iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama Monday honored college athletes from across the country at the White House, saying they embodied the championship spirit on the field and in their communities.
“No matter what sport you play, no matter where you come from, for the rest of your lives every single one of you is going to be able to call yourselves a national champion,” the president told the students, who all won NCAA Division I championships.
“A title like that means not just performing your best when the spotlight is on and the game is under way, but also pushing yourself even harder when nobody is watching… That’s the championship spirit that we’re celebrating today -- not just the trophies in the display case back home, but the drive and the toughness and the teamwork that put them there,” he said at the ceremony on the White House South Lawn.
The athletes represented a wide range of sports, including soccer, volleyball, hockey, lacrosse, fencing, golf and tennis.
The president also praised the students for being role models and giving back to their local communities. “That’s the kind of ethic that shows this is not just about winning. It’s about learning how to lift other people up. That’s what makes a true champion,” he said.
Obama lauded the women’s teams in particular for paving the way for his own two daughters. “There was a time when college women’s athletics was relegated to second status. And all of you here are showing the incredible strides that we’ve made over the last couple of decades,” he noted.
Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- Senate Democrats kicked off their all-nighter on climate change Monday night with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid saying they were “standing up against the deniers.”
“Climate change is real. It’s here,” Reid said on the Senate floor. “It’s time to stop acting like those who ignore this crisis. For example, the oil barren Koch brothers and their allies in Congress have a valid point of view. They don’t.”
Reid and other Senate Democrats noted the climate change deniers who serve in Congress and urged their colleagues to take action to stem the impact of climate change.
“Despite overwhelming scientific evidence and overwhelming public opinion, climate change deniers still exist, there’s lot of them. They exist in this country. They exist, I’m sorry to say, in this Congress in the House and in the Senate."
“There is only one major political party in the world that denies…the scientific evidence that points to climate change and the fact that the world we’re living in is changing with extreme weather patterns, is changing the life that we lead, and the future for many generations,” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said.
“Climate change deniers need to wake up and realize that the scientific diagnosis about warming the planet is real. We need to take action,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said.
“Climate change is real. Climate change is caused by humans and climate change is solvable and we will not rest until Congress wakes up and acts on the most pressing issue of our time," Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, said.
The all-night session does not focus on any specific legislation, but serves more as a rallying cry for Democrats on the issue of climate change.
The number of senators participating increased to a total of 30 Senate Democrats, according to Schatz. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., tweeted a photo of the senators preparing for the overnight session.
Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate on Monday passed the military sexual assault bill, 97 to 0, eliminating the "good soldier defense," but keeping any prosecutions of sexual assaults within the chain of command.
This legislation was an alternative to a measure the Senate narrowly blocked last week that sought to strip military commanders of their authority to prosecute sexual assaults.
The “good soldier defense” has been routinely used over the years, with soldiers holding sterling military records less likely to be prosecuted on assault complaints.
“It is not the end of this,” said Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., who along with Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., sponsored the measure.
She said the overwhelming support “shows the bipartisan commitment we have to stopping the scourge” of sexual assault in the military.
State Dept photo(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of State John Kerry postponed a trip to Moscow that was intended to serve as an opportunity for him to consult on the tension in the Crimea region of Ukraine.
On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the American proposal on resolving the situation in Ukraine is "not suitable to Russia." Lavrov said that one of the issues Russia takes with the proposal is the wording of a document he was given by Kerry which "suggests there's a conflict between Russia and Ukraine."
In a U.S. State Department response, spokesperson Jen Psaki said that Kerry had made clear the American desire to see a "cessation of Russian military advances in Ukraine," and that the State Department had not yet received a formal response to Kerry's questions.
Kerry will still welcome future discussions on how best to de-escalate the tension, Psaki said, despite the fact that Kerry postponed his trip initially planned for this week. However, the State Department has "clear steps" that they believe the Russians must show before discussions will resume. Psaki said that these unspecified steps would serve as "concrete evidence that Russia is prepared to engage on these proposals and discussions in a serious way."
Kerry added that any Russian attempt to spread out or control a larger area of Ukraine "would close any available space for diplomacy."
iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Get ready for another all-nighter in the Senate. Twenty-eight Democratic senators are expected to take turns speaking on the Senate floor Monday evening through Tuesday morning, all in the name of climate change.
Led by Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.; Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii; and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., the senators are expected to talk about how climate change is affecting their home states and discuss the need to build momentum behind the issue. The all-night talk-a-thon will begin after votes conclude Monday evening and last until approximately 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday.
Five senators – Whitehouse, Schatz, Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.; Cory Booker, D-N.J.; and Martin Heinrich, D-N.M. – are taking the shifts in the dead of the night when most of their Senate colleagues will be tucked away in bed.
And how will the senators keep their energy up during the sleepless night? Schatz will give his colleagues an energy boost by providing kona coffee and macadamia nuts from Hawaii, a spokeswoman for Schatz told ABC News, and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., will bring bagels to round up her colleagues in the morning.
Many of the senators are part of the “Senate Climate Action Task Force,” which was formed in January to “wake up” Congress about the need to address climate change. Senators will promote their overnight session on social media using the hashtag #Up4Climate.
Office of the Governor, NJ(NEW YORK) -- Federal prosecutors in Manhattan have subpoenaed records of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey as part of an investigation into the business dealings of authority Chairman David Samson, a key ally of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
The investigation in New York comes on top of a similar probe by feds in New Jersey, who are investigating the September closings of access lanes to the George Washington Bridge.
A spokeswoman for Samson said on behalf of Samson’s attorney, former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff: "We are not commenting on the progress of investigations."
Feds are looking into potential conflicts between Samson's private business interests and his actions as chairman of the Port Authority, which runs the region’s airports, Hudson River crossings and the World Trade Center.
Samson is not paid for his chairmanship role. He was a New Jersey attorney general under then-Gov. Jim McGreevey and ran Christie’s transition in 2009-2010. His firm was counsel to Christie’s campaigns.
iStock/Thinkstock(HARTFORD, Conn.) -- The Connecticut state legislature’s Public Safety and Security Committee is mulling over a bill that would prevent theaters from showing any film or trailer that exceeds 85 decibels, about the same noise level as an alarm clock on your night table or the sound of traffic on the street.
By comparison, a blow dryer runs at about 100 decibels and a wailing child hits your ear at about 110 decibels, according to the American Tinnitus Association.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommends that sound is kept below 85 decibels within a working environment to minimize hearing loss. But that standard only applies to sustained noise levels.
Vans Stevenson, a senior vice president with the Motion Picture Association of America, said his organization is against regulating the sound levels of movies.
“We already have voluntary standards in place at the direction of the National Association of Theater Owners and groups involved in sound technology. Those standards were set for the comfort and safety of patrons and we think further legislation is unnecessary,” Stevenson said.
Stevenson also said that limiting the noise in movies is a First Amendment issue.
“The state would be saying how a movie can be presented and the same standards wouldn’t apply to rock concerts, sporting events or any other sound in the world. That would be discriminatory,” he said.
Stevenson said the voluntary guidelines that movies now follow keep the average sound level in a movie or preview below the 85-decibel threshold but admitted that an explosion or burst of gunfire can briefly exceed the limits.
Such exceptions are the problem, according to William Young, a Stamford resident who pushed for the measure. He said his own tests found that prolonged busts of noise during previews climb as high as 110 decibels.
“Who wants to sit there in pain?” Young said. “These companies shouldn’t subject people to harmful sounds.”
Sen. Carlo Leone, D-Stamford, was part of a delegation that introduced the bill to the legislature but said he thought a legal solution might not be the best fix.
“If there are other corrective measures without legislation and it takes care of the problem, that would be the better choice,” he said.
Stevenson of the Motion Picture Association of America said theater owners want their patrons to be happy and safe. And if there was a problem, consumers would be complaining.
If anything, owners hear more requests to turn up the sound, not down, Stevenson said.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(JACKSONVILLE, Fla.) -- Back in November 2012, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan were hoping they’d be riding around in Air Force One and Air Force Two right about now. Instead, they’ve had to settle for the security line at the Jacksonville, Fla., International Airport.
That’s where the former Republican presidential and vice presidential nominees reunited on Sunday.
Ryan had his family in tow: His wife, Janna, and children, Liza, Samuel and Charles. (They were all reportedly on their way home from a private event organized by the conservative American Enterprise Institute this weekend in Sea Island, Ga., according to CNN).
Photo by Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama invited Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk to the White House this week for a discussion of the tension in the Crimea region of Ukraine.
Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken announced the invitation on NBC's Meet the Press. Blinken added that the U.S. would not recognize a referendum that would allow Crimea to become a part of Russia, if the vote occurs as scheduled on March 16.
Yatsenyuk took over as Prime Minister after President Viktor Yanukovych left the city of Kiev during prolonged violent protests.
United States Congress(NEW YORK) -- Sunday morning on This Week, House Intelligence Committee Chair Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., warned about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression.
“We shouldn’t underestimate the kinds of things that he will do that he thinks is in Russia’s best interests,” Rogers said on This Week Sunday. “The [Obama] administration thought, ‘Well, if we — you know, if we just act nice, everyone will act nice with us.’ And that’s just, unfortunately, not way that Putin and the Russian Federation sees the rest of the world.”
Rogers noted that Putin is “scoring huge points” back home with his forceful foreign policy, using it to assert himself internationally.
“Domestically, he doesn’t have a lot going on. That’s a problem,” Rogers said. “I do think that he wants to be back on the world stage, he wants to be a world influence. And if he has to do it through brute force, he’s going to do it. That’s his mentality.”
During the interview, ABC News’ Martha Raddatz also asked Rogers about the investigation of Flight MH370, the Malaysia Air flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing that has been missing since Saturday, with 239 people on board. Reports have raised concerns that two of the flight’s passengers may traveled with stolen passports.
“Unfortunately, it’s not common, but it is not unheard of, either, that stolen passports can be re-purposed and used, mainly for the quality of the passports themselves. So, given the right circumstances, and in this case clearly it worked, they were able to board and gained entry,” Rogers said.
Rogers described the ongoing international investigation to determine the identity of these two passengers traveling with invalid identification.
“What they’ll do now is they’ll go back through the airport and make a determination through cameras and other means to try to identify the individuals and then track that back,” Rogers said. “So it’s really very, very early. They’re going through those processes now. And it will be just — it will be a matter of time. They’ll probably identify them.”
ABC News(NEW YORK) -- It may be the opening salvo of the 2016 Republican primary. During an exclusive interview with ABC News’ Jonathan Karl for This Week, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, called Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., a friend, but drew a distinction between himself and the Kentucky senator on foreign policy, saying the U.S. “has a responsibility to defend our values.”
“I’m a big fan of Rand Paul. He and I are good friends. But I don’t agree with him on foreign policy,” Cruz said. “I think U.S. leadership is critical in the world. And I agree with him that we should be very reluctant to deploy military force abroad. But I think there is a vital role, just as Ronald Reagan did… The United States has a responsibility to defend our values.”
Cruz also took President Obama to task over Russia’s invasion of Crimea, citing the president’s “weakness” in dealing with matters of foreign policy as a reason for Russia’s seizure of the Ukrainian peninsula.
“A critical reason for Putin’s aggression has been President Obama’s weakness,” Cruz told Karl on This Week. “That Putin fears no retribution… [Obama's] policy has been to alienate and abandon our friends and to coddle and appease our enemies.”
“You’d better believe Putin sees in Benghazi four Americans are murdered, the first ambassador killed in service since 1979, and nothing happens,” Cruz added, echoing comments by other Republicans like Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. “You’d better believe that Putin sees that in Syria, Obama draws a red line and ignores the red line. You’d better believe that Putin sees all over the world.”
When asked about Russia’s record of aggression before Obama became president, including its invasion of Georgia during the presidency of George W. Bush, Cruz instead slammed Obama for mocking 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney for his comments about Russia during the 2012 campaign.
“When Mitt Romney talked about Putin expanding his sphere of influence, Obama mocked and said the Cold War has been over 20 years, nothing to be worried about… then, we keep making that mistake with Putin,” he said. “Putin is a KGB thug… When the protests began in Ukraine, the president should have stood unapologetically, emphatically for freedom… When the United States doesn’t speak for freedom, tyrants notice.”
United States Congress(WASHINGTON) -- For the second year in a row, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., won the 2014 CPAC-Washington Times Straw Poll.
The annual straw poll held Saturday at the conservative confab gauges who attendees favor to win the Republican nomination in the next presidential election.
Paul, who addressed the crowd on Friday, won the annual straw poll with 31 percent of the vote.
Coming in second place was Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who had 11 percent of the vote. Dr. Ben Carson took third place with 9 percent.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was not invited to last year’s CPAC, came in fourth place with 8 percent. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania tied for fifth place at 7 percent, while Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, came in seventh place with 6 percent.
The straw poll was the culmination of a three-day conference for conservatives just outside Washington, D.C. 2,459 people voted in this year’s straw poll, and nearly 50 percent of participants were between the ages of 18 and 25.
Photo by T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Republican star Sarah Palin closed out the Conservative Political Action Conference on Saturday, taking on both President Obama and the GOP establishment in her speech to the conservative crowd.
Palin took aim at the president’s foreign policy strategy, specifically how he has dealt with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“How do you convey to Putin the threat that sounds like ‘Vladimir don’t mess around or you’re going to feel my flexibility because I’ve got a phone and I’ve got a pen and I can dial really fast and poke you with my pen — pinkie promise,’” Palin said.
“I’m probably being too hard on the president. After all, who could’ve seen this coming?” Palin said, referring to her own warnings about Russia’s intentions.
Talking about the president’s handling of Iran’s nuclear capability, Palin said, “Mr. President, the only thing that stops a bad guy with a nuke is a good guy with a nuke.”
Palin criticized the president on issues ranging from Obamacare to the response to the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, to the IRS scandal. She also accused Democrats of “demeaning women” with their policies.
“Hey Democrats! It’s your leaders who are demeaning women,” Palin said. “Liberals seem to think the women of America are cheap dates.”
But the former Alaskan governor didn’t just lob critiques at President Obama. She also fired at lawmakers in her own party, calling members of the Republican establishment “GOP beltway boys.”
“I do believe that the eyes of America are open. Unfortunately though, some would want you to hit the snooze button and roll back over. Like ‘Hush America, go back to sleep little lambs,’” Palin said. “Some of these folks are in the GOP establishment.”
Palin shared particular praise for Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, whom she endorsed during the Texas Senate primary in 2012 over the establishment-backed candidate.
“Thank you, Texas because liberty needs a Congress on Cruz control,” Palin said. “The awakening began, and Sen. Ted Cruz helped keep them awake. His filibuster, it worked in waking people up to the folly of a government takeover.
“He told his colleagues it was time, time to stand up, time to use the tools of the Constitution, the power of the purse and to fulfill their campaign promises and to stop Obamacare,” she said. “But our army balked. We hoped that they were just reloading, but instead they retreated, and worse, worse, they joined the lapdogs in the lamestream to trash the foot soldiers who had fought for America.”
Palin noted that Cruz read Dr. Seuss' Green Eggs and Ham during his 21-hour filibuster, and she provided her own rendition of the children’s classic, crediting “the Internet” for some of the lines.
“I do not like this Uncle Sam. I do not like his healthcare scam,” Palin said. “I do not like these dirty crooks or how they lie and cook the books. I do not like when Congress stills. I do not like their crony deals. I do not like the spying man. I do not like ‘Oh yes we can.’ I do not like this spending spree. We’re smart we know there’s nothing free. I do not like reporters’ smug replies when I complain about their lies. I do not like this kind of hope. And we won’t take it, nope, nope, nope. Hat tip the Internet.”
During Palin’s speech, some in the crowd yelled, “Run, Sarah, Run!”
Palin, who only received 2 percent in the Washington Times-CPAC presidential straw poll, said to laughter, “I should, I didn’t get to run this morning. I was so busy. Did some hot yoga and didn’t get to run.”
Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call(NEW YORK) -- The Dalai Lama has joined the growing chorus of people who support gay marriage, the exiled Tibetan religious leader said during his latest visit to the United States.
“If two people — a couple — really feel that way is more practical, more sort of satisfaction, both sides fully agree, then OK,” he said during an online interview with talk show host Larry King, though he added that each country had the right to choose for themselves whether to legalize gay unions.
This seems to be a change for the celibate Dalai Lama, who previously has made remarks more critical of homosexuality, including denouncing anal and oral sex.
An ABC News-Washington Post poll released last week found that a record 59 percent of Americans support gay marriage.
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama called the leaders of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania on Saturday to reaffirm the U.S.' "unwavering commitment to our collective defense commitments under the North Atlantic Treaty" in connection with recent Russian action in Ukraine.
Obama spoke with Presidents Andris Berzins of Latvia, Dalia Grybauskaite of Lithuania and Toomas Ilves of Estonia on a conference call. The three agreed on the need for Russia to withdraw its troops from the Crimea region of Ukraine, allow international observers to enter the region and begin direct discussions with leadership in Kiev to de-escalate the situation.
Obama, spending the weekend in Florida with his family, also spoke with President Francois Hollande of France, Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of Italy on separate phone calls regarding the latest happenings in Ukraine.