TIME Congress

Senators Introduce Bill To End Cuba Travel Ban

Young man wears shorts with the colors of the U.S. flag in Jaimanitas , Cuba, Jan. 2015.
Young man wears shorts with the colors of the U.S. flag in Jaimanitas, Cuba, Jan. 2015. Yuri Kozyrev—NOOR for TIME

A bipartisan group of eight senators was set to introduce legislation Thursday to lift all travel restrictions between the U.S. and Cuba. The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act, led by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), would lift onerous constraints on Americans visiting the Caribbean island nation

A bipartisan group of eight senators will introduce legislation Thursday to lift all travel restrictions between the U.S. and Cuba.

The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act, led by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), is co-sponsored by an equal number of Senate Democrats and Republicans, and would end onerous constraints on Americans wishing to travel to the Caribbean island.

It is the first move by Congress towards ending the embargo since Obama’s December announcement that he would begin normalizing relations with Cuba.

The bill, which is seen by supporters as an intermediate step to lifting the full embargo, is co-sponsored by Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), John Boozman (R-Arkansas), Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island), Tom Udall (D-New Mexico), Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) and Dick Durbin (D-Illinois).

The United States held face-to-face talks with Cuba last week to discuss how best to normalize relations. On Thursday, Cuban President Raul Castro added new demands to restore diplomatic relations, including the U.S. returning Guantanamo Bay.

 

TIME Congress

Watch John McCain Call Kissinger Protesters ‘Low-Life Scum’

He threatened to have them arrested

Sen. John McCain channeled his inner Clint Eastwood at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Thursday, calling protestors who broke in “disgraceful” and “low-life scum.”

The protesters began their demonstration as former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger entered to give his testimony in a hearing on national security and global concerns. For over one minute they chanted, “Arrest Henry Kissinger for war crimes,” until they were escorted away.

McCain, who chairs the committee, then apologized to Kissinger and the rest of the speakers, saying, “I have never seen anything as disgraceful and outrageous and despicable as the last demonstration that just took place.”

Watch the video here.

 

TIME Congress

Former CBS Reporter Takes Case Against Obama to Congress

Loretta Lynch Howard Sorority Sisters
Congresswoman Alma S. Adams posted this photo on Jan. 28, 2014. "Supporting Greensboro native, Loretta Lynch, in her confirmation hearing for U.S. Attorney General. #NC12" Alma S. Adams (@RepAdams) via Twitter

Sharyl Attkisson gets a large perch to project her lawsuit's claims

Former CBS correspondent Sharyl Attkisson, a high-profile plaintiff suing the Justice Department for alleged computer hacking, received a national audience on Thursday to project her claims before Congressmen who will chose her defendant’s successor.

As a witness before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is considering Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch, Attkisson broadly knocked the Obama Administration for punishing those who cross it.

“The message has already been received: if you cross the Administration with perfectly accurate reporting that they don’t like: you will be attacked and punished,” she said in her opening remarks. “You and your sources may be subjected to the kind of surveillance devised for enemies of the state.”

But Attkisson also repeated claims that she makes in her case: that forensic investigation confirm “intrusive, long-term remote surveillance” of her work. “That included keystroke monitoring, password capture, use of Skype to listen into audio and exfiltrate files, and more,” she said.

The Justice Department has repeatedly denied any effort to hack Attkisson. “To our knowledge, the Justice Department has never compromised Ms. Attkisson’s computers, or otherwise sought any information from or concerning any telephone, computer or other media device she may own or use,” the Department said in a statement in 2013.

Attkisson is seeking $35 million in damages, alleging that the Administration illegally monitored her work as she reported on the Benghazi attacks, Fast and Furious and Obamacare, according to reports.

The Washington Post reports that of the four witnesses called by Republicans, three are involved in lawsuits against the Administration.

As the hearing commenced, Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy objected to using the Lynch confirmation process as a forum for hearing unrelated grievances. “Barack Obama is not the nominee,” said Leahy. “That may come as a surprise to some who heard some of the questions [yesterday.] Eric Holder is not the nominee. Loretta Lynch, the daughter of Lorine and the Rev. Lorenzo Lynch, a U.S. Attorney twice unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate, one who has been applauded for her law enforcement work—that’s who is being called upon to consider.”

Lynch has gained the support of some senior Republicans, including Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, who called the nominee “exceptionally well qualified and a good person to boot” during the hearing.

 

TIME White House

See Air Force One’s Transformation Over 70 Years

The US Air Force recently announced a Boeing 747-8 would soon replace the current Air Force One — but from FDR to Obama, U.S. presidents have long flown in style

Huge gray warships used to be the primary way the United States showed its flag around the world. But there was only one problem with that: such flag-waving was limited to seaports, and the vessels’ bristling guns carried a decidedly military message.

In recent decades, the United States of America has waved its flag from the tail of Air Force One, the modified passenger plane that ferries the President and key pieces of his entourage around the globe. Its gleaming fuselage, with its white and light-blue livery, declares the American chief executive is in town, tending to the nation’s business.

Unlike warships, it can deliver the President to any city with a decent airport, at home or overseas, inland or otherwise. And its weapons—defensive in nature, consisting of electronic jammers, designed to thwart attacks, and flares fired from the plane to divert heat-seeking missiles—are hidden from public view.

TIME

Watch Fox’s Megyn Kelly School Mike Huckabee Over ‘Trashy Women’ Comments

"We're not only swearing, we're drinking, we're smoking, we're having premarital sex"

After Mike Huckabee said that New York women were “trashy” for cursing in a professional setting, Megyn Kelly set him straight.

Huckabee said in a Jan. 23rd radio interview that he was shocked at the way professional New York women threw around f-bombs. “This would be considered totally inappropriate to say these things in front of a woman, and for a woman to say them in a professional setting, we would only assume that this is a very, as we would say in the South, that’s just trashy.”

The presidential hopeful said that there’s a “cultural divide” between people who live in the “bubbles” on the coast and the people who live in “the land of what I call god, guns, grits, and gravy,” which, incidentally, is also the title of his book. He goes off on a diatribe about the “culture of crude.”

Kelly listened politely to the former Arkansas governor before telling him what she really thought of his “culture of crude.”

“I do have news for you before I let you go,” Kelly said. “We are not only swearing, we’re drinking, we’re smoking, we’re having premarital sex with birth control before we go to work, and sometimes boss around a bunch of men.”

“Aw, I just don’t want to hear that!” Huckabee responded.

 

TIME foreign affairs

Exclusive: Dalai Lama, Barack Obama Set To Appear in Public Together for First Time

Tibetan leader will participate in Feb. 5 National Prayer Breakfast where the President is expected to attend. Obama has never appeared publicly with Tibetan leader who is viewed by the Chinese government as a dissident

The Dalai Lama will attend this year’s National Prayer Breakfast on Feb. 5, marking the first time that the Tibetan leader will appear in public at an event that President Obama is expected to also attend, according to a press aide for Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, who is co-chair of the event.

“The Dalai Lama will be at the breakfast, but he does not have a speaking role,” Casey aide Alex Miller told TIME in an email. The White House did not immediately confirm the report.

President Obama has previously met with the Dalai Lama three times, despite the strong objections of the Chinese government who consider the Tibetan leader a dissident. In the past, the White House has not allowed reporters to witness the meetings, which have been staged outside the Oval Office in deference to Chinese objections.

The National Prayer Breakfast is an annual, historically Christian event at the Washington Hilton for hundreds of mostly evangelical and other faith leaders. The President of the United States and First Lady have long attended, and the President traditionally speaks.

Following the Dalai Lama’s last private meeting with Obama in 2014, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui summoned a U.S. diplomat to register his nation’s objections. “The Tibetan issue is the domestic affair of China, and the United States bears no right to interfere,” he said, according to the Xinhua news agency. “Such a move will gravely sabotage China-US co-operation and relations, and will definitely undermine its own interests.”

Senator Casey (D-Pa.) and Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) are co-chairing the congressional side of this year’s event. The breakfast is sponsored by the conservative evangelical group The Fellowship, run by Douglas Coe. Christians have usually given the keynote address, but last year, United States Agency for International Development Administator Rajiv Shah, a Hindu, spoke.

TIME Military

Obama’s Awkward Farewell to Hagel

President Obama Attends Armed Forces Farewell Tribute To Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel
President Obama and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel at the defense chief's formal farewell ceremony Wednesday. Win McNamee / Getty Images

The President pushed his Pentagon chief, then praised him.

Wednesday afternoon marked another one of those painful spectacles, where someone being forced out of the national spotlight was forced to grin and bear it as the person responsible for forcing him out publicly sang his praises. This time it featured President Obama hailing the brief, two-year tenure of Chuck Hagel, his third defense secretary.

Hagel—who will hang around the Pentagon for weeks until his successor, Ashton Carter, is confirmed—has spent recent days prowling the bowels of the Pentagon, thanking the unseen and unheralded for their work.

Hagel has been saying goodbye to Pentagon workers in recent days. DoD photo

While the two men haven’t spelled out precisely what went wrong, disagreements over policies involving Syria and the detainee camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are often cited. And Hagel’s body language since the White House shoved him out Nov. 24, made Wednesday’s formal sendoff in an Army hall not far from the Pentagon particularly awkward.

Obama: In October of 1967, President Lyndon Johnson traveled to a military base in New Mexico to review a top secret weapons program. And he went down to the White Sands Missile Range and out to the testing grounds. There, out in the desert, the president watched as soldiers demonstrated what would later become the famed Stinger Missile. And one of those soldiers was a 21-year old private from Nebraska named Charles Timothy Hagel. Now, the Secret Service does not usually let me get too close to an active weapons system. It makes them nervous…And let me assure you that I checked with the Secret Service, and Chuck will not be demonstrating any missile launches today…

Thanks to Secretary Hagel’s guiding hand, this institution is better positioned for the future. But Chuck, I want to suggest today that perhaps your greatest impact, a legacy that will be felt for decades to come, has been your own example. It’s not simply that you’ve been the first enlisted combat veteran and first Vietnam veteran to serve as secretary of defense, it’s how your life experience: being down in the mud, feeling the bullets fly overhead, has allowed you to connect with our troops like no other secretary before you.

At least some observers found Obama’s “joke” about Stingers off-key, given the fragging that went on in Vietnam. Hagel, who declined to attend the White House ceremony at which Obama announced Carter as his successor, however, dutifully took the podium and was gracious.

Hagel: Mr. President…thank you for being here today… I will soon leave this job that I have cherished… The opportunity to have been a part of all this is something I could not have imagined when I joined the Army 48 years ago… We’ve made mistakes. We will make more mistakes… One last point. Of all the opportunities my life has given me, and I have been blessed with so many, I am most proud of having once been a soldier.

In the end, everyone was glad it was over.

TIME Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: January 29

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

ISIS Extends Deadline

ISIS released a message late Wednesday purportedly by Japanese hostage Kenji Goto, extending the deadline for Jordan’s release of an Iraqi would-be hotel bomber linked to al-Qaeda. The audio was released as Jordan had offered a precedent-setting prisoner swap

This Is Why You’re Always Cold

Frigid weather isn’t solely to blame for your chill: your metabolism, vascular function and thyroid play major roles in keeping warm

Malaysia Calls MH370 An Accident

Malaysia on Thursday declared the crash of Flight MH370 an accident, clearing the way for victims’ relatives to proceed with compensation claims

Mehcad Brooks to Play Jimmy Olsen in Supergirl

The upcoming CBS superhero series Supergirl has cast Mehcad Brooks as young photojournalist Jimmy Olsen. The 34-year-old will be playing the love interest of the title lead, depicted by Glee star Melissa Benoist

The Ebola Virus Is Mutating, Say Scientists

Scientists at a French research institute say the Ebola virus has mutated, and they are studying whether it may have become more contagious

1 in 5 U.S. Kids Relies on Food Stamps

Twenty percent of children in the U.S. need food stamps to eat, according to federal data released on Wednesday. Data compiled by the U.S. Census shows that 16 million children in the country used food stamps in 2014 — a jump from prerecession levels

Williams, Sharapova to Meet in Australian Open Final

Top-ranked Serena Williams beat Madison Keys to set up an Australian Open final against second-seeded Maria Sharapova. Sharapova, who beat Ekaterina Makarova in an all-Russian semifinal, has lost her last 15 head-to-head matches to Williams

Penn State President: Freeh Acted Like Prosecutor in Review

Penn State’s president on Wednesday dismissed the university-commissioned review of how top administrators handled child-molestation complaints about former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky as “not useful to make decisions”

Sony and Spotify to Unveil New Music Service on PlayStation

Spotify and Sony are launching a premium music service called PlayStation Music, offering over 30 million songs to listen to in the background of a PlayStation game. It will initially only be accessible on Sony game consoles and Xperia devices

Phoenix Is Monitoring 1,000 People for Measles

Health staff in Arizona are monitoring 1,000 people, including around 200 children, who could have been exposed to measles at the Phoenix Children’s East Valley Center after a woman who visited the medical facility came down with the disease

Taylor Swift’s 1989 Heads Back to the Top

Taylor Swift’s 1989 could be topping the Billboard 200 chart again. After two weeks out of the top spot, the singer’s smash-hit album is currently sitting at No. 2, and those in the know believe it has the power to reach No. 1 for a 10th week

Inventor of the Laser Dies at 99

Charles Townes, the Nobel Prize–winning physicist credited with the invention of the laser and its predecessor — the maser — died in Oakland, Calif., on Tuesday. Townes’ health had been rapidly deteriorating, and he died on the way to the hospital

We will hold an #AskTIME subscriber Q&A this Friday, January 30, at 1 p.m., with TIME columnist, Joel Stein, who wrote this week’s cover story on his experience working with the “sharing economy” companies such as Uber, Airbnb, Lyft, RelayRides, Yerdle and others. He is the author of Man Made: A Stupid Quest For Masculinity. His other stories can be found here.

You can submit your questions beforehand on Twitter using the #AskTIME hashtag or in the comments of this post. We depend on smart, interesting questions from readers.

You will need to be a TIME subscriber to read the Q & A. ($30 a year or 8 cents a day for the magazine and all digital content.) Once you’re signed up, you can log in to the site with a username and password.

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TIME White House

Check Out the President’s New Airplane

Workers move the new Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental jetliner into a static display on the eve of the Paris Air Show at Le Bourget airport
Workers move the new Boeing 747-8 jetliner into a static display on the eve of the Paris Air Show at Le Bourget airport near Paris on June 19, 2011 Pascal Rossignol—Reuters

A Boeing 747-8 will become the next Air Force One

A Boeing 747-8 will be the next Air Force One, the U.S. Air Force announced Wednesday.

The latest version of the jumbo jet, which can be refueled in midair and even serve as a command center, will replace the Boeing VC-25 as the President’s official plane.

The incumbent President Barack Obama won’t be able to command the newer, more fuel efficient and technologically advanced ride, however, since the first one will not be delivered until 2018 and will then have to undergo five years of testing before it carries the leader of the free world.

Boeing has been the only provider of aircraft for American Presidents since 1962.

TIME Military

Military Chiefs ‘Prep the Battlefield’ for Biggest Pentagon Budget Request Ever

Leaders of US military branches testify on military budgets before Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington
General Raymond Odierno (Army), Admiral Jonathan Greenert (Navy), General Mark Welsh (Air Force), and General Joseph Dunford (Marines) warned a Senate panel Wednesday of the dangers they see if their services' budgets are cut. Gary Cameron / Reuters

They're seeking more than a half a trillion dollars

The White House will be seeking $534 billion to run the Pentagon next year when it sends its 2016 budget request to Congress on Monday.

That would be—despite the cries we keep hearing from assorted generals—the largest Pentagon budget in history.

That’s because President Obama is ignoring the budget caps imposed by the legislative legerdemain known as sequestration: he will ask Congress (which, along with the President, imposed those caps in 2011) for $34 billion more than sequestration allows (there’s another $51 billion in the request, exempt from the caps, for waging ongoing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria).

The Pentagon finds itself on the horns of a dilemma: a growing number of congressional Republicans have been more eager to tame spending than fund the military. If the military can’t succeed in loosening sequestration’s grip on the Pentagon’s coffers, across-the-board cuts in personnel, procurement and training are certain.

For four years, the Pentagon and its allies in Congress have fought the budget caps. Their inaction has kept the Defense Department from learning to live within them, and the retooling and reforms such an acknowledgement would require. Their fight continues, which is why the service chiefs trekked to Capitol Hill Wednesday for the umpteenth time to plead with the Senate Armed Services Committee to relax sequestration’s strictures.

The guys on the ground say they’re losing the edge. “The number one thing that keeps me up at night is that if we’re asked to respond to an unknown contingency, I will send soldiers to that contingency not properly trained and ready,” Army General Ray Odierno said. “We simply are not used to doing that.” His Marine counterpart concurred. “I think I probably speak for all the chiefs, none of us want to be part of, on our last tour on active duty, want to be a part of returning back to those days in the 1970s when we did have in fact a hollow force,” General Joseph Dunford said.

The guys on the water and in the sky—where technology pays its biggest dividends—warned the bad guys are catching up. “We’re slipping behind,” Admiral Jonathan Greenert, the chief of naval operations, said. “Our advantage is shrinking very fast.”

“We currently have 12 fleets of airplanes that qualify for antique license plates in the state of Virginia,” General Mark Welsh, the Air Force chief of staff, said. “The capability gap is closing…the people trying to catch up with us technologically…have momentum. If [they] get too close, we won’t be able to recover before they pass us.”

But the chiefs were preaching to the wrong audience: the armed services committee, packed with lawmakers with major defense installations or factories back home, has long been a bastion of pro-Pentagon lawmakers.

How draconian are sequestration’s budget cuts? It’s tough keeping track of how much the U.S. spends on its military, in part because there are several yardsticks to keep track. If you want to boost spending, you use one yardstick; if you want to cut it, you use another.

The U.S. military budget has been creeping steadily upward since World War II, even after the fall of the Soviet Union. Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments

For example, simply using dollars (adjusted for inflation) shows U.S. military spending jumped by 61% from 1998 to 2010. U.S. defense spending in 2010 eclipsed the peak of the Reagan-era defense buildup, designed to defeat the Soviet Union. Military spending has fallen 12% from 2010’s crest. And when you fold in the added funding the Pentagon got to wage the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the drop is a steeper 21%.

This is a problem of the Pentagon’s own making. It routinely took defense dollars that were supposed to be used to fight the wars and used them to buy new hardware and for other, non-war-related expenses. Like any addict, it got used to this easy access to spending euphoria.

That makes withdrawal from such easy money all the tougher: if war funding had been only used for wars, ending the wars would end the need for that money. But seeing as much of the funding bought what should have been paid for by the Pentagon’s so-called “base” budget, weaning itself from its war-fattened budgets is proving painful.

Then there’s another way to measure Pentagon spending: what share of the national economy is dedicated to defense? Since World War II, the nation has spent about a nickel of every dollar created by the U.S. economy on its military, or 5%. It’s now down to about 3.5%. If sequestration remains the law, the Pentagon’s share of the national economic pie will fall to 2.5% by 2019, the smallest slice since the end of World War II.

The share of the nation’s economy dedicated to national defense has been on the decline since World War II. Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments

Those who want to spend more on the Pentagon cite this decline as proof the nation is starving the military. That’s only true, of course, if one assumes the enemy is the Gross Domestic Product.

Many Pentagon advocates would like to earmark a fixed percentage of the GDP for the military—4% is often cited— even though the economy has boomed since World War II and there is no link between GDP and the threats facing the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

The challenge for the U.S. military is obvious. The lawmakers, obligated “to raise and support Armies” under the Constitution, are concerned with global instability and terrorism.

But the 13 years, nearly 7,000 American lives and three trillion American dollars spent in Afghanistan and Iraq weigh heavily on their minds. It’s obvious most of them don’t feel that more military money is the answer.

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