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NJ Sen. Cory Booker Calls for Expansion of DOJ Probe into Ferguson Shooting

NJ Sen. Cory Booker Calls for Expansion of DOJ Probe into Ferguson Shooting

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker on Thursday wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder, urging him to expand the Department of Justice’s probe into the ongoing situation in Ferguson, Missouri.Booker praised the DOJ’s decision to investigate the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, 18, on Saturday. “However,” his letter reads, “given recent events, I respectfully request that the Department of Justice expand its probe to include a review of unnecessary infringement of the protected right to peacefully protest and the right of a free press.”
Booker’s letter comes after reports that police in Ferguson on Wednesday night used tear gas on protesters and arrested a pair of reporters.Booker noted his own past, saying that through “personal experience in my own city I have come to learn the value of federal involvement.”
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How US Military Slipped On and Off Mount Sinjar

How US Military Slipped On and Off Mount Sinjar

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(SINJAR, Iraq) — Expecting the worst, a small team of U.S. special operations forces and relief workers sent to Mount Sinjar was surprised to find far fewer Yazidis trapped on the mountain than initially feared, leading the Obama administration to decide that a large-scale evacuation mission was not necessary.The 16-member team had been sent to Mount Sinjar to make a first-hand assessment that would help policymakers plan for what could have potentially been a risky and lengthy mission to get tens of thousands of Yazidi refugees off the mountain.The assessment team arrived in the Kurdish capital of Erbil on Tuesday as part of a larger force of 129 Marines and special operations forces that would support logistical and communications support for their mission.Shortly after arriving in Erbil the team of military personnel and USAID workers prepared to be flown to Mount Sinjar. The helicopters that took them there flew under the cover of darkness to minimize any risk that might be posed by ISIS fighters located at the base of the mountain.Once on the mountain, the assessment team began to get a clearer picture of the situation on Mount Sinjar — a picture that did not match what they were expecting to see.Instead of finding tens of thousands of Yazidi refugees, they found that only 4,000 to 5,000 Yazidis remained on the mountain, and half that number lived on the mountain and did not want to leave their homes.The team members were soon told that thousands more Yazidis had walked away from the mountain on their own, encouraged by American airstrikes that had targeted ISIS fighters nearby.American drones flying overhead had not detected nightly evacuations from the mountain of thousands of Yazidis.The team found that the U.S. military airdrops of water and food had eased the thirst and starvation among the larger number of Yazidis who had been trapped earlier in the week.The team determined that the airdrops had been successful and had helped alleviate the crisis on the mountain. With fewer Yazidis still left on the mountain, the team found that some airdropped palettes had gone untouched because supplies were now plentiful.The team spent less than 24 hours on the mountain before they were once again flown at night by helicopter to Erbil.Their quick initial assessment was forwarded to the Pentagon, where an interagency team determined that an evacuation mission was not warranted.
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Secret Service ‘Aware’ of Apparent ISIS Flag Photo in Front of the White House

Secret Service ‘Aware’ of Apparent ISIS Flag Photo in Front of the White House

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Secret Service said it is “aware” of a photo that appeared to show an image of a flag of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in front of the White House.If authentic, the photo showed a hand holding up an image of a flag for ISIS (also known as ISIL or Islamic State), displayed on a smartphone, on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House fence. That area, closed off to street traffic, is frequented by thousands of tourists every day.It was tweeted from an apparently pro-ISIS Twitter handle @sunna_rev on Aug. 9.”We have an intelligence division whose mission is to assess information that we receive every day for dangerousness or potential threat level,” Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan told ABC News. “We are aware of the image and will take the necessary and appropriate follow-up steps.”The Secret Service did not respond to an additional question about whether the tweet was believed to be authentic. The FBI has not yet responded to ABC News’ request for comment on the tweet, its suspected origin or whether it signifies a serious threat to the U.S.A senior U.S. intelligence official told ABC that use of Twitter is consistent with ISIS practices. The group has shown to be at the forefront of social media use among terrorist and militant groups, the official said.Another photo displayed a note handwritten in Arabic. It read, “Soldiers of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria will pass from here soon,” followed by a Koran verse that read, “and Allah is perfecting His Light even though the disbelievers hate (that).”In the image, the note was dated June 20, 2014. It was unclear where the photo was taken, but two American flags appeared over an arched entryway.”We are in your state / We are in your cities / We are in your streets,” the tweets read.On Aug. 7, President Obama announced that the U.S. military would be conducting airstrikes against ISIS targets in northern Iraq, where the group has seized territory and is battling Kurdish forces not far from Erbil, where the U.S. military has set up a joint operations command center. ISIS has swiftly risen to control large swaths of Iraq and Syria after seizing weapons and reportedly selling oil to finance its war against Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime.ISIS has issued threats against the U.S. homeland before. In a recent video series, Vice Media embedded with ISIS militants, and an ISIS militant told a Vice camera, “God willing, we will raise the flag of Allah in the White House.”
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Obama Says ‘No Excuse’ for Excessive Force by Police in Ferguson

Obama Says ‘No Excuse’ for Excessive Force by Police in Ferguson

ABC News(EDGARTOWN, Mass.) — Five days after the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old fatally shot by a local police officer, President Obama joined state and national leaders in calling for changes in how police are dealing with protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, amid continued street clashes.”I know that emotions are raw right now in Ferguson,” Obama said at a news conference Thursday afternoon. “There is never excuse for violence against the police or for those who would use this tragedy as a cover for vandalism or looting. …There is also no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protests or to throw protesters in jail.”Obama’s comments came as the FBI confirmed to ABC News that it issued a warning to police officers that a Black Panther leader was trying to incite violence against law enforcement in Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis.Clashes between protesters and police continued Wednesday night, with reports of Molotov cocktails, tear gas and rubber bullets being used.On Thursday, senior leaders began to call for what Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon dubbed, “a different tone.” Both Nixon and Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said the police need to change how they handle the protests.Nixon spoke to a group in a church hinting that a larger announcement will come later Thursday about “operational shifts.””We also need to allow folks who want to express their energy in an appropriate way that absolute right to do that because we will not get the healing that we all need if the only response from the public is, ‘Y’all just be quiet,’” Nixon said. “There is a certain level of emotion that needs to be expressed in order for us to reach a higher plane.”As Obama spoke Thursday, New Black Panther members held a march in the St. Louis suburb, and other protests appeared likely.The FBI previously issued a warning about the presence in the area of Chawn Kweli, who it identified as the chief of staff of the New Black Panther Party, Cheryl Mimura, a spokeswoman for the St. Louis FBI field office, told ABC News. The FBI alert was not publicly released but was circulated among law enforcement groups as an officer safety warning.Obama on Thursday also spoke out against the arrests of two reporters by St. Louis police Wednesday night while working in a local McDonald’s.”Police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their jobs,” the president said.Obama first addressed the issue on Tuesday when he released a statement saying that the Department of Justice was investigating Brown’s death alongside local officials.”I know the events of the past few days have prompted strong passions, but as details unfold, I urge everyone in Ferguson, Missouri, and across the country, to remember this young man through reflection and understanding,” the president said Tuesday as he took time off from a vacation in Martha’s Vineyard.”We should comfort each other and talk with one another in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds. Along with our prayers, that’s what Michael and his family, and our broader American community, deserve,” he continued.
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See What Congress Is Doing on Its Summer Vacation

See What Congress Is Doing on Its Summer Vacation

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Forbes may have rated Washington, D.C. the coolest city in the nation — but lawmakers off for the August recess often find more to love in their home districts than in Washington.Sure, high-profile meetings with international leaders are fun to brag about at a dinner party. But when two of your constituents are Buzz and Woody — now that’s pretty cool.
 

Hanging w/ Buzz & Woody at @DisneyPixar. Thanks to employee & #ca15 constituent, Jeanette for the tour! pic.twitter.com/ypI0ONjjfz
— Rep. Eric Swalwell (@RepSwalwell) August 11, 2014

 
Of course, governing’s not all glitz and glamour. Sometimes you have to get your hands dirty — literally. Here’s what Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., did during his day-long stint as on Freund’s Farm:
 

One of my jobs was to shovel manure into the mixer. Insert snarky caption at will. pic.twitter.com/3zrVdc5hU9
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) August 11, 2014

 
While Murphy shoveled manure, Rep. Bill Foster, D-Ill., ventured into high-tech:
 

Got to drive a robot at @MontgomeryIL Fest. Thanks to @oswego308 robotics clubs! #CongressScienceGuy #ScienceGeek pic.twitter.com/iAadV0eLry
— Bill Foster (@RepBillFoster) August 11, 2014

 
And Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., delved into arachnology. Meanwhile, animal-loving Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, threw a birthday bash for his puppies.
Rep. Illeanna Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., snuggled her brand-new grandbaby, and Rep. Hartzler celebrated her 30th wedding anniversary with a #TBT-worthy shot of her and her groom.But if you thought members of Congress were all stodgy suits, think again. Some wear costumes, some don uniforms, and some ditch the shirt entirely. Other congressional fitness buffs kept their twelve packs under wraps. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who lost his mother to multiple myeloma, biked to raise money for cancer research.Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., angled to play catch on the Vikings practice field. And Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., scaled a rock wall.Some lawmakers were not so healthy-minded. In fact, self-proclaimed chocaholic and House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., served as a guest judge on TLC’s new pastry show, Next Great Baker.And lest you think the August recess is all fun and games — former opthomologist Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., for example, “restored vision” to three pro-bono patients in his home district.
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Sens. Paul, McCaskill Call for Demilitarization of Police

Sens. Paul, McCaskill Call for Demilitarization of Police

Tom Pennington/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Sen. Rand Paul weighed in on the situation in Ferguson, Missouri and echoed Sen. Claire McCaskill’s call for demilitarizing the police in an op-ed published for TIME Thursday.“Nowadays, police are looking, and acting, more like soldiers than cops, with bad consequences. And those who suffer the consequences are usually innocent civilians,” Paul, R-Ky., wrote.Michael Brown, 18, was shot and killed by a police officer Saturday afternoon. Since then, unrest has roiled the city of Ferguson and the police department has been criticized for its heavily-armed response to protesters.Many residents of the town are demanding a full, transparent investigation into why an officer fired multiple shots at an unarmed teenager.“Given these developments, it is almost impossible for many Americans not to feel like their government is targeting them. Given the racial disparities in our criminal justice system, it is impossible for African-Americans not to feel like their government is particularly targeting them,” Paul wrote. “The militarization of our law enforcement is due to an unprecedented expansion of government power in this realm. It is one thing for federal officials to work in conjunction with local authorities to reduce or solve crime. It is quite another for them to subsidize it,” he added.Earlier on Thursday, McCaskill, D-Mo., issued a statement also calling for the demilitarization of law enforcement.”We need to de-militarize this situation — this kind of response by the police has become the problem instead of the solution,” McCaskill said. “I obviously respect law enforcement’s work to provide public safety, but my constituents are allowed to have peaceful protests, and the police need to respect that right and protect that right. Today is going to be a new start, we can and need to do better.”
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Obama: Efforts to Protect Iraqis Under Siege by ISIS a Success

Obama: Efforts to Protect Iraqis Under Siege by ISIS a Success

The White House(EDGARTOWN, Mass.) — President Obama on Thursday said the military and humanitarian assistance to protect an Iraqi religious minority group under siege by a terrorist organization had been a success.The airdrops delivered more than 114,000 meals and 35,000 gallons of fresh water to the Yadizis, Obama told reporters at a news conference during his vacation on Martha’s Vineyard.The Yazidis faced “a terrible choice” — starve on the mountain or be killed by ISIS terrorists on the ground. “That’s when America came to help,” Obama said.“The bottom line is: the situation on the mountain has greatly improved and Americans should be very proud of our efforts,” he said, adding, “I could not be prouder of the men and women of our military who carried out this humanitarian operation almost flawlessly.”Following the advancement of the terrorist group ISIS toward the Iraqi city of Erbil, Obama last week authorized a series of targeted airstrikes, which he said successfully eliminated some munitions stockpiles and helped protect American interests from attacks.The president has insisted that there is “no American military solution” to the crisis in Iraq and has promised not to send ground troops back into combat. It was “unlikely” that air drops would need to continue and assessment teams would leave Iraq “in the coming days,” he said Thursday.Hopeful that marshaling international support to combat ISIS would be “easier” with the establishment of a new, more inclusive government, earlier this week, Obama lauded the naming of Iraq’s new prime minister designate and urged the Iraqi army and Kurdish peshmerga forces to take the lead moving forward.
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Lawmakers Seek to Make Tattooing Pets Illegal

Lawmakers Seek to Make Tattooing Pets Illegal

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Tattoo you? Okay, there are no laws against it. Tattoo your pet? It might not be so easy, if lawmakers have their way.In New Jersey, three assemblymen are pushing a bill that says people are committing acts of animal cruelty by tattooing or piercing their dogs or cats.Meanwhile in New York state, Governor Andrew Cuomo is ready to sign a measure that passed the Legislature making it illegal to tattoo a pet.This fad, however, is likely to continue everywhere else in the U.S. as tattooing and piercing are still growing in popularity.As it happens, the ASPCA doesn’t have a problem with pet owners branding their dogs or cats with small inking that indicates they’ve been spayed or neutered.
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New Jersey Town Switches Building Name from Kennedy to Obama

New Jersey Town Switches Building Name from Kennedy to Obama

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WILLINGBORO TOWNSHIP, N.J.) — President Obama is getting a building named after him in one New Jersey town.The public building in Willingboro Township is currently called the Kennedy Center, after the late President John F. Kennedy. It houses the parks and recreation department, a senior center and other features.However, since the building is undergoing a nearly $5 million renovation, supporters of the name change, including Deputy Mayor Jacqueline Jennings, believe it is fitting to pay tribute to Obama who helped spur voter registration in the town when he first ran for president.The Willingboro Township Council this week voted in favor of renaming the building the President Barack Obama Center in spite of the objections of Mayor Eddie Campbell and the fact that it will still be located on John F. Kennedy Way.Some local residents aren’t thrilled either. One wrote on the Burlington County Times Facebook page: “What’s next — naming malls after terrorists since he negotiates with them!! What a disgrace to America!!”Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Pentagon: Evacuation of Yazidis on Mt. Sinjar in Iraq ‘Far Less Likely’

Pentagon: Evacuation of Yazidis on Mt. Sinjar in Iraq ‘Far Less Likely’

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — An evacuation of thousands of refugees who were forced onto Mt. Sinjar in Iraq is “far less likely” after an assessment by United States Marines, Special Forces and the USAID disaster assistance relief team, the Pentagon said Wednesday.Less than 20 personnel briefly landed on the mountain, where thousands of Yazidis are trapped and facing a humanitarian crisis.”The team has assessed that there are far fewer Yazidis on Mt. Sinjar than previously feared, in part because of the success of humanitarian airdrops, airstrikes on ISIL targets, the efforts of the Peshmerga and the ability of thousands of Yazidis to evacuate from the mountain each night over the last several days,” Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement. “The Yazidis who remain are in better condition than previously believed and continue to have access to the food and water that we have dropped.”Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced on Tuesday that the United States sent a 130-member military assessment team to Erbil in the autonomous Iraqi province of Kurdistan to determine what further assistance the U.S. can provide to the Yazidis.Thousands of members of the Yazidi minority group fled to the mountain in order to escape from ISIS in northern Iraq.The Yazidis, a religious minority in Iraq, have been targeted by the Islamic army for being what they call “devil worshipers” and were threatened with execution if they didn’t agree to convert to Islam.Addressing a group of Marines during a visit to Camp Pendleton in California, Hagel said the team had arrived in northern Iraq “to take a closer look and give a more in-depth assessment of where we can continue to help the Iraqis with what they’re doing and the threats that they are now dealing with.”The new team is in addition to the 40 U.S. military personnel already in Erbil, who for several weeks have been manning a Joint Operations Center with Kurdish military forces.Hagel said the team would soon provide an assessment to Centcom that would make its way to the Pentagon “very shortly.”
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Slain General Remembered at Pentagon Memorial Service

Slain General Remembered at Pentagon Memorial Service

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Major General Harold J. Greene was remembered Tuesday at a somber Pentagon ceremony that focused on his leadership and love for his family. There as almost no mention of last week’s insider attack in Afghanistan that made Greene the highest-ranking officer to be killed in combat during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.An overflow crowd gathered at the Pentagon Auditorium for a poignant memorial service to hear from Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno and Greene’s co-workers.At the foot of the stage a photo of Greene had been placed before a helmet, rifle and boots that formed the “battle cross” that is symbolic of a soldier slain in battle.Greene was a career acquisitions officer and engineer for much of his 34-year career and was serving in Afghanistan as the deputy commander of Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, which is responsible for the training of Afghan security forces.The attack by an Afghan soldier that took Greene’s life was barely mentioned in a ceremony that focused on his strong character and leadership.Noting the crowd gathered for the ceremony, Odierno said, “My guess is, we probably could have done this in a 10,000-seat stadium and filled the stadium today because there are so many people that cared for Harry Greene.”Odierno said he had recommended Greene for that job because “I knew Harry was the right man” and knew that in serving that post “he personally made an incredible difference in improving the Afghan institution.”Odierno praised Greene as being “more than a soldier, he was a great man, caring father, a devoted husband and a loyal friend, he had a passion for his family.”But Odierno said Greene would be most remembered for his leadership and the lives of those he touched as he served as “the epitome of what we hope and expect from our senior leaders.”He added, “Harry Greene is a representative of the sacrifice of the men and women who have given so much and are not afraid to give their lives for this nation.”Heidi Shyu, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology, described Greene as being “passionate about our responsibility to provide the soldiers with the best equipment in this world.”She recalled a trip to Afghanistan earlier this year where she met with Greene and asked him how he was facing the challenges of his job.To laughter, she quoted his response, “He told me in no uncertain terms, it got me out of the Pentagon!”  She added, “And there’s no other place that he would rather be because he’s surrounded by soldiers. He truly loved what he was doing.”Shyu recalled Greene’s jovial personality, noting that he lightened up any meeting with jokes while still being “a dedicated professional who put countless hours in.”She noted it might be “tempting to think that this loss leaves behind an unfulfilled promise or an incomplete career. However, if he were here, I know that Harry would remind us that he lived his life to the fullest in service to his country in support of those he cared for.”Greene will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery on Thursday afternoon.
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Rep. Colleen Hanabusa Files Lawsuit to Delay Friday Voting in Hawaii Senate Election

Rep. Colleen Hanabusa Files Lawsuit to Delay Friday Voting in Hawaii Senate Election

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(HONOLULU) — The Democratic Senate primary in Hawaii is still too close to call, with the race hinging on two precincts that were unable to vote Saturday amid Tropical Storm Iselle. The election has been rescheduled for Friday, but Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who trails incumbent Sen. Brian Schatz by just more than 1,700 votes, filed a lawsuit Wednesday to delay Friday’s voting.The affected precincts are on Hawaii’s Big Island, and Hanabusa’s campaign manager, John Salsbury, said people are still suffering from the clobbering the island got from recent storms.“People are struggling to get water, to get power. There are limited ways to notify the public and, for the most part, people are still clearing out their homes and driveways and trying to get food, water, ice and generators, just basic necessities.” Salsbury told ABC News. “The last thing they care about right now is trying to get to the polls on Friday.”The state has up to 21 days to delay an election, and they say that’s exactly what the Hanabusa camp wants, Salsbury said, concerned that without power some may not even know about the election being rescheduled for Friday.“There are still a lot of votes left to be cast and there are still a lot of votes to be counted,” Salsbury said. “We are focused on that.…We need to slow down these elections to give people time to recover first.”Salsbury said it’s possible the court could rule later Wednesday, and Hanabusa has been on the Big Island handing out supplies since Sunday.Rex Quidilla, a spokesman for chief elections officer Scott Nago, said as far as officials are concerned, the election is set for Friday. He was not aware of the lawsuit being filed and said he could not comment on it.There are 8,000 voters in the two districts, and about a fifth of them already cast votes via early voting or absentee balloting. The election is slated to be held at the Keonepoko Elementary School from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. local time. They expect the results to be released the same evening. That’s if it goes on as scheduled.Unlike other states, Hawaii has no automatic recount or run-off trigger if the vote between Schatz and Hanabusa becomes even closer. Quidilla said a campaign could choose to file an appeal or contest the results with Hawaii’s State Supreme Court and a recount could be one of the remedies that are prescribed. But, it’s “not a guarantee.” They must “prove the results should have been different,” in order for the court to allow a recount.Meaghan Smith, spokeswoman for the Schatz campaign, said the senator’s focus is helping people in the Puna area “recover” and the “campaign will be committed and respectful whenever the election is held.”“The Office of Elections or the courts will determine the best way to move forward to maximize voter participation. Sen. Schatz believes that the voters in Puna and across Hawaii must be given fair access to voting,” Smith said. “The senator’s priority is to help the people of Puna get back on their feet.”The race has been a bruising intra-party brawl. It all started in December 2012, when Sen. Daniel Inouye, who had represented Hawaii for 50 years, passed away. His dying wish was that Gov. Neil Abercrombie appoint his political protégé, Hanabusa, to his seat after he died. That didn’t happen. Instead, he appointed his own No. 2, Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz. Abercrombie maintained Inouye said it was ultimately his decision, but Inouye’s widow is backing Hanabusa. Hanabusa decided to challenge Schatz for the Senate and Abercrombie lost his job by a massive margin last Saturday. It was the first time an incumbent ever lost re-election in a primary in the Aloha State.
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New York Mayor Joins with Big Donors in Bid for 2016 Convention

New York Mayor Joins with Big Donors in Bid for 2016 Convention

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — It may only be 2014, but big corporate money and politics are already at work in a bid to secure the 2016 Democratic convention for Brooklyn, with New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio literally rolling out a red carpet for DNC officials at New York’s Penn Station.Republicans have already chosen Cleveland as their 2016 site, but Democratic party officials are still making the rounds of competing cities, spending two days this week being lavishly wined and dined in New York. Traffic slowed as DNC officials traveled through the city on dedicated lanes that will be in effect if the convention comes to Brooklyn. They were also treated to a barbecue at Gracie Mansion and a rooftop party at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Empire State Building was lit up in blue in honor of the visit, and banners on Brooklyn’s Barclays Center read “DNC 2016 NYC.”A host committee of 70 prominent New Yorkers have pledged to raise $100 million to support the convention and parties that surround it, including JPMorgan Chase Chief Executive Jamie Dimon, Goldman Sachs Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein, and celebrities like Cynthia Nixon.“We have a lot of people in this town who provide a lot of support for the Democratic Party, and the resources will be there,” de Blasio told reporters Wednesday.The mayor’s office believes the city would surpass the $255 million Republicans brought in when they held their convention in Manhattan in 2004. De Blasio said that amount of money will be recouped “many times over” because of the financial impact of the convention.“You are talking about people coming in from all over the country, all over the world…tens of thousands of people coming to the city, many for the first time,” de Blasio said.Longtime Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf noted the “business” of the convention is not what gets done inside the hall, but “after hours at the parties and private meetings,” and with a four-day convention there will be plenty of party time and no lack of venues.“It will be a terrific economic boost,” Sheinkopf said. But how much the city makes, he added, will need to be considered with “how much does it cost for additional security, traffic, additional city workers” and other costs related to events.Sheila Krumholz, campaign finance watchdog and executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, said the real question for conventions is whether it is “money well spent.”“Historically there have been a lot of resources invested and not a lot of money recouped,” Krumholz said. “Often those who make out best are the corporate and in kind sponsors who will have the gratitude of the party, but are less valuable to the public and more so to the corporations that have a chit to call in when they need a favor returned.”The two-day wooing included lots of wining and dining at spots in both Brooklyn and Manhattan, as well as the business of the scouting trip, which included the DNC’s technical advisory committee visiting the Barclays Center to examine issues like hotel space and security.Sheinkopf said with or without the convention New York City is a “power place no matter what,” but it will add “prestige to the mayor and adds to the city’s coffers,” as well as a likely political bump for de Blasio if all goes smoothly.“He can run for re-election and say, ‘Look what I did for New York,’” Sheinkopf said, adding that the money it will bring in is something de Blasio can also run on, saying a successful convention, especially a financially successful one, could be an “overriding argument” for re-election.New York is up against Birmingham, Alabama; Columbus, Ohio; Phoenix; and Philadelphia, where the 15-member DNC team led by DNC CEO Amy Dacey are scouting next. Philadelphia is thought to have an edge because it’s still viewed as a swing state, where conventions are traditionally held.A decision from the Democratic National Committee is expected in late 2014 or early 2015.
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President Obama Declines Ice Bucket Challenge

President Obama Declines Ice Bucket Challenge

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — Despite spending his vacation in the summer heat of Martha’s Vineyard, President Obama has declined an offer to partake in the Internet’s favorite charitable wet T-shirt contest.Obama was nominated to take the challenge Sunday by Ethel Kennedy, the widow of former Sen. Bobby Kennedy. On Facebook, the 86-year-old challenged the president to join her in the #StrikeOutALS challenge by dumping a bucket of ice water on his head.“Welcome to Cape Cod, President Obama. I nominate you,” Kennedy declared on the social media site.The challenge has gone viral in recent weeks as Internet users have soaked themselves with ice water in support of the ALS Association, a charitable organization committed to eradicating Lou Gehrig’s Disease. An alternative to the challenge – make a donation in support of the ALS Association.It looks like President Obama will be taking the high road this time around. In a statement Wednesday, White House spokesman Eric Schultz said, “The president appreciates Mrs. Kennedy thinking of him for the challenge – though his contribution to this effort will be monetary.”Several other politicians, however, have been more than willing to join in.On Wednesday, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal accepted the challenge, posting a video to YouTube. In the video, Jindal nominated Duck Dynasty’s Willie Robertson.New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was also more than willing to get drenched on the Internet. Nominating some pretty big names in his Facebook post, Christie called out Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Sen. Cory Booker, D-New Jersey.Not to be outdone, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, posted a video of herself jumping into the frigid Alaskan waters in support of the ALS Association. Ditching the bucket altogether, Murkowski jumped into the 30-degree ocean from aboard a fishing boat. Her nomination? The entire United States Senate.
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Obama Still Counts Hillary Clinton as ‘Close Friend’ Despite Criticism

Obama Still Counts Hillary Clinton as ‘Close Friend’ Despite Criticism

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — President Obama takes no offense to Hillary Clinton’s recent criticism of his foreign policy, the White House told ABC News, as the two prepare to meet face-to-face at a friend’s party in Martha’s Vineyard Wednesday night.“She remains a close friend of the president’s and I think the point is that their friendship extends well beyond any differences or anything that is spun up in the public sphere,” Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told ABC News’ Jonathan Karl Tuesday.Clinton had suggested in an interview with The Atlantic that Obama’s failure to support moderate rebels in Syria fueled the rise of the terrorist group the United States is now bombing in Iraq.“The failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad — there were Islamists, there were secularists, there was everything in the middle — the failure to do that left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled,” Clinton said.But Rhodes said Clinton and Obama have had a “long relationship. They understand that they agree on the broad majority of issues involving America’s role in the world. They’ve had occasional differences. This is not a new one as it relates to Syria. She wrote about it in her book.”“They are in agreement as it relates to a broad majority of things that we’re engaged in around the world, including our effort to protect our people and provide humanitarian aid in Iraq right now,” he added.Clinton later called the president to “make sure he knows that nothing she said was an attempt to attack him, his policies, or his leadership,” according to her spokesman, Nick Merrill.The former secretary of state and possible 2016 presidential candidate “looks forward to hugging it out when they see each other,” Merrill said.The Obamas, who are on vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, and Clinton, who has a book signing on the island Wednesday, are attending a birthday party for a mutual friend Wednesday night.“They’ll have a good chance to see each other,” Rhodes said, “have a laugh about this, move on.”

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White House Says Team Sent to Iraq Will Not Be in Combat Role

White House Says Team Sent to Iraq Will Not Be in Combat Role

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The White House stressed on Wednesday that the 129-member military assessment team that has been sent to northern Iraq is “not going to be in a combat role.”“They’re there on a temporary basis to make assessments about how to get the population off that mountain. This would be a humanitarian effort, again, to get them to a safe space,” Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes told reporters Wednesday. “There are a range of ways for doing that. We haven’t made decisions about how to carry out that vision because we want to get the readout from this assessment team first.”Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced on Tuesday that the team was being sent to Erbil to determine what further assistance the U.S. can provide in easing the humanitarian crisis of thousands of Yazidis trapped at Mount Sinjar.Rhodes said there are a range of options, including creating a safe corridor for the refugees to get off the mountain.“You look at corridors, you look at airlifts, you look at different ways to move people who are in a very dangerous place on that mountain to a safer position. And that’s exactly what our team is doing on the ground now in Iraq,” he told ABC News’ Jonathan Karl. While President Obama has repeatedly ruled out sending U.S. ground troops to Iraq, Rhodes was adamant that “the role of U.S. forces is not one of re-entering combat on the ground. It’s how to provide humanitarian assistance to this affected population.” Rhodes did, however, admit the danger in such a mission, saying “in any effort, there are always dangers involved.”
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Mary Landrieu Takes Heat for Spending Public Money on Private Flight

Mary Landrieu Takes Heat for Spending Public Money on Private Flight

US Senate(WASHINGTON) — Republican Louisiana Senate hopeful Rep. Bill Cassidy is calling on Sen. Mary Landrieu to apologize and return all taxpayer money she has spent on charter flights after a media report revealed the Democratic incumbent violated federal law by using taxpayer dollars to charter a private flight to a campaign event.“Senator Landrieu’s disregard and abuse of taxpayer money is unacceptable and, reportedly, illegal,” Rep. Cassidy said in a statement. “She should return all the taxpayer money she has spent on charter flights, open up her travel logs for further review to ensure there are not more violations, and apologize to American taxpayers immediately.”Landrieu spent $3,200 on a round-trip flight from New Orleans to Lake Charles, Louisiana, where she attended a $40-per-person fundraiser with women supporters Nov. 8, the same day President Obama was in Landrieu’s hometown of New Orleans for another event, which she did not attend.The flight should have been paid for by Landrieu’s campaign but was instead paid for by her Senate office. Landrieu campaign communications director Fabien Levy told ABC News it was a mistake that taxpayer dollars were used to pay for the flight and that the campaign has since corrected the error.“We take our finances very seriously and are glad we caught the vendor’s mistake and were able to rectify the matter as soon as possible,” Levy said in a statement.The campaign discovered the improperly billed flight on July 29, at which point Levy said the campaign “immediately contacted the vendor,” which Landrieu uses for both official Senate business and campaign flights, to correct the mistake. The Landrieu campaign cut a check on Aug. 4 for the corrected invoice from the charter company, and the Senate funds were reimbursed.Though the Landrieu campaign has corrected the error, which it blamed on the charter company, Cassidy says the senator needs to take direct responsibility.“Louisiana taxpayers entrusted Senator Landrieu with public dollars,” Cassidy said in a statement. “She has a responsibility to use those dollars legally and to uphold the public trust. …This is her budget and in the words of Harry Truman: ‘the buck stops here.’”The Landrieu campaign counters that it’s Cassidy who needs to be more transparent with voters.“If Congressman Cassidy was really concerned about this matter, he’d at least agree to one of the four debates Senator Landrieu has agreed to so they can discuss this in person,” Levy said in a statement to ABC News. “I’m sure voters would also like to hear about the numerous issues Congressman Cassidy has refused to give his opinion on, like the cost of education, taxes and whether Louisiana businesses have the resources they need to stay opened.”
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Stars Come Out for Al Franken: How He’s Cashing In on Hollywood

Stars Come Out for Al Franken: How He’s Cashing In on Hollywood

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Sen. Al Franken eked out a victory in his high-spending 2008 Senate race with Hollywood’s help.Now, as the Minnesota Democrat and former comedian faces reelection, entertainers are once again pitching in on his behalf in his contest with Republican challenger, Mike McFadden.Hollywood has helped Franken’s campaign raise more than $19 million, dwarfing McFadden’s $3 million in the cycle, according to recent Federal Election Commission filings and data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.Franken has built a $4 million reserve, compared to McFadden, who had $2.7 million cash on hand through late July.The former Saturday Night Live writer’s celebrity donors are a mix of Hollywood’s high-spending Democratic boosters (such as directors JJ Abrams and Steven Spielberg ), friends and former SNL colleagues, including Mike Myers and Dan Aykroyd. And Jason Alexander, who played George Costanza on Seinfeld, has contributed $4,200 to Franken this cycle.“Al is a friend…he’s got what it takes to do the hard-thinking, hard work of being a politician,” Bob Odenkirk, who played Saul Goodman on AMC’s Breaking Bad and worked with Franken on SNL, told ABC News by email.Franken’s campaign has downplayed the support from entertainers. A campaign spokeswoman, Alexandra Fetissoff, said that 97 percent of his contributions have come from donations of $100 or less.Celebrities bring name recognition to Franken’s campaign, said University of Minnesota political scientist Lawrence Jacobs.“When voters hear about well-known stars supporting a candidate, it can give them some luster,” Jacobs said.But Hollywood’s deep pockets might be even more valuable than a chance to meet Amy Poehler, Jon Hamm or Conan O’Brien.In 2008, when Franken defeated Republican incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman by just 312 votes, both candidates spent a combined $46 million.Franken has already spent about $15 million on reelection through late July, according to his campaign’s most recent filings.After securing the GOP nomination on Tuesday, McFadden, an investment banker, will likely receive national support from fundraisers and outside groups, forcing Franken to enlist Hollywood’s help to keep his spending advantage.So far, the industry has donated $400,000 to Franken’s efforts, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.“The race is still pretty sleepy,” Jacobs said. “If Franken finds himself in trouble, I expect him to go back to his friends.”
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Protecting Hillary Clinton ‘a Form of Punishment,’ New Book Alleges

Protecting Hillary Clinton ‘a Form of Punishment,’ New Book Alleges

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — There’s no worse assignment for a Secret Service agent than protecting Hillary Clinton, if claims in a controversial new book are to be believed.Ronald Kessler’s book, First Family Detail, is filled with salacious revelations about the secret personal lives of the nation’s most high-profile political leaders. But the authenticity of those revelations has been called into question over factual inaccuracies in the book, as well as its reliance on anonymous Secret Service agents.“She is so nasty to agents that being assigned to her detail is considered a form of punishment,” Kessler told ABC News of Clinton, who continues to receive Secret Service protection as a former first lady.“It shines a light on her character,” Kessler said. “She claims to be a champion of the little people, and she’s going to help the middle class. And, in fact, she treats these people around her, [who] would lay down their lives for her like sub-humans; and I think voters need to consider that.”The second-worst Secret Service assignment is Vice President Joe Biden, Kessler said. Though Biden is reportedly “very nice to agents,” Kessler said, his security detail is exhausted from frequent last-minute trips to his home in Delaware, and some are offended by what Kessler writes is a “habit of swimming in his pool nude.”“He likes to skinny-dip both at the pool at his vice president residence in Washington and his home in Wilmington, and female agents are very offended by that,” Kessler said. “And, in fact, you could make a case that it’s almost sexual harassment.”While most of the allegations contained in Kessler’s book relate to the personal lives of the high-profile individuals whom the Secret Service protects, there is also criticism of the Secret Service itself.Kessler said that the president’s life has been put at risk by what his anonymous sources tell him are serious security shortfalls within the agency.
“Agents tell me that it’s a miracle there has not been an assassination, given all this corner-cutting,” Kessler said.“[An] example in the book is that, when Bradley Cooper went to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, a high-ranking Secret Service official told the detail at the Washington Hilton, ‘Just let him in with his SUV’ — in this secure area where only Secret Service cars are allowed, and even they have to be screened for explosives. He was not screened; someone could have put explosives in,” he said.But the Secret Service is firing back at Kessler’s claims, with spokesman Ed Donovan calling the book “intellectually lazy and riddled with inaccuracies.”“We currently dedicate more personnel, funding and technical assets to our protective mission than at any time in our history and our protective measures and methods continue to increase in scope and complexity, not diminish,” Donovan said in a written statement. “Comments attributed to our personnel, current or former, regarding their personal perceptions of Secret Service protectees, are just that — their personal perceptions — and should not be discussed in any forum.”The book’s accuracy has also been called into question by reviewers outside of the government.Marc Ambinder, an editor at This Week news magazine, wrote a post admonishing Kessler’s book for “weird inaccuracies” that he says “should lead Kessler to question the judgment of some of his own sources.” Asked for a response to Ambinder’s negative review, Kessler rebutted that “every claim that he made was totally wrong.”Neither the vice president’s office nor Clinton provided a comment when contacted by ABC News. However, the Clintons recently provided a joint-statement to POLITICO to address a slew of new books that are critical of Hillary Clinton.“With Klein, Halper and [author Ronald] Kessler, we now have a hat trick of despicable actors concocting trashy nonsense for a quick buck, at the expense of anything even remotely resembling the truth,” a joint statement from spokesmen for Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton read, according to POLITICO.
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Hillary Tries Smoothing Out Differences with Obama

Hillary Tries Smoothing Out Differences with Obama

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama along with Bill and Hillary Clinton are apparently in the mood to party but will recent statements critical of the administration’s Syria policy made by the former secretary of state put a damper on the get-together on Martha’s Vineyard Wednesday?Clinton, in an interview with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, said Obama’s “failure” to arm moderate Syrian rebels created a vacuum that allowed the rise of the al Qaeda offshoot, the Islamic State.According to an aide for Clinton, she has since called the president to assert that her comments were not a personal attack and that she “continues to share his deep commitment to a smart and principled foreign policy that uses all the tools at our disposal to achieve our goals.”The aide said Clinton and the president see eye-to-eye on “most issues.”In fact, Clinton “looks forward to hugging it out when she they see each other” at the 80th birthday party for Ann Jordan, hosted by Mrs. Jordan’s husband, long-time Clinton confidante Vernon Jordan.Just the same, political pundits see Clinton’s comment as a way to distance herself from the White House as she prepares a likely campaign for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.
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