How Obama’s waiting game killed Keystone – By ELANA SCHOR and SARAH WHEATON 11/06/15 08:36 PM EST


After seven years, improving jobs numbers and plunging oil prices soothed the political costs of rejection.

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Dressed as a polar bear, climate-control activist Catherine Kilduff from the Center for Biological Diversity holds a victory sign after President Barack Obama announced that he would reject the Keystone XL Pipeline proposal. | Getty

In the summer of 2011, the signs outside the White House gates denouncing the Keystone XL pipeline mixed with Barack Obama campaign buttons and chants of “Yes we can.”

But inside, the president and his top aides were fretting about the economy, with unemployment stuck at 9 percent and gasoline topping $3.60 a gallon little more than a year before Obama had to face the voters again. And supporters of the Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline were playing the pocketbook card big time, promising it would put thousands of Americans to work, lower prices at the pump and lessen U.S. reliance on Mideast oil.

Obama and his aides were skeptical of those claims, but knew they could lose the political argument if his opponents painted him as a jobs-killer. So, stuck between the demands of allies he would need for his reelection — labor unions that supported Keystone, and green groups and liberal donors who detested it — he waited.

And waited some more, past 2012, past the 2014 midterms. Until Friday, when he finally rendered the verdict that the project’s supporters and foes had come to expect: He was saying no to the $8 billion, 1,179-mile pipeline.

The White House said Obama’s decision was entirely based on his commitment to taking on climate change — and the decision came just weeks before he’s due to jet to Paris to try to reach a global climate agreement with leaders of nearly 200 nations. But the move also came in a world where many of Keystone’s political and economic underpinnings had collapsed: Oil prices have plummeted in the past year, while the unemployment rate fell Friday to 5 percent, the lowest since before the 2008 financial crisis.

“Four years ago, anything that said ‘job creation,’ people would jump onto,” said former Obama chief of staff Bill Daley, whose one-year tenure coincided with those first massive anti-Keystone protests outside the White House. “Now it’s a very different world.

“They waited long enough to where — whether intentional or not — obviously I don’t think it’s a big deal,” Daley said Friday. “Oil prices are down, unemployment’s low.”

 

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Here’s how to travel to Cuba by Johnny Harris on October 21, 2015


You should go to Cuba. If you need convincing, we made a 2-minute video you should see:

Traveling to Cuba isn’t hard anymore

It used to be difficult, but now it’s not. In January, President Obama announced a “new course” with Cuba that included an easing of many restrictions banning Americans from traveling to the island.

You still can’t go as a straight-up tourist, but there are now 12 broad categories under which an American can travel to Cuba. And you no longer need to apply for a license and wait to get approval. You now just buy your ticket online and declare which of the 12 categories your trip falls under. All of this happens on an easy-to-use website. There’s no application or waiting period. Be warned, however, that charter flights are still painfully expensive (around $500 from Miami to Havana).

http://www.vox.com/2015/10/21/9384783/how-to-travel-cuba

Obama eyes criminal justice reform – By Sarah Ferris October 17, 2015, 06:00 am


President Obama is laying out a weeks-long campaign for criminal justice reform that will include visits with ex-prisoners and trips to cities riddled with drug addiction.

In his weekly address Saturday, Obama renewed his push for a “fairer and smarter” criminal justice system at a time when he has faced heavy scrutiny for both policing and sentencing issues over the last year.

He announced Saturday that he has planned trips to “highlight some of the Americans who are doing their part to fix our criminal justice system,” including meetings with law enforcement officers, former prisoners and community members most familiar with substance abuse.

“Ever since I was a Senator, I’ve talked about how, in too many cases, our criminal justice system is a pipeline from underfunded schools to overcrowded jails,” Obama said.

Obama touted some progress he’s already made, including a bill that he said reduces “the 100 to 1 sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine.” He’s also cut the sentences for dozens of drug offenders, taking a stand against mandatory minimum sentences.

The president also vowed to work with members of Congress “who are determined to get criminal justice reform bills to my desk,” specifically highlighting a bipartisan Senate bill to reduce mandatory minimums for nonviolent drug offenders.

http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/257223-obama-eyes-criminal-justice-reform

Obama Makes College Aid Application Earlier And Easier : NPR Ed : NPR


The Obama administration announced big changes Monday to help students fill out the Free Application For Federal Student Aid, predicting hundreds of thousands more students will get help as a result.

Source: Obama Makes College Aid Application Earlier And Easier : NPR Ed : NPR

Obama Administration College Scorecard Offers Guide on Graduate Earnings, Debt – By Douglas Belkin Sept. 12, 2015 6:05 a.m. ET


New system using IRS data spells out how students fare 10 years after graduation

The 2015 graduating class of Texas Southmost College attending a commencement ceremony in Brownsville on May 16.ENLARGE

The 2015 graduating class of Texas Southmost College attending a commencement ceremony in Brownsville on May 16. Photo: Associated Press

The Obama administration released its much-anticipated college scorecardSaturday morning, offering new insights into the value of a university degree—and the risks associated with getting one.

The new system will present the average earnings of graduates at individual schools using Internal Revenue Service data. The scorecard spells out how students fare 10 years after graduation as well as how they compare with people who entered the workforce with just a high-school diploma.

Americans will “be able to see how much each school’s graduates earn, how much debt they graduate with, and what percentage of a school’s students can pay back their loans,” President Barack Obama said in his weekly radio address, according to prepared remarks provided by the White House. The scorecard “will help all of us see which schools do the best job of preparing Americans for success.”

The president announced a ratings system two years ago with the goal of exposing poor performing schools and curbing college costs. His approach sparked an immediate backlash from college presidents who claimed the paucity of reliable earnings data and the diversity of missions among postsecondary institutions would necessarily make a one-size-fits-all rating system both specious and misleading.

Mr. Obama bowed to that pressure by dropping his plan to compare schools against one another and abandoning plans to tie public funding to the results of the system. He also walked back expectations by changing the “ratings system” to a “scorecard,” saying the comparisons should be left to others.

Still, the watered-down scorecard didn’t please the higher-education establishment, which has a long track record of blocking federal accountability measures.

 

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http://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-college-scorecard-provides-figures-on-graduate-earnings-debt-1442052321

Ben Carson has surged into 2nd place behind Trump. Here’s why. – Updated by Andrew Prokop on September 6, 2015, 10:01 a.m. ET


Ben Carson campaigns in Boone, Iowa, in June. Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty

Donald Trump is still at the top of GOP primary polls, but recently there’s been a surprising second-place finisher — Dr. Ben Carson.

Since the party’s first debate on August 6, the retired pediatric neurosurgeon has surged past Jeb Bush in national polls, and has now passed both Bush and onetime poll leader Scott Walker in Iowa. In both sets of polls, he’s been trailing only Trump (and in one recent Iowa poll, he was tied with the billionaire for first).

RealClearPolitics Carson, in red, surged past both Walker (orange) and Bush (green) after the first GOP debate on August 6. (RealClearPolitics)

 

Beyond that, Carson’s favorability ratings among Republicans are sky-high, and one poll shows him as the only GOP candidate leading in a one-on-one matchup against Trump.

All this has come as a surprise to national commentators, who didn’t find Carson too impressive in the first GOP debate. He was low-key, he didn’t get to speak all that much, and when he did, his answers on policy weren’t particularly impressive.

Carson’s strengths: biography, positivity, outsider status, evangelical cred, and his message on race

But Carson has a great deal going for him. Like Trump, he’s an outsider candidate who stands out from the career politicians in the field, and who condemns “political correctness.”

Unlike Trump, though, he has a positive demeanor, a truly inspirational life story, credibility with the evangelical community, and seeming credibility on matters of race.

When Jenée Desmond-Harris interviewed some conservative white Ben Carson superfans in South Carolina in January, she found they were most enthusiastic about what she called the “made-for-Hollywood narrative arc of his life.” Carson grew up poor in Detroit, but after working and studying hard, he became a successful and famous neurosurgeon.

“It goes to show that if you have a dream and fulfill that dream, it can be done,” 71-year-old Martin Kolar of Myrtle Beach told her. Others praised Carson’s faith and character — key selling points to evangelical voters, who preferred Carson to Trump in a recent poll of Iowa Republicans.

 

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http://www.vox.com/2015/9/6/9262795/ben-carson-polls