TIME

Congress Gets Banned from Editing Wikipedia

As Deadline On Debt Reduction Impasse Looms, Super Committee Meets Over Weekend
Brendan Hoffman—Getty Images

If you—like me—use Twitter religiously, you’ve probably noticed a new account popping up in and around your mentions: Congress Edits, a recently-created bot that tweets anonymous edits made from Congressional IP addresses. It’s a significant service, one that’s managed to throw a little more light onto the murky workings of government.

The folks at Wikipedia have noticed the editing and decided to put a 10-day ban on edits coming from offices within the U.S. House of Representatives, the BBC reports.

Among the edits that have originated from Congressional IP addresses in recent days are changes to everything from the Choco Taco Wikipedia page to a page on conspiracy theories about the original moon landing.

According to its own Wikipedia page, the bot, created by software developer Ed Summers, has been called a “watchdog” by NBC News. Hard to disagree.

TIME

Congressman Mistakes U.S. Officials For Indian Ones

"I am familiar with your country, I love your country," Florida Congressmember Curt Clawson told high-ranking U.S. officials Nisha Biswal and Arun Kumar

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Rep. Curt Clawson, a freshman Republican congressman from Florida, mistook two senior U.S. officials for representatives of the Indian government during a House hearing on Friday.

“I am familiar with your country, I love your country,” Clawson said to Nisha Biswal and Arun Kumar, addressing fellow U.S. citizens who hold high-ranking positions in the State Department and Commerce Department, respectively.

“Just as your capital is welcome here to produce good-paying jobs in the U.S., I’d like our capital to be welcome there,” he told Biswal and Kumar. “I ask cooperation and commitment and priority from your government in so doing. Can I have that?”

After a lingering silence, Clawson smiles slowly. Kumar appears to grin, while Biswal echoes Clawson’s sentiment, informing him it should probably be directed to the Indian government. It’s unclear whether Clawson realized his error.

Nisha Biswal serves as Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, while Arun Kumar is Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Global Markets and Director General of the US and Foreign Commercial Service. Both were introduced was U.S. officials before testifying before the House Asia and Pacific subcommittee, according to Foreign Policy.

TIME Congress

Hispanic Caucus To Push Deportation Relief in White House Meeting

The meeting will focus on a list of executive action recommendations the caucus sent to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson in April

Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus plan to meet with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and White House counsel Neil Eggleston at the White House on Friday morning, Jasmine Mora, a spokesperson for Rep. Ruben Hinojosa (D-Texas), told TIME. Hinojosa is the Chairman of the CHC.

The meeting will focus on a memo the caucus sent to Johnson in April on administrative deportation relief and humane enforcement practices, Mora told TIME. “The intent of the meeting tomorrow is to talk about what administrative actions the President can take under the law,” she wrote in an email.

One of the CHC recommendations—to expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to parents and siblings—is the “most clear opportunity” to provide temporary deportation relief, another congressional aide told TIME. If DACA were extended to children’s family members, illegal immigrant families would be able to stay together in the U.S. for at least two years without fear of deportation. In the memo, CHC writes that nearly 205,000 parents of U.S. born children were deported in between July 2010 and September 2012.

In June, President Obama announced that he had asked Johnson and Attorney General Eric Holder to seek out additional executive actions on immigration that he could announce before the end of the summer. “If Congress will not do their job, at least we can do ours,” Obama said.

The White House declined to comment for this story.

TIME Congress

Sen. John Walsh Plagiarized Final Paper for Master’s Degree

John Walsh
Sen. John Walsh, D-Mont., speaks during an event in the Capitol Visitor Center on the importance of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, July 23, 2014. Tom Williams—CQ-Roll Call,Inc.

A Walsh campaign spokeswoman says the plagiarism was a "mistake"

Montana Democratic Senator John Walsh plagiarized portions of a final paper required for his Army War College master’s degree, which he earned in 2007 at the age of 46, his campaign confirmed Wednesday. The charges endanger the Democrats’ control of the Senate as the Republican Party is attempting to pick up a net six seats this fall.

As first reported by The New York Times, Walsh passed off passages of his 14-page paper, titled “The Case for Democracy as a Long Term National Strategy,” as his own, without proper attribution to Harvard University and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace documents. Walsh told Jonathan Martin, a Times reporter, that he did not plagiarize, but an aide did not contest the charge, according to the Times article.

Lauren Passalacqua, a Walsh campaign spokeswoman, told TIME in a statement that the plagiarism was a “mistake.”

“This was unintentional and it was a mistake,” wrote Passalacqua. “There were areas that should have been cited differently but it was completely unintentional. Senator Walsh released every single evaluation that he received during his 33-year military career, which shows an honorable and stellar record of service to protecting Montana and serving this country in Iraq.”

Walsh served in the Montana National Guard for over 30 years before winning Montana’s lieutenant governor race in 2012. Earlier this year, after President Barack Obama nominated Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) to be the next ambassador to China, Gov. Steve Bullock appointed Walsh to the Senate. Walsh is currently running for another term in the Senate against Republican Rep. Steve Daines.

Outside election experts have given the edge to Daines. The Charlie Cook Report ranked the race as “lean Republican” in June, and Kyle Kondik, the managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, recently wrote that the seat was one of the three best Republican pickup opportunities in the Senate. Walsh has been gaining on Daines, however — a recent poll by the left-leaning Public Policy Polling showed that Walsh had trimmed an early 17-point Daines advantage down to seven points.

TIME Congress

Congress Probably Won’t Address the Border Crisis Until After Summer Recess

Border Crisis
Undocumented immigrants await transport to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing center after being detained on July 22, 2014 near Falfurrias, Texas. John Moore—Getty Images

It’s becoming increasingly clear that Congress won’t address the border crisis until sometime after its upcoming August recess. The gulf between the House and Senate border crisis proposals is too great and the timeline too short, members and congressional aides indicated this week.

“I think that if you are focusing on the House, they’re going very bad over there because the Republicans can’t agree what they want,” said Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid, a top Democrat, in a press conference Tuesday. “The Democrats aren’t going to support some of their crazy ideas, and the Republicans can’t agree which crazy idea they want to put forward.”

Sen. John Cornyn, a member of the Senate Republican leadership team, also said progress on the crisis is unlikely.

“Unfortunately, it looks like we’re on a track to do absolutely nothing, which to me is the definition of political malpractice,” said Cornryn.

The major disagreement holding up the proposals has been whether to keep legal protections granted in 2008 to unaccompanied minors from non-continuous states, mainly Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. The Obama Administration, House Republicans and Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), who has authored a border bill with Cornyn, argue minors from those countries should be treated the same as Mexican minors, who are screened and deported more quickly by the Border Patrol. The House GOP border working group recommended to its conference Wednesday to craft a bill that would deploy the National Guard and amend the 2008 law to treat all children the same way. The Senate’s bill, which will be introduced Wednesday, doesn’t do either.

The Senate will likely vote on its bill next week, a Senate Democratic leadership aide tells TIME, mere days before the summer recess. Another Senate aide tells TIME that expectations of getting a bill signed before August are “slim to none” and that senators are already looking at options to take up the legislation in September. On Wednesday, House Speaker John Boehner said the House has not made a decision on when it will introduce its bill.

If Congress does nothing, the Administration will be hard-pressed to handle the surge of unaccompanied minors—more than 57,000 have been apprehended since October, according to administration officials—and may take it upon itself to act. Two departments in charge of arresting and removing immigrants who are in the country illegally—Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection—will go broke by mid-September, according to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, and the Department of Health and Human Services, which temporarily houses such children, is overwhelmed. If Obama is going to act on his own, he will have to move quickly amid flak from both sides of the aisle.

While Republicans may agree with the Administration on changing the 2008 law, they roundly criticize President Obama’s $3.7 billion request to handle the crisis as too high. Boehner called it a “blank check” Wednesday, saying that the House will tie a $1.5 billion proposal with the policy changes.

“Without trying to fix the problem, I don’t know how we actually are in a position to give the President any more money,” Boehner said.

The Senate’s version of the bill, meanwhile, includes $2.73 billion to address the border crisis, still $1 billion below the President’s request. It also includes funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system and fighting wildfires raging in the American west.

Republicans have continued to hammer the White House for not reacting to the border crisis warning signals sparked two years ago nor the dramatic surge of migrants in March. They have also latched onto a report by the Congressional Budget Office that says the Administration’s plan would only allocate $25 million through September, with the majority of the funds coming next fiscal year.

But Obama faces pressure on his left as well, and he has seen the border crisis lead to an unusually high level of intra-party friction. Last week, in a meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus near the White House, Obama shot down a request to grant asylum as refugees to the tens of thousands of unaccompanied children at the southwestern border.

“I can’t go there,” said Obama, according to Cuellar, who was in the room, citing border security concerns. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX), the Chairman of the Hispanic Caucus, told TIME that the meeting’s main focus was to oppose the 2008 law and to express “its collective unity in ensuring that these children receive due process under the law.” The White House did not return a request for comment for this article.

Democratic leaders have in turn slammed the proposal changing the way the U.S. treats non-contiguous minors. On the Senate floor Monday, Reid called the policy inhuman. “You wouldn’t send an animal back to this, let alone a little boy or girl,” he said. On Saturday, Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) said that the way the U.S. treats Mexican children is “abusive” and “deplorable.”

“Just so you know he’s a Texan before he’s a Democrat,” Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) joked last week of Cuellar, who has come under friendly fire for co-sponsoring a bill with Cornyn that would change the 2008 law. In an interview with TIME, Cuellar shot back at Pelosi for flip-flopping on how to try the Central American children. Pelosi’s office has maintained that she has never supported any changes that would negatively impact the children’s due process.

“She changed her position,” said Cuellar, noting that Pelosi had said that altering the 2008 law would “not [be] a deal breaker.” “It’s not only going against my position, but she is going against the Administration’s position, Secretary Johnson’s position and going against 18,500 Border Patrol agents that are on the ground that work on this day after day.”

Cuellar added that he and Pelosi have a “strong” working relationship, despite their current disagreement. “After we address this issue, the sun will rise, it will be a new day, we don’t burn any bridges, and we’re going to continue working on other issues together,” said Cuellar.

With reporting by Zeke Miller/Washington

TIME Education

Obama to Sign Bill Improving Worker Training

Barack Obama, Joe Biden
Vice President Joe Biden greets President Barack Obama as he arrives to speak at Community College of Allegheny County West Hills Center, Wednesday, April 16, 2014, in Oakdale, Pa., about the importance of jobs-driven skills training. Carolyn Kaster—AP

On Tuesday, President Obama and Vice President Biden will announce new executive actions on job training at the signing of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

Congress and the President have finally found some common ground: Obama will sign the first significant legislative job training reform effort in nearly a decade on Tuesday.

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act passed by Congress on July 9 will streamline the federal workforce training system, trimming 15 programs that don’t work, giving schools the opportunity to cater their services to the needs of their region, and empowering businesses to identify what skills workers need for success and help workers acquire them.

The bipartisan, bicameral bill is a response to a projection that by 2022, 11 million workers will lack the education necessary to succeed in a 21st century workplace including bachelor’s degrees, associate’s degrees, and vocational certificates.

“Workforce training is critically important to help grow the American economy still recovering from recession and bridge the widening skills gap separating thousands of unemployed workers from promising careers in 21st century workplaces,” said Senator Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) when the bill passed.

The Obama Administration apparently agrees. On Tuesday, when Obama signs the bill into law, he and Vice President Joe Biden will also announce new federal and private sector actions to address the need for an improved job training system, which currently serves about 21 million Americans including veterans, Americans with disabilities, the unemployed, and those who lack skills to climb the career ladder. The Obama administration’s new actions also complement the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act by improving federal training programs not included in the bill.

Earlier in 2014, President Obama tasked Biden with reviewing the federal training system to find ways to improve it. As a result of that review, Biden will issue a report Tuesday that outlines “job-driven” strategies that the Administration says will make the federal training system “more effective, more responsive to employers, and more accountable for results” in Tuesday’s report.

Chief among these strategies is a new “job-driven checklist,” a tool that measures how effective programs are in preparing students for careers that will be incorporated into applications for all 25 federal training grants, at a total of about $1.4 billion, starting Oct. 1. The checklist requires programs to engage with local employers in designing programs that cater to their needs, ramp up opportunities for internships and apprenticeships, and keep better data on employment and earning outcomes.

“From now on, federal agencies will use specific, job-driven criteria to ensure that the $17 billion in federal training funds are used more effectively,” a senior White House official said on a Monday evening press call.

The Obama administration will also expand opportunities for apprenticeships, considered a “proven path to employment and the middle class,” according to a White House statement. After completing these programs, 87% of apprentices gain employment at an average starting salary of $50,000.

In addition to using competitions and grants to bolster job training in the U.S., the administration will also use technology. On Tuesday, Obama and Biden will announce $25 million award from the Department of Labor to develop a web-based “skills academy” for adult learners. And the Department of Education will experiment with education models that award skills based on a person’s tangible skills rather than their performance in a classroom setting.

“Too often job training programs are focused on providing the skills needed for yesterday’s jobs, not the jobs of today and tomorrow,” an administration official said Monday. “And teaching methods are often rooted in outdated, class-based models that haven’t kept pace with technology and new training techniques.”

TIME Education

School Administrators: Kids Like Healthy Lunches Just Fine

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Female student carrying tray in cafeteria Tetra Images—Getty Images/Brand X

According to a new survey published in the Childhood Obesity journal

As the battle rages on over whether or not to scrap healthier options in public school lunch, a new survey suggests students actually like the nutritional meals they’re being offered. Well, at least they like it enough to keep from complaining to school administrators about it.

Last school year, administrators reported students started off complaining about the healthier take on lunch, after the USDA introduced new standards in 2012 that called for a reduction in sugar, sodium and fat in meals and the addition of more whole grains, vegetables, and fruit in an effort to confront childhood obesity.

But most had come around by the spring, they reported in a new study backed by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Now, around 70% of elementary school students “generally like the new lunch,” they said. Middle and high school administrators reported similar reactions, with 70% and 63% of students “generally” liking the new lunches, respectively.

Schools also report few drop-offs in school lunch participation with the advent of the new standards. About 64.6% of elementary schools said “about the same” number of students purchased school lunches last school year, compared to the year before.

“The updated meals standards are resulting in healthier meals for tens of millions of kids,” said Lindsey Turner, lead author of the first study, and co-investigator for Bridging the Gap, a research program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), which funded the study in a statement. “Our studies show that kids are okay with these changes, and that there have not been widespread challenges with kids not buying or eating the meals.”

Yet, according to the new survey to be published in an upcoming issue of the Childhood Obesity journal, high school students and students in rural schools have been more reluctant to accept the changes. About 25% of middle and high school administrators reported noticing “a little more” plate waste during the 2012-2013 school year, while 16% of middle schools and 20% of high schools reported noticing “much more” waste.

Administrators at rural schools also reported more plate waste and more complaints than their urban counterparts, which is troubling given the higher rates of obesity among youth in rural areas. But among poor urban youth, the researchers found higher rates of consumption and more meal purchases—suggesting those kids opting out of the school lunch program are those who can afford to eat elsewhere.

“It is possible that widespread implementation of national policy has been effective for improving the diets of socioeconomically disadvantaged children,” said the study’s authors, “but more research is needed to understand the effect of changes in the meal standards on children’s participation and dietary intake.”

There has been much debate over the Department of Agriculture’s updated school nutrition standards this year. In fact, Monday’s survey results stand in contrast to a recent USDA report that showed about 1 million fewer students chose to eat school meals every day during the 2012-2013 school year. The School Nutrition Association, a long time supporter of healthy options for kids, rolled back some of its support earlier this year due to the burden the standards place on already cash-strapped schools.

In May, House Republicans ok’d a spending bill that would allow schools to opt out of following the healthy school rules, which pump up the amount of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains served to kids at school while reducing fat, sugar, and sodium. But champions of the standards, including First Lady Michelle Obama, argue rolling back the standards would be a bad choice for kids.

In a statement Monday, the School Nutrition Association said the survey’s “perceptions about school meals do not reflect reality.”

“More kids aren’t buying lunches,” Diane Pratt-Heavner, spokesperson for the School Nutrition Association, tells TIME.

TIME Transportation

A TSA Fee Hike Just Made Your Plane Tickets More Expensive

TSA Security
A TSA agent waits for passengers to use the TSA PreCheck lane being implemented by the Transportation Security Administration at Miami International Airport on October 4, 2011 in Miami, Florida. Joe Raedle—Getty Images

You now have to pay $5.60 per flight

Transportation Security Administration fees are doubling Monday, and frequent travelers will notice a slight hike in their airfares.

The TSA fee is currently $2.50 per non-stop flight and $5 per connecting flight, but the new fee will be $5.60 for all flights, and any connection over 4 hours counts as a separate flight.

Congress approved the new fee in December in order to raise $12.6 billion to cut the deficit, and the TSA estimates the fees could raise $16.9 billion.

“It’s like paying for a root canal,” George Hobica, founder of airfarewatchdog.com, told USA Today. “It’s something you didn’t want anyway. Now you’re paying more for it.”

While the fees go into effect Monday, frustrated travelers can send comments to the TSA until Aug. 19.

TIME Immigration

Democrat To Obama: You Must Hear the Stories of Child Migrants

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.)
Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., speaks during a news conference on Feb. 6, 2014. Tom Williams—CQ Roll Call/Getty Images

At a meeting Wednesday, the President was sympathetic, but non-committal on Democratic plans to deal with the border crisis.

On Wednesday afternoon, Rep. Ben Ray Luján, a Democrat from New Mexico, tried to bring the human face of the ongoing border crisis alive to President Barack Obama in a meeting at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building near the White House, according to two Congressmen present.

“To not hear these stories is to make these kids disappear,” Luján says he told the President and the beginning of the meeting. He then cited the Pope’s call for action on the immigration crisis earlier this week, and recounted three news reports of kidnapped, beaten and killed children and journalists.

Luján also told a story of his own, one he says was shared with him by two nuns who worked with unaccompanied migrant children at Catholic Charities in Honduras. The nuns told Luján a child was being recruited by one of the local gangs there when the parents intervened, the Congressman recounted. “[The gang] not only killed the child, they killed the parents,” Luján said. “They left them on display for everyone to see.”

The President, who has not visited the border, reacted sympathetically to Luján’s stories, according to Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), who was at the meeting as a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which had requested time with the president.

“The horror of what is going on—you could just feel it in the room,” said Sanchez. “[The President] said, ‘Look as a father I understand that completely. Those children’s lives are no less valuable than my own.’”

The President, however, did not back down from his insistence that Congress make changes to a 2008 law that would allow for a speedier deportation of children from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. The Administration estimates that the Administration will apprehend as many as 90,000 unaccompanied minors at the border by the end of September. The White House did not respond for comment for this story.

The Hispanic Caucus, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi support an approach where the President would use his current authority—and $3.7 billion—to address the crisis. The Democrats argue that the most humane response would be to quicken the current backlog of immigration cases through hiring more judges and adjusting current policy that would prioritize the children’s cases.

“We don’t want to see a child return to the hands of sex traffickers because we were in a hurry to deal with the humanitarian crisis at the border,” Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) tells TIME. “I think [Obama] understands that. And as a caucus we have come to the position that we won’t vote for an appropriation bill…that undermines what children have.”

Republicans have argued that the 2008 law—the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Action Act—needs to be changed to allow Border Patrol agents greater authority to screen and deport Central American children. Under the law, the Border Patrol is supposed to transfer these children within 72 hours to the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services until their immigration cases are decided. House Speaker John Boehner and others have also argued for increased border security, including sending in the National Guard.

Boehner indicated Thursday that the prospects of Republicans and Democrats forging an agreement by the end of July has taken a turn for the worse as Democrats have established their position on the 2008 law.

“I can’t imagine our members are going to want to send more money down there without attempting to mitigate the problem at the border,” said Boehner. “I don’t have as much optimism as I’d like to have.”

Additional reporting by Zeke Miller/Washington

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