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Sen. Richard Blumenthal: Roger Goodell ‘Should Go If He Lied’

Sen. Richard Blumenthal: Roger Goodell ‘Should Go If He Lied’

United States Senate(WASHINGTON) — Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., added his voice to the growing debate surrounding NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s fate, saying that if Goodell lied about the NFL not having seen the violent video of former Baltimore Ravens star Ray Rice knocking his then fiancé unconscious until TMZ posted the video Monday, then “he should go.”

“If Roger Goodell lied, as a lot of people believe he did — because the security apparatus of the NFL is so competent and experienced that for them to not have known about this tape seems incredible — he should go,” Blumenthal said Sunday on This Week.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been under fire from critics who believe someone in the NFL must have seen the video of Rice hitting his then-fiancée, Janay Palmer.

An initial video, published on TMZ Sports in February, showed the Ravens star player dragging a seemingly unconscious Palmer out of an elevator at an Atlantic City, New Jersey, casino. A police report confirmed that there was an altercation between the two, during which Rice struck Palmer unconscious. Goodell met with Rice in July, and suspended him for two games, drawing outrage from many who thought Rice deserved harsher punishment.

A second video, posted online on Sept. 8 by TMZ Sports, shows what happened inside the elevator. Rice can be seen hitting Palmer and knocking her into a railing inside the elevator. Rice was cut by the Ravens and suspended indefinitely by the NFL shortly after the video was posted.

Blumenthal served five terms as Connecticut’s attorney general, during which time he dealt with domestic violence and abuses cases. The senator said both the NFL and Congress need to step up.

“Regardless who runs the NFL, it ought to be making a serious commitment, stronger penalties. Six-game suspension is way too lenient, and equally important, resources, funding for domestic survivor groups,” Blumenthal said. “Violence ought to be met with better services and the Congress has an obligation there too to do better and do more.”

While the video has upset many, Blumenthal said the attention surrounding the incident could be a “turning point.” The graphic caught-on-camera exchange has thrust not only the incident itself, but the larger issue of domestic violence, to the forefront of national conversation.

“Mostly this crime — it is a crime — occurs behind closed doors surrounded by stigma, shame, secrecy,” the lawmaker added.

Blumenthal said out of this violent incident “could be a real opportunity that we need to seize from Congress and from the NFL to do more.”

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Is Iowa Ready for Hillary? Sen. Tom Harkin Still Has Questions

Is Iowa Ready for Hillary? Sen. Tom Harkin Still Has Questions

United States Senate(DES MOINES, Iowa) — Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may be headlining Sen. Tom Harkin’s annual Steak Fry on Sunday, but the longtime progressive senator indicated that shouldn’t be taken as an endorsement should she decide to run for president in 2016.

Harkin, who is retiring after 30 years in the Senate and was hosting his last annual Steak Fry, said progressives should raise questions about Clinton’s foreign policy and economic positions.

“As someone who has carried the liberal, progressive populist banner for many years, we’re always nervous about people moving too far to the right,” the Democratic lawmaker told ABC News’ Jonathan Karl for This Week. “See we, a lot of us believe the center ought to be moved back, that the center has moved too far right.”

Clinton is making her first trip to Iowa since 2008 for the signature political event that attracts thousands of Iowans, politicos and Democratic hopefuls seeking state and nationwide exposure. She was to headline the event with her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

Asked where Clinton’s positions fell on the political spectrum, Harkin responded, “Well, I don’t know, I mean I think this is something that will be developed and we’ll find out when, if she, if she decides to run. You know, what’s her vision for America?”

When asked if he had “real questions” about Clinton’s stances on issues, Harkin said, “I do about everybody” considering a run for the White House.

He added that President Barack Obama’s positions have been less progressive than he had hoped they would be.

“I must be frank with you, I thought Barack Obama was a great progressive and a great populist and quite frankly, I haven’t, some things have happened that I don’t agree with,” Harkin said.

And while most eyes on Clinton this weekend are reading signs for what her return trip to Iowa means for her 2016 presidential prospects, Harkin said Clinton’s trip will have more impact on the 2014 midterm elections, as she and former President Clinton begin hitting the campaign trail for Democrats facing tough election battles.

“She wants to focus on 2014 and how we can keep the Senate and elect some key people around the country, so she’s going to be out there working hard,” Harkin said.

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WH Chief of Staff Expresses Confidence Iraqi Army Can Take on ISIS

WH Chief of Staff Expresses Confidence Iraqi Army Can Take on ISIS

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Saying that the United States is at war with ISIS, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough expressed confidence in the Iraqi army to take on the militant Islamic group even though it has failed to do so effectively in the past.

“There is now a new multi-ethnic government in Baghdad. They will support a unified, capable multi-ethnic Iraqi force so that they can take this fight to ISIL,” McDonough said Sunday on This Week.

ISIL is also known as ISIS, or the Islamic State.

The White House chief of staff was asked by ABC News’s Martha Raddatz if there is a limit on how many U.S. troops will be sent to Iraq.

“I’m not in a position right now to tell you limits one way or the other,” he said.

Secretary of State John Kerry will have “news” this week when he testifies in Congress regarding countries that may join the United States in military action to eliminate ISIS, McDonough said. The chief of staff did not, however, provide details on when the U.S. might take action in Syria.

During a primetime address to the country last week, President Obama laid out his plan to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS, the extremist Islamic group that has snatched territory in Iraq and Syria in recent months and is responsible for the grisly executions of two American journalists and most recently David Haines, a British citizen who was kidnapped last year.

Raddatz asked McDonough if the executioner had been identified.

“Obviously we’re doing everything we can to find that out and everything we can to continue to keep the heat on ISIL,” McDonough said.

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Bill Maher Takes Aim at Minnesota Congressman

Bill Maher Takes Aim at Minnesota Congressman

HBO/Janet Van Ham(WASHINGTON) — Incumbent GOP Rep. John Kline’s Minnesota congressional seat is a little less safe thanks to comedian and television host Bill Maher.Maher has decided to target Kline for his “Flip A District” campaign…

Three Democrats Who Could Challenge Hillary Clinton in 2016

Three Democrats Who Could Challenge Hillary Clinton in 2016

U.S. Department of State(WASHINGTON) — Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is heading back to Iowa for the first time since 2008 this weekend to speak at the 37th Harkin Steak Fry. And since she says she’ll probably decide on a 2016 run “after the first of the year,” ABC News took a closer look at three other Democrats who could challenge her for the nomination if she decides to run for the White House for the second time.

1. Sen. Elizabeth Warren
The Massachusetts senator — speaking to ABC News’ David Muir earlier this year — said she is not running for president, but could she change her mind? It’s happened with other candidates before, including then-Sen. Barack Obama before the 2008 election. Warren, who recently released a book, is a favorite among more progressive Democrats. But an ABC News/Washington Post poll in June showed that among registered voters, 69 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents favor Clinton for the party’s nomination over seven other hypothetical contenders. Warren received only 7 percent.

2. Vice President Joe Biden
As the current vice president, Biden could not be any closer to the Oval Office than he is in his current position. The former Delaware senator, now in his 70s, has not ruled out another run for the White House.

He’s already run twice for the highest elected office in the land. In fact, just days after his potential 2016 rival Clinton visits Iowa, the vice president will be making his own stop in the Hawkeye State, the Des Moines Register reported. The same poll in June that showed a majority of registered Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents favor Clinton by a large margin showed Joe Biden garnering 12 percent support.

3. Gov. Martin O’Malley
The governor of Maryland told Fusion’s Jorge Ramos last month that he is “seriously considering running in 2016,” and there are indications he might run regardless of whether Clinton makes a run or not. While he may not be as well-known nationally as Warren, Biden or Clinton, O’Malley has made news recently by publicly distancing himself from the White House over immigration. O’Malley was also just in Iowa, stopping there on Sunday to campaign for Jack Hatch, a state lawmaker challenging incumbent Republican Terry Branstad for governor.

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Sen. Gillibrand: If Goodell Lied, ‘He Has to Step Down’

Sen. Gillibrand: If Goodell Lied, ‘He Has to Step Down’

United States Senate(WASHINGTON) — Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, has tentatively added her voice to the rising chorus calling for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s resignation in the wake of the Ray Rice incident.

“If he lied, then he has to step down,” Gillibrand said on the latest episode of the ESPN-ABC News podcast “Capital Games.”

“What I’ve said up till now is, I expect Roger to create a zero tolerance policy and change the NFL, but … you can’t lie to the American people about the facts,” she said.

According to the senator, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, whose name has been bandied about as a possible Goodell replacement, “would make a great NFL commissioner, just based on her talent, her intelligence, her love of the sport.”

Appointing Rice commissioner would ignite the NFL’s female fan base and give the league a fresh perspective on issues with which it has long struggled. Choosing Rice would be not only a symbolic gesture, but a functional one as well.

“You know, we always fight for breaking every glass ceiling … But it’s more than just a message. Women often bring to leadership a different style of leadership, one that often is more focused on consensus building, often more focused on transparency and accountability,” Gillibrand said.

“I think what Condi or any other strong, capable woman could bring to the NFL is probably a voice they haven’t been hearing, and one that would do great, great benefit to the organization,” she added.

ESPN analyst and former NFL executive Andrew Brandt echoed Gillibrand’s contention that Rice should not be merely a token candidate.

“Would she be on the list if there wasn’t a Ray Rice issue, if he was retiring as commissioner would she be on the list? For her I would say yes,” Brandt said, adding that Rice has “impeccable credentials, impeccable integrity.”

“Sports are still considered a male-dominated thing,” acknowledges Julie Foudy, a former Olympian and World Cup champion. “I still think, with all the strides we’ve made with Title IX and the number of girls that are playing, the hardest area to break into is the professional game …. It’s a constant challenge.”

As for drawing the line on domestic violence: “I don’t buy the argument that you should do it because your fan base is women,” Foudy says. “Do it because it’s the right damn thing to do!”

The relationship between sports and politics is a reciprocal one, Gillibrand says.

“If you play sports, particularly competitive sports, you learn … your job is to hit your best shot, and your opponent’s going to hit his or her best shot against you as well. And it doesn’t mean anything, it just means you have to stay tough, stay focused, and know why you’re in the game,” she said on “Capital Games.”

“There’s an indicator, when they look at these things, that says if a woman’s played competitive sports, she might be more likely to run.”

Whether or not they play competitive sports, “I want women and girls to believe in themselves just as much as men and boys do. I want them to trust their own power … not just for their own sense of self, but for all of us,” Gillibrand says in her new book, Off the Sidelines. “Girls’ voices matter. Women’s voices matter. From Congress to board meetings to PTAs, our country needs more women to share their thoughts, and take a place at the decision-making table.”

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Obama Reiterates ISIS Strategy in Weekly Address

Obama Reiterates ISIS Strategy in Weekly Address

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — In his weekly address, President Obama reiterated the strategy he outlined on Wednesday with regards to how the U.S. intends to handle the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

“As Commander in Chief,” Obama said, “my highest priority is the security of the American people.” After his Wednesday speech in which the president stated in no uncertain terms that those who seek to threaten Americans will find “no safe haven,” he spoke sternly once again, noting that his administration and the U.S. military have “prevented terrorist attacks, saved American lives and made our homeland more secure.”

Still, sending combat troops to the Middle East is not on the table, and that the fight against ISIS “can’t be America’s…alone.”

After going over the highlights of his strategy, the president praised the American people for their resilience on the week of the 13th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, saying that “thirteen years after our country was attacked — we continue to stand tall and proud. Because we’re Americans.  We don’t give in to fear. We carry on. And we will never waver in the defense of the country we love.”

Read the full transcript of the president’s address:

As Commander in Chief, my highest priority is the security of the American people.  And I’ve made it clear that those who threaten the United States will find no safe haven.  Thanks to our military and counterterrorism professionals, we took out Osama bin Laden, much of al Qaeda’s leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and leaders of al Qaeda affiliates in Yemen and Somalia.  We’ve prevented terrorist attacks, saved American lives and made our homeland more secure. 

Today, the terrorist threat is more diffuse, from al Qaeda affiliates and other extremists—like ISIL in Syria and Iraq.  As I said this week, our intelligence community has not yet detected specific ISIL plots against our homeland.  But its leaders have repeatedly threatened the United States.  And, if left unchecked, these terrorists could pose a growing threat beyond the Middle East, including to the United States.  So we’re staying vigilant.  And we’re moving ahead with our strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist organization.

To meet a threat like this, we have to be smart.  We have to use our power wisely.  And we have to avoid the mistakes of the past.  American military power is unmatched, but this can’t be America’s fight alone.  And the best way to defeat a group like ISIL isn’t by sending large numbers of American combat forces to wage a ground war in the heart of the Middle East.  That wouldn’t serve our interests.  In fact, it would only risk fueling extremism even more. 

What’s needed now is a targeted, relentless counterterrorism campaign against ISIL that combines American air power, contributions from allies and partners, and more support to forces that are fighting these terrorists on the ground.  And that’s exactly what we’re doing.     

We’re moving ahead with our campaign of airstrikes against these terrorists, and we’re prepared to take action against ISIL in Syria as well.  The additional American forces I’ve ordered to Iraq will help Iraqi and Kurdish forces with the training, intelligence and equipment they need to take the fight to these terrorists on the ground.  We’re working with Congress to expand our efforts to train and equip the Syrian opposition.  We’ll continue to strengthen our defenses here at home.  And we’ll keep providing the humanitarian relief to help Iraqi civilians who have been driven from their homes and who remain in extreme danger. 

Because we’re leading the right way, more nations are joining our coalition.  This week, Arab nations agreed to strengthen their support for the new Iraqi government and to do their part in the fight against ISIL, including aspects of the military campaign.  Saudi Arabia will join the effort to help train and equip moderate Syrian opposition forces.  And retired Marine general John Allen—who during the Iraq war worked with Sunnis in Iraq as they fought to reclaim their communities from terrorists—will serve as our special envoy to help build and coordinate our growing coalition.

Today, every American can be proud of our men and women in uniform who are serving in this effort.  When our airstrikes helped break the siege of the Iraqi town of Amerli [Ah-MER-lee], one Kurdish fighter on the ground said, “It would have been absolutely impossible without the American planes.”  One resident of that city said—“thank you, America.”

Today we’re showing the world the best of American leadership.  We will protect our people.  We will stand with partners who defend their countries and rally other nations to meet a common threat.  And here at home—thirteen years after our country was attacked—we continue to stand tall and proud.  Because we’re Americans.  We don’t give in to fear.  We carry on.  And we will never waver in the defense of the country we love.

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GOP Weekly Address: ‘State Is Under Attack from the Federal Government’

GOP Weekly Address: ‘State Is Under Attack from the Federal Government’

Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) — Congressional candidate Andy Tobin, R-Arizona, delivered the weekly Republican Address on Saturday, speaking strongly about the importance of “putting people first” and ending an “attack from the federal government.”

Tobin, currently the Speaker of the Arizona House, pointed the finger at “overregulation” and federal debt and ObamaCare for the imbalance of power taxpayers experience compared to the government.

Calling the existing gridlock in Washington “disappointing,” Tobin spoke about the “good-faith effort” being given by Republicans and accused Democrats of avoiding votes, specifically noting the Democratic failure to pass their immigration bill. “They’re more worried about losing their Senate majority than the concerns of the American people,” Tobin said.

Read the full transcript of the Republican address:

Hello, I’m Andy Tobin.  I serve as Speaker of the Arizona House, and I’m the Republican candidate for Arizona’s First Congressional District.
 
Before I begin: we have had terrible flooding in our state this week.  At least two Arizonans died.  Our hearts go out to their families, and our thanks go to the first responders.  Their service inspires us always.   

I’m running for Congress for a simple reason: our state is under attack from the federal government. Day after day, the powers-that-be in Washington try to bury us in more regulations and more havoc.  This has to stop.  Not just here, but everywhere people are working harder only to have Washington take more of their money and more of their freedom.
 
How do we restore the balance of power for hardworking taxpayers?

Well, one thing we can do is go after overregulation.  Here in rural Arizona, the EPA’s mandates threaten to shut down the Navajo Generating Station, a coal-powered plant that is vital to our state’s economy.  These mandates will mean higher water and electricity prices for Arizona residents.  They also threaten the viability of this plant, putting hundreds of jobs in jeopardy.  Instead of perpetrating a war on coal, Washington should be protecting coal, protecting these jobs, and supporting American energy.

Second, we need to repeal ObamaCare.  I run a small business involved in employee benefits, so I’ve seen firsthand the rate increases, and the way this law is crushing businesses and pushing people into part-time work.  It’s also costing our seniors money they don’t have and doctors they’ve relied on for years.  Let’s start over and focus on ideas that lower costs and put the patient back in charge.

Third, we need to get ourselves out of all this debt.  It’s a drag on our economy and investment, and it’s not something we should be passing on to our kids.  Not too long ago, our state was one of many caught in the grip of recession and a budget crisis.  Working together, we turned things around.   Cut government by 25 percent.  Balanced the state’s budget.  And passed the largest tax cuts in our state’s history, saving taxpayers millions of dollars.  Now we’re moving in the right direction, building a better future for our children and their children.
 
And you know how we got it done?  By finding common ground, making the tough choices, and recognizing that Arizona would only recover if we all recover. 
 
That’s why the gridlock in Washington is so disappointing.  You have Republicans making a good-faith effort, bringing real ideas to the table to help our economy, but Senate Democrats won’t give them a vote.  They didn’t even pass their own bill to help us deal with the crisis at our border.  They’re more worried about losing their Senate majority than the concerns of the American people.  
 
I’ve dedicated my life to serving others.  It was instilled in me as the son of a police officer. To get America back on track, we need to put the people first, be their voice, especially for parts of the country like rural Arizona that have been forgotten by Washington.
 
Thank you for listening.  May God bless Arizona and the United States of America.

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Obama Makes Good on World Cup Bet, Sends Beer to Belgian Embassy

Obama Makes Good on World Cup Bet, Sends Beer to Belgian Embassy

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — During the height of World Cup fever back in June, Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo bet President Obama through Twitter that the Belgian soccer team would advance to the World Cup quarter finals by defeating the United States team.

 

Hey @BarackObama, I am betting some great Belgian beers that our @BelRedDevils will make it to the quarter final! :-) #ComeOnBelgium #BEL

— Elio Di Rupo (@eliodirupo) June 26, 2014

 

Belgium successfully beat the United States 2-1.

Though Obama never responded to the PM’s tweet, he followed through on Friday by sending some Sam Adams beer to the Embassy of Belgium, along with a handwritten note congratulating the Belgian team — “See you in 2018.”

 

Just delivered @SamuelAdamsBeer to @BelgiumintheUSA to make good on the President’s #WorldCup bet w/@eliodirupo. pic.twitter.com/iyGKfH93gW

— @NSCPress (@NSCPress) September 12, 2014

 

 

President Obama making good on lost Soccer World Cup with PM di Rupo:shipment of Sam Adams arrives at embassy. pic.twitter.com/2I0XodApTI

— Embassy of Belgium (@BelgiumintheUSA) September 12, 2014

 

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Rep. Mark Sanford Splits With Argentine ‘Soul Mate’

Rep. Mark Sanford Splits With Argentine ‘Soul Mate’

Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Cal(WASHINGTON) — Rep. Mark Sanford has decided to “call off” his engagement to the Argentine “soul mate” he had a intercontinental, extra-marital affair with as governor in 2009.

The announcement of the split with Maria Belen Chapur was buried in a 2,349-word Friday Facebook post responding to the complaint filed by the South Carolina Republican’s ex-wife, Jenny, in Charleston County Family Court Sept. 2.

“No relationship can stand forever this tension of being forced to pick between the one you love and your own son or daughter, and for this reason Belen and I have decided to call off the engagement,” Sanford, 54, wrote in the post. “Maybe there will be another chapter when waters calm with Jenny, but at this point the environment is not conducive to building anything.”

Sanford also said in the post that he would hire a lawyer for his Sept. 15 court date.

The  former two-term governor proposed to Chapur, who he had seen in secret for more than a year, in Argentina in 2012.

“Belen is a remarkably wonderful woman who I have always loved and I will be forever grateful for not only the many years we have known and loved each other, but the last six very tough ones wherein she has encouraged me and silently borne its tribulations with her ever warm and kind spirit,” Sanford wrote Friday.

Sanford’s congressional office declined to respond to the letter, while Jenny Sanford did not immediately respond to ABC’s requests for comment.

In 2009, then-Governor Sanford went AWOL from South Carolina, claiming he was hiking, then admitting that he’d been away having an affair with Chapur. Sanford returned to politics in a successful bid for South Carolina’s First Congressional District in 2012. He had served in the Congress from 1995-2001.

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White House Says ‘War’ Against ISIS Is Akin to ‘War on Terror’

White House Says ‘War’ Against ISIS Is Akin to ‘War on Terror’

mj0007/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — One day after denying the U.S. is engaged in “a war” against ISIS militants, the White House Friday said a war is in fact underway, indicating it’s an extension of the ongoing campaign against Islamic extremists.

“The United States is at war with ISIL in the same way we are at war with al Qaeda and its affiliates,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters.

“Sematics matter,” he added.

At the Pentagon, spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby echoed that assessment: “This is not the Iraq War,” he said. “But make no mistake we know we are at war with ISIL in the same way we are at war with al Qaeda and its affiliates.”

The militant Islamic group goes by the acronym ISIL as well as ISIS and the name of Islamic State.

The new talking points follow a day of insistence by administration officials that President Obama’s new anti-ISIS strategy only amounts to a “counter-terrorism campaign.”

“No,” the U.S. is not at war with ISIS, Secretary of State John Kerry told ABC News Thursday in Saudi Arabia. “We’re engaged in a counter-terrorism operation of a significant order. And counter-terrorism operations can take a long time, they go on. I think ‘war’ is the wrong reference term with respect to that.”

National Security Adviser Susan Rice said since there would be no “boots on the ground” — presumably referring to American combat troops in Iraq or Syria — the campaign would not fit the definition of “war.”

But Friday a different tune, made all the more noteworthy given Obama’s record of distancing himself from his predecessor’s “war on terror” terminology and repeated insistence that “core” al Qaeda have been “decimated.”

“This war, like all wars, must end,” Obama declared of the “war on terror” in May 2013.

Now, his administration is pointing to that definition to say that we are still “at war” — and that it will continue, likely for years to come.

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Can New Bill Plug ‘Dangerous’ Homeland Security Gap?

Can New Bill Plug ‘Dangerous’ Homeland Security Gap?

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley introduced legislation this week to stiffen rules for schools seeking to attract foreign applicants with the promise of assistance to obtain a student visa — an effort he says will prevent want-to-be terrorists from exploiting vulnerabilities in the American student entry program.

“It’s time to close the loopholes and clamp down on schools that have a poor track record with regard to foreign students,” Grassley, R-Iowa, said.

Grassley pointed to findings of a recent ABC News investigation that found U.S. Homeland Security officials had lost track of some 6,000 foreign nationals who had overstayed the terms of their student visas in the past year and a half — exploiting a security gap that was supposed to be fixed after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.

Despite repeated concerns raised by Congress, federal immigration officials have also continued to grant schools certification to accept overseas applicants even if the schools lack accreditation, state licensure, or any obvious measure of academic rigor.

There are now more than 9,000 schools on the government-approved list. The list includes such top flight American colleges as Harvard and Yale, but it also includes 86 beauty schools, 36 massage schools and nine schools that teach horseshoeing. Foreign students can enter the U.S. on a visa to study acupuncture, hair braiding, or join academies that focus on tennis and golf.

In one case, a tiny, state licensed career college in New York City continued to have four campuses on the Department of Homeland Security-certified schools list, even though five of the school’s top officials — including its president — were indicted on charges of visa fraud in May.

According to the indictment, 80 percent of the foreign students enrolled at MicroPower Career Institute had delinquent attendance, putting them out of compliance with their visas. But the school did not report them, the indictment says.

The school declined comment and all five school officials have pleaded not guilty in the case. DHS officials said they had no ability to de-list the school, even after the fraud indictments, because the school was entitled to administrative due process.

Grassley said his legislation would require schools to be accredited by an appropriate accrediting body in order to accept foreign students. He said it would also give Homeland Security officials the ability to immediately suspend school participation if they were failing to comply reporting requirements or fell under suspicion of fraud.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security said the agency does not comment on pending legislation. But she added that the department would “fully support improving and enhancing programs that protect our country’s national security.”

She noted that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is already hard at work trying to improve what officials there have acknowledged are shortcomings of the student visa monitoring program. ICE officials told ABC News, for instance, that it has undertaken a new program to deploy field representatives around the country to personally inspect schools that had been approved to accept foreign students. So far, 15 field representatives have been hired, with a plan to ultimately employ 60 around the country, according to spokesperson Carissa Cutrell.

The agency has also launched a program — so far installed at one airport, but planned for others — that will immediately alert a customs inspector if a student is attempting to re-enter the country after their status has been flagged by a school official.

“The Student and Exchange Visitor Program has made significant improvements to the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, increased school and student oversight, and unveiled new policy guidance to close vulnerabilities and better protect our nation from individuals who try to exploit the U.S. visa system,” Cutrell said.

An advocacy group for international students and educators, called NAFSA, has expressed concern that security questions surrounding student visas have created unwarranted fears about the risks those students pose. Rebecca Morgan, a NAFSA spokeswoman, noted that only 3 percent of the 61 million people who entered the United States on nonimmigrant visas in 2013 held student visas.

“It is important to understand that the other 97 percent are entirely unmonitored,” she said. “Students are the only ones that are monitored.

Morgan also said that efforts to attract foreign students should be encouraged, not impeded.

“Generations of American foreign-policy leaders have pointed to educational exchanges as one of our most successful foreign policy tools, the most proven and effective way for the United States to build a foundation for dialogue and partnership with the rest of the world,” she said.

Jill Welch, who oversees NAFSA public policy, said in a statement that the group would oppose the measure, calling it “unfortunate that Senator Grassley’s recent statements imply a false connection between foreign students and terrorism.”

She said the legislation is “redundant because DHS already has the authority to shut down fraudulent programs after an investigation and due process.”

The Grassley legislation is similar to a proposal introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) in 2012 that failed to pass. Grassley said that as the number of foreign students being issued visas has grown, the amount of risk posed by the program is expanding. He cited a recently released Brookings Institution report showing the number of visas in U.S. colleges and universities grew from 110,000 in 2001 to 524,000 in 2012.

“Despite this overwhelming increase, the technology and oversight of the student visa program has insufficiently improved,” he said. “Now, 13 years after 9/11, we have sham schools setting up in strip malls without real classrooms. We have foreign nationals entering the U.S. with the intent to study, but then disappear and never attend a real class.”

Thomas Kean 9/11 Commission Co-Chair told ABC News that he is stunned the federal government continues to lose track of so many foreign nationals who had entered the country with student visas. He noted that both the hijacker who flew the airplane into the Pentagon and the man who drove the van containing explosives into the World Trade Center garage in 1993 were student visa holders who were no-shows at school.

“It’s been pointed out over and over and over again and the fact that nothing has been done about it yet…it’s a very dangerous thing for all of us,” Kean said. “The fact that there’s been no action on this is very bothersome.”

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Hillary Clinton’s Tribute to Writer Maya Angelou

Hillary Clinton’s Tribute to Writer Maya Angelou

Alex Wong/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — “She urged, demanded, inspired millions of Americans to live kinder, braver, more honorable lives.”

That’s how Hillary Clinton paid tribute to poetic luminary Maya Angelou Friday at a memorial ceremony in New York’s Riverside Church.

Angelou, 86, died this past May.

“When I ran for president, which I did a few years ago, her encouragement meant so much to me,” the former secretary of state said to a ripple of laughter.

“She didn’t hesitate to tell you when she thought you were wrong, or being thoughtless or arrogant, and she did not suffer fools. So when she said that she believed in you, you actually believed her and began believing in yourself,” she added.

Clinton, who is mulling another stab at the presidency in 2016, recalled a few lines of the poem Angelou penned in support of Clinton during her 2008 campaign:

“There is a world of difference between being a woman and a being an old female. If you’re born a girl, grow up, and live long enough, you can become an old female. But to become a woman is a serious matter.”

In Angelou’s autobiography, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, a coming-of-age story recounting her struggles with early-life trauma and prejudice, Clinton said she saw traces of her own mother’s difficult past.

Angelou “was often slotted into subcategories as writers wrote about her: an African American writer, a civil rights activist, a woman’s leader…But in truth, she transcended all labels. There is, however, one label that does stick,” Clinton said. “She could have been born anywhere in the world, but I believe only in America could she have become who she did.”

“Our country’s struggles and triumphs and progress over the past century are written all over her life,” she added. “Indeed, she helped to write them.”

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Hillary Clinton Returns to Iowa for Steak Fry Sunday

Hillary Clinton Returns to Iowa for Steak Fry Sunday

Scott Olson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — When Hillary Clinton touches down in Iowa this weekend, it will be the first time she has stepped foot on the state’s soil since she lost the Iowa caucuses during her presidential primary campaign on Jan. 3, 2008.

Clinton has notably stayed clear of Iowa since her defeat to then-Sen. Barack Obama that night, a moment she describes as “excruciating” in her new memoir, Hard Choices.

But, now, nearly 2,500 days later, Clinton is making her grand return to the Hawkeye state to headline, along with husband Bill Clinton, Sen. Tom Harkin’s 37th annual and final Steak Fry.

Inevitably, the timing of Hillary Clinton’s visit to the key presidential primary state will stroke speculation about her potential and, increasingly apparent, 2016 presidential bid. But if you were to ask her about the Iowa trip, she’d likely say it’s purely about the Steak Fry.

Here’s everything you need to know about the Iowa Steak Fry:

What is a “steak fry”?

A Steak Fry is essentially a barbeque party that features steak on the menu.

What’s the deal with Tom Harkin’s Steak Fry?

The retiring Sen. Harkin’s annual Steak Fry is a longstanding Iowa tradition that started in 1972 on a local family farm to raise money for his first congressional campaign. Over the years, the Steak Fry, which originally cost $2 a ticket and had just 40 attendees, has grown and evolved into a signature political event that attracts thousands of Iowans, politicos and Democratic hopefuls seeking state and nationwide exposure. In recent years, headliners have included President Obama, Vice Presidents Joe Biden and Al Gore and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley. After 37 years, however, this upcoming Steak Fry will be the last. Harkin is stepping down after serving 30 years in the Senate.

Where is it?

The Steak Fry has been held at various locations in Iowa through the years, but one of the most common, and the chosen spot for its final year, is the National Balloon Classic Balloon Field in Indianola, Iowa, about 20 miles outside Des Moines.

When is it?

This Sunday, Sept. 14, from 1 to 4 p.m. CT.

Who’s going to be there?

In addition to Harkin, his wife, Ruth Harkin, and headline speakers, Bill and Hillary Clinton, a number of local Democratic Iowa politicians and midterm candidates will be speaking at the Steak Fry this year, including agriculture secretary and former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, Rep. Bruce Braley, who is running for Harkin’s open Senate seat, Jack Hatch, the Democratic nominee for Governor, and four congressional candidates. As for the viewers, the organizers say for this final sendoff of the Steak Fry, they are expecting a larger-than-normal crowd, roughly 5,000 people. This would make it the biggest Steak Fry since 2007, when all presidential primary candidates, including Obama and Hillary Clinton, were in attendance. (More than 10,000 people showed up that year, for perspective.)

Why is Hillary Clinton going?

Despite speculation of her 2016 ambitions and the possibility she’s beginning to lay the groundwork for a presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton will tell you her appearance at the Steak Fry is just about the friendship. The Clintons are longtime friends of Harkin and his wife, dating to 1992 when both Bill Clinton and Tom Harkin were running for president. Earlier this summer, Hillary Clinton’s spokesman said she is merely attending the Steak Fry to “see her old friend and colleague” and to “help raise money for important races in Iowa.”

Have the Clintons been before?

Yes. Bill Clinton has headlined three times (in 1992, 1996 and 2003), and Hillary Clinton once (in 2007 during her presidential primary campaign).

What’s the deal with the fried steak?

The steaks at the Steak Fry are not actually fried. Despite the event’s name, we’re told the steaks are always grilled. This year, the local grocery store chain, Hy-Vee, is catering the event, and also plans to offer grilled chicken and veggie burgers.

Are we going to see Hillary Clinton grill a steak?

Yes, you will get to see both Bill and Hillary Clinton hover over a grill and cook up a large, hunky piece of Iowa meat. (That said, the now waist-watching former president could choose the veggie burger option instead, but who knows?)

Will Ready for Hillary be there?

The pro-Hillary Clinton super-PAC urging her to run for president has major plans for Clinton’s big return to the Iowa stage Sunday. They’re stationing the Ready for Hillary bus there to hand out free T-shirts, signs and rally supporters. They’re organizing buses to transport students from colleges around the state to the Steak Fry. And they’re hoping to post huge billboards near the event so everyone (“including Hillary,” they say) can see she already has huge support.

How do Iowans feel about Hillary Clinton?

Ever since Clinton, 66, came in third in the Iowa caucuses, where she was largely expected to win, her relationship with the state has been rocky. A Des Moines Register poll earlier this year, however, would suggest Iowans are receptive to her 2016 run (the poll showed that 88 percent of Iowa Democrats think Clinton should run again.) And even Harkin is confident she has Iowa support.

“I think you will find at the Steak Fry that Iowans love Hillary — and Bill,” he told the Washington Post.

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ISIS Makes Cameos in Campaign Ads Across the Country

ISIS Makes Cameos in Campaign Ads Across the Country

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — In a montage that includes militant jihadists wielding automatic weapons, exploding buildings, and even an apparent firing squad, the most arresting image lasts only a moment, but it is unmistakable: a masked terrorist brandishing a knife.

New Mexico Senate candidate Allen Weh made headlines last month when his campaign included the image — a still from the ISIS video of James Foley’s beheading — in a 60-second campaign spot.

Including an image from one of the year’s most high-profile murders in a campaign ad is a risky move politically — especially when that image comes from a particularly gory piece of extremist propaganda. But addressing the threat of ISIS is becoming almost unavoidable as national security issues continue to dominate the news cycle.

“That video is rough, but that’s the unvarnished truth,” Weh told ABC News. “The whole message was very simple: failed leadership in Washington.”

ISIS is “absolutely going to be on the front of people’s minds” this election cycle, he added.

And slowly but surely, other candidates have been following Weh’s lead.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who’s fighting to hold on to his seat against Democratic challenger Allison Lundergan Grimes, also invoked the ISIS threat. In an ad released last week, the McConnell campaign ties Grimes to Obama’s no-strategy-yet gaffe.

“These are serious times,” a narrator intones, as footage of an ISIS militant wielding an automatic weapon flashes on the screen. Later, a three-second clip shows Obama saying, “We don’t have a strategy yet.”

“When so many in Washington can’t do the job, shouldn’t Kentucky have a senator who can? Obama needs Alison Grimes. Kentucky needs Mitch McConnell,” the ad says.

The National Republican Congressional Committee also unveiled an ISIS-themed ad portraying incumbent Rep. Rick Nolan, D-Minn., as soft on terror.

“America is under a new threat of terrorism, yet Nolan voted to cut funds from the fight against al Qaeda,” the narrator says, as the screen shows men in Middle Eastern garb.

“Rick Nolan. Dangerously Liberal. Wrong for Minnesota,” the ad concludes.

In Michigan, an ad released by the U.S. Senate campaign of Democratic Rep. Gary Peters doesn’t specifically reference terrorism but it does mention an upcoming “vote” — presumably a vote to authorize military action against extremists in the Middle East.

“When it comes time to cast a vote, the decision to put men and women in harm’s way is one of the toughest ones you can make, and I will always think of the people I served with, their sacrifices,” Peters, a former Navy Reservist lieutenant colonel, says in the ad.

And in perhaps the most hard-hitting spot of all, one candidate seeks to tie his opponent not to ineffective policy — but to the terrorists themselves.

David Perdue, a Republican battling Democrat Michelle Nunn for Georgia’s open U.S. Senate seat, recently dusted off an old ad linking Nunn to militants.

“In her campaign plan, Michelle Nunn admits she’s too liberal, and her foundation gave money to organizations linked to terrorists,” the ad says.

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Are We at ‘War’ with ISIS? White House Insists We’re Not

Are We at ‘War’ with ISIS? White House Insists We’re Not

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — When does a sustained, open-ended American military campaign become a “war?”

It’s a weighty question drawing much debate online and in the political world.

The White House claims the anti-ISIS strategy President Obama announced Thursday night does not amount to a war.

    President Obama never used the word Thursday night, instead calling his plan a “counter-terrorism campaign.”

    Secretary of State John Kerry told ABC News’ Alex Marquardt on Thursday that the U.S. is not “at war” with ISIS. “No,” Kerry told Marquardt. “We’re engaged in a counter-terrorism operation of a significant order. And counter-terrorism operations can take a long time, they go on. I think ‘war’ is the wrong reference term with respect to that.”

    But there are boots on the ground, even if not combat ones — so far more than 1,600. The expanding military campaign will be violent and dangerous.

    Republicans have been pointing out the costs and risks involved with the operation, accusing the president of distorting what it in fact is: a new war — a new dimension to the “war on terror” initiated after 9/11.

      Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.: “Tell the American people the truth, Mr. President. These young men and women are going there, and they’re going to be in harm’s way, and they’re going to be exposed to combat.”

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        Government Threatened Foley Family over Ransom, Mother of Slain Journalist Says

        Government Threatened Foley Family over Ransom, Mother of Slain Journalist Says

        DOMINICK REUTER/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Obama administration officials repeatedly threatened the family of murdered journalist James Foley that they might face criminal charges for supporting terrorism if they paid ransom to the ISIS killers who ultimately beheaded their son, his mother and brother said this week.

        “We were told that several times and we took it as a threat and it was appalling,” Foley’s mother Diane told ABC News in an interview.

        She said the warnings over the summer came primarily from a highly decorated military officer serving on the White House’s National Security Council staff, which five outraged current and former officials with direct knowledge of the Foley case also recounted to ABC News in recent weeks.

        “Three times he intimidated us with that message. We were horrified he would say that. He just told us we would be prosecuted. We knew we had to save our son, we had to try,” Diane Foley said.

        “It was an utterly idiotic thing to do that came across as if he had the compassion of an anvil,” said a former official who has advised the family.

        “He had no business speaking about legal issues he was unqualified to discuss,” a current official said of the military officer at the NSC, who has no background in the law.

        Foley’s brother Michael said in an interview that he was directly threatened with possible prosecution for violating anti-terrorism laws by a State Department official, but insisted that he remained defiant in calling the government’s bluff. No relatives of American hostages have ever been indicted for trying to free a loved one from captivity, Foley said he informed the official.

        The Foley family adviser said the threats were made up until a few days prior to the veteran war correspondent’s murder by ISIS shown in the shocking Aug. 19 video. Two weeks later, another captured U.S. journalist, Steven Sotloff, was shown being similarly beheaded by ISIS in a video, which the killers said was because President Obama has bombed the group inside Iraq.

        An NSC spokeswoman admitted that the Foley family was informed of U.S. laws banning terrorism financing but denied the family was told they could face charges if they made a ransom payment.

        “Without getting into the details of our private discussions with families, the law is clear that ransom payments to designated individuals or entities, such as ISIL [ISIS], are prohibited. It is also a matter of longstanding policy that the U.S. does not grant concessions to hostage takers. Doing so would only put more Americans at risk of being taken captive. That is what we convey publicly and what we convey privately,” NSC spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement on Thursday.

        The spokeswoman also asked ABC News to withhold the military officer’s name for fear his personal security could be compromised by those who might wrongly blame U.S. officials for Foley’s slaughter at the hands of ISIS militants who may never have considered sparing him for any price.

        U.S. State Department spokesperson Marie Harf did not delve into specifics in the Foley case, but said that some federal agencies might advise the family of an American being held hostage “that it would help the hostage to not have to media attention paid to their case.”

        “This department never would nor would we ever intend to do anything that we could consider threatening,” Harf said.

        Diane Foley said she was furious at the official’s perceived threats and that she and her husband John were concerned that any donors to their ransom collection drive might be thrown in prison for funding terrorism.

        “I fear for the remaining American hostages’ families, who have been intimidated in a similar way,” she told ABC News. “It definitely interfered with our efforts to bring Jim home.”

        “We did not want any of our donors to be prosecuted; we weren’t concerned about ourselves,” she added.

        Foley did not disclose how much her family had raised before his high-profile public execution but she and a surviving son, Michael said that the administration’s intimidation tactics succeeded.

        “It slowed my parents down quite a bit. They didn’t want to do anything that could get them in trouble. It slowed them down for months in raising money. Who knows what might have happened?” Michael Foley wonders.

        The family launched the James W. Foley Legacy Fund this week, which in large part is intended to help other hostages’ loved ones navigate the frustrating currents they encountered both with the terrorists and with their own government.

        Two American and several British hostages remain in ISIS captivity.

        Asked whether she had believed ISIS would accept a ransom payment and free their son, as they had many European hostages liberated for between $2-3 million each, Diane Foley replied, “I do, maybe — I mean, who knows?”

        “ISIS is a very brutal group. They may have already decided, that Jim and the others were Americans and they were going to kill him,” Foley said.

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        Sarah Palin’s Family Allegedly in Alaska House Party Brawl

        Sarah Palin’s Family Allegedly in Alaska House Party Brawl

        Ethan Miller/Getty Images(ANCHORAGE, Alaska) — Sarah Palin and her family were at the center of a lively party last weekend that erupted into a fight, with daughter Bristol Palin allegedly throwing a right hook, a man who says he was a guest at the party told ABC News.

        “She was punching him [another man] in the face like six times; it was an assault if I’ve ever seen one,” Eric Thompson said, adding that he was among 70 guests at the birthday party in Anchorage Saturday.

        “It wasn’t a light punch either. She was really hitting him. I’m surprised he just sat there and took it,” he added.

        Political blogger Amanda Coyne reported that Sarah Palin, along with husband Todd and kids Bristol, Willow and Track, arrived in a stretch Hummer and that the fighting started as the beer started flowing.

        The Palin family was asked to leave the party after Track Palin, 21, allegedly attacked another party guest who had previously dated his younger sister, Willow Palin, Thompson said.

        “I heard Sarah Palin yell do you know who I am? All of us could not believe it. We thought we were watching an episode of Jerry Springer,” he added.

        Anchorage police said members of the Palin family were attending a party at the home Saturday night when a fight erupted outside. They declined to provide further details.

        “I gave a statement to police; my wife did and like 10 other people did,” Thompson said.

        Sarah Palin made no mention of the alleged altercation in an appearance on Fox News Thursday night.

        The Palin family could not be reached for comment.

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        Portman Considering Run for the White House

        Portman Considering Run for the White House

        United States Senate(WASHINGTON) — Add a new name to the mix of potential candidates for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination: Ohio Senator Rob Portman.

        The 58-year-old lawmaker’s name actually came up prominently when 2012 nominee Mitt Romney was trying to decide on a running mate.

        However, Romney went with Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan.

        Now with just two years to go before the national election, Portman told reporters at an event Thursday that he’s “going to take a look at” a possible White House run following the midterm elections.

        Not as far right as others in the party, Portman is viewed as a deal-maker in the Senate. Unlike most GOP lawmakers, he also supports same-sex marriage, a position he made after his son, Will, came out as gay.

        Other Republicans believed to have their eyes on the big prize include Portman’s fellow Senators Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio and Governors Chris Christie and Bobby Jindal.

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        Obama Met with Christian Religious Leaders from the Middle East

        Obama Met with Christian Religious Leaders from the Middle East

        Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — President Obama met with Christian religious leaders from the Middle East on Thursday afternoon at the White House.

        According to a readout of the meeting between the delegation of religious leaders and National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Obama stopped in to join the meeting and discuss, “the plight of Christians in the Middle East and the challenges they face across the region from the rise of extremism.” The delegation was led by Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Bechara Rai.

        Obama reaffirmed his commitment and that of the United States to counter the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, which has been preying on Christians and those of other faiths in the regions ISIS controls.

        Obama said that the United States will work with its partners in the region, naming the Lebanese Armed Forces in particular, in fighting ISIS and “[promoting] regional stability.”

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