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Rex Tillerson confirmation: Real-time updates from the hearing

Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, President-elect Donald Trump's pick for secretary of state, will go before a Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday.

Tillerson is ikely to face pointed questions from both Republicans and Democrats as the hearings for the second of Trump's cabinet nominees gets under  way.

Tillerson's ties to Russia will surely be a topic visited early and often, while his supporters are likely to point to his experience as a successful manager.

You can watch the hearing live below.

Live updates

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What time do the Tillerson, Sessions, Chao hearings begin?

Here is the schedule of Senate confirmation hearings for Wednesday

Rex Tillerson, secretary of state

When: Jan. 11 at 9:15 am

 How to watch online: Tillerson’s hearing will be streamed on  C-SPAN 3 and the Foreign Relations Committee’s webpage.

Jeff Sessions, attorney general

When:  Jan. 11 at 9:30 am

How to watch online: The hearing will be live-streamed on  C-SPAN  and on the Judiciary Committee’s website 

Elaine Chao, secretary of transportation

When: Jan. 11 at 10:15 am

How to Watch: Chao’s hearing will be live-streamed on the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee’s webpage.

7 things to know now: Russian report; Obama's farewell; Trump, Kennedy meet

Here's a roundup of news trending across the nation and world today.

What to know now:

1. Russian report: According to U.S. officials, President-elect Donald Trump was made aware last week of an unsubstantiated report that says Russia has compromising personal and financial information about him. Trump’s briefing by U.S. intelligence officials, first reported by CNN, is said to have included a 35-page report that detailed an assessment of what intelligence officials believe was Russia’s attempts to manipulate the U.S. presidential election in addition to an addendum that contained the information about Trump. The information that Russia has material they could use to blackmail Trump allegedly came from a former British spy, and was part of an opposition research report prepared for a Republican who opposed Trump. According to reports, it was later funded by Democrats. The document remains unconfirmed and is said to contain some “errors.” 

2. Sessions testimony: Trump nominee for attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions, will be back on Capitol Hill Wednesday for a second day of confirmation hearings. Sessions answered questions from fellow senators for hours on Tuesday. In one pointed exchange, Sen. Patrick Leahy, (D-Vt.), asked Sessions about the “Access Hollywood” tape of Donald Trump talking about what he could do to women since he was a celebrity. He asked Session if what Trump described was sexual assault. “Is grabbing a woman by her genitals without consent sexual assault,” Leahy asked. Sessions answered it was. 

3. Trump, Kennedy meet: Donald Trump met with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Tuesday at Trump Tower in Manhattan. The Trump transition team said in a statement that "the President-elect enjoyed his discussion with Robert Kennedy Jr. on a range of issues and appreciates his thoughts and ideas," adding that the president-elect "is exploring the possibility of forming a commission on Autism." When interviewed in the lobby of the building, Kennedy told reporters that he would be the head of a commission "to make sure we have scientific integrity in the vaccine process for efficacy and safety effects."  

4. Roof sentenced to death: Dylann Roof, who was convicted last month of killing nine people at a church in South Carolina, was sentenced to death on Tuesday. Roof acted as his own attorney during the sentencing phase of his trial. He told the 12 jurors that "There is nothing wrong with me psychologically,” and that he felt he had to commit the shootings.  

5. The farewell address: President Barack Obama went back to where he got his start in politics to deliver his farewell address. During the nearly one hour speech, he urged a crowd of thousands in Chicago Tuesday night to stay engaged in the political process. While he did not mention Donald Trump by name, he did take the opportunity to warn that opinions should be based in facts. “…without a willingness to admit new information, and concede that your opponent is making a fair point, and that science and reason matter, we'll keep talking past each other, making common ground and compromise impossible." He also thanked first lady Michelle Obama, his daughters, Vice President Joe Biden and his supporters.

And one more

The New York Times is reporting that a former Fox News employee has received a settlement over sexually harassment claim against Bill O’Reilly. Juliet Huddy says O’Reilly made advances toward her and tried to have a sexual relationship with her. She claims that when she rebuffed him he tried to derail her career. According to The Times, Huddy received a high six figure settlement. Fox News responded that, "Juliet Huddy's letter of intent to sue contained substantial falsehoods which Bill O'Reilly vehemently denied."  

In case you missed it

Read the full transcript of President Obama's farewell address

Here is the text of the farewell address President Obama delivered Tuesday in Chicago.

"It’s good to be home.  My fellow Americans, Michelle and I have been so touched by all the well-wishes we’ve received over the past few weeks.  But tonight it’s my turn to say thanks.  Whether we’ve seen eye-to-eye or rarely agreed at all, my conversations with you, the American people – in living rooms and schools; at farms and on factory floors; at diners and on distant outposts – are what have kept me honest, kept me inspired, and kept me going.  Every day, I learned from you.  You made me a better president, and you made me a better man.

I first came to Chicago when I was in my early 20s, still trying to figure out who I was; still searching for a purpose to my life.  It was in neighborhoods not far from here where I began working with church groups in the shadows of closed steel mills.  It was on these streets where I witnessed the power of faith, and the quiet dignity of working people in the face of struggle and loss.  This is where I learned that change only happens when ordinary people get involved, get engaged, and come together to demand it. 

After eight years as your president, I still believe that.  And it’s not just my belief.  It’s the beating heart of our American idea – our bold experiment in self-government. 

It’s the conviction that we are all created equal, endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It’s the insistence that these rights, while self-evident, have never been self-executing; that we, the people, through the instrument of our democracy, can form a more perfect union.

This is the great gift our Founders gave us.  The freedom to chase our individual dreams through our sweat, toil, and imagination – and the imperative to strive together as well, to achieve a greater good.

For 240 years, our nation’s call to citizenship has given work and purpose to each new generation.  It’s what led patriots to choose republic over tyranny, pioneers to trek west, slaves to brave that makeshift railroad to freedom.  It’s what pulled immigrants and refugees across oceans and the Rio Grande, pushed women to reach for the ballot, powered workers to organize.  It’s why GIs gave their lives at Omaha Beach and Iwo Jima; Iraq and Afghanistan – and why men and women from Selma to Stonewall were prepared to give theirs as well. 

So that’s what we mean when we say America is exceptional.  Not that our nation has been flawless from the start, but that we have shown the capacity to change, and make life better for those who follow. 

Yes, our progress has been uneven.  The work of democracy has always been hard, contentious and sometimes bloody.  For every two steps forward, it often feels we take one step back.  But the long sweep of America has been defined by forward motion, a constant widening of our founding creed to embrace all, and not just some.

If I had told you eight years ago that America would reverse a great recession, reboot our auto industry, and unleash the longest stretch of job creation in our history…if I had told you that we would open up a new chapter with the Cuban people, shut down Iran’s nuclear weapons program without firing a shot, and take out the mastermind of 9/11…if I had told you that we would win marriage equality, and secure the right to health insurance for another 20 million of our fellow citizens – you might have said our sights were set a little too high.

But that’s what we did.  That’s what you did.  You were the change.  You answered people’s hopes, and because of you, by almost every measure, America is a better, stronger place than it was when we started.

In 10 days, the world will witness a hallmark of our democracy:  the peaceful transfer of power from one freely elected president to the next.  I committed to President-elect Trump that my administration would ensure the smoothest possible transition, just as President Bush did for me.  Because it’s up to all of us to make sure our government can help us meet the many challenges we still face.

We have what we need to do so.  After all, we remain the wealthiest, most powerful, and most respected nation on Earth.  Our youth and drive, our diversity and openness, our boundless capacity for risk and reinvention mean that the future should be ours.

But that potential will be realized only if our democracy works.  Only if our politics reflects the decency of the our people.  Only if all of us, regardless of our party affiliation or particular interest, help restore the sense of common purpose that we so badly need right now. 

That’s what I want to focus on tonight – the state of our democracy.

Understand, democracy does not require uniformity.  Our founders quarreled and compromised, and expected us to do the same. But they knew that democracy does require a basic sense of solidarity – the idea that for all our outward differences, we are all in this together; that we rise or fall as one.

There have been moments throughout our history that threatened to rupture that solidarity.  The beginning of this century has been one of those times.  A shrinking world, growing inequality; demographic change and the specter of terrorism – these forces haven’t just tested our security and prosperity, but our democracy as well.  And how we meet these challenges to our democracy will determine our ability to educate our kids, and create good jobs, and protect our homeland. 

In other words, it will determine our future.

Our democracy won’t work without a sense that everyone has economic opportunity.  Today, the economy is growing again; wages, incomes, home values, and retirement accounts are rising again; poverty is falling again.  The wealthy are paying a fairer share of taxes even as the stock market shatters records.  The unemployment rate is near a ten-year low.  The uninsured rate has never, ever been lower.  Health care costs are rising at the slowest rate in fifty years.  And if anyone can put together a plan that is demonstrably better than the improvements we’ve made to our health care system – that covers as many people at less cost – I will publicly support it. 

That, after all, is why we serve – to make people’s lives better, not worse. 

But for all the real progress we’ve made, we know it’s not enough.  Our economy doesn’t work as well or grow as fast when a few prosper at the expense of a growing middle class.  But stark inequality is also corrosive to our democratic principles.  While the top one percent has amassed a bigger share of wealth and income, too many families, in inner cities and rural counties, have been left behind – the laid-off factory worker; the waitress and health care worker who struggle to pay the bills – convinced that the game is fixed against them, that their government only serves the interests of the powerful – a recipe for more cynicism and polarization in our politics. 

There are no quick fixes to this long-term trend.  I agree that our trade should be fair and not just free.  But the next wave of economic dislocation won’t come from overseas.  It will come from the relentless pace of automation that makes many good, middle-class jobs obsolete.

And so we must forge a new social compact – to guarantee all our kids the education they need; to give workers the power to unionize for better wages; to update the social safety net to reflect the way we live now and make more reforms to the tax code so corporations and individuals who reap the most from the new economy don’t avoid their obligations to the country that’s made their success possible.  We can argue about how to best achieve these goals.  But we can’t be complacent about the goals themselves.  For if we don’t create opportunity for all people, the disaffection and division that has stalled our progress will only sharpen in years to come.

There’s a second threat to our democracy – one as old as our nation itself.  After my election, there was talk of a post-racial America.  Such a vision, however well-intended, was never realistic.  For race remains a potent and often divisive force in our society.  I’ve lived long enough to know that race relations are better than they were ten, or twenty, or thirty years ago – you can see it not just in statistics, but in the attitudes of young Americans across the political spectrum.

But we’re not where we need to be.  All of us have more work to do.  After all, if every economic issue is framed as a struggle between a hardworking white middle class and undeserving minorities, then workers of all shades will be left fighting for scraps while the wealthy withdraw further into their private enclaves.  If we decline to invest in the children of immigrants, just because they don’t look like us, we diminish the prospects of our own children – because those brown kids will represent a larger share of America’s workforce.  And our economy doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game.  Last year, incomes rose for all races, all age groups, for men and for women. 

Going forward, we must uphold laws against discrimination – in hiring, in housing, in education and the criminal justice system.  That’s what our Constitution and highest ideals require.  But laws alone won’t be enough.  Hearts must change.  If our democracy is to work in this increasingly diverse nation, each one of us must try to heed the advice of one of the great characters in American fiction, Atticus Finch, who said “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

For blacks and other minorities, it means tying our own struggles for justice to the challenges that a lot of people in this country face – the refugee, the immigrant, the rural poor, the transgender American, and also the middle-aged white man who from the outside may seem like he’s got all the advantages, but who’s seen his world upended by economic, cultural, and technological change. 

For white Americans, it means acknowledging that the effects of slavery and Jim Crow didn’t suddenly vanish in the ‘60s; that when minority groups voice discontent, they’re not just engaging in reverse racism or practicing political correctness; that when they wage peaceful protest, they’re not demanding special treatment, but the equal treatment our Founders promised. 

For native-born Americans, it means reminding ourselves that the stereotypes about immigrants today were said, almost word for word, about the Irish, Italians, and Poles.  America wasn’t weakened by the presence of these newcomers; they embraced this nation’s creed, and it was strengthened. 

So regardless of the station we occupy; we have to try harder; to start with the premise that each of our fellow citizens loves this country just as much as we do; that they value hard work and family like we do; that their children are just as curious and hopeful and worthy of love as our own. 

None of this is easy.  For too many of us, it’s become safer to retreat into our own bubbles, whether in our neighborhoods or college campuses or places of worship or our social media feeds, surrounded by people who look like us and share the same political outlook and never challenge our assumptions.  The rise of naked partisanship, increasing economic and regional stratification, the splintering of our media into a channel for every taste – all this makes this great sorting seem natural, even inevitable.  And increasingly, we become so secure in our bubbles that we accept only information, whether true or not, that fits our opinions, instead of basing our opinions on the evidence that’s out there.

This trend represents a third threat to our democracy.  Politics is a battle of ideas; in the course of a healthy debate, we’ll prioritize different goals, and the different means of reaching them.  But without some common baseline of facts; without a willingness to admit new information, and concede that your opponent is making a fair point, and that science and reason matter, we’ll keep talking past each other, making common ground and compromise impossible. 

Isn’t that part of what makes politics so dispiriting?  How can elected officials rage about deficits when we propose to spend money on preschool for kids, but not when we’re cutting taxes for corporations?  How do we excuse ethical lapses in our own party, but pounce when the other party does the same thing?  It’s not just dishonest, this selective sorting of the facts; it’s self-defeating.  Because as my mother used to tell me, reality has a way of catching up with you. 

Take the challenge of climate change.  In just eight years, we’ve halved our dependence on foreign oil, doubled our renewable energy, and led the world to an agreement that has the promise to save this planet.  But without bolder action, our children won’t have time to debate the existence of climate change; they’ll be busy dealing with its effects: environmental disasters, economic disruptions, and waves of climate refugees seeking sanctuary. 

Now, we can and should argue about the best approach to the problem.  But to simply deny the problem not only betrays future generations; it betrays the essential spirit of innovation and practical problem-solving that guided our Founders.

It’s that spirit, born of the Enlightenment, that made us an economic powerhouse – the spirit that took flight at Kitty Hawk and Cape Canaveral; the spirit that that cures disease and put a computer in every pocket. 

It’s that spirit – a faith in reason, and enterprise, and the primacy of right over might, that allowed us to resist the lure of fascism and tyranny during the Great Depression, and build a post-World War II order with other democracies, an order based not just on military power or national affiliations but on principles – the rule of law, human rights, freedoms of religion, speech, assembly, and an independent press.

That order is now being challenged – first by violent fanatics who claim to speak for Islam; more recently by autocrats in foreign capitals who see free markets, open democracies, and civil society itself as a threat to their power.  The peril each poses to our democracy is more far-reaching than a car bomb or a missile.  It represents the fear of change; the fear of people who look or speak or pray differently; a contempt for the rule of law that holds leaders accountable; an intolerance of dissent and free thought; a belief that the sword or the gun or the bomb or propaganda machine is the ultimate arbiter of what’s true and what’s right.

Because of the extraordinary courage of our men and women in uniform, and the intelligence officers, law enforcement, and diplomats who support them, no foreign terrorist organization has successfully planned and executed an attack on our homeland these past eight years; and although Boston and Orlando remind us of how dangerous radicalization can be, our law enforcement agencies are more effective and vigilant than ever.  We’ve taken out tens of thousands of terrorists – including Osama bin Laden.  The global coalition we’re leading against ISIL has taken out their leaders, and taken away about half their territory.  ISIL will be destroyed, and no one who threatens America will ever be safe.  To all who serve, it has been the honor of my lifetime to be your Commander-in-Chief.

But protecting our way of life requires more than our military.  Democracy can buckle when we give in to fear.  So just as we, as citizens, must remain vigilant against external aggression, we must guard against a weakening of the values that make us who we are.  That’s why, for the past eight years, I’ve worked to put the fight against terrorism on a firm legal footing.  That’s why we’ve ended torture, worked to close Gitmo, and reform our laws governing surveillance to protect privacy and civil liberties.  That’s why I reject discrimination against Muslim Americans.  That’s why we cannot withdraw from global fights – to expand democracy, and human rights, women’s rights, and LGBT rights – no matter how imperfect our efforts, no matter how expedient ignoring such values may seem.  For the fight against extremism and intolerance and sectarianism are of a piece with the fight against authoritarianism and nationalist aggression.  If the scope of freedom and respect for the rule of law shrinks around the world, the likelihood of war within and between nations increases, and our own freedoms will eventually be threatened.

So let’s be vigilant, but not afraid.  ISIL will try to kill innocent people.  But they cannot defeat America unless we betray our Constitution and our principles in the fight.  Rivals like Russia or China cannot match our influence around the world – unless we give up what we stand for, and turn ourselves into just another big country that bullies smaller neighbors.

Which brings me to my final point – our democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted.  All of us, regardless of party, should throw ourselves into the task of rebuilding our democratic institutions.  When voting rates are some of the lowest among advanced democracies, we should make it easier, not harder, to vote.  When trust in our institutions is low, we should reduce the corrosive influence of money in our politics, and insist on the principles of transparency and ethics in public service.  When Congress is dysfunctional, we should draw our districts to encourage politicians to cater to common sense and not rigid extremes.

And all of this depends on our participation; on each of us accepting the responsibility of citizenship, regardless of which way the pendulum of power swings. 

Our Constitution is a remarkable, beautiful gift.  But it’s really just a piece of parchment.  It has no power on its own.  We, the people, give it power – with our participation, and the choices we make.  Whether or not we stand up for our freedoms.  Whether or not we respect and enforce the rule of law.  America is no fragile thing.  But the gains of our long journey to freedom are not assured.

In his own farewell address, George Washington wrote that self-government is the underpinning of our safety, prosperity, and liberty, but “from different causes and from different quarters much pains will be taken…to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth;” that we should preserve it with “jealous anxiety;” that we should reject “the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest or to enfeeble the sacred ties” that make us one.

We weaken those ties when we allow our political dialogue to become so corrosive that people of good character are turned off from public service; so coarse with rancor that Americans with whom we disagree are not just misguided, but somehow malevolent.  We weaken those ties when we define some of us as more American than others; when we write off the whole system as inevitably corrupt, and blame the leaders we elect without examining our own role in electing them.

It falls to each of us to be those anxious, jealous guardians of our democracy; to embrace the joyous task we’ve been given to continually try to improve this great nation of ours.  Because for all our outward differences, we all share the same proud title:  Citizen.

Ultimately, that’s what our democracy demands.  It needs you.  Not just when there’s an election, not just when your own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime.  If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the internet, try to talk with one in real life.  If something needs fixing, lace up your shoes and do some organizing.  If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clipboard, get some signatures, and run for office yourself.  Show up.  Dive in.  Persevere.  Sometimes you’ll win.  Sometimes you’ll lose.  Presuming a reservoir of goodness in others can be a risk, and there will be times when the process disappoints you.  But for those of us fortunate enough to have been a part of this work, to see it up close, let me tell you, it can energize and inspire.  And more often than not, your faith in America – and in Americans – will be confirmed. 

Mine sure has been.  Over the course of these eight years, I’ve seen the hopeful faces of young graduates and our newest military officers.  I’ve mourned with grieving families searching for answers, and found grace in Charleston church.  I’ve seen our scientists help a paralyzed man regain his sense of touch, and our wounded warriors walk again.  I’ve seen our doctors and volunteers rebuild after earthquakes and stop pandemics in their tracks.  I’ve seen the youngest of children remind us of our obligations to care for refugees, to work in peace, and above all to look out for each other.

That faith I placed all those years ago, not far from here, in the power of ordinary Americans to bring about change – that faith has been rewarded in ways I couldn’t possibly have imagined.  I hope yours has, too.  Some of you here tonight or watching at home were there with us in 2004, in 2008, in 2012 – and maybe you still can’t believe we pulled this whole thing off. 

You’re not the only ones.  Michelle – for the past twenty-five years, you’ve been not only my wife and mother of my children, but my best friend.  You took on a role you didn’t ask for and made it your own with grace and grit and style and good humor.  You made the White House a place that belongs to everybody.  And a new generation sets its sights higher because it has you as a role model.  You’ve made me proud.  You’ve made the country proud.

Malia and Sasha, under the strangest of circumstances, you have become two amazing young women, smart and beautiful, but more importantly, kind and thoughtful and full of passion.  You wore the burden of years in the spotlight so easily.  Of all that I’ve done in my life, I’m most proud to be your dad. 

To Joe Biden, the scrappy kid from Scranton who became Delaware’s favorite son:  you were the first choice I made as a nominee, and the best.  Not just because you have been a great Vice President, but because in the bargain, I gained a brother.  We love you and Jill like family, and your friendship has been one of the great joys of our life.

To my remarkable staff:  For eight years – and for some of you, a whole lot more – I’ve drawn from your energy, and tried to reflect back what you displayed every day: heart, and character, and idealism.  I’ve watched you grow up, get married, have kids, and start incredible new journeys of your own.  Even when times got tough and frustrating, you never let Washington get the better of you.  The only thing that makes me prouder than all the good we’ve done is the thought of all the remarkable things you’ll achieve from here.

And to all of you out there – every organizer who moved to an unfamiliar town and kind family who welcomed them in, every volunteer who knocked on doors, every young person who cast a ballot for the first time, every American who lived and breathed the hard work of change – you are the best supporters and organizers anyone could hope for, and I will forever be grateful.  Because yes, you changed the world.

That’s why I leave this stage tonight even more optimistic about this country than I was when we started.  Because I know our work has not only helped so many Americans; it has inspired so many Americans – especially so many young people out there – to believe you can make a difference; to hitch your wagon to something bigger than yourselves.  This generation coming up – unselfish, altruistic, creative, patriotic – I’ve seen you in every corner of the country.  You believe in a fair, just, inclusive America; you know that constant change has been America’s hallmark, something not to fear but to embrace, and you are willing to carry this hard work of democracy forward.  You’ll soon outnumber any of us, and I believe as a result that the future is in good hands.

My fellow Americans, it has been the honor of my life to serve you.  I won’t stop; in fact, I will be right there with you, as a citizen, for all my days that remain.  For now, whether you’re young or young at heart, I do have one final ask of you as your President – the same thing I asked when you took a chance on me eight years ago.

I am asking you to believe.  Not in my ability to bring about change – but in yours. 

I am asking you to hold fast to that faith written into our founding documents; that idea whispered by slaves and abolitionists; that spirit sung by immigrants and homesteaders and those who marched for justice; that creed reaffirmed by those who planted flags from foreign battlefields to the surface of the moon; a creed at the core of every American whose story is not yet written:

Yes We Can. 

Yes We Did. 

Yes We Can.

Thank you.  God bless you.  And may God continue to bless the United States of America."

Stray dogs given shelter from snowstorm in Turkey

Some people in Istanbul, Turkey, are providing shelter to stray dogs as a snowstorm swept across the area this week, halting flights at the airport.

The Dodo reported that Ali Çelik saw strangers setting out blankets and cardboard for the dogs to sleep on, along with a pile of food, outside of a nearby mall.

>> Read more trending stories

Çelik told The Dodo that the strangers weren't doing the kind act for attention on social media or otherwise.

"The people were there to help the animals, not so that others could see them helping."

Arzu Inan, a store manager of a clothing shop in Istanbul shared photos of a similar gesture on Facebook. She opened up the store to stray pups in the storm.

The dogs seemed to appreciate it. Photos show some dogs curled up and cozy while others are relaxing on their backs.

A look at Obama's legacy: 9 ways he will make his mark

He made friends and he made enemies. And like every other man who has held the office, he made history.

Barack Obama, who got into politics as a community organizer, will leave the White House next week, eight years after he swept into power promising “Hope and Change.” What he delivered was, by his own measure, not what he had hoped.

On the other hand, the first African American president had some victories. One in particular,  the Affordable Care Act, was historic in scope, changing the health care landscape across the country. 

His biggest achievement as president, however, has become a symbol of what appears to be one of his biggest fears – the disappearance of his legacy.

Here’s a look back at the Obama years and achievements, courtesy of The Associated Press. Click on the headlines to read the full stories.

Economy

 WASHINGTON (AP) — He was a first-term senator-turned-president, a former law professor with little experience in economics or management. When he entered the White House he had one essential task: piece together the shards of a shattered U.S. economy.

It wasn't smooth and it wasn't fast. But President Barack Obama will leave behind, by most measures, an economy far stronger than the one he inherited. Unemployment is 4.6 percent, a nine-year low. Stocks keep setting highs. An additional 20 million Americans have health insurance coverage. The nation has shifted toward cleaner energy sources: natural gas, wind and solar.

Yet it's also an economy that left many people feeling neglected. Polling after the November election found that nearly two-thirds of voters described the economy as "not so good" or "poor."

The costs of housing, college and prescription drugs kept outpacing paychecks. Job options had been dwindling for workers with only high school diplomas even before Obama took office, but the downturn and slow recovery magnified the pain of that trend. Many people gave up looking for work. Struggling rural towns never enjoyed the uplift that benefited major cities.

 

Race

WASHINGTON (AP) — He entered the White House a living symbol, breaking a color line that had stood for 220 years.

Barack Obama took office, and race immediately became a focal point in a way that was unprecedented in American history. No matter his accomplishments, he seemed destined to be remembered foremost as the first black man to lead the world’s most powerful nation.

But Obama’s racial legacy is as complicated as the president himself.

To many, his election was a step toward realizing the dream of a post-racial society. He was dubbed the Jackie Robinson of politics. African-Americans, along with Latinos and Asians, voted for him in record numbers in 2008, flush with expectations that he’d deliver on hope and change for people of color.

Some say he did, ushering in criminal justice reforms that helped minorities, protecting hundreds of thousands of immigrants from deportation and appointing racially diverse leaders to key jobs, including the first two black attorneys general. These supporters say he deserves more credit than he gets for bringing America back from the worst recession since the Great Depression, the killing of Osama bin Laden, and a major expansion of health care that secured insurance for millions of minorities. They celebrate his family as a sterling symbol of black success.

But Obama also frustrated some who believe he didn’t speak out quickly or forcefully enough on race or push aggressively enough for immigration reform.

 

Immigration

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama's inability to overhaul the nation's immigration system will stand as the most glaring failure in his effort to enact a vision of social change. Despite two campaigns full of promises and multiple strategies, he imposed only incremental, largely temporary modifications.

When his presidency ends in January, Obama will leave behind an outdated and overwhelmed system, with some 11 million people living in the U.S. illegally.

The missed goal is part of a legacy that included a sometimes contradictory mix of policies — some aimed at bringing immigrants "out of the shadows," others at removing them from the U.S.

Obama will be remembered for protecting 730,000 young people, a generation of so-called Dreamers, who were brought to the U.S. as children. Advocates and allies will credit him with embracing a newly aggressive assertion of executive power that, despite last week's Supreme Court deadlock and political opposition, remains a legal pathway for the next president. And he will go down as a leader who consistently defended the importance of immigrants in American life, as anti-immigrant sentiment swelled up in parts of the U.S. and abroad.

"Immigration is not something to fear," Obama said last week. "We don't have to wall ourselves off from those who may not look like us right now or pray like we do, or have a different last name."

LGBT strides

WASHINGTON (AP) — It was a new look for the White House: illuminated in rainbow colors to celebrate the Supreme Court decision allowing same-sex marriage nationwide.

President Barack Obama, who was inside, felt the glow on that June night in 2015.

“To see people gathered in the evening outside on a beautiful summer night, and to feel whole and to feel accepted, and to feel that they had a right to love, that was pretty cool,” he said a few days later.

"Pretty cool." That might be a fair description of how Obama himself is viewed by legions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans who consider him, among all of the nation's presidents, the greatest champion of their rights and well-being.

The relationship was slow in developing.

Obama took office in 2009 as a self-described "fierce advocate" for gay rights, yet for much of his first term drew flak from impatient, skeptical activists who viewed him as too cautious, too politically expedient. They were frustrated that he wouldn't endorse same-sex marriage, Obama cagily said he was “evolving”, and wanted him to move faster on several other issues. But the pace of Obama's actions steadily accelerated.

Peace

WASHINGTON (AP) — Seven years ago this week, when a young American president learned he'd been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize barely nine months into his first term — arguably before he'd made any peace — a somewhat embarrassed Barack Obama asked his aides to write an acceptance speech that addressed the awkwardness of the award.

But by the time his speechwriters delivered a draft, Obama's focus had shifted to another source of tension in his upcoming moment in Oslo: He would deliver this speech about peace just days after he planned to order 30,000 more American troops into battle in Afghanistan.

The president all-but scrapped the draft and wrote his own version.

The speech Obama delivered — a Nobel Peace Prize lecture about the necessity of waging war — now looks like an early sign that the American president would not be the sort of peacemaker the European intellectuals of the Nobel committee had anticipated.

On matters of war and peace, Obama has proven to be a confounding and contradictory figure, one who stands to leave behind both devastating and pressing failures, as well as a set of fresh accomplishments whose impact could resonate for decades.

Health Care

WASHINGTON (AP) — Although his signature law is in jeopardy, President Barack Obama's work reshaping health care in America is certain to endure in the broad public support for many of its underlying principles, along with conflicts over how to secure them.

The belief that people with medical problems should be able to get health insurance is no longer challenged. The issue seems to be how to guarantee that. The idea that government should help those who can't afford their premiums has gained acceptance. The question is how much, and for what kind of coverage.

"The American people have now set new standards for access to health care based on the Affordable Care Act," former Surgeon General David Satcher says. "I don't believe it will ever be acceptable again to have 50 million people without access to health care."

Obama's influence will continue in other ways, less visible and hardly divisive:

  • —Medicare is shifting to paying for value, not just volume.
  • —The importance of prevention and front-line primary care is more widely recognized.
  • —Doctors and hospitals have computerized their records systems, even if connectivity remains elusive.
  • —The government has opened up massive files of health care billing data, enabling independent analysts to look for patterns of questionable spending.

But conflict is part of Obama's legacy, too. He leaves the country deeply divided about the government's role in health care.

Pop culture

WASHINGTON (AP) — From his campaign fist bump to his theatrical mic drop at the last White House correspondents’ dinner, Barack Obama ruled as America’s pop culture president.

His two terms played out like a running chronicle of the trends of our times: slow-jamming the news with Jimmy Fallon, reading mean tweets with Jimmy Kimmel, filling out his NCAA basketball bracket on ESPN, cruising with Jerry Seinfeld on “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.”

“I’m appreciably cooler than I was two minutes ago," Obama declared after taking the wheel of a 1963 Corvette Stingray with Seinfeld in 2015.

And, months before the end of his term, he delivered what could be his with-it farewell line as he ended his remarks at the correspondents dinner by embracing a gesture popularized by rappers and comedians.

“Obama out,” he deadpanned, as he dropped his microphone and left the lectern.

Michelle Obama matched the president on-trend moment for on-trend moment: She strapped on a seatbelt for "Carpool Karaoke" with James Corden, beat Ellen DeGeneres in a push-ups contest and rapped with a turnip.

It wasn’t just frivolity, though.

In an increasingly fragmented media world, the Obamas used niche pop culture platforms to serious ends.

Politics 

WASHINGTON (AP) — In boasting about his tenure in the White House, President Barack Obama often cites numbers like these: 15 million new jobs, a 4.9 percent unemployment rate and 74 months of consecutive job growth.

There's one number you will almost never hear: More than 1,030 seats.

That's the number of spots in state legislatures, governor's mansions and Congress lost by Democrats during Obama's presidency.

It's a statistic that reveals an unexpected twist of the Obama years: The leadership of the one-time community organizer and champion of ground-up politics was rough on the grassroots of his own party. When Obama exits the White House, he'll leave behind a Democratic Party that languished in his shadow for years and is searching for itself.

"What's happened on the ground is that voters have been punishing Democrats for eight solid years — it's been exhausting," said South Carolina state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, who lost two gubernatorial campaigns to Nikki Haley, President-elect Donald Trump's pick for ambassador to the U.N. "If I was talking about a local or state issue, voters would always lapse back into a national topic: Barack Obama."

When Obama won the presidency, his election was heralded as a moment of Democratic dominance — the crashing of a conservative wave that had swept the country since the dawn of the Reagan era.

Democrats believed that the coalition of young, minority and female voters who swept Obama into the White House would usher in something new: an ascendant Democratic majority that would ensure party gains for decades to come.

The coalition, it turns out, was Obama's alone.

Social media

WASHINGTON (AP) — When President Barack Obama called on world leaders at the United Nations to do more for the world’s refugees, his mention of a young boy named Alex could have just been a footnote, a forgotten paragraph in a daily blizzard of speeches and press releases.

The White House had other plans. Social media gurus at the White House built on the president’s remarks by sending a video crew to Alex’s home in New York. They recorded an adorable Alex reading aloud a letter he had written. Alex asked the president to bring to his house a 5-year-old bloodied boy the world had seen sitting in an ambulance in Aleppo, Syria. He promised: “We will give him a family, and he will be our brother.”

When the White House posted the video on the president’s Facebook page it was watched 27 million times. It also generated a wave of stories in media outlets around the country _ drawing attention to the boy’s compassion and, by association, Obama’s desire to persuade the United States and the rest of the world to embrace more Syrian refugees.

The Alex video demonstrated how the Obama administration has increasingly turned to a new menu of options to engage the public. The first American president of the social media age, Obama has for years been breaking ground on how politicians connect with a digitally savvy electorate. He has used social media as a tool to educate, to amuse, to spin, and, undoubtedly, to shape his legacy. And judging by his successor’s Twitter account, it’s one of the few legacies he’s leaving that President-elect Donald Trump has embraced.

Here's the full text of Sen. Jeff Sessions' confirmation hearing opening statement

Here is the full text of Sen. Jeff Sessions', (R-Ala.), opening statement at his Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday.

"Chairman Grassley, Ranking Member Feinstein, distinguished members of the Committee, I am honored to appear before you today. I thank you for the opportunity to respond to your questions as you discharge your duty in the appointment process prescribed by our Constitution.

I also want to thank my dear friends, Senator Richard Shelby and Senator Susan Collins for their kind introductions. It is hard to believe, really, that the three of us have served together in this body for nearly 20 years.

I want to thank President-elect Trump for the confidence and trust that he has shown by nominating me to serve as the Attorney General of the United States. I feel the weight of an honor greater than I have aspired to. If I am confirmed, I commit to you and to the American people to be worthy of that office and the special trust that comes with it.

I come before you today as a colleague who has worked with you for years, and with some of you for 20 years. You know who I am. You know what I believe in. You know that I am a man of my word and can be trusted to do what I say I will do. You know that I revere our Constitution and am committed to the rule of law. And you know that I believe in fairness, impartiality, and equal justice under the law.

Over the years, you have heard me say many times that I love the Department of Justice. The Office of the Attorney General of the United States is not a political position, and anyone who holds it must have total fidelity to the laws and the Constitution of the United States. He or she must be committed to following the law. He or she must be willing to tell the President “no” if he overreaches. He or she cannot be a mere rubberstamp to any idea the President has. He or she also must set the example for the employees in the Department to do the right thing and ensure that they know the Attorney General will back them up, no matter what politician might call, or what powerful special interest, influential contributor, or friend might try to intervene. The message must be clear: Everyone is expected to do their duty.

That is the way I was expected to perform as an Assistant United States Attorney. That is the way I trained my assistants when I became United States Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama. And if confirmed, that is the way I will run the Department of Justice.

In my over 14 years in the Department of Justice, I tried cases of nearly every kind—drug trafficking, firearms, and other violent crimes, significant public corruption cases, financial wrongdoing, civil rights violations, environmental violations, and hate crimes. Protecting the people of this country from crime, and especially from violent crime, is the high calling of the men and women of the Department of Justice. Today, I am afraid, that has become more important than ever.

Since the early 1980s, good policing and prosecutions have been a strong force in reducing crime. Drug use and murders are half what they were in 1980. I am very concerned, however, that the recent jump in the violent crime and murder rates are not anomalies, but the beginning of a dangerous trend that could reverse the hard won gains that have made America a safer and more prosperous place. The latest official FBI statistics show that all crime increased nearly 4 percent from 2014 to 2015 with murders increasing nearly 11 percent—the largest single year increase since 1971.

In 2016, there were 4,368 shooting victims in Chicago. In Baltimore, homicides reached the second highest per-capita rate ever.

The country is also in the throes of a heroin epidemic, with overdose deaths more than tripling between 2010 and 2014. Meanwhile, illegal drugs flood across our southern border and into every city and town in the country, bringing violence, addiction, and misery.

We must not lose perspective when discussing these statistics. We must always remember that these crimes are being committed against real people, real victims. It is important that they are kept in the forefront of our minds in these conversations, and to ensure that their rights are always protected.

These trends cannot continue. It is a fundamental civil right to be safe in your home and your community. If I am confirmed, we will systematically prosecute criminals who use guns in committing crimes. As United States Attorney, my office was a national leader in gun prosecutions every year. We will partner with state and local law enforcement to take down drug trafficking cartels and dismantle gangs. We will prosecute those who repeatedly violate our borders. It will be my priority to confront these crises vigorously, effectively, and immediately.

Approximately 90 percent of all law enforcement officers are not federal, but local and state. They are the ones on the front lines. They are better educated, trained and equipped than ever before. They are the ones who we rely on to keep our neighborhoods, and playgrounds, and schools safe. But in the last several years, law enforcement as a whole has been unfairly maligned and blamed for the actions of a few bad actors and for allegations about police that were not true. They believe the political leadership of this country abandoned them. They felt they had become targets. Morale has suffered. And last year, while under intense public criticism, the number of police officers killed in the line of duty increased ten percent over 2015. This is a wake up call. This must not continue.

If we are to be more effective in dealing with rising crime, we will have to rely heavily on local law enforcement to lead the way. To do that, they must know that they are supported. If I am so fortunate as to be confirmed as Attorney General, they can be assured that they will have my support.

As I discussed with many of you in our meetings prior to this hearing, the federal government has an important role to play in this area. We must use the research and expertise of the Department of Justice to help them in developing the most effective and lawful enforcement methods to reduce crime. We must re-establish and strengthen the partnership between federal and local officers to enhance a common and unified effort to reverse the current rising crime trends. I did this as United States Attorney. I worked directly and continuously with state and local law enforcement officials. If confirmed, it will be one of my primary objectives.

There are also many things the Department can do to assist state and local law enforcement to strengthen and, in some cases, build the foundation for, relationships with their own communities where policies like community-based policing has been proven to work. I am committed to this effort and to ensuring that the Department of Justice is a unifying force for improving relations between the police in this country and the communities they serve. Make no mistake, positive relations and great communication between the people and police are essential for any good police department.

In recent years, our law enforcement officers also have been called upon to protect our country from the rising threat of terrorism that has reached our shores. If I am confirmed, protecting the American people from the scourge of radical Islamic terrorism will continue to be a top priority of the Department of Justice. We will work diligently to respond to threats, using all lawful means to keep the American people safe from our nation’s enemies. Partnerships will also be vital to achieving much more effective enforcement against cyber threats, and the Department of Justice clearly has a lead role to play in that essential effort. We must honestly assess our vulnerabilities and have a clear plan for defense, as well as offense, when it comes to America’s cybersecurity.

The Department of Justice must never falter in its obligation to protect the civil rights of every American, particularly those who are most vulnerable. A special priority for me in this regard will be aggressive enforcement of our laws to ensure access to the ballot for every eligible American voter, without hindrance or discrimination, and to ensure the integrity of the electoral process.

Further, this government must improve its ability to protect the United States Treasury from waste, fraud, and abuse. This is a federal responsibility. We cannot afford to lose a single dollar to corruption and you can be sure that if I am confirmed, I will make it a high priority of the Department to root out and prosecute fraud in federal programs and to recover any monies lost due to fraud or false claims. The Justice Department must remain ever faithful to the Constitution’s promise that our government is one of laws, not of men. It will be my unyielding commitment, if I am confirmed, to see that the laws are enforced faithfully, effectively, and impartially. The Attorney General must hold everyone, no matter how powerful, accountable. No one is above the law, and no American will be beneath its protection. No powerful special interest will cower this Department.

I want to address personally the fabulous men and women in the Department of Justice. That includes personnel in Main Justice but also the much larger number that faithfully fulfill their responsibility every day. As United States Attorney, we worked together constantly. The federal investigative agencies represent the finest collection of law officers in the world. I know their integrity and professionalism. I pledge to them a unity of effort that is unmatched. Together we can and will reach for the highest standards and the highest results. It would be the greatest honor to lead these fine public servants.

To my colleagues, I appreciate the time that each of you have taken to meet with me one-on-one. As Senators, we don’t always have the opportunity to sit down and discuss matters face to face and so, for me, this was very helpful. I understand and respect the conviction that you bring to your duties. Even though we are not always in agreement, you have always been understanding and respectful of my positions.

In that regard, if I am so fortunate as to be confirmed, I commit to all of you to that the Department of Justice will be responsive to the Congress and will work with you on your priorities, and provide you with guidance and views where appropriate. The Department will respect your constitutional oversight role, and particularly the critically important separation of powers between the branches.

There is nothing I am more proud of than my 14 years of service in the Department of Justice. I love and venerate that great institution. I hold dear its highest ideals. If God gives me the ability, I will work every day to be worthy of this august office.

You can be absolutely sure that I understand the immense responsibility I would have. I am not naïve. I know the threat that our rising crime and addiction rates pose to the health and safety of our country. I know the threat of terrorism. I deeply understand the history of civil rights and the horrendous impact that relentless and systemic discrimination and the denial of voting rights has had on our African-American brothers and sisters. I have witnessed it. I understand the demands for justice and fairness made by the LGBT community. I understand the lifelong scars born by women who are victims of assault and abuse.

I understand that a wise and diligent Attorney General, who not only talks but listens, can play a key role in properly focusing the efforts of our nation’s anti-crime apparatus in ways that more effectively enhance public safety and minimize officer misconduct. I know it is essential for police and the communities they serve to have mutual respect.

And, if I am so fortunate as to be confirmed as your Attorney General, you can be assured that I understand the absolute necessity that all of my actions must fall within the bounds of the Constitution and the laws that Congress passes.

While all humans must recognize the limits of their abilities—and I do—I am ready for this job. We will do it right. Your input will be valued. Local law enforcement will be our partners. My many friends in federal law enforcement will be respected.

I have always loved the law. It is the very foundation of our great country. I have an abiding commitment to pursuing and achieving justice and a record of doing just that. If confirmed, I will give all my efforts to this goal. I ask only that you do your duty, as you are charged by the Constitution to do it, and by the light that God has given you to do it.

Thank you."

Airline offers $69 fares from US to Europe

An Icelandic airline is offering American globetrotters tickets from the West Coast to any of four European cities for less than $70 starting Tuesday.

>> Read more trending stories

WOW air announced Tuesday that travelers can get one-way tickets from the Los Angeles or San Francisco international airports to Stockholm, Copenhagen, Bristol or Edinburgh for $69.99. The sale applies to trips between Jan. 15 and April 5.

The airline billed the fares as the "lowest airline prices yet" from the "ultra-low cost transatlantic airline" in a news release Tuesday.

WOW air is also offering tickets from Miami and Boston to Iceland for $99. Tickets to fly on to Paris, London, Amsterdam, Berlin or Frankfurt are also available for $149 for travelers flying from Miami and $129 for tickets from Boston.

The sale prices are available for a limited time, the airline said, although the company hinted that similar offerings could be forthcoming.

"WOW air's goal is to enable everybody to fly by offering the lowest fares on the market," airline founder and CEO Skuli Mogensen said. "I am very proud that by offering $69.99 fares, we are enabling thousands of people to travel that otherwise could not afford it."

The announced fares are the latest salvo in an ongoing transatlantic fare war.

Norwegian Air Shuttle announced transatlantic flights last year for as little as half of what its competitors charged, Reuters reported. The move was possible because of low labor costs and exceptionally fuel-efficient planes, the airline said.

President Obama's farewell speech: Live updates from his Chicago speech

As the eight years of his presidency comes to an end next week, Barack Obama is set to  deliver his farewell speech Tuesday in Chicago.

The president is set to speak at 9 p.m. ET from the McCormick Place convention center on Lake Michigan.

All the major networks will carry the speech, and many media outlets will be streaming it live. You can also watch it at wh.gov/Farewell or on www.Facebook.com/WhiteHouse.

Here’s what President Obama said about the speech on the White House website.

 “In 1796, as George Washington set the precedent for a peaceful, democratic transfer of power, he also set a precedent by penning a farewell address to the American people. And over the 220 years since, many American presidents have followed his lead.

On Tuesday, January 10, I'll go home to Chicago to say my grateful farewell to you, even if you can't be there in person.

I'm just beginning to write my remarks. But I'm thinking about them as a chance to say thank you for this amazing journey, to celebrate the ways you've changed this country for the better these past eight years, and to offer some thoughts on where we all go from here.

Since 2009, we've faced our fair share of challenges, and come through them stronger. That's because we have never let go of a belief that has guided us ever since our founding—our conviction that, together, we can change this country for the better.

So I hope you'll join me one last time.

Because, for me, it's always been about you.”

President Barack Obama

Live updates

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7 things to know now: What killed Debbie Reynolds; National Championship; manhunt continues

Here's a roundup of news trending across the nation and world today.

What to know now:

1. Clemson turns Tide: Clemson beat Alabama Monday on a last-second touchdown in a thrilling ending to the college football season. Clemson’s Deshaun Watson threw a 2-yard touchdown pass with only seconds left to go ahead of Alabama 35-31. “I couldn't hear the crowd," Watson said of the game’s last play. "I just felt at peace." The game was a rematch of last year’s championship game in which Alabama beat Clemson 45-40.

2. Kushner to take WH post: President-elect Donald Trump has asked his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to join him in the White House when he takes office next week. Kushner, husband of Ivanka Trump, will be a senior adviser, transition officials said Monday. According to The Associated Press, since the election Kushner has been one of the transition team’s main liaisons to foreign governments, communicating with Israeli officials and meeting last week with Britain’s foreign minister. 

3. Assange on hacks: Julian Assange says the U.S. intelligence community has it wrong, and that the source of emails leaked to WikiLeaks was not a member of “any government” or “state parties.” Assange, the founder of the website, said the emails hacked from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta and those taken from the Democratic National Committee did not “come from the Russian government.” Assange, speaking during a Periscope Q&A session, questioned the recently released U.S. intelligence report, claiming, “It was not an intelligence report. It does not have the structure of an intelligence report. It does not have the structure of a presidential daily brief. It was frankly quite embarrassing.”

4. Warning shots fired: A U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer in the Strait of Hormuz fired several warning shots at four Iranian vessels after they closed in on the ship at a high rate of speed. The boats came within 890 yards of the USS Mahan, according to Navy officials. Officers on the Mahan said they tried to warn the Iranian vessels off, but they did not stop their advance. After shots were fired, the boats stopped, Navy officials said.

5. Manhunt continues: Law enforcement authorities are asking the public to be on the lookout for Markeith Loyd, the man suspected of shooting and killing an Orlando police sergeant. Debra Clayton was killed after she approached Loyd to question him in the Dec. 13 death of his pregnant girlfriend. As the manhunt for Loyd began Monday, a second officer, Deputy Norman Lewis, 35, was killed when a van hit his motorcycle 2-1/2 hours after the shooting.

And one more 

TMZ is reporting that actress Debbie Reynolds died from a cerebral hemorrhage. The website reported that Reynolds’ death certificated showed that the 84-year-old suffered a stroke that led to her death, 24 hours after her daughter, actress and writer Carrie Fisher died after suffering a massive heart attack. Fisher was 60 years old. The two were buried last Friday.

In case you missed it

Said every mom, everywhere.

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