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Saturday
Aug232014

Mitt and Ann Romney Take Ice Bucket Challenge 

Al Bello/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney followed in the footsteps of thousands of Americans on Thursday by taking the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

With a little help from former running mate Paul Ryan, Romney, clad in a suit and tie, was doused with cold water. He was nominated by Salt Lake City resident Creighton Rider, who suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Hewlett Packard CEO Meg Whitman, and Republican Sen. Rob Portman.

The challenge seeks to raise awareness for the disease, which affects cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement.

As per the rules of the game, Romney nominated his wife, Ann, and comedian Jason Sudeikis to undertake the challenge -- Sudeikis impersonated the politician on Saturday Night Live.

Ann accepted and posted a video Friday, sporting a much more casual outfit than her husband as she urged the medical community to collaborate in finding cures for neurological diseases.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Aug232014

Rick Perry Selling Double-Mugshot T-Shirts

Stewart F. House/Getty Images(AUSTIN, Texas) -- Texas Governor Rick Perry’s smiling mugshot now has its own t-shirt.

RickPAC, Perry's political action committee, is selling t-shirts bearing the mugshots of Perry and Rosemary Lehmberg, the Travis County District Attorney at the center of the governor’s indictment.

The front of the t-shirt features Perry’s mugshot with a stamp that says “WANTED” and the words “for securing the border and defeating Democrats.” And on the back- Lehmberg’s mugshot says “GUILTY” for “driving while intoxicated and perversion of Justice.”

Supporters can buy the t-shirt by donating $25 to RickPAC.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Aug232014

Six Questions for Washington Free Beacon Editor Matthew Continetti

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- This week, ABC News spoke with Matthew Continetti, editor in chief of the Washington Free Beacon, to discuss President Obama, Iraq and 2016.

1) Former Vice President Dick Cheney criticized President Obama for playing golf after he delivered the statement addressing the brutal and tragic murder of journalist James Foley. What do you make of that criticism? Fair?


MC: Of course it’s fair. Even the liberal New York Times agrees with Vice President Cheney on this one. I only wish the Times took to heart more of Cheney’s wisdom.

What surprises me about the recent criticism of Obama is that it’s happening. How is this vacation any different from the rest of Obama’s second term? Golf, eating out, hobnobbing with celebrities, lecturing the world on what its best interests are–these aren’t exceptions to Obama’s behavior since reelection. They are the norm.

2) Here’s a scenario. The president calls you up and asks your advice on Iraq. What do you tell him?


MC: I would refer him to his secretary of defense, who recently said ISIS is ‘an imminent threat to every interest we have.’ That type of threat requires a ferocious, unlimited response: expanded airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, generous weapons supplies to the Kurds and to the few remaining decent opponents of Assad, and more troops on the ground–some are already there–as needed. I know it’s important to the president to honor his campaign pledge to end the war in Iraq. But that position is no longer tenable. The war ends not when ISIS is contained. It ends when ISIS is defeated.

3) Gov. Jay Nixon of Missouri said he was “thunderstruck” by some of the images that initially came out of Ferguson, the “over-militarization” of the police. What’s your reaction to what has been going on there?

MC: My reaction has been disgust at the media, which inflamed a combustible situation and turned a horrible sequence of events into a spectacle, one of the most watched summer reality shows on television. I think Governor Nixon mishandled this situation, hemming and hawing before finally calling in the National Guard, and demanding the prosecution of Officer Wilson before the investigation into the death of Michael Brown is complete. The events surrounding Brown’s death need to be investigated. If a crime was committed, justice needs to be served. But the time to debate the “over-militarization” of the police is after the looting has stopped and the riots have ended. Not in the middle of them.

4) Rep. Paul Ryan – who could potentially run for president himself of course — said he’d love to see former Massachusetts Gov Mitt Romney run for president again. What are your thoughts on that? And who do you see as the GOP front runner at this point?


MC: There is no GOP frontrunner, which is why you hear speculation that Mitt may run again. Should he? “Third Time’s the Charm” would make for a good bumper sticker. So would “I Told You So.”

5) Speaking of 2016, do you think Hillary Clinton has major vulnerability at this point should she decide to run?

MC: I’ve noticed that Hillary’s numbers are falling to Earth the closer we get to 2016. She is a formidable candidate, and remains the frontrunner to win the presidency. But sure she’s vulnerable. If she gives a few more interviews like the one she gave to Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, the left won’t stand for it. They will either rally behind a noninterventionist inside the Democratic party, or embrace one outside the party. And certainly Hillary has to worry about the perception that she changes her positions at the drop of a hat, shifting to accommodate the circumstances of any given time. That worked for her husband, but she lacks his talent. Shape-shifting isn’t as easy for her.

6) So you are the EIC of the Washington Free Beacon and you work with your father-in-law Bill Kristol, who is an ABC News contributor and also the editor of the Weekly Standard. He’ll be on the roundtable Sunday. You announced recently your site will be going private and featured a large gif of model Kate Upton in the post announcing the shift, which isn’t something the Weekly Standard, for example, might do. Does this choice say something about your own approach to conservatism or did you just like the gif?

MC: Kate Upton stands for everything good about America. I can’t imagine an approach to conservatism that excludes her. Indeed, I would say Kate Upton is American freedom personified. What better way to announce that the Free Beacon is now for-profit? It got your attention.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Aug232014

Obama Talks Economic Recovery in Weekly Presidential Address

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- In the weekly address, President Obama highlights the nation's economic recovery.

He emphasizes the economy's six-month streak during which at least 200,000 new jobs have been created each month.

Looking forward, Obama urges Americans to support the U.S. Export-Import Bank, which he says "helps many American entrepreneurs take that next step and take their small business global.  But next month, its charter will expire – unless Members of Congress do their job and reauthorize it."

Obama adds, "if Congress fails to act, thousands of businesses, large and small, that sell their products abroad will take a completely unnecessary hit."

Read the full transcript of the president's address:

Hi, everybody.  Nearly six years after the worst financial crisis of our lifetimes, our businesses have added nearly 10 million new jobs over the past 53 months.  That’s the longest streak of private-sector job creation in our history.  And we’re in a six-month streak with our economy creating at least 200,000 new jobs each month – the first time that’s happened since 1997.

Thanks to the decisions we made to rescue and rebuild our economy, and your hard work and resilience, America is leading again.  Areas like manufacturing, energy, technology, and autos are all booming.  And here’s the thing: we’re selling more goods Made in America to the rest of the world than ever before.  American exports are at an all-time high.

Over the past five years, we’ve worked hard to open new markets for our businesses, and to help them compete on a level playing field in those markets.  And we’ve broken records for exports four years running.  Last year, our exports supported more than 11 million American jobs – about 1.6 million more than when I took office.  They’re good jobs that typically pay about 15% more than the national average.   And more small businesses are selling their goods abroad than ever before – nearly 300,000 last year alone.

We should be doing everything we can to accelerate this progress, not stall it. 

One place to start is by supporting something called the U.S. Export-Import Bank.  Its sole mission is to create American jobs.  That’s it.  It helps many American entrepreneurs take that next step and take their small business global.  But next month, its charter will expire – unless Members of Congress do their job and reauthorize it. 

Now, past Congresses have done this 16 times, always with support from both parties. Republican and Democratic Presidents have supported the bank, too.   This time around shouldn’t be any different.  Because the bank works.  It’s independent.  It pays for itself.  But if Congress fails to act, thousands of businesses, large and small, that sell their products abroad will take a completely unnecessary hit. 

Small business owners have had to overcome a lot these past several years.  We all saw local businesses close their doors during the crisis.  And in the past few years, we’ve seen more and more open their doors and do their part to help lead America’s comeback.  At the very least, they deserve a Congress that doesn’t stand in the way of their success.

Your members of Congress are home this month.  If you’re a small business owner or employee of a large business that depends on financing to tackle new markets and create new jobs, tell them to quit treating your business like it’s expendable, and start treating it for what it is: vital to America’s success. Tell them to do their jobs – keep America’s exports growing, and keep America’s recovery going.

Thanks, and have a great weekend.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio 

Saturday
Aug232014

GOP Address: 'Democrats are Standing in The Way of Progress'

ABC/Donna Svennevik(WASHINGTON) -- In the weekly GOP address, Reince Priebus, Chairman of the Republican National Committee, questions Obama's priorities.

Priebus says, "In the last 18 months the House of Representatives, which is run by Republicans, has passed hundreds of bills to improve the lives of Americans. The sad part is, over 350 of those bills, including 43 jobs bills, are stuck in the Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate. Harry Reid and his fellow Democrats are standing in the way of progress. And President Obama has other priorities."
 
Priebus also looks towards November as he says that, by gaining six more seats, a Republican majority can be elected to the U.S. Senate.

Read the full transcript of the GOP address:

Hi. I'm Reince Priebus, Chairman of the Republican National Committee.
 
Here in my office at the RNC, I keep a couple pictures on my desk. Photos of my two kids, Jack and Grace. It's to remind me why I come to work in the morning. To help elect leaders who will secure a better future for all our kids.
 
If you have kids, you know what I mean when I say I want them to have every opportunity I had growing up in America--and more. We all want our kids to have it better than we did.
 
And that's why so many people I talk to are frustrated about what we've seen happening under President Obama’s leadership.
 
For over five years, he's failed to get government spending down to a reasonable level. And I just don't think it’s fair for the next generation to have to pay the bills of this generation.
 
This month, President Obama's been on vacation. He attended his 401st fundraiser. He’s now played over 190 rounds of golf as president.
 
Now, we all deserve some time off.  But you have to wonder: where are his priorities?
 
We all watch the news. We see what's happening overseas in place likes Iraq and Syria and Ukraine. And we see the tensions at home in Missouri. And we lost a young American journalist at the hands of fanatical terrorists. And yet, President Obama is on vacation.
 
He did fly back to Washington briefly this past week. But I think many observers got it right when they called it a photo op. He spent about a million in taxpayer dollars to fly back from Martha's Vineyard on Air Force One to take a few pictures. Then it was back to vacationing and the golf course.
 
Our country deserves better. And Republicans offer a better way.
 
In the last 18 months the House of Representatives, which is run by Republicans, has passed hundreds of bills to improve the lives of Americans. The sad part is, over 350 of those bills, including 43 jobs bills, are stuck in the Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate.
 
Harry Reid and his fellow Democrats are standing in the way of progress. And President Obama has other priorities.
 
Thankfully, we have a chance to change things up in November. By winning just six more seats, we can elect a Republican majority to the U.S. Senate.
 
And I can promise you: when Republicans lead both houses of Congress our priorities will be clear. Spending less. Making energy more affordable. Improving education for kids. Reforming healthcare to give you flexibility and lower costs. Meeting the daily concerns of middle class Americans.
 
But, our top priority will be the same reason so many of us go to work each day. Our kids’ future. Priority number one.
 
Thank you for listening. God bless you. And God bless America


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Friday
Aug222014

Syria Chemical Attack Survivor Haunted by Memories a Year Later

iStock/Thinkstock(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- It was right after morning prayers and still dark, recalls 28-year-old Qusai Zakarya, when the alarms started to go off and rockets hit his suburban neighborhood outside Damascus last August.

Though the country had been engulfed in war for over two years, this was different. "It was something we never witnessed before," Zakarya said, and since he could not see the gas he was not sure what was happening.

"You can barely smell it. It's like heavy air. It's like you take a breath and you feel you breathed something heavy," he said. The reality of a chemical weapons attack did not sink in until his neighbor arrived with two young children who were vomiting. They rushed to the hospital, but Zakarya collapsed along the way. His heart stopped and he was pronounced dead. He awoke almost an hour later, only when a mourning friend shook him.

"For me it is always like one minute ago," he continued. "It's like a printed image in my mind. Every detail, every breath that I took, every woman or children I saw dying for suffocating."

"This is something I cannot forget and just look the other way."

Zakarya eventually had to flee Syria and arrived in the U.S. in March. He has spent much of this year talking to people about the war: the press, students and United Nations officials.

On Thursday, he participated in a demonstration in front of the White House to mark the anniversary of the attack.

"I think my duty, so the world will know someday how brutal and terrifying that day was," he said.

 

Lima Sergie Attar, a Syrian-America who lives in the Washington, D.C., area and helped organize the memorial demonstration, agreed. "Our first goal is to remember and remind people what is going on in Syria and as well as the consequences of inaction," she said, motioning to symbolic red banner the group had created with the names of the more than 1,400 people killed in the chemical weapons attacks last summer. Prior to the attacks, President Obama had referred the use of chemical weapons in Syria as a "redline," which, if crossed, may trigger military retaliation from the international community.

"People forget the humanity behind the numbers," Attar said.

The decision not to respond more forcefully following the chemical weapons attack has been back in the limelight this summer, as the U.S. engages in airstrikes just across the border in northern Iraq. Zakarya still hopes for more support for the Free Syrian Army, an organization he says is fighting two enemies--President Bashar al-Assad and ISIS--but he is adamant that group has never asked for American troops on the ground in Syria.

"All we asked for is to help us take away the Assad ability to using barrel bombs… and especially chemical weapons to keep punishing the Syrian people for asking for their freedom."


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Friday
Aug222014

'Kissing Congressman' Makes Ballot, Faces "Duck Dynasty" Snub

mcallister.house.gov(NEW ORLEANS) -- Louisiana's "Kissing Congressman" Vance McAllister, seeking a political rebound after he was caught on a surveillance video kissing a staffer, qualified to be on the ballot Friday, but he also got a challenge from the Ducky Dynasty family that helped him get elected in the first place.

The Republican congressman for Louisiana's 5th District was supposed to qualify on Thursday, but missed his time slot because he said he was stuck in traffic, arriving at the Secretary of State's office after it had already closed for the day.

"We were coming down yesterday and traffic was backed up in Baton Rouge," McAllister told ABC News. "It was bumper to bumper stand-still for over an hour."

Friday is the last day in a three-day qualifying period that requires all candidates seeking public office in Louisiana to file the necessary paperwork.

After qualifying for the ballot in the morning, McAllister donned a New Orleans Saints jersey and was doused with a bucket of icy water, joining in what has become a viral campaign to raise money for research and awareness of ALS.

"I chose today after the close of my qualifying," McAllister said. "I thought it was fitting to do it down there with my Saints jersey on."

McAllister's participation in the ALS challenge came just days after House ethics rules warned members of Congress that their participation in the charitable challenge could be an ethics violation.

"No doubt, this is for an admirable cause. There is a prohibition in the Members Handbook and in the Ethics Manual on the use of official resources for the promotion or benefit of any private charitable cause," The House Administration Committee told members in an email obtained by Politico.

While members are forbidden from posting the videos to their official accounts, personal and campaign accounts are permitted.

McAllister has not posted a video to any of his official accounts.

Though McAllister didn't qualify as planned on Thursday, his Duck Dynasty challenger Zach Dasher did. Dasher is the nephew of Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson.

"It was a surreal experience. I had my whole family there," Dasher told ABC News of qualifying for the ballot, but adding jokingly that it was his 8-year-old son Max who stole the show.

"He told me that he wants to run for office someday," Dasher said. "I am against career politicians, but I think my son Max might be a career politician someday."

Robertson endorsed McAllister's candidacy in last year's special election, but this year he is trying to defeat McAllister and elect his nephew instead.

"He is going to be very involved," Dasher said of his uncle Phil. "But being related to Phil doesn't make me qualified to be the next congressman. What it does is it gives me this platform to promote that our rights do not come from man, they come from God... I'm someone who will fight to dismantle the federal takeover of state rights and restore God back to government."

Though the endorsement is an outright rejection of McAllister as a politician by the Robertson clan, the congressman said he's not taking it personally and still considers the family his friends.

"They are supporting a family member," McAllister said. "They wouldn't be the family I know them to be if they didn't support a family member. So, there are no hard feelings whatsoever."


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Friday
Aug222014

US in No Hurry to Ramp Up Fight Against ISIS in Syria

DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley/Released(WASHINGTON) -- America’s top military officials have acknowledged that ISIS will not be defeated without taking the fight to Syria, but the Pentagon on Friday tamped down any expectation that the U.S. could soon ramp up its help for moderate forces opposing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and fighting with ISIS in the country.

“I know of no plans to try to accelerate it,” Department of Defense spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters when asked if the Pentagon would speed up $500 million in funding to help moderate Syrian rebels, which it’s requested for next year. “Again, we’re working through Congress and through the budget–the budget vehicles available to us to get at that program.”

On Thursday, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey said that the administration is looking at all options to deal with the ISIS threat.

The men did not advocate for airstrikes in Syria, but did not rule them out either. On Friday, Kirby reiterated that the Pentagon continues to review all options.

“The secretary didn’t rule anything in or out,” Kirby told reporters. “I think he said that options -- that all options remain available. And they do.”

Dempsey said on Thursday, however, that airstrikes were just “one small part” of a potential overall strategy to defeat the terror group.

“I’m not predicting those will occur in Syria, at least not by the United States of America,” said Dempsey. “But it requires the application of all of the tools of national power -- diplomatic, economic, information, military.”

Both agreed, however, that despite al-Assad’s hatred of ISIS, the United States and the Assad regime are not on the same side.

“When you have the brutal dictatorship of Assad and what he has done to his own country, which perpetuated much of what is happening and has been happening in Syria -- he’s part of the problem, and is as much a part of it as probably the central core of it,” Hagel said.

“He is absolutely part of the problem,” said Dempsey.

The Obama administration has set aside $500 million to help arm and train vetted members of the Syrian opposition, who are now fighting both the Assad regime and extremist opposition groups such as ISIS and al-Nusrah Front, but that program is not set to begin for another year.

Kirby told reporters that there are no plans to speed the assistance and training. He said while the Pentagon does understand the urgency of addressing the extremist problem in Syria, the program is still subject to Congressional approval and needs to be implemented carefully, to make sure only vetted opposition members and groups receive U.S. assistance.

“You can only go as fast as right,” he said. “And a key to that is a proper vetting process and we just haven’t done that yet.”

But the three-year conflict in Syria continues. The United Nations reported on Friday that the number of people killed in Syria’s civil war has more than doubled in the past year to at least 191,000.

The U.N. identifies 191,369 deaths from the start of the conflict in March 2011 to April 2014, more than double the 92,901 deaths cited in their last report, which covered the first two years of the conflict.

U.N. human rights chief, Navi Pillay, blasted the world’s inaction on Syria.

“The killers, destroyers and torturers in Syria have been empowered and emboldened by the international paralysis,” she said in a statement Friday.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Friday
Aug222014

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan Reunite at Union League Club of Chicago

John Gress/Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- Failed presidential nominee Mitt Romney reunited with running mate Paul Ryan for the first time since the 2012 presidential election.

When the Republican Party's unsuccessful presidential ticket appeared at the Union League Club of Chicago on Thursday, Romney praised his former partner.

"I've made a couple of good decisions in my life. One was who I married, and the other was who I chose to be my running mate and there was no better person to be vice president of states than Paul Ryan!"

Romney also highlighted all the great attributes of running for president.

"I know a lot of you think it must be just awful running for president, because you got to go every night into a different hotel, you get debate after debate after debate in the primaries then in the general as well, and you have the adoring press always at your heels," he said.

The two men joked at the possibility of another run for the White House as Romney said, "So if you get the chance to run for president, do it, it's a great thing. Third time's a charm!"


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Friday
Aug222014

John Kerry Spotted in Massachusetts

State Department photo by William Ng/Public Domain(WASHINGTON) -- While the State Department hasn’t said where John Kerry is this week -- he’s out of the office the department has told media, without confirming his location on the record -- it appears the secretary has been spotted by a handful of Twitter users and one Instagrammer vacationing in Nantucket, in his home state of Massachusetts.

Although the Instagram user identified the above boat as Kerry’s, it might be impossible to confirm for certain, and it’s also unclear whether Kerry was in fact on the boat when the photo was taken.

But the number on the sail does match the number borne by Kerry’s boat in at least one past photo, and the boat itself appears to be the same.

In a racing context, at least, sail numbers can be used to identify boats, the American Sailing Association confirms to ABC News.

Kerry is apparently taking a break from Washington, D.C., life at the same time as his boss, President Obama, who is currently on vacation in Martha’s Vineyard.

The rising threat of ISIS, and its execution of American journalist James Foley, have prompted a response from the president and again raised discussion about whether a president should be criticized for being on vacation as global events unfold. Obama has received national-security briefings during his trip.

For his part, Kerry released a long written statement on Foley.

“We grieve for James Foley. We mourn for his family and his loved ones. We honor the courage and pray for the safety of all those who risk their lives to discover the truth where it is needed most,” Kerry wrote. “And make no mistake: we will continue to confront ISIL wherever it tries to spread its despicable hatred. The world must know that the United States of America will never back down in the face of such evil.”

The secretary of State also tweeted:

Kerry is due to return to the office on Aug. 31.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio