First Lady Michelle Obama hugs graduate Isiah Guinyard after he was presented with a Student Achievement Award during the DC College Access Program Class of 2014 graduation celebration in Washington, June 19
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
President Barack Obama signs a Presidential Memorandum on reducing the burden of student loan debt
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.”
President Obama announced on Friday that he plans to institute new reforms to include greater oversight of the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs, just over two months after former NSA consultant Edward Snowden leaked secret documents detailing their scope and reach. First, Obama said he would work with Congress to reform the authorities authorizing NSA surveillance so that they include more safeguards and oversight to further protect from abuse.
Obama said he would also push to give greater assurances to the American people that the secret court authorizing surveillance that privacy is being protected, including having government arguments “challenged by an adversary.” Third, Obama said he wants to declassify more information about the programs, including the legal rationals behind them, and create a website to learn more about U.S. surveillance activities. Finally, Obama said he would assemble a team of outside independent experts to review communications and surveillance technologies and issue a report on findings and recommendations by the end of the year.
ThinkProgress: Politico Revives Junk Science Suggesting Hispanics Are Dumber Than Whites
Earlier this year, Jason Richwine lost his job writing about immigration policy for the conservative Heritage Foundation after it came to light that he suggested Hispanics and blacks were genetically less intelligent than whites and Asians in his graduate dissertation. I conducted a lengthy review of Richwine’s research, finding that it was grounded in poor conceptual analysis and wildly outdated research.
Friday morning, Politico published an op-ed by Richwine misrepresenting his research, the controversy surrounding it, and the facts about race and intelligence in some really basic ways….
Sahil Kapur: Obama Torches GOP For ‘Ideological Fixation’ With Repealing ObamaCare
“Now, I think the really interesting question is why it is that my friends in the other party have made the idea of preventing these people from getting health care their holy grail,” he said. “Their number one priority, the one unifying principle in the Republican Party at the moment is making sure that 30 million people don’t have health care. And presumably repealing all those benefits I just mentioned. Kids staying on their parents’ plan, seniors getting discounts on their prescription drugs, a return to limits on lifetime limits, continuing to get blocked from health care insurance.”
“That’s hard to understand as an agenda that’s going to strengthen our middle class. At least they used to say, well, we’re going to replace it with something better. There’s not even a pretense now that they’re going to replace it with something better. The notion is simply that those 30 million people or the 150 million who are benefitting from the other aspects of affordable care, will be better off without it. That’s their assertion. Not backed by fact, not backed by any evidence. It’s just become an ideological fixation.”
Reuters: U.S. To Reopen 18 Of 19 Embassies Closed Amid Security Concerns
Eighteen of the 19 U.S. embassies closed this month due to worries about potential terrorist attacks will reopen on Sunday, the U.S. State Department said on Friday.
“Our embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, will remain closed because of ongoing concerns about a threat stream indicating the potential for terrorist attacks emanating from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
The United States will also keep its consulate in Lahore, Pakistan, shuttered, Psaki said, adding it closed on Thursday due to a “separate credible threat.”
President Barack Obama greets departing Associate Counsel to the President Alison J. “Ali” Nathan, left, Meg Satterthwaite, and their twin sons Oliver and Nathan, in the Outer Oval Office, July 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Daily Presidential Schedule (All Times Eastern)
11:0: The President meets with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus
12:45: Press Briefing by Jay Carney
1:00: Michelle Obama delivers remarks to mayors and other local officials engaged in Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties
2:0: The President awards the 2012 National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal; The First Lady also attends
Knox News: Makenna Hurd’s tasty banana muffins got her through the White House door. While she was there, the 9-year-old delivered something extra: Hugs for President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle.
…. Makenna earned the invitation by being one of the winners of a recipe challenge that is part of the first lady’s “Let’s Move!” initiative to promote healthy eating.
“I’m at the White House!” exclaimed Makenna, who has Down syndrome.
…. As news photographers jostled to record the scene, Obama squatted down by Makenna’s seat and thanked her for coming. Makenna thanked him back, threw her arms around his neck and gave him a hug.
Her mother, Amanda Hurd, who watched with tears in her eyes, was so caught up in the moment that she forgot to pull out her own camera and take photos.
“I was too busy soaking in the fact that my daughter was hugging the president,” Hurd said.
USA Today: This morning, President Obama meets with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to talk about the major immigration bill now pending in the U.S. House.
The bill would increase border security and provide a path to citizenship for some 11 million people who are already in the country illegally.
The Obama administration is also releasing a report Wednesday arguing that an overhaul of the immigration system would strengthen the economy, create more jobs, increase worker productivity, and decrease budget deficits.
This exchange is worth the read. This is how STUPID Republicans are and their stupidity will kill thousands of women
Jennifer Bendery: Texas State Rep. Jodie Laubenberg (R), the author of the radically anti-abortion bill making its way through the Texas Legislature this week, argued for hours on Tuesday that lawmakers should support her bill because of its strong protections for a person’s “pre-born life.” But back in 2007, she made the case against treating the unborn as people — at least, when it comes to qualifying for health care services. During a House debate on an appropriations bill that year, Laubenberg, a staunch conservative, put forward an amendment that would require expectant mothers to wait three months before they could begin receiving prenatal and perinatal care under the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, a program that helps cover uninsured children in low-income families.
Don't be hoodwinked, #Zimmerman & #SB1 come from the same place: a large subculture infused in the belief that blacks & women are property.
Laubenberg’s amendment drew criticism from Democratic Rep. Rafael Anchia, who said the change would mean that more than 95,000 children, in utero, would be kicked out of the CHIP program. As the two sparred over whether that was true — Anchia cited CHIP data from hospitals, Laubenberg alleged it was “misinformation” — Anchia asked if Laubenberg recognized those in-utero babies as people. “You do know, don’t you, that these are U.S. citizens?” Anchia asked. “But they’re not born yet,” Laubenberg said.
Laubenberg’s response drew a look of shock from Democratic Rep. Dawnna Dukes, who could be seen standing next to Anchia during the exchange. Anchia also appeared to relish the moment as he pressed Laubenberg that she was now arguing against treating a fetus as a person. “That’s the whole point, see?” Anchia said. “You have an anti-life amendment.” Laubenberg fired back that there is “no one more pro-life” in the House than her, and again said Anchia’s data was wrong. Still, something he said must have rattled her because she pulled down her amendment. “I will be back,” Laubenberg said as she prepared to leave the podium. “But right now, out of consideration for the body, I will pull this amendment down.”
Herb Alpert * Lin Arison * Joan Myers * Renée Fleming * Ernest Gaines * Ellsworth Kelly * Tony Kushner * George Lucas * Elaine May * Laurie Olin * Allen Toussaint * Washington Performing Arts Society, Washington, DC
2012 National Humanities Medal:
Edward L. Ayers * William G. Bowen * Jill Ker Conway * Natalie Zemon Davis * Frank Deford * Joan Didion * Robert Putnam¸* Marilynne Robinson¸* Kay Ryan * Robert B. Silvers * Anna Deavere Smith¸* Camilo José Vergara
More Americans still rightfully angrier at George Bush over the state of the economy than Pres. Barack Obama
Jared Bernstein: First, “not hurting” isn’t the same as “helping.” But more important, it is hurting. Real GDP growth was only 1.8 percent in the first quarter of this year, with the government sector subtracting 0.9 percent (that’s percentage points) from the growth rate. That’s not all sequestration, of course, but it is implicated.
Catherine Rampell also has a very useful bit of analysis over at the NYT, showing job impacts. As many have, she notes that while public sector jobs have been declining for years now, federal government job losses accelerated in March when the sequester hit; they’re down 40,000 since then.
Becca Aaronson: After more than 10 hours of debate, the House voted98-49 to tentatively approve the abortion regulations in House Bill 2, which would ban abortions at 20 weeks and add regulations to abortion providers and facilities that opponents argue would effectively eliminate access to abortion in Texas. The House must approve the bill again on another calendar day before it will be sent to the Senate. State Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, urged lawmakers to realize that no one is “pro-abortion,” and expressed discontent that some supporters of the bill had labeled opponents of the legislation “baby killers.” She said that the question is not when life begins but rather, “It’s a question of decisions that have to be made along the way.”
Howard said that during the regular session, a bipartisan group of lawmakers came together to increase financing for family planning services, which decrease maternal deaths, infant deaths and unplanned pregnancies. “What we’re talking about here is going backwards,” she said. “It’s embarrassing that we’re doing this.”
Michael Tomasky: There’s an assumption embedded in the argument that no one disputes: namely, that whites will always be as conservative as they are now and will always vote Republican in the same numbers they do now. This assumption is wrong. White people—yep, even working-class white people—are going to get less conservative in coming years, so the Republicans’ hopes of building a white-nationalist party will likely be dashed in the future even by white people themselves.
Everyone knows and concedes all this. And everyone counters it by saying that the Republicans will just goose the less-educated white vote. As I noted above, everyone agrees that that vote is theirs for the goosing. But what if it isn’t? Back in March, the Brookings Institution and the Public Religion Research Institute released a big poll on immigration. Those findings are interesting as far as they go, but the questions and results went beyond that. It’s the first poll I’ve seen that breaks the white working class into four distinct age groups (65-plus, 50-64, 30-49, 18-29) and asks respondents attitudes about a broad range of social issues. And guess what? White working-class millennials are fairly liberal!
Fantastic takedown of Sean Trende’s “GOP WILL BE SAVED BY MISSING WHITE VOTERS” drivel; using FACTS
ThinkProgress: As GOP House members continue their Kamikaze mission to scuttle the immigration reform bill, many political observers are wondering why. After all, isn’t it obvious that Republicans need more minority, particularly Hispanic support, and that therefore their self-interest should lead them to support a reasonable bill? Karl Rove thinks so. But lots and lots of Republicans dissent from that analysis, preferring to put their faith in a group they’re much more comfortable with: white voters. The most influential empirical analysis supporting this view was recently published by Sean Trende in a four part series on RealClearPolitics. Trende’s analysis is built around the idea of “missing white voters.”
What he means by this is that, given the estimated number of white voters in 2008 (derived from exit polls) and the natural increase in white eligible voters between 2008 and 2012 there should have been far more white voters than there actually were (again, estimated from the exit polls). He labels the difference between his projected and actual numbers of white voters as “missing” white voters. He goes on to say that “[i]f these white voters had decided to vote, the racial breakdown of the electorate would have been 73.6 percent white, 12.5 percent black, 9.5 percent Hispanic and 2.4 percent Asian — almost identical to the 2008 numbers.” Get it? The only real demographic change of importance between 2008 and 2012 was all those white voters who didn’t show up.
What’s wrong with this analysis? Plenty. Start with Trende’s projected natural increase in white voters—around 1.5 million voters, based on an assumed 55 percent turnout rate of additional white eligible voters. This implies that Trende was using an estimate of around 2.7 million additional eligible whites between 2008 and 2012. That’s wrong: Census data show an increase of only 1.5 million white eligibles. At Trende’s assumed 55 percent turnout rate, that translates into only 825,000 additional white voters from “natural increase.” So: GOP phone home! Your missing white voters have been found, and it turns out they weren’t really missing. They were simply sitting out a relatively low turnout election along with a large number of their minority counterparts. They may be back next time if it’s a higher turnout election — but then again so will a lot of minority voters. Bottom line: your demographic dilemma remains the same. The mix of voters is changing fast to your disadvantage and there is no cavalry of white voters waiting in the wings to rescue you.
Washington Post (March 2006): Off the Record, Bush Makes Media Inroads …. As he defends his Iraq policy with a public campaign of speeches and a recent news conference, President Bush also has been waging a private campaign that has included off-the-record sessions with White House reporters….
One gathering, which took place Thursday in the White House residence, was an unusual gesture by Bush, who has agreed to comparatively few lengthy exchanges with reporters during his five years in office….
Last week’s session involved reporters from several prominent broadcast and print outlets, including ABC News and The Washington Post. Under the off-the-record ground rules, the journalists were barred from reporting what was discussed. White House officials said they also hoped the meetings’ mere existence would remain under wraps….
Joe Conason (National Memo): …. The notion that Barack Obama is “Nixonian” – or that his administration’s recent troubles bear any resemblance to “Watergate” – is the biggest media lie since the phony “Whitewater scandal” crested during the Clinton presidency.
…. Only in a country afflicted with chronic historical amnesia could they issue such accusations without shame or embarrassment. Only under those circumstances could the Republicans continue their fitful fabrication of a “Democratic Watergate” without fear of being laughed off the stage….
…. But certain liberals in the media have fretted loudly over Obama’s “scandals,” too ….. is it all just trumped-up hysteria? To answer those questions, it helps to remember what Nixon and his gang actually did to America – and why they were driven out of Washington and, in many cases, sent to prison….
Steve Benen: Student loans reclaim center stage ….. President Obama will deliver remarks, flanked by college students, on a subject that too often goes overlooked: student loans. With a looming interest rate hike, the president will reportedly “call on Congress to help keep college affordable for middle-class families and students by preventing student loan interest rates from doubling on July 1.”
…. House Republicans say they’ve already passed a bill on this, which is true. They also say their bill is worthwhile and consistent with White House demands, which is not true…..
Bloomberg: Euro-area unemployment increased to a record in April after the currency bloc’s recession deepened in the first quarter, increasing pressure on its leaders and the European Central Bank to spur economic growth.
The euro-area jobless rate rose to 12.2 percent from 12.1 percent in March…. to 19.38 million in April, up 95,000 from the previous month. Youth unemployment was at 24.4 percent …. Spain had the highest rate at 26.8 percent. No April data were available for Greece, which had a 27 percent rate in February.
President Barack Obama greets Minority Whip Steny Hoyer and ceremony participants backstage before the signing of the Export-Import Bank Reauthorization Act of 2012 in the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, May 30, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
BREAKING: US economy grew 2.4 percent in January-March quarter, helped by strong consumer spending.
Tom Kludt: An overwhelming majority of Americans said that the economy and unemployment should take precedence over the Congressional investigations into the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups, the Justice Department’s subpoena of Associated Press phone records and last year’s deadly attack in Benghazi, Libya, according to a new poll from Quinnipiac University released Thursday.
The poll found that 73 percent of American voters nationwide believe that dealing with the economy and unemployment should be a higher priority than the investigations. Fewer than a quarter of Americans — 22 percent — believe that the investigations should be the higher priority.
Washington Post: President Obama plans to nominate James B. Comey, a former senior Justice Department official in the George W. Bush administration, to replace Robert S. Mueller III as FBI director, according to two people with knowledge of the selection process. Comey was famously involved in a 2004 hospital-room confrontation with White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and the president’s chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr. The two White House officials were attempting to persuade Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, who was recovering from emergency surgery to remove his gallbladder, to reauthorize a controversial warrantless domestic eavesdropping program.
Comey, who was acting attorney general in Ashcroft’s absence, had refused to agree to extend the program. When he learned that the White House was attempting to go around him and get the ill Ashcroft to sign off on an extension, Comey rushed to George Washington University Medical Center, arriving just before Gonzales and Card. Comey explained to Ashcroft what was happening and, when the White House officials arrived, the attorney general raised himself up and said he never should have authorized the program. He gestured at Comey and said, “There is the attorney general,” according to an account by former Washington Post reporter Barton Gellman.
Steve Benen: Comey isn’t exactly your typical Republican. We are, after all, talking about a Republican attorney who balked at the legality of the Bush/Cheney warrantless wiretap program, signed a legal brief endorsing marriage equality, believes terrorist suspects should be tried in America’s criminal-justice system, and even endorsed Eric Holder’s Attorney General nomination in 2009. For some of the rabid partisans on Capitol Hill, I suspect Comey will be seen as a RINO (Republican In Name Only).
U.S. pending home sales rise to the highest level in three years: National Association of Realtors #breaking
But there’s one other angle that’s worth thinking about as the process unfolds: if Obama had any reason to worry about ongoing investigations casting the White House in a negative light, the president would not have chosen a Republican with a history of independence to lead the FBI. On the contrary, if Obama were the least bit concerned about the so-called “scandals,” he’d be eager to do the opposite — choosing a Democratic ally for the FBI. With this in mind, by selecting Comey, the president not only sends a bipartisan signal, but also one of great confidence.