The Mystery of the Presidential Golf Ball

Posted on: July 29th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — Looks like President Obama’s back swing might need a little work.

A customized golf ball was reportedly found in the woods off the first hole at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland.

The ball had “Titleist 44″ printed on one side and “POTUS” on the other.

Instagram user “larrydoh” claimed to have found the ball while playing a round of golf at Congressional Country Club over the weekend, writing “Looks like he’s off line again” in his post Sunday.

Congressional Country Club was unable to verify whether the president plays with such a golf ball, and Titleist did not respond to a request for comment.

However, the presidential golf ball very well may belong to Obama — as he was golfing at Congressional over the weekend.

President Obama played a round of golf Saturday with Mike Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser, co-hosts of ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption.”

And on the first hole, who wouldn’t let POTUS take a mulligan?

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Chicago Mayor Says ‘Kill Switch’ on Cell Phones Could Decrease Theft

Posted on: July 29th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) — Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is pushing for cell phones to be equipped with a “kill switch.”

A kill switch would allow a cell phone owner to completely disable a phone if it is lost or stolen.

Mayor Emanuel hopes the legislation would lead to a drop-off in thefts.

“So if one of the reasons on robbery, people are robbing, is for smart phones if it automatically switches off, it takes away the incentive for the robbers to actually take the smart phones, steal the smart phones,” Emanuel said.

Smart phone thefts have accounted for up to half of all street crime in some cities. Minnesota and California have already adopted the legislation.

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Five Things to Know About the New VA Secretary

Posted on: July 29th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

AP obama Robert McDonaldmar 140630 16x9 608 Five Things to Know About the New VA Secretary

Charles Dharapak/AP Photo

The Senate confirmed Robert McDonald as the new Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs today, one month after President Obama nominated him for the post.

McDonald was confirmed with a vote of 97-0. McDonald, a former CEO of Procter & Gamble, will join the VA as the embattled department tries to ease wait times for veterans by providing health care outside the VA system as well as hiring new doctors, nurses and clinicians at VA facilities.

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Here are five things that could help McDonald in his new position leading the VA.

1. He Is a West Point Grad

McDonald graduated in the top 2 percent of his class at West Point and went on to serve in the U.S. Army as an Airborne Ranger captain in the 82nd Airborne Division. During his confirmation hearing, McDonald told senators his experiences at West Point and in the military influenced his leadership style at Procter & Gamble and will help him at the VA.

“I am still guided by the West Point Cadet Prayer, which encourages us to ‘choose the harder right rather than the easier wrong,’” McDonald said earlier this month.

2. He Comes From a Military Family

Not only did McDonald serve in the military, but so did multiple members of his family, including his father, who was part of the Army Air Corps after World War II. His wife’s father became a POW after he was shot down over Europe, and his wife’s uncle served in Vietnam, where he as exposed to Agent Orange, which he still receives treatment for through the VA system.

3. He Worked at Procter & Gamble for 33 Years

McDonald started his career at Procter & Gamble as a brand assistant, eventually making his way to the top of the company, where he managed more than 120,000 employees. Procter & Gamble is a unique company in that its employees are promoted from within, similar to the tradition of rising in the ranks in the military. Lawmakers who met with McDonald ahead of his confirmation said they were impressed with his management experience at Procter & Gamble.

4. He Will Give Lawmakers His Personal Cell Phone Number

At his confirmation hearing, McDonald said he would give his personal cell phone number to all the senators on the committee to make sure he is held accountable for his work at the VA, even if that means after-hours phone calls.

“Every member of the committee will have my cellphone number. And I would expect if we’re not meeting your needs you will call me,” McDonald said. “When you run a large corporation globally, you have a cellphone that’s on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and it gets called. And so if you have concerns I want to know about them and I want to react to them.”

5. He Compiled a List of What It Takes to Be a Leader

McDonald wrote a list called “What I Believe In,” which includes 10 principles he lives by and could be applied to his time at the VA.

Here’s the list: 1. Living a life driven by purpose is more meaningful and rewarding than meandering through life without direction. 2. Companies must do well to do good and must do good to well. 3. Everyone wants to succeed, and success is contagious. 4. Putting people in the right jobs is one of the most important jobs of the leader. 5. Character is the most important trait of a leader. 6. Diverse groups of people are more innovative than homogeneous groups. 7. Ineffective systems and cultures are bigger barriers to achievement than the talents of people. 8. There will be some people in the organization who will not make it on the journey. 9. Organizations must renew themselves. 10. The true test of the leader is the performance of the organization when they are absent or after they depart.

ABC News’ Serena Marshall contributed to this report.

 

Rand Paul, Cory Booker Tease Each Other on Making DC ‘Hot’ List

Posted on: July 29th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Mirror mirror on the wall, are Rand Paul and Cory Booker the most beautiful of them all? The answer is yes, at least according to an annual assessment of D.C.’s best-looking people.

The Hill released its annual “50 Most Beautiful” rankings on Tuesday, which included several lawmakers from Capitol Hill, including Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Cory Booker, D-N.J. The two senators ribbed each other on Twitter for making the list.

Paul, who came in as the ninth-most beautiful person, took a jab at Booker for being listed in 44th place.

In response, Booker, 45, noted that he and Paul, 51, were added out of “pity” instead of based on looks.

Other lawmakers who made the list included Reps. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif.;  Donna Edwards, D-Md.; Tony Cardenas, D-Calif.; Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla.; and Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio.

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Senate Confirms Robert McDonald as VA Secretary

Posted on: July 29th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The Senate confirmed Robert McDonald as the new Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs Tuesday, one month after President Obama nominated him for the post.

McDonald, a former CEO of Procter & Gamble, was confirmed with a vote of 97-0.

Late Monday night, a conference committee advanced legislation to provide nearly $17 billion in funding to help ease VA wait times and provide veterans with faster access to healthcare both in and out of the VA system.

The House and Senate hope to pass the legislation by the end of the week before August recess starts.

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Rand Paul, Cory Booker Tease Each Other on Making DC ‘Hot’ List

Posted on: July 29th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

Mirror mirror on the wall, are Rand Paul and Cory Booker the most beautiful of them all? The answer is yes, at least according to an annual assessment of D.C.’s best-looking people.

The Hill released its annual “50 Most Beautiful” rankings today, which included several lawmakers from Capitol Hill, including Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Cory Booker, D-N.J. The two senators ribbed each other on Twitter for making the list.

Paul, who came in as the ninth-most beautiful person, made a jab at Booker for being listed in 44th place.

Congrats to my friend @CoryBooker for being #44 out of 50 on The Hill’s Most Beautiful List: http://t.co/7KjpPbe1De

— Senator Rand Paul (@SenRandPaul) July 29, 2014

 

In response, Booker, 45, noted that he and Paul, 51, were added out of “pity” instead of based on looks.

I hate to tell u this Rand but I think we were late pity adds 2 this list of the young & gorgeous MT @SenRandPaul Hill’s Most Beautiful List

— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) July 29, 2014

 

Other lawmakers who made the list included Reps. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif.; Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md.; Tony Cardenas, D-Calif.; Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla.; and Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio.

Kerry Addresses Critics, Says He’s Still Talking with Netanyahu

Posted on: July 29th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

US Department of State(WASHINGTON) — Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday that he is still talking with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about achieving a lasting truce, saying the two men spoke again Monday night.

“The prime minister talked to me about an idea and a possibility of a cease-fire, he raised it with me, as he has consistently,” Kerry said during a press conference with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin.

Kerry also dismissed the criticism that has been directed at him, including a blistering op-ed in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that likened him to “an alien, who just disembarked his spaceship in the Mideast.”

“I’ve taken hits before in politics; I’m not worried about that. This is not about me,” the almost three-decade veteran of the U.S. Senate said.

The Israelis have made no secret of their problems with a draft proposal Kerry gave them last week, which they contend gave too many concessions to Hamas. Kerry suggested that in this last conversation with Netanyahu, the prime minister underscored his desire for Israeli forces to continue destroying tunnels Hamas has built across the border.

The United States supports the Israel Defense Forces’ ability to do so, but that provision was not explicitly laid out in the proposal Kerry submitted to Israel last week.

“What we put on the table, in fact, allowed Israel — let me make this clear — allowed Israel to continue to deal with these tunnels even as they were in a short-term cease-fire to try to see if there was a way to reach a sustainable cease-fire,” Kerry insisted.

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Boehner Shoots Down Impeachment Talk, Blasts Dems

Posted on: July 29th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — House Speaker John Boehner shot down talk of impeachment once again Tuesday, raising his voice as he blamed Democrats for trying to push the idea for political gain.

“We have no plans to impeach the president. We have no future plans,” Boehner said, answering a question from ABC News at a press conference. “Listen, it’s all a scam started by Democrats at the White House.”

A scam or not, Democrats say they are raising record amounts of money over the threat of impeaching President Obama. Republican leaders have repeatedly said they have no plans to call for articles of impeachment. But they are moving forward with a lawsuit against the president, accusing him of overreaching his executive authority, which has kept the talk of impeachment alive. The House is set to approve this rare lawsuit in a vote Wednesday.

On the Senate floor Tuesday, Majority Leader Harry Reid also seized on the impeachment idea.

“We shouldn’t be off on the tracks of impeachment and suing the president,” Reid said. “We should be legislating.”

Democratic leaders have flooded supporters with fundraising appeals, including one that said: “House Republicans Refuse to Rule Out Impeachment.” The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said it raised $2.1 million in online contributions last weekend alone.

Boehner blasted Democrats at a press conference Tuesday for misleading Americans.

“This whole talk about impeachment is coming from the president’s own staff and coming from Democrats on Capitol Hill,” Boehner said. “Why? Because they’re trying to rally their people to give money and to show up in their year’s elections.”

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Summer of Sanctions

Posted on: July 29th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

By MICHAEL FALCONE (@michaelpfalcone)

NOTABLES

  • BREAKING OVERNIGHT – U.S. SAYS RUSSIAN MISSILE LAUNCH ‘SERIOUS’ VIOLATION OF TREATY. The Obama administration publicly accused Russia of violating a 1987 nuclear missile treaty, a declaration likely to deepen tensions between the two countries already at odds over crises in Ukraine, Syria, and the Middle East, ABC’s DEVIN DWYER reports. The allegations, raised by President Obama in a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, center on ground-launched cruise missile tests conducted in 2011, an administration official said. The U.S. determined those tests violated Russia’s treaty agreement to not to “possess, produce, or flight-test” missiles with a range of up to 5,500 kilometers. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces, or INF, Treaty was signed in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. “This is a very serious matter which we have attempted to address with Russia for some time now,” an administration official said, requesting anonymity to speak ahead of a formal announcement. An annual State Department compliance report on arms control treaties, due out today, is expected to outline in detail the U.S. findings of the alleged Russian treaty violation. http://abcn.ws/1As93fj
  • ‘OUR PURPOSE HERE AGAIN IS NOT TO PUNISH RUSSIA’: The White House yesterday said it expects the European Union to impose new sanctions against critical sectors of the Russian economy this week, ABC’s MARY BRUCE notes. “We expect the European Union to take significant additional steps this week,” Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken told reporters at the daily White House briefing, “including in key sectors of the Russian economy.” The U.S. is preparing to take additional steps as well.  “In turn and in full coordination with Europe, the United States will implement additional measures itself,” Blinken said, reiterating “our purpose here again is not to punish Russia but to make clear that it must cease its support for the separatists and stop destabilizing Ukraine.”
  • TODAY AT THE WHITE HOUSE: This morning, President Obama meets with rank and file House Democrats at the White House to discuss economic issues. Later the president visits wounded service members at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda.

 

THE ROUNDTABLE

ABC’s RICK KLEIN: Forget the slim and diminishing chances of actually passing a law before Congress breaks for the rest of the summer. The question now — for Democrats and Republicans, Senate leaders and House leaders – is whether something is better than nothing in responding to the border crisis, before everyone heads home for the campaign stretch.  Clearly any incumbent would rather talk about something that passed – right? Maybe not so fast, not with primary season not quite finished for Republicans, and not with red-state Democrats eager to show daylight from their party’s president and congressional leadership. (Would Mary Landrieu or Mark Pryor want to throw more money at the border without changing the 2008 law governing deportations of those streaming across the border from Central America?) It’s already popping up in ads: “Thanks to the pro-amnesty policies of President Obama and Sen. [Jean] Shaheen, we have an immigration crisis on our hands,” Scott Brown says in a new TV ad airing in New Hampshire. http://youtu.be/WQi4WBSc-hk Ben Sasse, the GOP Senate candidate in Nebraska, takes a slightly different angle in a video his campaign posted online: “Go to Central America and stop the bleeding,” Sasse says to President Obama. http://youtu.be/cd5D5elEsk8

ABC’s SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: The days until the congressional recess are ticking down and as the days pass the reality that nothing will get done on the immigration front seems likely, but when it comes to 2014 candidates at least two–but likely many more–are running on the issue. Today, Nebraska GOP Senate candidate Ben Sasse released a video calling on the president to travel  to see the “human tragedy.” “President Obama needs to go to Central America this week and make a major speech,” Sasse says looking directly at the camera. “He needs to say to the people of Latin America, ‘The United States’ borders are not open, we are not going to have amnesty.’” He’s not the only one. Yesterday, New Hampshire GOP Senate candidate Scott Brown became the first candidate to release an ad on the issue, claiming “folks who come here illegally they just walk across the border” and “that’s wrong.” He blames the crisis both on the president and his opponent: “It is time for us to secure the border once and for all and tell people who try to come here illegally that we intend to enforce the law.” Expect many more candidates on both sides of the aisle to embrace the issue, especially if after this week they can blame Congress for doing absolutely nothing. WATCH the Sasse video: http://youtu.be/cd5D5elEsk8 and the Brown ad: http://youtu.be/WQi4WBSc-hk

ABC’s ARIANE DE VOGUE: Though the Supreme Court issued a major opinion concerning gay rights in 2013, it has so far sidestepped the issue of whether states can ban gay marriages. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling Monday striking down Virginia’s strict marriage laws brought the issue one step closer to the justices. It’s the second time a federal appeals court has struck down a state ban since the Supreme Court ruling in United States vs. Windsor. It will take at least a few weeks for the 4th Circuit’s ruling to go into effect. In the meantime, supporters of the law could ask for a re-hearing with either the full court of appeals or the Supreme Court. Though the opinion deals directly with Virginia’s laws, the reasoning could apply to other states under the 4th Circuit’s jurisdiction, “including to states with bans that, as the majority noted, are similar to Virginia’s, including South Carolina, North Carolina, and West Virginia,” said Elizabeth Wydra of the Constitutional Accountability Center. http://abcn.ws/1nACDKn

 

BUZZ

with ABC’s SCOTT WILSON

SARAH PALIN’S NEW TV CHANNEL SPAWNS TWITTER MOCKERY. The hashtag #PalinTVshows has taken off on Twitter since the announcement of Sarah Palin’s new, subscription-based channel. Using plays on existing TV show titles, the majority of the tweets ridiculed the former vice-presidential candidate and her latest endeavor. Palin publicly announced her project Sunday. In a video on her YouTube channel, she called it “a news channel that really is a lot more than news.” It will cover stories about her family, behind-the-scenes looks at events and “the issues that the mainstream media won’t talk about,” Palin said. Palin expressed hope that the channel would be a “community,” where viewers could share their concerns directly with her. However, this community does come at a cost. The subscription rate is $9.95 a month or $99.95 a year. ABC’s JENNIFER HANSLER compiled a list of Twitter’s best Palin TV one-liners. http://abcn.ws/1pxkHgc

WHAT HAPPENED WHEN 3 POLITICIANS TRIED A MINIMUM WAGE BUDGET. Have you ever seen a congressman snacking on a measly tin of sardines? Or maybe a governor ordering a McChicken off the dollar menu? In Washington this week that scene was reality for three Democratic politicians who are taking the Live the Wage challenge, ABC’s SCOTT WILSON reports. Reps. Tim Ryan and Jan Schakowsky joined former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland in taking the challenge-and are each living on a budget of $77 for the week-the same amount that a minimum wage worker typically has to spend on food, transportation and day-to-day expenses-after factoring out major costs such as rent and utilities. A $77-a-week budget certainly doesn’t allow for luxuries. “I basically had a couple bags of peanuts in the cloakroom-and there was a little fruit in the office that I ate yesterday,” Rep. Ryan told ABC News. “I spent about seven bucks last night on a couple cans of sardines and a bag of crackers from the convenience store up the street.” http://abcn.ws/1xqdvqI

ONE CONGRESSMAN’S QUEST TO PROTECT JETLINERS FROM MISSILES. Rep. Steve Israel wants all new U.S. commercial airliners to include some kind of missile defense systems to protect against a terror attack, according to ABC’s ERIN DOOLEY. The New York Democrat has renewed a push for the legislation after a missile allegedly blew Malaysia Airlines flight 17 out of the sky over Ukraine and a Hamas rocket landed near Ben Gurion Airport in Israel. “Terrorists are copycats, and I’m concerned that [when] they see these tactics, they’re going to try and employ them,” Israel told ABC News. “We know that there are thousands of shoulder-fired missiles in the hands of terrorists around the world. They’re going to use these things and we are still leaving our public undefended.” The congressman says he plans to introduce a bill expanding missile protection for passenger planes, likely one that would require all newly built commercial aircraft include defensive technology. http://abcn.ws/1nRNXRU

WHY A FRUSTRATED DEMOCRAT WANTS A SWIMMING POOL IN DARRELL ISSA’S COMMITTEE ROOM. A frustrated California congressman is calling for a swimming pool to be installed in the chambers of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee — to facilitate a medieval litmus test, notes ABC’s JOHN PARKINSON. In a statement caked thick with sarcasm, Rep. Tony Cardenas, D-Calif., called on the committee’s Republican chairman, Darrell Issa, to “install an above-ground pool” to aid the GOP chairman’s investigations into a wide range of controversies. “We are picking winners and losers, when it is clearly obvious that witches can only be found by dunking them in water,” Cardenas wrote. “If they float they’re a witch. If they don’t, installing a pool will allow us to retrieve the non-witch before he or she drowns.” The committee voted Friday to reject White House assertions of “absolute immunity” of David Simas, a senior adviser to President Obama and the director of the new White House Office of Political Strategy, who has refused to testify voluntarily or under subpoena at the committee. http://abcn.ws/1nAltN9

 

WHAT WE’RE READING

“PERRY TO JOIN NHGOP CHAIR ON CALL TODAY TO CRITICIZE SHAHEEN, OBAMA ON BORDER SECURITY,” by the New Hampshire Journal’s John Distaso. “In a move with laced with ramifications not only for this year’s mid-term election, but also possibly for the 2016 first-in-the-nation presidential primary, Texas Gov. Rick Perry later today will weigh in on the U.S. Senate race in New Hampshire for the second time in less than week. Perry, who is seriously considering a second run for the White House, will join state Republican Party Chair Jennifer Horn on  a media conference fall to discuss, the NHGOP says, ‘the failed Obama-Shaheen border security policies.’” http://bit.ly/1mYnbmg

 

WHO’S TWEETING?

@jonallendc: Dazed and confused: 2016 hopefuls unsure how to handle pot http://bit.ly/X8Gzbh 

@EvanMcSan: New Climate Change Strategy Has Changed Some Republican Minds, Says White House http://www.buzzfeed.com/evanmcsan/cer-climate-change-report …

@ByronYork: Republican internal debate: Could ’14 midterms resemble 1998 elections? If so, bad, bad, bad for GOP… http://ow.ly/zHtaL 

@markknoller: VP and Dr Biden spending a couple of days in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Nice beaches and boardwalk.

@rollcall: So You Want to Be a Political Handicapper? @StuPolitics advises: http://roll.cl/1rYCTTY 

The Romneys Took a Summer Vacation And It Was Amazing

Posted on: July 29th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

He’s reportedly worth around $250 million, so you might think Mitt Romney would opt for an opulent, luxurious vacation now that he’s out of the spotlight.

Instead, the former presidential nominee, his wife, Ann, and five of their grandkids roughed it out in the “American West,” hiking over 50 miles cross-country, according to Mitt Romney’s post  on the blogging site Medium.

In these made-for-travel-brochure photos, members of the Romney family rappel down boulders, squeeze through rocky crevices, and jump into ravines:

HT romney family vacation 01 jef 140728 16x9 608 The Romneys Took a Summer Vacation And It Was Amazing

(Mitt Romney)

HT romney family vacation 02 jef 140728 16x9 608 The Romneys Took a Summer Vacation And It Was Amazing

(Mitt Romney)

Romney says the (apparently enthusiastic) troupe visited Goblin Valley, Spooky Gulch, and Peekaboo Slot Canyon  and even escaped “a very close encounter with a rattlesnake.”

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And along the way, grandpa entertained his “captive audience” with stories about their ancestors.

“Ann’s side played instrumental roles in the foundation of the country, including William Bradford and Grover Cleveland. Mine were key to the establishment of our church and the settlement of the American West,” Romney explains.

(These history lectures weren’t exactly out of the blue. During his presidential campaign, Romney was criticized for his highly-regimented vacations, which included non-optional athletic contests, and a chore wheel.)

“We came away more appreciative of the landscape God gave us, of the sacrifices of the pioneers, and of the comforts of air conditioning and home cooked meals!” Romney wrote.

Though the post was largely anecdotal in nature, the former politician couldn’t help but slip in an allusion to current events: “We were also sobered by the tragic events in Ukraine and Israel …. As we experienced the grandeur of the West, our hearts went out to those millions in the world who suffer.”

Americans Split over Crisis in Gaza

Posted on: July 29th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — A plurality of Americans believes that the militant group Hamas is to blame for the violence that has erupted in Gaza for the past three weeks.

A Pew Research poll release Monday found that 40 percent of respondents fault Hamas while 19 percent says Israel spurred the attacks.

Meanwhile, 14 percent say both sides are to blame while 28 percent don’t know who was responsible for violence.

However, when broken down by political affiliation, the differences are starker.

Sixty percent who identify themselves as Republicans blame Hamas while 13 percent hold Israel responsible.

On the Democratic side, 29 percent says Hamas brought the violence in Gaza on themselves but 26 percent contend that it was Israel who is the aggressor.

Meanwhile, younger respondents to the Pew poll are more inclined to blame Israel than those who are older.

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US Says Russian Missile Launch ‘Serious’ Violation of Treaty

Posted on: July 28th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is publicly accusing Russia of violating a 1987 nuclear missile treaty, a declaration likely to deepen tensions between the two countries already at odds over crises in Ukraine, Syria, and the Middle East.

The allegations, raised by President Obama in a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, center on ground-launched cruise missile tests conducted in 2011, an administration official said.

The U.S. determined those tests violated Russia’s treaty agreement to not to “possess, produce, or flight-test” missiles with a range of up to 5,500 kilometers. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces, or INF, Treaty was signed in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

“This is a very serious matter which we have attempted to address with Russia for some time now,” an administration official said, requesting anonymity to speak ahead of the formal announcement Tuesday.

The issue was first raised with Russia in early 2013 but its responses “did not resolve our concerns,” the official said.

An annual State Department compliance report on arms control treaties, due out on Tuesday, is expected to outline in detail the U.S. findings of the alleged Russian treaty violation.

While bilateral talks with Russia on a variety of topics have broken down in recent months, the White House has extended an invitation to Russian officials for high-level dialogue on the missile treaty effective immediately, officials said. The administration, which has informed Congress of its determination, believes Russia has the potential to return to treaty compliance if it chooses.

The treaty violation allegations were first reported by The New York Times.

The Obama administration’s announcement comes as the U.S. and European Union impose another round of tighter economic sanctions against Russia this week over alleged Russian intervention in eastern Ukraine.

Gay Marriage: One Step Closer to the Supreme Court? Why Virginia Matters

Posted on: July 28th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Though the Supreme Court issued a major opinion concerning gay rights in 2013, it has so far sidestepped the issue of whether states can ban gay marriages.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling Monday striking down Virginia’s strict marriage laws brought the issue one step closer to the justices.

It’s the second time a federal appeals court has struck down a state ban since the Supreme Court ruling in United States vs. Windsor.

“We are talking about the Commonwealth of Virginia!” Theodore Olson, an attorney for the challengers of the gay marriage ban, exclaimed after the decision was handed down. “It’s the birth place of George Washington.”

David Boies, another lawyer representing the challengers called the opinion “powerful” and said “it holds that the Virginia marriage laws seriously harm plaintiffs, and seriously harms the children that the plaintiffs raise.”

If, down the road, the Supreme Court were to adopt the 4th Circuit’s reasoning, “It would mean that everyone in every state in the nation would be able to marry the person that they love,” Boies said, declining to speculate which case the Supreme Court might ultimately take up if it does indeed decide to take up one or more cases.

It will take at least a few weeks for the 4th Circuit’s ruling to go into effect. In the meantime, supporters of the law could ask for a re-hearing with either the full court of appeals or the Supreme Court.

Though the opinion deals directly with Virginia’s laws, the reasoning could apply to other states under the 4th Circuit’s jurisdiction, “including to states with bans that, as the majority noted, are similar to Virginia’s, including South Carolina, North Carolina, and West Virginia,” said Elizabeth Wydra of the Constitutional Accountability Center.

Boies noted that the opinion “does not depend upon anything that is unique to Virginia.” “I think,” he said, “it is clearly controlling law in all of the states in the Fourth Circuit.”

Because Virginia’s attorney general has declined to defend the law, the conservative group, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has stepped in to represent clerks supporting the marriage law.

After Monday’s ruling, ADF’s senior counsel Byron Babione released a statement, saying, “Every child deserves a mom and a dad, and the people of Virginia confirmed that at the ballot box when they approved a constitutional amendment that affirmed marriage as a man-woman union.”

Babione has not announced any plans for appeal, but he said, “Ultimately, the question whether the people are free to affirm marriage as a man-woman union will be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.”

For some, Virginia is an important landmark because of the 1967 Supreme Court decision, Loving vs. Virginia, regarding interracial marriage.

“It’s appropriate that marriage for same-sex couples took a big step forward today in a case from Virginia, since Virginia is where the fundamental right to marry was born,” said James Esseks, one of the ACLU lawyers who won the Windsor decision at the Supreme Court.

In the 1967 decision the Supreme Court struck down the Commonwealth’s ban on inter-racial marriages.

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Gay Marriage: One Step Closer to the Supreme Court? Here’s Why Virginia Matters

Posted on: July 28th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

GTY virginia gay marriage jef 140728 16x9 608 Gay Marriage: One Step Closer to the Supreme Court? Heres Why Virginia Matters

(Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

Though the Supreme Court issued a major opinion concerning gay rights in 2013, it has so far sidestepped the issue of whether states can ban gay marriages.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling today striking down Virginia’s strict marriage laws brought the issue one step closer to the justices.

It’s the second time a federal appeals court has struck down a state ban since the Supreme Court ruling in United States vs. Windsor.

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Everything You Need To Know About Virginia’s Gay Marriage Ruling

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DOMA Widow Edie Windsor: Court Ruling Gave Late Wife ‘Dignity’

“We are talking about the Commonwealth of Virginia!” Theodore Olson, an attorney for the challengers of the gay marriage ban, exclaimed after the decision was handed down. “It’s the birth place of George Washington.”

David Boies, another lawyer representing the challengers called the opinion “powerful” and said “it holds that the Virginia marriage laws seriously harm plaintiffs, and seriously harms the children that the plaintiffs raise.”

If, down the road, the Supreme Court were to adopt the 4th Circuit’s reasoning, “It would mean that everyone in every state in the nation would be able to marry the person that they love,” Boies said, declining to speculate which case the Supreme Court might ultimately take up if it does indeed decide to take up one or more cases.

It will take at least a few weeks for the 4th Circuit’s ruling to go into effect. In the meantime, supporters of the law could ask for a re-hearing with either the full court of appeals or the Supreme Court.

Though the opinion deals directly with Virginia’s laws, the reasoning could apply to other states under the 4th Circuit’s jurisdiction, “including to states with bans that, as the majority noted, are similar to Virginia’s, including South Carolina, North Carolina, and West Virginia,” said Elizabeth Wydra of the Constitutional Accountability Center.

Boies noted that the opinion “does not depend upon anything that is unique to Virginia.” “I think,” he said, “it is clearly controlling law in all of the states in the Fourth Circuit.”

Because Virginia’s attorney general has declined to defend the law, the conservative group, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has stepped in to represent clerks supporting the marriage law.

After today’s ruling, ADF’s senior counsel Byron Babione released a statement, saying, “Every child deserves a mom and a dad, and the people of Virginia confirmed that at the ballot box when they approved a constitutional amendment that affirmed marriage as a man-woman union.”

Babione has not announced any plans for appeal, but he said, “ultimately, the question whether the people are free to affirm marriage as a man-woman union will be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.”

For some, Virginia is an important landmark because of the 1967 Supreme Court decision, Loving vs. Virginia, regarding interracial marriage.

“It’s appropriate that marriage for same-sex couples took a big step forward today in a case from Virginia, since Virginia is where the fundamental right to marry was born,” said James Esseks, one of the ACLU lawyers who won the Windsor decision at the Supreme Court.

In the 1967 decision the Supreme Court struck down the Commonwealth’s ban on inter-racial marriages.

 

What’s Changed 10 Years After Obama’s DNC Speech?

Posted on: July 28th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — What a difference a decade makes: this past weekend marked the 10-year anniversary of President Obama’s keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention.

One of the biggest visible changes is how Obama’s hair has visibly greyed since his time as a state senator from Illinois in 2004.

Back then, Obama was the 42-year-old Democratic state senator who was in the midst of his first U.S. Senate campaign when John Kerry asked him to speak at the convention.

Obama won wide acclaim for his speech, which many cite as a major turning point in his political career.

As for Kerry, the visible decade difference is less pointed then that of Obama. Though Kerry didn’t end up winning his presidential bid in 2004 (losing to then-President George W. Bush), Obama has since made him the Secretary of State.

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Why a Frustrated Democrat Wants a Swimming Pool in Darrell Issa’s Committee Room

Posted on: July 28th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

Congressman Cardenas(WASHINGTON) — A frustrated California congressman is calling for a swimming pool to be installed in the chambers of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee — to facilitate a medieval litmus test.

In a statement caked thick with sarcasm, Rep. Tony Cardenas, D-Calif., called on the committee’s Republican chairman, Darrell Issa, to “install an above-ground pool” to aid the GOP chairman’s investigations into a wide range of controversies.

“We are picking winners and losers, when it is clearly obvious that witches can only be found by dunking them in water,” Cardenas wrote. “If they float they’re a witch. If they don’t, installing a pool will allow us to retrieve the non-witch before he or she drowns.”

The committee voted Friday to reject White House assertions of “absolute immunity” of David Simas, a senior adviser to President Obama and the director of the new White House Office of Political Strategy, who has refused to testify voluntarily or under subpoena at the committee.

“Like the Chairman, I am interested in effective government oversight and reform,” Cardenas continued. “This pool will allow that to take place, wasting far fewer taxpayer dollars in the process.”

But Cardenas’ proposal — however tongue-in-cheek it is — would be duplicative. Lawmakers already enjoy access to a swimming pool in the lawmakers-only gym in the Rayburn House Office Building, where the committee room is located.

Asked to comment on the pool proposal, multiple aides to Issa refused to directly address Cardenas’ idea.

Cardenas joked that the committee’s prospective pool could be named the “Senator Joseph R. McCarthy Memorial Truth Pond,” and proposed installing a plaque quoting former head counsel for the U.S. Army, Joseph N. Welch, who asked McCarthy, “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

Concluding his statement, Cardenas pledged to make the pool available “for staff and member recreation” when the committee is not holding hearings in order “to avoid excessive government waste.”

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Why a Frustrated Democrat Wants a Swimming Pool in Darrell Issa’s Committee Room

Posted on: July 28th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

A frustrated California congressman is calling for a swimming pool to be installed in the chambers of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee — to facilitate a medieval litmus test.

In a statement caked thick with sarcasm, Rep. Tony Cardenas, D-Calif., called on the committee’s Republican chairman, Darrell Issa, to “install an above-ground pool” to aid the GOP chairman’s investigations into a wide range of controversies.

“We are picking winners and losers, when it is clearly obvious that witches can only be found by dunking them in water,” Cardenas wrote. “If they float they’re a witch. If they don’t, installing a pool will allow us to retrieve the non-witch before he or she drowns.”

The committee voted Friday to reject White House assertions of “absolute immunity” of David Simas, a senior adviser to President Obama and the director of the new White House Office of Political Strategy, who has refused to testify voluntarily or under subpoena at the committee.

“Like the Chairman, I am interested in effective government oversight and reform,” Cardenas continued. “This pool will allow that to take place, wasting far fewer taxpayer dollars in the process.”

But Cardenas’ proposal — however tongue-in-cheek it is — would be duplicative. Lawmakers already enjoy access to a swimming pool in the lawmakers-only gym in the Rayburn House Office Building, where the committee room is located.

Asked to comment on the pool proposal, multiple aides to Issa refused to directly address Cardenas’ idea.

Cardenas joked that the committee’s prospective pool could be named the “Senator Joseph R. McCarthy Memorial Truth Pond,” and proposed installing a plaque quoting former head counsel for the U.S. Army, Joseph N. Welch, who asked McCarthy, “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

Concluding his statement, Cardenas pledged to make the pool available “for staff and member recreation” when the committee is not holding hearings in order “to avoid excessive government waste.”

 

How Failure to Reform Immigration Affects a Young Girl

Posted on: July 28th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Outside the hallways of the Capitol, the immigration reform debate isn’t political. It’s personal.

When Washington, D.C. resident Cindy Monge saw the images of unaccompanied minors crossing the southern border it hit home. Eight years ago she was one of them.

Monge left Guatemala in 2006 to reunite with a father she had never met and a mother who had spent six years traveling back and forth on a tourist visa.

“I only had one option, which was to cross the border,” she says. “I wanted to be with my parents.”

Alone at age 11, she traveled from bus to bus, contact to contact as she made the harrowing journey from Guatemala to the Mexico-U.S. border. For eight days she lived off peppermint candies and water, hiding in luggage compartments to evade Mexican authorities.

At the U.S. gates, clutching a false birth certificate provided by smugglers, her plan derailed.

“They took me to the back, they did my fingerprints, they found out everything,” Monge says, recalling her journey in an interview with ABC News. “I felt like it was the end for me.”

She would spend the next month in a juvenile detention center without an immigration hearing, praying that her undocumented father would risk his own security to claim her.

“I was alone in my thoughts and in my mind about what was going to happen next,” she says. “What was going to happen with my parents? Would they even know about me? Would they find out what was going on?”

Monge, who is now 19, shares a story with the 57,000 minors who have flooded through the southern border in the past nine months, a 106% increase since last year. While there is bipartisan agreement an immediate fix is necessary, Congress divides on how to address the crisis and whether to implement comprehensive immigration reform. With the president’s $3.7 billion supplemental package in limbo, and the August recess fast approaching, immigrant communities in the United States grow restless over inaction.

A month after she was taken into custody, Monge’s father came to claim her from the San Diego detention center. He brought her to Maryland, where he worked as a gardener, and told her to never speak of her status to anyone, to “never come out of the shadows.”

“This is a secret and you’re taking it to the tomb,” she recalls him saying. “To everybody you are a resident or a U.S. citizen.”

The flow of unaccompanied children has been a trickle that just recently became a wave. Monge left Guatemala eight years ago for the same reasons children are leaving today – to flee violence and poverty and to reunite with her family.

Immigration expert Marie Price calls it a calculated risk. “The threat is immediate” if individuals stay in these countries, says Price, former director of Latin American studies at George Washington University. “People do get killed, whereas you have a shot of running the gauntlet and getting through Mexico to the United States.”

While concentrated in the U.S., unaccompanied minors also seek asylum in countries like Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Belize, which have documented a 435% increase in asylum application in recent years, according to a U.N. report.

Monge quickly learned English, attended public school in Maryland and “understood that I needed to accustom to this country and I needed to Americanize as fast as possible.”

When she was 15, she received legal status under Homeland Security’s deferred action for childhood arrival plan (DACA). Since 2012, more than 600,000 children have received legal status under the controversial statute.

Congress’ inability to agree on legislation has consequences for tens of thousands of families, and poignant consequences for Monge. Her parents grew tired of waiting for reform and decided to leave the country. They were tired, she says, of living in constant fear of arrest and deportation.

“I’m going to be left alone again,” she says through tears. For the second time in her short life, she says, she feels abandoned, trapped on the wrong side of a border that’s divided her family.

Monge recently graduated from high school and plans to attend community college in the fall. But even once in the U.S., her journey has not been easy.

“Some days we didn’t have food in our house. We had nothing,” she says. She works two jobs back to back. “I’m always trying to save money. Everything I wear, everything I have was given to me.”

But despite the journey, the detention center and the life in the shadows, she doesn’t hesitate to say it was all worth it.

“I was in such a small town and now this country is like a world,” she says, dreaming of one day working at the United Nations. “It opens your eyes. It opens your mind.”

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Congress Reaches Deal on VA Reform Bill

Posted on: July 28th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — After weeks of negotiations, the chairmen of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees announced a deal Monday that provides at least $15 billion to help address the healthcare issues at the embattled Department of Veterans Administration.

“Funding for veterans’ needs must be considered a cost of war and appropriated as emergency spending. Planes and tanks and guns are a cost of war, so is taking care of the men and women who use those weapons and who fight our battles,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said.

“We have a VA that is in crisis today. This agreement will go a long way to helping resolve the crisis that exists out there today.  Helping to get veterans off waiting lists is extremely important and this bill does that,” Rep. Jeff Sanders, chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said.

The deal provides for $10 billion, which is considered “mandatory emergency money,” to contract care outside of the VA system. An additional $5 billion, which is all offset within the VA, is allotted to hiring new doctors, nurses and clinicians within the VA system. The bill also allows veterans living more than 40 miles away from a VA facility to obtain care outside the VA network.

Some Republicans might object to the measure because it does not include as many offsets to pay for the funding, but Miller remained optimistic that he will be able to convince enough House Republicans to back the measure.

“I come from a sales background before I came to Congress, and I think I can do an adequate job,” Miller said. “As we go through the process, there will be an educational process that will have to take place. Obviously some of our members will need a little more educating than others.”

The chairmen hope to have the bill passed by the end of the week.  The conference committee will still need to approve the bill before it heads to the House and Senate for a full vote.

“It is absolutely imperative that we get this bill done, and we get it done now before the August break,” Sanders said.

Passing the VA reform bill is part of a long to-do list that Congress has to complete before it heads into a five week recess, along with providing funding for highway projects and President Obama’s emergency spending request to deal with the influx of unaccompanied minors streaming across the U.S. Texas border.

“The United States Congress today in my view is a dysfunctional institution,” Sanders said. “There are major issue after major issue where virtually nothing is happening when important legislation needs to be happening.”

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White House: EU to Impose New Sanctions on Russia

Posted on: July 28th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

Sean Gallup/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The White House on Monday said it expects the European Union to impose new sanctions against critical sectors of the Russian economy this week.

“We expect the European Union to take significant additional steps this week,” Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken told reporters at the daily White House briefing, “including in key sectors of the Russian economy.”

Blinken said actions could be taken in the financial, arms or energy sectors. European leaders are also looking to “broaden the criteria by which they can sanction people or entities, and I think one of the things they’re looking at is to bring in some of the cronies of President Putin,” Blinken added.

The U.S. is preparing to take additional steps as well.  “In turn and in full coordination with Europe, the United States will implement additional measures itself,” Blinken said, reiterating “our purpose here again is not to punish Russia but to make clear that it must cease its support for the separatists and stop destabilizing Ukraine.”

The White House insists that the sanctions already imposed by the US and Europeans are having a “dramatic impact on the Russian economy.”

President Obama discussed these next steps for dealing with the crisis in Ukraine on a teleconference earlier Monday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

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What Happened When 3 Politicians Tried Minimum Wage Food Budget

Posted on: July 28th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

 

GTY money jef 140725 16x9 608 What Happened When 3 Politicians Tried Minimum Wage Food Budget

(Getty Images)

Have you ever seen a congressman snacking on a measly tin of sardines? Or maybe a governor ordering a McChicken off the dollar menu?

In Washington this week that scene was reality for three Democratic politicians who are taking the Live the Wage challenge.

Reps. Tim Ryan and Jan Schakowsky joined former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland in taking the challenge–and are each living on a budget of $77 for the week–the same amount that a minimum wage worker typically has to spend on food, transportation and day-to-day expenses–after factoring out major costs such as rent and utilities.

A $77-a-week budget certainly doesn’t allow for luxuries.

“I basically had a couple bags of peanuts in the cloakroom–and there was a little fruit in the office that I ate yesterday,” Rep. Ryan told ABC News. “I spent about seven bucks last night on a couple cans of sardines and a bag of crackers from the convenience store up the street.”

The congressman began the “Live the Wage” challenge last week with hopes of bringing attention to the hardships facing minimum wage workers around the nation.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky also began the challenge Thursday–telling ABC News, “It totally changes your perspective. Even the shopping experience–I make a shopping list when I go to the store usually. I think about what I need–what I want–and I put it in the cart. I truthfully rarely think about how much it costs.”

“I’ll walk down the aisle and I’ll see something–you know, that would be great and I throw it in the cart. There’s just none of that when you’re on that kind of budget. There’s no spontaneity whatsoever,” Schakowsky added.

Strickland even took a trip to McDonald’s to try out the fast food chain’s dollar menu. Strickland posted a photograph of his $2.20 meal on Twitter noting that the workers at McDonald’s–(a company known for paying the legal minimum)–”deserve a raise.”

Today’s lunch came off the McDonalds dollar menu, where workers deserve a raise: http://t.co/g47CI7neEq #LivetheWage pic.twitter.com/QWCmUMtnRh

— Ted Strickland (@Ted_Strickland) July 23, 2014

Dinner: bologna, celery, bread — from Sunday’s grocery trip. Join the #LiveTheWage challenge http://t.co/LKNpqcGU8Z pic.twitter.com/5fPzHoYvHl

— Ted Strickland (@Ted_Strickland) July 23, 2014

In a Politico op-ed, Strickland explained that he was unable to complete the week-long challenge with a budget of just $77. One particularly difficult aspect the governor discussed was eating a healthy diet while living on a $7.25 hourly wage.

“Because fresh fruits and vegetables are hard to find at a price within a minimum wage budget, I turned to bread, peanut butter, bananas and bologna more than anything else. That was what I could find when I took this budget to the grocery story last Sunday. And that’s why I ate lunch from the McDonald’s dollar menu.”

Schakowsky and Ryan have also taken to social media in recent days to share their message about the challenges facing minimum wage workers.

Preparing tuna for lunches this week for the #LiveTheWage Challenge. pic.twitter.com/Bigo431KEX

— Jan Schakowsky (@janschakowsky) July 24, 2014

My wife & I began the Minimum Wage Challenge today w/ $154 ($77 each). This is all we have for the week #LiveTheWage pic.twitter.com/Odqa0v1DsU

— Congressman Tim Ryan (@RepTimRyan) July 24, 2014

Day1 : Down to $130. Ate leftovers but had to buy some prescriptions for the baby. Read more here: http://t.co/JNMyR4esb8 #LiveTheWage

— Congressman Tim Ryan (@RepTimRyan) July 24, 2014

“There are a lot of people out there who do this for extended periods of time–years–so the idea is to get the message out and raise awareness about some of the difficulties that can happen to you,” Ryan told ABC News.

“We realize it’s not going to be exactly like the challenges that a minimum wage family faces, but the country is talking about the minimum wage right now. And I think that’s exactly what we want to do.”

Schakowsky echoed Rep. Ryan’s sentiments.

“I’m not going to pretend that now I understand what it’s like to live on the minimum wage. I think it’s a taste of it. But for anyone who thinks it’s a gimmick, my suggestion would be–try it,” Schakowsky said.

“You will get a small sense of what it’s like to be constantly thinking about how much you’re spending.”

Ryan and Schakowsky were co-sponsors of the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013. Their goal is to increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10.

The push to increase the national minimum has steadily intensified in the past year–as the minimum wage has remained unchanged since 2009.

Last week marked the five-year anniversary since Congress last passed an increase to the national minimum, while the wage for tipped workers has remained at $2.13 an hour since 1991.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the minimum wage doesn’t get you very far. “On average, a single-parent household (One parent, at least one child under 18) will spend $5,457 per year on food, or about $105 per week.”

That’s $28 above what a minimum wage worker has to live on for a week.

When asked about plans for reintroducing minimum wage legislation, Schakowsky was optimistic, but expressed concerns over whether Speaker of the House John Boehner would bring the bill to a vote.

“We’re hoping that we’re going to see another vote on it in the Senate and that there will be more pressure,” Schakowsky said.

“I fully believe that if Speaker Boehner were to call an increase on the minimum wage–that it would pass. It’s a matter of making sure that we just get more Republicans over this recess to ask the speaker to just call the bill.”

Ryan, however, was not as optimistic about the bill’s prospects before the midterm elections.

“I doubt it. The speaker’s holding the line on this. And I hope it’s a rallying call for the 65,000 minimum wage workers in my district–and the million and a half across the country,” Ryan said.

“Let’s increase the minimum wage and get people to work and make sure work pays. That’s ultimately the conversation we want to have.”

What Happened When 3 Politicians Tried a Minimum Wage Budget

Posted on: July 28th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

 

GTY money jef 140725 16x9 608 What Happened When 3 Politicians Tried a Minimum Wage Budget

(Getty Images)

Have you ever seen a congressman snacking on a measly tin of sardines? Or maybe a governor ordering a McChicken off the dollar menu?

In Washington this week that scene was reality for three Democratic politicians who are taking the Live the Wage challenge.

Reps. Tim Ryan and Jan Schakowsky joined former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland in taking the challenge–and are each living on a budget of $77 for the week–the same amount that a minimum wage worker typically has to spend on food, transportation and day-to-day expenses–after factoring out major costs such as rent and utilities.

A $77-a-week budget certainly doesn’t allow for luxuries.

“I basically had a couple bags of peanuts in the cloakroom–and there was a little fruit in the office that I ate yesterday,” Rep. Ryan told ABC News. “I spent about seven bucks last night on a couple cans of sardines and a bag of crackers from the convenience store up the street.”

The congressman began the “Live the Wage” challenge last week with hopes of bringing attention to the hardships facing minimum wage workers around the nation.

Members of Congress Plan to Live on Minimum Wage for a Week

Rep. Jan Schakowsky also began the challenge Thursday–telling ABC News, “It totally changes your perspective. Even the shopping experience–I make a shopping list when I go to the store usually. I think about what I need–what I want–and I put it in the cart. I truthfully rarely think about how much it costs.”

“I’ll walk down the aisle and I’ll see something–you know, that would be great and I throw it in the cart. There’s just none of that when you’re on that kind of budget. There’s no spontaneity whatsoever,” Schakowsky added.

Strickland even took a trip to McDonald’s to try out the fast food chain’s dollar menu. Strickland posted a photograph of his $2.20 meal on Twitter noting that the workers at McDonald’s–(a company known for paying the legal minimum)–”deserve a raise.”

Today’s lunch came off the McDonalds dollar menu, where workers deserve a raise: http://t.co/g47CI7neEq #LivetheWage pic.twitter.com/QWCmUMtnRh

— Ted Strickland (@Ted_Strickland) July 23, 2014

Dinner: bologna, celery, bread — from Sunday’s grocery trip. Join the #LiveTheWage challenge http://t.co/LKNpqcGU8Z pic.twitter.com/5fPzHoYvHl

— Ted Strickland (@Ted_Strickland) July 23, 2014

In a Politico op-ed, Strickland explained that he was unable to complete the week-long challenge with a budget of just $77. One particularly difficult aspect the governor discussed was eating a healthy diet while living on a $7.25 hourly wage.

“Because fresh fruits and vegetables are hard to find at a price within a minimum wage budget, I turned to bread, peanut butter, bananas and bologna more than anything else. That was what I could find when I took this budget to the grocery story last Sunday. And that’s why I ate lunch from the McDonald’s dollar menu.”

Schakowsky and Ryan have also taken to social media in recent days to share their message about the challenges facing minimum wage workers.

Preparing tuna for lunches this week for the #LiveTheWage Challenge. pic.twitter.com/Bigo431KEX

— Jan Schakowsky (@janschakowsky) July 24, 2014

My wife & I began the Minimum Wage Challenge today w/ $154 ($77 each). This is all we have for the week #LiveTheWage pic.twitter.com/Odqa0v1DsU

— Congressman Tim Ryan (@RepTimRyan) July 24, 2014

Day1 : Down to $130. Ate leftovers but had to buy some prescriptions for the baby. Read more here: http://t.co/JNMyR4esb8 #LiveTheWage

— Congressman Tim Ryan (@RepTimRyan) July 24, 2014

“There are a lot of people out there who do this for extended periods of time–years–so the idea is to get the message out and raise awareness about some of the difficulties that can happen to you,” Ryan told ABC News.

“We realize it’s not going to be exactly like the challenges that a minimum wage family faces, but the country is talking about the minimum wage right now. And I think that’s exactly what we want to do.”

Schakowsky echoed Rep. Ryan’s sentiments.

“I’m not going to pretend that now I understand what it’s like to live on the minimum wage. I think it’s a taste of it. But for anyone who thinks it’s a gimmick, my suggestion would be–try it,” Schakowsky said.

“You will get a small sense of what it’s like to be constantly thinking about how much you’re spending.”

Ryan and Schakowsky were co-sponsors of the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013. Their goal is to increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10.

The push to increase the national minimum has steadily intensified in the past year–as the minimum wage has remained unchanged since 2009.

Last week marked the five-year anniversary since Congress last passed an increase to the national minimum, while the wage for tipped workers has remained at $2.13 an hour since 1991.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the minimum wage doesn’t get you very far. “On average, a single-parent household (One parent, at least one child under 18) will spend $5,457 per year on food, or about $105 per week.”

That’s $28 above what a minimum wage worker has to live on for a week.

OPINION: 17 Million Reasons to Raise the Minimum Wage

5 Reasons Why Raising The Minimum Wage Is Going Nowhere For Now

When asked about plans for reintroducing minimum wage legislation, Schakowsky was optimistic, but expressed concerns over whether Speaker of the House John Boehner would bring the bill to a vote.

“We’re hoping that we’re going to see another vote on it in the Senate and that there will be more pressure,” Schakowsky said.

“I fully believe that if Speaker Boehner were to call an increase on the minimum wage–that it would pass. It’s a matter of making sure that we just get more Republicans over this recess to ask the speaker to just call the bill.”

Ryan, however, was not as optimistic about the bill’s prospects before the midterm elections.

“I doubt it. The speaker’s holding the line on this. And I hope it’s a rallying call for the 65,000 minimum wage workers in my district–and the million and a half across the country,” Ryan said.

“Let’s increase the minimum wage and get people to work and make sure work pays. That’s ultimately the conversation we want to have.”

Sarah Palin Announces Subscription-Based Video Channel

Posted on: July 28th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

Ethan Miller/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Sarah Palin has announced she’s launching a subscription-based online video channel.

In a video posted to her YouTube channel, the former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate called the project “a news channel that really is a lot more than news.” It will cover stories about her family, behind-the-scenes looks at events and “the issues that the mainstream media won’t talk about,” Palin said.

Palin expressed hope that the channel would be a “community” where viewers could share their concerns directly with her.

The subscription rate is $9.95 a month or $99.95 a year.

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Sarah Palin’s New TV Channel Spawns Twitter Mockery

Posted on: July 28th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

AP sarah palin jt 140713 1 16x9 608 Sarah Palins New TV Channel Spawns Twitter Mockery

(Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo)

ABC News’ Jennifer Hansler reports: 

The hashtag #PalinTVshows has taken off on Twitter since the announcement of Sarah Palin‘s new, subscription-based channel. Using plays on existing TV show titles, the majority of the tweets ridiculed the former vice-presidential candidate and her latest endeavor.

 Going Reality: Palin On Own TV Series?

Sarah Palin Talks About Killing Her Own Dinner in New Reality Show 

 

Two and a Half Moose #palintvshows

— Jonathan Bourne (@JonathanBourne) July 28, 2014

 

How I You Betcha Your Mother #palintvshows

— David Graham (@RealDaveGraham) July 28, 2014

 

Whose Lie Is It Anyway #PalinTVShows

— Daniel Perez (@danny6114) July 28, 2014

 

The Big Bang Theory is False Modern Family Should Be One Man and One Woman LOST the Election, Now What? #PalinTVShows

— Aidan (@aidanodell) July 28, 2014

 

Palin publicly announced her project Sunday.

In a video on her YouTube channel, she called it “a news channel that really is a lot more than news.” It will cover stories about her family, behind-the-scenes looks at events and “the issues that the mainstream media won’t talk about,” Palin said.

Palin expressed hope that the channel would be a “community,” where viewers could share their concerns directly with her. However, this community does come at a cost. The subscription rate is $9.95 a month or $99.95 a year.

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One Congressman’s Quest to Protect Jetliners from Missiles

Posted on: July 28th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Rep. Steve Israel wants all new U.S. commercial airliners to include some kind of missile defense systems to protect against a terror attack.

The New York Democrat has renewed a push for the legislation after a missile allegedly blew Malaysia Airlines flight 17 out of the sky over the Ukraine and a Hamas rocket landed near Ben Gurion Airport in Israel.

“Terrorists are copycats, and I’m concerned that [when] they see these tactics, they’re going to try and employ them,” Israel told ABC News. “We know that there are thousands of shoulder-fired missiles in the hands of terrorists around the world. They’re going to use these things and we are still leaving our public undefended.”

So Israel is on a mission to put missile defense technology on U.S. commercial airplanes.

The congressman says he plans to introduce a bill expanding missile protection for passenger planes, likely one that would require all newly built commercial aircraft include defensive technology. He and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, have also asked the Department of Homeland Security, the Defense Department, and the Federal Aviation Administration to conduct an interagency study on the issue.

Israel made a similar proposal after a 2002 missile attack on an Israeli charter plane flying over Mombasa, Kenya. That bill would have required the Defense Department to pay for missile defense technology on all existing U.S. commercial passenger planes, but the multi-billion dollar price tag concerned many lawmakers and the bill was never enacted.

What worries Israel are that shoulder-fired weapons known as MANPADS are portable and easily concealed. And the more primitive versions, though not particularly accurate, are simple to operate and widely available on the black market.

A MANPAD could take out a civilian plane during takeoff or landing. According to Israel, even if the missile missed, a single attempt could “grind U.S. aviation to a halt,” causing a billion dollar-plus hit to the economy.

Israel’s El Al airline is reported to have anti-missile systems.

The FAA says it’s not considering requiring domestic carriers to install missile defense systems on planes.

“If you’re flying on an El Al aircraft, you’re defended, Air Force One is defended, many military aircraft, defended. But no commercial plane in the United States fleet is defended. And that’s just wrong,” he said.

Using the defense systems would likely involve sudden in-flight maneuvers that commercial aircraft aren’t designed to handle, which could endanger passengers. And commercial pilots aren’t necessarily trained on the equipment. Airlines have also balked at the cost.

Israel calls the objections “irresponsible.”

“We have a tendency in this country when it comes to homeland security to witness a horrific attack and then the next day, say, ‘why didn’t we?’” he said. “I think it’s irresponsible for the FAA simply to say, ‘well, we’re not going to even look at this.”

He also dismisses the cost argument.

“The pushback that I’ve received from the airline industry is that the cost…is about $1 million per plane. That is true. The cost of an inflight entertainment system is $1 million per plane,” he points out.

“What is safer: being able to watch television at 30,000 feet or knowing that when you take off and land, you’re protected?” Israel says.

Some experts suggest that patrolling airport perimeters could help thwart potential attackers, who are most likely to target planes during takeoff and landing.

But that, too, can be expensive, as effective policing would require monitoring perimeters hundreds of miles deep. (The U.S. can’t regulate patrols at foreign airports.)

“You can’t necessarily fortify the airports, but you can fortify the plane,” Israel said, adding that learning to operate the defense systems is “not that difficult.”

“A very important defense against terrorists is deterrents…If [terrorists] knew that these planes had technologies to protect against a shoulder fired missile, they may be less likely to even try that,” the congressman said. “We should use all the tools in our toolbox — deterrents, actual protection, defense — in order to dissuade, deter, and stop them from engaging in this kind of an attack.”

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Capitol Hill’s Unfinished Business

Posted on: July 28th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

By MICHAEL FALCONE (@michaelpfalcone)

NOTABLES

  • BOEHNER OUTLINES LAWSUIT AGAINST OBAMA: In a USA Today Op-Ed House Speaker John Boehner details his big goal for the week: “President Obama has overstepped his constitutional authority — and it is the responsibility of the House of Representatives to defend the Constitution. At the same time, we remain focused on the American people’s top priority: jobs and the economy. I believe the president’s actions in a number of areas — including job-destroying energy regulations, releasing the ‘Taliban 5′ from Guantanamo without notice and waiving the work requirements in welfare — exceed his constitutional authority. On the advice of legal experts, the House action will focus on his decision to extend — twice — the deadline to institute the employer mandate in his health care law. We believe this targeted lawsuit offers the best chance of success.” READ MORE: http://usat.ly/1k2W6Ue
  • TODAY AT THE WHITE HOUSE: President Obama spends the morning talking with young African leaders and the afternoon honoring some of the nation’s top artists, ABC’s MARY BRUCE notes. This morning participates in an on-camera town hall with 500 young people at the Summit of the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders. In the afternoon, Obama awards the 2013 National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal in a ceremony at the White House. The recipients include singer Linda Ronstadt, composer John Kander, radio host Diane Rehm and DreamWorks CEO  (and Obama mega-donor) Jeffrey Katzenberg.

 

THE ROUNDTABLE

ABC’s JEFF ZELENY: With four days left before lawmakers head home for their five-week summer break, the list of unfinished business is long. There’s still a political standoff over the humanitarian crisis at the border. And there’s no agreement over spending bills, raising the prospect that Congress will once again be fighting over how to keep the government running this fall. But on one area, a deal is at hand: Trying to fix the troubled VA. A bipartisan compromise was brokered over the weekend between Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Jeff Miller, which calls for the hiring of more doctors and also gives veterans the option of seeking treatment outside the VA system. While Sanders and Miller fought bitterly over the deal last week, tempers cooled and they worked out their differences. It should serve as a model for checking off the rest of the to-do list on Capitol Hill this week, but don’t expect other problems to be resolved so easily, particularly immigration.

ABC’s RICK KLEIN: If the goal was to get the i-word into the fundraising conversation, and it sure looks like it was, Democrats just put on a clinic. This was always going to be the week the House of Representatives authorized its lawsuit against President Obama, to let off tea party steam and put GOP lawmakers on record opposing the president’s envelope-pushing-by-pen. But now it’s also the week that some top Republicans are just maybe not entirely ruling out impeachment – and that’s thanks to … the White House. It started Friday morning, when senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer told reporters that he saw impeachment coming “at some point in the future,” owing in part to the president’s impending executive actions on immigration. House Speaker John Boehner’s office was quick in reiterating that impeachment is off the table. But the fundraising appeals from party committees were already written: The White House was warning that impeachment could be possible. Fact: President Obama will not be impeached. Another fact: Unless or until Republicans shut the government down again, Democrats benefit from discussion of impeaching the president.

 

WHAT WE’RE WATCHING

HOW GOOD WILL IT GET? The 100-day countdown to the midterm elections is on and Republicans are more optimistic than they’ve been in years. “I don’t know how good it’s going to be, but I think it’s going to be good,” Republican national chairman Reince Priebus tells ABC’s JEFF ZELENY. Why are Republicans smiling and Democrats bracing for the fall? Watch this report on the 100-day mark: http://abcn.ws/1rVm4ci

 

BUZZ

with ABC’s SCOTT WILSON

FORMER CLINTON LABOR SECRETARY ‘IMPRESSED’ BY PAUL RYAN’S POVERTY PLAN. The Former Secretary of Labor to President Bill Clinton told “This Week” he’s impressed by Paul Ryan’s poverty plan ahead of his appearance on the show’s roundtable Sunday. ‘This Week’ asked UC Berkley professor Robert Reich about Ryan’s plan, and he also discussed Hillary Clinton’s “dead broke” comment and how she and Sen. Elizabeth Warren may differ on some issues – if both decide to run for president in 2016. http://abcn.ws/1qFkle5

TEXAN BIPARTISAN PAIR: AMERICAN PUBLIC WANTS AN ‘ORDERLY BORDER.’ With just five days until Congress adjourns for summer recess, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, are attempting a bipartisan, last-ditch effort to address the border crisis in their home state – but there are few signs of support in Congress, according to ABC’s ALISA WIERSEMA. “The American public wants us to have an orderly border,” Cuellar told ABC’s JONATHAN KARL on “This Week” Sunday. “They’re seeing chaos at the border.” The Cornyn-Cuellar bill aims to change the existing 2008 law that differentiates between the process undocumented children coming from Central America and those coming from Mexico go through if they are returned to their home countries after entering the U.S. The proposed legislation would allow the U.S. to expedite the deportation process for migrant children from Central America, which is how the U.S. currently handles Mexican immigrants. Despite the lack of strong support in favor of the proposal from congressional Democrats, Cornyn said he remains optimistic about House legislators using the bill as a potential guide for a solution, while acknowledging difficulties in the Senate. http://abcn.ws/1nvUnXt

NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD BACKS LEGALIZING POT. After The New York Times editorial board came out in support of the U.S. legalizing marijuana, the paper’s editorial page editor told ABC’s JONATHAN KARL this morning on “This Week” that he has smoked pot. “I’ve never asked the people that work for me whether they smoke pot, and I’m not going to ask. I have smoked pot in my life. I went to college in Colorado in the 1970-s, you figure it out,” Andrew Rosenthal told Karl Sunday on “This Week,” ABC’s BENJAMIN BELL reports. The Times editorial board published its endorsement of the legalization of marijuana nationwide Saturday under the headline “Repeal Prohibition, Again,” writing that the “federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana.” “We reached that conclusion after a great deal of discussion among the members of The Times’s Editorial Board, inspired by a rapidly growing movement among the states to reform marijuana laws,” the editorial stated. http://abcn.ws/1mRYfwV

RAND PAUL THINKS CRACK (SENTENCING) IS WHACK. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., announced new legislation Friday that would eliminate the disparity in sentencing for offenses involving crack cocaine and powder cocaine, ABC’s ARLETTE SAENZ reports. Current law carries much harsher penalties for the possession of crack cocaine compared to powder cocaine. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, first time offenders possessing 28 grams of crack cocaine would receive a five year mandatory minimum sentence.  People with powder cocaine would have to possess 500 grams to receive that same sentence. Paul introduced the legislation, titled the RESET Act (short for “Reclassification to Ensure Smarter and Equal Treatment Act”), on Thursday, but he made the proposal public  in a speech to the Urban League in Cincinnati last week.  The bill would also reclassify some low level drug possession felonies and make sure that food products that contain drugs are weighed fairly.  http://abcn.ws/1riPNuC

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

REPORT: MORE UNDOCUMENTED KIDS, ESPECIALLY GIRLS, CROSSING THE BORDER. Unaccompanied girls fleeing Central America and caught at the Southwest border has increased 77% since last year, and far more rapidly than the number of boys, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center. The analysis, which looks at data provided by the Department of Homeland Security via a Freedom of Information Act, shows that while the number of girls under 18 detained at the U.S.-Mexico border has jumped significantly, the number of boys went up only 8 percent in the same period, according to ABC’s SERENA MARSHALL. While boys have historically made up the majority of those apprehended at the border, the stark rise in girls represents a “change in who is coming across the border,” Mark Hugo Lopez, director of Hispanic research at the Pew Research Center told ABC News. Probably most shocking in their analysis is the difference between boy and girl unaccompanied teenagers apprehended. Teenage girls saw an increase of 62% this year, but teenage boys have seen almost no change — only 2%. http://abcn.ws/1nDpnE8

 

BLAST FROM THE PAST

LUST FOR POWER: TROVE OF PRESIDENT WARREN HARDING’S LOVE LETTERS REVEAL STEAMY AFFAIR. Warren Harding is typically remembered as one of the worst presidents in U.S. history. But a soon-to-be-released trove of love letters between the 29th president and his longtime mistress also reveal that he may have been one of the most passionate. “Some of them are truly beautiful — about what does it mean to be in love,” David Robenalt, the author of “The Harding Affair: Love and Espionage during the Great War” told ABC’s JONATHAN KARL. “‘This is the big love,’ he says, ‘This is the surpassing love.’” Some of the letters include soaring poetry and lurid sexual fantasies. WATCH: http://yhoo.it/1xolNPL

 

WHO’S TWEETING?

@SarahPalinUSA: Tired of media filters? Well, so am I. So, let’s go rogue together and launch our own member-supported channel!… http://fb.me/1oDPD8cbL 

@bterris: there’s not a lot of people hanging on congress’s every word these days, but one place still prints all of it: http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/few-may-be-hanging-on-congresss-every-word-but-the-gpo-is-still-printing-them/2014/07/27/4a281b30-1425-11e4-8936-26932bcfd6ed_story.html?wprss=rss_style …

@JamesPindell: .@SenScottBrown becomes 1st Senate candidate in U.S. to air ad about immigration crisis on border http://bit.ly/1qGCJ6h  #nhsen #nhpolitics

@kasie: West Virginia Democratic Senate candidate Natalie Tennant up with first ad — criticizing President Obama https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=doe_nTBQ4MY … #wvsen

@matthewjdowd: It is time many in the GOP and dems let go of the myths of past presidencies. And decide to build brand new leadership based on today.

Breakthrough Announced in Bill to Aid Vets

Posted on: July 28th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — A bill to assist the nation’s veterans that looked all but dead last week was reportedly agreed upon Sunday by the chairs of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs committee.

With Congress set to recess for five weeks after Aug. 1, it was imperative that lawmakers arrive at an agreement to assist tens of thousands of war veterans still waiting medical care at VA clinics across the U.S.

The legislation, expected to be announced Monday by Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Florida Republican Congressman Jeff Miller, presents more options for vets to seek medical attention, especially when they live far from VA facilities.

Among the choices vets would have under the bill is access to private health care providers when they live 40 or more miles from a VA hospital.

In addition, the bill calls for building more centers to care for veterans who critics say have waited an unbearably long time to see doctors because of alleged negligence and possible criminal wrongdoing to cover wait times.

What almost undid the agreement were differences on how much will be spent and how everything will be funded. More details should be available later on Monday.

Although certainly a breakthrough, the plan still needs the approval of negotiators from both chambers as well as a full vote by the House and Senate.

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David Duchovny Stars in Russian Nostalgic/Nationalist Beer Ad

Posted on: July 27th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

Plugging Russian-made beer Siberian Crown, David Duchovny appears in a two-and-a-half-minute ad, titled “You Have Things to Be Proud Of,” with heavy themes of pro-Russian nostalgia and cultural nationalism.

“This is the country where I was born and raised. But there is another country, where I got my family name from. And sometimes I wonder: What if things turned out differently? What if I were Russian?” Duchovny muses in the video, posted to YouTube by the beer-maker.

In it, Duchovny contemplates how life would be different if he had been born Russian.

The ad shows Duchovny’s alternate lives as a Russian astronaut; hockey player; ballet choreographer; aspiring actor, who speaks Russian in an audition; disco-pop singer, complete with mustache and mullet; rustic dude jouncing through a river with companions, in a beat-up Russian jeep; and, finally, an urbane, upper-middle-class Russian with something important to say, as he toasts with some good-looking friends in Russian on a rooftop at sunset.

“Could I still be among the stars? How would I surround myself with beauty? What role could I have played? Would my smile be known the world over?” Duchovny wonders. “What path would I choose? Or would I make my own? Who would my friends be? What song would turn my life around?

“And I found out that being Russian, I’d have many things to be proud of,” he concludes.

ABC has reached out to Duchovny for comment on the ad.

Siberian Crown is a Russian-based subsidiary of the Belgian-based international beer conglomerate Anhueser-Busch Inbev. The company identifies Siberian Crown as one of its main local brands in the Russian market.

The ad was posted to YouTube on Friday. Posting it to the Russian social network VK, Siberian Crown explained the ad (as translated by Google): “David Duchovny decided to do a film about Russian pride and love of country. He recently spoke about his origins, and now presented as life would have turned out if his ancestors not left for America.”

In April, the actor identified himself on Twitter as having Ukrainian, not Russian, roots:

I grew up thinking I was Russian only to find recently that I've been Ukrainian all along. Never too late to change.

— David Duchovny (@davidduchovny) April 4, 2014

Most memorably, Duchovny starred in the sci-fi series “The X-Files.” He later starred in the Showtime series “Californication” and holds an undergraduate degree from Princeton. According to IMDB.com, Duchovny was born in New York City, to a father born to Jewish immigrants from Ukraine and Poland, and a Scottish mother.

The ad was released at a particularly tense time between the U.S. and Russia, intensified by fighting in eastern Ukraine and a public dispute over the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 in rebel-held territory.

On Thursday, one day before Duchovny’s ad was released, the U.S. State Dept. and Pentagon publicly charged that Russian military forces fired artillery from Russia at Ukrainian military positions across the border, and on Sunday, the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence released surveillance images it says prove that charge.

Russia has yet to respond to those images. American officials have repeatedly asserted that Russia has supplied the rebels with weaponry, including an SA-11 missile system that, American and Ukrainian officials say, rebels used to shoot down MH17.

Last Monday, President Obama publicly admonished Russian President Vladimir Putin to use his “direct influence” over pro-Russian Ukrainian separatists to ensure safe access to the crash site for international investigators. Putin responded by voicing support for an investigation and warning that no one should exploit the MH17 “tragedy” for “political goals.”

With U.S. support, the European Union last week widened its sanctions against Russian officials over the Ukrainian conflict. In a phone call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry “did not accept Foreign Minister Lavrov’s denial that heavy weapons from Russia were contributing to the conflict,” according to a State Dept. readout.

Despite deep divisions over Ukraine, the U.S. and Russia ostensibly continue to work with each other and Europe in multilateral talks with Iran over its nuclear program. This month, those negotiations were extended for another six months.

Obama Calls Netanyahu to Discuss Continued Tension in Gaza

Posted on: July 27th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

Credit: The White House(WASHINGTON) — President Obama spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by phone on Sunday to discuss the ongoing tensions in Gaza and reaffirm the United States’ hope for a lasting cease-fire.

The two leaders spoke after Israel had resumed military operations in Gaza on Sunday, blaming Hamas for violating the cease-fire by launching rockets into Israel. Obama condemned Hamas’ attacks against Israel while expressing concerns about the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths, the loss of Israeli lives and the worsening situation in Gaza, according to a readout of the phone call.

Obama and his administration continues to press for a permanent cessation of hostilities based on a November 2012 cease-fire agreement. Any such agreement, Obama said, would require the disarming of terrorist groups and the demilitarization of Gaza.

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Texan Bipartisan Pair: American Public Wants an ‘Orderly Border’

Posted on: July 27th, 2014 by ABC News No Comments

ABC john cornyn jt 140727 16x9 608 Texan Bipartisan Pair: American Public Wants an Orderly Border

Sen. John Cornyn (R) Texas on 'This Week'

With just five days until Congress adjourns for summer recess, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, are attempting a bipartisan, last-ditch effort to address the border crisis in their home state – but there are few signs of support in Congress.

“The American public wants us to have an orderly border,” Cuellar told ABC News’ Jonathan Karl on “This Week” Sunday. “They’re seeing chaos at the border.”

The Cornyn-Cuellar bill aims to change the existing 2008 law that differentiates between the process undocumented children coming from Central America and those coming from Mexico go through if they are returned to their home countries after entering the U.S. The proposed legislation would allow the U.S. to expedite the deportation process for migrant children from Central America, which is how the U.S. currently handles Mexican immigrants.

Despite the lack of strong support in favor of the proposal from congressional Democrats, Cornyn said he remains optimistic about House legislators using the bill as a potential guide for a solution, while acknowledging difficulties in the Senate.

“Fortunately it sounds like the House of Representatives is going to move a piece of legislation this week, which would actually offer a solution, and it will include something along the lines Henry and I have proposed,” Cornyn said. “In the Senate, Senator Reid is – still opposes our proposed solution … My view is a solution beats no solution every day and nobody has offered an alternative, so I hope we will act.”

When pressed to further acknowledge the lack of support from high-ranking elected officials on the left, Cuellar echoed Cornyn’s optimism by noting the White House’s efforts to find a solution to the crisis while stressing the need to evaluate the current conditions on the border.

“President Obama requested [cooperation] at the beginning; Secretary Johnson has been good, but again I represent the district. I don’t just go down there once in a while and see what’s going on, I live there.” Cuellar said.

“Forty-two thousand of the unaccompanied kids out of the 58,000 have come through that small area, so we’re at the epicenter,” Cuellar continued, describing his district, which includes 200 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border. “The folks in the community have been dealing with this on a day-to-day basis. We need the resources and we also need a policy change.”