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US Supreme Court Agrees to Decide on Gay Marriage

US Supreme Court Agrees to Decide on Gay Marriage

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Supreme Court said on Friday it will decide whether same-sex couples nationwide have a right to marry under the Constitution.The justices have put off a decision to take up a same-sex marriage case since the current term began in October. Now, argely because of the court's decision to stay out in October, 36 states allow gay marriage. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 70 percent of Americans live in states that allow gay marriage. There is now a split among appellate courts, which caused the justices on Friday to take up the issue, with arguments beginning in April. The court will hear cases from Ohio, Tennessee, Michigan and Kentucky.A final decision on the constitutionality of same sex marriage bans is expected by the end of June.The Michigan case was brought by nurses April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse who appeared Friday at a news conference with their attorneys including Dana Nessel.  Nessel said that in historical context the marriage equality issue is moving very quickly except for those directly impacted.“If you are a person that is affected by these laws that discriminate against same sex couples and their families, if you are April and Jayne and their children this cannot possibly come soon enough,” said Nessel.Rowse said she and April were looking forward to their day at the court.“It's overwhelming. That's what I'm going to say. This is just so overwhelming and we're incredibly grateful,” she said.

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Polite Praise, Little Enthusiasm for Romney at RNC Gathering

Polite Praise, Little Enthusiasm for Romney at RNC Gathering

ABC/Donna Svennevik(SAN DIEGO) -- When Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was pressed by the media to comment on Mitt Romney, who will be addressing the Republican National Committee's winter meeting on Friday, his response was short, but said it all about the perception of Romney among the assembled GOP establishment. "Good man," Walker said. That reflected the views of many state GOP leaders ABC News spoke with at the two-day confab in sunny Coronado, California – many of them responded with polite characterizations of the former Massachusetts governor who is contemplating a third presidential bid – but with no enthusiasm and in some cases, a clear sense of exasperation that the nominee who failed to win the White House in 2012 should just step aside and give the party mantle to someone else."Mitt Romney is an exceptional man with great experience, but I think there's a lot of other Republican candidates that are putting their names forward," Ryan Call, the Colorado Republican Party Chairman, said. “I think a lot of folks here on the committee as well as throughout the country are all wanting to see how the other horses get out the gate before running too quickly to one camp or the other.” South Carolina Republican Party chairman Matt Moore said he'd want to ask Romney’s camp, "What's changed? Can you make a convincing case that not only is the nomination winnable, but is the election winnable? And if it's not, maybe there are others who may be better choices." But like many party leaders did, Moore added almost reflexively, "He's a wonderful man and a good leader for the Republican party." Steve Munisteri, the chairman of the Texas Republican Party, avoided commenting on Romney’s merits by deferring to his status as the party leader in a state with so many possible presidential contenders. "In Texas, we have several Texans running for president: Governor Perry, Senator Cruz, Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, all from Texas – Rick Santorum has his offices there. No disrespect for Governor Romney but he would not be a frontrunner in our state," he said. And Mary Buestrin, the National Committeewoman from Wisconsin, had to clarify her remarks – in which she called Romney "an honorable man and qualified to run for president" – to say she was in fact enthusiastic about a potential third bid. "Oh, I didn't mean it that way. I've got so many things on my mind right now," she told ABC News. "The more the merrier is the way I feel. So I hope my enthusiasm shows through. It was a late night last night," she added, laughing.

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Obama On Romney 2016: ‘I Have No Comment’

Obama On Romney 2016: ‘I Have No Comment’

ABC/ DONNA SVENNEVIK(WASHINGTON) – In the midst of a press conference on Friday regarding the topics of sanctions in Iran and the ongoing terror threat in Europe, President Obama was asked a question on the 2016 general election.The question from ABC News’ Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl asked the president his quick reaction to Mitt Romney’s widely reported consideration of another run in 2016. “I have no comment,” Obama told Karl with a smile, before swiftly moving on. Romney is set to speak on Friday from a podium aboard the USS Midway in San Diego as part of the Republican National Committee festivities there. The speech will be his Romney’s major public appearance – certainly before party leadership – since telling donors privately last week that he is serious about possibly running again.

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Republicans Slash Presidential Debate Schedule for 2016

Republicans Slash Presidential Debate Schedule for 2016

Hemera/Thinkstock(SAN DIEGO) -- After suffering some 2012 debate fatigue when Republican candidates met to discuss issues more than two dozen times, the Republican National Committee announced on Friday it would be restricting the number of debates in the 2016 election cycle to a total of just 12. The RNC confirmed at its winter meeting in San Diego that there will definitely be nine debates, with the possibility for three more being added. The first debate will occur in August 2015 in Ohio. It’s very likely it will be hosted in Cleveland, also the host city of the Republican National Convention this cycle. Each debate will be hosted by a TV news network in partnership with a conservative media panelist. “Our goal has always been to have an element of conservatives,” in each debate, RNC spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters. Here is the current schedule of debates:

Fox News -- August 2015, Ohio CNN -- September 2015, California  CNBC -- October 2015, Colorado  Fox Business -- November 2015, Wisconsin  CNN -- December 2016, Nevada  Fox News -- January 2016, Iowa  ABC News -- February 2016, New Hampshire  CBS News -- February 2016, South Carolina  NBC/Telemundo -- February 2016, Florida

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Rep. Chaffetz to Mitt Romney: Let Your ‘Hair Down a Little Bit’

Rep. Chaffetz to Mitt Romney: Let Your ‘Hair Down a Little Bit’

US Congress(WASHINGTON) -- While many Republicans are split about another Mitt Romney campaign, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, is making no secret he is the former Massachusetts governor’s biggest cheerleader on Capitol Hill.But as Romney considers another bid for the White House, the Utah congressman is offering some advice on what he can do differently from his previous failed presidential runs.“I want Mitt to just be Mitt. I want him to let his hair down a little bit, just tell it like it is,” Chaffetz told ABC News.Chaffetz, who also serves as chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said Romney has adopted a more “candid” demeanor since his presidential run three years ago.“I think if you’ve seen Mitt since the election, that’s the Mitt Romney I know. He’s very candid, very authentic and I think he’s learned that lesson that everything can’t be fully scripted and prepared. You just got to be who you are and let the American people see that,” Chaffetz said.Chaffetz, who also serves as chairman of the House Oversight Committee, is one of the few former Romney supporters on Capitol Hill who’s ready to sign up for another Romney run.Chaffetz is so eager for Romney to pursue another presidential bid that he’s already criticizing one of his biggest potential rivals -- former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.“Three times a Bush? A Bush vs. Clinton? I don’t know. I don’t bump into too many people who get excited about another Clinton and another Bush,” he said. “We’ve never had a Mitt Romney in the presidency and sitting in the oval office and giving that a try, and certainly this country has a bigger, broader array of people who can actually serve at the highest levels than just another Clinton or another Bush."

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Obama Vows to Stand with Allies Against ‘Scourge’ of Terrorism

Obama Vows to Stand with Allies Against ‘Scourge’ of Terrorism

The White House(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama on Friday vowed that the U.S. will stand with its allies to combat the "scourge" of terrorism.Extremism "is a problem that causes great heartache and tragedy and destruction, but it is one that we’re ultimately going to defeat," Obama promised.“We will continue to do everything in our power to help France seek the justice that is needed,” the president said of the terror attacks in Paris that killed 17 people last week.Since the Paris raid, Europe has been on edge, with authorities rushing to identify individuals with links to ISIS and al Qaeda.Police in Belgium on Thursday killed two members of a terror cell who reportedly plotted to gun down police, and French and German authorities have arrested more than a dozen people allegedly tied to Islamic extremists in the past few days.

However, the president said, the United States has "one big advantage" over some European countries when it comes to avoiding homegrown terror attacks: "Our Muslim populations, they feel themselves to be Americans.""Now, it doesn't mean that we aren't subject to the kinds of tragedies that we saw at the Boston Marathon," he acknowledged, "but that, I think, has been helpful. There are parts of Europe in which that's not the case."Obama emphasized the need to combat the threat not just militarily, but also by "inoculating" citizens against extremist ideologies, lifting up mainstream Islam "as aggressively and as nimbly as the messages coming out from these fanatics."Obama spoke alongside visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron during a joint press conference following a meeting in the Oval Office.“The world is sickened by terrorism,” Cameron told reporters. “We know what we’re up against, and we know how we will win.”At a dinner Thursday evening at the White House residence, Cameron reportedly pressed Obama for greater government cooperation with online and social media companies to allow surveillance of potential terrorists.The administration has sought to balance the need for intelligence with privacy concerns."I’m confident we can balance these imperatives," Obama said at the press conference. "We shouldn't feel that just because we’ve seen such a horrific attack in Paris, that everything should be going by the wayside.""We’ve got to make sure that we don’t overreact, but remain vigilant," he added, noting that the administration is working with social companies to solve "technical issues."

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Republican Tone Not Entirely Enthusiastic Concerning Romney Presidential Bid

Republican Tone Not Entirely Enthusiastic Concerning Romney Presidential Bid

ABC/ DONNA SVENNEVIK(SAN DIEGO) — Don’t tell anyone at the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting in San Diego that the 2016 presidential race hasn’t begun yet.

Already, committee chairmen and members are talking about who they might support, and the consensus around Mitt Romney seems clear: “meh.” Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker called him a “good man” -- but that was it -- when pushed by the national press to say something about him.  Many committee members that ABC News spoke with had similarly polite, but not enthusiastic, things to say about the former Republican nominee who is scheduled to speak at the RNC meeting Friday night at 7 p.m. PST.

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Emily’s List Calls GOP Priorities ‘Outrageous’

Emily’s List Calls GOP Priorities ‘Outrageous’

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Timed to the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting in sunny San Diego, Emily’s List, the group devoted to getting Democratic women elected to office, is launching a new campaign meant to highlight what they say is the new Republican Congress’ misplaced priorities. Called “Genuinely Outrageous Priorities,” the campaign will include a targeted digital advertising campaign in San Diego. The campaign will call out Republicans’ introduction of five bills that would limit access to abortion and women’s reproductive health on the first day of the 114th Congress.Recent polls, however, show Americans are most worried about the economy.

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Seven Things Chris Christie Revealed About 2016

Seven Things Chris Christie Revealed About 2016

File photo. Office of the Governor(TRENTON, N.J.) -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie did his monthly call-in show, Ask the Governor, on Thursday night, where he takes questions from Garden State voters, as well as the host on NJ101.5.

Christie answered several questions about his potential run for the White House in 2016 and spoke about football.Here are seven things he revealed on the show:1. No Decision Yet. Christie was asked if he had made a decision yet about his political future and he said no. When pressed whether he just wasn’t ready to announce, he confirmed he had not even made the decision yet.2. Can His Family Veto? No. Christie said he spoke to his family over their Christmas vacation about his decision, although he didn’t reveal exactly what they spoke about, saying instead: “We had a good vacation, there were no punches thrown, no pouting, no people going into their own separate rooms, everybody got along great and we had a great vacation and we had a lot of good talks as a family about that and lots of other issues too.”When asked if his family has the right to “veto” his 2016 decision, he answered, “no, no,” noting “the thing is that anybody who tells you their family doesn’t come to the top of their mind when deciding something like this is just not telling you the truth.”3. Relax, Everybody. Christie said other possible candidates’ moves like Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney won’t affect his decision and he has a message for “supporters of mine, potential donors of mine, staff” and that is to “relax.”“No one is voting for another 12 1/2 months, first voting in Iowa is in the beginning of February of ‘16 so everybody just calm down, you know be relaxed, look at me, look how relaxed I look,” Christie said. “I’m not going to allow other people dictate to me my time frame and as I’ve said before the entry or withdrawal of any one particular candidate or a number of them will not determine what I do.”4. PAC Plans. We learned earlier this week that Christie will set up a political action committee as early this month. But he said of the PAC that will help pay for political travel around the country and be a place for donors to start putting their money, that no decision has been made.“There are lots of people making lots of suggestions to me about the best way for me to continue to get to know the country better,” he said. “There’s a whole bunch of different options on the table, but I haven’t made any final decision about what to do.”5. Let’s Stay Friends. Christie was asked if his friendship with the Bush family could impact his run and he acknowledged their relationship, but said “friends have run against each other before. ...It is just he way it goes.”“If Jeb decides ultimately to run and I decide ultimately to run I think I’ve said this to you before I hope that what we would do is to run based upon our particular vision of the country and our party and may the best person win and I don’t think that means it has to end a relationship either between me and Jeb or between me and the president and Laura,” he said.6. Will Stay on as Governor. Christie confirmed again he would not step down from the governorship if he decides to run, and as for all the heat he got from traveling out of state as head of the Republican Governors Association, he called the critics “partisan hacks.”“I’m sitting here with this cell phone, right? With my iPad, with Skype, with FaceTime, I am never out of touch as governor even now because most planes have Wi-Fi and you can get email when you are on the plane,” Christie said. “This is not the 1800s, it’s not even the 1970s, we are in touch all the time and my ability to be in touch with folks is unimpeded by this and remember something in terms of my ability to interact with the legislature they are usually just down at the statehouse at most twice a week. I’m usually the guy who’s there a lot more days than they are. ...This is not a real impediment to me being able to do my job, what it is is more it’s an impediment on my free time and my time with my family than it is on my job.”7. Will It Be Nasty? Christie said the GOP primary could be a civil one “given some of the people that we are talking about and to the extent if it becomes difficult and divisive it depends on how those people who are not on the receiving end of that deal with it.""It’s a wide open seat in both parties, there will be a lot of competition,” he added.8. Let's Move to Football. Christie was also asked about his relationship with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and how it became controversial. He said he first met Jones in September, 2013 and he first spoke with him in the summer of 2013 when he invited Christie to a game next time he was in Dallas.

Christie said Jones called himself a "supporter" of his and he was "thrilled" he was a Cowboys fan. He said since they met at a game that September they have been "friends since."

But, as for stories that revealed a business relationship between Jones and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which Christie heads along with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, he said he had no knowledge of it whatsoever and it was instead being pushed by "partisan hacks who run around" and push the story."The facts don't get in the way of a good story from these folks, just craziness, just craziness, you know, aluminum foil on their head conspiracy theorists," he said.

And as for who he is rooting for this weekend now that his beloved Cowboys are out, he said "I don't root for anybody.""Once the Cowboys are out I don't root for anybody, the only way I'd root for anybody is if the Jets were still around and as I've always told people the Jets are kind of my secondary team," he said. "The orange sweater is at the dry cleaners."

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Here’s What Former President Jimmy Carter Wants to Be Remembered For

Here’s What Former President Jimmy Carter Wants to Be Remembered For

ABC News/Lorenzo Bevilaqua(WASHINGTON) -- What will historians say about former President Jimmy Carter 100 years from now?According to the 39th president, he hopes when people think of him, the words “peace and human rights” come to mind.That’s what he told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos when asked what he’d want to be remembered for most.“I kept the country at peace for four years and promoted peace for others,” Carter said.Carter is currently within reach of a major accomplishment that if achieved would surely make history books -- eradicating a disease.“We are getting close,” Carter told Stephanopoulos in the Good Morning America interview. “We started out with 23,600 villages, 20 countries, three and a half million cases of Guinea worm. And we've cut it down now. Last year, we had 126 cases.”If Carter and his team at The Carter Center are successful in dispelling Guinea worm, it reportedly will be only the second time in history, after the eradication of smallpox, that a disease has been completely eradicated.“I think this is going to be a great achievement for -- not for me -- but for the people that have been afflicted and for the entire world to see diseases like this eradicated,” Carter said.It’s been a long battle for Carter, who first took on fighting the disease 30 years ago. When millions in Africa and Asia were infected with the parasite, Carter decided to act because it was “such a horrible and filthy, indescribably bad disease.”Guinea worm is contracted from water contaminated with Guinea worm larvae and causes painful skin lesions.“Nobody else wanted to take it on,” Carter said. "So I decided to take it on.”Carter and The Carter Center’s efforts are featured in an exhibit, “Countdown to Zero: Defeating Disease,” that opened Tuesday at the American Museum of Natural History.

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Meet the Republicans Who Are Arguing that Big Is Bad

Meet the Republicans Who Are Arguing that Big Is Bad

Sen. Jim DeMint (L) and Mike Needham (R). ABC News/Yahoo! News(WASHINGTON) -- Are big businesses and banks set to become the GOP’s Enemy No. 1?One leading conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation, led by former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, is advocating that the Republican Party adopt a new brand of conservative populism that would take a battle to “the bigs” -- placing the interests of the middle class above big business and emphasizing local governments over the powers of Washington, D.C.DeMint sat down for an interview with ABC News/Yahoo! News along with Mike Needham, the chief executive of the think tank’s sister advocacy organization Heritage Action, to explain the new policy prescriptions that they detail in a new book, Opportunity for All, Favoritism to None.“We're not saying big in and of itself is bad,” DeMint said. “The collusion really between big government, whether it be big unions, big corporations, big banks -- that's cronyism that we see in Washington that picks winners and losers and gives favoritism to people.”“I think part of it is also convincing the American people that you're on their side,” Needham later said. “You have to fight the bigs on some things, and you have to say that right now the Export-Import Bank, which gives most of its loans to companies like Boeing and GE and Caterpillar…that's going to go, and by doing that, we're going to convince people that we're on their side. We're going to earn the moral high ground to then talk about our solutions and how they will make their life better.”Heritage’s new vision -- while still built around slashing the size and scope of the federal government -- is packaged in rhetoric that sounds much different than the traditional conservative message of rugged individualism and personal responsibility.Instead, DeMint is placing emphasis on “interdependence” with one’s community.“That’s why the institutions of America, whether it be family or churches, schools, volunteer organizations; this creates the type of society that we want,” DeMint explained. “But government, unfortunately, has replaced a lot of this and keeps pushing these institutions that build a strong society out, replacing them with government programs that don't work as well. So, it's not a matter of you're on your own. We all depend on others.”But he qualified that there is a “big policy difference” between what Heritage is now calling for and what populist Democrats, such as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, advocate.“Conservatism is really a ground-up idea, building things from the bottom up, on the individuals and smaller communities,” DeMint said. “And the left, Elizabeth Warren, being at the top of that, is really top-down. Let's have a big central solution for education, for healthcare. And this idea of individual decision-making, with states doing different things is really, it's anathema to the left.”Looking ahead to 2016, DeMint isn’t picking favorites and welcomed the idea of a large crop of Republican candidates as “good” for a healthy nominating process.“What I am encouraging Americans to do now is, hey, don't decide on the person, let's decide on the ideas that we want for this country,” DeMint said. “And then see which candidate can inspire us the most by talking about how they're going to implement those ideas.”And when it comes to finding the candidate who best embodies those ideas, Needham said there’s nothing precluding old faces from embracing fresh ideas. He named Jeb Bush as one example.“I think Jeb Bush is somebody who's a policy entrepreneur and hopefully he'll recognize the mood of the country right now, which is one of deep skepticism, deep cynicism toward Washington, D.C.,” Needham said.

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Chuck Hagel Reunited with Missile System He Tested as Young Soldier

Chuck Hagel Reunited with Missile System He Tested as Young Soldier

John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/TNS via Getty Images(WHITE SANDS, N.M.) — Chuck Hagel was reunited with an old Army buddy on Thursday during a visit to the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.The Secretary of Defense got to hold a FIM-43 “Red Eye” shoulder fired missile that he tested as part of a secret program at the base in 1967 before shipping out to Vietnam.

 

#SecDef Hagel holds a FIM-43 Redeye during his visit to Orogrande Range today. pic.twitter.com/A0Mok80Ezp

— U.S. Dept of Defense (@DeptofDefense) January 15, 2015

 

Hagel closed out his last domestic trip as Defense Secretary with stops at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas and the White Sands Missile Range across the state line.Both bases were a stroll down memory lane for Hagel as he went through boot camp at Fort Bliss and was then assigned to the secret “Red Eye” test project at White Sands.During his visit to the missile range on Thursday Hagel was shown the latest in anti-missile technology as well as one of the shoulder fired missile system.He handled it like a pro and placed it on his shoulder just as he did during the secret testing program.Hagel ended up serving in Vietnam where he earned two Purple Hearts.

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Americans Evenly Divided on GOP and Obama Influencing Direction of Country

Americans Evenly Divided on GOP and Obama Influencing Direction of Country

The White House(WASHINGTON) — With President Obama and the Republican-controlled Congress already butting heads on a number of issues after just two weeks, Americans are clearly split on who should have more influence in moving the country forward.Gallup's annual Mood of the Nation poll of 800 adults conducted earlier this month shows that the public is about evenly divided on the issue with 43 percent favoring the GOP and 40 percent behind the president.Obviously, the vast majority who identify themselves as Republicans back Congress while the same is true for Democrats supporting Obama.The wild card, as usual, are independents and they are split down the middle: 37 percent behind the president, 38 percent in the GOP's corner. The other independents gave no particular preference.There has been some drop-off in support for Republicans since the mid-term election when 55 percent of respondents wanted the GOP to have more influence.Compared to his immediate predecessors at this point in the presidency, Obama falls in the middle. George W. Bush only had the backing of 32 percent of the public at the start of the seventh year of his term while Bill Clinton, even in the midst of impeachment proceedings, was at 55 percent.

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Obama Begins Push to Guarantee Paid Sick Leave for Millions

Obama Begins Push to Guarantee Paid Sick Leave for Millions

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(BALTIMORE) — President Obama began his effort to expand sick leave for U.S. workers with a memorandum Thursday mandating federal agencies to give a maximum of six weeks paid leave to employees upon the birth or adoption of a child.And Obama says he's just getting started.On a lunchtime visit to Baltimore's Charmington's Café, whose owner supports an increase in the hourly minimum wage, Obama outlined proposals to give part-time workers paid sick leave as well as $2.2 billion in grants to states and cities to implement their own policies.With an estimated 43 million workers not entitled to sick leave, the president says that puts people in the unenviable position of "having to choose to be able to buy groceries or pay the rent, or look after themselves or their children."Meanwhile, Alabama Republican Congresswoman Martha Roby said Thursday said that she would renew her push for Congress to pass the Working Families Flexibility Act.  Under the bill, Roby said workers could take legally mandated overtime as compensatory time.The White House, Democrats and labor unions, however, contend the WFFA can easily be abused by employers, giving them the opportunity to force workers into taking time off rather than getting paid.

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Air Force Taking Action to Minimize Overwork of Drone Pilots

Air Force Taking Action to Minimize Overwork of Drone Pilots

Polina Shuvaeva/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Air Force is acting to minimize the stress placed on Predator drone pilots who are working more hours than their peers.According to Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, drone pilots are flying six days per week and pulling 14-hour tours. The hours they spend flying are about three times what Air Force pilots flying other aircraft spend flying.On Thursday, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh announced short-term solutions to help limit overwork.First, the National Guard and Reserve will be asked to provide more personnel on active duty, to ensure the number of drone pilots, currently lacking, is increased. Additionally, former drone pilots will be able to volunteer to fly again for six-month periods. Finally, the return of pilots loaned to drone units will have their return to their manned units delayed.The Air Force is also considering pay increases and retention bonuses for qualified pilots.

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EXCLUSIVE: How the FBI Foiled a 2012 Plot to Bomb the US Capitol

EXCLUSIVE: How the FBI Foiled a 2012 Plot to Bomb the US Capitol

Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- The arrest Wednesday of an Ohio man who allegedly plotted an all-out assault on the U.S. Capitol was not the first time the FBI nabbed someone for such a plot through an undercover operation – and surveillance video, exclusively obtained by ABC News from that earlier case, shows just how far homegrown radicals are willing to go.“Let’s do it man, I don’t want to keep thinking about it too much,” 29-year-old Amine El-Khalifi said inside a hotel room in February 2012, just days before he planned to launch his attack with a suicide vest strapped to his chest and a MAC-10 automatic gun in one hand. “Let’s do it.”That commitment to his cause came just minutes after Khalifi tried to familiarize himself with the submachine gun that a man he thought was an associate of al Qaeda had just handed him. In fact, the supposed al Qaeda operative was an undercover FBI agent.“It’s a striking moment,” the current head of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, Assistant Director In Charge Andrew McCabe, told ABC News’ Pierre Thomas in an exclusive interview. "Theme that you have to take away from seeing a tape like this is the understanding that these folks are out there.”McCabe said “recent developments around the world,” such as the deadly assault on a satirical magazine in Paris last week, further highlight the evolving threat from terrorists.“It’s a significant problem,” he said. "There is a population of young folks, largely young men, who connect with that extremist message. They are inspired by it.”Before becoming enchanted with the radical messages of al Qaeda leaders posted online, Khalifi enjoyed “going to bars, drinking alcohol, using cocaine and ecstasy, and spending money on flashy clothing and accessories,” according to court filings in his case.Weeks before he was to carry out his attack, Khalifi went with undercover FBI agents to a quarry in West Virginia, where they were to test a bomb they had supposedly built.After the bomb goes off, Khalifi can be heard on surveillance video saying: “Brother, this is not strong enough.”In his interview with ABC News, McCabe said the FBI currently has dozens of such undercover investigations under way.“We don’t even consider the use of these sorts of undercover strategies until we are convinced that the [suspect] clearly intends to do what they said they intend to do,” McCabe said, adding that suspects are always given “many, many opportunities to back away from their plans.”“And time and time again, the subjects we’re most concerned about say very clearly they intend to go forward,” according to McCabe.McCabe rebuffed any suggestion that the FBI “entrapped” Khalifi, a Moroccan citizen who was in the United States illegally.“Just watch that tape,” McCabe said. “I think it’s clear from the way he expresses himself what he’s committed to do and the actions that he took to get there.”Even Khalifi’s attorney acknowledged in court filings that his client wasn’t entrapped.“However, he...was enabled by the FBI, who, as part of its ‘sting,’ helped Mr. El-Khalifi with the means, method and motivation for the attack,” federal public defender Ken Troccoli wrote in a memo to the federal judge overseeing the case. “This included monetary incentives (paying his debts and promising ‘martyrdom payments’ to his parents), the provision of weapons and explosives with training on how to use them, logistical advice, and religious reinforcement by a cadre of (supposed) like-minded Islamists.”In June 2012, Khalifi pleaded guilty to one count of trying to use a weapon of mass destruction, admitting that over more than a year he hatched a plan to attack U.S. government sites, ultimately deciding to strike the U.S. Capitol.In the surveillance video obtained by ABC News, Khalifi can be seen buying nails from a Home Depot outside Washington.“I got thick ones, not thin ones. The one [that is] going to make damage,” he says in video from later that day.In the video he also says of U.S. senators: “I want those people.”ABC News was able to obtain only a small portion of the hours of surveillance video created during the investigation into Khalifi. ABC News filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the FBI for all of the surveillance video, but that request was denied. An appeal is pending.Troccoli, Khalifi’s defense attorney, declined to comment beyond what he said in court filings in 2012. In those filings, he said Khalifi “bears no ill-will against the American people.”In fact, Trocolli wrote, Khalifi “is relieved that his attempted crime was foiled and that no one was actually injured.”Khalifi is currently serving a 30-year sentence.On Wednesday, the FBI arrested Christopher Lee Cornell, 20, of Green Township, Ohio, for allegedly plotting an ISIS-inspired attack on the U.S. Capitol, where he hoped to set off a series of bombs aimed at lawmakers, whom he allegedly considered enemies. He has been charged with attempting to kill a U.S. government official.The FBI first noticed Cornell several months ago after an informant notified the agency that Cornell was allegedly voicing support for violent “jihad” on Twitter accounts. The informant then helped the FBI build a case against Cornell.

World News Videos | ABC World News

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Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst to Deliver Republican Response to Next Week’s State of the Union

Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst to Deliver Republican Response to Next Week’s State of the Union

Joni For Iowa(DES MOINES, Iowa) -- Newly-elected Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, will deliver the Republican response to President Obama's State of the Union address on Tuesday night.Ernst, who is the first woman to represent Iowa in Congress, said Thursday that she was "truly humbled and honored to have this opportunity to deliver the Republican address." She further noted that "growing up on a southwest Iowa farm years ago I never, never would have imagined that I would have this opportunity."Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., no stranger to public speaking, congratulated the Iowa senator on Instagram on Thursday, even providing a tip from his own experience.

 

Congrats to @joniernst chosen to give #GOP response to #SOTU. You will do great. Only advice is have plenty of water BEFORE not during!

A photo posted by Senator Marco Rubio (@marcorubiofla) on Jan 15, 2015 at 12:05pm PST

 

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John Boehner Hopes Would-Be Killer ‘Gets the Help He Needs’

John Boehner Hopes Would-Be Killer ‘Gets the Help He Needs’

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday he hopes the Ohio man who threatened to poison him “gets the help he needs."“Obviously this young man has got some health issues, mental health issues that need to be addressed and I hope he gets the help he needs,” Boehner said at a news conference at a Republican retreat in Hershey, Pennsylvania.Michael Robert Hoyt of Ohio was indicted last week on charges of threatening to murder Boehner last October. Hoyt, who had been fired from his job as a bartender at the Ohio country club Boehner attends, told police he often served drinks for Boehner and could have slipped something into his drink and said he told a Deer Park police officer he “needed to kill Boehner.” Hoyt later told investigators he had no intention of hurting Boehner or anyone else.Commenting on the indictment for the first time, Boehner noted how troubling it was to have a threat come from a person so close to him.“You know it’s one thing to get a threat from far away. It’s another when it’s three doors from where you live,” Boehner said.The House speaker also commented on a recently thwarted plot from another Ohio man to bomb and kill people at the U.S. Capitol. Boehner credited a government surveillance program for helping law enforcement officials disrupt the plans.“With regard to the threat to the Capitol coming frankly not far from where I live, the first thing that strikes me is that we would have never known about this had it not been for the FISA program and our ability to collect information on people who pose an imminent threat,” Boehner said, referring to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.“Our government does not spy on Americans unless there are Americans who are doing things that frankly tip off our law enforcement officials to an imminent threat," he added. "And it was our law enforcement officials and those programs that helped us stop this person before he committed a heinous crime in our nation’s capital.”Asked if he had any additional information not available to the press on how law enforcement apprehended the individual, Boehner said “we’ll let the whole story roll out there," but it was far more than just social media posts that alerted law enforcement officials to the plot.

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DOT Levies $1.6 Million in Fines Against Southwest Airlines for January 2014 Tarmac Delays

DOT Levies $1.6 Million in Fines Against Southwest Airlines for January 2014 Tarmac Delays

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Department of Transportation on Thursday announced $1.6 million in fines to be levied against Southwest Airlines for violating tarmac delay rules.The government agency said in a news release that the airline "failed to offer passengers on 16 aircraft delayed at Chicago Midway International Airport the opportunity to deplane within three hours of arrival" in a series of incidents in January 2014. Department of Transportation rules mandate that airlines may not allow tarmac delays of over three hours on domestic flights without providing passengers the opportunity to deplane. "Airline passengers have rights," U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement, "and the Department's tarmac delay rules are meant to prevent passengers from being stuck on an aircraft on the ground for hours on end."The DOT allows exceptions to the three-hour rule, but only for safety, security and air traffic control-related reasons.On Jan. 2 and Jan. 3, 2014, Southwest allegedly experienced lengthy delays at the Chicago airport as well as a "malfunctioning of its crew scheduling system and an unexpected shortage of staff." Those issues inhibited the carrier's ability to clear aircraft from Southwest's gates in a timely manner to accommodate arriving flights. Combined with a "severe winter weather event," the delays lasted over the three-hour limit.The $1.6 million fine is the largest civil penalty assessed to a carrier for violating tarmac delay rules. Southwest released a statement on the fine on Thursday, saying that during that evening, "the airfield at Midway became congested with aircraft from cancelled and outbound flights," and despite their employees "[working] tirelessly to get arriving aircraft to gates as quickly as possible, ultimately, our efforts fell short in the face of challenging operational conditions."Following an internal review, Southwest says it has made "significant investments...to prevent recurrences," and that while it is "disappointed that the government would seek additional money, after the enormous penalties imposed on Southwest by Mother Nature during the January 2014 winter storms," it "appreciate[s] the Department of Transportation giving Southwest credit for the substantial and costly remedial steps the airline voluntarily took" on its own.

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Why the CIA Tweeted in Russian Thursday

Why the CIA Tweeted in Russian Thursday

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Central Intelligence Agency sent out a tweet Thursday that was written in Russian, but rest assured, the nation's top spy agency wasn't hacked.

 

Я писал роман для того, чтобы он был издан и прочитан и это остаётся единственным моим желанием -Пастернак

— CIA (@CIA) January 15, 2015

 

The tweet above is a quote from Russian novelist Boris Pasternak, who wrote Doctor Zhivago."I wrote the novel in order for it to be published and read, and it remains my only desire," the quote translates in English.It seems the CIA was having a "Throwback Thursday" moment with the quote and, in subsequent tweets, explained the story of how the agency helped smuggle books, including Doctor Zhivago, into the Soviet Bloc.

 

Doctor #Zhivago was censored in the USSR as it was anti-Soviet. http://t.co/H53Izrp019 (58KB PDF)

— CIA (@CIA) January 15, 2015

 

 

Eventually, 1000s were distributed throughout the Soviet Bloc. #Zhivago http://t.co/a5O73oqFEH (161KB PDF) pic.twitter.com/2mvVwdFUUX

— CIA (@CIA) January 15, 2015

 

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