TIME Environment

Obama Mulls Circumventing Congress for International Climate Change Agreement

Climate Change Global Warming Asbestos Mines
G. Nimatallah—De Agostini/Getty Images Asbestos mines in Amiandos, Troodos Mountains, Cyprus, June 15, 2014.

Possible end-run around Senate ratification

The Obama Administration is working on an international agreement for countries to cut their fossil fuel emissions, a move that could set up a showdown with Congress by avoiding the need for formal treaty ratification.

The accord, meant to be signed at a United Nations summit next year, will likely bypass the usual ratification procedure, the New York Times reports. Ratification would require a two-thirds vote from the Senate, but any action on climate change faces stiff resistance from Republicans and from some moderate Democrats, and President Barack Obama has increasingly looked for ways to work around congressional opposition as his time in office winds down. The Administration is considering framing an agreement as “politically binding” instead of legally binding as a way to circumvent the need for ratification, the Times reports. Obama’s climate negotiators told the Times that the framework would help “name and shame” negligent countries.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said it’s premature to say the Administration is planning to circumvent the Senate.

“Not a word of the new climate agreement currently under discussion has been written, so it is entirely premature to say whether it will or won’t require Senate approval,” Psaki said in a statement. “Our goal is to negotiate a successful and effective global climate agreement that can help address this pressing challenge. Anything that is eventually negotiated and that should go to the Senate will go to the Senate. We will continue to consult with Congress on this important issue.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) voiced opposition to the possible maneuver, saying it’s indicative of what he called the Obama Administration’s tendency to “ignore the elected representatives of the people when they don’t agree.”

-Additional reporting by Zeke J Miller

TIME Foreign Policy

Mother of American Held by ISIS Pleads for His Release

Shirley Sotloff Michael Sotloff ISIS
Al Arabiya Shirley Sotloff, mother of American journalist Steven Sotloff who is being held by ISIS, pleads with her son's captors to release him in this undated video released on Aug. 27, 2014

"I ask you to please release my child"

The mother of an American journalist held hostage by Islamist militants issued an emotional plea for her son’s release Wednesday.

In a video broadcast on al-Arabiya TV network, Shirley Sotloff directly addresses Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS). She asks him to free her son Steven Sotloff after a year in captivity.

“Steven is a journalist who traveled to the Middle East to cover the suffering of Muslims at the hands of tyrants,” Shirley Sotloff says, adding that her son has no influence over U.S. government policy and should not be held accountable for its actions. “He is an honorable man and has always tried to help the weak.

“I ask you to please release my child,” she says, citing Muslim teachings on mercy.

Steven Sotloff is a freelance journalist who has written in the past for TIME and other outlets, and has been missing since August 2013. His family initially kept word of his disappearance secret, but Sotloff was pictured in a video showing the execution of American journalist James Foley released by ISIS last week.

President Barack Obama said Tuesday that the U.S. would not rest until justice had been carried out against Foley’s killers. “Our message to anyone who harms our people is simple,” Obama told a veterans group in Charlotte, N.C. “America does not forget. Our reach is long. We are patient. Justice will be done.”

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Wednesday that “the thoughts and prayers of everyone here in the White House and the Obama Administration are with the Sotloff family.” Earnest said he wasn’t sure if Obama has seen Shirley Sotloff’s video, but that “members of this Administration have been in contact with the Sotloff family on a regular basis.”

TIME Education

Gov. Bobby Jindal Sues Federal Government Over Common Core ‘Coercion’

Leading Conservatives Gather For Republican Leadership Conference In New Orleans
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal speaks during the 2014 Republican Leadership Conference on May 29, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The Louisiana governor accused federal officials of forcing states into a national curriculum

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has filed suit against the Department of Education over federal educational standards that he says are intended to “coerce” states into adopting federal guidelines.

According to the filing submitted to a Louisiana district court on Wednesday, Jindal charges the Department of Education with violating the 10th amendment by requiring states to participate in a consortium to help implement Common Core standards or risk losing federal funding.

The Common Core standards, which were released in 2010, are benchmarks for proficiency in English and math. The Obama administration urged states to sign up to Common Core, saying states using the standards would be more likely to win Race to the Top grants. Forty-four states have adopted them, but some have chosen to withdraw from the standards in the belief that they represent a step towards a federal takeover of education.

“Through regulatory and rule making authority, Defendants have constructed a scheme that effectively forces States down a path toward a national curriculum,” the suit alleges.

Jindal has been a vocal opponent of the Common Core standards, a bipartisan initiative which has gathered critics on the left and the right. He sought to remove Louisiana from the initiative in June, despite its backing from state legislators and the state’s Board of Education.

TIME Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: August 27

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

Ferguson’s New Chapter

The St. Louis suburb faces uncertainty as it figures out how to turn a tragic moment into a lasting movement in the days after Michael Brown’s funeral. “We are required to leave here today and change things,” the Reverend Al Sharpton said in his eulogy

Why Waiting Makes You Happy

Several studies published in the journal Psychological Science suggest that people are more excited when they wait to buy an experience

Gaza Cease-Fire Deal Reached

The truce ends the seven-week war between Israel and Hamas, but it’s an open question whether longer-term political talks will continue

How 10 Seconds Could Save Lives During Earthquakes

California is looking to develop an early warning system for earthquakes, and the one that rocked the Napa area last weekend has brought new urgency to the project; experts say even 10 seconds would be enough to mobilize precautionary measures

Apple Appears Slated to Launch Larger iPad in Early 2015

Apple is reported to have been developing larger touch-screen devices in order to turn around sluggish sales; the new 12.9-in. iPad will apparently be launched in the spring, following the company’s release of a larger 4-in. iPhone next month

Ebola Forces Closure of WHO Lab in Sierra Leone

The World Health Organization shut down a lab in Sierra Leone and pulled its staff after a health worker contracted the virus; the closure is likely to impede efforts to contain a massive outbreak that has killed at least 1,427 people

American Writer Freed From Syrian Captivity Arrives in U.S.

Peter Theo Curtis returned home to the U.S. on Tuesday, two days after being released by al-Nusra Front, the Syrian extremist group that held him hostage for 22 months. Curtis said he was “deeply indebted” to the U.S. officials who worked to get him released

Landon Donovan to Join U.S. Soccer Team One Last Time

Donovan will make his final appearance for the U.S. men’s national team in an international friendly match against Ecuador in October. The game will allow fans to thank him for “all the memories he’s provided over the years,” said U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati

Doug Ducey Wins GOP Primary for Arizona Governor

The state treasurer and former CEO won the Republican primary for Arizona’s governorship on Tuesday, riding to victory with a campaign that focused on his experience in serving as a state official and building an ice cream company into a national brand

Snapchat Is Valued at Roughly $10 Billion, Reports Say

A number of reports say the startup, an ad-less disappearing-messaging service, is raising funds from investors based on a $10 billion valuation; if true, this represents an enormous valuation for a company that has effectively no revenue source

Doll Play Predicts Couples’ Parenting Style, Study Finds

Researchers at Ohio State University videotaped almost 200 dual-earner couples playing with a “doll” — actually pajamas filled with 7 lb. of rice and a green fabric head attached — that they were told represented the child they were about to have

Report: Lake Bell to Direct The Emperor’s Children Film

The actress and promising auteur is reportedly booked to direct the film adaptation of Claire Messud’s 2006 novel The Emperor’s Children, with the screenplay penned by indie-film stalwart Noah Baumbach, but there is no word yet on when the movie will hit theaters

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TIME Congress

Dennis Kucinich Is Going to Burning Man

85th Annual Academy Awards - Arrivals
Kevork Djansezian—Getty Images Dennis Kucinich

Things in the Black Rock Desert are really gonna heat up this week

Former presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich is headed to Burning Man.

The former Democratic Representative from Ohio and two-time presidential candidate announced Thursday on Twitter that he plans to speak at the famed celebration of self-expression, community and the arts. He’ll be joined by a wide range of speakers, including conservative political advocate Grover Norquist.

Burning Man takes place in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada every year for one week and always ends with the dispersal of camp and destruction of any evidence of it existed. So, might not be that odd a place for a politician after all.

TIME 2016 Election

Romney Says Chance He Runs In 2016 Is ‘One Of A Million’

NBC

Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney on Tuesday put the odds of his mounting a third bid for the White House at “one of a million.”

The former Massachusetts governor told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that he did not think he is well positioned to take on the expected Democratic front-runner, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and referenced this famous scene from 1994’s Dumb and Dumber when pressed.

“Well, you know, let’s say all the guys that were running all came together and said, ‘Hey, we’ve decided we can’t do it, you must do it,'” Romney said. “That’s the one of the million we’re thinking about.”

“I just want to confirm you’re telling me that we’ve got a chance there,” Hewitt asked. “The Dumb and Dumber, one of a million,” Romney replied.

Some in the Republican establishment have called on Romney to mount a repeat candidacy, arguing that the GOP needs an established figure to take on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Backers have pointed to recent polls which give Romney an edge over Obama were the 2012 election to be repeated today. Supporters have also cited foreign policy developments that they argue vindicate Romney’s mocked-at-the-time warnings about Russia and China.

“The reason I came to the conclusion I did, which is this is not the right time for me to run, is because of my belief that someone else stands a better chance of winning than I do,” Romney said. “Had that not been the case, had I believed I would actually be best positioned to beat Hillary Clinton, then I would be running. But I actually believe that someone new that is not defined yet–someone who perhaps is from the next generation–will be able to catch fire, potentially, build a movement, and be able to beat Hillary Clinton.”

Romney has raised eyebrows with a nationwide travel and fundraising schedule on behalf of Republicans this fall, an effort Romney confidants say was born out of his desire to thank Republicans for supporting him in 2012–not in an attempt to earn their backing for 2016. Romney’s 2012 running-mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, told Hewitt in an interview Monday that he would welcome a repeat bid by Romney.

Romney said he would “hope” that he’d be a better candidate if he ran a third time. “But at the same time, there are people who are not yet known by the American public who have extraordinary records, great capability, Paul Ryan being one of them, Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, Marco Rubio,” he said, listing off some of the Republicans known to be mulling 2016 White House bids. “Of course, people are getting to know Chris Christie. Jeb Bush, they don’t know Jeb Bush as the governor of Florida, and the kind of record he has and had there.”

Romney left Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Rand Paul off his list of strong contenders, going on to say that he disagrees with those in his party who are pushing for the United States to disengage from the world. Romney pledged he would “continue to speak out on issues of significance as I see them, and hopefully be able to convince the people who are running from our party to adopt policies that encompass foreign policy and keeping America safe.”

In the interview, Romney also said he would be uninterested in serving as the running-mate for the eventual GOP nominee. “I would always be happy to serve my country in any way that I was called upon to do,” Romney said. “But that’s not a job I would seek. I was seeking the presidency, not the vice presidency.”

Listen to the interview here.

TIME White House

White House Announces Program to Lower Military Mortgage Payments

Soldiers Return To Fort Carson After Seven-Month Deployment In Iraq
John Moore—Getty Images A U.S. Army soldier salutes the flag during the national anthem at a welcome home ceremony for troops returning from Iraq on Nov. 10, 2011, in Fort Carson, Colo. More than 100 soldiers from the 549th Quartermaster Company, 43rd Sustainment Brigade returned after a seven-month deployment. They played a key role in removing excess equipment from Iraq as other troops withdrew from the region

Five banks will make it easier for active-duty Americans to get their mortgage fees capped

The Obama Administration announced a new program Tuesday to make it easier for active-duty servicemen and servicewomen to afford homes. The White House hopes the plan will help thousands of military families save hundreds of dollars or more each year.

Currently, Americans serving on active duty are eligible to have their home interest rates and some other debt fees capped at 6% under a 2003 law, but they must first prove their eligibility to lenders. Recent studies by the Government Accountability Office, however, have found many of those entitled to protections under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) don’t benefit from them, because they’re either unaware of them or choose not to deal with the paperwork involved. Speaking to veterans at the American Legion National Convention, President Barack Obama announced a plan to address those issues, with five of the country’s largest mortgage lenders agreeing to make the process easier and to proactively reach out to those who should be eligible for lower rates.

“We’re announcing a new partnership in which some of America’s biggest banks and financial institutions will simplify the process, proactively notify service members who qualify for lower rates and make it easier to enroll,” Obama said. “In other words, we’re going to help more of our troops and military families own their own home without a crushing debt.”

According to the White House, Wells Fargo Bank, Bank of America, Ocwen Loan Servicing, CitiMortgage and Quicken Loans are participating in the program. The five companies are also pledging to more frequently check Defense Department databases to see whether their customers are entitled to unclaimed benefits.

“Our preliminary analysis suggests that this new partnership will help tens of thousands of military families save money by reducing their mortgage interest rates,” wrote National Economic Council director Jeff Zients in a blog post on the White House website shared with TIME before publication. “On a $200,000 mortgage, even an interest rate reduction of only one percent will result in over $1,500 a year in savings for our military families — money they can put towards daily expenses, retirement savings or sending their children to college.”

“It’s clearly the right thing to proactively reach out to active-duty military members and make sure they — and their families — are financially protected,” said Quicken Loans CEO Bill Emerson. “Our military members have enough on their plate without burdening them with the added stress of having to contact their lenders to activate benefits the law entitles them to receive.”

The Financial Services Roundtable industry group hailed the announcement in a statement Tuesday, announcing that about 5,500 homes have been donated by affiliated companies to veterans and their families.

“We are proud that the voluntary commitments made in partnership with the White House today reinforce the industry’s overall mission to give back to those who sacrifice the most for this country,” said the group’s Housing Policy Council president and former Secretary of the Navy, John Dalton, in a statement.

TIME 2016 Election

Pro-Clinton Group Touts Her Record on Women

Celebrity Sightings In New York City - July 30, 2014
Alessio Botticelli—GC Images/Getty Images Hillary Clinton is seen arriving at The Carlyle Hotel on July 30, 2014 in New York City.

Hillary Clinton’s shadow campaign emphasizes her empowerment of women

A group dedicated to defending and promoting Hillary Clinton’s record ahead of a possible 2016 presidential bid used Women’s Equality Day to tout her record of promoting women Tuesday.

The group Correct the Record released a two-page document entitled “Breaking Glass: Women’s Economic Empowerment.” The document, given exclusively to TIME, looks at Clinton’s work to promote women’s and girls’ issues as Secretary of State. The issue was Clinton’s top policy priority. The push came after her failed 2008 presidential bid, during which she didn’t highlight the historic nature of her candidacy until the end of the campaign, famously saying only in her concession speech that her bid to be the first female president represented “18 million cracks in the glass ceiling” for the 18 million votes she’d received in the primaries.

Many Clinton advisers who’d worked on the campaign have said in retrospect that they wished they’d emphasized the historic opportunity she had to be the first female president earlier. Clinton lost the women’s vote in 16 state and territorial primaries to Barack Obama. Already this time, Ready for Hillary, another arm of Clinton’s shadow campaign, has focused on outreach to female voters as a priority.

Correct the Record’s promotion of Clinton’s record also speaks to that push, highlighting the work that she’s done to further women and children globally. The group notes that Clinton created the office of Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues and raised women’s issues at all international economic forums. She launched the Equal Futures Partnership to advance women in politics and the private sector. Along with Asian Partners she pushed through the San Francisco Declaration, an agreement to realize women’s economic potential. With help from Middle Eastern countries she launched the Strategic Dialogue with Civil Society, which brought together and empowered activists in the region to work on women’s economic and political. In Latin America and the Caribbean she launched WEAmericas to help women grow small businesses. In Africa, she created the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program to help train women qualify for the African Growth and Opportunity Act, a trade agreement that gives privileged trade status to certain African countries and businesses. And she directed the Invest for the Future program in Southern and Eastern Europe and Eurasia to focus on women’s entrepreneurship.

“Hillary Clinton championed such unprecedented and impassioned work at the State Department to advance women’s entrepreneurship and empowerment that it would take an entire book to fully chronicle her efforts,” said Adrienne Watson, a spokeswoman for the group. “Correct The Record put together this ‘Breaking Glass’ record analysis to highlight Clinton’s many successes, including several multilateral partnerships and programs which raised the profile of women’s issues and resulted in greater economic engagement of women around the world.”

TIME Foreign Policy

Obama Warns of Extended Campaign Against ISIS

Barack Obama
Charles Dharapak—AP President Barack Obama speaks about veterans issues at the American Legion’s 96th National Convention at the Charlotte Convention Center in Charlotte, N.C., Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014.

The President makes his first public comments on the U.S. military campaign in Iraq since returning from vacation

President Barack Obama pledged Tuesday that the United States would not rest until it brought to justice the killer of American journalist James Foley at the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).

“Rooting out a cancer like [ISIS] won’t be easy and it won’t be quick,” Obama told an audience of veterans and their families at the American Legion National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. a week after the extremist group released a video showing the graphic execution of Foley by an ISIS fighter. These were Obama’s first public comments on the conflict since returning from vacation on Martha’s Vineyard.

“Our message to anyone who harms our people is simple. America does not forget, our reach is long, we are patient, justice will be done,” Obama said, referencing Foley’s killing. “We have proved time and time again we will do what’s necessary to capture those who harm Americans to go after those who harm Americans. And we’ll continue to take direct action where needed to protect our people and to defend our homeland.”

As he weighs expanding the fight against ISIS into Syria, Obama warned that “history teaches us of the dangers of overreaching and spreading ourselves too thin and trying to go it alone without international support, or rushing into military adventures without thinking through the consequences.” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday that Obama has yet to decide whether to authorize the expansion of the weeks-long American air campaign in Iraq against the group.

Obama said that the strikes against ISIS have been limited to protecting U.S. forces and diplomats in Iraq, reaffirming that U.S. troops would not be sent back on the ground beyond an advisory capacity.

“Let me say it again: American combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq,” he said. “We’ll not allow the United States to be dragged back into another ground war in Iraq because, ultimately, it is up to the Iraqis to bridge their differences and secure themselves.”

TIME Congress

WATCH: John Boehner Has Found His Kindred Spirit … in a Monkey

'That's what I do all day!'

The second most photographed object in John Boehner’s office — after the House Speaker himself — is a wind-up monkey that sits on his desk, crashes cymbals on command and, according to his staffers, speaks volumes about his work.

Boehner’s staff gave the gift as a “token of appreciation” and a subtle reminder to their boss to avoid comparing himself to a wind-up toy, as he did in 2011 when he was discussing the strains of his hectic work schedule. The monkey has since appeared in at least 29 photos with the speaker and various visitors.

On Tuesday, his staffers featured it in a YouTube video in which Boehner points at the toy monkey in action and says, “That’s what I do all day,” to a group of young girls getting a crash course in politics. “They wind me up about every 15 minutes,” he adds.

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