WASHINGTON — President Obama on Wednesday revealed he was nominating Caroline Kennedy as the US ambassador to Japan, an appointment that would catapult the only surviving child of slain President John F. Kennedy to a dynamic diplomatic post.
Kennedy, who has been rumored to be in line for the position for months, would be the first female American ambassador in Tokyo.
Kennedy has a long history with President Obama, having endorsed him over Hillary Rodham Clinton at a crucial point in the 2008 Democratic primary contest. She also cochaired Obama’s 2008 search for a running mate and cochaired his 2012 reelection effort.
Kennedy, 55, a book editor and lawyer, unsuccessfully sought an appointment to replace Clinton in the US Senate in 2009 but declined to run in a special election. She serves as president of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and chair of the senior advisory committee of the Institute of Politics at Harvard.
Kennedy would enter Far East diplomacy in a time of change and unease. The United States is pivoting its military and diplomatic focus from the Middle East to the Pacific Rim in a bid to engage and check China. Also, problems have percolated in the past decade on the Korean peninsula, with North Korea’s blustering diplomatic pose and its testing of nuclear devices.
If she is confirmed to the post, her boss would be Secretary of State John F. Kerry, former Massachusetts senator. She would also follow in a Kennedy tradition, with her grandfather, Joseph P. Kennedy, serving as President Franklin Roosevelt’s ambassador to Great Britain from 1938 to 1940, and her aunt, Jean Kennedy Smith, who served as US envoy to Ireland under President Bill Clinton.
Bush shaves head in support of 2-year-old with leukemia
HOUSTON — Former president George H.W. Bush shaved his head in solidarity with the ailing 2-year-old son of a Secret Service agent.
A statement from a Bush spokesman Wednesday said Bush, 89, acted this week at his summer home in Kennebunkport, Maine. That was after he saw members of his Secret Service detail with newly shaved heads in support of Patrick, the son of an agent. The toddler is being treated for leukemia.
Senate OK’s student loan bill linking rates to markets
WASHINGTON — Borrowing for tuition, housing, and books would be less expensive for college students and their parents this fall, but the costs could soon start climbing under a bill the Senate passed overwhelmingly Wednesday.
The bipartisan plan links interest rates on federal student loans to the financial markets, providing lower interest rates right away but higher ones if the economy improves as expected. The bill was similar to one that passed the GOP-led House, and leaders from both chambers said they predicted the differences to be resolved before students start signing loan documents for fall term.
Liberal members of the Democratic caucus opposed the potentially shifting rates included in the Senate plan, which passed with backing from both parties, 81-18.
Undergraduates this fall would borrow at a 3.9 percent interest rate. Graduate students would have access to loans at 5.4 percent, and parents could borrow at 6.4 percent. The rates would be locked in for that year’s loan, but each year’s loan could be more expensive than the last. Rates would rise as the economy picks up and it becomes more expensive for the government to borrow money.
Rates on new subsidized Stafford loans doubled to 6.8 percent July 1 because Congress could not agree on how to keep them at 3.4 percent. The compromise would be a good deal for students through the 2015 academic year. After that, rates are expected to climb.
‘‘That’s the same thing credit card companies said when they sold zero-interest rate credit cards. . . . The bill comes due,’’ said Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. ‘‘Students will end up paying far higher interest rates on their loans than they do now.’’
She was among the liberal Democrats who labeled the White House-backed bills as a bait-and-switch to lure new borrowers with low rates now but would cost future students.
Weiner to keep campaigning for N.Y. mayor amid scandal
NEW YORK — Anthony Weiner pressed on with his bid for mayor on Wednesday despite calls for him to quit because of a sexting scandal, saying the campaign is too important to abandon.
Political rivals and newspaper editorial pages urged the Democrat to quit the New York mayoral race a day after he admitted exchanging raunchy messages and photos online even after the same sort of behavior destroyed his congressional career two years ago.
‘‘I think he should pull out of the race. I think he needs serious psychiatric help,’’ said Representative Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat.
Weiner brushed off such calls.