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Obama Seeks Care for Sore Throat

Obama Seeks Care for Sore Throat

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama spent part of his Saturday at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, but not for a public event.The commander in chief has a sore throat, the White House says. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that Obama's doctor recommended he go to the hospital for tests, given that he had been complaining of the sore throat.

Obama spent just 28 minutes at the hospital."The quickly scheduled test is a matter of convenience for the President, not a matter of urgency," the White House statement said.

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Memorial Service Held for Former DC Mayor Marion Barry

Memorial Service Held for Former DC Mayor Marion Barry

Photo by Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A memorial service for former Washington D.C. Mayor Marion Barry was held in the nation's capital on Saturday.Current D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray gave a eulogy for the man called Washington's "mayor for life," praising Barry for his "lifelong commitment to building up our city." The four-term mayor died late last month at the age of 78. He was notably arrested in 1990 after being caught on video tape smoking crack cocaine.Gray also said that "Barry's legacy is intimately woven into the fabric of the District of Columbia."

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Ebola Czar Ron Klain to Leave Administration in Early 2015

Ebola Czar Ron Klain to Leave Administration in Early 2015

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Ebola czar is expected to leave that position early next year.A National Security Council official tells ABC News that Ron Klain will leave the administration and return to the private sector in early 2015. Fortune magazine reported on Klain's exit early Saturday, noting that his hiring as a special government employee ensures he would stay on the job for no more than 130 days.Klain was named the Ebola czar in October. The most recent case of Ebola involved a surgeon who was brought to American last month. Since then, however, no new cases have surfaced. Since Klain took the job, the White House says that 32 facilities have been designated Ebola treatment facilities and 29 labs have been deemed equipped to test for the disease, a clinical trial has begun on a possible vaccine for the disease and enhanced screening for air travelers has been implemented.

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Obama Discusses Economic Progress in Weekly Address

Obama Discusses Economic Progress in Weekly Address

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- In this week's address, President Obama talks about the progress of the American economy.

Obama notes how 314,000 new jobs were created last month, more Americans are earning college degrees, and overall, wages are on the rise.

But Obama says there is still work to do.

"We need the outgoing Congress to pass a budget and keep our government open. A Christmas shutdown is not a good idea," Obama says. "Then, when the new Congress convenes in January, we need to work together to invest in the things that support faster growth in higher-paying jobs."

Read the full transcript of the president's address:

Hi, everybody.  Just in time for the holiday season, we now have another piece of good news about the pace of our economic recovery.

Last month, our businesses created 314,000 new jobs.  And that’s not a fluke – it keeps up the solid pace of job creation we’ve seen all year long.  November was the tenth month in a row we’ve added more than 200,000 jobs.  So far this year, our economy has created 2.65 million new jobs.  That’s the most of any year since the 1990s – even with a full month to go.  All told, our businesses have created 10.9 million new jobs over the past 57 months.  And that’s the longest streak of private-sector job creation on record.

We also know that the upswing in job growth this year has come in industries with higher wages.  Overall wages are on the rise.  And that’s some very welcome news for millions of hardworking Americans.  Because even though corporate profits and the stock market have hit all-time highs, the typical family isn’t bringing home more than they did 15 years ago.  And that still has to change.  And a vibrant jobs market gives us the opportunity to keep up this progress, and begin to undo that decades-long middle-class squeeze. 

But first, we need the outgoing Congress to pass a budget and keep our government open.  A Christmas shutdown is not a good idea.  Then, when the new Congress convenes in January, we need to work together to invest in the things that support faster growth in higher-paying jobs.

Building new roads and bridges creates jobs.  Growing our exports creates jobs.  Reforming our outdated tax system and our broken immigration system creates jobs. Raising the minimum wage would benefit nearly 28 million American workers, giving them more money to spend at local businesses – and that helps those businesses create jobs. 

America, we still have a lot of work to do together.  But we do have real, tangible evidence of our progress.  10.9 million new jobs.  10 million more Americans with health insurance.  Manufacturing has grown.  Our deficits have shrunk.  Our dependence on foreign oil is down.  Clean energy is up.  More young Americans are graduating from high school and earning college degrees than ever before.  Over the last four years, this country has put more people back to work than Europe, Japan, and every advanced economy combined. 

The United States of America continues to outperform much of the world.  And we are going to keep it up until every American feels the gains of a growing economy where it matters most – in your own lives. 

Thanks, and have a great weekend.

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GOP Address: Reps. Ander Crenshaw, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, and Pete Sessions Highlight ABLE Act

GOP Address: Reps. Ander Crenshaw, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, and Pete Sessions Highlight ABLE Act

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- In this week's GOP address, Reps. Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), and Pete Sessions (R-TX) talk about the ABLE Act, or the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act, which passed in the House this week.

Rodgers says, "Right now, people with disabilities aren’t given the chance to save much of what they earn. It’s an outdated law that only encourages them to resign themselves to a life of dependence. The ABLE Act will change that."

Crenshaw adds, "This allows individuals with disabilities a better chance to help themselves, to be less dependent on government and more independent in their daily lives. It allows them to achieve their full potential and to realize their hopes and their dreams."

Read the full transcript of the Republican address:

House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA): Today I’d like to tell you the story of a little boy who was diagnosed with Down Syndrome just three days after he was born.  His diagnosis came with a list of future complications: endless doctors’ appointments, heart defects, even early Alzheimer’s.  Seven years later, as the mom of that little boy, Cole, nothing has given me greater joy than watching the impact he has had on the world – and dreaming of the difference he will make when he grows up.  This week, the House spoke for Cole and millions of Americans with disabilities by passing H.R. 647, the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act.  Known for short as the ABLE Act, this bill will empower individuals with disabilities – through tax-free savings accounts – to save for college, retirement, job training and other future expenses.  Right now, people with disabilities aren’t given the chance to save much of what they earn.  It’s an outdated law that only encourages them to resign themselves to a life of dependence. The ABLE Act will change that.House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX):

You know, most of us become who we are because of our parents. But for me, it’s been the other way around. I’ve got a dynamic Down Syndrome son.  Alex Sessions turns 21 next month, and let me tell you, he’s got every wish and desire to succeed just like his big brother does.  We don’t know what the future holds, but I’m not going to sit back and allow anything – especially any law – to prevent our children from fulfilling their potential. In America, the sky’s the limit, no matter where you start.  And I can’t thank enough all the people, all the families out there who have helped us get the ABLE Act to this point.  It’s one of those ideas really where you ask yourself,  "why aren’t we doing this already?" Because we’re not just talking about dollars and cents here.  Every one of these accounts will be a new ladder of opportunity, and a new source of the one thing every parent loves: peace of mind.Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-FL):Well, I first filed this legislation in 2006.  That was eight long years ago, but because of the hard work, dedication, and teamwork of an awful lot of people, we were able to bring that legislation to the floor and pass it with an overwhelming majority. The legislation is fairly simple, and straightforward.  It allows individuals with disabilities to set up a tax-free savings account as long you use the proceeds for qualified expenses like medical bills or transportation bills. This allows individuals with disabilities a better chance to help themselves, to be less dependent on government and more independent in their daily lives.  It allows them to achieve their full potential and to realize their hopes and their dreams. And when you listen to Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Pete Sessions and their stories, it’s easy to see why the ABLE Act will open the door to a brighter future for millions of Americans. I can’t think of a greater privilege than to speak out with legislation for people that can’t often speak for themselves.  And I know the ABLE Act will bring justice and peace of mind to millions of American families who deal with disabilities every day.McMorris Rodgers: This is why we’re here: to advance solutions that make people’s lives better.  Solutions that empower all Americans—no matter where they come from, how much money they make, or what challenges they face. The ABLE Act is one of the many ways we’re doing that.  It’ll empower millions – like my son Cole and so many others – with the opportunity to have a better life. From my family to yours, Merry Christmas.

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Gov. Chris Christie Gets Cleared – Sort of – in Bridge Scandal

Gov. Chris Christie Gets Cleared – Sort of – in Bridge Scandal

Kena Betancur/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- An interim report from a panel investigating last year’s George Washington Bridge lane closures scandal said Friday there is “no conclusive evidence” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was “aware of the lane closures either in advance of their implementation or contemporaneously as they were occurring.”

But here's the catch: The report does not fully exonerate the possible 2016 Republican presidential candidate.The biggest inconsistency in the report from previous sworn testimony found 12 text messages exchanged between Christie and a close aide, Regina Egea, during a day officials from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey were testifying about the scandal last year. The report states Christie initiated the texts, possibly contradicting the governor who repeatedly said he had not paid much attention to the scandal as it unfolded last fall.Team Christie greeted the report as an exoneration, while Democrats said it proves nothing.The scandal erupted in January when e-mails between a Christie aide and a Christie ally at the Port Authority revealed two of three access lanes to the George Washington Bridge, the world's busiest, were closed due to likely political motivation, possibly because the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee did not endorse Christie in his 2013 re-election bid. The gridlock paralyzed the New Jersey town for four days in September.The content of the text messages is unknown, but Egea had previously testified she only recalled exchanging one text message with Christie that day regarding the testimony and didn’t recall a reply from Christie.It was a heated day of testimony where the officials accused the ringleader of the traffic scheme, former Port Authority official David Wildstein, of fabricating a traffic study to cover the politically motivated closures, calling his actions both “odd” and “illegal.” The report, released by the committee's special counsel, Reid Schar of the firm Jenner & Bloc, showed Christie sent Egea three texts, and Egea sent the governor nine during the six hours of testimony. Christie later told reporters he didn’t remember receiving any texts.In her testimony, Egea said she had deleted the texts and in the report it states they asked the governor’s office “to produce any copies of these texts that may exist on Governor Christie’s personal mobile device.” The report states that in response governor's office said they could not locate the text on either Christie or Egea’s phones and “Governor Christie deleted the messages at some unknown point."Christie’s Democratic opponents are pouncing on the deletion of the text messages, as well as the lack of cooperation the committee received.The report stresses it is far from final because they were not able to interview several key witnesses including Wildstein, and the other “principal actor” former Christie aide Bridget Ann Kelly."The Committee is also not in a position currently to conclude what Governor Christie himself knew about the lane closures or when and how his knowledge of these events developed,” the report states. “While there is evidence that the Governor was informed of the lane closures while they were in progress, the Committee cannot evaluate the reliability of this evidence as it has yet to hear from the witness — Wildstein — who has claimed to have contemporaneously told the Governor of the closures. It is important to note that additional evidence that could shed light on the open questions noted above may become available to the Committee in the future."In a statement the Democratic National Committee blames Christie directly for the scandal.“We know today what we knew almost a year ago: Chris Christie created the culture within his administration that led to Bridgegate,” DNC press secretary Michael Czin said. “Some of Christie’s closest aides and allies put public safety at risk, seemingly to exact petty political revenge, and in the aftermath, they lied about it. That, in itself, is inexcusable conduct coming from the administration of someone who wants to be President of the United States.”That’s not how Christie allies are viewing the report. They say the investigative committee is only now “finally acknowledg(ing) what we reported nine months ago -- namely, that there is not a shred of evidence Governor Christie knew anything about the GWB lane realignment beforehand or that any current member of his staff was involved in that decision. Thus, the Committee's work has simply corroborated our comprehensive investigation.”The statement from Christie’s attorney, Randy Mastro, adds with this inquiry over “the Governor and his office can now focus on doing what they do best -- serving the public interest."The state committee says they will continue their investigation and there is also an ongoing federal investigation.

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Why a Cardboard Ronald Reagan Keeps Appearing on Capitol Hill

Why a Cardboard Ronald Reagan Keeps Appearing on Capitol Hill

ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The chambers of Congress can often seem empty and free of debate, but at least a cardboard cutout of Ronald Reagan can now keep company with the sparse population of lawmakers.

This week, the cutout of the Republican icon, purchased by a communications aide to Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon, has been popping up around the Capitol to help Democrats make a point about President Obama’s allegiance to policies Reagan favored.

It's been a while since Ronald Reagan has been seen on the floor of the House. pic.twitter.com/93pn8z9j5F

— Jeremy Art (@cspanJeremy) December 3, 2014

First, on Wednesday, the cutout stood behind Rep. Blumenauer as he advocated raising the federal gas tax for highway infrastructure spending. Reagan raised gas taxes as president in 1982.Democrats started to use the cutout as a symbol of double standards and misappropriation, propping it on the House floor to note how Reagan’s support for executive amnesty in 1987 has been whitewashed by Republicans. On Thursday, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Illinois, was spotted on the floor with the prop.Rep. Blumenauer said he considered the use of the cutout "deadly serious.""I think using something that was a little more visual is important to get the point across. A lot of this stuff we’re working on didn’t used to be partisan and stupid," he told ABC News. "What bothers me is that people don’t look at what the man did and stood for. He wasn’t reflexively against government programs. ...To me, he communicated, and he was genuine. And I get the sense that a lot of people are communicating and they’re not genuine."According to The Hill, Gutierrez took cues from Blumenauer and grabbed the Gipper's likeness for his own purposes, saying, “I'm happy that President Barack Obama is following in that great and proud tradition set forward by President Ronald Reagan, that he would rather put families first, the demagoguery and any anti-immigrant policy always last."Patrick Maloney, the Blumenauer aide who bought the cutout, thinks Reagan has become an “avatar that provides that litmus test” for Republicans seeking a boost in conservative credentials.“People are definitely held to different standards depending on the party,” he told ABC News. “It seems to be about who is currently fitting into your ideological purity.”“Even though he’s this symbol of conservative purity, [Congress was] still able to work in a much more bipartisan fashion,” he added. “The rigidity just wasn’t there.”

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How Many Romney Staffers Did It Take To Send a Tweet?

How Many Romney Staffers Did It Take To Send a Tweet?

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- It’s unclear how many people it took to screw in a light bulb at Mitt Romney’s campaign headquarters in 2012, but we now know how many people it took to approve a tweet: 22.

A study released Friday by University of North Carolina journalism professor Daniel Kreiss found that the hierarchy and bureaucracy inside the Romney campaign was far higher than on President Obama’s political team.

The findings come from extensive interviews with Romney and Obama campaign staffers.

“Whether it was a tweet, Facebook post, blog post, photo -- anything you could imagine -- it had to be sent around to everyone for approval,” said Caitlin Checklett, the digital integration director for the Romney campaign. “Towards the end of the campaign, that was 22 individuals who had to approve it. The digital team unfortunately did not have the opportunity to think of things on their own and post them.”

Zach Moffatt, the digital director for Team Romney, offered a tongue-in-cheek response to their social media strategy including “the best tweets ever written by 17 people.”

But the Obama campaign, according to its digital director Teddy Goff, could make decisions far faster and react with more autonomy.

The full report can be read here.

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A Christmas Tree Showdown: Obama v. Congress

A Christmas Tree Showdown: Obama v. Congress

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Thursday night, President Obama took a break from dancing with Santa to help light up the National Christmas tree.

The National Tree Lighting ceremony, co-hosted by actors Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, is part of a 91-year tradition -- but the outdoor tree isn’t the White House’s only iconic evergreen. There are 26 others, including an official East Wing tree.

Not to be outdone, Congress has its own Capitol Christmas tree, across town on the West lawn. With a little help from House Speaker John Boehner, 10-year-old Aaron Urban flipped the switch earlier this week.

Since the legislative and executive branches aren’t getting along particularly well these days, we decided to pit the decorations from one end of Pennsylvania Avenue against the other. (Yeah, we’re all about the Christmas spirit.)

Here’s a (not-so-scientific) ABC analysis:

HeightTowering at 88 feet, the Capitol Christmas tree, a white spruce from Minnesota’s Chippewa National Forest, definitely gets top billing for height.A distant second place goes to the 29-foot National Christmas tree. Unfortunately, the national tree, a live blue spruce transplanted to the Ellipse in 2012, has a decidedly flat top this year. The tip cracked off during a storm last fall, shrinking the tree by about two feet.Piddling in comparison, the 18-foot White House tree never really stood a chance: It just barely squeezed through the doors of the Blue Room, where the chandelier had to be removed to accommodate the new décor.But size isn’t everything, right?Winner: Capitol Tree Advantage: Congress

Highest TechWashington has seriously geeked-out Christmas.At the White House, decking the Halls went digital this year: The White House tree is bedecked with 3-D printed ornaments, submitted by technology enthusiasts nationwide.

(If you happen to have a 3D printer handy, you can re-create the First Family’s Christmas decor in your home by downloading the winning ornament designs here.)

Not to be outdone however, the National tree display also incorporates some technological trimmings: The smaller state and territory trees surrounding the main tree -- also known as the “pageant of peace” trees -- feature lights hand-coded online by kids (and some enthusiastic adults) via Google’s #MadeWithCode project.

(Want your own code to light up the ellipse? Program a display here and it will illuminate your state tree for a few minutes this holiday season.)

Winner: National Tree Runner Up: White House Tree Advantage: Obama 

Most Meaningful

The White House tree, hands down.

One of 26 holiday trees at the Executive Mansion, the “America the Brave” themed official tree honors gold star military families.

Sprinkled in between the 3D ornaments and other patriotic décor are coloring book pages decorated by kids as a thank-you to the brave men and women who have served overseas.

Winner: White House Tree Advantage: Obama

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Terror Controversy: Fort Hood Victims a Step Closer to Purple Hearts

Terror Controversy: Fort Hood Victims a Step Closer to Purple Hearts

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The victims of the 2009 Fort Hood shooting may eventually receive Purple Hearts after a controversial five-year fight, now that a new agreement has passed through the House and is on its way to the Senate.Thursday the House passed a “bicameral agreement” on language inserted into the FY 15 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would adjust Purple Heart criteria so that the award, and accompanying benefits, could be given “to service members who are victims of an attack that was inspired or motivated by a U.S. State Department-designated foreign terrorist organization,” Rep. Roger Williams, R-Texas, and Rep. John Carter, R-Texas, announced Thursday. The language would be retroactively effective as of Sept. 11, 2001.“This is a huge step in the joint efforts to help victims of the Fort Hood terrorist attack,” Williams said in a statement. “Our nation’s leaders must uphold our solemn commitment to provide for troops in harm’s way -- whether at home or abroad.”

Thirteen people were killed, including a pregnant soldier, and 32 others were shot in the November 2009 rampage perpetrated by Army Maj. Nidal Hasan. At his trial, Hasan argued he was acting “in defense of others,” in particular, the Taliban in Afghanistan. Prior to the attack, Hasan had also been in communication with Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born radical al Qaeda cleric hiding in Yemen.As an ABC News investigation in February 2013 revealed, the survivors of the attack said President Obama and the military had neglected them -- and denied them financial benefits -- by refusing to call the assault an international terrorist attack.“Betrayed is a good word,” said former Sgt. Kimberly Munley, who three years prior to the ABC News report had received a hero’s welcome from the White House at Obama’s 2010 State of the Union address. “Not to the least little bit have the victims been taken care of…In fact, they’ve been neglected.”

A Department of Defense position paper obtained by ABC News in April 2013 laid out the military’s logic for treating the attack more like workplace violence than a terrorist incident and withholding the Purple Hearts.Giving out the award, the Pentagon said, could “irrevocably alter the fundamental character of this time-honored decoration” and “undermine the prosecution of Major Nidal Hasan by materially and directly compromising Major Hasan’s ability to receive a fair trial” by prematurely implying Hasan was a terrorist. The Army told ABC News earlier this year that Hasan had “committed criminal acts of murder and attempted murder,” and he was charged with those crimes, rather than terrorism.A Purple Heart can be awarded to service members if they are wounded “in action against an enemy of the United States,” “as a result of an international terrorist attack” or in a handful of other circumstances according to the current Department of Defense manual on military decorations.Critics, including Fort Hood survivors, said the military and politicians were avoiding designating the incident a terrorist attack out of overzealous political correctness.Former soldier Shawn Manning, who was shot six times by Hasan, told ABC News in February 2013, “Basically, they [military officials] are treating us like I was downtown and I got hit by a car.”“The DOD position paper is dead wrong,” Rep. Carter said then. “These victims deserve recognition and compensation for the injuries and loss of life from a direct attack on a U.S. military installation.”Hasan was found guilty and received the death penalty in August 2013. But still, no Purple Hearts for the wounded survivors of his attack.

In their statement Thursday, Reps. Williams and Carter said the Senate is “supportive” of the new legislation and they expect the Senate to pass the bill next week. The next stop would be President Obama’s desk.“I urge the President to forego any further politics on this issue and keep his promise by signing the NDAA into law,” Carter said.Reed Rubinstein, an attorney representing several of the survivors, said he’s confident that the new language will clear its last legislative hurtles, but admitted that there’s always “ample opportunity for bureaucratic mischief” in applying the new language to the Fort Hood victims.“But we will be watching them to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Rubinstein said. “This means a tremendous amount to the survivors. The DOD had the authority, and we believe the obligation, to have taken these steps five years ago instead of going through the whole workplace violence charade.”A spokesperson for the White House decline to comment for this report.

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Everything You Need to Know About Ashton Carter

Everything You Need to Know About Ashton Carter

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- On Friday President Obama officially nominated Ashton Carter to be his fourth secretary of defense in six years, calling him “one of our nation’s foremost national security leaders.”“It’s fair to say on your one-year attempt at retirement from public service you failed miserably,” Obama joked to Carter, who has served nearly a decade in leadership at the Pentagon under the Clinton and Obama administrations.Obama praised Carter, 60, as a trusted adviser who has counseled him in the situation room, adeptly helped pare down an unwieldy defense budget and oversaw U.S. combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has also won the respect and admiration of members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, and is expected to be easily confirmed.But there’s more to the Pennsylvania native than meets the eye. Here are seven things you need to know about the defense secretary nominee:1. He’s highly educated: Carter is a physicist and medieval historian by training, educated at Yale and Oxford and taught classes at Harvard, according to his official biography. In 1975, he published an article in Yale Scientific titled “Quarks, Charm and the Psi Particle.” His aides once referred to him as the “600-pound brain in the room.”2. During nuclear threats to the United States from North Korea in 2006, he wanted to bomb Kim Jun Un’s country, or at least destroy a long-range ballistic missile that North Koreans were preparing. “The United States should emphasize that the strike, if mounted, would not be an attack on the entire country, or even its military, but only on the missile that North Korea pledged not to launch -- one designed to carry nuclear weapons,” he wrote in an op-ed for the Washington Post titled “If Necessary, Strike and Destory.”3. He’s a “big Motown fan,” Obama said today. Obama quoted Carter’s favorite song, “Reach Out I’ll Be There” by the Four Tops, saying to his new would-be cabinet member, “Ash, I’m reaching out to you. You’ve been there.”4. He once compared public service to being a Christian in the Roman Coliseum: “You never know when they are going to release the lions and have you torn apart for the amusement of onlookers. And then, of course, if your job is world affairs, reality intrudes even in Washington. Crises and emergencies and conflicts erupt around the world on their schedule, not yours,” according to his 2007 faculty autobiographical essay at Harvard.5. He got fired from his first job for “wise-mouthing the owner.” He was 11 and working at a Philadelphia car wash.6. Carter was passed up for the Pentagon’s top job two years ago when Leon Panetta stepped down.7. Twitter users are mistaking him for either actor Ashton Kutcher or ‘90s pop star Aaron Carter, or joking about the similarities in their names.

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Louisiana Runoff: Democrats Brace for Bayou Bust

Louisiana Runoff: Democrats Brace for Bayou Bust

Edmund D. Fountain for The Washington Post via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Going, going, gone?Louisiana’s runoff election on Saturday could mark the extinction of Democratic senators from the Deep South, with Sen. Mary Landrieu -- the last Southern Democrat still standing in the 2014 cycle -- expected to lose her seat of 18 years to the Republican challenger, Rep. Bill Cassidy.In addition to settling the last unresolved Senate race of 2014, the Louisiana runoff election will also determine the outcome of two of the last three outstanding House races. (The Second Congressional District in Arizona is the only other unresolved House race outside of Louisiana.)Here’s a preview of what’s at play in the three races:SenateThe Senate race will be the main attraction of the night, as we wait to see whether Landrieu can retain her title as a political survivor or if Cassidy will become seat number 54 for Republicans in the next Senate class.Having won two of her three previous elections through runoffs, Landrieu’s campaign continues to express optimism that she can pull out another surprise victory this year.The last time Landrieu faced a runoff in 2002, she was widely expected to lose the contest. But in the final days of the campaign, a late-breaking story fueled rumors that the Bush administration was considering increasing sugar imports from Mexico, a policy change that would have had damaging repercussions for Louisiana’s sugar industry. The story helped to shift the momentum of the race. This year, Landrieu’s campaign is looking to a late-breaking story alleging that Cassidy may have been paid for work he didn't do as a part-time professor at LSU as a possible equivalent of the 2002 sugar story.Whether or not the new allegations against Cassidy will register at the polls remains to be seen, but regardless, the facts on the ground in 2014 paint a very difficult, if not impossible, road to victory for Landrieu.The votersOver the last decade, Louisiana’s electorate has grown increasingly conservative. While Landrieu enjoys a loyal base of support among African Americans, most of the state’s white population now votes with the Republican Party. On Nov. 4, as a case in point, Landrieu captured 94 percent of the black vote compared to just 18 percent of the white vote.Even if Saturday’s election sees a strong turnout of African Americans, it will be hard for Landrieu to capture victory without a corresponding segment of the white vote. Most experts say Landrieu needs close to 30 percent of the white vote to clinch a win, but she fell 12 percentage points short of 30 last month.And as far as the early voting numbers are an indication of what we’ll see on Saturday, the runoff electorate looks to be increasingly white and Republican. Compared to November, early voting was down in all categories except for white and Republican voters, which saw a boost in participation.The blundersThere have been some serious strategic blunders on the part of Landrieu’s campaign and national Democrats that have put Landrieu in a particularly vulnerable position.Part of the problem is that Landrieu’s campaign banked on a strategy of an outright win on Nov. 4. And when that strategy flopped, with Landrieu finishing the night with 42 percent of the total vote (only 16,000 votes ahead of Cassidy) and a far cry from the 50 percent plus 1 that would have been necessary for an outright victory, she found herself with a depleted war chest headed into the runoff.National Democrats could have come to Landrieu’s rescue, by cutting checks and flying in extra hands to bolster her ground game, but they instead “walked away from this race,” as Landrieu herself said earlier this week.The numbersFollowing a bruising wave of defeats across the country in November’s election, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee made the decision to withdraw a previously reserved $2 million in funds from Landrieu’s runoff. While the DSCC indicated at the time that they would continue to stay involved in the race, the committee has spent exactly $0 to help Landrieu during the runoff, according to Federal Election Commission records. The National Republican Senatorial Committee, by contrast, has spent over $1.3 million to bolster Cassidy.According to a statistic from The Center for Public Integrity, outside groups have aired fewer than 100 ads favoring Landrieu during the runoff, amounting to less than 1 percent of the 14,000 total runoff ads. Landrieu’s campaign has gotten on the air with 3,000 ads through Monday but that figure is outdone by the 5,000 ads from the Cassidy campaign.And while Landrieu does have a few staunch Democratic supporters, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who have held fundraisers to help fill Landrieu’s pockets in the final stretch of the election, Landrieu simply hasn’t been able to keep pace with Cassidy’s spending. The latest FEC report from Nov. 16 show her far behind Cassidy’s $1,296,282 with just $782,616 cash on hand.5th Congressional DistrictRepublican Ralph Abraham and Democrat Jamie Mayo go head-to-head to fill the seat of outgoing Republican Rep. Vance McAllister, who failed to win his bid for reelection after a one-year, scandal-ridden term in Congress.Mayo, who has served as the mayor of Monroe since 2001, points to the city’s record budget surplus under his tenure as evidence of his qualifications for the job.Abraham, a rural doctor who has never run for office before, touts the important endorsement of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal headed into the runoff.McAllister was first elected to Congress just one year ago in a special election to replace retiring Rep. Rodney Alexander. But after the married congressman was caught on camera kissing a married staff member, who was not his wife, voters were not quick to forgive the freshman congressman.6th Congressional DistrictVoters in Louisiana's 6th District will have the choice between voting for a convicted felon or a political newcomer when former Gov. Edwin Edwards faces off against Garrett Graves in Saturday's runoff. The two finalists are vying to fill the seat that Cassidy left to an open field by deciding to run for the Senate.Graves, a Republican who spent six years working as Gov. Bobby Jindal's coastal adviser before making his bid for Congress this year, is favored to win the race in this deeply conservative district by a comfortable margin over Edwards.Edwards, a Democrat, is a legendary character in Louisiana politics who served four terms as governor and was later convicted on racketeering charges, which landed him in prison for eight years. Along with his third wife Trina, who is 51 years his junior, Edwards is the subject of an A&E reality show called The Governor's Wife.

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President Obama Officially Nominates Ash Carter to DOD

President Obama Officially Nominates Ash Carter to DOD

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Obama has officially nominated Ash Carter to be his fourth Secretary of Defense in six years, calling him “one of our nation’s foremost national security leaders.” “It’s fair to say on your one year attempt at retirement from public service you failed miserably,” Obama joked to Carter, who has served nearly a decade in leadership at the Pentagon under the Clinton and Obama administrations.  Obama praised Carter as a trusted adviser who has counseled him in the situation room and adeptly helped to pare down an unwieldy defense budget while overseeing U.S. combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. He’s also won the respect and admiration of members of Congress on both sides of the aisle and is expected to be easily confirmed. One quality often overlooked about Carter, Obama said, is “his true regard, his love for the men and women in uniform and their families.” Carter, who did not top Obama’s list of replacements for outgoing Secretary Chuck Hagel, said he accepted the job because of that “deep respect and abiding love” for men and women in uniform.  “I pledge to you my most candid strategic advice,” Carter said, turning to Obama. “And I pledge that you will receive candid military advice.”  The comments were perhaps directed at swirling criticism from some Republicans that whomever is the next Defense Secretary will be a puppet of the West Wing, effectively just placed to rubber stamp decisions made by Obama’s closest advisers. Once Carter is confirmed, he will assume a portfolio of challenges, from the U.S. military transition in Afghanistan, the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the Ebola mission in West Africa, a rebalance in Asia, and departmental challenges of sex assaults in the ranks and continued budget tightening. Fun fact about Carter:  He’s a “big Motown fan,” Obama said.

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Dems Mobilize 2016 Support for Elizabeth Warren

Dems Mobilize 2016 Support for Elizabeth Warren

Ann Heisenfelt/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — The Progressive Change Campaign Committee has deployed Democratic organizer Don Weigel to meet with local Democratic Party leaders, county chairs, union leaders, elected officials and PCCC activists in New Hampshire to begin organizing a local coalition ahead of 2016.“We’re organizing in New Hampshire to ensure that all Democratic candidates for president are pressed to actively campaign on an Elizabeth Warren-style agenda of big economic-populist ideas,” said PCCC co-founder Adam Green. “Big ideas like expanding Social Security benefits, reforming Wall Street, and making college more affordable are wildly popular in red, blue, and purple states -- and are the path to primary and general election victory for Democrats,” he said.

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Why Obama’s New Defense Nominee Ashton Carter Likes ‘Charmed Quarks’

Why Obama’s New Defense Nominee Ashton Carter Likes ‘Charmed Quarks’

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The man President Obama has tapped to be his next Secretary of Defense is an expert in “charmed quarks."Ashton Carter is a physicist and medieval historian by training, educated at Yale and Oxford and teaching classes at Harvard, according to his official biography. In 1975, he published an article in Yale Scientific titled “Quarks, Charm and the Psi Particle.”“I liked dusty archives, learning to decipher manuscripts in medieval script, and learning all the languages necessary to read the primary and secondary historical literature, especially Latin,” Carter, a Yale double-major, wrote in a 2007 autobiographical essay posted on his Harvard faculty page. “Physics was entirely different: clean and modern, logical and mathematical.”It’s that tendency toward the orderly and efficient that made Carter, 60, a valued Defense Department adviser during stints in the Clinton and Obama administrations, according to public accounts by former colleagues. He lent expertise to strategic nuclear weapons policy and, more recently, to management of military technology and logistics.His intellectual chops have won the former Defense deputy secretary praise from inside the Pentagon and from members of both political parties in Washington, D.C."He’s not controversial,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told ABC News. "He’s qualified and he’s the last man standing.”Sen. Carl Levin, the outgoing Democratic chairman of the Armed Services Committee, told ABC News that Carter was "highly qualified."While indications from Capitol Hill suggest the Philadelphia native will be confirmed, his confirmation hearings are likely to become a lightning rod for criticism of Obama’s foreign policy.“All decision making is amongst a handful of people in the White House who only have one thing in common, that they don’t know anything about the military," McCain said.Carter himself has openly reflected about the challenges of working within the executive branch bureaucracy. In his 2007 faculty autobiographical essay, he wrote that serving at the Pentagon can be onerous because of the “many bosses.”“Public service at senior levels in Washington is a little bit like being a Christian in the Coliseum. You never know when they are going to release the lions and have you torn apart for the amusement of onlookers,” Carter wrote. “And then, of course, if your job is world affairs, reality intrudes even in Washington. Crises and emergencies and conflicts erupt around the world on their schedule, not yours.”A Secretary Carter would face a number of still-erupting crises upon taking office, from the fight against ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria, to Russian incursions into Ukraine, an active war in Afghanistan and pressing concerns about budget and sexual assaults within the ranks.

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Pentagon Statistics on Sexual Assault Shows Increase in Reporting

Pentagon Statistics on Sexual Assault Shows Increase in Reporting

US Senate(WASHINGTON) — Outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says the Pentagon's efforts to prevent sexual assault in the military are beginning to have an impact.Hagel said a year-long review released Thursday shows an eight-percent increase in U.S. troops reporting sexual assault, and he credits that to better efforts at curtailing retaliation.There was also a significant drop in the estimated number of unwanted sexual contacts to 19,000 from 26,000 in 2012.“We're not there yet, but we will get there,” said Hagel.“Until then we will continue working relentlessly to prevent sexual assault and we will give survivors the help and support they need,” he added.Pentagon statistics show the number of reported sexual assaults in the military rose to nearly 6,000 in fiscal year 2014, an eight-percent increase from the previous year.New York Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand told reporters Thursday the report on sexual assaults shows a “failure in leadership,” in part because retaliation numbers were not lowered.Gillibrand said the report found that “62 percent of people who have experienced sexual assault and rape are retaliated against because they reported that they were raped.”“That is unacceptable, that is not a measure of justice,” Gillibrand added.Gillibrand is pushing for another vote on her measure that would remove the chain of command from the prosecution of military sexual assault cases.  “If they continue to retain all decision making in the hands of the smallest number of commanders, they’re not recognizing the flaws of their own system. They’re trying to cover it up, they’re trying to shove it under the rug,” Gillibrand said.

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Navy Pulls Bill Cosby’s Honorary Chief Title as Allegations Swirl

Navy Pulls Bill Cosby’s Honorary Chief Title as Allegations Swirl

Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kevin S. O'Brien/U.S. Navy via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Navy has revoked Bill Cosby’s honorary title as a Master Chief Petty Officer in the wake of recent allegations of sexual assault involving the famous comedian. The Navy veteran had received the honorary award three years ago.On Thursday Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announced that Cosby’s honorary title of Master Chief Petty Officer had been revoked.In a statement posted on the Navy’s website Mabus and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Michael Stevens said they were taking the action, "because allegations against Mr. Cosby are very serious and are in conflict with the Navy's core values of honor, courage and commitment."In recent weeks at least 18 women have gone public with allegations of sexual assault against the comedian, some involving accusations of rape.The Navy’s move is the latest instance of Cosby's unraveling ties as the allegations have emerged. In the last week Cosby has stepped down as a Trustee at Temple University and as a fundraising chair at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, both schools he had attended.Cosby enlisted in the Navy in 1956 and served for four years as a hospital corpsman before being honorably discharged in 1960 as a 3rd Class Petty Officer.The Navy veteran received the award at a February 17, 2011 ceremony at the U.S. Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C.Cosby's lawyer did not return requests for comment today, but in a statement last month, he called the recent allegations against Cosby "unsubstantiated, fantastical stories."Links on the Navy's website to a Navy News Service article and all accompanying photos of that event are no longer working. Instead the links yield an announcement that ,“the file you have requested is not currently available.” Other articles on the Navy site detailing Cosby's interactions the Navy since then are still functioning.An archived version of the article on the Internet said that during his Navy service Cosby was a hospital corpsman working as a physical therapist to rehabilitate Korean War veterans. The article said it was, “a duty he liked and excelled at.” Cosby was also an athlete for the Navy who played football, baseball, and running track and field.In presenting the award Mabus said at the event: "Bill Cosby is not just a comedian and an actor, although he's pretty good at both, he's also been a tireless advocate for social responsibility and education - and a constant friend to the Navy."According to the article, Cosby said, "the years I spent in the Navy and so many moments remembering that the Navy gave me a wake-up call. The Navy showed me obedience and that's the thing that pushed me to realize the mistakes I had made in my young life at 19-years-old and that I could do something with myself and become somebody."

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Obamas Sing, Dance at National Christmas Tree Lighting

Obamas Sing, Dance at National Christmas Tree Lighting

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The halls of the White House are decked for the holidays, and now so too is that giant Colorado blue spruce in the back yard.With the help of his trusty teleprompter, President Obama and the first family Thursday night counted down to the lighting of the National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse.

The annual production by the National Park Service and National Park Foundation, which dates back to 1923, is famously scripted for a family-friendly audience with a hefty dose of cheesy humor."Did you know Calvin Coolidge played the harmonica and had two pet racoons?" quipped co-host actor Tom Hanks in the opening monologue."How did you know that?" asked co-host actress Rita Wilson, feigning disbelief."His Facebook page!" replied Hanks. The line drew some audible groans amid the polite chuckles in the crowd.

For the first time in the 92-year tradition, the 2014 National Christmas Tree had a presence on social media, posting a humorous play-by-play from its Twitter account, @TheNationalTree.

 

Here we go! 3...2...1!!!! Look at me #SHINE!! Shout out to @GElighting for making me look this good! #NCTL2014

— The National Tree (@TheNationalTree) December 4, 2014

 

The celebration featured a star-studded concert with musical performances by Patti Labelle, NE-YO, Steve Miller, The Tenors, and Chely Wright. From the front row, the president and his mother-in-law Marian Robinson were seen swaying and clapping to the tunes. Even the first daughters, Sasha and Malia Obama, were spotted singing along.

 

Sasha and Malia can't help but sing along!! I can relate...this is amazing!!!! #NCTL2014 pic.twitter.com/RagrBDu8Em

— The National Tree (@TheNationalTree) December 4, 2014

 

Mrs. Obama and star Little League pitcher Mo'ne Davis read "The Night Before Christmas" to a group of young school children.

 

I <3 this story so much! I can't wait for the night before Christmas to get here! #NCTL2014 pic.twitter.com/nDVZdsAfru

— The National Tree (@TheNationalTree) December 4, 2014

 

Not to be outdone, President Obama took the stage at the end of the concert to groove with Santa.

 

What a great celebration! @BarackObama and Santa high five to close out @TheNationalTree Lighting Ceremony pic.twitter.com/03T5eGZb4u

— Hargrove, Inc. (@Hargroveinc) December 4, 2014

 

More ABC US news | ABC World News

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In Canada, Chris Christie Says Keystone Pipeline Delay ‘No Way to Treat a Friend’

In Canada, Chris Christie Says Keystone Pipeline Delay ‘No Way to Treat a Friend’Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images(CALGARY, Alberta) -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, on a visit to Canada, said Thursday the federal government’s delay in approving the Keystone XL pipeline is “no way to treat a friend.”“This is no...

One Republican Leader Who’s Offering Hope for an Immigration Bill

One Republican Leader Who’s Offering Hope for an Immigration Bill

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The House of Representatives voted Thursday to block President Obama’s executive action on immigration, but in a different room of the Capitol, Republicans may have been offering a glimmer of hope.

The powerful Republican chairman of the House Rules Committee, Pete Sessions of Texas, said on the record that only the extreme members of his party want to deport non-criminal undocumented workers.

“There is no one in responsible Republican leadership, elected officials, who has said we should deport 13 or 11 million people,” Sessions said Thursday at a hearing on the president’s executive actions on immigration. “That is not what this effort is about.”

Sessions went on to promise that he and Virginia Republican Bob Goodlatte, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, would work on a bill in the new year.

"To have a well-understood agreement about what the law should be and how we should as communities, and farm communities, and tech communities create circumstances where we can have people be in this country and work,” he said. "And where not one person is quote ‘thrown out or deported.’ Where we do keep families together, but we do so under a rule of law of understanding."

The Texas congressman vigorously opposes the action taken by Obama, asserting that it oversteps presidential power. But he invited Democratic Congressman Luis Gutierrez of Illinois to help develop an immigration reform bill to replace it. Speaking directly to Gutierrez, who attended the Rules Committee hearing as a witness, Sessions vowed to work together.

“I’d ask that you to come back to the table… and work on this and I think you will find reasonableness will abound,” he said.

But Gutierrez remains skeptical about Republican action.

"Every time we have another vote to deport all 11 million immigrants and their families someone on the Republican side says, 'Oh, Luis. Just wait. The day when Republicans seriously address immigration, visas, border security and legal status is coming someday soon.’ But it never seems to come,” Gutierrez told ABC News. “It is always a higher priority to send a symbolic but meaningless message to the base that they are ‘getting tough’ rather than a serious message to the American people that they are getting serious about the immigration issue.”

Thursday, the House voted 219-197 to narrowly approve the Executive Amnesty Prevention Act, a bill that aims to prevent the president from implementing his executive actions. Although the bill is dead on arrival in the Democratic-controlled Senate, it may provide enough political cover to Republicans to prevent a government shutdown next week.

“The structure and stability of our democratic system depends upon the president executing the laws passed by Congress—not unilaterally rewriting them,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, wrote in a statement after the vote. “Today, the House made it very clear what the president is constitutionally and legally obligated to do.”

The president said during his announcement on executive action for immigration that should Congress pass a bill, it would trump his executive authority and he’d sign it into law.

“To those members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill,” he said.

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