President Obama

Breaking: President Obama in Afghanistan

President Obama lands in Afghanistan, Tuesday May 1, 2012

President Obama lands in Afghanistan, Tuesday May 1, 2012

President Barack Obama landed in Afghanistan this afternoon on an unannounced trip.  He will meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and sign a strategic partnership agreement pledging U.S. support for Afghanistan for a decade after 2014 when the U.S. combat role is set to end.

Obama will then deliver a live, televised speech to the American people on live television at 7:30 this evening (Tuesday). He is expected to give an update on Afghan withdrawal plans.

Update—5 p.m.

Presidents Obama and Karzai have signed in Kabul a strategic partnership agreement between the two countries.

The Associated Press reports:

“The partnership spells out the U.S. relationship with Afghanistan beyond 2014, covering security, economics and governance. The deal is limited in scope and essentially gives both sides political cover: Afghanistan is guaranteed its sovereignty and promised it won't be abandoned, while the U.S. gets to end its combat mission in the long and unpopular war but keep a foothold in the country. The deal does not commit the United States to any specific troop presence or spending. But it does allow the U.S. to potentially keep troops in Afghanistan after the war ends…”

“At a signing ceremony in Kabul with Afghan President Karzai, Obama said the agreement paves the way for 'a future of peace’ while allowing the United States to ‘wind down this war.’ Karzai said his countrymen ‘will never forget’ the help of U.S. forces over the past decade.”

Badump-CHA! Five Memorable Moments from the 2012 White House Correspondents Dinner

Photo by Kristoffer Tripplaar-Pool/Getty Images

President Obama laughs during the 2012 Washington Correspondents Dinner. Photo by Kristoffer Tripplaar-Pool/Getty Images

Movers, shakers and policy makers convened over the weekend for the annual White House Correspondents Dinner (aka Nerd Prom) at the Washington Hilton. Late-night personality Jimmy Kimmel hosted the gala evening, which showcased President Obama's much lighter (and snarkier) side in the company of some of his closest friends, allies and at least a couple of frenemies.

Inside the blog we've assembled for you five memorable moments from the 2012 Nerd Prom that you don't want to miss.

Quran Burning: It Takes a Fool to Start a Fire

Terry Jones in a Michigan courtroom, 2011. Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images.

Terry Jones in a Michigan courtroom, 2011. Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images.

Over the weekend, the (seemingly) perennial fire-starter and certifiable wingnut Terry Jones, pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., a 50-member self-proclaimed Christian congragation, made good on his threats to burn a copy of the Muslim holy book, the Quran, in what he said was a protest of the ongoing incarceration of a Christian pastor in Iraq.

You may recognize Jones from his infamous 2011 Quran burning, one that federal authorities and President Obama personally attempted (in vain, sadly)  to prevent the wrong-headed from what many critics feared would only serve to perpetuate further anti-American violence by so-called Islamic extremists and terrorists around the world.

This time, Jones claimed to be stoking his fires of unrest on behalf of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, a Muslim convert to Christianity who has been imprisoned by the Iranian government for nearly three years on charges of apostasy and reportedly is facing execution for his "crimes."

The Gainesville Sun newspaper reports that this weekend's Quran burning, which also included an effigy of Islam's Prophet Muhammad set aflame, took place in front of 20 spectators outside Jones' church, and the whole incident was broadcast live on the Internet.

President Obama on Passover, Easter: 'Common Thread of Humanity'

In his weeky address, President Obama said in part:

"For millions of Americans, this weekend is a time to celebrate redemption at God’s hand. Tonight, Jews will gather for a second Seder, where they will retell the story of the Exodus. And tomorrow, my family will join Christians around the world as we thank God for the all-important gift of grace through the resurrection of His son, and experience the wonder of Easter morning.

"These holidays have their roots in miracles that took place thousands of years ago. They connect us to our past and give us strength as we face the future. And they remind us of the common thread of humanity that connects us all.

"For me, and for countless other Christians, Easter weekend is a time to reflect and rejoice...."

Obama Nominates Physician, Global Health Expert to Head World Bank

 Photo via Getty Images.

Dr. Jim Yong Kim, nominee for president of the World Bank, at the White House Friday 3/23/12. Photo via Getty Images.

In a move that surprised many in the world of economics and politics, on Friday morning President Obama nominated Jim Yong Kim, the South Korea-born physician, anthropologist and president of Dartmouth College, to be the next president of the World Bank.

Prior to taking the helm at Dartmouth in 2009, Kim, 52, led the global health and social medicine department at Harvard Medical School, of which he is a graduate. Widely considered one of the leading minds in world health, Kim also has served as a director of the HIV/AIDS department at the World Health Organization, where he focused on helping developing countries improve treatment and prevention programs.

Obama called Kim, “an innovative leader whose groundbreaking work to fight disease and combat poverty has saved lives around the globe.” The President said Kim is exceptionally well qualified for the position but brings “more to the role than an impressive record of designing new ways to solve entrenched problems.

“Development is his lifetime commitment, and it is his passion,” Obama said. “And in a world with so much potential to improve living standards, we have a unique opportunity to harness that passion and experience at the helm of the World Bank.”

Obama: 'If I Had a Son, He'd Look Like Trayvon'

President Barack Obama, JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

President Barack Obama, JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

President Barack Obama spoke out about the Trayvon Martin shooting Friday morning at a press briefing nominating Dr. Jim Yong Kim to head the World Bank.

"If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon," he said. "And I think [his parents] are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves and we’re going to get to the bottom of what happened."

Bishop Hopes to Restart White House Contraception Talks

RNS photo courtesy House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight.

Bishop William Lori testifies on contraception mandate. RNS photo courtesy House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight.

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — The Catholic bishop leading the push against the White House's contraception mandate says the bishops hope to restart contentious talks with the Obama administration, but cautioned that church leaders "have gotten mixed signals from the administration" and the situation "is very fluid."

Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., who chairs the religious liberty committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told Religion News Service that Catholics have to stay united if the hierarchy is to have any chance of prevailing in negotiations with the White House.

Ever since President Obama bowed to growing pressure and shifted the mandate to provide contraception mandate to insurance companies and away from religious employers, the White House has been hosting talks with various religious groups about a plan to modify the regulation.

Catholic institutions like hospitals, universities and social service agencies are most directly affected by the regulation because they are the biggest faith-based employers. They have also been much more amenable to the Obama accommodation than have the bishops.

Many bishops are upset with Catholic groups that have dealt independently with the administration, and some have also accused the administration of trying to divide the church.

Bishops Face Internal Challenges in Contraception Battle

(Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York attends a mass held by pope Benedict XVI.(Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

In the weeks since President Obama proposed a compromise on his plan to mandate free contraception coverage, the nation's Catholic bishops have appeared unified and galvanized in their thorough rejection of the accommodation.

For the hierarchy, it's been an invigorating change after years of playing defense during the clergy sexual abuse crisis.

"What (Obama) offered was next to nothing," a confident New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told Catholic News Service.

Other prominent churchmen were even more derisive. They blasted Obama's olive branch of having insurers -- rather than employers like Catholic hospitals and universities -- pay for birth control coverage under a separate policy as an "accounting gimmick."

White House Insists Contraception Talks are on Track

Image by Brooke Becker/

Image by Brooke Becker/

The Obama administration is rejecting charges by the nation's top Catholic bishop that talks to modify a controversial birth control mandate are "going nowhere" because of alleged White House intransigence and efforts to diminish the central role of the bishops.

"The White House has put nearly every issue requested by the bishops on the table for discussion and has sought the views of bishops on resolving difficult policy problems, only to be rebuffed," an administration official close to the negotiations said Tuesday (March 6).

The official was not authorized to speak publicly on the negotiations and requested anonymity to speak candidly about the sensitive talks.