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Former President Harding’s Love Letters to Mistress May Actually Help His Image, Historians Say


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The now notorious love letters of former President Warren Harding ironically may be the basis of a belated campaign to improve the image of the man generally considered to be one of the country’s worst leaders.

Harding’s grandnephew Richard Harding made the case before a packed Library of Congress assembly Tuesday by saying, “It is with some ambivalence, but with a sense of history, that we are present.”

Richard Harding and a battery of historians and archivists said Tuesday that the salacious letters – some of them 40 pages long – give new insight to the man who has been called America’s worst president.

“Warren Harding doesn’t need protecting. He needs honest and hard-working historians to tell the story like they see it,” Richard Harding told the gathering.

The roughly thousand pages were written by Harding between 1910 and 1920 to Carrie Phillips, when he was lieutenant governor of Ohio and a U.S. senator. They were found in 1964 but protected by the Harding family, which gave the collection to the Library of Congress on the condition that they be held in a safe for 50 years. The letters will become available to the public next Tuesday.

The panel included James Robenalt, author of The Harding Affair: Love and Espionage During the Great War; James Hutson, chief of the Manuscript Division at the Library of Congress; Library of Congress archivist Karen Femia; and Richard Harding.

Robenalt, who published a smaller trove of microfilms of Harding letters in his book in 2009, referred to the correspondence as “one of the great stories of the 20th century.”

The allure of the letters centers on Harding’s often explicit relationship with Phillips, who Robenalt ventures was a German spy who managed to discourage Harding from running for president in 1916, right in the middle of World War I. The affair ended when Phillips blackmailed Harding after he entered the White House in 1921.

A sampling of the letters Robenalt discovered at the Western Reserve Historical Society gives an indication as to what’s coming next Tuesday, when historians can start crafting what could be an entirely new portrait of the former president. In one letter to Phillips on Sept. 15, 1913, Harding writes, “I hurt with the insatiate longing, until I feel that there will never be any relief until I take a long, deep, wild draught on your lips.” On Jan. 5 the same year, he wrote: “…so I got up, had a luxurious bath and donned my bathrobe in which to breakfast. Three weeks ago [the robe] touched and covered your beautiful form, and that made it hallowed to me, and I wanted contact with it, to make me seem nearer to you.”

The standard interpretation of Harding was that he was “an intelligent man, too trusting of his cronies, too passive as a leader…and too passive for a nation that needed activist leadership,” as the historian Gary Alan Fine put it. His administration is notorious for the Teapot Dome scandal, an oil leasing scandal that consumed one of Harding’s top cabinet members.

The panel Tuesday argued that his image is still much more imprecise than most historians assume.

Femia claimed the legacy “was like an empty room, an echo chamber for rumor, gossip, and absolute fabrication.” Hutson agreed, using his introduction as something of a call to those in the room to fill the gaps in Harding scholarship.

“It’s astonishing the amount of misinformation about Harding, and everyone connected to him,” Hutson added. “The question arises: what’s wrong with the picture here? Why didn’t historians correct this stuff?”

The letters may reveal that Harding’s infatuation with Phillips delayed his ascension to the White House, and perhaps caused an entirely different outcome to the Great War and the trajectory of 20th-century American history since, at Phillips’ urging, he wanted to keep America out of the war.

“Had Harding become president in 1916, and he had a good chance to do so, the world would have been a lot different,” Robenalt said. “The world changed because of this relationship.”

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Why Kerry Could Fly into Tel Aviv Despite FAA Flight Ban


State Department photo/ Public Domain(WASHINGTON) -- Just hours after Secretary of State John Kerry told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that a temporary Federal Aviation Administration ban on U.S. flights to Tel Aviv was in the best interest of Americans, Kerry himself flew into Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport.

The FAA’s prohibition does not apply to military aircraft, including the 757 Kerry is flying on. Plus, Kerry traveled to Israel to meet with Netanyahu and others as part of his efforts to bring about a cease-fire to the fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, spokesperson Jen Psaki said.

“Secretary Kerry is on the ground to continue his efforts to achieve a ceasefire and bring an end to the rocket attacks that led to the FAA notice,” she wrote in a statement.

The U.S. flight ban for Ben Gurion Airport went into effect Tuesday after a rocket from Hamas struck ground about a mile from the airport. It only affects U.S. carriers and has no effect on foreign airlines, but after the U.S. announcement, numerous foreign air carriers announced they would also suspend flights into the Israeli airport.

Netanyahu spoke on the phone with Kerry Tuesday night and urged him to help call off the ban. But according to Psaki, Kerry explained that the ban was intended only to keep Americans safe, not to discourage anyone from traveling to Israel.

“The only consideration in issuing the notice was the safety and security of our citizens,” Psaki said.

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Congressmen Agree on Baseball and Hot Dogs


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- At least Congress can decide on two things: baseball and hot dogs.

America’s leaders and staffers took a break Wednesday to enjoy an annual hot dog lunch hosted by the American Meat Institute. The event featured five vendors, who served over a thousand guests, and baseball hall of famers Steve Carlton, Ken Griffey Sr. and Cecil Cooper, who met fans and signed autographs.

“There’s nothing more quintessential America than a hot dog and a beer or a coke at the baseball game,” said Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif.

The congressman, who serves on the Committee of Agriculture, said Wednesday was a great opportunity for Washington to recognize the good work of the American beef industry.

The vendors, which included Dietz and Watson, Hillshire Brands, Hormel Foods Corporation, Smithfield Foods and Tyson Foods, served pork and beef hot dogs and Polish sausage with a range of condiments.

Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., who attended the lunch with his grandson, said he loved Wednesday’s spread.

“We had the corn dog and one of the hot dogs, the chili, the jalapeños -- the whole catastrophe,” he said.

For Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., it was all about the baseball.

“Baseball is America,” said the congressman, who just last week threw out the opening pitch at a minor league game in Brooklyn, New York. “I’ve been a baseball fan my whole life. To me, I’m sort of going back 60 years in time right now.”

King got autographs from the hall of famers for his grandson and was most thrilled to meet Carlton, a man he says “had all the ability that I never had and wanted to have.”

In the midst of a divided Congress and a growing list of issues to address before the August recess, Wednesday’s event offered a brief respite from bipartisan tensions.

“It really lightens up what’s going on down here,” King said. Moments later, he even got “photo-bombed by Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., during his interview with ABC News.

Former first baseman Cecil Cooper said he couldn’t believe how many Congressmen wanted his autograph.

“It’s great to have people remember you, remember the days when you played,” he said.

Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., who plays on the congressional baseball team, said Wednesday’s event brought him back to his childhood days of watching these hall of famers play.

“We’re all still kids when it comes to baseball,” Fleischmann said. “It's the great American sport, always has been, always will be.”

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Despite Cameo, Ted Cruz Not a "True Blood" Fan


United States Senate(WASHINGTON) -- He may have landed a cameo on the hit show, but Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is apparently not a fan of HBO’s True Blood.

Following a particularly grisly episode featuring Republicans murdered at a Ted Cruz fundraiser, the Tea Party darling blasted the show as “misogynist and profanity-ridden.”

“Well, I’m sorry to have lost the vampire vote, but am astonished (and amused) that HBO is suggesting that hard-core leftists are blood-sucking fiends,” Cruz wrote on Facebook Tuesday.

The episode, laced with tasteless (but admittedly creative) nicknames for Republicans, depicts guests cowering behind a Cruz poster dramatically ripped down by flying bullets.

The senator went even further on Twitter:

Then again, I guess I never had a chance w/ the vampire vote since the dead tend to vote overwhelmingly for Dems: https://t.co/U6uCqsRpuS

— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) July 22, 2014

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NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio Eats Pizza in Italy with a Fork


iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NAPLES, Italy) -- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio just can't break his fork habit.

The mayor was caught again using the utensil to eat pizza -- this time during lunch with his family in Naples, Italy -- while on vacation.

"Naples is a place that I like very much," the mayor told reporters as he got off a ferry from the island of Capri.

De Blasio, who's currently on an eight-day trip across Italy, arrived in Naples Wednesday morning to much fanfare.  He was not asked about why he used a fork to eat his pizza.

New Yorkers may have different opinions on many issues, but the one thing on which they can agree is how you devour a slice of pizza: you fold it, you eat it and you walk.

Of course, this is not the first time de Blasio has committed the fork faux pas. While visiting Staten Island in January -- just a week after taking office -- he first ate a slice of pizza with a fork, then switched to his hands, and ultimately back to a fork during lunch at Goodfellas Pizza.

Foodies blasted him for violating the ultimate rule of eating pizza in New York City: no matter how greasy the pizza, you always use your hands.

At the time, de Blasio argued that he was just being authentic and he picked up the pizza-with-utensils habit while visiting his "ancestral homeland."

However, even native Italians find eating pizza with a fork questionable.

"I would say a real Neapolitan eats pizza with the hands," said Adolfo Gatti, a native of Rome told ABC News. "But utensils aren't frowned upon."

 

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Ready for Warren? Senator Says She's Not Ready to Run


ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Are you ready for Warren?

That’s the question supporters of Sen. Elizabeth Warren are asking with the recent formation of a Ready for Warren Super PAC, which is taking a page from Ready for Hillary in laying the groundwork for a presidential campaign should the Massachusetts Democrat decide to run in 2016.

Though many of her fans are cheering “Run, Liz, Run,” Warren is putting the brakes on such enthusiasm.

“I am not running,” Warren told ABC News when asked if she’s mulling the idea of a presidential bid. It's the same answer she always gives -- in the present tense. She doesn't rule out whether she would ever run.

“I am focused on the 2014 elections,” she said. “We've got an election coming up … just a few months away -- that’s what we need to work on.”

As for her admirers calling for her to get in the race, Warren is keeping her distance.

“I do not support this,” she said.

To make clear that her focus is on the 2014 midterm elections, Warren has been crisscrossing the nation in recent months, campaigning on behalf of Democratic candidates who wish to align themselves with her populist message calling for economic reforms on behalf of the middle class.

The Massachusetts Democrat has ventured into some deeply conservative states, including West Virginia and Kentucky. But Warren dismisses the suggestion that her message fires up only liberals.

“The kinds of economic issues that I'm talking about, it's not Republican or Democrat,” she said. “People are getting hammered everywhere, and they care about these central ways that we can rebuild America's middle class: equal pay for equal work, reduce the interest rate on student loans, raise the minimum wage. … And I love being in Kentucky to talk about this and to be in West Virginia, standing up with great candidates like Natalie Tennant and Alison Lundergan Grimes.“

Though Warren has been an outspoken critic of the way business is done in Washington -- even ways that are critical of her own party -- she denies that her tough talk is causing tensions within the Democratic Party.

"I'll tell you where the tensions are, the tensions are with the Republicans," Warren said. "We want working people to earn more, we want to reduce the interest rate on student loans, we want to stitch up the loop holes that let millionaires and billionaires pay at lower tax rates than their secretaries; that's the stuff we're working on, and Republicans have filibustered every single piece of it.”

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Courts Issue Conflicting Rulings on Health Care Law


ABC News (WASHINGTON) -- After a brief hiatus, the hot debate over the Affordable Care Act was renewed once again Tuesday because of two opposite verdicts on subsidies.

In the first decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the federal government cannot subsidize policies through federally run insurance exchanges.

Later, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia said that subsidies set up in dozens of states that didn't set up marketplaces under the ACA are indeed legal.

While the conflicting decisions put the future of the health care law, called "Obamacare" by its detractors, into question, the 4.5 million people who qualified for subsidies are still eligible for benefits while the White House appeals the D.C. court ruling.

More than eight million Americans signed up for the ACA. Those who did so through state exchanges won't be affected by either ruling.

Meanwhile, the law's opponents seized on the first court's decision as proof that the ACA will ultimately fail. House Speaker John Boehner said, "Today's ruling is also further proof that President Obama's health care law is completely unworkable. It cannot be fixed."

However, proponents like Elizabeth Wydra, chief counsel of the Constitutional Accountability Center, says the second ruling got it right, adding, "The available tax credits are essential to filling the Affordable Care Act's primary goals of assuring widespread coverage in the health care market and that Congress was fully aware of this when drafting the bill."

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Run the Government Like a Business, Most Say


Architect of the Capitol(NEW YORK) -- Americans haven’t exactly been thrilled with Big Business since the Great Recession, but when push comes to shove, most would rather see people with business experience run the country than career politicians.

A new Gallup poll says that just over eight in ten Americans feel that way. Meanwhile, 63 percent believe that the U.S. would be better governed if there were more women holding political office.

As for how to burst the political gridlock that has paralyzed Washington for years, 63 percent of the respondents believe it is more important to compromise, while 56 percent think that holding firm to principles should be the top priority.

In terms of ideology, about 60 percent say electing political moderates is the way to go, with 47 percent preferring conservatives and only a third choosing liberals.

Putting the Tea Party in charge ranked slightly higher than liberals, although 48 percent say that they would make things even worse.

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Intelligence Officials Present Evidence for How Malaysian Plane Was Shot Down


(WASHINGTON) -- Senior United States intelligence officials presented evidence on Tuesday that they say makes a "solid case" as to why the U.S. believes a Russian made SA-11 missile fired from separatist-held eastern Ukraine shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 last week.

While the leading theory is that Russian separatists brought down the plane, the U.S. intelligence community still cannot determine who pulled the trigger or why. The officials pointed the finger at Russia for having "created the conditions" behind the shoot-down and labeled as "not plausible" new Russian claims that the plane may have been brought down by a Ukrainian fighter jet.

In a briefing with reporters, senior intelligence officials pointed to a variety of evidence, including the detection of a surface-to-air missile launch from a separatist-held area of eastern Ukraine. They cited Russian training of separatists in air defense systems, though not necessarily the SA-11, and Russian separatists having used other air defense systems to bring down 12 aircraft in recent months.

They also noted images posted on social media showing an SA-11 missile system near the area of that launch and one system headed towards Russia missing at least one missile in the hours after the shoot down.

Though the images are not independently verifiable, the officials say they complement their intelligence. The officials also pointed to postings to social media in which separatists bragged about the shoot-down and which were quickly deleted.

One of the officials said photographs taken at the crash site show damage to the plane's skin that is "consistent" with that seen from shrapnel from a surface-to-air missile system.

Another official said the evidence made, "a solid case it was an SA-11 fired from eastern Ukraine under conditions created by Russia."

The leading theory is that Russian separatists were behind the launch, probably by mistake by an "ill-trained crew," officials said, they are still trying to determine precisely who fired the missile.

"We don't know the rank, we don't know the name, we don't know the nationality of the individual who pulled the trigger or why they did it," said the official.

The U.S. intelligence community is still trying to determine whether the trigger-puller was a Russian, a separatist trained by Russia, or possibly a volunteer familiar with the missile system from the Ukrainian military and who may have joined the separatists.

The officials discounted as "not plausible" a new Russian narrative released Monday that presented the possibility that a nearby Ukrainian SU-25 fighter jet may have downed the airliner.

One official said the fighter is a ground-attack aircraft not equipped with air-to-air missiles and was flying too far away from the plane at the time. The official added that the plane would have had to travel a great distance to track the plane and then would have had to persuade Russian separatists to brag on social media that they had shot the plane down. The official described the Russian narrative as, "a classic case of blaming the victims."

The officials acknowledged that U.S. intelligence did not know until the day of the shoot-down that Russian separatists were in possession of an SA-11 system. The U.S. was aware that separatists had received air defense training at a large training facility in southwestern Russia outside of Rostov, but it was not specific to the SA-11 system.

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Arnold Schwarzenegger and Chuck Schumer Have Found Something to Agree On


Nathaniel Chadwick/NBC(NEW YORK) -- Seems like Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former movie star and Republican governor of California, and Chuck Schumer, the long-time Democratic senator from New York, wouldn't have much in common.

Turns out, they both see eye to eye on at least one issue: Open primaries.

Schwarzenegger publicly tweeted his support for Schumer after the senator penned an Op-Ed for The New York Times suggesting that the country should adopt a Congressional open primary election system to reduce the polarization currently plaguing Congress.

On Twitter, Schwarzenegger appaluded Schumer's stance, writing "I couldn't agree more" and "Fantastic to see @SenSchumer supporting top-two primary. Let's get it done & break up the status quo of gridlock."

What exactly was it about Schumer's piece that caught Schwarzenegger's attention?

The New York Democrat outlined what he believes to be the direct effects of the current primary election system and floated this recommendation:

"We need a national movement to adopt the 'top-two' primary (also known as an open primary), in which all voters, regardless of party registration, can vote and the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, then enter a runoff. This would prevent a hard-right or hard-left candidate from gaining office with the support of just a sliver of the voters of the vastly diminished primary electorate; to finish in the top two, candidates from either party would have to reach out to the broad middle."

Schwarzenegger's home state of California has used the non-partisan, open primary system since 2010. Washington State uses an open primary election system too, along with Louisiana where the system is sometimes referred to as a "jungle primary."

According to Schumer, California was virtually a magnetic field for political polarization until voters decided to adopt the open primary system in 2010. He wrote, "The move has had a moderating influence on both parties and a salutary effect on the political system and its ability to govern."

And Schumer later tweeted back his appreciation for Schwarzenegger's endorsement.

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Joe Biden's DJ Nephew Is Taking the Music Industry by Storm


The White House(NEW YORK) -- An up-and-coming New York D.J. happens to be the nephew of the vice president.

Jamie Biden, 32, spins at Montauk hotspot the Surf Lodge, Hamptons parties hosted by club promoter Ronnie Flynn, and Saturday Night Live after-parties.

The New York Times reported that in addition to D.J. gigs on the New York circuit, he is working on an album.

The long-haired Biden, who was once described as "more White Stripes than White House," is also the lead guitarist for rock band Bloody Social.

Vice President Joe Biden is the brother of his father, James Biden Sr.

The vice president's office did not respond to a request for comment on Jamie Biden's music career.

Biden, 32, said that although he attended his uncle's inauguration, he has yet to play for him.

"He has more important things to do, at the moment, than coming to see me play, for now," he told the Times.

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Obama Meets with Apollo 11 Crew 45 Years After Lunar Landing


NASA/Bill Ingalls(WASHINGTON) -- Legendary moonwalker Buzz Aldrin may have been “out of town” when the world celebrated Apollo 11's lunar landing, but he marked the anniversary on Tuesday with a presidential handshake and a meeting in the Oval Office -- the same spot from whence President Nixon made that famous interplanetary telephone call to the moon 45 years ago.

Nixon called July 20, 1969 -- the day Aldrin and Neil Armstrong stepped off the Apollo 11 lunar module and onto the moon -- the “proudest day of our lives.”

“For one priceless moment in the whole history of man all the people on this Earth are truly one -- one in their pride in what you have done and one in our prayers that you will return safely to Earth,” Nixon said during his satellite conversation with Armstrong.

Four months later -- following a 21-day quarantine procedure designed to shield Earth from possible lunar pathogens and a 24-country “good will tour” meant to demonstrate the United States’ willingness to share its lunar expertise -- the Apollo 11 team visited the president at the White House.

Since then, the astronauts have met with Presidents Carter, Bush, Clinton, Bush -- and now Obama.

Aldrin and Michael Collins (who remained in the orbiter during the moon walk) -- along with Neil Armstrong’s wife, Carol, and current NASA administrator Charles Bolden -- returned to the White House on Tuesday to celebrate the 45th anniversary of their moon landing.

It’s not known what the group discussed.

Before his death, Armstrong lambasted Obama for cancelling NASA’s moon return project “Constellation,” calling the U.S. spaceflight program “lamentably embarrassing and unacceptable.”

“A lead, however earnestly and expensively won, once lost, is nearly impossible to regain,” the astronaut told Congress.

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Labor Officials Promise to Fix Program for Coal Miners with Black Lung


Dr. Paul Wheeler of Johns Hopkins examines lung X-rays. (ABC News)(WASHINGTON) -- Federal labor officials told lawmakers Tuesday that they have notified dozens of coal workers they should re-apply for black lung benefits because their claims were denied in part based on medical reviews by a controversial Johns Hopkins physician.

Letters and calls to 83 miners in recent weeks were part of a raft of remedies lawmakers said would help “level the playing field” for miners suffering from black lung disease.

“Let me reassure you, the Department of Labor is committed to improving the effectiveness of these programs,” said Chris Lu, Deputy Secretary of Labor, at a Senate hearing convened to look at reforms to the government’s black lung benefit program.

The hearings and the Labor Department action came after troubling questions about the federal black lung program were raised in a year-long ABC News investigation with the Center for Public Integrity. The reports focused on the difficulties coal miners faced collecting benefits from coal companies that were intended to help miners and their families if they contracted the deadly and debilitating lung disease.

Sen. Robert Casey said at the hearing that he was appalled to learn that sick miners were being turned down for those benefits based in part on the medical opinions of a leading Johns Hopkins doctor. He noted that the news reports demonstrated examples of miners who were denied benefits based on doctors’ conclusions that they did not have severe black lung, only to have autopsies prove -- after their deaths -- that they had the disease.

“I am pleased with the Department of Labor’s efforts to begin leveling the playing field for black lung claimants, but there is still more that needs to be done,” Casey said.

Labor officials said they would begin to address an enormous backlog of unresolved black lung cases -- believed to be more than 14,000 of them -- by adding more than $2.7 million to the program’s budget. Casey urged them to seek a $10 million increase in the next federal budget “to not only stop the backlog from growing, but to actually begin reducing the number of backlogged cases.”

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) also attended the hearing, and described the pain he experienced watching coal miners, including his father, suffering from what then was only known as the “miners’ cough.”

“After years of hard, dirty work powering our country, the least we can do in return is make sure that we give the miners a fair shot at accessing earned benefits,” Harkin said in a prepared statement. “But that fair shot has been out of reach for many of those miners.”

The most significant moves described by Labor Department officials Tuesday involved actions they had taken to address the possibility that X-ray readings by Dr. Paul S. Wheeler of Johns Hopkins -- who was hired by coal companies to read films in black lung cases -- had skewed hundreds of cases against the miners.

The ABC News/CPI report found that Wheeler had not reported a single instance of severe black lung in the more than 1,500 claims that the news outlets reviewed going back to the year 2000. Labor department officials said they were unaware of Wheeler's record until the ABC News report was broadcast.

In court testimony in 2009, Wheeler said the last time he recalled finding a case of severe black lung, a finding that would automatically qualify a miner for benefits under a special federal program, was in "the 1970's or the early 80's."

Labor Department Solicitor Patricia Smith called those findings "shocking."

At the hearing, Lu told the lawmakers that his department had identified 83 claims that had been denied within the past year and sent a letter to those claimants alerting them to the “new guidance on Dr. Wheeler’s X-ray readings.”

“The letter informed the claimants that they could request reopening of their claims, included the date by which they had to make the request, and told them that the request could be made either by telephoning or writing,” Lu said in testimony he submitted to the senate committee. “In four instances, the one-year modification deadline was quickly approaching, so [the department] telephoned the claimants in addition to sending the letter. To date, 13 claimants have sought modification in response to OWCP’s letter.”

Lu added that the department had identified approximately 1,000 claims filed by miners between 2001 and 2013 that contained Wheeler X-ray interpretations. In those cases, miners were encouraged to file a new claim.

Hopkins suspended Wheeler's black lung unit a few days after the ABC News/CPI report was broadcast and posted online. Hopkins said it would conduct its own internal investigation, which a spokesperson said remains ongoing.

"We take these allegations very seriously and are still conducting the investigation into the [black lung] program," Hopkins spokeswoman Kim Hoppe said in a June email. "While our investigation is ongoing, nobody at Hopkins -- including Dr. Wheeler -- is performing" black lung X-ray readings.

Reached by phone in June, Wheeler said he hopes to be cleared by the internal Hopkins investigation -- which he said is being conducted by the Washington, D.C., law firm Patton Boggs.

"The hospital still believes in my approach," he said.

Wheeler told ABC News then he was unmoved by the Labor Department bulletin.

"They're not doctors," he said. "If they were from qualified medical institutions, I would be very unhappy."

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Primary Season Continues: Georgia Votes in Run-Off


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- WHO’S ON THE BALLOT?

Voters in Georgia will cast ballots in primary run-offs Tuesday. One race, the GOP run-off for the open Georgia Senate seat, will set up a  2014 fight between Tuesday night’s victor and a Democrat with a familiar name in the Peach State. No incumbents face the chopping block Tuesday night and while the Senate face off is the marquee race, it’s not the only one to watch. ABC News' friends at FiveThirtyEight.com have joined us again to explain the importance of Tuesday’s big race. Look for FiveThirtyEight.com senior political writer Harry Enten’s take below.

Here are three races to watch Tuesday:

GEORGIA’S GOP FEUD: Two months of nonstop Republican-on-Republican badmouthing will finally end in Georgia on Tuesday. With a merciful runoff vote, Georgia Republicans will choose either former Dollar General CEO David Perdue or Rep. Jack Kingston as their candidate for the state’s open Senate seat to replace retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss. WHY IT MATTERS: The top two finishers in a seven-way May 20 primary were Perdue, who received 30.6 percent of the vote, and Kingston, who came in second with 25.8 percent. Perdue has assailed Kingston’s 21-year record of earmarks, while Kingston has pointed to layoffs, offshoring, and a government bailout among companies with which Perdue was involved, with fact checkers tweaking parts of his claims. Both candidates are vying, as one would expect, for the mantle of “true conservative.”  This isn’t a traditional Tea Party vs. establishment GOP fight as we’ve seen in primaries all over the country, most notably the Mississippi Senate primary. Rep. Jack Kingston has collected a wide array of endorsements, from former primary foe Karen Handel -- the Sarah Palin-endorsed tea partier in the multi-way first-round primary -- to conservative blogger Erick Erickson, the NRA and even the Chamber of Commerce. Perdue is backed by former presidential candidate Herman Cain, who called him his “brother from another mother,” because they’re so similar politically. No Democrat has won a Georgia Senate seat since 2000, but the GOP infighting has left some breathing room for Michelle Nunn, the daughter of former Democratic Senator Sam Nunn, as Democrats have made good on their intentions to make the 2014 race competitive. After Republicans choose between two seemingly strong candidates, look for the attacks on Nunn to intensify and for a tough general election to get underway.

538′s Take: Key Counties


Perdue will likely need to over-perform in the Atlanta metropolitan area. Perdue led Kingston by 17 to 18 points in Cobb (a traditional swing county in Republican primaries), Gwinnett, and Fulton counties in the first round. Handel came in first or second in all of these counties. If Perdue is to win the runoff, he’ll need to fight off Handel’s influence and win these counties by potentially upwards of 10 percentage points. He’ll be building on his base anchored by Bibb and Houston counties around Macon in the middle of the state. Kingston, meanwhile, needs another strong performance around his Savannah (Chatham County) centered congressional district in the southeast. Kingston regularly won 75 percent or more of the vote and no less than 64 percent of the vote in 30 southeastern counties. More than that, turnout was up in these southeast counties, while it was down in most of the state. In Chatham, for example, turnout was up 7 percent from the competitive gubernatorial primary four years ago. It was down 11 percent statewide. Swing County: Augusta (Richmond County) in the center-eastern part of the state could be telling. It’s just outside Kingston’s sphere of influence in the southeast and Perdue’s core support in the center of the state. Both candidates finished within a point of their statewide performance in Richmond in the first round.

THE OTHERS:

GEORGIA’S GOP RUN-OFF FOR THE 10TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT:
Trucking company executive Mike Collins and pastor and conservative radio talk show host Jody Hice are facing off again Tuesday after the initial primary separated the two by less than one percent of the vote, with Hice leading by just a few hundred votes. Hice received 33.50 percent to Collins’ 32.99 percent.  WHY IT MATTERS: This seat is to replace the retiring Rep. Paul Broun, who ran unsuccessfully in the May primary for the U.S. Senate seat. Broun made a late endorsement of Hice, backing him just later this month. Collins is the son of former U.S. Rep. Mac Collins who represented Georgia in the House from 1993 to 2005.  Mike Collins’ father actually defeated Broun in the 1992 Republican primary congressional election, making it no surprise Broun backed Hice, although he said he waited because he did not want to anoint his successor. Collins has received the backing of former Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, and unsuccessful Georgia Senate candidate Karen Handel. The race hasn’t been without its odd moment. A Vanilla Ice parody even popped up titled “Hice Hice Crazy,” teasing Hice for some controversial comments he has made about women and gays. Collins has described himself as a successful businessman pushing that he can create jobs in the district, while Hice has been working the tea party vote, and cast himself as more of a cultural warrior. Eyebrow-raising comments Hice has made not only about women and gays, but also Muslims have been raised on the campaign trail. The winner will face Democrat Ken Dious, an attorney, but it’s likely Tuesday’s winner will also be the November victory in this bright red district.

GEORGIA’S GOP RUN-OFF FOR THE 11TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT:
Former Congressman Bob Barr is trying to get back to Washington, facing off against former state Sen. Barry Loudermilk to replace the retiring Rep. Phil Gingrey, who also ran unsuccessfully for the Georgia Senate race. WHY IT MATTERS: Barr who served in the House from 1995 to 2003 is most well-known for helping lead the impeachment of President Bill Clinton and he’s seeking a comeback in this seat north of Atlanta. Tea party-backed Loudermilk beat Barr, coming in the initial primary 6,000 votes ahead of Barr. Barr -- who was the Libertarian candidate for president in 2008 -- was seen as the favorite thanks to his higher name recognition, but Loudermilk surprised with his initial victory and has even outraised Barr. Loudermilk went after Barr for writing a letter of recommendation six years ago for Attorney General Eric Holder. Barr says now he has called for his resignation. Barr has the backing of two of his primary opponents, while Loudermilk was backed by Sarah Palin.  There is no Democratic candidate for the seat, so the winner of this primary is guaranteed to fill this district’s congressional seat.

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New Alison Lundergan Grimes Ad Hits Mitch McConnell on 'Not My Job' Comment


State of Kentucky(NEW YORK) -- Alison Lundergan Grimes’ is out with a new television ad hitting her opponent, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on comments he made about his role in job creation in April.

ABC News got a sneak peak of Grimes’ second television ad, featuring Kentuckians asking questions to McConnell. The ad -- titled “Question from David” -- begins with Grimes sitting next to David Stanley from Putney, Kentucky outside of a gas station.

“I’m Alison Lundergan Grimes and David Stanley lost his coal mining job in Letcher County, and he has this question for Senator McConnell,” Grimes says.

“Mr. McConnell, in the last two years, we’ve lost almost half of our coal jobs in Eastern Kentucky. Why’d you say it’s not your job to bring jobs to Kentucky?” Stanley said, before taking a long pause.

There is no answer, but Grimes then says, “I couldn’t believe he said that either.”

“I approved this message because, Senator, that’ll be my number one job,” she says, while looking directly into the camera.

The ad refers to McConnell being asked by the Beattyville Enterprise in April what he would do to bring jobs to the county.

“Economic development is a Frankfort issue,” McConnell said then, according to the paper. “That is not my job. It is the primary responsibility of the state Commerce Cabinet.”

Grimes has been consistently hitting McConnell over the comments, but his campaign says he was taken out of context.

The Grimes’ campaign did not say how much money is behind the ad, but describe it as a significant, six-figure, statewide buy that begins airing Tuesday.

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