TIME White House

Obama Wants Federal Workers to Have More Family Time

President Barack Obama speaks at the first White House Summit on Working Families
President Barack Obama joins several working parents, (l-r) Roger Trombley, Lisa Rumain, and Shelby Ramirez for lunch at a nearby Chipotle restaurant prior to speakinging at the first White House Summit on Working Families at the Omni Hotel in Washington, June 23, 2014. Martin H. Simon—Corbis

Executive actions to work around Congress in an election year

President Barack Obama announced executive actions Monday that would give federal employees more flexibility to take time off to care for their families.

During a White House Summit on Working Families, Obama said it was time for business leaders and lawmakers to create work environments that respect employees’ lives outside the office. “Twenty-first century families deserve 21st-century workplaces,” Obama said Monday afternoon. “Our economy demands them because its going to help us compete.”

Obama accused Congress on stalling on policies that would benefit working families, and the executive actions he took Monday, while not far reaching, were his latest attempt to work around Capitol Hill in a midterm election year. Obama instructed government agencies to provide workers with the flexibility to take time off to care for sick family members, to take breaks to nurse, and to telecommute when necessary without running the risk of punishment.

“Many women can’t even get a paid day off to give birth,” Obama said . “That’s a pretty low bar.”

At the summit, business leaders and Democrats gathered to discuss policies that could benefit American workers, with CEOs from Johnson & Johnson and Goldman Sachs scheduled to appear alongside the President, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden. Democrats spent the day touting policies that have helped them maintain an advantage with women voters, but Obama said Monday that workplace issues—from workplace flexibility to raising the minimum wage—should not be thought of as issues that solely impact women.

“At a time when women are nearly half of our workforce,” Obama said. “Anything that makes life harder for women, makes life harder for families, and makes life harder for children. There’s no such thing as a women’s issue; this is a family issue. This is an American issue.”

More than 40% of mothers are the sole or primary breadwinners, and yet still make on average 77 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts, according to a U.S. Council of Economic Advisors report released ahead of the summit (conservatives have called the 77-cents figure misleading). Men, however, are spending more time as caregivers than ever before.

Republicans dismissed the summit as a political ploy for women voters ahead of the midterm elections.

“It’s unfortunate that President Obama and the Democrats see women only as an electoral opportunity,” Republican National Committee spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said in a statement. “How do we know this? President Obama could have held a bill signing ceremony instead of a politically-minded summit if he and Harry Reid would act on legislation to help working families that is being held up in the Senate.”

TIME Money

Americans Still Aren’t Saving for a Rainy Day

Lesson from the recession not learned

Families in the U.S. still don’t have a substantial amount of cash tucked away for a rainy day despite the beating the economy took in the Great Recession, according to a new survey.

The Financial Security Index from Bankrate.com shows half of American families have no savings or less than three month’s worth of expenses saved for emergencies. The survey’s findings, analysts note, haven’t changed since 2011, when the company first began inquiring about the saving habits of American families.

“Americans continue to show a stunning lack of progress in accumulating sufficient emergency savings,” said Greg McBride, Bankrate’s chief financial analyst.

Analysts say the recession—during which Americans lost about $16.4 trillion in household wealth by 2011—should have been a learning experience, but the struggle of juggling household expenses has left many without extra funds to put away.

Not all Americans are failing to save. About 23% of those surveyed have savings that will last them six months or more in case of a financial emergency—the recommended stash amount. What’s more, the majority of those saving big have larger incomes, though only about 46% of those making $75,000 or more have over six months worth of expenses stored away.

The website notes that while three to six months worth of savings may sound like a lot, starting small and increasing the amount being put away over time can pay off quickly.

TIME Theater

Newsies Is Leaving Broadway for a National Tour

The musical has fared better at the box office than the movie

The film flop turned Broadway hit Newsies will be ending its two-year run this summer, producers said Sunday, and will launch a national tour in the fall.

“Our last Broadway performance will be Aug 24,” said a post on the show’s Twitter feed. “Thank you for all the love & we hope to see you once more before we begin our tour this fall!”

Though the 1992 film flamed out at the box office, the musical has been a surprising success. It won Tony Awards for best choreography and best score in 2012, and has raked in a whopping $100 million so far. More than one million people have seen the show, the New York Times reports. The national tour that starts in October will take the show to 25 cities in 43 weeks, Entertainment Weekly reports.

“From our first performance, we have been humbled by the spontaneous and genuine outpouring of affection from fans and the theatre community alike,” Disney Theatrical Productions head Thomas Schumacher said in a statement. “When our tour launches in October, I’m thrilled that audiences across North America will be able to experience the adrenaline rush that is Newsies.”

TIME Baseball

A Major League Pitcher Wore a Protective Cap for the First Time

But his team lost

San Diego Padres relief pitcher Alex Torres became the first Major League Baseball pitcher to wear a protective cap over the weekend.

The league approved the bulky-looking headgear meant to protect against the impact of line drives to the head, and Torres ignored the jeers of his teammates as he made history during a Saturday evening game against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

“It could save our lives, if someone hits a ball to your head,” Torres told MLB.com. “I get it for free so, I’m just gonna use it to see how it feels.”

Torres entered the game in the 8th inning, giving up one run, one hit and two walks while also striking out two before the Padres lost 4-2. He said he didn’t think the new cap impacted his pitching.

The hat, which looks a bit like a stylized T-ball helmet, was designed by IsloBox and approved by the league in January. The hat is designed with padded sides to absorb the impact of a ball to the head. Torres said he decided to wear the hat after seeing Tampa Bay Rays’ pitcher Alex Cobb get hit in head during a game last year. At the time, Torres played for the Rays. On Sunday, Cobb told Fox Sports he thought his former teammate’s decision to wear the hat was admirable.

”He’s wearing the MLB one? That’s cool. That’s cool,” Cobb said. “It was out there for somebody to be the first person to do it.”

TIME Military

Bowe Bergdahl Moves to Outpatient Care

Bergdahl Being Treated At U.S. Military Hospital In Germany
In this undated image provided by the U.S. Army, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl poses in front of an American flag. U.S. Army/Getty Images

Soldier freed in prisoner swap with Taliban continuing recovery

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has been moved from a hospital to an outpatient care facility in Texas, the military said Sunday, as he continues to recuperate from five years in Taliban captivity.

Bergdahl, who was released May 31 in a deal that also freed five Taliban leaders, was being treated at Brook Army Medical Center in San Antonio but is now at an outpatient facility at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston. The military said Bergdahl is slowly being exposed to more people and increasing social interaction, with the hope that he can return to some semblance of normal life soon.

“His reintegration process continues with exposure to more people and a gradual increase of social interactions,” the Army said in a statement. “Debriefings and counseling from Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) psychologists continue to ensure he progresses to the point where he can return to duty.”

The Taliban captured Bergdahl in June 2009, after he intentionally left his outpost in Afghanistan in the middle of the night. Though many have called him a deserter, the Army is still investigating the circumstances of his departure from base.

TIME State Department

State Department: Malaysia, Thailand Aren’t Doing Enough Against Human Trafficking

Malaysia, Thailand and Venezuela have not made a substantial effort in the fight against human trafficking over the past year, the U.S. State Department said in a report released Friday.

The State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons report ranks countries in terms of the efforts to put a stop to the practice of forcing humans to labor against their will. Thailand, Malaysia, and Venezuela’s status was automatically downgraded this year because they have been on a State Department human trafficking watch list for over four years and have not improved.

Thailand is among the worst offenders, according to the State Department. Recent news reports have highlighted widespread trafficking in the Thai fishing sector, where tens of thousands of migrants have been forced to work on fishing boats often without contracts or stable wages. Many others have been pushed into Thailand’s illegal sex trade.

Ambassador Luis CdeBaca from the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons said Thursday that although the U.S. government has worked well with members of the Thai government, overall there’s a general sense of complicity that his office can’t overlook.

“The widespread official complicity in human trafficking that continues to hinder their performance against sex trafficking and forced labor—the government as a whole did not demonstrate serious efforts to address that,” CdeBaca said on a conference call.

Though the Thai government reportedly paid a U.S. public relations firm $51,000 a month to help it boost its rating on the State Department report, the U.S. downgraded the country to the bottom tier, where it stands alongside 23 others including North Korea, Iran, Russia, China, Libya and Cuba. The 23 countries that were placed in the report’s lowest tier could face U.S. government sanctions on non-humanitarian, non-trade-related aid.

Issues similar to those identified in Thailand were also found in Venezuela and Malaysia, which also had their trafficking status downgraded by the State Department. According to the report, the Venezuelan government didn’t provide updated trafficking data, though its level of anti-trafficking enforcement efforts was about the same as in 2013. Meanwhile, the State Department found that Malaysia failed to adequately prosecute traffickers and protect victims.

Despite the downgrades of a handful of countries, several others, including Afghanistan, Chad and Honduras, saw their status boost as a result of a renewed focus on trafficking. The U.S., meanwhile, remains among the top-ranked nations in terms of combatting trafficking, despite the growing attention on the problem of trafficking in the country and the treatment of victims within the criminal justice system.

“While the U.S. goes overseas and judges other countries on their commitment to trafficking, we also have to be critical and take an honest look at the conditions and the commitment of our government here at home,” Melysa Sperber, Director of the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking, told TIME.

TIME Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: June 20

Capitol
The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

In the News: Iraqi forces preparing for battle; House leadership shakeup—Tea Party gets a seat; Criminal scheme will haunt Gov. Scott Walker; Pope Francis says no to legalized pot; and Detroit's getting $195 million

  • “Iraqi forces were massing north of Baghdad on Friday, aiming to strike back at Sunni Islamists whose drive toward the capital prompted the United States to send military advisers to stiffen government resistance.” [Reuters] ICYMI: Obama sending special forces to Iraq
  • An American attack on ISIS could mean retaliation back home [TIME]
  • Ukraine said to unveil peace plan as clashes intensify [USA Today]
  • Tea Party gets a seat in House leadership [TIME]
  • Conservatives not satisfied with House GOP outcome [The Hill]
  • Planned trips test Chris Christie’s 2016 politics [WSJ]
  • More on Gov. Christie from Esquire: Prosecutor closing in on Gov. Christie
  • “Prosecutors allege Gov. Scott Walker was at the center of an effort to illegally coordinate fundraising among conservative groups to help his campaign and those of Republican state senators facing recall elections during 2011 and 2012, according to documents unsealed Thursday.” [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]
  • “Criminal scheme” will haunt Scott Walker [TIME]
  • Another governor preparing for 2016? Rick Perry [TIME]
  • Brian Schweitzer: “I recently made a number of stupid and insensitive remarks to a reporter from the National Journal. I am deeply sorry and sincerely apologize for my carelessness and disregard,” the Democrat posted to his Facebook page Thursday afternoon. [Politico]
  • Same-sex couples getting more federal benefits [TIME]
  • Cochran asking blacks to save him in Republican primary [NYT]
  • Pope Francis says no to legalizing marijuana [AP]
  • “Gov. Rick Snyder will travel to the Globe building in Detroit on Friday to sign a package of bills that will send $194.5 million to Detroitto help the city emerge from bankruptcy.” [Detroit Free Press]

The Morning Must Reads are published daily on weekdays.

TIME Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: June 19

Capitol
The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

In the news: Iraq battle for oil refinery continues; Ukraine fighting separatists amid broken truce; looks like Brian Schweitzer just botched his chance at a Democratic nomination; it might be the perfect time for a Redskins name change; and this week's TIME

  • Battle for Iraq refinery as U.S. hesitates to strike [Reuters]
  • Harry Reid: Never take advice from Dick Cheney on wars [ABC News]
  • Will Afghanistan be Iraq redux? [Politico]
  • “Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian separatists were locked in fierce fighting in the east of Ukraine on Thursday after rebels rejected a call to lay down their arms in line with a peace plan proposed by President Petro Poroshenko, government forces said.” [Reuters]
  • Investors focus on Yellen’s message, not Fed forecast [Bloomberg]
  • Rick Perry’s ‘Groundhog Day’ [NYT]
  • Looks like Brian Schweitzer just messed up his chances of a Democratic nomination [TIME]
  • The unified theory of Hillary Clinton [National Journal]
  • “One word – ‘Iraq’ – was never mentioned at former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s official portrait unveiling with Secretary of State John Kerry.” [Politico]
  • “With House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) expected to easily ascend on Thursday to the Majority Leader role being vacated by Eric Cantor (Va.) in July, the scramble by the three candidates hoping to replace McCarthy dominated the Capitol’s marble halls on Wednesday.” [Washington Post]
  • ” … the departure of Mr. Cantor, who had positioned himself as the inevitable successor to Mr. Boehner, significantly altered the dynamic of future House Republican leadership politics. The coming months will determine who can emerge as heir apparent to Mr. Boehner in the absence of Mr. Cantor and get established as the new voice and face of the House majority.” [NYT]
  • House panel tells CEO that GM’s not fixed yet [USA Today]
  • Former envoy pipes up conservative chorus of ‘told you so’ on Iraq [NYT]
  • Republicans are talking differently about climate change [National Journal]
  • It’s time for the Redskins to change their name—or be buffoons [TIME]

What’s prettier in print: This week’s TIME

TIME Congress

Gabby Giffords Throws First Pitch at Congressional Women’s Softball Game

Giffords threw the first pitch at the 6th annual Congressional women's softball game

Former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords threw out the first pitch at a Congressional Women’s softball game on Wednesday. The annual match, which pits Republican and Democratic Congresswomen against women in the Washington, D.C. Press Corps, is an effort to raise money for young women battling breast cancer.

Giffords said Wednesday she was “honored” to return to the field to toss out the first pitch, having been a member of the first-ever Congressional Women’s Softball game. Giffords retired from Congress and in effect, the team, after been injured in a shooting in Tucson in 2011.

“Every year, this game is a shining example of how women leaders in Congress – Republicans and Democrats – can come together to take on the women of the Washington Press Corps and, most importantly, raise funds and awareness for young women with breast cancer,” Giffords said, MSNBC reported.

After tossing out the pitch, Giffords took to Twitter to taunt rapper 50 cent, whose awful pitch at a Mets game went viral in May. Baller.

 

TIME Television

True Blood: The Musical Could Actually Be a Thing You Get to See

The hit HBO show's composer Nathan Barr told the AP he's already pitched a musical idea to HBO, True Blood creators

True Blood may be ending for good after Season 7 wraps this year, but the hit HBO series may live on still–as a musical.

Composer Nathan Barr, who has scored Alan Ball’s campy, supernatural swamp-drama, said he pitched Ball with the idea for True Blood: The Musical, which would be centered on the show’s protagonist, Sookie Stackhouse (currently portrayed by Anna Paquin). The Associated Press reported that Stephen Moyer, who plays Sookie’s love interest, vampire Bill Compton, is already on board.

And Barr could present a workshop version as early as next year. Barr said the musical will get back to the roots of the hit show about a small-town southern faerie waitress whose life is packed with vampires, werewolves and other nefarious creatures. The show is based on the books by Charlaine Harris.

“There’s no guarantees,” Barr told the AP at Tuesday night’s Hollywood premiere for the final season. “But I think the direction we’re heading in is really exciting.”

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