Originally published on Tue January 28, 2014 2:35 pm
As President Obama prepares to deliver his State of the Union speech Tuesday evening, he does it against a backdrop of some of the lowest voter-approval ratings of his presidency, with a divided Congress that has largely stalled his second-term agenda and with Washington's collective focus starting to shift toward the midterm elections and beyond.
Here are five things to expect from the president in his fifth State of the Union speech:
Last year, The Pew Charitable Trusts analyzed the fiscal data for all 50 states. They used several markers to rank the states, including the amount of money in reserve funds, sometimes known as rainy day funds. Connecticut’s rainy day fund is among the lowest in the nation. The highest? Alaska.
This hour, we find out how states like Alaska got so far ahead, while Connecticut fell so far behind.
A federal grand jury is looking into the business dealings of Hartford insurance broker Earl O'Garro. And from the beginning, what raised eyebrows was the relationship between O'Garro and city Treasurer Adam Cloud -- O'Garro did business with Cloud's family.
Now, there's another development. A woman who was a paid campaign consultant for Cloud's 2011 campaign also got a job with Hybrid.
Originally published on Thu January 23, 2014 6:17 pm
The lone applicant for the western Massachusetts casino license pitched the project to state gaming industry regulators today. The 90-minute public presentation marked the beginning of an evaluation process that is expected to culminate with the awarding of a casino license in the spring.
MGM Resorts International CEO James Murran told the Massachusetts Gaming Commission that even though all competitors have fallen by the wayside, MGM’s Springfield project is the right choice to be awarded a lucrative casino license.
Shortly after protests began in Ukraine, Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy flew to Kiev and met with the anti-government demonstrators.
"The protesters are down there because they’re sick of seeing a government that too often resorts to violence, that has become endemic with corruption and is moving toward Russia instead of towards the European Union," said Murphy.
We hear more from Murphy about the recent, violent developments in the Kiev protests.
Originally published on Thu January 23, 2014 8:24 pm
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has less than 24 hours to agree to hold early elections and lift anti-protest laws or the tens of thousands of demonstrators who have been in the streets of Kiev for days will go "on the attack," a leader of the opposition says.
One in five women: that's the number of women who have been sexually assaulted in college, according to a new White House report. As NPR's Tamara Keith tells us, today, President Obama formally set up a task force that's charged with protecting students.
TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: President Obama made it clear that preventing sexual assault is personal for him.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This is a priority for me not only as president and commander in chief but as a husband and a father of two extraordinary girls.
If this snowstorm means a snow day, catch up on all the week's political news you may have missed. WNPR's weekly news roundtable The Wheelhouse will talk about the smoke-filled rooms of one political party and the mud slinging of another. Also, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it won't hear the appeal involving former governor and current radio talk show host John Rowland. It was a decision that didn't even surprise Rowland.
What stories are you catching up on during this snowstorm?
Originally published on Wed January 22, 2014 9:34 am
With a major push from the U.S., a new Syrian peace conference opened Wednesday in Switzerland, the first such effort since the middle of 2012. It wasn't easy getting everyone there, and it will be harder still to achieve a breakthrough.
Here are a few key things to know about the conference:
The U.S. Supreme Court has decided against review a lower court decision that involves former Governor John Rowland and state unions.
"In a statement, Rowland and his former budget director Marc Ryan said this: It is unfortunate that the Supreme Court is not taking this case. It will have a profound impact on Governors, Mayors, Boards of Education and taxpayers all across America."
The Connecticut Mirror has more.
The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear former Gov. John G. Rowland's appeal regarding a ruling that his administration used layoffs to punish state employee unions in 2003. The case now heads back to U.S. District Court in Hartford, where Rowland will file a motion to dismiss the case, according to a written statement released Monday through his attorney.
The debate over unemployment insurance has Congress in a deadlock. Those opposed to extending emergency benefits argue that doing so only promotes an "idle" class of jobless Americans. Those in favor say it's the only safety net the unemployed have in today’s difficult labor market.
The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Tuesday in an Illinois case that could drive a stake through the heart of public employee unions.
At issue are two questions: whether states may recognize a union to represent health care workers who care for disabled adults in their homes instead of in state institutions; and whether non-union members must pay for negotiating a contract they benefit from.
To understand why a growing number of states actually want to recognize unions to represent home health care workers, listen to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan:
I spent one night in the company of James Carville and Mary Matalin, in the course of being their onstage moderator at the Bushnell. My lasting impression was that these were two people whose primary loyalty was to each other. To an unusual degree, when there was down time, they wanted to be alone, together, door closed. I don't know how they sort out their extreme political differences, but I think the answer lies somewhere in what I just said.
President Obama has a new phrase he's been using a lot lately: "I've got a pen, and I've got a phone."
He's talking about the tools a president can use if Congress isn't giving him what he wants: executive actions and calling people together. It's another avenue the president is using to pursue his economic agenda.
If there was a consensus emanating from Congress Friday after President Obama's NSA reform speech, it was — not surprisingly — that Congress itself has a major role to play in the ultimate fix.
Whether from strong NSA supporters or agency critics, the reactions sounded similar: Congress intends to do much of the steering in the drive to overhaul the NSA's gathering of certain non-public information, especially consumer phone records, in the nation's counterterrorism efforts.
Even so, if you listened closely, you could hear the sound of politics in some of the reaction.
LISTEN: President Obama's national security address
(This post was most recently updated at 1:30 p.m. ET.)
Saying that "critics are right to point out that without proper safeguards, this type of program could be used to yield more information about our private lives," President Obama said Friday that he wants the National Security Agency to stop holding on to massive amounts of "metadata" about the phone calls and electronic communications of millions of people around the world.
Originally published on Fri January 17, 2014 9:51 am
President Obama is expected to announce Friday morning that he is "ordering a transition that will significantly change the handling of what is known as the telephone 'metadata' " that the National Security Agency collects, officials are telling Reuters and NPR.
The wire service, which broke the story, writes that:
Originally published on Fri January 17, 2014 2:34 pm
A committee tasked by the White House with reviewing U.S. electronic surveillance has come up with 46 proposed changes to National Security Agency spying practices. Here are arguments for and against five recommendations that President Obama may take up in a speech announcing policy changes Friday:
The recent appeals court ruling that overturned a FCC regulation requiring Internet Service Providers to treat all online services equally, known as “net neutrality,” may mean higher costs for Netflix and other online services.
But it also could have an upside for Netflix: the company may be able to pay to ensure that its content streams faster and in higher quality than its competition. Or the company can refuse to pay more money for high speed Internet.
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 Thu January 16, 2014 1:33 pm
The Justice Department is preparing to unveil new guidelines that ban racial, ethnic and religious profiling in federal investigations, a law enforcement source tells NPR.
The long-considered move by Attorney General Eric Holder could be announced by the end of January. Holder discussed the guidelines in general terms Wednesday in a meeting with New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio; a closed-door conversation that covered strategies for preventing crime "while protecting civil rights and civil liberties," a Justice Department spokesman said.