Barack Obama

President Obama landed in Israel this morning, marking the first time he visits the country as president.

"I see this visit as an opportunity to reaffirm the unbreakable bond between our nations, to restate America's unwavering commitment to Israel's security and to speak directly to the people of Israel and to your neighbors," Obama said during a welcoming ceremony at the Tel Aviv airport.

NPR's Larry Abramson, who's at the airport, just spoke to our Newscast unit. He said Obama was welcomed by Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

There were 236,000 jobs added to payrolls in February — many more than expected — and the jobless rate unexpectedly dropped by two-tenths of a point, to 7.7 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday.

After an epic filibuster by Sen. Rand Paul that lasted into the early morning hours, the Senate voted this afternoon to confirm the nomination of John Brennan as the country's next Central Intelligence Agency director.

As we reported, Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, stood on the floor of the Senate for nearly 13 hours, repeatedly asking for an explanation of the Obama administration's targeted killing program.

Standing in front of first responders who he says could lose their jobs, President Obama pushed Tuesday for Congress to act now to avoid $85 billion in "automatic, severe budget cuts" set to kick in starting on March 1.

The cuts due because of the so-called sequestration "are not smart, they are not fair [and] they will hurt our economy," the president said.

Tens of thousands of protesters turned out on the National Mall Sunday to encourage President Obama to make good on his commitment to act on climate change.

In his Inaugural address from outside the U.S. Capitol, the president said: "We will respond to the threat of climate change knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations."

Just a few weeks later, next to the Washington Monument, Paul Birkeland was one of a couple dozen people holding a long white tube above their heads.

The White House has set up its latest online Fireside Hangout to focus on issues President Obama raised in his State of the Union Address this week. The live event is hosted by Google. The White House says he'll focus on jobs and other topics, such as early childhood education.

Laing Shi / KUT News

Texas schools rank low in costs but average in student debt on new college scorecards released by the Department of Education last night.

During his State of the Union address last night, President Barack Obama announced an online college scorecard that aims to provide information about college affordability for students.

In an apparent reference to U.S. drone strikes, President Obama in his State of the Union speech defended the administration's continued use of "direct action" against terrorists and promised to work with Congress to ensure such targeting is lawful and transparent.

The president said that "where necessary, through a range of capabilities, we will continue to take direct action against those terrorists who pose the gravest threat to Americans."

President Obama called repeatedly on Congress to address issues of paramount importance to the country during his State of the Union address Tuesday. But he also made it clear that when Congress fails to act or agree with his policies, he intends to push ahead on his own.

As is traditional for a State of the Union speech, Obama called on Congress to send legislation to his desk addressing not just immigration, gun control and the budget but a range of policy areas including women's rights, industrial policy and relief for homeowners.

In his State of Union address on Tuesday, President Obama set forth a sweeping vision for his second term, tackling not only monumental issues such as entitlement and tax reform but also everyday ones like raising the minimum wage and providing universal preschool.

Coming off an inaugural address that many saw as a powerful embrace of a liberal agenda, President Obama opened the speech with a nod to bipartisanship.

What will likely be a day-long drip of leaks about tonight's State of the Union address begins with this:

"President Barack Obama will announce in his State of the Union address that 34,000 U.S. troops will be home from Afghanistan within a year, two people familiar with his remarks said Tuesday." (From The Associated Press)

The wire service adds: "That's about half the U.S. forces currently serving there, and marks the next phase in the administration's plans to formally finish the war by the end of 2014."

The controversy over President Obama's targeted-killings-by-drone policy is a reminder that the default position of presidents in times of crisis is generally to side with national security over civil liberties.

The Obama administration faces tricky political and legal questions on the subject of gay marriage. By the end of this month, the federal government is expected to file not just one but two briefs in a pair of same-sex marriage cases at the U.S. Supreme Court.

But it is the Proposition 8 case from California that poses the thornier questions for the administration — questions so difficult that the president himself is expected to make the final decision on what arguments the Justice Department will make in the Supreme Court.

A confidential Justice Department memo obtained by NBC News outlines legal theories the Obama administration has used to justify killing American citizens abroad. Here are five key questions and answers about the document:

1) What is it?

(We updated the top of this post at 1:30 p.m. ET.)

Looking to head off deep, automatic spending cuts set to kick in on March 1, President Obama on Tuesday afternoon said that to avoid the negative economic effects that come with "political disfunction," Congress should move quickly to pass "a smaller package of spending cuts and tax reforms" that won't hurt the economy.

The United States Senate voted today to confirm Sen. John Kerry as the next secretary of state.

Just five days ago, Kerry, a democratic senator from Massachusetts, testified before the committee he chaired. As NPR's Michele Kelemen reported at the time, the hearing was a love fest.

Kerry is decorated Vietnam war veteran and the son of a diplomat. He has served in the Senate since 1985.

Update at 3:06 p.m. ET. 'Now Is The Time':

Talking to an audience in Las Vegas, an upbeat President Obama said that "now is the time" for "common sense comprehensive immigration reform."

While Obama echoed the pillars of immigration reform presented by a bipartisan group of senators on Monday, he also made an emotional plea for reform.

"What makes somebody American," he said, "is not just blood or birth, but allegiance to our founding principles."

flickr.com/jeffreylowy/

Inauguration day is a day of pomp and circumstance. It’s when the president assumes the position of Commander-in-Chief to resounding applause and throngs of admirers. For some presidents it’s a breeze. Yet, even on his second go of an inauguration, President Barack Obama still managed to draw a frenzy of action, insanity, and triviality to accompany his second Oath of Office.

Obama’s speech clocked-in at just over 2,400 words, which was almost equal to his 2008 word count (but nowhere near as brief as George Washington’s second inauguration at 135-words). But for Obama's second inauguration, the weirdness ran long.

Update at 9:05 p.m. ET Michelle Obama's Dress

NBC News is reporting that the first lady is wearing a custom Jason Wu ruby-colored chiffon and velvet gown, Jimmy Choo shoes and a ring by Kimberly McDonald to the Commander in Chief Ball. The White House said that the outfit and accompanying accessories will go to the National Archives at the end of the inaugural events.

Our original post:

President Obama began his second term with an unapologetically liberal inaugural address, calling on Americans to work together to preserve entitlements, address climate change and extend civil rights.

"Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play," the president said. "Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable and protect its people from life's worst hazards and misfortune."

Good morning.

Though he and the vice president have already taken their oaths of office, President Obama is due this noon to stand outside the Capitol for his ceremonial swearing in and then to deliver his second inaugural address.

Four years ago, when the nation's first African-American president was inaugurated, even conservative editorial cartoonists marked the moment with reverence.

As Scott Stantis, now of the Chicago Tribune, tells All Things Considered host Audie Cornish: "There are times in our history where we can just take half a step back from our partisanship and revel in the history and wonder of something."

Liang Shi for KUT

President Obama’s call today for a series of stronger gun control measures met with immediate opposition here in Texas.

Gov. Rick Perry issued a statement calling for prayer and said that “guns require a finger to pull the trigger.”

Gun advocates, like Bill Titus of the Texas Concealed Handgun Association, criticized the efficacy and intent of President Obama’s proposals.

At a White House event with children who wrote him letters after the Dec. 14 school shooting in Newtown, Conn., President Obama today said the nation cannot wait any longer to do what can be done to reduce gun violence.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar intends to step down at the end of March, his office confirms to NPR's Jeff Brady.

Word of Salazar's plan broke over night. According to The Denver Post, the former senator from Colorado intends to "return to Colorado to spend time with his family."

As the Post writes:

Update at 1:25 p.m. ET. Announcement on Wednesday:

The White House says President Obama and Vice President Biden will unveil the steps they intend to take and legislation they recommend to reduce gun violence at 11:45 a.m. ET on Wednesday.

Our original post:

At a news conference dominated by discussion of what's expected to be Washington's next big political battle, President Obama insisted Monday that he will not let Republicans tie an increase in the federal government's borrowing limit to negotiations over cuts in future federal spending.

American and coalition forces will move into a "support" role in Afghanistan starting this spring, President Obama announced Friday afternoon at the White House during a joint news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Obama said Afghan soldiers "are stepping up" and U.S. forces can now step back.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has sent President Obama the invitation that precedes each year's State of the Union address:

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