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Tuesday
Sep022014

President Obama Heads to Europe, NATO Summit to Discuss Tension in Ukraine

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama will head to Europe on Tuesday to take part in a North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit to discuss, among other things, the continued tension caused by Russia's incursion into Ukraine.

Obama will first land in Estonia, where he is expected to reaffirm the U.S.' stance that Russia should not get involved in the independent nations. At his second stop, the president will meet with other NATO leaders, but without Russian President Vladimir Putin, in Wales.

While Ukraine is not a NATO member, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was invited to this week's summit.

In a statement, NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow, highlighted the importance of "collective defense," "crisis management" and "partnerships," in handling the situation in Ukraine. The summit, initially planned to mark an end to the NATO combat mission in Afghanistan, will still touch on that subject as well, Vershbow said.

NATO is expected to form a "spearhead" force in response to Russian actions, which will be "ready to respond at short notice."


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Sep022014

Eric Cantor to Join Investment Bank

US House of Representatives(NEW YORK) -- Former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has been appointed Vice Chairman and Member of the Board of Directors of Moelis & Company, a global investment bank.

According to a release posted to Moelis & Company's website, Cantor will "provide strategic counsel to the Firm's corporate and institutional clients on key issues." He will also be involved in client development.

Cantor said that when considering his post-politics career, he "wanted to join a firm with a great entrepreneurial spirit that focused on its clients." Citing admiration of the vision of Moelis & Company, Cantor said that he felt the company was "a place where I knew my skills could help clients succeed."

The company's Chairman and CEO, Ken Moelis, called the former Republican Congressman "a pro-business advocate and one who will enhance our boardroom discussions with CEOs and senior management as we help them navigate their most important strategic decisions."


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Monday
Sep012014

Obama: 'Every Gray Hair Is Worth It'

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(MILWAUKEE) -- Fired up and in campaign form, President Obama delivered what appeared to be a pre-midterm stump speech on Monday to labor activists in Wisconsin, the state that became the labor movement's political epicenter in 2011.

"Every gray hair is worth it," he told the crowd, of pressing for economic policies such as a higher minimum wage in the face of GOP resistance.

"The American economy and American workers are better off than when I took office," he said.

Obama spoke at Laborfest 2014, a Labor Day rally in Henry Maier Festival Park. Supporters standing behind him and out in the audience wore green AFSCME and purple SEIU t-shirts.

It was a typical economic stump speech of the kind Obama has delivered over and over in American cities this year, with calls for higher wages, criticism of Republicans for blocking them, and pleas for a better life for working-class Americans.

But Monday, the president was more expressly political, exhorting the crowd to organize and vote Democratic in this fall’s midterm elections.

"I'd also want more Democrats looking out for me, I'm just saying," Obama said, after telling the crowd that if he were a worker looking for better wages and safety protections, he'd join a union.

Shouting and appearing visibly riled, Obama reminded the crowd of union and Democratic-Party victories in securing a 40-hour workweek and supporting Medicare and Social Security.

Earlier on Monday, Vice President Joe Biden delivered a similarly political, and similarly populist speech to a Labor Day rally hosted by union organizers in Detroit.

The president traveled to Wisconsin for this one appearance and was to return to the White House before departing Tuesday for Estonia and this week's NATO summit in Wales.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Monday
Sep012014

Congresswoman and Iraq War Vet Tammy Duckworth is Pregnant

Scott Olson/Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- Illinois Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth has announced she's pregnant.

In 2004, the veteran lost both of her legs and part of an arm when her helicopter was shot down in the Iraq War.

She says she became pregnant through a form of in vitro fertilization, and now she and her husband are expecting a baby girl in December.

The 46-year-old says due to her age and injuries the pregnancy is considered "high risk."

Duckworth is the first female veteran of the Iraq war to be elected to congress. She will be seeking re-election in November.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Monday
Sep012014

Obama Notifies Congress of Amirli Bombing, Airdrop Campaign

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama notified Congress of his authorization of the bombing and humanitarian airdrop campaign to help Shiite Turkmen surrounded by ISIS in the town of Amirli, Iraq, according to a letter released by the White House on Monday.

"These additional operations will be limited in their scope and duration as necessary to address this emerging humanitarian crisis and protect the civilians trapped in Amirli," Obama wrote.

Up until this point, Obama has publicly justified military actions against ISIS as protecting U.S. personnel stationed in Erbil and to assist Yezidis trapped on Mt. Sinjar. In this new letter – which could be construed as a bit unusual because it concerns an expansion of the anti-ISIS campaign he's already announced – Obama defines the Amirli strikes as solely a humanitarian/assistance mission, not as protecting Americans.

The letter followed Obama's standard practice, to announce strikes (usually two days later) in a letter to Congress "consistent with" the War Powers Resolution – an act of Congress that Obama and other presidents have declined to acknowledge as binding.

The Pentagon announced on Saturday that it had extended its bombing campaign southward to help the Turkmen. Strikes and humanitarian drops began on Saturday and strikes continued Sunday.

U.S. bombs have been falling mostly around Mosul and Mosul Dam since Obama authorized the anti-ISIS campaign three weeks ago. This weekend, the Pentagon announced a handful of strikes that brought the total to 120 in Iraq since they began Aug. 8.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Monday
Sep012014

Rep. Tom Cole: Be 'Smart About What We Do' on ISIS

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- While some Republicans have criticized President Obama for not acting quickly enough to combat the growing threat from ISIS in Syria and Iraq, Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., said Sunday on This Week that the U.S. has to be "smart about what we do" and not rush to act.

"I think frankly there's way too much emphasis on acting now and doing something immediately instead of being smart about what we do," Cole said on the This Week roundtable. "I think the elements of a strategy are already there. We know we're going to use air power. We know we're going to use special operators. We know we're going to have to build alliances on the ground. That's a very doable thing."

"They're tougher in Syria than they are in Iraq. We don't have any preexisting relationships there," Cole added. "But I think at the end of the day, look I think there's a consensus that we are going to do things, but again being a little bit thoughtful might be a good idea."

While Cole said Obama "made some bad mistakes" in pulling all U.S. troops out of Iraq in 2011 and "not taking this threat seriously earlier," he said, "I still think the elements are there to be successful."

Cole, a member of the House Republican leadership, also said he believes "there can be bipartisan support" for action against ISIS if Obama comes to Congress.

"I think the important thing for the president here is to move with Congress — that is, to not do this on his own, to make everybody put their fingerprints on the decision and say yea or nay and go home and justify it," Cole said.

Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson called the current foreign policy challenges a "potential 9/11 moment," but said more has to be learned about ISIS.

"They're bad, but what is their goal? Can they reach the American homeland?" he said.

Richardson acknowledged the regional threat posed by ISIS, but said the U.S. shouldn't act without allies and "go it alone" with military action against the group in Syria.

"You do have to have a coalition," he said.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Aug312014

Richard Clarke Calls Obama 'Wrong' on World's Dangers

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama is "wrong" to downplay the dangers facing the United States, longtime counterterrorism official and ABC News contributor Richard Clarke said in response to the president's attempts to calm concern over the escalating threat from ISIS and turmoil in the Middle East.

Obama told an audience at a Democratic fundraiser in New York Friday that the "world has always been messy" but added, "I promise you things are much less dangerous now than they were 20 years ago, 25 years ago or 30 years ago."

Clarke, appearing Sunday on This Week, said simply, "I think he's wrong."

"We're much more capable of defending ourselves now," said Clarke, who served under both Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush as the nation’s top counterterrorism official. "We have the Department of Homeland Security, we have a lot of resources going into counterterrorism, but the threat has also increased. And I think the threat has probably increased more than the defenses."

Speaking of the Islamic terrorist group ISIS, Clarke told ABC News' Martha Raddatz, "ISIS is highly capable. It has a lot of money. It has people from many, many countries. And our fear is it may have people in its ranks that we don't know about. We have the names of thousands of people, and we can stop them if they try to get into this country, but if we don’t know their names, and we don't know they're involved, they can get in."

Others experts on This Week echoed these concerns. Mubin Shaikh, a former Taliban jihadist who became an undercover counterterrorism operative, said that while terrorist recruiting efforts in the U.S. could eventually be brought under control, "the horse has bolted from the farm" in terms of  existing efforts.

Clarke emphasized the importance of law enforcement working with the local Muslim communities to combat those recruiting efforts, saying, "our best defense are our own American Muslims who have been very cooperative. They don't want anything to happen like this again in this country."

On the This Week roundtable, former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson called the ISIS threat to America a "potential 9/11 moment," but sounded a note of caution on dealing with the terror group, saying, "They're bad, but what is their goal? Can they reach the American homeland?"

Richardson acknowledged the regional threat posed by ISIS, but said the U.S. shouldn't act without allies and "go it alone" with military action against the group in Syria.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Aug312014

Cruz Invites Obama to Border, Calls for Bombing ISIS 'Back to the Stone Age'

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(DALLAS) -- Sen. Ted Cruz Saturday invited President Obama to accompany him to a golf course on the Texas-Mexico border, telling conservatives at an Americans for Prosperity summit in Dallas he thought that was "the only way there is a chance in heaven that he might come" to the region.

The Texas Republican and potential 2016 presidential contender also heavily criticized the president's foreign policies and suggested that the U.S. should bomb ISIS "back to the stone age."

"Tonight I am officially extending an invitation for Barack Obama to come join me at the border in Texas," Cruz said. "I figured the only way there is a chance in heaven that he might come: I am inviting him to a golf course."

Cruz told the audience that he is inviting Obama to join him at Lajitas Golf Resort in Big Bend, where, on "the 11th hole, the pin is on the other side of the Rio Grande, so you can only go for a hole in one."

Cruz devoted much of his speech to lambasting Democratic immigration reforms and warned that it would be "utterly lawless" for Obama to offer "amnesty" without the consent of Congress. Obama is expected to take executive action on immigration sometime this fall, but it has remained unclear when or how aggressively the president would seek to change U.S. policy.

"I'm expecting to get a call back from the president any day now to accept this invitation," Cruz said.

Cruz briefly mocked Obama's comment that he has no "strategy" yet to attack ISIS in Syria, a remark the president made in a live news conference on Thursday, on which fellow high-profile Republicans have seized.

"I'm sure everyone was shocked to hear this," Cruz said sarcastically, of the president's remark, contrasting it with Ronald Reagan's strategy in the Cold War and quoting the former president: "We win, they lose."

Cruz railed against ISIS, the jihadist group that has seized large swaths of Iraq and Syria and which shocked many in the West by executing American journalist James Foley.

"America has always been reluctant to use military force, but we have never shied away from defending the United States of America," Cruz said. "ISIS says they want to go back and reject modernity, well I think we should help them. We ought to bomb them back to the stone age."

Earlier this month, Obama authorized U.S. airstrikes against ISIS positions in northern Iraq. On Saturday, the U.S. military's Central Command announced five more drone and fighter-jet strikes had destroyed ISIS positions near the contested Mosul Dam. Those strikes brought the total up to 115 since Obama's authorization three weeks ago, CENTCOM said.

Cruz criticized Obama's foreign policy in general, alleging he's been outplayed by Russian President Vladimir Putin on the geopolitical stage. Cruz also blasted the FAA's short-lived ban on flights to Tel Aviv, during the recent Gaza conflict.

"The Obama Doctrine works very, very well," Cruz said. "You simply let Putin eat your lunch every day."


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Aug302014

California Passes Plastic Bag Ban 

iStock/Thinkstock(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- California lawmakers are sending Gov. Jerry Brown a bill that would make California the first to impose a statewide ban on single-use plastic grocery bags.

State lawmakers okayed the bill Friday after protections were added for plastic bag manufacturers.

The measure makes plastic bags illegal statewide at grocery stores and large pharmacies. It includes $2 million in loans to help manufacturers shift to producing reusable bags and lets grocers charge $0.10 each for paper and reusable plastic.


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Aug302014

Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu Facing Questions About Residency

US Senate(WASHINGTON) -- Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu is the latest Washington veteran being forced to fend off a challenge to her reelection that alleges she is no longer a resident of her home state, but lives in DC.

A similar challenge succeeded in knocking off former Indiana senator Richard Lugar in 2012, despite - or because of - his 35 years in Congress.

Landrieu's office and campaign are fighting back very cautiously.

"I have lived at my home on Prieur Street (New Orleans) most of my life and I live there now when not fulfilling my duties in Washington or serving constituents across the state," Landrieu said in a statement released to ABC News.

A Landrieu campaign official also noted that both Landrieu and her husband file taxes in Louisiana.

Her campaign, however, will not elaborate on the controversy.

It is an issue that is increasingly being employed this year against members of Congress who are repeatedly reelected, and spend most of their time in Washington.

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, acknowledged to The New York Times that he does not have a home of his own in Kansas, and his primary opponent, Dr. Milton Wolf, has attacked him over it. Rep. Dan Maffei, D-N.Y., has feuded with his Republican opponent, John Katko, over a mention of Maffei’s wife’s work and the couple’s home in the D.C. area.

Landrieu, a Democrat, is already in a race that is considered one of the most closely contested this year and could determine control of the Senate.

Landrieu claims her parents' home in New Orleans as her principle address, and listed it on her statement of candidacy filed with the Federal Election Commission earlier this year. But the Democrat also lists her multi-million dollar Washington, DC home as her address on other documents, including her filing with the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office when she qualified to be on the ballot last week.

Rob Maness, a tea party candidate in the race, filed a letter with the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office last week calling for an investigation into Landrieu’s residency. He followed up on Friday by submitting written complaints to district attorneys in four parishes, calling on them to object to the Landrieu's qualifications as a candidate. Landrieu's leading Republican opponent, Rep. Bill Cassidy, has piled on to paint Landrieu as a creature of Washington.

Landrieu maintains that she lives at her parents' home in New Orleans, of which she is a partial owner under a family trust and where she is registered to vote.

According to the Louisiana Secretary of State's listed qualifications, a candidate for U.S. Senate must "be an inhabitant of Louisiana when elected."

The Constitution governs residency requirements, broadly. As Louisiana's law is worded, it requires senators to "be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen."

The definition of what it is to be "an inhabitant" is a broad one, said Dr. Pearson Cross, the head of the political science department at the University of Louisiana. From a legal standpoint, he said it would be difficult to prove that Landrieu is not an inhabitant.

"Courts have been reluctant to intervene in that and have given a lot of latitude in defining residency," Cross said. "To say that Mary Landrieu is not a resident is a bit disingenuous given that Senate and Congress have become a full-time occupation and that their work is done in Washington."

Cross said the issue of Landrieu's residency is a ploy likely to influence voters who are already inclined to vote against Landrieu.

"It will have resonance with some voters who are pre-inclined to believe," Cross said. "It will probably have little effect on voters who aren’t inclined to believe it. In terms of Louisiana politics, it’s clear that many people, particularly those with national focus, are running against Washington. To the extent that you can tar someone with the Washington brush, it’s an effective campaign tactic."


Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio