• What does the political wrangling over a one-lane gravel road through 10 miles of a remote Alaskan wildlife refuge tell us about President Barack Obama’s influence with Congress? Plenty, as it turns out.

    Inside the Beltway, reporters and political players have been consumed with trying to gauge the prospects for Obama's second-term agenda in light of his defeat in the fight over a bipartisan bill to enhance background checks of would-be gun buyers. Can he twist arms? Can he cut deals? Is Congress immune to his charms and his threats?

    On Monday, the New York Times' analysis was that the president lacks “an appetite for ruthless politics that instills fear in lawmakers.” Exhibit A, the Times said: Democratic Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska asked Obama to send newly minted Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to his home state to help get the road approved. Begich voted against the gun bill, but Jewell is still going. The rebellious senator still gets what he wants from the wobbly White House.

    Case closed? Not so much. A closer look at Jewell’s trip also teaches a very different lesson, providing evidence of a president cutting deals with recalcitrant lawmakers to get what he wants. And then keeping his end of the bargain.

    Read More »from What does an obscure Alaska road project say about Obama’s clout?
  • Tamerlan Tsarnaev waits for a decision during the 2009 Golden Gloves National Tournament of Champions on May 4, 2009. (Glenn DePriest/Getty Images)The immigration status of the Boston bombings suspects may become a stumbling block for a new bill that seeks to legalize nearly 11 million immigrants and increase the number of legal immigrants to the United States.

    Opponents of the bill—which was crafted by a bipartisan "Gang of Eight" in the Senate—and even some supporters, say the process of reforming the country's immigration system should be stalled until all the facts about the suspects' interactions with the immigration system are known.

    Both Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the two brothers accused of the Boston Marathon bombings, emigrated to the United States legally from Russia as refugees a decade ago when they were children. The Tsarnaev family, which is ethnically Chechen, was granted asylum because it feared persecution in its home country, according to media reports.

    Tamerlan's application for citizenship was put on hold in 2012 by the government, because he had been questioned by the FBI at the request of the Russian government for possible ties to Chechen terrorism, the New York Times reported. Dzhokhar's citizenship application was approved, and he naturalized in 2012.

    At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing over the bill on Tuesday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano defended immigration officials' handling of the Tsarnaevs, saying the process for granting asylum is rigorous.

    "In the past four years we have increased both the number and the coverage of the vetting that goes on," Napolitano said. As things currently stand, she noted, those who seek asylum must go through multiple screening interviews and submit biometric data to be checked across government databases. If granted asylum and legal status, immigrants must go through two more interviews if they want to become citizens when they become eligible five years later.

    (Asylum applicants must show that they face government-sanctioned persecution in their home country stemming from their race, religion, nationality, political views or membership in a particular social group.)

    Napolitano argued that the immigration reform bill would make the country safer because the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country would be brought "out of the shadows" and screened. The bill requires immigrants to pass a background check before they are eligible for temporary legal status. They must pay fines and back taxes and enroll in English classes to gain permanent legal status.

    Opponents of the immigration bill have argued that the Tsarnaevs' alleged crime suggests that the current immigration system is unable to weed out potential terrorists, and that the process of crafting the bill should be slowed down to address that. If the bill is stalled until next fall, opponents hope it will be close enough to the next election that on-the-fence lawmakers will withdraw their support, effectively killing the bill. President Barack Obama has said he hopes the bill will pass this summer.

    Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, one of the most prominent opponents of legalizing immigrants, said at Monday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that the legalization process in the bill could present a national security threat.

    "The background checks in this bill are insufficient from preventing a terrorist from getting amnesty," Kobach said.

    Supporters of the immigration reform bill say the argument is a specious excuse to delay the legislation.

    Read More »from Bombing suspects’ immigration status could stall reform
  • Obama to keynote Planned Parenthood gala

    President Barack Obama (Charles Dharapak/AP)President Barack Obama will keynote Planned Parenthood's annual gala on Thursday night, the abortion rights group announced on Tuesday.

    “President Obama has done more than any president in history for women’s health and rights,” Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement. “We are honored to have President Obama join us at our 'Time for Care’ Gala at this pivotal moment for women's health.”

    The White House had previously confirmed the president would attend the gala in Washington, D.C. But his keynote address wasn't publicly announced until Tuesday.

    Discussions about the country's abortion laws have increased in recent weeks amid the Philadelphia murder trial of former abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, who is charged with murdering a woman during an abortion procedure and with killing seven babies.

    White House press secretary Jay Carney said on April 15 that the president could not take a position on the case because it is currently in trial.

    Carney said Obama is "aware" of it, and later added that "certainly, the things that you hear and read about this case are unsettling."

    Read More »from Obama to keynote Planned Parenthood gala

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  • Asian outlook positive again, says golf tour chief
    Asian outlook positive again, says golf tour chief

    Asian Tour CEO Mike Kerr says the outlook for golf in the continent is positive again after a difficult few years which saw tournaments scrapped and sponsors hard to find. The region received a boost last month when the European Tour announced it had added a new "Asian swing" to its 2015 schedule with events in Malaysia, Thailand and India. February will see the long-established Maybank Malaysian Open followed by two new co-sanctioned Asian Tour and European Tour events -- the $2 million Thailand Classic and the Hero Indian Open. "It really highlights that Asia is where the growth is going to be," Kerr told AFP in a telephone interview.

  • Mourinho backs Chelsea to avoid more Stoke misery

    Stoke-on-Trent (United Kingdom) (AFP) - Jose Mourinho knows Chelsea must avoid a repeat of last season's nightmare trip to Stoke if they are to re-establish their three-point lead at the top of the Premier League. Mourinho's side travel to the Britannia Stadium 48 hours after Manchester City's 3-0 victory over Crystal Palace drew the champions level on points with the Blues. City are behind the leaders only on goal difference and while Chelsea boss Mourinho insists his team will not feel any extra pressure, anything less than victory will hand Manuel Pellegrini's team a major lift heading into the busy Christmas period.

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