After months of debate about the National Security Agency, President Obama delivered statements on Friday about how the agency collects intelligence. He declared that advances in technology had made it harder "to both defend our nation and uphold our civil liberties." He also announced changes to surveillance policies.
Originally published on Fri January 17, 2014 4:12 pm
Tom Coburn will leave the Senate with a reputation as "Dr. No," but not necessarily as doctrinaire.
The Oklahoma Republican, who at age 65 is undergoing his fifth bout of cancer, announced that he will resign in December, two years before his second term expires.
"This decision isn't about my health, my prognosis or even my hopes and desires," Coburn, a physician, said in a statement. "As a citizen, I am now convinced that I can best serve my own children and grandchildren by shifting my focus elsewhere."
President Obama delivered the following speech on reforms to National Security Agency Programs Jan. 17 at the Justice Department in Washington.
Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you so much, please have a seat.
At the dawn of our Republic, a small, secret surveillance committee, born out of the Sons of Liberty, was established in Boston. And the group's members included Paul Revere. At night, they would patrol the streets, reporting back any signs that the British were preparing raids against America's early patriots.
And even before Edward Snowden and his leaks made NSA surveillance the subject of dinner table conversations all over American, President Obama said he wanted a debate about the right balance between security and civil liberties. The Snowden revelations made sure that Mr. Obama got one. NPR's Mara Liasson reports on how the political calculus is working at the White House.
MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: The president's new senior advisor, John Podesta, describes what Mr. Obama wants Americans to understand.
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning. President Obama today is set to announce the changes he would like to make in the way the National Security Agency keeps track of Americans and foreigners. He will speak at the Justice Department, six months after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden prompted a fierce debate in this country and abroad by exposing previously secret NSA surveillance programs.
Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn announced last night that he is giving up his Senate seat early at the end of this congressional session. His departure won't affect the balance of the Senate. But something that might affect the House - this week, several Democrats there said they won't be running again, which could add to an already uphill battle the party is facing in its effort to win back control of the House.
Originally published on Thu January 16, 2014 5:44 pm
A massive $1.1 trillion spending bill has gained Senate approval, allowing Congress to send a wide-ranging bill to President Obama for his signature. The massive bill will prevent any gaps in government funding as well as take some of the sting out of automatic spending cuts.
Republican Ed Gillespie announced Thursday that he's challenging Democratic Virginia Sen. Mark Warner in November's election. Gillespie, a senior adviser to Republican Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential race, is shown here at Romney's election night rally in Boston on Nov. 6, 2012.
Credit Mike Segar / Reuters/Landov
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., at a Nov. 5, 2013, rally for newly elected Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe.
Republican hopes of picking up the six seats needed to capture the U.S. Senate include a suddenly interesting race in Virginia.
Ed Gillespie, former chairman of the Republican National Committee and a top White House aide to President George W. Bush, announced Thursday that he'll challenge Democratic Sen. Mark Warner in Virginia.
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
And I'm Audie Cornish.
It's been more than seven months now since Edward Snowden shared top-secret NSA documents with the media and the world. Since then, a debate has raged about how the U.S. gathers intelligence and whether it's been invading Americans' privacy, for instance, by collecting records of their phone calls. Well, tomorrow, President Obama will officially weigh in with changes he'll make to the way the NSA does business.
NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman joins us now to talk about the Pentagon's view on cuts to military benefits. And Tom, we just heard from Quil that retirees feel the military is essentially breaking faith with those who served. But what do Pentagon leaders say to that?
TOM BOWMAN, BYLINE: Well, Audie, I spoke with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Martin Dempsey earlier this week and I asked him about these pension cuts and here's what he had to say.
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
And I'm Melissa Block. The budget deal making that's made its way through Congress has been hailed as a sign of bipartisan cooperation, extremely rare in Washington, but not everyone is happy. Veterans group have been protesting a cut to military pensions, a key part of the deal that saved $6 billion. We'll hear in a moment why the Pentagon wants the cut.
For President Obama and Senate Democrats, who gathered in a White House meeting Wednesday, it's all about mutual aid at this point.
If Obama is to maintain any leverage in Congress, he needs Democrats to keep control of the Senate since the House appears likely to remain in Republican hands. And if his second term agenda has any hope of being achieved — such as tackling income inequality, overhauling immigration or reaching a durable nuclear deal with Iran — he'll need a Democratic Senate majority working side-by-side with him.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers took the first step Thursday to patch a gaping hole in the 1965 Voting Rights Act after the Supreme Court eviscerated a key part of the law that allowed for federal oversight of states with a history of ballot box discrimination.
Originally published on Fri January 17, 2014 9:47 am
In his new memoir, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates heaped scorn on many members of Congress for pushing their parochial interests with him.
But he saved a special dig for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
"With two ongoing wars and all our budget and other issues, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry," Gates writes, describing how the Nevada Democrat urged him to have the Defense Department invest in research into irritable bowel syndrome.
It's an anecdote that drew snickers — and media attention, including here at NPR.
Originally published on Thu January 16, 2014 12:19 pm
On Jan. 17, 1961, President Eisenhower used his farewell address to warn Americans that:
"We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist."
This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin. Later in the program, we are going to head to South Eastern Kentucky. The area is one of those designated as a promise zone by the Obama administration. So we want to hear about what that will actually mean. That's in just a few minutes. But now we look at some of the other items on the president's agenda. He's gearing up for a big speech tomorrow about controversial surveillance programs run by the National Security Agency.
Originally published on Thu January 16, 2014 9:03 am
Bryn Mawr College is located just outside Philadelphia, but every year the school goes looking for students in Boston.
Bryn Mawr typically admits 10 low-income students from the Boston area each year, providing them with financial assistance and introducing them to one another in hopes that they will form a network and support each other as they navigate their college years.
Bryn Mawr doesn't stop in Boston. Working with the nonprofit groups Posse Foundation and College Match, the college actively seeks to enroll low-income students who show great promise.
"Any federal employee who's driving a Dodge Viper either has a really good spouse, a really good inheritance or needs to be investigated by the inspector general," Labor Secretary Tom Perez says at the Detroit Auto Show.
Credit Brian Naylor / NPR
Perez bikes in the offices of Shinola, a company that manufactures high-end watches and bicycles.
President Barack Obama announces he will nominate Maria Contreras-Sweet, left, founder and board chairman of a Latino-owned community bank in Los Angeles, as the head of the Small Business Administration.
Former California official Maria Contreras-Sweet is President Obama's pick to lead the Small Business Administration. She was introduced and her official nomination announced at a White House event Thursday.
Born in Mexico, Contreras-Sweet became the first Latina to serve as a cabinet secretary in California when she led its Business, Transportation and Housing Agency from 1999-2003.
The Senate Intelligence Committee today delivered its analysis of the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya. Four Americans were killed in that attack, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens. It's a bipartisan report. Democrats and Republicans on the committee agreed, among other things, that the attack might have been prevented if the State Department had taken better precautions at the Benghazi post.
In other personnel news, the president has nominated Stanley Fischer to serve as the next vice chairman of the Federal Reserve. He would replace Janet Yellen, who's been promoted to chairman of the central bank. Yellen reportedly recruited Fischer personally to serve as her deputy. He spent much of the last decade running Israel's central bank.
As NPR's Scott Horsley reports, Stanley Fischer is credited with helping that country weather the financial crisis better than most and with training many of the world's top economists.
Originally published on Wed January 15, 2014 3:19 pm
The House on Wednesday passed a massive $1.1 trillion spending bill — a compromise that appeared to get past the bitter partisan showdowns that have caused an unpopular federal government shutdown and nearly tipped the U.S. into default.
The 359-67 vote was a sign of considerable support from Republicans, thanks to a bipartisan deal worked out last month laying out spending for the next two years.
Dissatisfaction with America's government headed the list of problems cited in a new Gallup poll. Here, dusk falls on the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 30 — the eve of the federal shutdown that further frustrated many citizens.
Credit Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images
Among all large U.S. political groups, dissatisfaction with the country's government headed the list of issues. But they disagreed on where to rank other topics, from health care to income inequality.
A Gallup poll released Thursday tracks trends in what Americans see as the country's biggest problem. For several months now, the answer has been its own government.
Originally published on Wed January 15, 2014 7:05 pm
The biggest problem the United States faces is not unemployment or the economy — it's the country's government, according to a plurality of Americans cited in a recent Gallup poll. Among Republicans, Democrats and independents, dissatisfaction with the U.S.'s political leadership topped all other issues.
Finally today, I'd like to end the program where we started: talking about poverty. We, like a lot of other people in the news business have been talking about poverty a lot this week and last.
We're doing this because we have something called a news peg — which is a fancy word for a reason to talk about something we want to talk about anyway. And that news peg is the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson's first State of the Union address, when he said this:
"This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America."