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Catherine Thompson

Catherine Thompson is a news writer for Talking Points Memo. Before joining TPM, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett and interned at The L Magazine. At New York University she served as the deputy managing editor of NYU's student newspaper, The Washington Square News. She can be reached at catherine@talkingpointsmemo.com.

Articles by Catherine

President Barack Obama on Thursday took a swipe at private college rating systems, singling out the U.S. News & World Report as he announced a new plan for a federal college rating system based on affordability that seeks to eventually tie taxpayer dollars to rankings.

"Right now, private rankings like the U.S. News & World Report puts out each year encourage colleges to game the numbers and rewards them in some cases for costs," Obama told students at the University of Buffalo in New York. "Are they helping students from all kinds of backgrounds succeed?"

President Barack Obama said Thursday in a speech at the University of Buffalo in New York that the country is experiencing "a crisis in terms of college affordability and student debt."

"I've heard from a lot of these young people who are frustrated that they've done everything they're supposed to do, got good grades in high school, applied to college, did well in school," he said. "But now they come out, they've got this crushing debt that's crippling their sense of self-reliance and their dreams. It becomes hard to start a family and buy a home if you're servicing $1,000 of debt every month. It becomes harder to start a business if you are servicing $1,000 worth of debt every month."

"Bottom line is this, we've got a crisis in terms of college affordability and student debt," he added.

 

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) released a blistering statement Thursday, stating the U.S. had lost its credibility in the Middle East and failed to take action in Syria despite unconfirmed reports that the Syrian government employed chemical weapons against its citizens.

Read the full statement:

Credible reports coming out of Syria suggest that Assad and his forces have escalated their use of chemical weapons. This most recent massacre of innocent men, women, and children should shock our collective conscience – that is, whatever conscience remains after more than 100,000 Syrians have been slaughtered while the United States has largely remained on the sidelines.

 

Last week marked the two-year anniversary of President Obama's call for Assad to leave power. It has been a year since the President said that the use of chemical weapons in Syria would constitute the crossing of a red line. But, because these threats have not been backed up by any real consequences, they have rung hollow. As a result, the killing goes on, Assad remains in power, and his use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians apparently continues. It is long past time for the United States and our friends and allies to respond to Assad's continuing mass atrocities in Syria with decisive actions, including limited military strikes to degrade Assad's air power and ballistic missile capabilities.

 

American credibility in the Middle East has never been lower. Red lines on Syria have been threatened with no action taken. Threats to cut off assistance to Egypt have been made and then reneged. Our friends and enemies alike, both in the Middle East and across the world are questioning whether America has the will and the capacity to do what it says. This dangerous development impacts the national security interests of the United States and our closest allies, and if we continue to sit by passively while Assad continues to use chemical weapons against his own people, we only provide encouragement to other brutal governments in their use of harsh measures against their own people. It is time for the United States to come to the assistance of the Syrian people.

The U.S. Army responded Thursday to the announcement that private Chelsea Manning, previously known as Bradley, had decided to seek hormone therapy and be treated as a woman after being sentenced for leaking classified information.

"Inmates at the United States Disciplinary Barracks and Joint Regional Correctional Facility are treated equally regardless of race, rank, ethnicity or sexual orientation," the written statement read, as quoted by TODAY. "All inmates are considered soldiers and are treated as such with access to mental health professionals, including a psychiatrist, psychologist, social workers and behavioral science noncommissioned officers with experience in addressing the needs of military personnel in pre- and post-trial confinement."

"The Army does not provide hormone therapy or sex-reassignment surgery for gender identity disorder," the statement continued. "The USDB has implemented risk assessment protocols and safety procedures to address high risk factors identified with the Prison Rape Elimination Act."

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner's legal team reached a tentative settlement agreement Wednesday evening after three days of mediation in response to a sexual harassment suit filed against him, the U-T San Diego reported. 

"The City Council has not heard of this proposal and our process at City Hall as well as the mediation process requires that we maintain the confidentiality of the proposal until they have heard of it,” City Attorney Jan Goldsmith told reporters, as quoted by the U-T. “This is the process we follow. Any rumors you hear about the proposal you may deem to be untrue because the people standing here are the ones who know of it and we have all committed to [Federal Judge J. Lawrence Irving] that we will maintain the confidentiality of the mediation.”

The City Council will consider the proposed agreement in a closed session Friday afternoon, according to the U-T.

CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker reported that a source close to the talks said Filner's resignation appears to be a part of the settlement deal. Attorney Gloria Allred and her client in the sexual harassment suit, Filner's former Communications Director Irene McCormack Jackson, considered the mayor's resignation a key demand, according to the U-T.

Eighteen different women have come forth to accuse the mayor of various harrassment so far.

Police in Allen, Texas released audio to Dallas television station KXAS Wednesday of a call made by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (R) to ask for the release of a relative from jail. 

Ellen Beavers, who Dewhurst described at difference points in the recording as a "sister-in-law" and "step-niece-in-law," was jailed on Aug. 3 for allegedly shoplifting at a grocery store, according to KXAS.

Dewhurst called the main Allen police phone number and asked to be transferred to the "most senior police officer you have," according to KXAS. Later in the recording of the call, Dewhurst can be heard asking to be put in touch with the county judge and the county sheriff. 

"Sergeant, you don't know me, but I am every year the No. 1 pick of all the law enforcement agencies in Texas," Dewhurst said in the recording of the call. "And I want you to do whatever is the proper thing."

"This lady was not, I know in my heart, was not involved in the intentional walking out and stealing $57," he continued. "She's been my step niece-in-law for like 30 years, and so I would like to know what I need to do to get her out of jail this evening."

A Dewhurst spokesperson released a short statement defending the lieutenant governor's inquiry.

"David acted as a concerned family member in an attempt to acquire information on how to post bail for his niece while reiterating multiple times in the full conversation that law enforcement follow their normal protocols and procedures," Dewhurst spokesman Travis Consedine said in a written statement, as quoted by KXAS.

Listen to the audio recording of the call, courtesy of KXAS: 

Bradley Manning's attorney announced Thursday on NBC's "Today Show" that Manning would like to live as a woman. 

Manning, the Army private who was sentenced to 35 years in military prison for leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks, released a written statement that was read on the show:

Subject: The Next Stage of My Life

 

I want to thank everybody who has supported me over the last three years. Throughout this long ordeal, your letters of support and encouragement have helped keep me strong. I am forever indebted to those who wrote to me, made a donation to my defense fund, or came to watch a portion of the trial. I would especially like to thank Courage to Resist and the Bradley Manning Support Network for their tireless efforts in raising awareness for my case and providing for my legal representation.

 

As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me. I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I hope that you will support me in this transition. I also request that, starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun (except in official mail to the confinement facility). I look forward to receiving letters from supporters and having the opportunity to write back.

 

Thank you,

 

Chelsea E. Manning

Watch the "Today Show" segment below: 

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Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R) announced Wednesday that he will not be running for governor of the state.

"I've decided, with my wife's blessing, that I will not be running for governor of Massachusetts in 2014," Brown first announced on WBZ Radio's "Nightside With Dan Rea." 

Brown won a special Senate election in 2010 to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA), then lost to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) in 2012. The former senator traveled to the Iowa State Fair on Sunday to gauge interest in his "brand of leadership and Republicanism," suggesting that although he won't be launching a gubernatorial bid, he may be open to running for offices.

"For the first time in 15 plus years, I have had a Summer to spend with my family," Brown wrote on his Facebook page. "In addition, I have been fortunate to have private sector opportunities that I find fulfilling and exhilarating. These new opportunities have allowed me to grow personally and professionally. I want to continue with that process."

Former Rep. Gabby Giffords' (D-AZ) gun control group launched a TV ad Wednesday in support of Colorado state Senate President John Morse (D), who is facing a Sept. 10 recall election spurred on by his support of state gun control laws.

Americans For Responsible Solutions' ad, titled "Fighting for Us," doesn't rely on Morse's support of background checks for gun purchases. Instead, the 30-second spot urges Colorado residents to vote "no" on the recall and remember Morse's record of community safety, including championing a law that uses DNA technology to track down child molesters.

"My children's safety and my family are his number one priority," Colorado Springs resident Kristen said in the ad. "We need more people like John looking out for us."

The six-figure ad buy will run on both network and cable channels in the Colorado Springs, Colo. market, according to a press release. 

A reporter was taken off the air Wednesday from Russian-based television network RT after interrupting a panel on Bradley Manning's sentencing to speak for several minutes against the country's recently passed anti-gay laws.

“Being here on a Kremlin-funded propaganda network, I’m going to wear my gay pride suspenders and speak out against the horrific, anti-gay legislation that Vladimir Putin has signed into law,” reporter James Kirchick said.

"RT has been Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden 24/7. I haven't seen anything on your network about the anti-gay laws that have been passed in Russia," he continued.

RT hosts frequently interjected to try to steer the discussion back to Bradley Manning, but were unsuccessful. One host pointed out to Kirchick that the network aired a panel discussion with members of the LGBT community the previous week to discuss the new laws.

"You have 24 hours a day to lie about the United States and to ignore what's happening in Russia," Kirchick said over the hosts. "I'm going to take my two minutes and tell people the truth."

Shortly afterward, Kirchick disappeared from the panelists' splitscreen, according to the Washington Free Beacon.

Watch the video below:

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