04 21 2015
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  • When should we use military to enforce US goals? NASHUA, N.H. (AP) — Rand Paul lashed out Saturday at military hawks in the Republican Party in a clash over foreign policy dividing the packed GOP presidential field. Paul, a first-term senator from Kentucky who favors a smaller U.S. footprint in the world, said that some of his Republican colleagues would do more harm in international affairs than would leading Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton. "The other Republicans will criticize the president and Hillary Clinton for their foreign policy, but they would just have done the same thing — just 10 times over," Paul said on the closing day of a New Hampshire GOP conference that brought about 20 presidential prospects to the first-in-the-nation primary state. "There's a group of folks in our party who would have troops in six countries right now, maybe more," Paul said. Foreign policy looms large in the presidential race as the U.S. struggles to resolve diplomatic and military conflicts across the globe. The GOP presidential class regularly rails against President Barack Obama's leadership on the world stage, yet some would-be contenders have yet to articulate their own positions, while others offered sharply different visions. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, whose brother, President George W. Bush, authorized the 2003 invasion of Iraq, declined to say whether he would have done anything different then. Yet Jeb Bush acknowledged a shift in his party against new military action abroad. "Our enemies need to fear us, a little bit, just enough for them to deter the actions that create insecurity," Bush said earlier in the conference. He said restoring alliances "that will create less likelihood of America's boots on the ground has to be the priority, the first priority of the next president." The GOP's hawks were well represented at the event, led by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who has limited foreign policy experience but articulated a muscular vision during his Saturday keynote address. Walker said the threats posed by radical Islamic terrorism won't be handled simply with "a couple bombings." "We're not going to wait till they bring the fight to us," Walker said. "We're going to bring the fight to them and fight on their soil." South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham addressed the question of putting U.S. troops directly in the battle against the Islamic State group militants by saying there is only one way to defeat the militants: "You go over there and you fight them so they don't come here." Texas Sen. Ted Cruz suggested an aggressive approach as well. "The way to defeat ISIS is a simple and clear military objective," he said. "We will destroy them." Businesswoman Carly Fiorina offered a similar outlook. "The world is a more dangerous and more tragic place when America is not leading. And America has not led for quite some time," she said. Under Obama, a U.S.-led coalition of Western and Arab countries is conducting regular airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. also has hundreds of military advisers in Iraq helping Iraqi security forces plan operations against the Islamic State, which occupies large chunks of northern and western Iraq. Paul didn't totally reject the use of military force, noting that he recently introduced a declaration of war against the Islamic State group. But in an interview with The Associated Press, he emphasized the importance of diplomacy. He singled out Russia and China, which have complicated relationships with the U.S., as countries that could contribute to U.S. foreign policy interests. "I think the Russians and the Chinese have great potential to help make the world a better place," he said. "I don't say that naively that they're going to, but they have the potential to." Paul suggested the Russians could help by getting Syrian President Bashar Assad to leave power. "Maybe he goes to Russia," Paul said. Despite tensions with the U.S., Russia and China negotiated alongside Washington in nuclear talks with Iran. Paul has said he is keeping an open mind about the nuclear negotiations. "The people who already are very skeptical, very doubtful, may not like the president for partisan reasons," he said, and "just may want war instead of negotiations."
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  • A number of the bills now before the Oregon State Legislature protect parties who have experienced domestic violence or sexual assault  
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  • Some lawmakers, sensing a tipping point, are backing the parents and teachers who complain about 'high stakes' tests   
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  • Watch Rachel Maddow interview VA Secretary Robert McDonald  
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 High school students in Portland have secured free transportation through the TriMet YouthPass until the end of this school year.

That's thanks to a deal inked this week between Portland Public Schools, TriMet and the City of Portland, that will cover the program's $675,000 shortfall.

Still, the future of the program remains unclear, despite hopes that it will be extended to students in East County and across the metro region.

Multnomah Youth Commission organized support for the YouthPass, sending a letter out to school principals Nov. 27.

"We had an overwhelming response," says Todd Diskin, the mayor's youth engagement co-coordinator, who works with the youth commission.

"I received 250 emails to my office, from people in the community. They were from students, parents, and teachers. That spoke to the immediacy of the need. People really responded to this and told us it is very important."



The youth commission wants the program extended to every middle and high-school in the Portland-metro region. A 2009 survey showed that 80 percent of the 13,000 students who have a YouthPass use it almost daily. Students use the pass to get to school, to take part in sports and activities, to meet friends and to travel to jobs.

"I really need a bus pass," says Nick Cruz, a student at Open Meadow High School. "It's how I get to and from school every day, and it's how I get to the places I need to get to, and back home. If you take away my bus pass you're essentially making me stay at home the entire time."

Schools with higher numbers of students of color and low-income students use the pass more, suggesting it contributes to leveling the playing field for disadvantaged teens.

"It's very important, particularly when students are moving, not just with gentrification but also because of school closures," says Jon Oster of the environmental justice group OPAL. "With Marshall High School closing, those students are now traveling further to get to Madison or Franklin. It's critical for youth."

Marci Jackson, a working parent, said transportation expenses put financial stress on many parents.

"I have three to buy, so that's $75 a month just to help me get kids to and from school, and to and from activities," she said. "That's pretty expensive for parents."

When it was created, the YouthPass was funded through Oregon's Business Energy Tax Credit program.  But last June, the Oregon Legislature decided to sunset that funding at the end of 2011.

Under the new deal, the gap will be closed this year using:

$375,000 in discounts from TriMet, amounting to a 10 percent YouthPass discount for the entire year;

$75,000 from Portland Public Schools budget, and;

$225,000 from the City of Portland budget.

The total cost of the YouthPass program is $1,645,000.

Diskin says he understands why the tax credit program is not the best way to fund it, but he says the program is far cheaper than using a yellow bus system to transport high schoolers, and it offers many more benefits to youth, families and the community.

The state would have to reimburse 70 percent of the costs of those buses, which total about $6 million, Diskin said.

"I do think it is the responsibility of our state to think about meeting the needs of young people, and that includes transportation."

Advocates say the YouthPass not only supports families, it helps reduce traffic congestion around neighborhood schools, lowers carbon emissions – which helps Portland's Climate Action Plan – and introduces the next generation to public transit.

Shani Josefina Plunkett-de la Cruz, a junior at Roosevelt High School, and a Multnomah Youth Commissioner, is one of the teens who advocated for continuing the YouthPass.

"Many students in my school alone have no other option. They depend on the bus pass and for some, without it, they would not be able to get to school at all," she said. "My mom works two jobs, so she doesn't have time to drive me everywhere I need to be. With the YouthPass, I can travel to and from extracurricular activities such as sports, or the Multnomah Youth Commission."

Diskin says the Youth Commission has told city staff it is committed to continuing the fight to secure sustainable funding for the program.

"What we're looking at is what's next," he said. "Everyone is still really invested."

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