Trending In Our News Feeds – Obama vows to draw down War on Terror. President Obama outlined plans to limit the scope of the War on Terror and close Guantánamo prison in a landmark counterterrorism speech yesterday at the National Defense University. Obama said he would like to alter, and ultimately repeal, the bill authorizing the War on Terror (the Authorization for Use of Military Force, or AUMF). He promised to restrict drone strikes on foreign enemies to those who pose an imminent threat to the U.S. and to lift a ban on transferring Gitmo detainees to Yemen. During the speech, Code Pink founder Medea Benjamin began shouting at Obama to close Guantánamo. The President responded, “Part of free speech is you listening.” Here are some of the highlights from the speech (via NY Times and The Week):
On U.S. drone strikes: “America cannot take strikes wherever we choose – our actions are bound by consultations with partners, and respect for state sovereignty. America does not take strikes to punish individuals – we act against terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat to the American people... And before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured – the highest standard we can set.”
On closing Guantánamo: “Given my administration’s relentless pursuit of Al Qaeda’s leadership, there is no justification beyond politics for Congress to prevent us from closing a facility that should never have been opened. I know the politics are hard. But history will cast a harsh judgment on this aspect of our fight against terrorism, and those of us who fail to end it.”
On the future of the War on Terror: “Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue. But this war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises. It’s what our democracy demands… Beyond Afghanistan, we must define our effort not as a boundless ‘global war on terror,' but rather as a series of persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America.”
Legal experts responded to Obama’s speech with skepticism. David Remes, a lawyer who has represented Gitmo prisoners, said, “The speech was deeply disappointing… [Obama only] created the illusion of forward momentum.” Political journalist Mark Mazzetti does not believe the U.S. drone program will become more transparent. Obama will likely face stiff opposition from Congress in his fight to draw down the War on Terror. On Thursday, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations, Michael Sheehan, said the War on Terror would continue “at least 10 to 20 years.”
House passes student loan bill. The House passed a GOP-backed measure yesterday to reform interest rates on student loans, by a vote of 221-198. The bill would allow interest rates on student loans to vary year to year based on the strength of the economy. Senate Democrats have promised to oppose the measure, and Obama has threatened a veto. The White House said of the bill, “A rate that continues to vary after the loan has already been taken out would create uncertainty and lessen transparency for students and their families who are making decisions about borrowing for college.” Interest rates on some student loans will double on July 1 from 3.4% to 6.8% if Congress does not pass new regulation.
Boy Scouts strike down gay ban. The Boy Scouts of America voted to strike down the organization’s ban on openly gay youth yesterday at the group’s Annual Meeting in Grapevine, Texas. 61% of the Boy Scout’s National Council voted against the ban. However, the Scouts will still not allow gays to serve as adult leaders. Zach Wahls, the founder of Scouts For Equality, said, “Today's vote ending discrimination of gay Scouts is truly a historic moment and demonstrates the Boy Scouts of America's commitment to creating a more inclusive organization.” The Boy Scouts will officially accept gay youth at the beginning of next year.
Assad tentatively agrees to peace conference. Russia’s foreign ministry said today the Assad government has agreed “in principle” to attend a peace conference in June organized by the U.S. and Russia. The conference aims to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Syria based on a set of principles established by world powers at a conference in June of last year. However, it is unclear if the Syrian conflict can end peacefully at this point. The New York Times profiles Syria’s collapse.
Status Updates – 13 lessons PolicyMic writers can teach you about college. From taking a second to unwind to paying off your student loans, PolicyMic’s top pundits want to share their college advice with you. Read our writers’ pearls of wisdom, and keep your eyes open for more features on the future of higher education.
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What We’re Sharing – John McCain wants you to pay less to watch TV (L.A. Times).
You can learn a lot from this woman who burned out in her early 30s (Huffington Post).
NPR’s Ira Glass gives creative types the best career advice ever (Vimeo).
This map shows you where the world’s atheists live (Washington Post).
In defense of sharing pictures of your food (Aeon).
Must see: Photos from Obama’s senior prom (TIME).
Nerds unveiled a 23-ton Lego model in Times Square yesterday (Wired).
Dessert – There’s no way you’re as good at guitar as this 14-year-old girl.
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