Politics

Parallels
6:57 am
Mon December 9, 2013

Now Praised By Presidents, Mandela Wasn't Always Admired In The U.S.

In 1995, then-South African President Nelson Mandela pays tribute at a funeral service for Joe Slovo, a leading white figure in South Africa's struggle for racial equality.
Philip Littleton AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon December 9, 2013 1:11 pm

As President Obama travels to South Africa for Nelson Mandela's memorial service on Tuesday, it might seem as though Mandela was an eternal object of admiration for U.S. presidents and the American public. But that wasn't the case by a long shot.

During Mandela's 27 years behind bars, successive U.S. administrations worked with, or at least tolerated, South Africa's white leaders. Only in his final years of incarceration did he and the anti-apartheid movement become a cause that gained traction in the United States.

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Politics
6:18 am
Mon December 9, 2013

Looking Past Website, More Challenges Await Obamacare

An increasing number of people are signing up for health insurance through the government's new exchange, suggesting the Obama administration has made progress in fixing its broken website. But the exchange is just one part of the health care law, which remains politically divisive almost four years after its passage.

Politics
5:04 am
Mon December 9, 2013

Will Seniors Leave Republicans Out To Dry In 2014?

Originally published on Mon December 9, 2013 6:18 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Some of the Republican Party's most reliable support has come from voters over the age of 65. But a recent survey suggests this could be changing.

NPR's Ina Jaffe went to the Palm Springs to look at a congressional race where we might be seeing this change play out.

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Politics
4:06 am
Mon December 9, 2013

Will Obamacare Play Big In 2014? Keep An Eye On N.H. Senate Race

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., on Capitol Hill earlier this year.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Mon December 9, 2013 9:54 am

With a new White House push to promote the Affordable Care Act well underway, the question is whether an improved HealthCare.gov site and onslaught of positive talking points will be enough to bolster Senate Democrats facing tough races in 2014.

One re-election fight to watch is Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen's in New Hampshire, where she's been taking heat for supporting the new health care law.

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It's All Politics
12:06 pm
Sun December 8, 2013

Debate On Wage And Wealth Gap Heats Up; Solutions Elusive

Protesters in Boston march in the parking lot of a Burger King as part of a nation-wide protest supporting higher wages for workers in the fast-food industry.
Stephan Savoia AP

The national debate about income equality and low-wage labor ramped up this week as fast-food workers across the country rallied for better pay and President Obama assailed the nation's growing income gap as the "defining challenge of our time."

Meanwhile, an $11.50 minimum wage bill was approved in the nation's capital, and giant discount retailer Wal-Mart opened its first Washington stores — accompanied by a flurry of ads defending the company's often-criticized pay and benefits practices.

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Politics
5:58 am
Sun December 8, 2013

Congress Aims For The Modest Bargain

Originally published on Sun December 8, 2013 9:50 am

Transcript

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News, I'm Rachel Martin.

The Senate comes back to Washington this week with a lengthy to-do list, and the House is hoping to wrap things up and get out of Dodge.

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOEHNER: I've made it clear that the House is going to leave next Friday and you all know me pretty well. I mean what I say and I say what I mean.

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Economy
3:35 am
Sun December 8, 2013

Economists Toast 20 Years Of NAFTA; Critics Sit Out The Party

A truck bearing Mexican and U.S. flags approaches the border crossing into the U.S., in Laredo, Texas.
Reuters /Landov

Twenty years ago, millions of Americans were cocking their ears — waiting to hear a "giant sucking sound."

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Politics
6:05 am
Sat December 7, 2013

Social Security Fight Exposes Democratic Divide On Populism

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, is leading a push to increase Social Security benefits. But her whole party is not in agreement on the issue.
Jacquelyn Martin AP

Originally published on Sat December 7, 2013 11:51 am

American politics is having a populist moment, with voters angry and frustrated with all big institutions in American life.

The backlash against big government found its expression on the right with the Tea Party. The tensions between that movement and the Republican establishment have been on full display.

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It's All Politics
3:27 am
Sat December 7, 2013

How Mandela Expanded The Art Of The Possible

President-elect Nelson Mandela and President F.W. de Klerk outside the South African Parliament in Cape Town, May 9, 1994.
Frank James

Originally published on Mon December 9, 2013 9:35 am

When I was coming of age in the late 1970s, as an African-American high-schooler and college student, I had two certainties: Nelson Mandela would die in prison in apartheid South Africa and no black person would become U.S. president in my lifetime.

So much for my youthful powers of prediction.

Little could I have known then that I would become a journalist who would one day get to cover events I once thought would never happen, at least not during my time on Earth.

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Politics
4:07 pm
Fri December 6, 2013

Week In Politics: Looming Unemployment Cuts And Income Inequality

Originally published on Fri December 6, 2013 5:35 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

So the lowest unemployment rate in five years, down to 7 percent. To talk about the economic picture and more from this week's news, I'm joined by our regular Friday political commentators, David Brooks of the New York Times and E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and Brookings Institution. Welcome back to you both.

DAVID BROOKS: Good to be here.

E.J. DIONNE: Good to be with you.

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It's All Politics
12:50 pm
Fri December 6, 2013

Sen. Thad Cochran To Seek Re-Election In Mississippi

Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on June 12.
Charles Dharapak AP

Originally published on Fri December 6, 2013 12:57 pm

Get ready for a bruising GOP primary battle in Mississippi.

Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., said Friday he will seek a seventh term in 2014, setting the stage for a contentious contest that pits the Republican establishment against the Tea Party wing.

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It's All Politics
8:10 am
Fri December 6, 2013

How Two Similar States Ended Up Worlds Apart In Politics

In this June 2008 photo, the bridge spanning the Mississippi River between Winona, Minn., and the Wisconsin side of the river is closed to traffic.
Jim Mone AP

Originally published on Fri December 6, 2013 9:21 am

Like a lot of neighbors who were once close, Minnesota and Wisconsin have drifted apart over time. Their politics and policy directions are now about as disparate as can be.

That's surprising, not just because the two states share a common climate and culture, but because neither party can claim a big majority of the vote in either state.

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Around the Nation
3:25 am
Fri December 6, 2013

A Frustrating Year For Immigration Activists

Originally published on Fri December 6, 2013 8:49 am

At the start of the year there was widespread expectation among Latinos that 2013 would bring with it a new immigration law. That hasn't happened and immigration activists in North Carolina are frustrated.

Africa
3:21 am
Fri December 6, 2013

Mandela's Powerful Influence On Barack Obama

Originally published on Fri December 6, 2013 8:49 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

President Obama spoke of Mandela last night at the White House, describing the late South African leader as a man who took history in his hands.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: His journey from a prisoner to a president embodied the promise that human beings and countries can change for the better.

INSKEEP: And Mandela had a powerful influence on President Obama. NPR's Ari Shapiro reports.

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Parallels
1:30 am
Fri December 6, 2013

Plan Calls For Syria's Chemical Arsenal To Be Destroyed At Sea

If a plan taking shape is finalized, the MV Cape Ray, managed by the U.S. Department of Transportation, will be turned into a floating chemical weapons disposal plant.
U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration

Originally published on Fri December 6, 2013 8:49 am

The world wants Syria's chemical arsenal destroyed. But so far, no country has offered to do the dirty work on its soil. Over the past week, an alternative has gained ground: Carry out the destruction at sea. The plan taking shape is complicated and untested, but it just might work.

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Around the Nation
5:47 pm
Thu December 5, 2013

Fast Food Workers Rally Across Country For Better Pay

Workers rallied in 100 cities on Thursday to raise awareness for increasing pressure to raise wages. The push comes as 19 cities and states already raised minimum wages. A report from Berkeley economists finds the low-wage fast food jobs are costing taxpayer billions of dollars in public assistance — everything from food stamps to Medicaid.

Politics
5:47 pm
Thu December 5, 2013

Add This To The Fiscal Cliff: Congress Faces A 'Milk Cliff' Too

Congress still has a long to-do list and not much time left. The House hopes to wrap it up next week — just as the Senate returns from a Thanksgiving break. On many lawmakers' lists are efforts to complete a farm bill before milk prices go off the "dairy cliff." That on top of tough budget negotiations.

Politics
3:48 pm
Thu December 5, 2013

To Fix Social Security, Some Democrats Want To Lift Wage Cap

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D- Mass., listens to testimony during a Banking Committee hearing on Nov. 12. In a Senate floor speech on Social Security last month, Warren said, "With some modest adjustments, we can keep the system solvent for many more years, and we could even increase benefits."
Jacquelyn Martin AP

Originally published on Thu December 5, 2013 5:39 pm

For the past three years, there's been a shortfall in the payroll taxes collected for Social Security. And as more baby boomers join the ranks of the 57 million people already receiving benefits, that deficit is bound to keep growing.

At the same time, the overall share of wages being taxed for Social Security is shrinking as the higher wages that are exempt have soared. The Social Security Board of Trustees predicts a nearly $3 trillion trust fund built up over decades will vanish within 20 years.

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It's All Politics
3:22 pm
Thu December 5, 2013

For Biden, All The World's A Stage For Possible 2016 Run

Vice President Biden chats with his Chinese counterpart Li Yuanchao before heading to their luncheon at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on Thursday.
Andy Wong AP

Originally published on Thu December 5, 2013 4:27 pm

Vice President Biden hasn't announced his 2016 presidential plans. It's far too early for that; we haven't even hit the first anniversary of President Obama's second inaugural, after all.

But as Biden traveled this week to Japan, China and South Korea where he met top leaders, he certainly gave the impression of a man doing a full dress rehearsal for the presidency.

Of course, if Hillary Clinton decides to run for president, rehearsing for the presidency may be as close as Biden gets to the Democratic nomination.

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The Two-Way
1:51 pm
Thu December 5, 2013

White House: President Briefly Lived With Kenyan-Born Uncle

Onyango Obama, President Obama's Kenyan-born uncle, arrives at U.S. Immigration Court in Boston on Tuesday for a deportation hearing.
Steven Senne AP

Originally published on Thu December 5, 2013 5:08 pm

The White House has acknowledged that as a student at Harvard Law School in the 1980s, the president briefly lived with his Kenyan-born uncle, after it first denied the two had ever met.

Earlier this week, Onyango Obama, 69, faced a deportation that resulted from a 2011 drunken-driving arrest. At the hearing, which he won, the judge asked about his family, and Onyango replied that he had a nephew named Barack Obama, adding, "He's the president of the United States."

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The Two-Way
9:28 am
Thu December 5, 2013

Obama Tells Government To Ramp Up Its Renewable Energy Use

Originally published on Thu December 5, 2013 11:44 am

This post was updated at 1:30 p.m. ET

President Obama says the U.S. government "must lead by example" when it comes to safeguarding the environment, so he's ordering federal agencies to use more clean energy.

Under a presidential memorandum out Thursday, each agency would have until 2020 to get 20 percent of its electricity from renewable supplies.

"Government agencies currently get less than 10 percent of their electricity from renewable sources such as solar and wind," NPR's Richard Harris reports. He adds that:

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It's All Politics
4:03 am
Thu December 5, 2013

GOP Family Feud: 'Showboat' DeMint Takes on 'Tyrant' McConnell

Former GOP Sen. Jim DeMint, president of the Heritage Foundation, at a news conference earlier this year.
Evan Vucci AP

Originally published on Thu December 5, 2013 11:26 am

Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell is more than a little aggravated with the Senate Conservatives Fund, and who can blame him.

The youngish but well-financed Tea Party organization has targeted McConnell, a five-termer from Kentucky and highest-ranking Senate Republican, by helping to bankroll a primary challenger and using the race as an intraparty, us vs. them proxy.

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Shots - Health News
3:03 am
Thu December 5, 2013

White House Cites Pre-Existing Condition Case From Its Own Ranks

Michael Robertson, then chief of staff of the Government Services Administration, testifies on Capitol Hill on April 16, 2012. Now chief of staff of the Cabinet Affairs Office in the Obama administration, Robertson has undergone treatment for stage IV colorectal cancer.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Originally published on Thu December 5, 2013 9:07 am

It's Day 4 of the White House's new messaging push for the Affordable Care Act. Today the goal is to tell the stories of people with pre-existing conditions who are now entitled to coverage under the new health care law.

One such story comes from within the White House.

Michael Robertson, deputy assistant to the president and deputy cabinet secretary, was diagnosed with stage IV colorectal cancer 16 months ago. He was 35.

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Politics
2:59 am
Thu December 5, 2013

IRS Targets Money Transfers In Social-Welfare Politicking

Originally published on Thu December 5, 2013 2:05 pm

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The IRS is taking aim at the growing political role of tax-exempt social welfare groups. It's a category of American politics where spending has increased 80-fold in the last decade. Donors can give as much money as they want to these groups, and their names are not disclosed to the public. The IRS wants to roll back the social welfare politicking, after a summer of controversy over the way it treated Tea Party groups applying for tax-exempt status.

NPR's Peter Overby reports.

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The Two-Way
10:03 pm
Wed December 4, 2013

Report: Threat Of Mandatory Minimums Used To Coerce Guilty Pleas

In August, Attorney General Eric Holder told federal prosecutors to no longer hit low-level drug offenders with charges that carry mandatory minimum sentences. But it's not yet clear how broadly that directive is being interpreted.
Stephen Lam Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Thu December 5, 2013 7:44 am

A new report says the Justice Department regularly coerces defendants in federal drug cases to plead guilty by threatening them with steep prison sentences or stacking charges to increase their time behind bars.

And for the first time, the study by Human Rights Watch finds that defendants who take their fate to a judge or jury face prison sentences on average 11 years longer than those who plead guilty.

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It's All Politics
3:39 pm
Wed December 4, 2013

Immigration Advocates Face Hurdles In GOP House Districts

Immigration advocates gather Tuesday outside the fence for the lighting of the 2013 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree in Washington.
Susan Walsh AP

Want to understand why House Republicans aren't onboard with an immigration overhaul? Take a close look at the districts they represent.

Hispanics today make up 17 percent of the nation's population and are the fastest-growing ethnic group. But an NPR analysis of U.S. census data shows they live disproportionately in districts represented by Democrats. The average Democratic district is 23 percent Latino; the average Republican district, less than 12 percent.

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The Two-Way
11:01 am
Wed December 4, 2013

Income Inequality Is The 'Challenge Of Our Time,' Obama Says

President Obama talks Wednesday about the economy and growing economic inequality in Washington.
Evan Vucci AP

Originally published on Wed December 4, 2013 2:46 pm

President Obama tried Wednesday to turn the conversation back to the economy, calling the growing income gap the "defining challenge of our time."

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It's All Politics
10:53 am
Wed December 4, 2013

Poll: Support For Obama Among Young Americans Eroding

President Obama speaks at a town hall meeting at Binghamton University in Vestal, N.Y., in August.
Mike Groll AP

Originally published on Wed December 4, 2013 12:48 pm

After voting for him in large numbers in 2008 and 2012, young Americans are souring on President Obama.

According to a new Harvard University Institute of Politics poll, just 41 percent of millennials — adults ages 18-29 — approve of Obama's job performance, his lowest-ever standing among the group and an 11-point drop from April.

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Politics
3:03 am
Wed December 4, 2013

Loophole Or Workaround? (Food Stamp Edition)

Spencer Platt Getty Images

Originally published on Wed December 4, 2013 1:39 pm

In the debate over whether to cut the food stamp program, members of Congress are looking at two pretty arcane provisions in the law. People who want to cut food stamps call the provisions loopholes. People who don't want to cut food stamps say they're efficient ways to get benefits to those who need them most.

1. Categorical Eligibility

People who qualify for one means-tested program — like welfare — can automatically qualify for other programs — like food stamps. This is called "categorical eligibility."

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Politics
3:03 am
Wed December 4, 2013

Federal Health Insurance Website Features 'Reset' Button

Originally published on Wed December 4, 2013 5:03 am

The Obama administration is renewing its sales push for the president's signature health care law. On Wednesday, officials host a "youth summit" at the White House, where young people will be encouraged to sign up for insurance coverage. Their participation is crucial to help balance out the cost of insuring older, sicker people.

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