President Obama on Wednesday announced a plan to allow college graduates to cap federal student loan repayments at 10 percent of discretionary income starting in January, two years before the cap was due to take effect under federal law.
The accelerated “pay as you earn” program, which Obama will authorize through executive order, could benefit up to 1.6 million borrowers and reduce their payments by as much as a couple hundred dollars a month, administration officials said. All remaining debt on the federal loans would be forgiven after 20 years – five years earlier than under current law.
Reuters: …. President Obama’s appearance on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” lifted the show to its highest Tuesday-night ratings since March 2, 2010, the night after Leno returned to the show.
Tuesday’s episode received a 4.1/11 metered-market household rating, a 52 percent leap over his Tuesday-night average so far this season. With Obama’s appearance,” The Tonight Show” handily surpassed “Late Show with David Letterman,” which posted a 2.7/7 household rating, “Nightline,” which drew a 3.6/9, and “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” which received a 1.8./6.
Ruth Marcus (Washington Post): In an interview with Parade magazine, the Texas governor declared Obama’s place of birth a “distractive” issue even as he happily latched on to the opportunity to distract ….. It was classic Perry, combining logical incoherence and a smarmy cheap shot.
…. Is this a presidential campaign or a middle-school playground? I’ll show you mine if you show me yours? By the way, if I had Perry’s grades, I wouldn’t be mentioning them. Certainly not if I were running against a former president of the Harvard Law Review.
…. You might think this was the candidate cannily trying to have it both ways: a nod to the birther crazies with a simultaneous wink at those who know this is a ridiculous distraction. Except that Perry managed to step on his real message of the day: his unaffordable and unfair proposal to “simplify” the tax code – by grafting a flat-tax alternative onto the existing system.
…. The matter of Obama’s birth certificate should be a closed case. It is astonishing that a sitting governor, no less a serious candidate for president, would stoop to playing this game.
… The country is facing serious problems. This will be a fateful election. Voters deserve better than scare tactics and drivel.
CBS: Most families who lose a loved one in the war zones receive a letter of condolence from the President of the United States. But there are a few who do not receive this honor. It’s long standing policy – going back many years – that troops who commit suicide in war do not get the president’s acknowledgment.
The CBS Evening News first reported on this last week, and tonight we have learned the White House is changing the policy…. “I had doubts – many, many doubts,” Gregg Keesling said. “We are very pleased.” Last week, Keesling got the call he’d waited nearly two years to receive from the White House. He learned his family’s long wait for acknowledgement from the commander-in-chief was almost over. “My oldest son came down and we had a hug and it was very emotional,” Keesling said. “It was a very good moment that this has been worth it.”
Since the suicide of his son, 25-year-old Army Specialist Chance Keesling, in Iraq, Gregg and his wife Jannett, have fought to receive a condolence letter. They’ve written to the president, and asked their local congressmen for help.
Keesling’s now been told he’ll receive some kind of recognition from the White House – though not an official presidential condolence letter – in memory of his son.
… Under a decades-old White House policy, inherited by the Obama administration, military families received letters from the president only if their loved ones died on the battlefield or in accidents in war zones. Now, the policy is changing, Gregg Keesling told us recently, and for families like his, the acknowledgement is long overdue.
… The new policy goes into effect starting today, which is why the Keesling family will not receive an official presidential condolence letter. Their son, Chance, died in 2009. We’re told the policy affects all military families whose loved ones die in war zones, regardless of how they died….
“As Commander in Chief, I am deeply grateful for the service of all our men and women in uniform, and grieve for the loss of those who suffer from the wounds of war — seen and unseen. Since taking office, I’ve been committed to removing the stigma associated with the unseen wounds of war, which is why I’ve worked to expand our mental health budgets, and ensure that all our men and women in uniform receive the care they need.
“As a next step and in consultation with the Secretary of Defense and the military chain of command, I have also decided to reverse a long-standing policy of not sending condolence letters to the families of service members who commit suicide while deployed to a combat zone. This decision was made after a difficult and exhaustive review of the former policy, and I did not make it lightly. This issue is emotional, painful, and complicated, but these Americans served our nation bravely. They didn’t die because they were weak. And the fact that they didn’t get the help they needed must change. Our men and women in uniform have borne the incredible burden of our wars, and we need to do everything in our power to honor their service, and to help them stay strong for themselves, for their families and for our nation.”
Chicago Tribune: With hundreds of letters arriving each week, first lady Michelle Obama’s mailbag is intriguing more for its variety than its volume.
….Obama gets about 500 to 700 messages a week, including letters, emails and faxes, said Howli Ledbetter, her correspondence director.
….Laura Barajas, 13, of Cicero, with her classmates wrote the first lady last year. Laura pledged to give up chips, except for a small bag on Sundays. The pledge didn’t last long, the girl said, but Obama’s letter has. “I thought it was cool,” Laura said. “I didn’t think she was going to write back.”
Aides to the first lady also respond to mail sent to her daughters, Malia and Sasha; her live-in mother, Marian Robinson; and the family’s Portuguese water dog, Bo.
Meagan Moeggenborg, 10, of St. Johns, Mich., wrote Bo last fall saying her two cats don’t like dogs, but her brother, Reese, does. “If he was with you, I bet he would pet you to death,” she wrote.
Her reward? A letter from the first lady and a postcard of Bo with such facts as his origins (born in 2008 in Texas), what he likes to eat (tomatoes or toys) and what he hopes to achieve (“make friends with foreign dignitaries”).
Meagan read the letter to her fourth-grade class. “People were, like, wide-eyed,” she said. “I felt proud and excited.”
The missive is now kept in her “memory box,” a blue plastic storage container relegated to the basement.
First Lady Michelle Obama, Pasadena, June 13: ….. “let me tell you something about your President … when he returns home after a long day traveling around the country …. he always tells me not about how hard the day was but about the people he’s met along the way.
And I see in those quiet moments late at night, after we’ve put the girls to bed, and he’s hunched over his desk, and he’s reading everything – letters people have sent him. That’s what keeps him motivated. He reads those letters. A letter from the woman dying of cancer whose health insurance wouldn’t cover her care. Those are the letters he’s reading …
And I see the sadness and the worry that’s creasing his face. And I hear the passion and the determination in his voice. He says, “You know, Mich, you won’t believe what these folks are going through.” He says, “It’s not right. Still not right. And we’ve got to fix this. We have to do more.”
…..when it comes to the people he meets and the stories he hears, he has a memory like a steel trap …. if he’s had a few minutes and a decent conversation, he will never forget your story. It becomes imprinted on his heart. And that is what he carries with him every day – that collection of hopes, and dreams, and struggles.
…. Starting first thing in the morning and going late into the night, hunched over every briefing, he reads every word of every memo so that he is more prepared than the people briefing him, writing notes, asking questions. That is who your President is. That’s who you elected, because all those wins and losses, trust me, are not wins and losses for him. They’re wins and losses for the folks whose stories he carries with him, the folks he worries about and prays about before he goes to bed at night.
….here’s the thing about Barack – and this is something I’d appreciate even if he hadn’t shown the good judgment to marry me. (Laughter and applause.) But even in the toughest moments …. when it seems like all is lost, and we’re all wringing our hands, and I’ve done it to him, too – what’s going to happen, are we going to be okay – (laughter) – Barack Obama never loses sight of the end goal. He is always an end-goal game player. He’s not looking right here. He’s looking way down the road. (Applause.) And he never lets himself get distracted by the chatter and the noise. It doesn’t faze him. He just keeps moving forward, step by step. That’s how change happens. (Applause.)
And in those moments when we’re all sweating it, when we’re worried that that bill won’t pass, or the negotiations might fall through, Barack always reminds me that we’re playing a long game here. That’s how he reassures me. It’s not about today. It’s about our future. It’s about these kids. It’s not about us.
He reminds me that change is slow. Nothing worth having happens in an instant. He reminds me that change does not happen all at once. It never does. Never has. But he tells me that if we keep showing up, right, if we keep fighting the good fight, and doing what we know is right, then eventually we will get there, because we always have. When you think about it, we always have gotten to the right place in this country.
NYT: Extracts – EVER since Barack Obama’s inauguration, the staff members and tutors at our nonprofit writing programs have marveled at how this presidency has percolated through student essays, stories and poems.
And it’s not just the president who has captured their attention — his wife, Michelle, has, too. From our students’ perspective, Mrs. Obama is glamorous but accessible, maternal but cool. They trust her.
So, earlier this fall, 826 National hosted a series of workshops inviting students to write to the first lady. The results were collected in the book “I Live Real Close to Where You Used to Live: Kids’ Letters to Michelle Obama (and to Sasha, Malia and Bo).”
Here is a sampling of what they came up with:
Dear Mrs. Obama,
You’re the greatest person I ever met. I know that you married Obama because he cares about people and also you think he is a special person. How big is your garden? I hope you have great vegetables and fruits so your two children can be strong and grow too. You’re a better dancer than your husband.
I live in Los Angeles. I live in a white and gray apartment. My favorite things are soccer, movies and also princesses. Do you think princesses are for little kids?
— TATIANA MORALES, age 10, Los Angeles
Dear Mrs. Obama,
If I was to get invited to eat dinner with you, I’d have so much fun. What if I was your daughter? I’d love you a whole lot and I would always play with you. Malia and Sasha are beautiful children and are so sweet to other people that they see. I would like to become friends with your two daughters. Can I? You should take Sasha and Malia to the Brooklyn Park out on Sixth Street. It has a swing that pushes by itself and if you say high it will go high, if you say low it will go low.
The Brooklyn Park closes at midnight and I stay until 10. It’s fun. I have too much fun. When I run I burn off energy. I know that you want kids to exercise every day for an hour, but I exercise two hours and 30 minutes every day.