White House

As President Obama prepares for the State of the Union address tonight, some Democratic members of Congress are opposing one of the White House’s proposals.

On the education front, President Obama's State of the Union address is likely to focus on three big proposals:

First, the president wants to talk about the idea he floated last week of making community college tuition-free. This is new.

The plan would benefit about 9 million full- and part-time students and would cost the federal government about $60 billion over 10 years. According to the administration's numbers, that would account for three-fourths of the total cost. States and community colleges would come up with the rest.

President Obama begins his seventh year in office Tuesday facing a Congress where both the House and Senate are in the hands of the opposition party. He shares this in common with every other president fortunate enough to even have a seventh year in office since the 1950s.

Dwight Eisenhower in 1959, Ronald Reagan in 1987, Bill Clinton in 1999 and George W. Bush in 2007 all climbed the rostrum for this late-in-the-game challenge looking out at majorities of the other party in both chambers.

President Obama delivers his State of the Union address tonight and is expected to focus on the state of the economy and its impact on the middle class.

John Cruden served with U.S. Special Forces in Vietnam, taking his law school aptitude test in Saigon and eventually becoming a government lawyer.

Earlier this month, he started a new job running the environment and natural resources division at the Justice Department. For Cruden, 68, the new role means coming home to a place where he worked as a career lawyer for about 20 years.

Cruden has been around long enough to have supervised the Exxon Valdeez spill case, a record-setter. That is, until the Deepwater Horizon exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

During a joint press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron, President Obama warned Congress that if it passed further sanctions against Iran, he would veto them.

The two leaders, speaking to the press after a series of bilateral meetings, stood shoulder to shoulder on all the issues that came before them. Cameron said that on Iran, he had been calling U.S. senators to tell them he didn't think new sanctions would work against Iran.

Val Kerry / Creative Commons

Last month, the Senate Intelligence Committee Report released their report examining the CIA’s use of enhanced interrogation after 9/11.

They found that the CIA was using harsher forms of torture that yielded less useful information than we were led to believe.

California Senator Dianne Feinstein, Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee said, "Detainees were subjected to the most aggressive techniques immediately. They were stripped naked, diapered, physically struck, and put in various painful stress positions for long periods of time."  

Sometime in March, Barack Obama is expected to announce his choice of the institution that will hold his presidential archive. Vying for the honor (and the money that comes with it) are the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Chicago, Columbia University in New York, and the University of Hawaiʻi (the Hawaiian language spelling of the state's name).

Updated at 4:48 p.m. ET

President Obama is expected to lay out plans today intended to make it easier for cities, towns and rural communities to offer their citizens fast and cheap broadband Internet.

This week, in the lead up to his State of the Union address, President Obama is talking about cybersecurity — how to ensure our safety in the digital world.

Marquette University Law School

Yale Law School professor Tracey Meares is a member of President Obama's Task Force on 21st Century Policing, which meets for the first time publicly on Tuesday.

Alan Gross, the former USAID subcontractor who spent five years in a Cuban prison before his release last week, will get $3.2 million from the federal government, part of a settlement with the Maryland-based company for which he worked at the time of his arrest.

The U.S. Agency for International Development, in a statement, said it had finalized a settlement, agreed to in principle in November, with Development Alternatives, Inc.

In what his staff is calling a precautionary measure, former President George H.W. Bush was taken to a hospital in Houston by ambulance Tuesday night after experiencing shortness of breath.

Bush, 90, is being kept at Houston Methodist Hospital for observation, his staff says.

Pete Souza / White House

President Barack Obama claimed an array of successes in 2014, citing lower unemployment, a rising number of Americans covered by health insurance, and an historic diplomatic opening with Cuba. 

Two days after the U.S. and Cuba decided to end a more than 50-year estrangement, the natural question is: What's next?

On Morning Edition, NPR's Michelle Kelemen reports that the process of normalizing diplomatic relations will be pretty straight forward and is likely to be done quickly.

"We can do that via an exchange of letter or notes. It doesn't require a formal sort of legal treaty or agreement," Roberta Jacobson, assistant secretary of state for the western hemisphere, said during a briefing on Thursday.

United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions

The White House says the devastating cyber attack on Sony Pictures was done with "malicious intent" and was initiated by a "sophisticated actor" but it would not say if that actor was North Korea.

Spokesman Josh Earnest says the matter is still under investigation.

"Regardless of who is found to be responsible for this, the president considers it to be a serious national security matter," Earnest says.

American Alan Gross, who spent five years in a Cuban prison before his release today as a humanitarian gesture, said "it's good to be home," and that he hoped the U.S. and Cuba move past their "mutually belligerent" policies.

"Two wrongs never made a right," Gross said in Washington shortly after he returned to the U.S. aboard a government plane.

Gross appeared frail but cheerful. Some of his front teeth were missing.

Gross thanked President Obama and his national security team for working toward his freedom.

Updated at 2:39 p.m. ET

President Obama announced today the most significant change in U.S. policy toward Cuba in more than 50 years, paving the way for the normalization of relations and the opening of a U.S. Embassy in Havana.

Obama said "we will end an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interests and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries."

With news that the United States will work toward re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba and easing the embargo, there is already talk about the reaction in the Cuban-American community.

In political terms, this is a major voting bloc in the hugely important swing state of Florida.

Earlier this month, after the events in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, N.Y, the White House announced the creation of what it's calling a Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

The group's job is to find ways to strengthen the relationship between police and the public, and to share recommendations with the president by late February.

A job that's been open in President Obama's administration since July of 2013 was finally filled Monday, as the Senate voted to confirm Vivek Murthy as America's new surgeon general.

The tally was 51-43, ending a confirmation process that began after Obama nominated Murthy to the post in November of 2013 — yes, that's one year ago.

Young women who are sexually assaulted are vastly unlikely to report those crimes to police, according to a newly released Justice Department report.

Even more striking, women ages 18 to 24 who are in college or trade school are less likely to report such incidents than those who aren't in school, despite the increasing number of sexual assault advocates and counselors on campus in recent years.

"The report is full of crap."

That's what former Vice President Dick Cheney told Fox News in an interview about a Senate investigation that found the Central Intelligence Agency used brutal techniques to interrogate terrorism suspects and then misled lawmakers, the White House and Congress about what they were doing.

Outgoing Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel landed in Iraq this morning. Hagel is scheduled to meet with Iraqi officials and U.S. commanders about the U.S.-led war against the so-called Islamic State.

This visit is of note because Hagel is the first secretary of defense to visit the country since President Obama ended American combat involvement in Iraq in 2011.

Since then, the U.S. has beefed up its military presence in Iraq to combat ISIS, which started an assault on the country over the summer.

The Obama administration released new guidelines today to ban racial profiling by federal law enforcement officers. The guidelines replace ones adopted by the Bush administration in 2003.

The new rules prohibit profiling based on race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, religion or sexual orientation and apply to federal officers, such as the FBI and Secret Service and any local law enforcement that work with them on task forces.

The visit of Britain's Prince William to Washington, D.C. has been greeted with the excitement reserved for celebrities in a town starved of real famous people (I mean, spotting Sen. Chuck Schumer at a restaurant can lead to breathless "spotted" tweeting). Folks are disappointed that his wife, Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, didn't make the trip down from New York City with him. But, this is D.C., and we'll take what we can get on an otherwise slow news morning.

Updated at 11:19 a.m.

President Obama named Ashton Carter, a former No. 2 Pentagon official, as his pick to succeed Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

Obama described Carter today as one of the "nation's foremost national security leaders."

"He was at the table in the situation room. He was by my side navigating complex security challenges that we were confronting," Obama said. I relied on his expertise and I relied on his judgment."

Carter called the nomination an "honor and a privilege."

Saying that several arms of the U.S. Department of Justice have been monitoring the inquiry into the death of Staten Island resident Eric Garner, Attorney General Eric Holder said, "the Justice Department will proceed with a federal civil rights investigation of Mr. Garner's death."

Holder promised an "independent, thorough, fair and expeditious investigation."

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