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Kerry Praises Gaza Agreement, Hopes Cease-Fire is ‘Durable and Sustainable’

Kerry Praises Gaza Agreement, Hopes Cease-Fire is ‘Durable and Sustainable’

Credit: US Department of State(WASHINGTON) — Secretary of State John Kerry released a statement on Tuesday offering strong support for a cease-fire agreement reached between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.Kerry has worked with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, as well as Egyptian leadership who hosted negotiations in an effort to bring calm to the region. He said Tuesday that he hopes the new cease-fire will be “durable and sustainable,” ending rocket and mortar strikes. Kerry also called for increased delivery of humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza once “calm is restored.” He reiterated his eagerness to work with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on reconstruction and aid for the Gazan people. Meanwhile, he assured Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the U.S. will continue to be engaged in long-term peace negotiations.Kerry is “aware of the challenges ahead,” but remains optimistic that the two sides can come to an agreement that will bring the “future that the people on both sides deserve.”
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Interim Director of Phoenix VA Facility Discusses Changes in Light of Critical Report

Interim Director of Phoenix VA Facility Discusses Changes in Light of Critical Report

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — After Tuesday’s report from the Department of Veterans Affairs’ independent investigation indicated that there is no proof that delayed treatment at VA hospitals caused any deaths, Glenn Costie, director of the Dayton VA Medical Center and interim director of the Phoenix Medical Center, discussed the work the agency has done to revamp the Phoenix center.The Phoenix center came under fire earlier this year for unethical scheduling practices. Since then, Costie says, they have added 250 staff members — more than 100 of whom were added within the last three months. The Phoenix VA Medical Center plans to continue adding staff, with 200 more hires expected “in the very near future.”All of the schedulers employed by the VA have been trained to properly use wait lists and other programs in what Costie calls the beginning of a “cultural transformation.” Costie acknowledged that the Phoenix medical center was “understaffed and under-resourced for many years,” but that out of the scandal from earlier this year, “we’re starting to get that resolved.”
The report detailed 28 instances of “clinically significant delays in care” and 17 unrelated instances of “care deficiencies.” These cases represent unacceptable and troubling lapses in follow-up, coordination, quality and continuity of care.”
The report also notes that investigations into the lapses will continue, with involvement from the Department of Justice and the FBI.
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State Department Declines Comment on Reports of Intelligence Flights over Syria

State Department Declines Comment on Reports of Intelligence Flights over Syria

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The U.S. State Department reiterated that the U.S. has not yet committed to a course of action regarding the presence of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria militants within Syria.State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said on Monday that the U.S. is working diligently to protect Americans. “I’m not going to get ahead of decision-making that the president hasn’t made yet, or rule any option on or off the table,” Psaki said, “but we’re not going to be restricted by borders.” Earlier on Monday, Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem said that any efforts by outside countries to fight terrorism within Syria must be coordinated with the Syrian government, state news agency Sana said. Mouallem condemned the execution of American journalist James Foley, but said that any action by other nations cannot violate Syrian sovereignty.The New York Times is reporting that President Obama has authorized surveillance flights over Syria, a move that ABC News military consultant Steve Ganyard says is an integral part to gathering intelligence. “It does not mean it’s going to happen,” Ganyard said, “but it’s the first step if the Administration wants to do anything militarily. We have to build an intelligence picture, we have to see who is where, who holds what cities, who holds what key checkpoints.”Still, Ganyard says such intelligence flights always come with some danger, but that the Syrian regime is unlikely to be the source of that danger, as any Syrian government-sponsored attack on U.S. aircraft would be “very foolish.” Ganyard also denied that intelligence flights would represent mission creep.During Monday’s briefing, Psaki said that even if the U.S. did make the decision to fight ISIS within Syria, it would not place them on the same side as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “Certainly we would not view it as being on the same side just because there is a common enemy,” she said.
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VA Report: No Proof Delays at Hospital Caused Any Deaths

VA Report: No Proof Delays at Hospital Caused Any Deaths

VA/Robert Turtil(WASHINGTON) — A report from the Department of Veterans Affairs’ independent investigator says there’s no proof delays at a VA hospital caused any deaths.The scandal forced Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign — and led to contentious hearings on Capitol Hill. But after months of investigating delays and falsified records at hospitals, VA investigators say there’s no conclusive proof those delays in care caused the deaths of any veterans.The finding comes in a draft report from the VA’s Office of Inspector General. But it does flag problems throughout the system, including at the VA hospital in Phoenix, where whistleblowers claimed as many as 40 veterans died while waiting for care.
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House Clears Up to $350K for Lawsuit Against Obama

House Clears Up to $350K for Lawsuit Against Obama

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The House of Representatives has hired Baker & Hostetler, one of America’s largest law firms, to the tune of $500 an hour — but a total not to exceed $350,000 — to represent the lower chamber in its lawsuit against President Obama.In one of its final moves before the August recess, the House voted along partisan lines on July 30 to approve a resolution to initiate litigation against the president, accusing him of overreaching his executive authority in regard to unilaterally delaying the employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act.The House Committee on Administration Monday released a contract it approved that disclosed the details of the agreement. David B. Rivkin, partner, is named as the principal attorney for the lawsuit.“No president is above nor should operate beyond the limits of the Constitution,” Rep. Candice Miller, the committee’s chairman, stated. “The House of Representatives, using regular order and the powers that the Constitution has provided, calls upon our government’s system of checks and balances and asks the judicial branch to examine the president’s failure to faithfully execute the law. The president must be held accountable, and the House will continue to act in an open and transparent manner to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.”As expected, Democrats are livid, complaining Republicans are wasting U.S. taxpayer money on a lawsuit they believe has questionable legal merit and puts the GOP on a course to impeach Obama.“House Republicans continue to waste time and taxpayer-dollars on a lawsuit against the President of the United States,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., wrote in a statement Tuesday. “Americans are tired of election-year stunts. They deserve leaders in Washington who will work to build an economy that works for everyone, not line the pockets of wealthy Washington lawyers and other special interests.”A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner declined to comment, although Boehner has been adamant in the past that he does not intend to impeach the president.“We have no plans to impeach the president. We have no future plans,” Boehner said on July 29. “Listen, it’s all a scam started by Democrats at the White House.”
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The Primary Primer: 12 Races to Watch on Tuesday

The Primary Primer: 12 Races to Watch on Tuesday

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — We are getting closer to the end of primary season and on Tuesday, we have four more states voting with ballots being cast in Arizona, Florida, Vermont and run-offs in Oklahoma.
Here are 12 races to watch this primary day: FLORIDA GUBERNATORIAL DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY: The Florida governor’s race is one of the most closely watched and tightest races this cycle, but before former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist can truly battle incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Scott, he needs to win the Democratic primary (now that he is a Democrat). WHY IT MATTERS: Crist is taking on former state senate Democratic leader Nan Rich from South Florida. Crist has completely ignored Rich, running his general election against Scott since the very beginning. Although there is little polling in the race, Crist is expected to beat Rich, so why is this primary important? He needs to trounce her to prove Sunshine State Democrats are comfortable with his political metamorphosis. He will need them to throw out Scott, who is expected to out-raise Crist. No Democrat has won the governorship in the state since 1994 and Scott has the backing of former Gov. Jeb Bush. Rich is running as the “real Democrat” and has been reminding voters of the formerly conservative Crist and his earlier anti-abortion rights and anti-same-sex marriage views, as well as anti-Obamacare statements. Crist has raised 10 times what Rich has and Rich has promised to back Crist if he is the victor on Tuesday. Scott only has token primary opposition Tuesday and with polls showing Crist within striking distance, the fight for Florida is on.ARIZONA GUBERNATORIAL REPUBLICAN PRIMARY: Arizona has an open governor’s race thanks to term limits and several Republicans are vying to try and succeed Gov. Jan Brewer. WHY IT MATTERS: All of the candidates have focused on border security and the race has now come between the top two candidates: the state’s treasurer and former chief executive of Cold Stone Creamery, Doug Ducey, and Scott Smith, the former mayor of Mesa and a developer. Although he is seen as moderate on some issues, Smith received the coveted backing of Brewer. Brewer sees Smith as most likely to continue her legacy, including her controversial decision to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act in the state. Ducey has the backing of pro-business GOP groups, as well as tea party favorites Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin. It’s a combination rarely seen this primary cycle. Koch Brothers-supported groups are also running ads against Smith. The other possible contenders are Christine Jones, a former executive at the Internet company GoDaddy, who has partially self-funded her campaign; Ken Bennett, Arizona’s secretary of state; Andrew Thomas a former county attorney disbarred in 2012; and Frank Riggs, a former California congressman and long shot candidate. The winner will face Fred Duval, a former member of the Arizona Board of Regents, the group that runs the state’s three public universities.REPUBLICAN PRIMARY FOR ARIZONA’S SECOND DISTRICT: If all goes as expected, retired Air Force Col. Martha McSally will be the Republican Party’s two-time nominee to challenge — and if she’s successful unseat — incumbent Rep. Ron Barber in Arizona’s second district. WHY IT MATTERS: An establishment favorite since her 2012 run for the seat — where she fell short by less than 2,500 votes — the former fighter pilot now has big guns like the Koch brothers and the National Republican Congressional Committee pouring in cash to fuel her campaign like never before. Evidence suggests that her fellow rivals Tuesday, small business owner Shelley Kais and retired Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Chuck Wooten, the president and CEO of a consulting corporation, have failed to garner meaningful, viable votes from the district’s Republicans, and McSally is expected to clinch the seat with ease. This is one of the few toss-up races of the midterm cycle and one of the most closely watched. Barber previously worked as a top staffer to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords who held the seat before the January 2011 shooting that wounded Giffords (and Barber), and killed six others. After Giffords decided to leave office, Barber replaced her in a special election in 2012.REPUBLICAN PRIMARY FOR ARIZONA’S FIRST DISTRICT: Three Republicans are facing off to try and beat Democratic incumbent Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick: state Reps. Adam Kwasman, Andy Tobin and rancher Gary Kiehne. Tobin, the speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, has the backing of the establishment GOP including the Chamber of Commerce and Mitt Romney. He may have recently hurt his campaign when he made a controversial and eyebrow raising comment, saying the most recent border crisis could lead to people infected with Ebola crossing the border. Kwasman has made his own mistakes, recently mistaking a bus of YMCA campers as undocumented children. This district is a tight one. Kirkpatrick won the seat in 2008, lost it in 2010, and won it back by just over 9,000 voters in 2012. Republicans do see Kirkpatrick as vulnerable, but whoever comes out the winner Tuesday will need help getting over those foot in mouth moments.DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY FOR ARIZONA’S SEVENTH DISTRICT (from Fusion’s Jordan Fabian):  A Phoenix-area congressional race hasn’t earned much attention nationally. But the contest for Arizona’s 7th Congressional District has become one of the most hotly contested and acrimonious campaigns of this midterm election season. WHY IT MATTERS: On Tuesday, voters will choose a replacement for Ed Pastor (D), the first Latino elected to Congress in Arizona. Pastor is retiring after two decades in Washington. His open seat is a prize for Democrats. It’s in a deep blue district and the winner of the Democratic primary is presumed to win the general election. Former Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox and ex-state Rep. Ruben Gallego are the front-runners in the four-candidate primary field. They’ve both tapped into the Latino community for support in a district where more than six in 10 residents are Hispanic. But a campaign that started with a positive tone has devolved into mudslinging, which could be a turnoff for many constituents. Gallego, 34, looked to young immigrant activists to run an energetic get-out-the-vote operation designed to spur first-time voters to support him. The mission wasn’t just to win a congressional seat this year, it was to awaken the Latino vote in Arizona. That’s an uphill battle in a district, and state, where Latinos vote in low numbers. But success could have national implications. Wilcox, 64, has stressed her deep ties to the district. She served on the Board of Supervisors for over 20 years and says she has the track record to best represent the district. Wilcox has gone on the attack early and often against Gallego. Gallego’s campaign has struck a more positive tenor overall, but it hasn’t been afraid to go after Wilcox too. The negative tone of the campaign could take a toll on election day. The district had the fifth lowest turnout in the country in 2012 and Latino voters have an even lower propensity to cast ballots in midterm years.REPUBLICAN PRIMARY FOR FLORIDA’S 26TH DISTRICT: Miami-Dade School Board Member Carlos Curbelo is the front-runner in this primary to take on Democratic incumbent Rep. Joe Garcia in this Miami district. WHY IT MATTERS: Curbelo has been backed by Mitt Romney who even came to Florida to campaign with him and he’s been named one of the 2014 GOP “young guns” by the National Republican Congressional Committee. But this primary has taken a strange turn. In July, scandal-plagued former Rep. David Rivera suspended his campaign. He’s still under investigation for a campaign finance scandal in 2012, but, Rivera is still being mentioned in automated robo-calls to voters and even took up campaigning again, leading some to believe he’s still in the game or at the very least running a shadow campaign. Republicans would very much like to take this seat back and this will be a bitter battle to November.REPUBLICAN PRIMARY RUN-OFF FOR OKLAHOMA’S FIFTH DISTRICT: This is a GOP primary run-off, but the winner in this conservative district is the likely November victor as well. WHY IT MATTERS: Former state Sen. Steve Russell and state corporation commissioner Patrice Douglas are vying to replace GOP Rep. James Lankford, who won the GOP primary for Senate in June. He will also likely go on to succeed Sen. Tom Coburn, who is retiring. In the initial June primary, Russell beat Douglas by less than 1,000 votes and since neither candidate reached the 50 percent required threshold they are facing off again Tuesday. Douglas has the backing of business groups like the Chamber of Commerce, while Russell, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Army, hopes his military background gives him a boost. He commanded the 2003 mission that captured Saddam Hussein in Iraq. The winner will face either Tom Guild or state Sen. Al McAffrey who are facing off in their own Democratic run-off on Tuesday.REPUBLICAN PRIMARY FOR FLORIDA’S 18TH DISTRICT: Six Republicans are vying to take on incumbent Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy in this South Florida district. Murphy may have the edge of incumbency, but this will also be a November toss-up. WHY IT MATTERS: Former state Rep. Carl Domino is the front-runner in the GOP primary and the investment manager’s personal financial resources have helped him ascend to the top of the field. The other contenders are health care attorney, Beverly Hines; consultant for an investment management firm, Brian Lara; former Connecticut state Rep. Alan Schlesinger; former police officer Nick Wukoson; and Calvin Turnquest, a former Tequesta Village Council member, a small community in Palm Beach County. With little polling, Domino may be favored, but there very well may be a surprise.THE OTHERS:REPUBLICAN PRIMARY FOR ARIZONA’S NINTH DISTRICT: The GOP primary vying for the chance to face off against Rep. Kyrsten Sinema is between retired Air Force officer Wendy Rogers and investor and former professional football player, Andrew Walter. Sinema, the only member of Congress to openly identify as bisexual, is still likely to be re-elected in this Tempe area district. Rogers and Walter have gone after each other on immigration reform and Social Security, but neither are seen as strong enough to topple Sinema.VERMONT GUBERNATORIAL REPUBLICAN PRIMARY: In this bright blue state, the Republican nominee for governor may not have much of a chance against two-term incumbent Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin, but the race has still been an interesting one with the momentum now possibly with a write-in candidate. WHY IT MATTERS: Shumlin has more money than any of his potential opponents, but he has also faced questions over the state’s health care exchange. Business owner Scott Milne has most of the party establishment backing and he’s up against retired marketer Steve Berry and Emily Peyton, who has run twice as an independent and admits she is not a Republican. The other candidate is Dan Feliciano, a Libertarian who is running write-in campaign in the Republican primary. Feliciano has gotten the backing of some high profile members of the GOP state party recently and his ads, which include name spelling, have given him somewhat more of a higher profile.REPUBLICAN PRIMARY FOR FLORIDA’S THIRD DISTRICT: GOP incumbent and tea party favorite Ted Yoho is being challenged by attorney Jake Rush. The primary is expected to be low turn out so despite incumbency and Yoho’s fundraising lead this is a primary to watch in this conservative, rural district. Yoho has been backed by Sen. Rand Paul and tea party groups like FreedomWorks. Despite his conservative stances, Yoho has crossed party lines to work with Democrats and Rush has tried to run to the right of Yoho, who he says has lost his way since going to Washington, DC. Yoho, a large-animal veterinarian, has made several eyebrow raising comments while in Congress, earning him some late night show mentions. Before the campaign, Rush was most well known for successfully representing a client in a “Stand Your Ground” case. But during the campaign, his past as a live-action role-playing vampire named Chazz Darling was disclosed. Photographs in vampire dress came to light as well, which is thought to have hurt his upstart campaign. The winner will face Democrat Marihelen Wheeler and Howard Lawson, who lists no political affiliation, in November.FLORIDA’S SECOND DISTRICT: There isn’t a competitive primary here, but Democrat Gwen Graham has a famous name in the Sunshine State and the attorney is the daughter of former governor, presidential candidate, and longtime Sen. Bob Graham. She’s trying to unseat tea party Republican incumbent Rep. Steve Southerland, who she has already out raised. She has featured her father in ads and on the campaign trail and painted herself as an independent voice for the northern Florida district. This is one of a few toss-up House races this cycle and in a season that is likely to be favorable to Republicans, this is a race that looks like a Democrat could win.
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Just How Much of a Libertarian Are You?

Just How Much of a Libertarian Are You?

Tom Pennington/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Even if you view yourself as a libertarian, you may not hold all the same beliefs as Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a possible candidate for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.Paul identifies himself as a libertarian, which is defined as “someone whose political views emphasize individual freedom by limiting the role of government.”While it’s a growing movement, only a small minority of Americans — 14 percent — identify themselves as such, according to a Pew Research Center poll of 3,243 adults.Meanwhile, a good chunk of people who consider themselves libertarian aren’t on board with Paul’s non-interventionist foreign policy. In fact, 43 percent agreed with the statement that “It is best for the future of our country to be active in world affairs.”Only 35 percent of the general public concurs with that belief, the poll found.However, Pew says that of those who identity with libertarian causes, 82 percent agree “Americans shouldn’t have to give up privacy and freedom in order to be safe from terrorism” and 56 percent think government regulation of business does more harm than good. In both instances, that’s more than the general public.
More libertarians than non-libertarians support legalizing marijuana while looking down on entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare.More men than women hold libertarian beliefs as do more college graduates than those with only high school educations, Pew found.
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Sen. Brown Calls for Burger King Boycott over Plans to Buy Tim Hortons

Sen. Brown Calls for Burger King Boycott over Plans to Buy Tim Hortons

Scott Olson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Sen. Sherrod Brown is calling for a Burger King boycott, urging consumers to eat at other fast food restaurants after reports that the company is considering purchasing the Canadian company Tim Hortons and may base its company in Canada. “Burger King’s decision to abandon the United States means consumers should turn to Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers or White Castle sliders. Burger King has always said ‘Have it Your Way’; well my way is to support two Ohio companies that haven’t abandoned their country or customers,” Brown, D-Ohio, said. “To help grow business in America, taxpayers have funded public infrastructure, workforce training, and incentives to encourage R&D and capital investment. Runaway corporations benefited from those policies but want U.S. companies to pay their share of the tab,” he continued.Brown called for an “immediate fix” to prevent a flood of inversions and a long-term solution that will lower corporate tax rates and institute a “country-by-country global minimum tax.”“This kind of common sense reform will close down tax havens that cost our country revenue and cost American jobs. Lowering the statutory corporate tax rate would put companies on a level playing field with foreign competitors and reduce the incentive for them to shift jobs and profits overseas. Creating a global minimum tax rate will increase investment in the United States, raise revenue, and prevent a global race-to-the-bottom,” he explained.
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Biden Speaks to Iraqi Leaders to Discuss ISIS, Iraqi Government

Biden Speaks to Iraqi Leaders to Discuss ISIS, Iraqi Government

The White House(WASHINGTON) — Vice President Joe Biden spoke with Iraqi Prime Minister-designate Haider al-Abadi on Monday to discuss the ongoing battle against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Biden and al-Abadi discussed the continuing U.S. airstrikes against ISIS militants and equipment, with the vice president noting the progress brought about through the steps taken towards a unity government. That work, Biden said, is an “integral component of Iraq’s broader fight against [ISIS].”Biden reiterated his support for the formation of a new government and urged all Iraqi leaders to work together to do so.Biden also spoke with Iraqi Council of Representatives Speaker Salim al-Jabouri, discussing the same topics. Biden praised Jabouri’s leadership in response to recent attacks.
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Oklahoma Sued for Drawing the Blinds on Botched Execution

Oklahoma Sued for Drawing the Blinds on Botched Execution

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(OKLAHOMA CITY) — Prompted by the botched execution of Oklahoma death row inmate Clayton Lockett, the ACLU on Monday filed a lawsuit alleging that state prison officials violated reporters’ First Amendment rights when they drew the shade nearly 30 minutes before Lockett’s death.“Because of the State’s use of the viewing shade … the press and public received only government-edited access to an important government proceeding,” the suit asserts.Lockett, 38, who was writhing on his gurney, “appeared to be in pain” before the blinds were drawn, the petition says. Afterward, sounds from inside the chamber “indicated pain and suffering,” but journalists were “deprived of the opportunity to verify the nature and source of the sounds.”The drawn blinds also made it impossible for reporters to determine whether the state tried to provide medical care after the execution was called off, 10 minutes before Lockett’s April death, according to the suit.Filed on behalf of the Oklahoma Observer, its editor, The Guardian and a freelance journalist who covered the execution, the lawsuit asks the court to forbid the state from drawing the blinds prior to an official declaration of death.The suit also asks for an injunction requiring state-made audio/video recordings of execution proceedings, including IV insertion, which might have been a factor in Lockett’s death.“When things go wrong, the state can’t willy-nilly decide to close the proceedings. We’re the public’s eyes and ears,” Oklahoma Observer editor Arnold Hamilton, a named plaintiff, said in a statement to ABC News. “The issue isn’t whether you’re for or against the death penalty. The issue is the public’s right to know fully and completely how the death sentence is carried out, particularly whether it is being carried out in a lawful and humane way.”ACLU staff attorney Lee Rowland added in a statement that the state should not be allowed to “use … the execution shade like a Photoshop tool.”The Oklahoma Department of Corrections refused to comment, citing a policy against speaking about pending legal action.The lawsuit comes on the heels of several problematic executions — and one judge’s controversial suggestion that the justice system return to execution by firing squad.
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Former FBI Director Louis Freeh Seriously Injured in One Car Crash in Vermont

Former FBI Director Louis Freeh Seriously Injured in One Car Crash in Vermont

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images(BARNARD, Vt.) — Former FBI Director Louis Freeh was injured in a single-car accident in Vermont on Monday afternoon.According to the Vermont State Police, an initial investigation indicated that Freeh had been driving south on Vermont Route 12 in a 2010 grey GMC Yukon when his vehicle went off the side of the roadway and struck a mailbox and a row of shrubs before stopping against a tree. Freeh, who was wearing his seatbelt at the time, was seriously injured.State police say Freeh was transported to Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire by helicopter to receive treatment for his injuries. No further details about Freeh’s condition was released.Freeh served as the Director of the FBI from 1993 to 2001.
Current FBI Director James Comey released a statement Monday night, saying that, “the thoughts and prayers of the entire FBI remain with former Director Freeh and his family tonight.”
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Sen. Tim Kaine Says Obama Administration Must Get Congressional Approval for ISIS Strikes

Sen. Tim Kaine Says Obama Administration Must Get Congressional Approval for ISIS Strikes

Office of Senator Tim Kaine(WASHINGTON) — Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, said in a statement on Monday that President Obama must seek Congressional approval for airstrikes against militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.Kaine, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said that he agrees that ISIS, “poses a significant terrorist threat to U.S. interests and partners in the region,” but that he doesn’t believe that recent administration action is covered by the existing authorization from Congress. He urged the Obama administration to request additional approval from Congress, so that U.S. leaders remain “united on U.S. policy going forward.”Calling Congressional approval, “what the framers of the Constitution intended,” Kaine nonetheless applauded the U.S. military’s ability to push back ISIS forces, but urged the president to request additional clearance and allow Congress to, “vote up or down on it.”
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Senate Campaign Criticized for Use of Photo of James Foley’s Executioner

Senate Campaign Criticized for Use of Photo of James Foley’s Executioner

Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) — In a video posted to his campaign’s YouTube account Monday, New Mexico Senate candidate Allen Weh uses a brief still image of American journalist James Foley’s executioner — a move that critics say is “offensive.”The image of Foley’s executioner, with a knife in his hand, is clearly recognizable from the video that shocked America and much of the West last week, prompting new calls for action against ISIS and a hunt for Foley’s killer.The video criticizes the foreign policies of President Obama and, by extension, Weh’s opponent, incumbent U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M. It makes liberal use of footage of Obama playing golf as international crises unfold.There is no indication that the campaign is airing the one-minute video as a TV ad. The campaign has not yet returned an ABC News inquiry on whether the campaign will spend money to air it.Udall’s campaign says the use of Foley’s execution video is inappropriate.”James Foley’s death is a tragedy, and to use his killer’s horrific image for personal gain in a campaign ad is reprehensible and appalling,” Udall campaign manager Daniel Sena wrote in a statement. “If Allen Weh wants to talk about the issues with New Mexico voters, he should find a way to do it that is respectful and substantive. Using James Foley’s horrific and tragic death for shock value is offensive to Mr. Foley’s family, New Mexico voters and the rest of our country.”Weh’s video appears to be the first campaign ad to make reference to Foley’s killing, and it’s one of few to focus so heavily on Obama’s foreign policies.Weh is a former Marine and state party chairman who, at this point in the election year, is not expected to pose a serious threat to Udall’s re-election chances.
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White House: No Ransom Paid for Release of US Hostage in Syria

White House: No Ransom Paid for Release of US Hostage in Syria

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — No ransom was paid for the release of American journalist Peter Theo Curtis, who was freed Sunday after being held hostage for two years by Syrian terrorist group Jabhat Al-Nusrah, the White House said Monday.”Providing ransoms to terrorist organizations only gives those terrorist organizations more funds and resources. It also makes American citizens more likely targets to terrorist organizations,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Monday.Earnest added that the U.S. urged Qatar not to pay a ransom either as it helped negotiate the release.Curtis was handed over to United Nations peacekeepers in Al Rafid village in the Golan Heights Sunday evening, local time, according to the U.N. He received a medical check-up before he was handed over to U.S. officials.Curtis’ family had been working with the State Department over the past two years to bring Curtis home.“My heart is full at the extraordinary, dedicated, incredible people, too many to name individually, who have become my friends and have tirelessly helped us over these many months,” said Theo’s mother, Nancy Curtis. “Please know that we will be eternally grateful.”
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Rick Perry’s Lawyers Seek to Get Charges Dismissed

Rick Perry’s Lawyers Seek to Get Charges Dismissed

Stewart F. House/Getty Images(AUSTIN, Texas) — Lawyers for Texas Gov. Rick Perry filed a motion Monday, trying to get his criminal charges dismissed. His legal team said prosecuting Perry would violate the separation of powers. The 60-page writ of habeas corpus was filed Monday in Travis County District Court.  “By seeking to criminalize not merely the veto itself, but the Governor’s explanation for it as well, this prosecution also violates the Governor’s rights under Free Speech Clauses of the United States and Texas Constitution,” the pretrial motion says.  “Subjecting any sitting Governor to a criminal prosecution and injecting the judiciary into a political dispute would be an unprecedented assault on this cherished separation of powers, and would impose an intolerable and incalculable chilling effect on the free exercise of legitimate constitutional powers by future governors,” the motion says. A judge will decide whether the is sufficient evidence for the case to move forward. Perry was indicted by a grand jury earlier this month on two felony counts — abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public official. The charges originate from Perry threatening to veto $7.5 million in funding for the state’s public integrity unit unless District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg resigned following a DWI conviction in 2013.
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British Embassy Commemorates Burning the White House 200 Years Ago, Apologizes

British Embassy Commemorates Burning the White House 200 Years Ago, Apologizes

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — After joking about the anniversary of British troops invading Washington, D.C. and burning the White House in 1814, the British embassy in D.C. apologized Sunday night.
“Apologies for earlier Tweet. We meant to mark an event in history & celebrate our strong friendship today,” read a message posted to the embassy’s official Twitter account.Here’s the original tweet:
 

Commemorating the 200th anniversary of burning the White House. Only sparklers this time! pic.twitter.com/QIDBQTBmmL
— British Embassy (@UKinUSA) August 24, 2014

 
Still, U.S. officials took the post in stride, with State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf responding with a good-natured tweet:
 

The difference 200 years can make in foreign relations: 8/24/1814: #ItsComplicated vs 8/24/2014: #SpecialRelationship pic.twitter.com/pKGzT8FNr5
— Marie Harf (@marieharf) August 24, 2014

 
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Vacation Ends for Obama

Vacation Ends for Obama

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — President Obama is back at the White House after another week in Martha’s Vineyard.Marine One touched down on the South Lawn just after 10:20 p.m. Sunday, concluding 14 days of vacation for Obama. The president arrived with the first lady and daughter Malia in tow, according to pool reporters.Obama will meet with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Monday, but has no public events.The president’s relaxation time in Massachusetts was largely overcome by events. He played nine rounds of golf and went to the beach with his family twice, by ABC News’ count, but he also addressed TV cameras four times, issued disaster declarations and phoned various foreign leaders.Obama left for Martha’s Vineyard on Aug. 9, returned to Washington, D.C. late at night on Aug. 16 for three days of meetings and a live, televised appearance to discuss Iraq and Ferguson, Missouri, then went back to the Vineyard on Aug. 19 and came back Sunday night.
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Former NASA Leader: US Space Program Held Hostage by Russia

Former NASA Leader: US Space Program Held Hostage by Russia

ABC News Radio(WASHINGTON) — What’s next for NASA?The legendary space agency that landed a man on the moon, launched the Voyager spacecraft into infinity, the Hubble Space Telescope to unlock the mysteries of the universe, and landed legendary rovers on Mars, is now searching for its next mission.It’s tough to plan for a long-term mission, when each new administration presses the reset button, with many programs that have been started and cancelled.Can NASA recapture the glory of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon, when millions of people around the world watched Neil Armstrong step gingerly onto the lunar surface? Or did the 30 years of space shuttle flights make spaceflight too routine?Three years ago the shuttles were retired, sent to museums, and U.S. astronauts lost their own ride to space, forced to buy seats on Russian rockets to get back and forth to the International Space Station.That has put the U.S. in a very bad position, according to former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, “We’re in a hostage situation; Russia can decide, if it wishes to do so, no more U.S. astronauts can ride to the International Space Station, and that’s not a position that I want our nation to be in,” Griffin said.Even before Malaysia Flight 17 was shot down over Ukraine, new tensions were rising between the U.S. and Russia. The Russian deputy prime minister threatened this spring: if America wants astronauts in space, it should get a trampoline.There is however, a new space race. Private companies are competing for billions of NASA dollars to build the next spaceship for U.S. astronauts and NASA will soon decide which of the competitors will get the contract.Sierra Nevada is building a newer, sportier version of the old space shuttle. It is a sleeker passenger craft that could land anywhere a 747 lands — perhaps at one of the many spaceports popping up around the country.SpaceX has the Dragon, the first commercial ship to deliver supplies to the International Space Station, but it is not yet rated to carry humans.Boeing is developing an Apollo-like capsule, the CST 100, which would carry seven astronauts.NASA wants the winning design to launch by 2017. But many want the U.S. to go beyond just Earth’s orbit.Getting a consensus from Congress is the challenge. Should NASA go back to the Moon, or send humans to Mars? Or proceed with the plan to capture an asteroid?Griffin says these missions are tied together — one step leads to another.“We should be preparing to go to Mars,” he said. “We should be using the experiences that we gain learning how to live on the moon to enable us to learn how when we get to Mars to live there for a while, because when we go to Mars, you’re not coming home quickly. It’s going to be a six or seven-month trip one way. Then you’re going to be there for a year, and then you’re going to come home.”Griffin added, “It’ll be the kind of thing that human beings haven’t done since the great voyages of discovery.”
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Former NYPD Commissioner: Militarization of Police Should Be Examined

Former NYPD Commissioner: Militarization of Police Should Be Examined

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Former New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Sunday that the federal programs that arm local forces with military-style equipment should be reviewed, perhaps limiting access to situations when there is “a major emergency.”The issue of whether police should be using military equipment has heated up after Missouri police began patrolling the streets of Ferguson, Mo., in Humvees, dressed in SWAT gear, and pointed automatic weapons at crowds in the aftermath of the shooting of Michael Brown.“I think the military equipment, the distribution of excess military equipment, has to be examined.” Kelly told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on This Week. “The optics … are not good. People get uneasy when they see Humvees, military vehicles, heavy weapons.“I think the fundamental question is ‘What is the need? Do we need that equipment? And does it make people feel like the police are an occupying army?’” Kelly continued.Local forces have gained increasing access to such military supplies in recent years after receiving grants from the Pentagon to purchase equipment. President Obama and other elected officials have called for a review of these programs following the unrest in Ferguson.Kelly suggested Sunday that there be more limited access to these supplies, saying, “Perhaps, this equipment is stored on the state level and distributed when there is a major emergency.”Kelly also said that police forces should have diversity that in some way reflects the community. He cited New York City’s force — boasting officers from 106 countries — as an example.“It’s so important to have a police force that reflects, or at least better reflects, the community that you serve,” Kelly said.
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Obama Briefed on California Earthquake, Speaks to Afghan Presidential Candidates

Obama Briefed on California Earthquake, Speaks to Afghan Presidential Candidates

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — President Obama was busy on Sunday morning, as he received a briefing on the situation in the San Francisco Bay Area after a magnitude 6.0 earthquake struck near Napa, California, and also spoke to the Afghan presidential candidates while an audit of that election is ongoing.President Obama was briefed by Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco on Sunday, after the largest earthquake to strike the Bay Area since 1989 struck, injuring at least 87 people. According to White House Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz, federal officials have been in communication with state and local responders regarding the recovery process.Separately on Sunday, Obama spoke to both Dr. Ashraf Ghani and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, the two candidates involved in a tight contest for the presidency of Afghanistan. The two received the most votes in the first round of the election, and in a June runoff, Ghani reportedly won the presidency, prompting Abdullah to accuse his opponent of fraud. However, in a hotly contested race, the two sides have agreed to abide by an audit of all of the votes cast in the election.Obama on Sunday thanked both Ghani and Abdullah for their leadership and their work to form a national unity government. Obama also reaffirmed American support for the Afghan people.
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