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Sen. McCaskill to Hold Hearing on Militarization of Police


Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., will hold a hearing in September on the militarization of local police, a spokesperson for McCaskill confirms.

The date has not been set yet, but the Senate is in session next month from Sept. 8-Sept. 23.

McCaskill chairs the financial and contracting oversight subcommittee for the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee.

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US Diplomats Can't Participate in Ice Bucket Challenge


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- With the exception of the U.S. Ambassador to Thailand who didn't realize the rules, you won't see U.S. diplomats taking part in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.  

State Department spokesperson Marie Harf told reporters at Thursday's briefing that taking part in the challenge violates the restrictions placed on high level U.S. government employees.

"Federal government ethics rules prevent us from using our public offices such as, high public officers such as ambassadors for private gain no matter how worthy the cause is and this is of course a worthy cause," Harf said.

"For that reason high ranking state department officials are unfortunately unable to participate in the ice bucket challenge," she noted.

Hard added that the State Department wishes the ALS Foundation success.

"Obviously it's a very important cause," she said.

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DEA to Unveil New Restrictions on Popular Painkillers


Photodisc/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration will officially publish rules on Friday to tighten restrictions on the most common form of painkillers.

The stricter rules are for drugs containing hydrocodone, which is in many of the most widely-used painkillers, including Vicodin and Lortab.

Now with the goal of cutting down on abuse, the drugs are being put into a tougher, more restrictive category. Patients will be limited to one 90-day supply and then will have to see a medical professional to get a refill.

Additionally, in many states, prescribing authority will be limited to doctors only and not nurses or physicians assistants any longer.

The new rules will take effect in about about a month and a half.

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Perry on Indictment: 'I Am Very Confident in My Case'


Stewart F. House/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Just two days after smiling for a mugshot, Texas Gov. Rick Perry took his message to conservatives in Washington, D.C., saying he was certain he would be cleared of the felony charges filed against him.

“I am very confident in my case and I can assure you I will fight this attack on our system of government,” Perry said at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, on Thursday. “I aim to defend our constitution and stand up for the rule of law in the state of Texas.”

Perry’s speech at the Heritage Foundation was scheduled long before a Texas grand jury issued an indictment against the Texas governor last week. Speaking before a crowd of conservatives, Perry talked about the need to secure the border and fight terror groups like ISIS.

The Texas governor said the recent events in Syria and Iraq should put the country on alert for a potential terrorist attack and argued that the U.S. must respond in a decisive manner to root out ISIS.

“They should have us thinking about a possibility of another terrorist attack in this country,” Perry said.

“We have come to one of those moments where American action will be decisive and inaction will be consequential,” he said.

Perry called for more forceful action in Iraq to fight ISIS, including additional airstrikes, an increase in special forces and offering intelligence assistance. Asked whether the U.S should send combat troops into Iraq, Perry said it would be irresponsible to reveal any strategy to the enemy.

“I think all your options have to be open,” he said.

The Texas governor, who has been one of President Obama’s toughest critics on the border crisis, warned that the porous border may have already allowed members of ISIS and other terror groups to infiltrate the United States.

“I think it’s a very real possibility they may have already used that,” Perry said, referring to the border. “We have a serious issue facing this country and the security of our citizens. We need to be very vigilant. We have to be using every authority that we have.”

Perry rallied conservatives to work to elect Republicans this cycle, saying the midterm election will be the last opportunity to “pass judgment on the Obama presidency.”

“And something tells me he’s not going to like it,” he added.

The Texas governor’s trip to D.C. comes less than a week after he was indicted on two felony counts of abuse of power for threatening to veto funding for the state’s public integrity unit if District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg refused to resign following a DWI conviction in 2013. The governor’s office said Perry’s campaign fund will pay for further legal bills relating to the indictment.

“This is an assault on the Constitution,” Lucy Nashed, a spokesperson for Perry, said. “We don't want it to be an assault on the taxpayers as well.”

Perry pled not guilty to the charges on Wednesday and waived his arraignment, which will take place on Friday. Instead, Perry will head to New Hampshire for the weekend where he is set to do a half dozen events, including several with the New Hampshire Republican Party.

Next week, Perry will head to South Carolina for the Texas A&M game against the University of South Carolina, where he will headline a tailgate to benefit the Republican Party of South Carolina.

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EMILY’s List Drops Big Money in Georgia Senate Race


Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call(ATLANTA) -- There’s a new big spender in Georgia.

EMILY’s List, the political action committee that supports pro-abortion-rights Democratic female candidates, has bought $1 million of air time in Atlanta’s media market to run a TV ad attacking the business record of Republican Senate candidate and former Dollar General CEO David Perdue, the group told ABC.

The $1 million ad buy will be the largest single outside expenditure in the race to date, topping a $920,000 U.S. Chamber of Commerce ad buy in April.

Michelle Nunn, the Democrats’ nominee to replace retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., is one of the party’s brighter stars in this election cycle, but she faces an uphill climb to defeat Perdue in a state that hasn’t voted statewide for a Democrat since 2000. The last major survey of the race, a CBS/New York Times/YouGov poll conducted from July 5 to 25, showed Perdue leading Nunn by 6 percentage points.

The ad, which has not yet been made public, will focus on a gender pay discrimination suit brought by female store managers claiming Dollar General had underpaid them during Perdue’s tenure. Dollar General settled the suit in 2011 after Perdue had left as CEO, a role he held from 2003 to 2007.

A court allowed a class-action suit in 2007 for women who had worked as Dollar General store managers from 2004 to 2007, and 2,100 opted into it, according to an SEC report. Dollar General agreed to pay $19 million as part of a settlement in 2011, Law360 reported.

More than 140 Georgia women joined the suit, EMILY’s List points out.

“David Perdue owes Georgians answers about his shady business dealings that put his own profits ahead working women,” EMILY’s List spokeswoman Marcy Stech said. “And he certainly needs to be straightforward with the women of Georgia who deserve to know if he still believes it’s OK to pay women less than men for the same job.”

Perdue has faced attacks on his business record before. In his primary runoff, Kingston aired ads that highlighted lost jobs at a company Perdue led and a government bailout for another on whose board Perdue sat. Nunn’s campaign went up with a negative ad this week featuring workers who lost their jobs at textile firm Pillowtex under the leadership of Perdue, who ran the company after it emerged from bankruptcy.

With the new ad from EMILY’s List, Nunn will have her most significant outside help so far and, compared to her GOP rival, she may need it.

While Thursday’s individual buy is the biggest to date, EMILY’s List is by no means the race’s aggregate money leader when it comes to outside groups.

Republican groups have swarmed Georgia, spending millions there already, much of it on the competitive (and overwhelmingly negative) seven-way GOP primary and Perdue’s runoff against Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga. The Chamber, for instance, spent $2.9 million backing Kingston.

A GOP super PAC called the Ending Spending Action Fund has spent $3.1 million, some of it on the GOP primary, and some of it attacking Nunn. The American Chemistry Council has spent $1.4 million backing Perdue, and a pro-Perdue super PAC called Citizens for a Working America has spent over $2 million.

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More US Troops May Be Headed to Iraq


iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. troop levels in Iraq could top 1,000 if the Pentagon follows through on a plan to add more soldiers in an effort to better secure State Department facilities in Baghdad from possible attack by Islamic State militants.

A formal request to add 300 troops must come from the White House before the Pentagon can deploy more personnel to Iraq.

It's likely the Obama administration will act soon, given the growing threat to Americans by ISIS, particularly after the execution of U.S. journalist James Foley.

There are currently 700 American forces in Iraq, many of whom are protecting the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and other offices where State Department officials reside.

Some troops are also stationed in the Kurdish city of Erbil, a possible target of ISIS, although U.S. airstrikes have driven back the militants.


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Former Va. Gov. Bob McDonnell Takes Stand at Corruption Trial


Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell took the stand on Wednesday to testify at his public corruption trial.

McDonnell and his wife stand accused of accepting over $165,000 in cash, goods and trips as part of a 14-count indictment. He spoke on the stand about the difficulty of running a state-wide campaign and how taxing it can be on a marriage. The morning after his victory in the gubernatorial election, his wife began to yell at him, because of his focus on making and receiving phone calls.

In the end, McDonnell said that he did take money and gifts, but denied giving any favorable treatment in exchange for those gifts.

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US Military Launched Secret Rescue Operation for James Foley, Other Americans


iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. special operations forces early this summer launched a secret, major rescue operation in Syria to save James Foley and a number of Americans held by the extremist group ISIS, but the mission failed because the hostages weren’t there, senior administration officials told ABC News Wednesday.

President Obama authorized the “substantial and complex” rescue operation after the officials said a “broad collection of intelligence” led the U.S. to believe the hostages were being held in a specific location in the embattled Middle Eastern nation.

When “several dozen” U.S. special operation members landed in Syria, however, they were met with gunfire and “while on site, it became apparent the hostages were not there,” one of the officials said.

The special operators engaged in a firefight in which ISIS suffered “a good number” of casualties, the official said, while the American forces suffered only a single minor injury. The American forces were able to get back on helicopters and escape.

“Intelligence is not a perfect science,” the senior official said. As to how the intelligence failed and why the hostages were not there, the official said, “The truth is, we don’t know. And that’s the truth. When we got there, they weren’t there. We don’t know why that is.”

Much about the daring mission itself remains a secret -- officials said they did not want to reveal too much about the rescue attempt for fear of spoiling future efforts.

“It was conducted, but was not ultimately successful,” a senior U.S. official told ABC News.

The operation was what senior government officials described as a major undertaking -- involving special operations forces from multiple branches of the military, helicopters, fixed-wing airplanes, and surveillance aircraft.

A statement from Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco on Wednesday noted that the details of the operation will not be made public, but that President Obama, "could not be prouder of the U.S. forces" who carried it out.

National Security Council Spokesperson Caitlin hayden said that the operation was never intended to be disclosed, and that, "an overriding concern for the safety of the hostages and for operational security" required, "as much secrecy as possible."

A video showing the brutal murder of James Foley apparently at the hands of an ISIS fighter appeared online Tuesday.

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‘Savages’ Who Executed Foley Will Be Nabbed, FBI Chief Vows


Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- FBI director James Comey said Wednesday that the “full force” of the U.S. government will come to bear on the “savages” responsible for the kidnapping and gruesome murder of journalist James Foley.

“I’m very, very, sorry to say that these savages have turned it into a homicide investigation,” Comey said, speaking to reporters in Denver.

“So we’ll stay on it. We’ll work with our law enforcement, our intelligence and our military partners to try to bring justice to the Foley family and bring the full force of the United States to bear on these savages,” he said.

Foley was on assignment in Syria for the GlobalPost news outlet when he was kidnapped in November 2012.

Comey said he is concerned that the masked executioner seen in a video clip carrying out Foley’s murder speaks with a British accent, one of “thousands” of westerners Comey says have joined terror groups like ISIS.

“These people may have western passports. That’s a concern to Europe,” Comey said, adding, “it’s just a hop across The Pond to the United States.”

Comey said he has met with Foley’s family and says he is confident his killers will eventually face justice.

“We are very, very patient and dogged people,” said Comey. “We will never forget.”

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Obama to Lead UN Security Council Summit Next Month


Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama will lead a United Nations Security Council Summit regarding foreign terrorism next month.  

The topic of the meeting is expected to be, "the acute threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters." Following the killing of American journalist James Foley by a self-proclaimed member of ISIS, video of which was posted online Tuesday, that topic is particularly timely.

The meeting, scheduled for the week of Sept. 22, will be a Head of Government-level meeting, the first since 2009. Obama hosted that meeting as well, focusing largely on the topic of non-proliferation.

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Attorney General Eric Holder in Ferguson Recalls Being 'Angry' After Police Encounters


Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(FERGUSON, Mo.) -- Attorney General Eric Holder went to the strife torn town of Ferguson on Wednesday where he met with the family of slain teenager Michael Brown and talked about his own run-ins with police that left him "angry and upset."

The nation’s top law enforcement official, who is the first African-American named to the post, said he hoped his presence and interest in the case would have a, “calming influence on the area.”

Ferguson has been roiled by angry protests, rock and bottle throwing and some looting since Brown, 18, was shot and killed by Police Officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9. Brown was African-American and Wilson is white.

Holder told people in Ferguson that he understood their mistrust of police.

“I am the attorney general of the United States. But I am also a black man,” Holder said. “I've confronted this myself.”

The AG recalled being stopped by police on the way to a movie in Georgetown, a well-to-do suburb of Washington, DC.

“Police car comes driving up, flashes his lights, yells, 'Where you going? Hold it,’” Holder told residents. “Now my cousin started mouthing off. I'm like, 'This is not where we want to go. Keep quiet.'”

“At the time that [the police officer] stopped me, I was a federal prosecutor. I wasn't a kid. I was a federal prosecutor. I worked at the United States Department of Justice,” he said. Holder said the encounter left him “angry and upset.”

The attorney general also described having his car searched during routine traffic stops on the New Jersey Turnpike.

“I remember how humiliating that was and how angry I was,” he said.

Holder, who also met with local FBI agents and justice department personnel, promised a “thorough” federal investigation.

“My hope is that will give people some degree of confidence,” he said.

The AG congratulated Missouri Highway Police Capt. Ron Johnson, who was called in to take charge of policing in Ferguson.

“My man, you are the man,” Holder told Johnson. “You’re making a real difference.”

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Kerry Condemns Murder of James Foley, Says ISIS Must Be Destroyed


Credit: US Department of State(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called the murder of American James Foley at the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, video of which was posted online Tuesday, heartbreaking and unfair.

In a statement released Wednesday, Kerry recalled that in 2012, Foley was captured while on assignment in Syria. Kerry was a senator at that time and had the opportunity to meet Foley's family. "The sheer unfairness and unlikely odds that this young journalist would again find himself in captivity in another conflict was almost unimaginable," Kerry said.

"There is evil in this world," Kerry said in light of Tuesday's video, "and we all have come face to face with it once again." Also on Wednesday, Kerry tweeted strong words for ISIS.

 

ISIL must be destroyed/will be crushed.

— John Kerry (@JohnKerry) August 20, 2014



"The world must know that the United States of America will never back down in the face of such evil," Kerry said in a statement. "[ISIS] and the wickedness it represents must be destroyed, and those responsible for this heinous, vicious atrocity will be held accountable."

 

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Supreme Court Blocks Virginia Gay Marriage, for Now


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Supreme Court on Wednesday blocked same-sex marriages from going forward in Virginia, putting on hold a lower court ruling from last month that struck down the state’s strict ban on gay marriage.

The action by the high court means that gay marriages, which were set to begin Thursday, will not go forward while supporters of the state ban appeal the issue to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court acted on an application filed by Michele B. McQuigg, a state clerk who had petitioned for a stay pending appeal.

In an one-page order, with no noted dissents, the Supreme Court granted the request.

Here is the text of the order:

ORDER IN PENDING CASE 14A196 MCQUIGG, MICHELE V. BOSTIC, TIMOTHY B., ET AL. The application for stay presented to The Chief Justice and by him referred to the Court is granted, and the issuance of the mandate of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in case No. 14-1167, is stayed pending the timely filing and disposition of a petition for a writ of certiorari. Should the petition for a writ of certiorari be denied, this stay shall terminate automatically. In the event the petition for a writ of certiorari is granted, the stay shall terminate upon the sending down of the judgment of this Court.

While Mark R. Herring, Virginia’s attorney general, has argued that the state ban is unconstitutional, he urged the Supreme Court to grant the stay. In court briefs, Herring said it was “painful to keep Virginia’s same-sex couples and their children waiting,” but that the “balance of hardships” favored a stay.

Herring expressed concern that if gay marriages were allowed to go forward and then the Supreme Court were to ultimately uphold Virginia’s ban, hundreds or thousands of marriages would be “rendered doubtful.”

“Not only might their marriages have to be unwound,” Herring argued, “but all of the legal relationships and transactions of third parties who pass through their orbit would have to be untangled.”

The court granted a similar request regarding Utah’s ban in January.

So far this year, two federal appeals courts have struck state bans on gay marriage.

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World 'Appalled' by James Foley Beheading, Obama Says


ABC News(EDGARTOWN, Mass.) -- ISIS' slaughter of American journalist James Foley was "brutal," President Obama said Wednesday.

“The entire world is appalled,” the president said in Martha’s Vineyard. “No just God would stand for what they did yesterday or every single day … People like this ultimately fail. They fail because the future’s won by those who build and not destroy. The world is shaped by people like Jim Foley.”

The terrorist group beheaded Foley in a grisly video posted online Tuesday evening. The U.S. intelligence community verified the video’s authenticity Wednesday morning.

According to one senior U.S. official, ISIS had recently threatened to kill Foley to avenge airstrikes against ISIS targets in Iraq, and the White House was aware of the threat prior to the posting of the video.

“A group like ISIL has no place in the 21st century,” Obama said.

The president called Foley’s parents on Wednesday to offer his condolences. John and Diane Foley eulogized their son during a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

“He was a courageous, fearless journalist,” Diane Foley said. “Jimmy had a big heart. ... That’s what we shared with President Obama."

“We just pray that Jim’s death can bring our country together in a stronger way in the values that Jim holds dear,” she said, before correcting herself to “held dear.”

“We beg compassion and mercy” for the other journalists held by ISIS, John Foley said. “There’s no reason for this slaughter.”

The video released Tuesday shows an ISIS militant wearing a black face mask addressing the president directly.

“Any attempt by you, Obama, to deny the Muslims their right to live in safety under the Islamic caliphate will result in the bloodshed of your people,” he says.

Foley, clad in an orange jumpsuit, kneels next to the militant, who is clutching a knife.

“I wish I had more time. I wish I could have the hope of freedom of seeing my family once again, but that ship has sailed,” Foley says before his on-camera execution.

After the gruesome beheading of Foley, the ISIS militant threatens the life of another American hostage -- Steven Sotloff, who went missing in August.

Though he did not mention Sotloff specifically, Obama on Wednesday promised that, “the United States of America will continue to do what they must do to protect our people.”

“We will be vigilant. We will be relentless,” he added.

Foley was kidnapped by ISIS in 2012 while on assignment in Syria. Prior to his execution, U.S. officials say they used Turkish, Russian and Czech intermediaries to advocate for his release.

Earlier on Wednesday, British Prime Minister David Cameron called the beheading “shocking and depraved.”

British officials said it was “apparent” that the ISIS militant in the video was from the United Kingdom and say they’re working to identify the individual.

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Rick Perry Pleads Not Guilty to Felony Charges


Stewart F. House/Getty Images(AUSTIN, Texas) -- Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Wednesday pleaded not guilty to two felony charges on which he was indicted relating to a 2013 veto threat.

Perry’s attorneys entered the not guilty plea Wednesday morning and waived his formal arraignment scheduled for Friday morning.

“The waiver of arraignment contains the plea of not guilty,” David Botsford, an attorney for Perry, said.

Perry turned himself in to authorities Tuesday at the Travis County Courthouse, getting his fingerprints taken and smiling for a mug shot.

The two felony counts -- abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public official -- originate from Perry’s threat to veto $7.5 million in funding for Texas’ public integrity unit after District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg refused to resign following a 2013 DWI conviction.

Perry will travel to Washington, D.C., Thursday for a speech on the border crisis before heading to New Hampshire, where he has events scheduled for Friday and Saturday.

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