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US Offers Help in Wake of Nepal Earthquake

Stocktrek Images/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Government is offering help to Nepal after Saturday's massive 7.8 earthquake.

The U.S. is sending disaster response teams to Nepal to help in the search for survivors.

A team from USAID will determine how much long term help the United States can provide, including a specialized search and rescue team from Virginia to help search for survivors.

The U.S. is providing an initial $1 million to help with quake relief, with more aid expected in coming days.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Official: US Readying Hacking-Related Sanctions

scyther5/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. government is preparing to order the first round of sanctions against foreign entities or individuals involved in hacking, according to a senior Department of Justice official, in what will be the first test of the government's newest tool in cyber deterrence.

The presidential authorization for cyber-specific economic sanctions, announced at the start of the month, is still "hot of the presses" in government time, but Deputy Assistant Attorney General for National Security Luke Dembosky told ABC News he "wouldn't expect it to take too long" before it's put to use.

Dembosky said that though certain potential targets were in mind even before the new sanctions were authorized, the government is being very deliberate about who it chooses to go after and when, with his department working with the State Department, Treasury and others, each providing input.

As announced April 1, the sanctions are designed to go beyond the hackers themselves to target customers "downstream" -- the individuals and entities that buy or use information or capabilities they know or suspect to have been stolen by hackers. The sanctions could freeze economic assets and make it more difficult for companies involved to do business in the U.S., according to the White House.

"This is about leveling the playing field," Dembosky said Saturday at the RSA cyber security conference in San Francisco.

In announcing the new sanction capability, President Obama wrote in an Executive Order that the cyber threats facing the nation constituted a "national emergency."

"The increasing prevalence and severity of malicious cyber-enabled activities originating from, or directed by persons located, in whole or in substantial part, outside the United States constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States," Obama said.

Some cyber security experts had long lobbied for sanctions to be added to America’s tools to counter prolific cyber-attacks –- in addition to public condemnation and the filing of criminal charges. As Michael Daniel, Special Assistant to the President and Cybersecurity Coordinator told reporters when the sanction program was announced, it is meant to "fill a gap" and reach malicious actors who are "difficult for diplomatic and law enforcement tools to reach."

Dembosky declined to elaborate on who the first round of sanctions could target, but U.S. officials have publicly bemoaned cyber attacks attributed to Chinese actors both against the U.S. government and major American corporations.

Speaking alongside Dumbosky, Sean Kanuck, the National Intelligence Officer for Cyber Issues at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, told the RSA audience Friday that China is "leading the way" in economic espionage.

Last May the Department of Justice indicted five Chinese military officers with hacking U.S. companies to steal industry secrets about nuclear and solar power.

More recently U.S. officials blamed Russian hackers for infiltrating both the State Department and the White House's unclassified email systems.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


White House Correspondents Dinner: 10 Celebrities Taking Washington By Storm This Weekend

ABC/Rick Rowell(WASHINGTON) -- What are Donald Trump, model Chrissy Tiegen and Bradley Cooper all doing in Washington, D.C. this weekend?

These celebrities are on hand to attend what’s affectionately dubbed by Beltway insiders as “Nerd Prom” -- or otherwise known as the White House Correspondents Dinner.

Each year, the commander-in-chief takes a night off from serious governing to poke fun at himself at the expense of the White House press corps and their celebrity guests.

Nerd Prom may not be the hottest social scene of the year, but the exclusive parties over the weekend and the annual dinner do have the most eclectic group of people mingling over hors d'oeuvres.

Famous faces like Martha Stewart, Jane Fonda and Téa Leoni will share the spotlight with Sen Kirsten Gillibrand (D, New York), Sen. Pat Toomey (R, Pennsylvania) and Megan Smith (the United States Chief Technology Officer). We would love to know what conversation topics dominate the dinner -– foreign policy issues or who has taken the most selfies with famous people?

Here are a few of the biggest names to look out for:


Cooper has been nominated for an Oscar three times (most recently for American Sniper) and has admitted to going commando to meet POTUS.


Trump has floated the idea of running for the Oval Office many times and at the 2011 dinner said he was "honored" to be the butt of Obama's and Seth Meyers' jokes.


Leoni, star of Madam Secretary, will be able to get pointers on her current role when sits at the same table as former secretary of state Madeleine Albright.


Fonda most recently played a cable news company executive on HBO's The Newsroom.


The reality TV star has had cameos on The Hills and Keeping Up with the Kardashians.


Dane is known to fans as "Dr. McSteamy" on ABC's long-running fan favorite Grey's Anatomy.


The New England Patriot's head coach was at the White House earlier this week where he gave Obama a thumbs down for making a Deflate Gate joke.


Britton plays a country music superstar on ABC's Nashville, and recently brought her son to the White House Easter Egg Roll.


The supermodel landed the cover of the 2014 swimsuit edition of Sport's Illustrated and is married to singer John Legend.


You know him as Cameron Tucker from the popular ABC sitcom Modern Family and Stonestreet has attended Nerd Prom in the past.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Cecily Strong ‘Terrified’ to Host the White House Correspondents' Dinner

Photo by: Dana Edelson/NBC(WASHINGTON) -- The “Girl You Wished You Never Started a Conversation With at a Party” is about to host Washington’s biggest party.

That’s right, Saturday Night Live cast member Cecily Strong, whose irritating party persona quickly become an SNL fan favorite, will headline this year’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner, a lavish event where the press, politicos and the Hollywood elite mingle to hear President Obama crack a few jokes.

Let’s just hope Strong doesn’t channel the party bit at the WHCD:

Strong, 31, told Variety that, initially, she was “terrified” to host the dinner, especially since her stand-up will come after Obama’s.

“He’s maybe our funniest president,” she said. “So it’s tough to follow that guy.”

Strong actually learned about the Correspondents’ Dinner gig from her father, Bill Strong, a former Associated Press Bureau Chief in Illinois. He called her after a friend texted him to ask whether his daughter “would do the White House thing.”

“It took us a week to figure out it was real!” Strong told Capitol File. “I’m sure someone was probably like, ‘What if we have a woman?’ Duh.”

Strong is only the fourth female host in the dinner’s 101-year history. Until 1962, the Correspondents’ Dinner barred women from even attending.

But not everyone was sure she should take the gig.

“A lot of people say no because it’s notoriously a very tough room. I was encouraged by a lot of people to say no,” she added. “You even have to go after the funniest president. I’m just looking to break even.”

But Strong is used to the ups and downs. After just a year at SNL, she joined Seth Meyers – himself a former WHCD host – on the SNL Weekend Update in 2013. (A year later, she was abruptly pulled off the segment.)

As for the Correspondents’ Dinner, “I don’t want to be too mean where it really hurts somebody,” she said of her nerd prom shtick. “I’m going to pick everyone’s brains! Everyone’s!”

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Obama Makes Case for Trade Deal in Weekly Address 

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In his weekly address, President Obama makes the case for his trade deal, which has been met by push-back from fellow Democrats and Republicans.

“If America doesn’t shape the rules of the global economy today, to benefit our workers, while our economy is in a position of new global strength, then China will write those rules,” Obama said.

The president adds that any deal he signs will be “the most progressive trade agreement” in U.S. history, with provisions for both workers and the environment.

“So this isn’t a race to the bottom, for lower wages and working conditions.  The trade agreements I’m negotiating will drive a race to the top,” he said.

Obama said the newly proposed trade deal “fixes a lot of what was wrong with NAFTA” and levels the playing field for American workers.

Read the full transcript of the president's address:

Hi, everybody.  I’ve talked a lot lately about why new trade deals are important to our economy.

Today, I want to talk about why new trade deals are important to our values.

They’re vital to middle-class economics – the idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.

These are simple values.  They’re American values.  And we strive to make sure our own economy lives up to them, especially after a financial crisis brought about by recklessness and greed.  But we also live in a world where our workers have to compete on a global scale.  Right now, on an uneven playing field.  Where the rules are different.  And that’s why America has to write the rules of the global economy – so that our workers can compete on a level playing field.

I understand why a lot of people are skeptical of trade deals.  Past deals didn’t always live up to the hype.  They didn’t include the kind of protections we’re fighting for today.  

We have lessons to learn from the past – and we have learned them.  But trying to stop a global economy at our shores isn’t one of those lessons.  We can’t surrender to the future – because we are meant to win the future.  If America doesn’t shape the rules of the global economy today, to benefit our workers, while our economy is in a position of new global strength, then China will write those rules.  I’ve seen towns where manufacturing collapsed, plants closed down, and jobs dried up.  And I refuse to accept that for our workers.  Because I know when the playing field is level, nobody can beat us.

That’s why, when I took office, we started thinking about how to revamp trade in a way that actually works for working Americans.  And that’s what we’ve done with a new trade partnership we’re negotiating in the Asia-Pacific – home to the world’s fastest-growing markets.

It’s the highest-standard trade agreement in history.  It’s got strong provisions for workers and the environment – provisions that, unlike in past agreements, are actually enforceable.  If you want in, you have to meet these standards.  If you don’t, then you’re out.  Once you’re a part of this partnership, if you violate your responsibilities, there are actually consequences.  And because it would include Canada and Mexico, it fixes a lot of what was wrong with NAFTA, too.

So this isn’t a race to the bottom, for lower wages and working conditions.  The trade agreements I’m negotiating will drive a race to the top.  And we’re making sure American workers can retool through training programs and community colleges, and use new skills to transition into new jobs.  

If I didn’t think this was the right thing to do for working families, I wouldn’t be fighting for it.  We’ve spent the past six years trying to rescue the economy, retool the auto industry, and revitalize American manufacturing.  And if there were ever an agreement that undercut that progress, or hurt those workers, I wouldn’t sign it.  My entire presidency is about helping working families recover from recession and rebuild for the future.  As long as I’m President, that’s what I’ll keep fighting to do.  

Thanks, and have a great weekend.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Paul Ryan Touts Expanding Trade in GOP Weekly Address 

United States House of Representatives(WASHINGTON) -- In this week’s Republican address, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin spoke of new legislation regarding Congressional control over new trade agreements he argues will create jobs and boost wages to fuel economic growth.

Ryan, the House Ways & Means Committee Chairman, said the proposed “trade promotion authority” bill is widely supported by farmers, manufacturers, and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

“We have a chance here to write the rules on our terms, to raise other countries to our standards, to create more opportunity for our people,” Ryan said. “This is our moment. It’s our chance to lead, to restore American leadership in the world.”

Ryan contends the bill will give Congress a stronger hand in outlining priorities for trade negotiations and holding the administration accountable, especially at a time when the U.S. is negotiating trade agreements in Europe and along the Pacific Rim.

“You know, the stakes are really high—because in the global economy, if you are not moving forward, you are falling behind,” Ryan said.

Read the full transcript of the Republican address:

Hi, I’m Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

This week, our committee passed a bill that we’re pretty excited about.  It would establish what we call TPA—or “trade promotion authority.”  And soon that bill will go before Congress.

I think this is one of the most important things Congress can do for the country right now.  So, here’s the issue.

Right now, the United States is negotiating two historic trade agreements—one with our friends in the Pacific Rim and another with our friends in Europe.  We need these trade agreements so we can lay down fair and strong rules that tear down trade barriers and open markets to American products.

You see, ninety six percent of the world’s consumers—they don’t live in the United States; they live in other countries.  We have to make more things in America and sell them overseas, so we can create more jobs here at home.  And when we do, American workers benefit.  Manufacturing jobs that rely on trade pay 16 percent more on average.

But today, the deck is stacked against our workers in far too many places.  We let other countries sell their products over here.  But they’ve put up trade barriers that make it hard to sell our products over there.

These trade agreements will level the playing field for America’s workers.  But to complete them, we need TPA.

So what is it?

TPA is a process for getting the most effective trade agreements possible—and for holding the administration accountable all along the way.

TPA puts Congress in the driver’s seat—because it lets Congress set the agenda.  We say to the administration three things.  First, here are your negotiating objectives—150 of them.  Tear down barriers to our products.  Beef up protections for intellectual property.  Get rid of kickbacks for foreign-government firms.

Second, here are your transparency requirements.  To name a few: You’ve got to let any member of Congress read the negotiating offers at any time.  You even have to allow any member to attend the negotiating rounds.  And 60 days before the administration even agrees to any agreement, you’ve got to publish the full text so the American people can read it for themselves.

And third, Congress gets the final say.  If you meet all of these requirements, we will give the agreement an up-or-down vote—without amendment.  This will give our trading partners the confidence they need to make their best offers.

But if the administration doesn’t do all that we have said, we can cancel the vote, we can change it, or stop it completely.  In short, TPA will hold the administration accountable and get us the highest quality agreements possible.

You know, the stakes are really high—because in the global economy, if you are not moving forward, you are falling behind.  China is negotiating trade deals all over the world, and they’re trying to rig the rules in their favor.  So it all comes down to this question: Is China going to write the rules of the global economy, or are we?

Are we going to rise to the occasion and provide American leadership in the world?

This is our challenge—and our opportunity.  We have a chance here to write the rules on our terms, to raise other countries to our standards, to create more opportunity for our people.

All across the country, people are coming together to support TPA: farmers, ranchers, manufacturers, Democrats, Republicans.  They know the stakes.  They know what this means for our country.  And Congress should not let them down.

We’re the only country that can do this.  We’re the only country that can stand up for free enterprise and the rule of law.  This is our moment.  It’s our chance to lead, to restore American leadership in the world.

We’ve still got a lot of work to do.  But it all begins with TPA and this vote.  Thank you.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


How Jeb Bush Sticks to His Paleo Diet on the Campaign Trail

Darren McCollester/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- When it comes to food, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is learning the art of self-control.

As he travels around the country weighing a run for the presidency in 2016, Bush has managed to adhere to the Paleo diet, learning how to navigate a campaign trail with tempting food around every corner.

On a recent trip to New Hampshire, Bush showed that discipline while eating dinner at the Hilton Garden Inn, dissecting his plate in what the New York Times described as the “Jeb Bush treatment.”

"Steak Tips Susanne, the $21 entree at the Hilton Garden Inn in Manchester, N.H., arrived as a carefully composed plate: strips of sirloin, sautéed peppers and caramelized onions atop a bed of linguine with a side of garlic bread," the New York Times reported. "Then the dish underwent the Jeb Bush treatment. The garlic bread was instantly banished to the plate of a nearby aide. The pasta was conspicuously pushed aside."

Bush reportedly turns to grilled chicken and salads for main courses and snacks on almonds. It may not be the most satisfying diet (Bush has described himself as “always hungry” and “starving”), but the Paleo regimen has reportedly produced results. The slimmed-down governor is said to have lost nearly 30 pounds.

But Bush does admit he deviates on the Paleo plan from time to time by indulging in wine in the evenings, and at a “Politics and Pie” event in New Hampshire last week, he blatantly broke the rules of his diet for all to see.

“This is a total violation,” Bush said as he gleefully shoveled fork after fork of blueberry pie into this mouth. “To hell with the diet. Where are the French fries?”

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


US Hostage Policy Review To Focus on Family Communication

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The White House is looking at ways to better communicate with the families of American hostages held overseas, as part of its broader policy review in the wake of the killing of two innocent civilians by a U.S. drone strike.

“There is a premium on clear, direct, specific, regular, reliable communication with these families, and that can be difficult when you have a wide range of agencies that are involved in those conversations,” Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters at the daily briefing on Friday. “The effort is to try to streamline those communications, to make that a communication more effective and more sensitive to the needs of these families.”

As part of this effort, the White House is seeking input from the families of those who have been held hostage.

“Throughout this process the administration has been committed to incorporating the viewpoint of families that have been unfortunately involved in this process,” Earnest said. “We have, on the front end, solicited some input from families of those who have been held hostage.”

One option on the table is the creation of a “fusion cell” to coordinate responses and enable a “whole-of-government response” to overseas hostage situations.

Earnest suggested that this cell could be an alternative to the idea of a “hostage czar” that some, including the Weinstein’s congressman, have proposed.

 “I'm not in a position where I'm ruling out the creation of a hostage czar. I'm just pointing out that the proposal that's being discussed right now is one that's -- that is in pursuit of a similar goal, but with a different composition,” he said.

Earnest did not offer a timeline for this review, but said families would have an opportunity to offer feedback based on their own personal experiences.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Obama on Hostages: 'We All Bleed When We Lose An American Life'

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama on Friday reiterated his commitment to reviewing the American operation that killed two civilian hostages to prevent the future loss of innocent lives.

“We are going to review what happened. We are going to identity the lessons that can be learned and any improvements and changes that can be made,” the president told employees at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. “I know those of you who are here share our determination to continue doing everything we can to prevent the loss of innocent lives.”

Pausing for reflection, the president spoke briefly about the difficulty of these moments.

“I was asked by somebody how do you absorb news like that that we received the other day and I told the truth, ‘it’s hard,’” he said. “But the one thing I wanted everybody to know, because I know you, because I work with you, because I know the quality of this team, is that we all bleed when we lose an American life. We all grieve when any innocent life is taken.”

“We understand the solemn responsibilities that are given to us and our first job is to make sure that we protect the American people," he continued. "But there is not a person that I talk to that's involved in the intelligence community that also doesn’t understand that we  have to do so while upholding our values and our ideals and our laws and our constitutions and our commitment to democracy.”

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Warren Weinstein Family Blasts US Government over Al Qaeda Hostage Crisis

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — President Obama personally took responsibility Thursday for the death of an American and an Italian hostage killed in a U.S. counter-terrorism operation in January, but his words appear to be little comfort to the family of the American, who said the U.S. government as a whole has been "inconsistent and disappointing" for years in their time of need.

“I want to thank Congressman John Delaney, Senator Barbara Mikulski, and Senator Ben Cardin -- as well as specific officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation -- for their relentless efforts to free my husband,” Elaine Weinstein, wife to slain hostage Warren Weinstein, said in a statement shortly after the White House's grim announcement. “Unfortunately, the assistance we received from other elements of the U.S. Government was inconsistent and disappointing over the course of three and a half years. We hope that my husband’s death and the others who have faced similar tragedies in recent months will finally prompt the U.S. Government to take its responsibilities seriously and establish a coordinated and consistent approach to supporting hostages and their families.”

Elaine Weinstein also blasted the Pakistani government and military, for whom she said her husband's safe return "should have been a priority for them based on his contributions to their country."

"[B]ut they failed to take action earlier in his captivity when opportunity presented itself, instead treating Warren’s captivity as more of an annoyance than a priority. I hope the nature of our future relationship with Pakistan is reflective of how they prioritize situations such as these," she wrote.

On Friday the Pakistani government said it can "fully understand this tragic loss," having lost "thousands of innocent civilians in the war against terrorism."

The White House recently ordered a full review of how the U.S. deals with hostage situations, in the wake of the deaths of several Americans either in the clutches of al Qaeda or at the hands of the al Qaeda offshoot ISIS. U.S. officials told ABC News significant changes will be recommended in the coming weeks.

Weinstein was killed along with Italian aid worker Giovanni Lo Porto in a CIA drone strike in mid-January in Pakistan's tribal area, a U.S. official told ABC News Thursday.

"I want to express our grief and condolences for the families of two hostages," Obama said Thursday from the White House briefing room, noting that at the time, the U.S. believed no civilians were present at the site.

"Since 9/11, our counter-terrorism efforts have prevented terrorism attacks and saved innocent lives, both here in America and around the world, and that determination to protect innocent life only makes the loss of these two men especially painful for all of us," he added. "It is a cruel and bitter truth that in the fog of war generally and our fight against terrorists specifically, mistakes, sometimes deadly mistakes, can occur. But one of the things that sets America apart from many other nations, one of the things that makes us exceptional is our willingness to confront squarely our imperfections and to learn from our mistakes."

That strike and another just days later also took out two American members of al Qaeda, Ahmed Farouq and Adam Gadahn. Neither, officials said, were the intended targets of the strike.

Prior to Thursday's announcement, the U.S. government had acknowledged killing four Americans in drone strikes since 2009 -- only one of whom, al Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, was an intended target.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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