Politics

Political news from WNPR

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked the United States and President Barack Obama for aiding Israel during a speech to Congress on Tuesday. He also warned of the threat that Iran poses to Israel’s survival.

The world must unite in order to “stop Iran’s march of conquest, subjugation, and terror,” Netanyahu said.

Updated at 2:09 p.m. ET

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said a deal the U.S. and its allies are pursuing with Iran over its nuclear program is "very bad" because, according to him, it doesn't take away the Islamic republic's ability to ultimately obtain nuclear weapons.

"This is a bad deal — a very bad deal," Netanyahu told a joint meeting of Congress today. "We're better off without it."

Following issues at polling places in Hartford this past Election Day, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill is proposing to scrap Connecticut’s partisan registrar system. But, the ideas are being met with opposition.

Updated at 12:15 p.m. ET.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., who has served in the Senate and in Congress longer than any other woman, says she will not seek a sixth term in 2016.

Mikulski, 78, announced her decision Monday in Baltimore.

" 'Do I spend my time raising money, or do I spend my time raising hell?' " she said she asked herself, according to The Associated Press.

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Last week’s Congressional wrangling over Homeland Security funding temporarily ended House debates in Washington on the GOP’s version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also known as No Child Left Behind.  

Republicans would take away much of the federal government’s authority over how states and local school districts spend federal education dollars. Some conservative critics say the bill doesn't go far enough in scaling back the federal role in education.

Democratic Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro spoke out last week against the GOP version of the bill.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that while the U.S. and Israel agree that Iran should not get nuclear weapons, they disagree about how to stop the Islamic republic. But, he tells the 2015 American Israel Public Affairs Committee Policy Conference in Washington, reports of a decline in U.S.-Israeli relations are "not only premature, they're just wrong."

Netanyahu says his planned speech to Congress on Tuesday is not intended to be a slight to President Obama. "I have great respect for both" Obama and the office that he holds," he says.

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Quinnipiac University faces a $150-a-day fine, with the Hamden Planning and Zoning Commission accusing it of violating a 2006 housing agreement that led to construction of the York Hill campus. 

The city council in Springfield, Massachusetts is expected to give final approval Monday to an ordinance restricting public officials from obtaining casino jobs.

Jeff Cohen / WNPR

Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra is boasting about his record in fundraising emails to potential donors, saying the city's "graduation rates have more than doubled since I took office."

It sounds good. But it's not true. 

Office of Gov. Dannel Malloy

Governor Dannel Malloy is naming a U.S. Army reservist and ethics officer for Pratt and Whitney to oversee Connecticut's Department of Veterans Affairs. Malloy announced the appointment of Lt. Colonel Sean Connolly on Thursday afternoon.

The Federal Communications Commission approved the policy known as net neutrality by a 3-2 vote at its Thursday meeting, with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler saying the policy will ensure "that no one — whether government or corporate — should control free open access to the Internet."

The Open Internet Order helps to decide an essential question about how the Internet works, requiring service providers to be a neutral gateway instead of handling different types of Internet traffic in different ways — and at different costs.

"Today is a red-letter day," Wheeler said Thursday.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill wants to change the way Connecticut runs its elections, having one professional registrar oversee elections in each city and town. 

Current state law provides for two registrars in every town: one Republican, one Democrat. But Hartford's failure last year to get all of the polls open in time for voting enraged officials across the state. 

Chion Wolf / WNPR

A miscalculation announced by state budget chief Ben Barnes this week has pushed over the state's spending cap by $54.5 million, putting the proposed budget in the red only a few days after it was announced by Governor Dannel Malloy.

Updated at 5:45 p.m.

Secretary of State John Kerry sharply criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's "judgment" on talks with Iran on its nuclear program — the latest Obama administration official wading into the controversy stirred by the Israeli leader's planned talk to Congress on March 3 on the dangers posed by the Islamic republic.

James McCauley / Creative Commons

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a newspaper column about the Brian Williams debacle, except it really wasn't about that. It's about the way a relatively small story about a lie told by a news anchor seems to be the only national conversation we can have about our role in Iraq.

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Governor Dannel Malloy announced his two-year budget plan last week, and everything has been a mess ever since. The proposed budget would hurt social services and cause potential layoffs at UCONN, a situation that drew star basketball players to testify at the Capitol.  

On Tuesday, we learned that a SNAFU with accounting sets Malloy's proposed budget more than $50 million over the state's spending cap for the next fiscal year. That might be more cuts. OPM Secretary Ben Barnes issued a formal (somewhat confusing) apology.  

The city council in Springfield, Massachusetts is poised to approve a casino ethics ordinance, but the city’s mayor has been silent so far on the issue.

The Springfield City Council is expected to give final approval at its next regular meeting to an ordinance that would put restrictions on public officials obtaining jobs at the new MGM casino being built in the city.  Supporters say it is intended to foster public trust in the municipal decision making surrounding the casino project.

Updated at 4:04 p.m. ET

The White House has notified the Senate that President Obama has, as promised, vetoed congressional legislation to approve the Keystone XL pipeline project.

"Through this bill, the United States Congress attempts to circumvent longstanding and proven processes for determining whether or not building and operating a cross-border pipeline serves the national interest," Obama said in the notification to the Senate.

Updated at 1:05 p.m. ET.

The head of Veterans Affairs has apologized for misrepresenting his military record, after telling a man that he had served in the U.S. Special Forces. Secretary Robert McDonald says he made a mistake.

The story drew attention late Monday, weeks after McDonald, an Army veteran and West Point graduate, made the claim during a conversation with a homeless man he met during a community outreach effort.

NPR's Quil Lawrence reports:

In a claim that's meeting with skepticism in Kiev, Russian-backed separatists say they've started to withdraw heavy weapons in eastern Ukraine, as required by a recent cease-fire. Ukraine's military says separatist attacks are ongoing.

The development comes after Russia's President Vladimir Putin said he thinks a war with Ukraine would be "apocalyptic" — but that the area is now on a path to stability, after the recent Minsk agreement.

Extremist fighters from the self-proclaimed Islamic State, or ISIS, have kidnapped "at least" 90 Assyrian Christians in northeastern Syria, according to a monitoring group. The claim emerges from an area recently targeted by coalition attacks.

Alaska's voter initiative making marijuana legal takes effect Tuesday, placing Alaska alongside Colorado and Washington as the three U.S. states where recreational marijuana is legal. The new law means people over age 21 can consume small amounts of pot — if they can find it. It's still illegal to sell marijuana.

"You can still give people marijuana, but you can't buy it — or even barter for it," Alaska Public Media's Alexandra Gutierrez reports. "So, it's a pretty legally awkward spot. That probably won't stop people from acquiring it, though."

Chion Wolf / WNPR

The General Assembly's budget-writing committee is beginning its work on a response to the two-year, nearly $40 billion tax-and-spending proposal offered by Governor Dannel Malloy.

The Appropriations Committee was scheduled to hold its first public hearing about the Democratic governor's plan on Tuesday evening. Additional public hearings and budget presentations from state agencies were planned throughout the week. 

After Superstorm Sandy in 2012, Kathy Hanlon's life crumbled. Her Long Beach, N.Y., home had no electricity, her family was traumatized and one of her sons was getting sick. On top of that, there was the bureaucratic maze of flood insurance.

"I cried many times because I was so angry when I got off the phone with the insurance company," Hanlon says. "It was demeaning. We had to send them things repeatedly. We had to wait for phone calls. We had to wait for people to come visit the house."

Looking to take back a city that has high strategic and symbolic value, the Iraqi military will launch an offensive against fighters from the self-proclaimed Islamic State in the coming months, a senior U.S. military official says.

NPR's Tom Bowman reports:

"A U.S. Central Command official told reporters at the Pentagon that the military operation to retake Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, will be in the April-May timeframe, and this operation will involve an estimated 20,000-25,000 Iraqi soldiers.

British fighter jets scrambled from their base on Wednesday after two Russian long-range bombers skirted the coast of Cornwall, in the southwest of England. The incident comes one day after British Foreign Secretary Michael Fallon warned about Russia's intentions in Europe.

DoNo Hartford LLC

The developers of the new minor league baseball stadium in Hartford are also building apartments around the venue. They're looking for ways to make some of those units accessible to people with lower incomes. 

Officials held a ceremonial groundbreaking earlier this week for the baseball stadium. Soon, across the street, the work to build the retail, residential, and entertainment project will begin. 

Chris Reed/iStock / Thinkstock

As part of his $40 billion biennial budget proposal, Governor Dannel Malloy wants to move more than 1,500 positions from the judicial branch's court support services to the Departments of Correction and Children and Families.

The proposal is part of the governor's "second chance society" initiative to change the state's drug laws so non-violent offenders have a better chance of re-integrating into society. Reforms include making certain non-violent offenses misdemeanors, and eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for drug possession.

Just a little more than a month since Boston was chosen to become the next American city to put together an Olympic bid, Bostonians seem to be getting cold feet.

A poll commissioned by NPR member station WBUR found that a plurality of Bostonians (46 percent) "oppose the idea of bringing the Olympic Games to the Boston region in 2024."

WBUR's Asma Khalid tells our Newscast unit that just 44 percent of those polled support the bid.

Jessica Hill / Associated Press

Governor Dannel Malloy has unveiled his biennial budget, a document aimed at closing yawning gaps projected in state finances in the next two fiscal years.

The governor wants to achieve this with a package of spending cuts and a reform of tax codes that will net the state government more revenue. “The budget I present to you is filled with tough choices,” the governor told the legislature. “All told, my proposal contains more than $590 million in cuts to the current services budget.”

Most of those cuts come in the areas of social services and higher education. While there will be no layoffs of state employees, the administration will implement what it termed an “aggressive” hiring freeze, aiming to shrink the workforce by attrition by several hundred positions over two years.

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