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Senate Confirms Soap Opera Producer as Ambassador to Hungary

Senate Confirms Soap Opera Producer as Ambassador to Hungary

Angela Weiss/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate confirmed a producer of the soap opera The Bold and The Beautiful on Tuesday to serve as ambassador to Hungary -- and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is not pleased with the decision.Prior to the vote, McCain went on a tirade about how Colleen Bell, a soap opera producer and bundler for President Obama’s campaigns, is “unqualified” to represent the United States as an ambassador to Hungary.“We're about to vote on a totally unqualified individual to be ambassador to a nation which is very important to our national security interest,” McCain said on the Senate floor. “Her qualifications are as a producer of the television soap opera The Bold and The Beautiful, contributed $800,000 to Obama in the last election and bundled more than $2.1 million for President Obama's re-election effort.”“I am not against political appointees…I understand how the game is played, but here we are, a nation that is on the verge of ceding its sovereignty to a neo-fascist dictator getting in bed with [Russian President] Vladimir Putin and we're going to send the producer of The Bold and The Beautiful as the ambassador,” he continued. “I urge my colleagues to put a stop to this foolishness. I urge a no vote.”Regardless of McCain’s urging, the Senate confirmed Bell to the ambassador post with a vote of 52-42.McCain’s displeasure with Bell’s qualifications stems from a contentious confirmation hearing last February where multiple ambassador nominees bungled questions from senators. In her questioning with McCain, Bell struggled to name the U.S. strategic interests in Hungary.After McCain’s rant on the Senate floor, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., defended Bell, saying she is “intelligent,” “successful” and “knows how to make friends.”“You would think this is the first time that any president nominated someone that's a political appointee. Just because somebody is a producer of a very popular show that doesn't disqualify them. It's ridiculous,” Boxer said on the Senate floor in response to McCain. “I could point out people you supported senator who perhaps didn't work at all, so let’s be clear here. She's an intelligent woman. She knows how to be successful. She'll do a good job and she'll do very well I think in this position because I know her well and she knows how to make friends and she's not angry.”In addition to Bell’s confirmation, the Senate approved Noah Mamet to be the next ambassador to Argentina. Mamet also had faced scrutiny at the same confirmation hearing as Bell when he admitted he had never set foot in Argentina.

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Rob Portman Says No to 2016 Presidential Race

Rob Portman Says No to 2016 Presidential Race

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) — It’s not even 2015, and the 2016 presidential race already has its first dropout.Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican who was once considered a top contender to be Mitt Romney’s vice presidential nominee in 2012, said in a statement early Tuesday morning that he would not seek the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

Instead, he said, “I have decided to run for re-election in 2016. I am excited about continuing to serve, especially with the change in the Senate leadership.”“With the new Republican majority, I see a real opportunity over the next two years to break the gridlock in Washington and actually get things done to help Ohioans and all Americans. That's where I believe I can play the most constructive role,” he said. “I don't think I can run for president and be an effective senator at the same time.”In an interview with ABC News' Jonathan Karl earlier this fall, Portman said he was "taking a look" at a White House bid in 2016."I am concerned about the country, and I want to see who else jumps in,” the Ohio Republican told ABC News. “I think it's a pivotal election so I am concerned enough that I am taking a look at it.”In 2013, Portman, a former budget director in President George W. Bush's administration, became the lone GOP senator at the time to support same-sex marriage when he revealed he made the decision because his son, Will, is gay.For now, Portman said, "I'm excited to roll up my sleeves to make a difference for the people of Ohio and the country. While I appreciate the encouragement I have received from many to run for president, my focus will remain on Ohio and running for re-election to the Senate in 2016. I look forward to formally announcing my re-election campaign in the new year."

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POLL: Racial, Generational & Political Divisions Mark Americans’ Attitudes on Ferguson

POLL: Racial, Generational & Political Divisions Mark Americans’ Attitudes on Ferguson

Brown Family / Facebook(WASHINGTON) -- Americans divide evenly on last week’s grand jury decision in Ferguson, Missouri – with vast racial, political, and generational gaps defining public attitudes on the volatile issue.Overall, 48 percent in this ABC News/Washington Post poll approve and 45 percent disapprove of the grand jury’s decision not to bring criminal charges against police officer Darren Wilson, who is white, in the fatal shooting of black teenager Michael Brown last August.See PDF for full results, charts and tables here.Underlying divisions are profound. Fifty-eight percent of whites approve of the grand jury action, compared with 9 percent of blacks and 32 percent of Hispanics, the nation’s two main racial and ethnic minorities. Eighty-five percent of blacks and six in 10 Hispanics disapprove.Indeed, 73 percent of blacks “strongly” disapprove of the decision not to charge Wilson, a remarkable level of strong sentiment on any issue. Forty-five percent of Hispanics also strongly disapprove -- while among whites, 42 percent strongly approve of the grand jury’s decision.There’s also an even split, 48-47 percent, on whether the federal government should bring civil rights charges against Wilson. In this case 85 percent of blacks say they’d approve, as do 67 percent of Hispanics -- falling to 38 percent among whites.This poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, highlights the stark social divisions in opinions of the case, many of which mirror broader attitudes about the criminal justice system. Views divide sharply not only by race, but also by political party affiliation, ideology and age, among other factors.Seventy-six percent of Republicans, for example, approve of the grand jury’s decision, while half of political independents and just 27 percent of Democrats agree. Views on civil charges run just as sharply in the opposite direction: Nearly three-quarters of Democrats say they’d approve, dropping to fewer than half of independents and just 21 percent of Republicans.There’s a similar divide by ideology, with approval for the grand jury action ranging from 74 percent among strong conservatives to 47 percent of moderates and 29 percent of liberals. At the same time 62 percent of liberals say they’d approve of the federal government bringing civil rights charges; 51 percent of moderates agree, dropping to 29 percent of strong conservatives.The generational differences are equally sharp, with 62 percent of seniors approving of the grand jury decision, compared with 30 percent of those under age 30. And while two-thirds of millennials approve of efforts to pursue a civil case, just a third of seniors agree.Other gaps also appear, with support for the grand jury action and opposition to filing federal civil charges rising with income and higher among college graduates than non-graduates. Also, men are more likely than women to approve of the grand jury decision.OFFICIAL RESPONSE – Majorities, meanwhile, look askance at the way local officials and Barack Obama alike have handled the situation. By 52-39 percent, the public disapproves of how the police and other local authorities in Ferguson have dealt with the protests there. Obama’s handling of the situation gets an identical score.Views on both these questions are marked by further (but less sharp) racial and political gaps. Disapproval of the local response is highest among blacks, Democrats and liberals. These same groups are disproportionately likely to approve of Obama’s efforts, as are political moderates.METHODOLOGY – This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cellphone Nov. 25-26 and 28-30, 2014, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,011 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 points. The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York, N.Y.

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Landrieu and Cassidy Sling Mud About Respective Scandals in Debate

Landrieu and Cassidy Sling Mud About Respective Scandals in Debate

US Senate(WASHINGTON) -- In the one and only debate before Louisiana’s Dec. 6 runoff election, Sen. Mary Landrieu and her GOP challenger Rep. Bill Cassidy sparred over which candidate has committed the greater crime.While Landrieu made the case that Cassidy has padded his own payroll at the expense of the poor patients who he was supposed to help as a part-time professor of medicine at LSU, Cassidy battled back that Landrieu caused greater harm with her use of taxpayer funds to charter flights to campaign events.“My opponent has told us he is a doctor for the poor, but he is not a doctor for the poor, he’s a doctor for himself,” said Landrieu, who sought to distinguish her misuse of taxpayer funds on campaign related expenses -- a mishap revealed earlier this year, which Landrieu has since corrected by reimbursing the misspent funds -- as a book-keeping error compared to what she said was an intentional lack of record-keeping on Cassidy’s part.“One was a book-keeping error, which I took full responsibility and turned over a complete set of records … and the other is a situation of a congressman whose take $20,000 a year in addition to his Congressional salary, and it may be even more than that if they paid for his medical malpractice insurance, without reporting it properly, without handing over any records.”Landrieu, who is widely considered the underdog headed into Saturday’s election, repeatedly called on Cassidy to release the full records of his 63 months working at LSU to supplement the 16 months of time sheets that were made public in a surprise document release a week ago. But Cassidy said Landrieu is the one who needs to be more forthcoming with voters.“If what Sen. Landrieu wants is transparency, then I’ll ask the question: When I treat patients in the public hospital system, clearly those patients benefit. When she takes chartered jets on taxpayer dime to campaign events, who is it that benefits?” Cassidy said.Just hours before the debate began Monday night, LSU announced that it would conduct “a review” of Cassidy’s employment with the university.“Based on concerns that have surfaced in the news media, we will review any information we have regarding Dr. Bill Cassidy's employment with LSU, just as we would any other employee,” LSU Director of Media Relations Ernie Ballard told ABC News in a statement.Cassidy, who has been on a leave of absence from LSU since April, defended his work as a part-time professor in the debate and called the allegations that he was paid for work he didn’t do “false.”“These charges are false and my direct supervisor and I have made numerous statements regarding this,” Cassidy said. “The work I’ve done working with LSU, teaching medical students, actually benefits the poor and uninsured. There’s an irony here: Sen. Landrieu justifies her vote for Obamacare, it would not have passed without her, by saying she’s for the poor and uninsured, even though demonstrably Obamacare has hurt the economic prospects of the poor.”Another heated exchange in the debate was on whether race relations have improved in the United States over the last several decades.While Landrieu cited Ferguson as a recent example of race relations having “deteriorated a bit” in the country, Cassidy disagreed and said there has been progress. Cassidy then went on to criticize Landrieu for an interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd in the days before November’s election, during which she said that President Obama’s unpopularity in the South is attributable, in part, to the color of his skin. She also cited the president’s energy policies as a reason for his unpopularity.“Sen. Landrieu made statement that somehow Barack Obama wasn’t being viewed favorably because we have a history of racism in the South,” Cassidy said. “I think just because you disagree with the president doesn’t make you a racist. And I will point out that when Landrieu said by implication that we’re racist and sexist, she’s been elected to public office since I was in college, so I think we’ve made progress.”Landrieu fired back, saying that Cassidy was misconstruing her comments and pivoted back to the allegations against Cassidy’s position at LSU.“One of the problems that Bill Cassidy has is he makes things up as he goes along,” Landrieu said. “He’s made up this story about him being a doctor for the poor when he’s padding his own payroll and he’s made up the statement that I’ve said that anyone was a racist. Do you know what I said? I said the South has not always been the friendliest place for African-Americans, and it’s also been a region that’s not quickly recognized the leadership of women. I will make no apology for something that is a historical fact.”Cassidy then attempted to follow up, but Landrieu quickly silenced him. “Excuse me Bill, that is what I said,” and went on to remind Cassidy that she also discussed Obama’s energy policies in the interview. “I am not the only one tired of listening to his rhetoric.”When asked what he would want to do if elected to Congress, Cassidy said that repealing Obamacare would be one of his top priorities.But when asked if there are some aspects of the Affordable Care Act worth keeping, Cassidy said the measure that allows adult children to stay on the parents’ healthcare plan until age 26 should stay -- and claimed the GOP deserves credit for that particular idea. “The provision for someone who’s 26 and younger to stay on their parents was actually a Republican idea,” Cassidy postured.But Landrieu quipped that fighting the Affordable Care Act will be the least of Cassidy’s concerns if he is elected. “If he is [elected] he’ll be doing a lot more than fighting President Obama. He’ll be fighting subpoenas, because he padded his payroll,” Landrieu sniped.

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AG Holder Assures Americans that DOJ Investigation into Michael Brown Shooting Ongoing

AG Holder Assures Americans that DOJ Investigation into Michael Brown Shooting Ongoing

Drew Angerer/Getty Images(ATLANTA) -- In a speech in Atlanta, Attorney General Eric Holder assured Americans that the Department of Justice's investigation into both the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a Ferguson, Mo. police officer and the allegations of unconstitutional policing matters by the Ferguson Police Department remain ongoing.

The investigations, Holder said, "have been rigorous and independent from the very beginning." Noting that "while federal civil rights law imposes an extremely high legal bar in these types of cases, we have resisted prejudging the evidence of forming premature conclusions.""I want to assure the American people that they will continue to be conducted both thoroughly and in a timely manner," Holder added. "We will see these investigations through to their appropriate conclusions, so that we can continue to work with the community to restore trust, to rebuild understanding, and to foster renewed cooperation between law enforcement and community members."Holder also said that in the coming days, he would, "announce updated Justice Department guidance regarding profiling by federal law enforcement, which will institute rigorous new standards -- and robust safeguards -- to help end racial profiling once and for all."

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Hillary Clinton Sidesteps Keystone Pipeline in Speech to Environmental Group

Hillary Clinton Sidesteps Keystone Pipeline in Speech to Environmental Group

State Dept photo(WASHINGTON) -- In an address to an environmental group that fiercely opposes the Keystone XL pipeline Monday evening, Hillary Clinton made no mention of the project.At a fundraising dinner for the League of Conservation Voters, Clinton spent most of her speech expressing support for the president’s environmental policies, the need to stay vigilant in combating climate change and the risks around natural gas drilling, but she ignored the pipeline. The group has worked to kill its construction.She praised the “unprecedented action” President Obama has taken on climate change saying it “must be protected at all costs.”“The science of climate change is unforgiving, no matter what the deniers may say, sea levels are rising, ice caps are melting, storms, droughts and wildfires are wreaking havoc,” Clinton claimed. “The political challenges are also unforgiving, there is no getting around the fact the kind of ambitious response required to affectively combat climate change is going to be a tough sell at home and around the world at a time when so many countries including our own are grappling with slow growth and stretched budgets.”Clinton said technological advancements are likely the key to solving climate change urging the crowd to, “dare greatly and lead boldly” in order to, “protect our heritage and preserve our future.”“If we act decisively now we can still head off the most catastrophic consequences,” Clinton claimed. After her speech, Clinton sat with environmental activists including Democratic donor and Keystone opponent Tom Steyer.The decision to ignore Keystone was especially interesting because earlier Monday evening she appeared at a New York City fundraiser for Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu who is in a tough run-off in Louisiana. Landrieu strongly supports construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, on the other end of the environmental issue spectrum to the League of Conservation Voters.Clinton has not weighed in on whether she supports Keystone, dodging questions on the issue previously, despite pressure from both Republicans to state her position as well as the progressive wing of the Democratic Party to not only weigh in, but to oppose the pipeline. Clinton has said since she oversaw the permitting process for the project it would be inappropriate for her to state her position.Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, spoke before Clinton and mentioned Keystone deeming the un-built pipeline “dirty and dangerous,” but speaking to the reporters after the event he said “it’s not critical at this moment” for Clinton to express support for their side of the issue.“She’s already made it clear this is a decision the president should make in consultation with the secretary of state and she’s not going to offer her opinion,” Karpinski said. “I wouldn’t have expected anything different than that.”When asked if it would be a deal breaker in supporting a candidate in 2016, Karpinski pointed to 2014 candidates they supported that also backed Keystone including Alaska Sen. Mark Begich and North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan, who both lost in November.Landrieu is in a re-election battle that has gone to a run-off against GOP Rep. Bill Cassidy, also a proponent of the Keystone XL pipeline and a critic of the president’s environmental policies. The run-off is this Saturday and Landrieu has been trailing in the polls. The Monday evening fundraiser was held at the New York City home of longtime Democratic donors and Clinton supporters Sarah and Victor Rozner. Tickets started at $1,000, but the next two tiers were $2,600 and $12,600, according to an invitation obtained by ABC News.Clinton also headlined a New Orleans rally for Landrieu just before Election Day in early November. Landrieu not only supports Keystone, but she tried to save her seat pushing a bill through the Senate approving the pipeline, but the legislation failed by one vote earlier this month. The League of Conservation Voters openly opposed the legislation.The pipeline would carry tar sand oil from Canada to the United States Gulf Coast, making it a key issue in Louisiana. It’s also an important issue in Canada and Clinton has dodged questions on the pipeline at different events in the country. She will travel there again next month speaking in Winnipeg.

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Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson Will Not Be Next Defense Secretary

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson Will Not Be Next Defense Secretary

US Department of Homeland Security(WASHINGTON) -- Senior officials tell ABC News that Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson will not be the next Defense Secretary, after current secretary Chuck Hagel announced he would step down last month.Johnson had been considered one of the three potential nominees shortly after Hagel's announcement. Instead, the other two possible nominees Michele Flournoy and Sen. Jack Reed have withdrawn their names from consideration. Johnson is now the third possible nominee who is no longer under consideration.White House officials say that the three remaining candidates are former Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, former Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig, and former Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell.

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Sen. Rockefeller Announces Witnesses for Tuesday Senate Hearing on Domestic Violence in Sports

Sen. Rockefeller Announces Witnesses for Tuesday Senate Hearing on Domestic Violence in Sports

Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Jay Rockefeller released a list of witnesses who will appear before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on Tuesday for a hearing on domestic violence in sports.The hearing, announced by Rockefeller on Nov. 22, will examine the current domestic violence policies held by the four major sports leagues and how those policies function. Among those in attendance will be the National Football League's Executive Vice President of Football Operations and former player Troy Vincent, Major League Baseball Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations and former player and manager Joe Torre, Major League Baseball Players Association counsel Virginia Seitz, the National Basketball Association's Executive Vice President for Social Responsibility and Player Programs Kathleen Behrens, NBA Players Association Executive Director Michele Roberts, National Hockey League Vice President and Deputy General Counsel Jessica Berman and NHL Players' Association special counsel Steve Fehr.Sen. Rockefeller noted in a press release that the NFL's Players' Association opted not to send a representative to Tuesday's hearing.

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Obama’s Four-Point Plan for Police Post-Ferguson

Obama’s Four-Point Plan for Police Post-Ferguson

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- With fallout from Ferguson, Missouri, in the spotlight, President Obama announced new action Monday aimed at boosting accountability of local law enforcement and improving policing policies in minority communities.

Here are the top four pieces of the plan:1. 50,000 Police Body CamerasObama will ask Congress for $75 million over three years to subsidize the purchase of up to 50,000 body-worn cameras for local police, according to the White House. The lapel-mounted devices, which record police officers on the job, have won praise from both civil rights advocates and local police union officials who want better documentation of police conduct and that of those they interact with. White House officials believe the cameras would also help improve trust between communities and their police forces. The program is one piece of a $263 million budget request that also includes money for training of law enforcement officers and more resources to reform police departments, administration officials said.2. Task Force on Police PracticesObama has appointed Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and former Assistant Attorney General and George Mason University professor Laurie Robinson to chair a task force on modern police practices. It will produce a report by late February with recommendations on how to "promote effective crime reduction while building public trust," according to the White House.3. White House Report on Police "Militarization"In August, Obama commissioned a review of federal programs that provide surplus military-style equipment to local law enforcement agencies. The report, released on Monday, finds a significant "lack of consistency" in how those programs are run and audited. Only 4 to 5 percent of resources sold or transferred were of the "controlled" variety (such as small arms, night-vision gear and Humvees), according to the inventory. Most were so-called non-controlled assets, such as office equipment, officials say. Still, tens of thousands of pieces of military-style equipment were transferred from federal government agencies to local law enforcement last year, with 460,000 pieces to date now in possession of local agencies. Those include 92,442 small arms, 44,275 night-vision devices, 5,235 Humvees, 617 mine-resistant vehicles and 616 aircraft.4. Executive Order on Military-Style Equipment AcquisitionThe president will sign an executive order directing federal agencies to develop uniform, cross-government policy on local law enforcement equipment acquisition. The move will likely result in published guidelines about what federal property is or is not allowable for sale or transfer to local police, administration officials said. It will also require local civilian approval of any purchase and mandate that local police departments get proper training to use the equipment. The government could also create a universal database to track all military-style equipment transferred to local law enforcement and whenever it's used in a "significant incident" in a community, officials said.

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What Needs to Happen to Avoid Another Government Shutdown

What Needs to Happen to Avoid Another Government Shutdown

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- With only two weeks to go in the lame duck session, funding the federal government and avoiding another shutdown is at the top of Congress’ to-do list of time-sensitive items that must be passed before the end of the year.“Our most important task at hand is to pass bills to fund our government to keep it from shutting down,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on Monday.Government funding is set to run out on Dec. 11 when the continuing resolution expires, meaning lawmakers returning from Thanksgiving break must strike a deal in the next two weeks to stop a repeat of the 16-day government shutdown that occurred in 2013.Congressional appropriators are working on a $1 trillion 12-bill omnibus that would fund the government through the end of September 2015. A senior Republican appropriations aide noted that “significant progress” was made in negotiations on the omnibus over the Thanksgiving break on such a deal.While the House is not expected to address the issue until next week, the aide added that no decisions regarding the timing or the details of the legislation have been finalized.But navigating the government funding debate could prove to be difficult because some conservatives are pressuring GOP leaders to tie President Obama’s recent executive action on immigration to the upcoming funding fight. Republicans have yet to craft a response to the president’s immigration decision, but could present a concrete counter-proposal in the coming weeks.“We’ll come back from the Thanksgiving holiday and make a decision about the best way to proceed on a tactical measure,” Rep. Tom Cotton, who is also Arkansas’ senator-elect, said on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday.House Republicans plan to huddle Tuesday morning so members can voice their opinions on the government funding bill to House Speaker John Boehner and other Republican leaders.

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Sen. Landrieu Counting on Stevie Wonder and Other Supporters

Sen. Landrieu Counting on Stevie Wonder and Other Supporters

(L) US SENATE / (C) US CONGRESS / iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Mary Landrieu is relying on a close group of staunch Democratic supporters as she makes a final push to save her Senate seat from Republican challenger Rep. Bill Cassidy ahead of a Dec. 6 Louisiana runoff election.The momentum seems to favor Cassidy. The GOP quickly coalesced behind Cassidy after the general election in November in which Cassidy and Landrieu received the most votes, but neither won enough to avoid a runoff.

Cassidy has received a fresh round of endorsements from big-name 2016 contenders, including Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.Landrieu, meanwhile, was left to cope when the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee decided to withdraw previously reserved funds from her runoff, and pre-election polls indicated that Landrieu would probably lose a runoff to Cassidy.

The situation further deteriorated for Landrieu when she was unable to push the Keystone Pipeline through a lame-duck session of Congress -- a key campaign issue in Louisiana. The measure fell short by one vote in the Senate.But as Louisiana political observers will tell you, be careful before counting out Landrieu. She’s pulled off unlikely runoff victories in the past.With just days to go before the election that could send this political survivor packing after 18 years in the Senate, Landrieu is not entirely in this alone. Here are five people who are still supporting her:1. Stevie WonderSinger-songwriter Stevie Wonder, who Landrieu’s campaign describes as a long-time friend and supporter, will headline a Bayou fundraiser Monday night to rake in some last-minute funds in the final push leading up to Saturday’s runoff election.2. Hillary ClintonOn the same night that Wonder will headline a fundraiser for Landrieu in the South, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -- one of the Democratic Party’s most reliable and capable fundraisers -- will hold a separate event in the North (New York, to be precise) meant to bolster Landrieu’s funds.3. Debbie Wasserman SchultzDemocratic National Committee Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz was in Louisiana this weekend to campaign for Landrieu. But Schultz is as close as we’re likely to see Landrieu get to the head of the Democratic Party, considering that President Obama is considered one of Landrieu’s biggest liabilities in her bid for reelection.4. Sen. Cory BookerNew Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, widely considered a rising star in the Democratic Party, recently made a trip to Louisiana to campaign for Landrieu. While Booker is a good deal more liberal than Landrieu, the African-American senator is a helpful ally for Landrieu among Louisiana’s African-American community, which composes a key base of Landrieu’s voting bloc.5. Mitch LandrieuIt helps to have friends in high places -- and it’s even better to have family members. Landrieu’s little brother, Mitch Landrieu, is the mayor of New Orleans. And after a successful reelection bid earlier this year, this endorsement is voter-approved.

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Lawmakers Return to Long Lame Duck To-Do List on Capitol Hill

Lawmakers Return to Long Lame Duck To-Do List on Capitol Hill

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The House and Senate returned Monday for the final two-week stretch of the lame duck session with a number of items on the to-do list. Lawmakers must strike a deal to fund the government or face the prospect of another government shutdown. Other items include tax extenders and a potential debate over whether the president has the authority to fight ISIS. Monday’s return is also the GOP’s first time back at the Capitol since President Obama announced the executive action on immigration over a week ago -- an issue that some worry could tie up government funding.

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President Obama Holding Civil Rights Meetings in Wake of Ferguson Unrest

President Obama Holding Civil Rights Meetings in Wake of Ferguson Unrest

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Following up on his pledge after the Ferguson grand jury decision, President Obama will be holding three separate meetings at the White House Monday on the issue of policing in minority communities.The president will meet with his Cabinet to discuss federal programs and funding that provide equipment to state and local law enforcement agencies, according to the White House. He will then host a roundtable discussion in the Oval Office with young local and national civil rights leaders.The president will then meet with a group of elected officials, civil rights and faith leaders, and law enforcement officials to discuss “how communities and law enforcement can work together to build trust to strengthen neighborhoods,” according to the White House.On Sunday, St. Louis police reported six arrests of Ferguson-related protesters. Two arrests were made outside Edward Jones Dome, where the St. Louis Rams were playing the Oakland Raiders. All six protesters were charged with “Failure to Disperse.”Several Rams players showed their support for Ferguson protesters Sunday by walking on to the field with their arms raised in what is described as a “hands up, don't shoot" pose.On Saturday, an attorney for Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson said his client has resigned in the wake of the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown.  Wilson's resignation comes less than a week after a grand jury declined to indict him for the August 9 shooting death of Brown, an incident that triggered violent protests in Ferguson and other parts of the country.

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SCOTUS to Consider Whether Violent Speech on Social Media Is Punishable

SCOTUS to Consider Whether Violent Speech on Social Media Is Punishable

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Supreme Court will hear a case Monday regarding violent Facebook messages posted by a man named Anthony Elonis in Pennsylvania. The Court is being asked to determine the scope of the “true threats” exception to the First Amendment.After his wife left him, Elonis took to posting violent passages on Facebook. “Did you know that it’s illegal for me to say I want to kill my wife?” he posted in one. He was convicted under a federal threat statute. Elonis, however, argues he never intended to carry out a threat, and he was expressing himself at times using song lyrics that are similar to the music produced by rap star Eminem. At issue in the case is under what circumstances the government can punish speech as a threat.

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Congressional Staffer Resigns After Comments About Obama Girls

Congressional Staffer Resigns After Comments About Obama Girls

The White House(WASHINGTON) -- A Congressional communications director resigned on Monday after making disparaging comments about Sasha and Malia Obama on Facebook, ABC News had learned.Elizabeth Lauten, the communications director for Rep. Stephen Fincher, R-Tenn., last week criticized the girls' demeanor during the annual White House turkey pardoning ceremony, writing on Facebook: "Dear Sasha and Malia, I get you’re both in those awful teen years, but you’re a part of the First Family, try showing a little class.""At least respect the part you play. Then again your mother and father don’t respect their positions very much, or the nation for that matter, so I’m guessing you’re coming up a little short in the ‘good role model’ department. Nevertheless, stretch yourself. Rise to the occasion. Act like being in the White House matters to you. Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar. And certainly don’t make faces during televised public events," Lauten continued. She was immediately criticized across social media for her attack on the two girls.Lauten then deleted her original post and wrote an apology on Facebook, which she sent to ABC News."After many hours of prayer, talking to my parents, and re-reading my words online I can see more clearly just how hurtful my words were," Lauten wrote. "I'd like to apologize to all of those who I have hurt and offended with my words, and I pledge to learn and grow (and I assure you I have) from this experience."

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday that he was "taken aback" by Lauten's criticism of the Obama girls."I don't have a specific reaction to her resignation," Earnest said. "I was taken aback that there was a political operative on Capitol Hill who took the occasion of the Thanksgiving event to criticize the first family."

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FAA Administrator: Drone Operators Need to Stay Away from Airports

FAA Administrator: Drone Operators Need to Stay Away from Airports

KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The head of the Federal Aviation Administration has a message for drone hobbyists: stay away from airports and keep below 400 feet.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta discussed the department's latest policy for drone use on This Week Sunday. The policy was instituted after about 200 incidents involving drones since February, with nearly 25 of those near collisions that forced airplane pilots to change course.

“The thing that I am most concerned about is doing everything we can to avoid conflicts between aircraft – whether they’re drones or commercial airliners,” Huerta told ABC News. “If you're using an unmanned aircraft, you need to stay away from an airport, you need to stay below 400 feet and you need to maintain line of sight.”

Huerta said the FAA was working with the model aircraft industry to promote awareness of potential problems.

"I think as a result of this awareness, we're seeing more reporting," he said.

Huerta noted that the FAA published a blueprint for integrating drones into national airspace last year and the department is expected to solicit comment in December on rules to include smaller drones that weigh fewer than 55 pounds.

“What it will consider is the full scope of activities, the certification of the aircraft, the qualifications of the operator and the sorts of uses, all with the goal of maintaining a safe system,” Huerta said.

Huerta’s appearance on This Week came as many Americans were on the move at the end of the holiday weekend. The Sunday after Thanksgiving is the busiest travel day of the year, as one in eight Americans take trains, planes and automobiles to return home. About 2.6 million people are expected to fly.

“Fortunately, we have great weather today,” said Huerta. "It should be a great day for flying."

Huerta also touted the latest in GPS-based landing systems that the FAA has implemented in five major metropolitan areas around the country, including in Washington, D.C.

The program, called NextGen, is designed to open the landing paths for airplanes with the goal of streamlining the descent to reduce air traffic and fuel costs.

“The benefits are being delivered right now,” Huerta said, noting that the NextGen system will save about 2.5 million gallons of fuel a year at Washington airports alone.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

St. Louis Alderman Antonio French Calls Darren Wilson ‘Cold,’ ‘Remorseless’

St. Louis Alderman Antonio French Calls Darren Wilson ‘Cold,’ ‘Remorseless’

Brown Family / Facebook(FERGUSON, Mo.) -- St. Louis Alderman Antonio French said former Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson sounded "remorseless, cold," in his account of how he shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown in August.

"A lot of his answers sounded like they were prepared by a lawyer," French said Sunday on This Week, telling ABC News he does not believe Wilson's story of what happened.

A grand jury that investigated the shooting for three months declined to indict Wilson, the St. Louis County Prosecutor's Office announced Monday.

French, whose office in Ferguson was destroyed in violent protests after the decision, said he thought the Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson should follow Wilson's example and resign.

"I think it's impossible for this community to move forward with him still in that role," French said. "I think at the St. Louis County police department level, there still need to be some people to answer for how the police responded to peaceful protests in August, which really escalated the situation.

"Frankly, the thing we haven't seen is a lot of government accountability. Not many people have taken responsibility for what's happened, and people are still waiting for answers and change," he said.

The alderman gained national notoriety in August for chronicling the protests that erupted after Brown was killed on social media.

He pushed back Sunday on a statement by Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol that law enforcement could not have imagined the intensity of the protests that followed the announcement that Wilson would not be indicted for killing Brown.

"I don't think that's right at all. We've been talking for weeks about this, and that we really had a powderkeg here. And so for the county prosecutor to decide to release the grand jury announcement at night time, for the governor to pre-emptively call a state of emergency and call in national guard, yet no one deployed them to West Florissant or other areas that have been hit repeatedly by violence, it really showed a failure to grasp the situation and to handle it on the part of government," French said.

"And so the fires that we saw, that violence that we saw, was unfortunate. It is -- it really hurts our hearts," he said. "We've gone through a tough week here, but we knew that a lot of people were very angry and we knew a lot of people were coming from other places. So we should have been prepared for this."

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Meet the Tailor for Presidents Past and Present

Meet the Tailor for Presidents Past and Present

Joseph Victor Stefanchik for The Washington Post via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- When Martin Greenfield first saw Dwight D. Eisenhower, it was during the liberation of Auschwitz, the Nazi concentration camp where he was a prisoner in Word War II.

Greenfield thought the future president looked like a giant. At the time, he had no idea he would one day be sewing the president’s suits and slipping notes of advice into the pockets.

“He [Eisenhower] liked it because he told a reporter about it,” Greenfield, a master tailor with a workshop in Brooklyn, told ABC News.

The notes contained Greenfield’s opinion of how the president should handle the Suez Crisis.

Since stitching suits for President Eisenhower, Greenfield has been the tailor for most commanders-in-chief, including President Obama. Bill Clinton also trusted Greenfield to cut his suits and streamlined their mode of communication.

“[President Clinton] says to me, ‘Can I tell you something, Martin? Don’t put notes in my pocket. I’m going to give you a fax number. You can fax me anything you want,’” Greenfield said.

Greenfield was 15 years old when he began working as a tailor, but it wasn’t his childhood dream. Instead, it was the job assigned to him at Auschwitz. He worked in the concentration camp’s laundry, mending guards’ suits and washing uniforms.

“I had never sewn. I had never washed … the tailor [in Auschwitz] says, ‘you’re a tailor,’” Greenfield recalled.

After the war, Greenfield immigrated to the United States and honed his craft in Brooklyn. Not only have Greenfield’s designs graced the White House, but they also have appeared in the movies and on television.

Greenfield designed the suits for “The Wolf of Wall Street,” costumes for the HBO show “Boardwalk Empire” and many others. His suits were also a staple for Paul Newman.

“Paul Newman was not a customer. Paul Newman was a friend,” Greenfield said.

His elite clientele isn’t the only thing that sets his shop apart. While most clothing producers have automated their operations, Greenfield’s still makes each suit by hand with about 120 workers stitching daily.

Greenfield doesn’t talk about the Holocaust often, but he never forgets his father’s words about the family they lost in Auschwitz.

“His last words [were] ‘You honor us by extending our life by living, not by crying.’” Greenfield said. “That’s what I do every minute of every day.”

Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Rep. Fincher’s Communications Director Under Fire for Scolding Obama Daughters

Rep. Fincher’s Communications Director Under Fire for Scolding Obama Daughters

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A Tennessee congressman's head of communications was under fire Saturday after scolding President Obama's daughters Sasha and Malia on Facebook for how they behaved at the turkey pardonning ceremony.

Elizabeth Lauten, spokeswoman for Republican Rep. Stephen Fincher, took to Facebook after screenshots of Sasha and Malia Obama -- who are 13 and 16 years old -- looking bored at Wednesday's turkey pardoning emerged online.

"Dear Sasha and Malia: I get you're both in those awful teen years, but you're a part of the First Family, try showing a little class. At least respect the part you play," Lauten wrote on her Facebook page.

"Then again, our mother and father don't respect their positions very much, or the nation for that matter," Lauten wrote. "So I'm guessing you're coming up a little short in the 'good role model' department.

"Stretch yourself," Lauten told the Obama girls. "Rise to the occasion. Act like being in the White House matters to you. Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar."

Lauten's post went viral over the weekend, with screenshots shared on Facebook and Twitter.

She was immediately criticized across social media for her attack on the two girls.

She deleted her original post and wrote an apology on Facebook, which she sent to ABC News.

"After many hours of prayer, talking to my parents, and re-reading my words online I can see more clearly just how hurtful my words were," Lauten wrote. "I'd like to apologize to all of those who I have hurt and offended with my words, and I pledge to learn and grow (and I assure you I have)from this experience."

Lauten declined to comment beyond her statement.

Fincher had not returned ABC News' request for comment as of midday Saturday.

The White House has not commented on Lauten's post.

Follow @ABCNewsRadio Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Obama Stops By Independent Bookstore on Small Business Saturday

Obama Stops By Independent Bookstore on Small Business Saturday

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama celebrated Small Business Saturday by visiting an independent book store in Washington.

Early Saturday afternoon, Obama, Sasha, and Malia stopped by the Politics & Prose Bookstore. The President mingled with customers and purchased a basket of books.

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