TIME Foreign Policy

Obama Restates Support of Israel in Synagogue Speech

President Barack Obama delivers remarks in celebration of Jewish American Heritage Month at Adas Israel Congregation May 22, 2015 in Washington, D.C.
Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images President Barack Obama delivers remarks in celebration of Jewish American Heritage Month at Adas Israel Congregation May 22, 2015 in Washington, D.C.

President Obama sought to reassure American Jews that he fully supports the state of Israel while reiterating the need for a two-state solution at a Northwest Washington synagogue on Friday.

“Our commitment to Israel’s security and my commitment to Israel’s security is and always will be unshakable,” Obama said, adding that not doing so would be a “moral failing.”

Obama spoke at the Adas Israel Synagogue on the inaugural “solidarity sabbath,” a holiday meant to consolidate support for Jews amid rising anti-Semitism that falls toward the end of Jewish Heritage Month. On Friday, lawmakers were slated to appear in congregations across the country to mark the day.

In the wake of attack at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a string of anti-Semitic attacks across Europe, there’s been growing attention to the persecution of Jews across the world. Obama noted that the rise of anti-semitism should not be treated as “passing fad.”

“When we allow anti-Semitism to take root, our souls are destroyed,” Obama said. “It will spread.”

The statements follow a wide-ranging interview published by The Atlantic on Thursday, in which President Obama stressed his love for the Jewish state of Israel, telling commentator Jeffrey Goldberg that supporting the rights of Jews abroad is equivalent to supporting the freedom of African-Americans at home.

“There’s a direct line between supporting the right of the Jewish people to have a homeland and to feel safe and free of discrimination and persecution, and the right of African Americans to vote and have equal protection under the law,” he said. “These things are indivisible in my mind.”

On Friday, he reiterated those sentiments, reflecting on his own introduction to the Israeli community. “For a young man like me grappling with his own identity, Obama said, “the idea that you could be grounded in your history as Israel was but not be trapped by it. That idea was liberating”

Obama’s statements to Goldberg and before the congregation at Adas Israel on Friday come amid nuclear negotiations Iran that have put strain on one of the U.S.’ closest relationships. But he made clear Friday that criticism is not going to change his mind.

“I want Israel, in the same way that I want the United States, to embody the Judeo-Christian and, ultimately then, what I believe are human or universal values that have led to progress over a millennium,” he told Goldberg.

And on Friday, before a crowd in a packed synagogue where the rabbi called him a “champion of freedom,” Obama sought to reassure the congregation that he could be both a friend and a critic of Israel.

“It’s precisely because I care so deeply … that I feel a responsibility to speak out honestly about what I feel,” he said.

TIME politics

Senator Says Republican Plan If Obamacare Struck Down Is ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Junior United States Senator from Connecticut Chris Murphy addresses journalists in Budapest on Jan. 31, 2014.
Attila Kisbenedek—AFP/Getty Images Junior United States Senator from Connecticut Chris Murphy addresses journalists in Budapest on Jan. 31, 2014.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the Affordable Care Act this summer

A Democratic Senator used a popular Internet symbol on Thursday to describe what he says is the Republican plan should the Supreme Court strike down the Affordable Care Act.

Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy presented a poster with an enlarged image of the “shruggie”, or ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, during his speech. Murphy said the image was a “pretty good summary of what the Republicans plan is to respond to King v. Burwell.

“The Republicans plan,” Murphy said, “is essentially a shrug of the shoulders.”

The court is expected to issue a ruling this summer. Watch the full clip below.

Read next: 4 Ways the Supreme Court Could Rule on Obamacare

TIME Education

Mom Attends High School Graduation in Late Son’s Place

A Chicago area woman sat among students at Thornton Fractional North High School's graduation in honor of her son who died in a car crash

A mother mourning the loss of her son took his place at the high school graduation ceremony on Wednesday that he was supposed to attend.

Katherine Jackson’s son, 18-year-old Aaron Dunigan, died in a weekend car crash in suburban Chicago after his senior prom, NBC Washington reports. Dunigan was the passenger in a vehicle that crossed over a median and collided with another car; the driver of the car Dunigan rode in was charged with DUI causing death, as well as reckless homicide with a motor vehicle.

On Wednesday, Jackson took her son’s spot among the graduates of Thornton Fractional North High School and walked the stage to receive his diploma.

“[My son] knows his mom never walked the stage,” she said. “I’m going to be his legs and he’s going to be my wings and we’re going to go up there and get our diploma.”

Dunigan, a quarterback, was set to play football at Southern Illinois University in the fall.

[NBC Washington]

TIME movies

Reese Witherspoon to Star in Live-Action Tinker Bell Movie

Reese Witherspoon visits "The Late Show with David Letterman" at the Ed Sullivan Theater on May 5, 2015 in New York City.
Donna Ward—Getty Images Reese Witherspoon visits "The Late Show with David Letterman" at the Ed Sullivan Theater on May 5, 2015 in New York City.

The 39-year-old actress will produce and play the lead in Tink

One of Disney’s most beloved fairies will come to life in a live-action feature and Reese Witherspoon will be its star.

The 39-year-old actress, whose film with Sofia Vergara called Hot Pursuit recently hit theaters, will produce and star in Tink as the fiery character known for her love of the boy who would not grow up, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Victoria Strouse, who is also working on a Finding Dory sequel for the beloved Pixar film Finding Nemo, is writing the script.

Read more at The Hollywood Reporter.

TIME celebrities

Josh Duggar Responds to Child Molestation Claims: ‘I Acted Inexcusably’

19 Kids and Counting star responds to accusations

Josh Duggar, the eldest son in the family chronicled in TLC’s series 19 Kids and Counting, has spoken out after it emerged he had been accused of child molestation in the past.

“Twelve years ago, as a young teenager, I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret. I hurt others, including my family and close friends,” Duggar, who was accused as a teenager of molesting five underage girls, told PEOPLE in a statement. “I confessed this to my parents who took several steps to help me address the situation.”

Duggar, 27, who has since resigned from his role at the Family Research Council, said his parents took him to the authorities and later arranged for him and his victims to receive counseling. In a statement to PEOPLE, his parents, Jim Bob and Michelle, reaffirmed their support for their son and called the events “one of the most difficult times of our lives.”

“I would do anything to go back to those teen years and take different actions,” Duggar added. “I sought forgiveness from those I had wronged and asked Christ to forgive me and come into my life. In my life today, I am so very thankful for God’s grace, mercy and redemption.”

Read more at PEOPLE

TIME justice

Six Baltimore Officers Indicted in Freddie Gray’s Death

Gray died April 19, a week after his arrest

Six police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray have been indicted by a grand jury, Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby announced Thursday, the latest milestone in a case that brought riots and protests to the city and reignited the national debate over police force.

Gray, 25, died on April 19, a week after suffering a severe spinal injury in police custody after being arrested over a knife in West Baltimore. Mosby said Thursday that the charges against the officers—Caesar R. Goodson Jr., Garrett E. Miller, Edward M. Nero, William G. Porter, Brian W. Rice and Alicia D. White—were similar to what she had announced on May 1.

“As is often the case, during an ongoing investigation, charges can and should be revised based upon the evidence,” Mosby said, declining to take questions. Additional charges were brought against three officers, she said, while three others had a charge of false imprisonment dropped. A charge of reckless endangerment was added to the earlier charges against all six officers.

Goodson remains charged with the most serious of the charges against the officers, called second-degree depraved-heart murder.

Marc Zayon, who represents Nero, told the Baltimore Sun that he was “quite confident” of securing an acquittal after the charge of false imprisonment and one of the second-degree assault charges were dropped against his client.

Ivan Bates, one of White’s attorneys, told the Sun he “looks forward to trying this case against Mrs. Mosby herself and proving that Sgt. Alicia White is innocent.”

MORE: What Is ‘Depraved Heart Murder’?

Mosby said Gray’s injury occurred while he was being handcuffed and put head-first into a police van. She added that his pleas for aid were repeatedly ignored. Attorneys for the officers had previously called for Mosby to be dismissed from the case for what they claimed as potential conflicts of interest or bias. The Justice Department began a civil rights investigation into the city’s police department after Gray’s death.

In an interview with CNN, Maryland Democratic Senator Ben Cardin said he wasn’t surprised by Thursday’s announcement, adding, “Now it’s up to our court system to process this.”

Read next: Why Charges in the Freddie Gray Case Came Quickly

TIME Education

See the Best Advice Given to 2015 Graduates in Under 3 Minutes

From Michelle Obama, George W. Bush and more

Commencement speeches are chock full of inspiring words, delivered to students as they prepared for life in the real world. This year’s speeches were no different.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told the Tufts University class of 2015 that their graduation day was one of their most important life milestones. The others, she said, are “birth, death, marriage, and the day you pay off your student loans.” First Lady Michelle Obama told Tuskegee University’s graduating class to stay true to “the most real, most sincere, most authentic parts of yourselves.” And former President George W. Bush reminded the “C” students of Southern Methodist University that they, too, could one day become President.

These quirky quips are some of many gems thought leaders have dropped on graduating classes this commencement season. Watch the video above for more motivating words to graduating scholars.

Read more: 4 Commencement Speeches to Get You Through the Week

Read more: President Obama to Grads: We Should Invest in People Like You

TIME LGBT

Boy Scouts President Says Ban on Gay Leaders Not Sustainable

“The status quo in our movement’s membership standards cannot be sustained,” Robert Gates said Thursday

Boy Scouts President Robert Gates called for an end to the organization’s ban on gay adult leaders.

During a speech Thursday at the Boy Scouts’ annual national meeting in Atlanta, Gates said the ban is no longer sustainable and called for a change. Gates, who is the former U.S. Secretary of Defense, said the ban could lead to tough legal battles, the Associated Press reports

“The status quo in our movement’s membership standards cannot be sustained,” he said, though according to NBC News he did not announce a formal change on Thursday.

Though the Boy Scouts of America now accepts gay scouts, a ban on openly gay troop leaders remains in place. Some councils, including one in New York, have defied that ban by allowing openly gay leaders to serve, but the national ban is still in effect. Gates said Thursday that could change soon.

Gates’ statement is being well-received by those in the scouting community who have been pushing for a removal of the ban. Scouts for Equality executive director Zach Wahls said in a statement he was “proud” that Gates is “chartering a course towards full equality in BSA.”

“Dr. Gates has built his reputation on straight talk, and I’m glad he’s fully endorsing a re-evaluation of the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay adults,” said Wahls. “It seems like the Boy Scouts will continue an internal dialogue about the subject and that a full vote within the next year or two is imminent.”

GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis called it a good first step. “We are pleased that Roberts Gates has acknowledged what has always been true – this discriminatory ban needs to be dropped,” Ellis said in a statement. “There is much more left to be done until full equality prevails in Scouting, but recognizing how out of step the ban is with basic fairness is a good first step.”

TIME White House

Obama Steps Down From the Bully Pulpit

President Barack Obama eats lunch at Charmington's Cafe with Vika Jordan, Amanda Rothschild, and Mary Stein to discuss the needs of all Americans as they balance their families and jobs on Jan. 15, 2015 in Baltimore.
Kenneth K. Lam—Baltimore Sun/TNS/Getty Images President Barack Obama eats lunch at Charmington's Cafe with Vika Jordan, Amanda Rothschild, and Mary Stein to discuss the needs of all Americans as they balance their families and jobs on Jan. 15, 2015 in Baltimore.

Barack Obama, who rose to the White House on the strength of his speeches, will spend the twilight of his presidency having conversations.

The orator-in-chief will continue giving big set-piece speeches, such as Wednesday’s commencement address at the Coast Guard Academy tying climate change to national security. But with his agenda hemmed in by Congress and the public’s attention drifting towards his would-be successors, Obama is increasingly taking a more informal tack.

In January, he sat down with YouTube star GloZell Green, better known for a “cinnamon challenge” video. In April, he chatted about climate change with Bill Nye the Science Guy while on a tour of the Everglades. Earlier this month, he sat on a panel on poverty at Georgetown University with a Harvard professor and the head of a conservative think tank.

The White House says these are all part of an effort to come down from the bully pulpit and get into the pews.

“The President wants to spend the next year and a half not just talking at people but having a conversation with people and there are a range of ways to do that,” says Jennifer Psaki, the White House communications director.

She stressed that these more nontraditional interviews allow Obama to talk more at length about the issues he cares about, especially when the subject is not the lead story on cable news.

“There are many, many people who care deeply about climate change for example, but they may not be interested in reading the latest clip or watching the latest cable news piece about a debate on Capital Hill,” she adds. “They’re more interested in watching a clip or hearing more in depth discussion with the president of the United States about how to address this larger, bigger issue.”

The strategy also allows the White House to reach audiences that may not be tuning in to the news through more traditional outlets. When Obama went on comedian Zach Galifianakis’ web series Between Two Ferns last year to talk about insurance enrollment, some pundits clucked, but the White House noted that signups on HealthCare.gov spiked.

In many ways, Obama is just following the path of predecessors like Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy, who used radio and television in new ways to get their message out.

“Younger audiences receive information in different ways,” says Don Baer, CEO of strategic communications firm Burson-Marsteller and former Clinton White House communications director. “There is no need to stand on a lot of ceremony about that. At one point in our history, the presidential press conference was viewed as innovative, new and foreign. Today it’s one of the core staples of presidential communications.”

There is a downside, says Tevi Troy, president of the American Health Policy Institute and author of “What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched, and Obama Tweeted: 200 Years of Popular Culture in the White House.” The YouTube interview or the Top 40 radio station hit is not a presidential press conference, and the circumventing of the traditional media does not go unnoticed by the people of the White House press corps who constantly struggle for more access to the president.

“The number one downside is that the traditional media don’t like it,” Troy says. “And as president, that can impact the way they write about you.”

Still, Psaki insists the president’s conversations with bloggers and thought leaders do not signal that he’s completely done away with traditional speeches and interviews.

“It’s about expanding the scope of what you consider and also thinking about what your audience cares deeply about,” Psaki says. “How do you—not just talk at them, but also engage.”

TIME National Security

Obama Calls Climate Change a National Security Threat

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a commencement ceremony at Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown, S.D. on May 8, 2015.
Brendan Smialowski—AFP/Getty Images U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a commencement ceremony at Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown, S.D. on May 8, 2015.

Obama says the global change in climate will pose a direct threat to our military

President Obama is once again arguing that climate change is a threat to national security.

In a commencement address at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Wednesday, Obama noted the problems created by extreme weather, which scientists believe can be exacerbated by climate change. Members of the Coast Guard are often among the first responders during natural disasters such as hurricanes.

“You are part of the first generation of officers to begin your service in a world where the effects of climate change are so clearly upon us,” Obama told the class of 2015. “Climate change will shape how every one of our services plan, operate, train, equip, and protect their infrastructure, today and for the long term.”

During the speech in Connecticut, Obama said that an increase in natural disasters will lead to more humanitarian crises that pose direct threats to a nation’s stability. “More extreme storms will mean more humanitarian missions to deliver lifesaving help,” he said. “Our forces will have to be ready.”

The speech echoed statements presented in the White House National Security Strategy, which said extreme weather, rising tides and temperature shifts fights over scarce resources and diminishing coast lines that will have a stark impact on the global economy.

According to a White House report released Wednesday, the Department of Defense is currently examining the impact climate change can have on U.S. military bases. The Pentagon is also considering how much strain extreme weather places on the Coast Guard.

Wednesday’s speech is the latest Obama administration push to focus the nation’s attention on the threats of climate change. Obama has often said climate change is the greatest threat facing the world’s future generations. It was a sentiment he stressed during an Earth Day trip to the Florida Everglades where he said, “This is not a problem for another generation. It has serious implications for the way we live right now.”

Facing a skeptical Congress, Obama has relied on executive action in efforts to curb the effects of changing temperatures and rising seas. The U.S. has also pledged to a 28% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.

“Some warming is now inevitable,” Obama said Wednesday. “But there comes a point when the worst effects will be irreversible. And time is running out. And we all know what needs to happen. It’s no secret.”

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