nationwide will have a three-year phase-in period, while smaller employers get five years to ratchet up their pay scales. After reaching $15 an hour, the city’s minimum wage will automatically climb by 2.4 percent each year regardless of the rate of inflation. Even among states with relatively strong minimum wage laws, automatic increases are uncommon. Thursday’s deal will make Seattle the national leader on municipal minimum wage laws.

Washington currently has the highest pay floor of any state at $9.32 per hour. The deal was a long time coming, with Murray first indicating he wanted to establish a $15 floor back in September during the mayoral campaign. Murray created the 24-member advisory group that crafted the compromise package back in December, and the group of local business owners, restaurateurs, and labor leaders has been grinding toward an agreement for the past four months. Approval from restaurant owners is especially noteworthy given the deal’s provisions for tipped workers. Tips can only be counted toward worker minimum pay for the next five years. After that, the separate minimum hourly pay rates for tipped and non-tipped workers will disappear, and all employees citywide will have to be paid $15 hourly or more.

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MarketWatch: Shifting Employees To Exchanges Could Save Firms $3 Trillion

Obamacare presents an opportunity for businesses to cut more than $3 trillion in costs over the next decade by shifting more health-care responsibility over to employees, according to a report issued Thursday from S&P Capital IQ. The financial information provider says in its findings that as much as $3.25 trillion could be saved by companies with 50 or more employees through 2025 as a result of costs shifting to the government under the Affordable Care Act, or ACA. S&P 500 companies could save $700 billion in that same time frame, the report says.

The ACA requires companies with 50 employees or more to offer coverage or pay a tax — with the option that they can shift administration of plans over to the exchanges. It stands to reason that many companies would want to move their employees to exchanges — either private or public — that could save them the cost of maintaining insurance coverage for employees. Employees would then be more involved in the administration of their health program. “Over the long run, the ACA may eventually come to be historically recognized as the starting point of the reconstruction of the U.S. health care benefit industry and a catalyst for how companies provide health care insurance for their employees,” the report said.

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BBC: Ukraine Reinstates Conscription As Crisis Deepens

Ukraine’s acting President Olexander Turchynov has reinstated military conscription to deal with deteriorating security in the east of the country. The move, announced in a decree, came as pro-Russia militants seized the regional prosecutor’s office in the eastern city of Donetsk. Ukraine blames Russia for organising the seizures of a number of offices in the east, a claim Moscow denies. Some 40,000 Russian troops are stationed near the Ukrainian border. Mr Turchynov admitted on Wednesday that his forces were “helpless” to quell the unrest in some parts of the east, saying the goal was now to prevent it from spreading. He also said Ukraine was on “full combat alert”, amid fears that Russian troops could invade.

On Thursday, his office said in a statement that conscription was being introduced “given the deteriorating situation in the east and the south… the rising force of armed pro-Russian units and the taking of public administration buildings… which threaten territorial integrity”. BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus says Kiev’s decision is, in the short-term at least, a symbolic step as the Ukrainian military has been starved of cash for years and is no match for what Russia has on its borders. The real battle for control of Ukrainian territory is already under way and Kiev is losing ground, he adds. Analysts say Ukraine has 130,000 personnel in its armed forces that could be boosted to about one million with reservists. Kiev scrapped compulsory military service for young men in late 2013 under a law introduced by then President Viktor Yanukovych.

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Esther Yu-Hsi Lee: Florida Senate OKs In-State Tuition For Undocumented Immigrants

A bevy of undocumented immigrants and advocates dressed in caps and gowns burst into loud applause and cheers in the gallery of the Florida State Senate when 26 state senators out of 39 members moved to pass a bill Thursday evening that would give undocumented immigrants a chance to pay in-state tuition at state colleges. The bill, which just last week seemed certain to die in the Republican-controlled Senate Appropriations Committee, will now move on to the state House and later to Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) desk, where he has already promised to sign into law.

Florida will likely become the 21st state to pass an immigration-related tuition bill that allows undocumented immigrants a chance to further their educations and contribute more to the state economy. Like many other state-level DREAM Act bills, this Florida tuition equity bill would allow undocumented immigrants, who attended high school for three years and graduated or are already in college, to qualify for in-state tuition at public colleges.

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Josh Israel: Kentucky Store Refuses To Print LGBT Content After State Passes ‘License To Discriminate’ Law

In March, Kentucky’s state legislature overrode Gov. Steve Beshear’s (D) veto and enacted an Arizona SB 1062-style bill to protect the rights of those with “sincerely held religious beliefs” to ignore non-discrimination laws unless there was a “compelling governmental interest.” Now, an Oak Grove embroidery company has posted a notice that it will not print messages that contradict their consciences — including anything promoting “homosexuality, freemasonry, the use of foul language,” or “immodesty.” The Advocate reported Wednesday that, after “public confusion” about a sign on the door of Herald Embroidery featuring a crossed-out rainbow flag in a red circle and a citation of a Bible verse in a green circle,

the business has replaced it with a new sign explicitly explaining the company’s discriminatory policies. It reads: “While we will serve all customers who treat our place of business with respect, we reserve the right to refuse to produce promotional products that promote ideas that are not in keeping with our consciences. This includes, but is not limited to content promoting HOMOSEXUALITY, FREEMASONRY, the use of FOUL LANGUAGE, and imagery which promotes IMMODESTY.”

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ABC News: WellPoint Helps Investors Breathe Easy On Overhaul

Investors pushed WellPoint shares closer to their all-time high price on Wednesday after the company raised its 2014 forecast again and became the latest health insurer to ease some worry about a key health care overhaul coverage expansion. The Blue Cross Blue Shield insurer estimates that it will add more than 600,000 customers through state-based public insurance exchanges that started accepting enrollment last fall, and it said it still expects to make money from that business. The federal overhaul set up these exchanges to help millions of people buy coverage, many with help from income-based tax credits. WellPoint officials said Wednesday they saw a “substantial” surge in applications toward the end of the open enrollment period for these exchanges that lowered the average age of the applicants. “Applications especially near the end of the quarter were robust,”

WellPoint CEO Joseph Swedish told analysts during a Wednesday morning conference call. Swedish also told analysts that about 90 percent of the people who signed up for coverage through the exchanges paid their first month’s premium. That provides another bit of reassurance to investors, who are wondering whether overhaul enrollment totals were inflated by people who never wound up paying. Last week, Hartford, Conn.-based Aetna Inc., the nation’s third-largest insurer, said about 80 percent of its exchange customers followed through with a premium payment. It expects to add about 450,000 paying customers through the exchanges, and company officials said the risk of that business appeared manageable so far.

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Bloomberg: Medicare May Raise Pay To Health Clinics By $1.3 Billion

The U.S. Medicare program said it would increase payments to nonprofit community health clinics by as much as $1.3 billion over the next five years under a new reimbursement system ordered by Obamacare. About 3,830 of the clinics stand to benefit from the change, which may raise their payments from Medicare by about a third, according to a rule published today by the government. The clinics serve mostly low-income patients in communities with few other options for health care and are supported by about $3.6 billion in federal grants.

Elderly and disabled Medicare patients — who generally can go to any doctor they choose — were the fastest growing segment of the clinics’ business in 2008, according to the National Association of Community Health Centers, even though they comprise less than 10 percent of patients nationally. The association lobbied the government for increased Medicare reimbursement, arguing the clinics lost at least $51 million a year because of limits on their payments from the program. The clinics “are essential to countless patients in local communities who depend on them for getting their primary and preventive care,” Marilyn Tavenner, the administrator of the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said in a statement.

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Rob Wile: Nonfarm Payrolls Report, April 2014

The jobs report crushed expectations, coming in at 288,000. Expectations were for 218,000. Last month’s figure was revised upward to 203,000 from 192,000. More: Private payrolls hit 273,000, also well above the 215,000 estimate and up from the revised 202,000. There were gains in most major industries. The unemployment rate fell to 6.3%, the lowest print in more than five years. The labor force participation rate fell to 62.8% from 63.2%. The number of long-term unemployed dropped by 287,000 to 3.5 million. Average hourly earnings growth fell 10 bps to 0% from the prior month. Weekly hours were unchanged at 34.5. On the plus side, we’re quite close to recovering all the jobs we lost in the recession. It probably took too long though.

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Bloomberg: Payrolls In U.S. Rise Most Since 2012, Unemployment At 6.3%

Employers boosted payrolls in April by the most in two years and the jobless rate plunged to 6.3 percent as companies grew confident the U.S. economy was emerging from a first-quarter slowdown. The 288,000 gain in employment was the biggest since January 2012 and followed a revised 203,000 increase the prior month, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for a 218,000 advance. Unemployment dropped to the lowest level since September 2008. Households spent more freely as the first quarter drew to a close and manufacturing accelerated, helping explain why companies such as Ford Motor Co. are taking on more workers. The figures corroborate the Federal Reserve’s view that the expansion is perking up after stagnating last quarter, indicating it will keep trimming stimulus.

“The economy is gathering momentum after the bad winter,” said Michael Gapen, senior U.S. economist at Barclays Plc in New York, whose firm’s projection was among the closest in the Bloomberg survey. “The unemployment rate will stay in its downward trend, which means tapering will continue.” The increase in employment was broad-based, with construction companies adding the most workers in three months and retailers taking on the most this year. Manufacturing, temporary help services and health care were among other industries boosting payrolls. Private payrolls, which don’t include government agencies, increased 273,000 in April after a 202,000 gain. Last month, hiring by companies surpassed the pre-recession peak for the first time. Americans are the most upbeat about finding a “quality job” than at any time since January 2008, according to Gallup data released April 25.

Such optimism extends to Ford. Boosted by record profits in North America, the second-largest automaker said it will probably hire more than the 12,000 new workers it promised in its 2011 contract with the United Auto Workers. “The business has grown faster than we predicted it would in 2011,” Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of the Americas, said in an interview on April 30. The company said it hired 2,000 new workers at its factory in Claycomo, Missouri, and that it’s completed about 75 percent of its commitment to hire 12,000 workers by 2015.

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NPR: Unemployment Drops To 6.3 Percent, Lowest In 5 Years

The nation’s economy added a robust 288,000 jobs in April, far more than forecast, and the unemployment rate fell to 6.3 percent, its lowest level in five years, according to the Labor Department. The rate, which is the lowest since September 2008, was down from 6.7 percent in March. Economists had forecast just 210,000 new jobs for the month, citing severe winter weather for the sluggish growth. April represents the largest burst of hiring in months. Figures for February and March were revised upward, giving an average for each of the 3 months of 238,000. “We may be seeing an acceleration in job growth,” Gus Faucher, senior economist with PNC Financial Services, Pittsburgh, was quoted by Reuters as saying. “It’s sustainable to have a 200,000-plus job growth over the next 6 to 9 months,” he says.

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MarketWatch: U.S. Adds 288,000 Jobs In April; Unemployment 6.3%

The U.S. generated 288,000 jobs in April – the biggest increase in more than two years – and the unemployment rate fell to 6.3%, a strong performance that suggests the economy is accelerating after tepid first-quarter growth. The unemployment rate is the lowest since September 2008. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had expected an increase of 215,000 nonfarm jobs. Employment gains for March and February were also revised up by a combined 36,000, the Labor Department said Friday. The job growth in April was broad based. Professional jobs surged by 75,000 and retail, bars and restaurants and construction all posted big gains.

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Yahoo: U.S. Payrolls Surge, Jobless Rate Hits 5-1/2 Year Low

U.S. job growth increased at its fastest pace in more than two years in April, suggesting a sharp rebound in economic activity early in the second quarter. Nonfarm payrolls surged 288,000 last month, the Labor Department said on Friday. That was the largest gain since January 2012 and beat Wall Street’s expectations for only a 210,000 increase. March and February’s data was revised to show 36,000 more jobs than previously reported. While the unemployment rate dived 0.4 percentage point to a 5-1/2 year low of 6.3 percent. The unemployment rate was last at this level in September 2008. “The economy really has strong underlying fundamentals supporting its growth. Temporary headwinds such as the bad weather can be certainly managed,” said Russell Price, senior economist at Ameriprise Financial in Troy, Michigan.

U.S. Treasury debt yields soared after the report, while the dollar jumped to session highs against the euro and the yen. U.S. stock index futures turned higher. The employment report joins other upbeat data such as consumer spending and industrial production in suggesting the first quarter’s 0.1 percent annual growth pace was an aberration and is not a reflection of the economy’s otherwise sound fundamentals. Employment gains in April were broad based, with the private sector adding 273,000 jobs and government payrolls rising 15,000. Manufacturing employment increased 12,000 after rising by 7,000 in March. Construction payrolls gained 32,000. That followed an increase of 17,000 jobs in March.

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Justin Sink: Celebs Celebrate O-Care Enrollment

Celebrities, athletes, healthcare advocates, and liberal activists gathered Thursday night at the White House to celebrate the release of final data from the first ObamaCare open enrollment period. According to data released by the administration, a surge of 3.8 million consumers in the final weeks helped push the total enrollment numbers past 8 million — above initial projections for the law. Nashville star Connie Britton and actor and former White House official Kal Penn. University of North Carolina men’s basketball coach Roy Williams, former NFL player Eddie George, and University of Connecticut women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma also enjoyed the champagne-fueled party.

Celebrities and athletes were a key part of the final push for ObamaCare. According to the White House, celebrity advocates conducted interviews reaching roughly 400 radio stations nationwide in the final month of enrollment. Celebrity tweets reached nearly 350 million followers, and stars including Zach Braff, Donald Faison, Eva Longoria, Zach Galifinakis, Olivia Wilde, Jennifer Hudson, Adam Scott, and Elizabeth Banks created YouTube videos to promote enrollment.

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TIME: Obama Hosts Obamacare Enrollment Party

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama feted about 300 people at the White House on Thursday to celebrate the close of the Affordable Care Act’s maiden enrollment period. According to attendees, the President highlighted the success of the initial enrollment period, but said more work needed to be done — both when enrollment reopens later this year and in states that have not accepted federal dollars to expand Medicaid.

Obama gave a special shout-out to the “tech team,” which fixed the troubled HealthCare.gov website that threatened to derail the enrollment process. He was followed by the First Lady, who expressed how proud she was of her husband for pushing the health care law through even when it was politically inexpedient. Attendees said Obama got “pretty emotional” as his wife retold stories of those who have been helped by the law.

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On This Day

Pete Souza: “Washington had its first big snowstorm and I knew the girls were home from school. I suspected the girls might try to sled or make a snowman, so I asked the Usher’s Office to call me if the girls headed outside. I got there just in time to catch the First Lady helping the girls sled down a hill on the South Lawn. This picture now hangs on the wall of the President’s study.” March 2, 2009

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President Obama talks with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal after arriving at Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans, La., Sunday, May 2, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama talks with U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen, who is serving as the National Incident Commander, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, aboard Marine One as they fly along the coastline from Venice to New Orleans, La., May 2, 2010. John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, is in the background (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama listens during a briefing about the situation along the Gulf Coast following the BP oil spill, at the Coast Guard Venice Center, in Venice, La., Sunday, May 2, 2010. Pictured, from left, are U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen, John Brennan, assistant to the President for homeland security and counterterrorism, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson (Photo by Pete Souza)

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First Lady Michelle Obama welcomes young runners participating in LIVE with Regis and Kelly’s Run Across America with Dean Karnazes at the South Lawn of the White House, May 2, 2011

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President Obama celebrates the birthday of Bloomberg White House correspondent Julianna Goldman aboard Air Force One during the flight from Ramstein, Germany, to Joint Base Andrews, Md., May 2, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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The President tastes a sip of tequila at the urging of President Enrique Pena Nieto of Mexico prior to a working dinner at Los Pinos in Mexico City. May 2, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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White House: Fact Sheet: Not Alone – Protecting Students From Sexual Assault

One in five women is sexually assaulted while in college. Most often, it happens her freshman or sophomore year. In the great majority of cases, it’s by someone she knows – and also most often, she does not report what happened. And though fewer, men, too, are victimized. The Administration is committed to putting an end to this violence. That’s why the President established the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault on January 22, 2014, with a mandate to strengthen federal enforcement efforts and provide schools with additional tools to combat sexual assault on their campuses.

Today, the Task Force is announcing a series of actions to: (1) identify the scope of the problem on college campuses, (2) help prevent campus sexual assault, (3) help schools respond effectively when a student is assaulted, and (4) improve, and make more transparent, the federal government’s enforcement efforts. We will continue to pursue additional executive or legislative actions in the future. These steps build on the Administration’s previous work to combat sexual assault. The Task Force formulated its recommendations after a 90-day review period during which it heard from thousands of people from across the country — via 27 online and in-person listening sessions and written comments from a wide variety of stakeholders.

On Tuesday, we are launching a dedicated website – www.NotAlone.gov – to make enforcement data public and to make other resources accessible to students and schools. On the website, students can learn about their rights, search enforcement data, and read about how to file a complaint. The website will also help schools and advocates: it will make available federal guidance on legal obligations, best available evidence and research, and relevant legislation. Finally, the website will have trustworthy resources from outside the federal government, such as hotline numbers and mental health services locatable by simply typing in a zip code.

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Vice President Joe Biden speaks about the release of the First Report of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, in the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington.

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USA Today: Biden: Colleges Must Step Up To Prevent Sexual Assault

Vice President Biden said on Tuesday that the USA’s colleges and universities have a moral responsibility to “step up” efforts to prevent sexual assault on campuses. Biden’s remarks follow the White House Task Force to Prevent Students from Sexual Assault’s release of a series of recommendations late Monday, which detail the administration’s plan to improve reporting by universities and colleges of sexual assault incidents as well as bolster efforts to educate students about sexual and gender-based violence. “I understand all the excuses and I understand all the rationale …but colleges and universities can no longer turn a blind eye or pretend rape or sexual assault doesn’t occur on their campuses,” Biden said. “I understand that the good guys [that] report feel like they may be damaging the reputation of their schools. I get it. But it doesn’t matter. We need to provide survivors with support and we need to bring perpetrators to justice.”

The administration also announced that it would launch the website NotAlone.gov where enforcement data will be published and begin a push to require colleges and universities to conduct “climate surveys” to better understand how frequently incidents happen on campus but are not reported to authorities. “I challenge every college and university if they are really serious about protecting students to conduct anonymous surveys,” Biden said. “They have a moral responsibility to know what is happening on their campus.” the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights released released a new guidance document on students’ rights and schools’ obligations under Title IX, which require colleges and universities that receive federal funds to investigate claims of sexual assault and provide a timely and impartial grievance procedure to resolve those claims. Notably, the guidance extends Title IX protection for the first time to claims of discrimination based on gender identity.

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Vice President Joe Biden consoles Madeleine Smith after she recounted her story of being raped while a student at Harvard University

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The White House’s 1 is 2 Many website. You can access a plethora of resources that help combat sexual violence

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Continue reading ‘#1Is2Many’




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