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Obama, Politicians React to Robin Williams’ Death

Obama, Politicians React to Robin Williams’ Death

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — It’s not just celebrities mourning the death of Robin Williams — politicians are also reflecting on the life of the actor and comic.
Obama said in a statement, “Robin Williams was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, a bangarang Peter Pan, and everything in between. But he was one of a kind. He arrived in our lives as an alien – but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit. He made us laugh. He made us cry. He gave his immeasurable talent freely and generously to those who needed it most – from our troops stationed abroad to the marginalized on our own streets.  The Obama family offers our condolences to Robin’s family, his friends, and everyone who found their voice and their verse thanks to Robin Williams.”San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said, “San Francisco mourns the profound loss of Robin Williams who inspired us with his comedy and art. His legacy has had a deep and inspiring impact on our City and on our residents.His ties to San Francisco were deep, having found early success in our City’s comedy clubs with his popular stand-up routines and where he was destined to launch a successful career that included starring roles in classic television shows and big screen success including an Academy Award.
Despite his success, he has never forgotten San Francisco. He was a philanthropist who gave generously, and he was a friend of the City. San Francisco is heartbroken by the tragic loss of Robin Williams who forever changed the world with laughter and joy. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this time of mourning.”New York Governor Andrew Cuomo tweeted, “We will never forget how you made us laugh. Rest in peace, Robin Williams.”New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio wrote on Twitter, “Rest in peace, Robin Williams—a tragic ending to an inspired life and illustrious artist.”
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California Considering ‘Yes Means Yes’ Sex Assault Law

California Considering ‘Yes Means Yes’ Sex Assault Law

iStock/Thinkstock(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) — Lawmakers in California are debating a law that could be used in investigating sexual assault allegations at universities.
The first-in-the-nation measure would require all colleges receiving public funds to set a standard for when “yes” means “yes.”
Each party would have to make an unambiguous decision to engage in sexual activity — silence, lack of resistance, or if the person is drunk, drugged, or asleep, would not constitute consent.
This new law consideration follows a White House task force report that found that one in five female college students is a victim of sexual assault.
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White House Assembles Team to Maintain Government Websites

White House Assembles Team to Maintain Government Websites

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — The U.S. government is taking steps to avoid repeating the rocky rollout of the Obamacare enrollment website.On Monday, the White House announced it has assembled the ultimate Geek Squad, what it calls “a small team of America’s best digital experts” to rescue U.S. government websites.The point: to make sure there will be no more embarrassments like Healthcare.gov’s debut, when thousands of applicants could not enroll.The U.S. Digital Service “will work in collaboration with other government agencies to make websites more consumer friendly, to identify and fix problems, and to help upgrade the government’s technology infrastructure,” the White House said in a statement.Mikey Dickerson, a former site reliability engineer at Google and one of the team members that helped fix Healthcare.gov, will head the new squad.
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Rep. Sanders Says He’s Got a ‘Damn Good Platform’ to Run for President

Rep. Sanders Says He’s Got a ‘Damn Good Platform’ to Run for President

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Sen. Bernie Sanders isn’t afraid to be called a socialist. In fact, the Vermont Independent proudly labels himself a Democratic socialist.“Do you hear me cringing? Do you hear me running under the table?” Sanders said rhetorically when asked if Democratic socialist is an accurate description.Sanders is so delighted with his brand of politics that he said in an interview with ABC News that it would be a “damn good platform” on which to run for president.”If the American people understand what goes on in countries like Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and other countries, they will say, ‘Whoa, I didn’t know that!’” he said, pointing out that health care is considered a right, “R-I-G-H-T,” among even the most conservative politicians in Denmark.Sanders described his credo as a fight to protect America’s working class from what he sees as the threat of an approaching “oligarchic form of society.”“You have today in America more income and wealth inequality than any time in this country since 1928 and more than any major country in the world,” he said. “So, you got the top 1 percent owning 38 percent of the wealth in America. Do you know what the bottom 60 percent own? 2.3 percent.”“You know what that is?” he continued. “That’s called oligarchy.”Though Sanders isn’t making any secret of his possible 2016 presidential bid, he said he’s still determining whether he could generate a sufficient level of grassroots support on which to build a campaign.“Look, it’s easy for me to give a good speech, and I give good speeches,” he said. “It is harder to put together a grassroots organization of hundreds of thousands of millions of people prepared to work hard and take on the enormous amounts of money that will be thrown against us.”One of Sanders’ most likely competitors, should he choose to seek the Democratic nomination, is Hillary Clinton. And while Sanders praised Clinton for a successful career, he was critical of the Democratic Party’s seeming coronation of the former secretary of state.”She has accomplished a lot of very positive things in her career, but I’m not quite sure that the political process is one in which we anoint people,” Sanders said.Though he stopped short of criticizing Clinton directly, he said she is not a sufficient champion of his message for the middle class.“What I’m telling you is that this country has more serious problems today than any time since the Great Depression,” he said. “Those are the real issues that we’ve got to start dealing with.”
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Why Sen. Chuck Schumer Thinks FitBit Is a ‘Privacy Nightmare’

Why Sen. Chuck Schumer Thinks FitBit Is a ‘Privacy Nightmare’

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is warning against fitness trackers such as FitBit, citing privacy concerns.The senator has called on the Federal Trade Commission to regulate the massive quantity of data tracked by wearable fitness devices.“Personal fitness bracelets and the data they collect on your health, sleep and location, should be just that — personal,” Schumer said in a statement on Sunday.“The fact that private health data — rich enough to identify the user’s gait — is being gathered by applications like FitBit and can then be sold to third-parties without the user’s consent is a true privacy nightmare,” he said.FitBit stores data on users’ walking, exercise and sleep habits, encouraging users to reach activity benchmarks, such as 10,000 steps per day. The San Francisco-based company claims its users “take 43% more steps with FitBit.”A representative for FitBit told Business Insider the company is “committed to our users’ privacy and [welcomes] the opportunity to work with Senator Schumer on this important issue.”
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Hillary Clinton Critical of Obama’s Syria Policy

Hillary Clinton Critical of Obama’s Syria Policy

Kendra Helmer/USAID(NEW YORK) — Hillary Clinton is attempting to separate herself from some perceived foreign policy missteps by the Obama administration, including the decision not to provide arms to moderate Syrians early during their conflict with President Bashar al-Assad.In an interview with The Atlantic, Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time Assad’s forces began their crackdown on pro-democracy advocates, said that the administration’s failure to provide weapons “left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled.”At the time, the White House was concerned that heavy artillery and other lethal arms would fall into the hands of al Qaeda groups who are also fighting in Syria to depose Assad’s government.Clinton, a possible candidate for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, said she also disagrees with Obama’s light-handed approach on U.S. foreign involvement following 13 years of fighting in two overseas wars.However, Clinto was quick to praise the president as well, saying, “He’s thoughtful, he’s incredibly smart, and able to analyze a lot of different factors that are all moving at the same time.”Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Hawaii Democratic Primary Shockers

Hawaii Democratic Primary Shockers

Hemera/Thinkstock(HONOLULU) — Hurricanes that threatened Hawaii were nothing compared to the political earthquake that hit the islands this past weekend.For the first time in state history, a sitting governor lost a primary for reelection. Democratic Governor Neil Abercrombie lost to state Senator David Ige by a two-to-one margin.It’s believed Hawaiian voters turned against Abercrombie due to his proposal for higher taxes, and their still simmering anger over him selecting Brian Schatz to replace the late U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye, who had wanted Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa to take his seat.Abercrombie’s loss is also an embarrassment for President Obama, who endorsed the incumbent.Meanwhile, the primary race between Schatz and Hanabusa is too close to call. With 99 percent of the vote in, there were just 1,700 votes separating the candidates, with the senator in the lead.  The outcome won’t be known until 8,000 absentee ballots are cast from two polling places on the Big Island that were closed during the storm.Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Retired General: Obama’s Iraq Goals ‘Very Difficult’ to Accomplish Without Ground Forces

Retired General: Obama’s Iraq Goals ‘Very Difficult’ to Accomplish Without Ground Forces

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Retired Gen. Carter Ham, who served as commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Mosul, Iraq, from 2004-2005, told ABC News’ Martha Raddatz on This Week Sunday that initial U.S. airstrikes against ISIS forces advancing toward the city of Erbil have “given pause” to the terrorist group, but that much more will need to be done to halt their progress.“It will be very difficult without U.S. ground forces or ground forces of others,” Ham said when asked if airstrikes will accomplish the President Obama’s goals to protect Americans in the region, stop the humanitarian crisis, eliminate ISIS safe havens, and protect Iraqi infrastructure. The airstrikes come two and a half years after the last American troops left Iraq in Dec. 2011.While President Obama has insisted that ground forces will not be deployed, he did acknowledge that the threat of ISIS will not be solved in a matter of days or weeks.“This is going to be a long-term project,” he said Saturday on the White House lawn before leaving for his Martha’s Vineyard vacation.Some critics of the president’s decision have alleged that the airstrikes will lead to “mission creep” and a return to heavy U.S. involvement in the region. Gen. Ham disagreed, but added that the level of American involvement is still unknown.“[It] remains to be seen how much support the United States is ready to provide, in my view, first to the Kurdish regional government in Iraq and their armed forces, the Peshmerga, but longer-term to help hopefully a new Iraq government rebuild the Iraqi military,” he said.Gen. Ham, who was the U.S. commander in Africa during the 2012 attack on the American embassy in Libya, called the U.S. preparation in Iraq “much more significant” than was possible to have in Benghazi at the time.“Of course there was, at least as far as I am aware, no indications of imminent attack against the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi,” he said. “Current circumstance is very different in Iraq where there is an imminent threat.  It’s very present, and it’s known.”
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NCAA President: O’Bannon Ruling Could ‘Fundamentally Shift Intercollegiate Athletics’

NCAA President: O’Bannon Ruling Could ‘Fundamentally Shift Intercollegiate Athletics’

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Following the landmark decision in the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit against the NCAA on Friday — which opens the door to college athletes benefiting financially from the use of their images — NCAA President Mark Emmert said the ruling could  ”fundamentally shift intercollegiate athletics.”“I think it potentially could,” Emmert told ABC’s Martha Raddatz on This Week Sunday when asked if the ruling could turn college sports into professional sports.“There is a lot in the ruling that I think is admirable and its consistent with arguments that we’ve been making all along, and there are some things about it that we really fundamentally disagree with,” Emmert added. “Most notably we disagree that there’s a violation of antitrust laws going on here and we’ll probably continue to argue that in the coming months and beyond. But it has the potential to fundamentally shift intercollegiate athletics in ways that many people are concerned about.”Emmert said that the NCAA would be appealing the ruling.“At least in part, we will. Again no one in our legal team or in the college conferences legal teams believes that the current rules are violations of antitrust laws and we need to get that settled in the courts,” he said.On Friday, Federal Judge Claudia Wilken ruled there was no “credible evidence” provided by the NCAA why college athletes should not be able to “receive a limited share of the revenue generated from the use of their own names, images, and likenesses.”Former star UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon had sued the NCAA after receiving no compensation for the use of his image in a video game.“I realized that I hadn’t been compensated or even told that I was going to be on this videogame. And I just thought that that was wrong,” O’Bannon told ESPN’s Tom Farrey on Saturday.O’Bannon called the ruling “a start,” and just the “tip of the iceberg.““It’s something… At this point anything is better than what the players, the athletes were getting,” O’Bannon told Farrey.“This has never been about me. This has always been about the rights of the athletes. Present, past and future,” O’Bannon added.
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Mike Huckabee: Arm The Kurds; US ‘Left Them with Their Pants Down’

Mike Huckabee: Arm The Kurds; US ‘Left Them with Their Pants Down’

Alex Wong/Getty Images(AMES, Iowa) – Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee called on President Obama on Saturday to arm the Kurdish people in Iraq, saying that the U.S. has left them with their “pants down around their ankles” and unable to defend themselves.“If we had good sense, we would arm the Kurds as we said we would. We gave them nothing, not so much as a BB gun, not so much as a bean bag, and instead those people, the only friends we’ve got in that region other than Israel, we’ve left them with their pants down around their ankles without nothing except a love for America and a will to fight for themselves,” Huckabee said at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa.“Where is the outrage in this country that we have not kept our promises to those Kurdish people? The government of Maliki and Iraq said he would take the weapons and see that the Kurds got them, but out of his corruption, nothing has been delivered to the Kurds, nothing,” he added. “And they stand their tonight battling with little more than the hopes that America will once again be a nation that values people who love freedom and who love god and why aren’t we there?”In a press conference following the speech, Huckabee said he opposes putting U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq and supports independence for the Kurds.
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Agriculture Secretary Calls on Congress to Address Forest Conservation

Agriculture Secretary Calls on Congress to Address Forest Conservation

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is hoping that Congress will return from their five-week summer recess ready to address the need for forest conservation. Officials shifted $3.2 billion from other programs within the United States Forest Service to pay for fire suppression over the last 12 years, according to Vilsack, prompting him to call for more adequate funding and resources. The cost of wildfire suppression has grown from 13 percent of the Forest Service budget ten years ago, to more than 40 percent in 2014. By the end of August, the agriculture secretary says the agency will use all appropriated money for the year, forcing them to dip into other funds that would be otherwise used to clear out the forest and reduce hazardous fuel.”We’ll have to take money, roughly $400 million from that, from those funds and put it into fire suppression,” Vilsack said. “…Treating them as a natural disaster, using emergency resources to pay for the costs, which is already budgeted, and that will free up the $400 million dollars in the future for what it should be used for, which is to make the forest better, healthier and more resilient.”
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Ted Cruz: Obama Should ‘Spend Less Time On The Golf Course’

Ted Cruz: Obama Should ‘Spend Less Time On The Golf Course’

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(DES MOINES, Iowa) — While President Obama was on the golf course in Martha’s Vineyard on Saturday, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, was at the Iowa State Fair, criticizing the president’s foreign policy and telling the president to “spend less time on the golf course.”  Asked whether he thought President Obama should be vacationing in Massachusetts at the moment , Cruz accused Obama of being “an absentee president,” noting that he did not visit the border last month when he was in the state of Texas.”I think the president should actually stand up and do his job as commander in chief, should spend less time on the golf course and more time doing the job to which he was elected,” Cruz told reporters after his speech at the Des Moines Register soapbox.Cruz said airstrikes could be effective in Iraq but said President Obama has yet to detail a strategy for combatting ISIS.”I am glad the president is finally demonstrating some leadership taking the threat from ISIS seriously, but unfortunately, he’s following the pattern that has characterized his foreign policy from the beginning of this tenure which he has laid out no clearly defined objective that we’re trying to accomplish that is key to defending U.S. national security,” Cruz said.”Airstrikes could well make sense to degrade the lethality of ISIS if they are directed towards accomplishing a concrete defined military objective that furthers U.S. national security interests,” he said. “What is missing right now is the commander in chief laying out a strategic vision, here is what we’re trying to accomplish so everyone will know when it’s accomplished, and here’s why it furthers U.S. national security interests. That only comes from the president, and unfortunately right now President Obama’s not providing that leadership.”
Before he left for Martha’s Vineyard, Obama warned Americans to prepare for a prolonged military fight over the skies of Iraq, striking a defensive and defiant tone over the need to reengage in a war he tried ending nearly three years ago.The stabilization of a new and inclusive Iraqi government, Obama said, was central to determining how long the United States would stay engaged in the latest Iraq conflict. He said the U.S. would be a partner in the effort, but could not lead the way.“Ultimately, only Iraqis can ensure the security and stability of Iraq,” Obama said. “The United States can’t do it for them, but we can and will be partners in that effort.”At the Iowa State Fair, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal also weighed in on the situation in Iraq, criticizing the president and saying he has not outlined a longterm strategy for Iraq.“I do think more could have been done before this point,” Jindal told ABC News. “And yet we still also haven’t heard from the president a comprehensive strategic perspective on what are his longterm plans. What does he intend to do with ISIS? Is this a limited bombing campaign? Is this going to be to defend the Kurds? Are we now committing air support to defend the Kurds? Are we committing ourselves to containing, reversing the gains that ISIS has made? It’s not clear what the strategic vision going forward is from this administration.”Asked if Obama should cancel his vacation due to the situation in Iraq, Jindal said “Maybe he’ll actually do less damage if he stays away from his full time job, his day job.”“The reality is the president has checked out,” he added.
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Hawaii Votes in Two Intra-Party Primary Brawls

Hawaii Votes in Two Intra-Party Primary Brawls

iStock/Thinkstock(HONOLULU) — A rare Saturday primary in Hawaii brings anticipation of two storms barreling into the state, along with two intra-party battles rocking the Democratic Party. History, legacy, ethnicity and even generational story lines all play into the two marquee races. The history behind these two elections partly begins in December of 2012 when the man who represented the fiftieth state for 50 years Sen. Daniel Inouye passed away. His deathbed request to Gov. Neil Abercrombie was to appoint his protégé Rep. Colleen Hanabusa as his successor. That didn’t happen and instead, he appointed his own number two Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz (he maintains Inouye said it was ultimately his decision, but Inouye’s widow is backing Hanabusa). Fast forward to 2014 and Hanabusa is challenging Schatz. And that’s not all, Abercrombie is now in the fight of his own political life, being challenged by state Sen. David Ige.The legacy of the beloved Inouye weighs heavy over these races, but another famous son of Hawaii has also played prominently in the fight: President Barack Obama. Obama has backed both Schatz and Abercrombie, recording robo-calls for both of them. Abercrombie could not have known the president longer, as he was friends with Obama’s parents before he was even born. The president also cut a radio ad for the endangered governor.WHO’S ON THE BALLOT? The marquee races are the senate and gubernatorial face-offs that have so divided the Democratic party in the state. All eyes will be on whether a sitting senator and governor can both be tossed out on one day in the Aloha State. Republican incumbents survived a string of insurgent challengers all over the country and there has been  much talk of a tea party vs. establishment civil war, but if Schatz falls he will be the first incumbent Senator to do so this cycle. There is also a House race and a lieutenant governor’s race where one of the candidates called for the primary to be postponed due to Iselle and Julio — not candidates, but storms slamming the island state. Check out FiveThirtyEight.com senior political writer Harry Enten’s take on the big race. STORM REPORT:  Hawaii hasn’t been hit by a hurricane or tropical storm in 22 years and now they are getting hit with a one-two punch.  Tropical Storm Iselle downgraded from hurricane status made land fall on the Big Island of Hawaii on Friday, slamming into the island with 60-mph winds, but it quickly fell apart. About 1,000 miles behind Iselle is a monster category two storm Hurricane Julio with winds of 120 mph. The good news is it’s only supposed to graze Hawaii Sunday. So, how will this affect Saturday’s primary? On Friday, the state’s chief elections officer Scott Nago announced that after being briefed by the state’s Hawaii Emergency Management Agency the primary will “go forward as planned,” but voting at two locations on the Big Island would be postponed due to storm damaged roads. Nago said these votes will be cast by absentee ballot and “will be counted.” One of the Republican candidates for lieutenant governor, Warner “Kimo” Sutton has called on Abercrombie to postpone the primary saying, “It seems very political, not caring for the danger to those who cannot get [to polls] safely.” If the storms turn out to be more serious than expected, Abercrombie can direct election officials to change voting hours, polling places and even the date of the election. As the storm approached the campaigns urged voters to cast their ballots early in case conditions were too precarious Saturday, eventually those hours were cut short Thursday, but only on the Big Island. The candidates suspended campaigning and asked supporters to urge caution and even to take down yard signs, which could easily turn into projectiles in hurricane-force winds.FACE-OFF OVER A DYING WISH:  Hawaii voters will nominate someone to take Inouye’s seat for the first time since 1963 in the senate Democratic primary Saturday. It isn’t just Inouye’s dying wish that his political protégé be appointed to his seat that is playing into this face-off, but seniority and ethnicity as well. WHY IT MATTERS:  In announcing his decision to appoint Schatz over Hanabusa, he cited Schatz’s youth at 41 years old, which would give him the opportunity to build up more seniority in the Senate to benefit the state. He has also been touted by supporters as a new generation, something that has also riled Hanabusa. By 2012 when Sen. Daniel Akaka announced his retirement and Inouye had passed away, they had more than 70 combined years of seniority. Now, with Schatz and Sen. Mazie Hirono, they have less than four. Hanabusa, 61, has touted her time in Congress, as well as her 12 years in Hawaii’s state senate and decades as a practicing attorney beforehand. The issue of ethnicity is also an important one. Hanabusa is Japanese-American and native Hawaiians, as well as Hawaiians of Asian descent, make up the majority of voters on the island. She has argued she is the rightful successor to Inouye, also a Japanese-American, who was a World War II veteran who truly helped to shape the state. White voters, who are likely to go stronger for Schatz, are the minority.  Schatz is leading Hanabusa in fundraising bringing in $4.9 million to Hanabusa’s $2.4 million. This race isn’t about political issues as they mostly agree with one another, instead it’s about all the issues we have mentioned: legacy, ethnicity, and a beloved man’s dying wish. These all play into the tight governor’s race as well.FiveThirtyEight’s Take Polling: The polling has been all over the place and the division between the pollsters is nothing new for Hawaii’s Democratic primaries. The Hawaii Poll missed the 2002 gubernatorial primary by 18.6 percentage points. Another pollster missed the 2012 senatorial primary by 17.5 points. Why the big misses?  Hawaii’s diversity has troubled pollsters in the past and looks to wreak havoc in 2014. Unlike in most states in the continental U.S., the majority of Hawaiians are non-white. Native Hawaiians, people of Asian descent and those of mixed origin make up about 70 percent of the state’s residents. That’s a big deal for this senate primary. Hanabusa is cruising among Japanese-American voters and doing quite well among Native Hawaiians and voters of mixed origin. Schatz, who is white, is doing best among white voters. Pollsters agree that 27 percent of primary voters should be of Japanese descent, and that Asian-Americans should comprise about 42 to 45 percent of primary voters. They disagree wildly, however, on the percentage of whites. The Hawaii Poll pegs white voters at just 22 percent of primary voters, while other polls have whites at north of 40 percent. The Hawaii poll has a much higher percentage of Native Hawaiians and voters of mixed origin. If you applied the expected racial makeup of the electorate from the Hawaii Poll to the other polls, Schatz’s lead would become a 3 point deficit. Because of poor record keeping, there is no way to know which pollsters have actually modeled the electorate correctly. Key County: About 70% of the vote will come from Honolulu. While it’s possible to win the primary without winning Honolulu, it’s difficult. At the very least, you have to be very competitive in Honolulu County.FIGHT OF A POLITICAL LIFE: Only four governors have lost primaries in the past ten years, and no incumbent Hawaii governor has ever lost re-election in a primary, but Abercrombie could very well go down today in the state’s gubernatorial Democratic primary today. WHY IT MATTERS? State Senator David Ige, who has served in the state legislature since 1986, initially as a state representative, is challenging the incumbent governor for his spot. The little-known Ige argues that as a longtime member of the state legislature, he is more in tune with both the Hawaiian people and the members of the state legislature. Abercrombie is a well-known political fixture for decades in the state and although he is behind in state polls, his loss would be a shocker.  Abercrombie is a native New Yorker, but came to the Aloha State for college and entered state politics in 1975 when he entered the state House of Representatives. In 1979 he entered to the state senate. He was appointed to Congress in 1986, returning after being elected in 1991 serving nine terms through 2010 when he ran for governor successfully. Abercrombie has widely outraised Ige, but he is being endorsed by two former Governors of Hawaii: Gov. Ben Cayetano and Gov. George Ariyoshi. As mentioned above, Abercrombie also hasn’t recovered from appointing Schatz over Hanabusa leading to this two race, one party brawl. In this bright blue state both victors in the senate and gubernatorial races are likely November winners as well.THE OTHERS:DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY FOR HAWAII’S FIRST CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT: Hanabusa’s campaign for Senate leaves an open field of candidates vying for the Democratic nomination for this district. The leading candidates are current state Senate President Donna Kim and state Rep. Mark Takai. Kim is being backed by EMILY’s List who endorse  female Democratic candidates who support abortion rights (they are also backing Hanabusa over Schatz) and Takai is endorsed by the editorial board of Hawaii’s biggest newspaper, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser. A safe Democratic district, the winner of this primary will most likely go on to win the general election in November.HAWAII LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR’S RACE: Incumbent Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui is being challenged in the Democratic primary by state senator Clayton Hee. There are a total of seven candidates running for the spot, five Democrats and two Republicans, but the leading candidates are Tsutsui and Hee. Tsutsui was appointed the job a year and a half ago when Schatz was appointed to the senate.  As mentioned above, one of the Republican candidates, Kimo Sutton has called on Abercrombie to delay the primary due to the two storms, but in this blue state it’s unlikely he will have a shot, instead the winner of the Democratic primary will most likely go on to win the general election in the solidly Democratic state.
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Obama Talks Iraq Operations in Weekly Address

Obama Talks Iraq Operations in Weekly Address

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — In his weekly address, President Obama discusses this week’s military action and humanitarian effort in Iraq. 
Obama says he will not allow the country to “be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq” and assures that American troops will not be returning to Iraq.
Looking forward, Obama says, “What we will do is continue our broader strategy in Iraq.  We will protect our citizens.  We will work with the international community to address this humanitarian crisis.  We’ll help prevent these terrorists from having a permanent safe haven from which to attack America.”
Read the full transcript of the president’s address:
“This week, I authorized two operations in Iraq.  First, I directed our military to take action to protect our American diplomats and military advisors serving in the city of Erbil.  In recent days, terrorist forces neared the city.  Thursday night, I made it clear that if they attempted to advance further, our military would respond with targeted strikes.  That’s what we’ve done.  And, if necessary, that’s what we will continue to do.  We have Americans serving across Iraq, including our embassy in Baghdad, and we’ll do whatever is needed to protect our people. Second, we’ve begun a humanitarian effort to help those Iraqi civilians trapped on that mountain. The terrorists that have taken over parts of Iraq have been especially brutal to religious minorities—rounding up families, executing men, enslaving women, and threatening the systematic destruction of an entire religious community, which would be genocide.  The thousands—perhaps tens of thousands—of Iraqi men, women and children who fled to that mountain were starving and dying of thirst.  The food and water we airdropped will help them survive.  I’ve also approved targeted American airstrikes to help Iraqi forces break the siege and rescue these families.  Earlier this week, one anguished Iraqi in this area cried to the world, “There is no one coming to help.”  Today, America is helping.  The United States cannot and should not intervene every time there’s a crisis in the world.  But when there’s a situation like the one on this mountain—when countless innocent people are facing a massacre, and when we have the ability to help prevent it—the United States can’t just look away. That’s not who we are. We’re Americans.  We act.  We lead.  And that’s what we’re going to do on that mountain.  As one American who wrote to me yesterday said, “it is the right thing to do.”   As Commander-in-Chief, I will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq.  American combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq, because there’s no American military solution to the larger crisis there.  What we will do is continue our broader strategy in Iraq.  We will protect our citizens.  We will work with the international community to address this humanitarian crisis.  We’ll help prevent these terrorists from having a permanent safe haven from which to attack America.  And we’ll continue to urge Iraqi communities to reconcile, come together and fight back against these terrorists so the people of Iraq have the opportunity for a better future—the opportunity for which so many Americans gave their lives in Iraq in a long and hard war. Today, we salute our brave men and women in uniform—especially our courageous pilots and crews over Iraq.  They’re protecting our fellow Americans.  They’re helping save the lives of innocent people on a mountain—people who today know that there’s a country called America that cares for them, too, and that is willing to stand up—not just for our own security, but for the dignity and freedom that belongs to all people.”

 
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GOP Weekly Address: Senate Candidate Mike McFadden on the Economy

GOP Weekly Address: Senate Candidate Mike McFadden on the Economy

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — In this week’s Republican address, Mike McFadden, a Republican Senate candidate from Minnesota, says he thinks the United States is “experiencing one of the slowest economic recoveries in our nation’s history.”
McFadden believes regulation and education are the two key ways to turn around the economy.
He says of his campaign, “I’m running to bring real independent leadership to Washington, to help get America back onto the path of growth and prosperity.”
Here is the full transcript of this week’s Republican address:
“Hi. My name is Mike McFadden and I’m running for the United States Senate from the great state of Minnesota. “To get there, I’m in the midst of an 87-county tour. Today, I hit county number 80 and I’m speaking to you from the MinnWest Technology Campus in Willmar. “We have a wonderful state, and Minnesotans work hard, but no matter where I go, from Winona to Warroad, people tell me the same thing: we are heading in the wrong direction.” “America is experiencing one of the slowest economic recoveries in our nation’s history. Minnesotans feel like we’re falling behind. Wages have been stagnant but the cost of everything from gas to groceries keeps going up.  “Here in Minnesota, over half of our workers are underemployed and weekly wages have gone up by just pennies. This is not what an economic recovery should feel like. “Minnesota is the Land of 10,000 Lakes. But when it comes to the challenges working families are facing, all we get from Democrats is 10,000 excuses. “We can do better. I’m running to bring real independent leadership to Washington, to help get America back onto the path of growth and prosperity. “There are many ways we can turn this economy around, but let me touch on two of them today. “The first is regulation.  “President Obama and the Senate Democrats are great at creating regulations. But when it comes to jobs? Not so much.  “To create jobs and unleash our full economic potential, we need smarter regulation, not overregulation, so that the American free enterprise system can do what it does best – innovate. “Let me give you an example from my state.  “We are sitting on one of the largest copper and nickel deposits in the world. There is a company that wants to use advanced technologies to safely mine these metals and bring good jobs back to Minnesota’s Iron Range. But seven years and $150 million later, we still don’t have an answer because there are seven different regulatory agencies responsible for making this decision – which is crazy. “I believe there’s a better way. “Through smarter regulation and a little common sense, we can develop our natural resources in a way that creates jobs and protects the environment. Whether it’s the PolyMet Mine in Minnesota, or the Keystone pipeline, there are good-paying jobs waiting to be created if we just use more common sense in regulation. “The second way to get this economy going is education. “To move our economy forward, it is absolutely vital to have a well-educated and highly skilled workforce. “For the last five years, I’ve been involved in a fantastic inner-city school in Minneapolis called Cristo Rey. The students come from some tough neighborhoods and very hard backgrounds, and our typical freshman test one to two grade levels behind when they enter our school. Yet for the past two years, we’ve had a 100% graduation rate and every student being accepted either into college or is serving in the Armed Forces. “When people hear about Cristo Rey’s success, they want to know how we do it. And the answer is simple: because we care. We care enough to develop a curriculum that conforms to our own standards – not a one-size-fits-all approach from Washington. And we care enough to direct money into the classroom where it can benefit the students the most. “We are changing the trajectory of these kids’ lives; their possibilities are endless. Among them are future doctors, educators and engineers. “President Obama and Senate Democrats have had their chance to turn our economy around, but all we’re doing is running in place. We can do better. “This November presents a tremendous opportunity for America to elect new leaders, with the vision to turn our country around, and get us back onto the path of growth and prosperity. Which will allow us to pass on to our children, and those kids from Cristo Rey, a stronger country than the one we were given. “Thank you and God bless America.”

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Death of Reagan’s Press Secretary James Brady Ruled a Homicide

Death of Reagan’s Press Secretary James Brady Ruled a Homicide

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — A medical examiner has ruled the death of former White House Press Secretary James Brady a homicide.
Brady died on Monday, 33 years after the assassination attempt that injured President Ronald Reagan, Brady, and others.
According to the Metropolitan Police Department, an autopsy reveals that the three-decades old bullet wounds were the reason Reagan’s former Press secretary died.
Suspect John Hinckley Jr. was charged in the March 1981 shooting. Prosecutors say that for now, they have no plans to charge Hinckley with Brady’s murder.
In November 1993, 12 years after the shooting, Brady attended the signing ceremony for the gun control bill that bears his name. At the time, Brady said the measure would bring “the end of unchecked madness.” Brady, who would require a wheelchair for the rest of his life, admitted he had not thought about the issue before the assassination attempt on the president.
This homicide is added to DC’s homicide count, which now stands at 71 for the year.
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Joni Ernst, From Obscure Iowa Legislator to Potential Role Model for Future GOP Candidates

Joni Ernst, From Obscure Iowa Legislator to Potential Role Model for Future GOP Candidates

iStock/Thinkstock(DES MOINES, Iowa) — Joni Ernst is not striving to be the next Ted Cruz. But if she reaches the Senate, she hopes aspiring senators want to be the next Joni Ernst.”I hope that after a couple of years, people are going to say, ‘I want to model myself after Joni Ernst,’” she told ABC News on Friday.
Ernst, a state senator who has become one of the Republican Party’s most promising recruits of the midterm election season, acknowledged that she feels pressure as one of the key pieces in the GOP effort to try and pick up six seats to win control of the Senate in November.”It is such a phenomenally positive pressure,” Ernst said. “I have gone from being a very little known state senator from southwest Iowa to now being someone that can really make a difference for Iowa in our federal legislature.”She faces Bruce Braley, a Democratic congressman from eastern Iowa, to fill the seat of retiring Sen. Tom Harkin, a Democrat. The race has taken on national importance, she said, “because this is a great opportunity for us to take the majority in the United States Senate.”As she toured the Iowa State Fair on Friday, Ernst dismissed suggestions from her rival that her positions are too extreme for Iowa.”I think that that’s a distraction,” Ernst said. “What he sees is a strong, independent female leader. Someone that is working for Iowans. He’s been very disconnected from Iowa for a very long time. Like I said he’s part of the Washington, D.C., problem.”She gained national prominence with an ad comparing her experience castrating hogs in Iowa to cutting pork in Washington.”It took off because it is truly Iowa,” Ernst said. “I knew that this ad would be a great hit here in the state because people here get it. Iowans get it.”
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Why John Kerry Made a Secret Trip to Afghanistan

Why John Kerry Made a Secret Trip to Afghanistan

State Department photo/Public Domain(WASHINGTON) — As the clock ticks toward a major conference in which NATO leaders will make decisions about commitments to Afghanistan, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced at the end of a surprise visit there that the two remaining presidential candidates have smoothed out disagreements that had delayed the process of picking a new leader.The two hopefuls, Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, have about three weeks before the NATO conference in Wales to agree on the formation of a national unity government, while at the same time waiting for the results of an audit of all eight million votes from a disputed June runoff election.Speaking to reporters after his meetings with the candidates Friday, Kerry expressed optimism that the two men will accomplish the ambitious task before them.“Both candidates have defined a road to a unity government,” he said. “They will begin now to meet together and map out that transition ahead.”Kerry’s secretly arranged trip to Afghanistan was his second in a month, the first in mid-July, when he got Abdullah and Ghani to agree to an audit of 100 percent of the June votes, after they each accused the other of election fraud. The two were also supposed to begin hammering out the details of a unity government then, regardless of who prevailed after the audit was completed.But disagreements over the technical aspects of the audit, run by the Afghan Independent Election Commission and overseen by the United Nations, as well as disputes over the power-sharing structure of the new government, slowed the entire process down to a near halt.The candidates have resolved the auditing differences and signed a communique agreeing to work on the structure of a long-term power-sharing government, they said Friday.Kerry dismissed the notion that this agreement would invite discussion of a new form of Afghan government, including a parliamentary system, favored by Abdullah, or a stronger presidency, Ghani’s preference.Rather, he said, the immediate future would see the winner of the audited election become president and the loser appointed a kind of CEO whose position would eventually morph into a prime ministerial role after consultation with a loya jirga, or grand council.“It does not establish a parliamentary system, it does not change the role of the president as head of government, but it does create the new position of the chief executive who will help to manage and work together to bring people onto the same path and create efficiency and modernity in governance,” Kerry said of the deal.Even if the candidates agree in principle to a power-sharing agreement, they won’t be able to put it into practice until the new president is inaugurated, meaning there could be continued uncertainty until that point, said Shuja Nawaz, the director of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council in Washington.“The candidates may agree in principle on the division of ministries, for instance, but the relationship between the two candidates is going to be left up in the air until the final result is announced and agreed upon,” he said.To speed up the audit process, a senior administration official said Thursday that the United States expects an additional 70 United Nations Development Program election advisers to arrive in Kabul in the next few days.“It is possible. It’ll be hard,” the official said.Officials have stressed the importance of getting a new president inaugurated by the NATO conference, because that individual will be in charge of making a sales pitch to member countries about the alliance’s post-2014 commitments to Afghanistan.“The Afghans need to be represented at the NATO summit by their president who has legitimacy,” Marc Grossman, the U.S. State Department’s special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan from 2011 to 2012, said. “People are making decisions in capitals now about what to do on January 1, 2015.”
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Richard Nixon and Five Other Deceitful Politicians

Richard Nixon and Five Other Deceitful Politicians

ABC PHOTO ARCHIVES(WASHINGTON) — Before President Nixon officially resigned 40 years ago tomorrow, he had assured Americans that they deserved to know whether their president was a crook.
“Well,” he told a Nov. 17, 1973, news conference, “I’m not a crook.”
Nixon never confessed to any wrongdoing, although he did accept blame for misleading the public on when he learned the truth about the break-in at the Watergate Hotel.
The scandal counts as the most explosive political deception in United States history, cutting short Nixon’s second term despite his parting words that “I have never been a quitter.” The commander-in-chief resigned on Aug. 9, 1974.With far less at stake, other politicians have flat-out lied about their actions at the risk of public humiliation or, at worst, career suicide. Here are a few:
1. “I Did Not Send That Tweet”Former Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., thought so much of himself that he took to Twitter with images of his crotch. He repeatedly denied sending the tweets, telling ABC News’ Jonathan Karl in 2011, “I did not send that tweet. My system was hacked, I was pranked.”Weiner, 49, eventually confessed and apologized for lying, but resigned under the weight of his deception.
2. “Oh, Yes, It’s Been Over for a Long Time”Former Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., told ABC News’ Bob Woodruff in an August 2008 interview, after he’d suspended his faltering presidential campaign, that his affair with mistress Rielle Hunter ended in 2006, and that there was no way her child was his.Neither was true and his deceit irreparably damaged his political career, not to mention his marriage.
3. “I Did Not Have Sexual Relations With That Woman, Miss Lewinsky”President Bill Clinton and intern Monica Lewinsky made for an unlikely pair, and their sexual encounter resulted in his becoming a target for impeachment after he denied and then confessed to the relationship. His presidency survived the perjury and abuse of power charges and Clinton, 67, remains enormously popular today, yet his reputation has never fully healed.
4. “It’s All Made Up. I Don’t Know What Happened”Police alleged in March 2002 that an officer who approached former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry’s parked car noticed a “powdery substance” under Barry’s nose after seeing him “ingest something.” Officers allegedly found $5 worth of crack cocaine in his car, according to the police report, an insufficient amount to warrant further action.Barry, now 78, escaped prosecution but his wife moved out shortly thereafter upon learning of the incident from the media. Barry said he didn’t consider the incident a big enough deal to tell her.
5. “I Didn’t Lie to the FBI”Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich insisted throughout his prosecution that he had been honest in his dealings with FBI agents investigating the corruption charges that swirled around him. In the end, however, he was convicted of lying to the FBI in 2005 about, among other things, not keeping track of his contributors and how much they contributed. Blagojevich, 57, is now in federal prison on a 14-year sentence.
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With Country in Turmoil, Iraq War Veterans Become Humanitarians

With Country in Turmoil, Iraq War Veterans Become Humanitarians

iStock/Thinkstock(BAGHDAD, Iraq) — Jonathan Webb was sitting in the chapel of the U.S. Embassy in Iraq when he heard a message that would alter the course of his life. An Iraqi pastor recalled to the crowd the moment when American soldiers arrived in his country in 2003. The pastor said he was happy because it meant his congregation could come out of hiding, worship in public, and build a church facility.That message, that some Iraqis were excited about the soldiers’ arrival, was a turning point for Jonathan, who was working for the private military security firm Blackwater in Baghdad. He had served in the Iraq War before returning to the country a few years later to work for Blackwater. Jonathan admits that he hated the Iraqis who killed his friends, but the pastor changed his way of thinking.”I was focusing on me the whole time when I realized that people were actually very, very thankful for what we had won in a very large way,” Jonathan said. “I could spend the rest of my life bitter at these people, or I could learn to love them.”In 2007, Jonathan and Maxwell Quqa, who served in Iraq as an American bilingual bi-cultural advisor to U.S. personnel, founded the Iraqi Children Foundation, which assists orphans (there were 5 million Iraqi orphans in 2013) by providing a safe place for them to learn reading, writing, math, and social skills. The organization aims to get orphans off the streets of Baghdad where they can be influenced by terrorist organizations. Jonathan said the idea for the organization originated when he started helping an Iraqi church collect blankets.”It started small in my mind,” he said, “We’re just going to help some of these kids stay warm during the winter…from there it blossomed.”He opened two clinics to provide free care for orphans and widows. One clinic still operates today, along with the facility where children receive a free education.Jonathan is not the only Iraq War veteran turned humanitarian.  Zack Bazzi, along with fellow Army veterans Scott Quilty and Patrick Hu, founded TentEd (Tent Education), a non-profit which supports the education of Syrian children in two refugee camps in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.After his military service, Zack spent time working as a consultant in Iraq for a development firm and came to understand the difficulties facing Syrian refugees. He and his co-founders designed TentEd as a small, flexible, rapid-response effort that complements the ongoing operations of bigger, established organizations in the area. TentEd functions under a parent organization, the Education for Peace in Iraq Center.Like Jonathan, Zack’s experience as a soldier greatly influenced his decision to launch a non-profit in Iraq.”Wherever life takes us [veterans] after the war, Iraq still tugs at us,” Zack told the Huffington Post in April. “At the most random of times, you might find yourself wondering what the roads you spent so many hours patrolling look like these days or if any of the local friends you made are still alive. In some ways, it’s that tug that has motivated so many other fellow veterans to want to help me make TentEd a reality. Perhaps it’s a way to reconcile the whole thing.”Operating amidst violenceIn June, the Sunni radical group called the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (referred to as ISIS, ISIL, and the Islamic State) captured the city of Mosul in Northern Iraq. Over the course of that month alone, ISIS gained control of Tikrit and major border crossings to Syria and Jordan.In July, a United Nations report accused the group of “assassinations…sexual assault, rape and other forms of sexual violence against women and girls, forced recruitment of children, kidnappings, executions, (and) robberies.” Yet, in the middle of this chaos and violence, Jonathan and Zack said their operations continue normally.In the Kurdistan Region of Northern Iraq, Zack has found that the Kurds “are doing an exceptional job securing the region.” As for Jonathan in Baghdad, he’s also undeterred.”ISIS to me is just another group of individuals that have a different belief system and are willing to kill other people to forward their belief system,” he said.Jonathan’s “business as usual” attitude can be attributed partly to his military experience.”For me, there were plenty of bad guys in Baghdad when I was moving around [there],” he said. “There was a vacuum, and they’re just a group of individuals filling that vacuum.”And while the Iraqi Children Foundation facility is not under threat of ISIS at the moment, it’s hard to imagine Jonathan ever backing down.”When a bunch of people start getting killed in Baghdad on a regular basis, it’s kind of something we’re used to,” he said. “We’ll just keep trying to operate as well as we can in that situation.”Fundraising for an Iraqi non-profitViolence is not the only obstacle these non-profits encounter. Jonathan and Zack also described the difficulty of fundraising for an organization that operates in a country whose name conjures up memories of a deadly war.”It [fundraising] continues to be difficult because I have to be honest with you, people were just done with the conflict. They didn’t want to hear anything about Iraq,” Jonathan said. “They’re exhausted from the resources that have been spent in both Afghanistan and Iraq. They’re exhausted from the lives that have been lost and those that have been injured.”Zack said Americans are “fatigued with Iraq,” but the public is still very supportive of its veterans, who have been a driving force behind fundraising efforts for TentEd.”The fact that hundreds of individuals, some of who know very little about the Middle East, supported TentEd, in some way, shape or form, speaks volumes about our culture and the altruistic values that underpin American society,” Zack said. “We are, in many regards, a nation of givers.”IraqJonathan and Zack’s organizations operate in a time when humanitarian aid to Iraq is dwindling. In fact by 2015, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) will cease to send any money to Iraq.Ellen Laipson and Russell Rumbaugh of Stimson, a global security think tank, explained in a February article that the high funding that once was readily available for a variety of projects “has been replaced with a new reality where Iraq competes with other countries for various aid and assistance support.”Less aid is accompanied with a drastic rise in the number of Iraqi refugees. According to Brookings, half a million Iraqis fled Anbar Province alone between January and June due to violence. Thousands more left Mosul in July after ISIL issued an ultimatum to Iraqi Christians. Then in August, thousands of religious minorities were stranded on a mountaintop in northern Iraq without food or water. Despite all of this terror, there is simply not enough funding to help the efforts on the ground. A Brookings article in June reported that “only 10 percent of appeals for humanitarian funding have been reached [in Iraq].”Perhaps most distressing is that this lack of funding is occurring when researchers are finding that the strength of civil society organizations, often funded by humanitarian efforts, is vitally important to the future of the country. A report by Mercy Corps, based off of 2013 public opinion surveys in Iraq, found “civil society plays a critical role in ensuring that government is open, participatory and accountable to citizens.”In a 2013 interview with the Education for Peace in Iraq Center, Daryl Grisgraber, a Senior Advocate for the Middle East with Refugees International, talked about her impression of Iraqi civil society organizations.”There were just so few of them, and they seemed distinctly under-resourced,” Daryl said. “Everyone we spoke to said it was a constant struggle to keep funds coming in.”It is in this reality that Jonathan and Zack push forward, doing what they can to help Iraqi orphans and Syrian refugees respectively.They share a similar philosophy in how to approach their work. For both men, the way forward is through human interaction with the Iraqi people they want to help, not necessarily government intervention.”I’m all for civil society and private sector type,” Zack said about how aid should reach Iraq. “If the only time people in the Middle East deal with America was through the apparatus of government, we’re in trouble. Such institutional relationships run shallow and do little to prevent conflict in times of distress between states. It’s the raw people to people interactions that fuel authentic understanding and cooperation across borders, and ultimately, reduce the chances of armed conflict.”Jonathan also emphasized the importance of forming meaningful relationships.”Only [by] getting to know their [Iraqi] culture, getting to know these people, are we actually going to finally accomplish the mission that we would like to see accomplished there,” Jonathan said. “I just realized that we need to learn how to love these people.”Jonathan and Zack’s organizations are just two of the non-profits working to better the lives of Iraqis. Others include the Education for Peace in Iraq Center, Mercy Corps, International Rescue Committee, Heartland Alliance International, and the International Committee of the Red Cross.As the U.S. cuts all humanitarian aid next year and appeals for funding go unanswered, these organizations may play a vital role in the assistance of the Iraqi people whose country is suffering from violence.And for these two veterans, their mission to help the country of Iraq, no matter how difficult, remains personal. When Jonathan explained why the Iraqi Children Foundation is so important to him, he listed the names of several friends, including Paul Josh Flynn, who died in the Iraq War.”I don’t want Paul’s son ten years from now to look at Iraq in turmoil and for him to say, well why did my daddy die? What did he die for?” Jonathan said. “I know what I’m doing is not going to make a huge difference, but in my mind and in the mind of other people…the 60 or 70 kids that we’re helping and keeping away from the terrorist organizations right now by having a non-disclosed location where we take the kids every day and provide food for them and we teach them how to love each other…just those 60 or 70 kids? Then I have accomplished something.”
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