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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Barack Obama poised to hike wages for millions – By MARIANNE LEVINE 6/8/15 5:04 AM EDT Updated 6/8/15 6:30 AM EDT

The Labor Department could propose a rule that would raise the current overtime threshold — $23,660 – to as much as $52,000.

US President Barack Obama speaks prior to signing a presidential memorandum increasing workers' overtime protections during an event in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, March 13, 2014. The memorandum instructs the Secretary of Labor to update overtime regulations, including increasing the number of employees that are eligible to earn overtime pay. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB        (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

The Obama administration is on the verge of possibly doubling the salary levels that would require employers to pay overtime in the most ambitious government intervention on wages in a decade. And it doesn’t need Congress’s permission.

As early as this week, the Labor Department could propose a rule that would raise the current overtime threshold — $23,660 – to as much as $52,000, extending time and a half overtime pay to millions of American workers. The rule has already come under fire from business and Republican opponents who say it will kill jobs and force employers to cut hours for salaried employees.

“The minimum wage they can’t do,” said Bill Samuel, director of legislative affairs for the AFL-CIO. “This is probably the most significant step they can take to raise wages for millions of workers.”

Congressional Republicans are gearing up for a major battle against raising the overtime threshold. The House Education and the Workforce subcommittee will devote much of a scheduled June 10 hearing on federal wage and hour standards to the overtime rule, even if it isn’t yet released. Sen. Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, said the rule—sight unseen—“seems engineered to make it as unappealing as possible to be an employer creating jobs in this country.”

The business lobby, which is currently battling in two court venues what it calls the National Labor Relations Board’s “ambush elections rule” streamlining union elections, is likely to devote at least as many resources to fight the overtime rule. Randel Johnson, senior vice president for labor at the Chamber of Commerce, warned Labor Secretary Tom Perez in a Feb. 11 letterthat any changes to existing overtime rules “threaten to upend years of settled law, create tremendous confusion, and have a significantly disruptive effect on millions of workplaces.”

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Food industry braces for Obama trans fat ban – By Helena Bottemiller Evich 5/16/15 6:15 AM EDT

Miami, UNITED STATES:  A dozen doughnuts are pictured outside a Dunkin' Donuts store 27 September 2006 in Miami, Florida. Three years after New York City banned smoking in restaurants, health officials are talking about prohibiting something they say is almost as bad, artificial trans fatty acids. The New York City health department announced a proposal 27 September that would bar cooking at any of the city's 24,600 food service establishments using ingredients that contain the artery-clogging substance, commonly listed on food labels as partially hydrogenated oil which would create a huge problem for national fast food chains. Artificial trans fats are found in some shortenings, margarine and frying oils and turn up in foods from pie crusts to French fries to doughnuts. AFP PHOTO/ROBERT SULLIVAN  (Photo credit should read ROBERT SULLIVAN/AFP/Getty Images)

The Obama administration is expected to all but ban trans fat in a final ruling that could drop as soon as next week, killing most uses of an ingredient that has been put in everything from frozen pizza to Reese’s Pieces but since deemed harmful to human health.

The agency may create some very limited exemptions, but the ruling could force food companies to cut trans fat use beyond the 85 percent reduction already achieved over the past decade — a key piece of the Obama administration’s broader agenda to nudge Americans toward a healthier diet.

The food industry believes low-levels of trans fats are safe. Industry leaders have banded together behind-the-scenes to craft a food additive petition that will ask FDA to allow some uses of partially hydrogenated oils, such as in the sprinkles on cupcakes, cookies and ice cream. The industry hasn’t shared details, but officials maintain the uses will represent “very limited amounts.”

For more than 60 years, partially hydrogenated oils have been used in food products under the status generally recognized as safe, which does not require FDA’s approval. But since the 1990s, reams of studies have linked trans fat consumption to cardiovascular disease, causing somewhere between 30,000 and 100,000 premature deaths before the industry started phasing it out.

In late 2013 the Obama administration issued a tentative determination that partially hydrogenated oils are not generally recognized as safe. The move sent shock waves through the food industry, which has already brought down average consumption from more than 4 grams per day to about 1 gram per day — an exodus largely fueled by mandatory labeling imposed a decade ago. Scores of popular products, including Oreos and Cheetos, have quietly dropped partially hydrogenated oils over the years, but it remains an ingredient in many products, including Pop Secret microwave popcorn, Pillsbury Grands! Cinnamon Rolls and Sara Lee cheesecake, as well as some restaurant fryers and commercial bakery goods.

If FDA sticks to its guns in its final determination — and most in food policy circles assume it will — the agency will be taking a firm step toward pushing out more of the remaining uses of trans fat.

“This is a massive win for public health,” said Sam Kass, the former senior adviser for nutrition at the White House and executive director of Let’s Move!, noting that FDA has estimated removing trans fat could prevent 20,000 heart attacks and some 7,000 deaths.

“There are few targeted actions you can take in this space that have that kind of direct impact,” said Kass. He said he expects FDA will ultimately allow negligible uses of trans fat, because there’s no science that shows such levels are harmful.

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Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2015/05/fda-trans-fat-ban-118003.html#ixzz3aIkrwBEd

Obama to unveil fracking rules – By ELANA SCHOR 3/19/15 7:30 PM EDT

The Interior Department is set to announce major restrictions on the controversial drilling technique. Expect blowback.

Oil field workers drill into the Gypsum Hills near Medicine Lodge, Kan. | AP Photo

The Obama administration is set to unveil the first major nationwide safety restrictions on fracking, touching off a fresh political confrontation between the president and his critics in Congress and the energy industry.

The Interior Department’s rules — expected to be released as soon as Friday — are the federal government’s most comprehensive foray to date toward regulating the technology at the heart of the U.S. oil and gas boom, addressing worries such as potential dangers to drinking water. They will also offer oil and gas supporters new room to accuse President Barack Obama of seeking to throttle fossil-fuel production, despite his repeated boasts about the nation’s booming energy supplies.

At the same time, the rules fall short of environmentalists’ biggest demands for oversight of fracking operations — let alone some groups’ calls for an all-out ban.

Interior’s proposal would apply only to land owned by the federal government or Indian tribes, so it wouldn’t end the current patchwork of state laws and local ordinances governing the practice in hot spots like Pennsylvania, south Texas and North Dakota. But the industry and its supporters in Congress still call it an overreach, arguing that greens are massively exaggerating the dangers and that states are adequately regulating the industry already.

“Washington continues to come out with regulations that make it more complex and complicated to develop American energy,” said GOP Sen. John Barrasso, whose home state of Wyoming imposed its own fracking regulations in 2010. He said he is “likely to oppose whatever” Interior’s Bureau of Land Management proposes.

But the liberal Center for American Progress says the regulations are an important step.

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Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2015/03/interiors-fracking-rules-ready-for-launch-116241.html#ixzz3Uujs4Nix

Obama’s tech team hopes to make this the most interactive State of the Union ever – Updated by Timothy B. Lee on January 19, 2015, 8:00 p.m. ET

The State of the Union address is a spectacle designed primarily for television. But this year, the Obama administration is hoping to use the web to enhance the experience of watching the speech.

Pool/Getty Images

The president’s tech team has been hard at work on a revamped State of the Union page on the White House website. As in previous years, it will offer a livestream of the speech and display supporting information. But this year, the information will be more personalized and interactive.

If you visit the White House’s State of the Union page tomorrow evening, you’ll see a live, streaming video of the president’s speech at the top. Below that will be a grid of shareable boxes that display information about the speech. Right now, those boxes look like this:

Tomorrow, this section of the page will be different in two important ways.

First, the grid won’t be static. As the president talks, the White House will post new boxes explaining and supporting the president’s proposals. They’ll pop up automatically in the upper-left of the grid, with older boxes sliding down to make room — an approach the White House calls a river. The White House expects to present more than 100 boxes during Tuesday’s speech.

Second, some of the boxes will be interactive.

“You’ll be able to see state-by-state or demographic data points in real-time,” Nathaniel Lubin, acting director of the White House’s Office of Digital Strategy, wrote by email. “You’ll be able to answer questions and respond to prompts, share feedback, discover related material, and see and share social media content.”

For example, when the president discusses his proposal for mandatory paid sick leave, there could be a box where a site visitor can choose his or her own state to see how many people in that state are lacking coverage.

Lubin says the Obama tech team has been working to make the site useful to users on a wide variety of devices. It’s designed to work well on mobile phones as well as PCs. And for visitors who prefer to watch the speech on their TV, there will be a “second screen” mode that disables the video stream but still presents the river of interactive content related to the president’s comments.

The Obama administration has embraced the web — and sites like Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr — as a way to bring its message directly to Americans. For example, the president posts a weekly video address on Saturdays that visitors can view on the White House website. The revamped State of the Union website is the latest component of that public outreach strategy, allowing the president to present his arguments to the public without having them filtered by conventional news organizations.

The new clash over cannabis – By Jonathan Topaz 1/11/15 5:24 PM EST Updated 1/11/15 5:24 PM EST

DENVER - APRIL 20:  An man smokes marijuana during a pro-marijuana rally at Civic Center Park with the Colorado State Capitol Building in the background April 20, 2010 in Denver, Colorado.  April 20th has become a de facto holiday for marijuana advocates, with large gatherings and

The Obama administration and many congressional Republicans have been loath to go anywhere near the experiment with marijuana legalization in Colorado and other states. But pressure is mounting on Washington to take a stand on pot, and perhaps soon.

In a lawsuit filed last month with the U.S. Supreme Court, attorneys general of Nebraska and Oklahoma argue that Colorado’s marijuana initiative is spilling over into their neighboring, more conservative states. Marijuana arrests and prosecutions are up over the past year, they say, straining law enforcement budgets as more overtime is paid to handle the uptick in activity. And drugged driving is a growing problem, they contend.

But the neighbor states are also taking aim at a federal government that seems highly reluctant to tackle the issue. And with several more states considering legalizing recreational marijuana, the Justice Department and Congress may be forced to clarify what’s OK or not when it comes to marijuana, experts say.

“It’s gone from a slow burn to a hot, cauldron bubble,” Douglas Berman, a law professor at Ohio State University, said of tensions over cannabis policy.

(Also on POLITICO: Obama’s drug-sentencing quagmire)

The issue is emerging as a major test for attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch, who will have to decide whether to embrace the hands-off approach to marijuana in the states that the Justice Department has adopted under Eric Holder — or take more decisive action to regulate it.

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Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2015/01/the-new-clash-over-cannabis-114158.html#ixzz3Ob5uFpnS

It’s not just Fox News: How liberal apologists torpedoed change, helped make the Democrats safe for Wall Street – THOMAS FRANK SUNDAY, JAN 11, 2015 12:00 PM UTC

Center-left pundits have carried water for the president for six years. Their predictable excuses all ring hollow

It's not just Fox News: How liberal apologists torpedoed change, helped make the Democrats safe for Wall Street

As the Obama administration enters its seventh year, let us examine one of the era’s greatest peculiarities: That one of the most cherished rallying points of the president’s supporters is the idea of the president’s powerlessness.

Today, of course, the Democrats have completely lost control of Congress and it’s easy to make the case for the weakness of the White House. For example, when Frank Bruni sighed last Wednesday that presidents are merely “buoys on the tides of history,” not “mighty frigates parting the waters,” he scarcely made a ripple.

But the pundit fixation on Obama’s powerlessness goes back many years. Where it has always found its strongest expression is among a satisfied stratum of centrist commentators—people who are well pleased with the president’s record and who are determined to slap down liberals who find fault in Obama’s leadership. The purveyors of this fascinating species of political disgust always depict the dispute in the same way, with hard-headed men of science (i.e., themselves) facing off against dizzy idealists who cluelessly rallied to Obama’s talk of hope and change back in 2008.

It is, in other words, a classic apologetic. The pundit, a clear-thinking, reality-based fellow (and yes, they are almost always fellows), knows that if you paid attention back in 2008 you understood that Obama wasn’t promising anything great. Plus, the president has delivered all kinds of subtle but awesome stuff that his soft-headed fans overlook. Besides, there are those awful racist Republicans. Good Christ! Would we rather have one of them in the Oval Office?

This theme has been so elaborately developed over the last few years that it would be possible to write a decent history of the Obama administration entirely in terms of the various apologetics deployed on its behalf, savoring all the different grades of literary style, noting all the catch phrases and in-jokes the pundits share with one another, enumerating all the clever put-downs they use to deride the unrealistic liberal masses.

Benghazi consulate attack: Report clears US response – BBC NEWS 21 November 2014 Last updated at 21:22 ET

A US investigation has found no wrongdoing by the Obama administration in responding to the deadly 2012 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

The US Consulate in Benghazi is seen in flames on 11 September 2012

Four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, died in the attack

A US investigation has found no wrongdoing by the Obama administration in responding to the deadly 2012 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

The inquiry by the Republican-run House Intelligence Committee also said there was no intelligence failure and no delay in sending a CIA rescue team.

The Obama administration had been accused of mishandling its response.

Four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, died in the raid carried out by Islamist militants.

‘No stand-down order’

In a report released on Friday, the committee dismissed a claim that the CIA had not provided adequate security for its own agents near the Benghazi consulate and that the Obama administration had failed to send support.

It said it reached its conclusion based on “thousands of hours of detailed investigation” and interviews with senior American officials and the agents who had been on the ground during the attack on 11 September 2012.

“The CIA ensured sufficient security for CIA activities in Benghazi and, without a requirement to do so, ably and bravely assisted the state department on the night of the attacks,” the report said.

“Appropriate US personnel made reasonable tactical decisions that night, and the committee found no evidence that there was a stand-down order or a denial of available air support.

“The CIA received all military support that was available,” the document added.

However, it concluded that the mission had inadequate security and therefore had required CIA assistance.


The coming climate onslaught – By Andrew Restuccia and Erica Martinson 11/11/14 8:38 PM EST Updated 11/11/14 11:35 PM EST

President Obama readies a sweeping list of executive actions.

The Obama administration is set to roll out a series of climate and pollution measures that rivals any president’s environmental actions of the past quarter-century — a reality check for Republicans who think last week’s election gave them a mandate to end what they call the White House’s “War on Coal.”

Tied to court-ordered deadlines, legal mandates and international climate talks, the efforts scheduled for the next two months show that President Barack Obama is prepared to spend the remainder of his term unleashing sweeping executive actions to combat global warming. And incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will have few options for stopping the onslaught, though Republicans may be able to slow pieces of it.

The coming rollout includes a Dec. 1 proposal by EPA to tighten limits on smog-causing ozone, which business groups say could be the costliest federal regulation of all time; a final rule Dec. 19 for clamping down on disposal of power plants’ toxic coal ash; the Jan. 1 start date for a long-debated rule prohibiting states from polluting the air of their downwind neighbors; and a Jan. 8 deadline for issuing a final rule restricting greenhouse gas emissions from future power plants. That last rule is a centerpiece of Obama’s most ambitious environmental effort, the big plan for combating climate change that he announced at Georgetown University in June 2013.

(Also on POLITICO: Anti-Keystone groups won’t quit)

Obama announced yet another initiative Wednesday in Beijing, where he and Chinese President Xi Jinping jointly committed to targets for the two nations to curb their carbon emissions during the next two decades. And on top of all that, the administration is expected in the coming weeks to pledge millions of dollars — and possibly billions — to help poor countries deal with the effects of climate change.
Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2014/11/climate-rules-obama-112792.html#ixzz3IpmJSKxQ

Iraq Requests U.S. Air Strikes After Militants Seize Major Cities By Margaret Hartmann – June 12, 2014 2:10 a.m.

ISIS fighters celebrate on vehicles taken from Iraqi security forces in Fallujahon March 30, 2014.

ISIS fighters celebrate on vehicles taken from Iraqi security forces in Fallujahon March 30, 2014. Photo: REUTERS/Stringer

Since it finally pulled the last U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011, the Obama administration has been extremely reluctant to get involved in the ongoing conflicts in the region. However, the New York Times reports that as the threat from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) grew in recent weeks, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki secretly asked the U.S. to carry out airstrikes against the Sunni militants. The Obama administration refused, but it’s facing new pressure now that ISIS has taken Tikrit and Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, in just the past two days. Many fear that Iraq’s military may not be able to fend off the insurgents, who are quickly advancing toward Baghdad.

The al-Qaeda-inspired group seized Fallujah in January, and has taken at least partial control of well over a dozen cities in northern Syria and Iraq. Its ultimate goal is create an Islamic state that includes the Sunni-dominated parts of the two countries. ISIS militants faced little opposition as they advanced this week, and many Iraqi soldiers and police officers reportedly abandoned their posts before the rebels were even in sight. Iraqi security forces were trained and armed by the U.S., prompting accusations from both sides about which country deserves the blame for the Iraqi forces’ anemic response.

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