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Infinite Menus, Copyright 2006, OpenCube Inc. All Rights Reserved. Sunday, May 24, 2015
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Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate blocked a House bill early Saturday morning that would have extended three sections of the Patriot Act which are set to expire on June 1.

Sixty votes were needed to pass the House-approved USA Freedom Act. But the vote late Friday night saw the bill get just 57 votes in support. After the bill failed, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., attempted to get it passed by unanimous consent, but failed to do so.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made multiple attempts to pass shorter extensions, but was blocked four times, including three objections from Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky.

"For those who want reform and want to prevent the government from holding the data, the Freedom Act is the only way to do it," Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said Saturday. "The House has passed it, the President wants it, all of the Intelligence personnel have agreed to it."

Boxer pointed blame across the aisle after the Saturday morning efforts to get the USA Freedom Act passed, saying "we tried with the majority to protect this country and the Republicans objected."

A senior administration official told ABC News on Saturday that the NSA has begun "winding down" its once-secret bulk collection of Americans' phone records in the wake of Congress' failure to extend the existing program.

"We've said for the past several days that the wind-down process would need to begin yesterday if there was no legislative agreement," the official said. "That process has begun."

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Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images(EXETER, N.H.) -- Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton appears to have learned to take selfies so well that she's now teaching others how to do them.

At a campaign event in Exeter, New Hampshire, on Friday, Clinton gave a brief lesson on how to take a selfie to a voter who was attempting to take a photo with her.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. OK. There you go," Clinton said as she helped the woman open the camera on her iPhone outside of the Water Street Bookstore.

Pointing to the camera button, Clinton then instructed the woman on what to do next.

"OK. Now press, press that white button. This right here," she said.

Despite Clinton's efforts, the woman was still unable to capture the photo. At that point a young man in the large crowd that had gathered outside the bookstore to see the former secretary of state stepped up and offered to take a traditional photo instead.

This prompted another person to cry out, "Surrender to the youth!"

The woman, perhaps conceding she wasn't going to figure out the selfie and should, looked over to Clinton.

"Will you?" she asked.

"I will," Clinton responded, laughing.

Smiling, the two women then posed -- old-school style -- for their photo.

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Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- A project dubbed the "biggest construction failure" in the history of the Department of Veterans Affairs -- already $1 billion over budget and more than a year behind schedule -- is getting another $100 million taxpayer bailout.

Construction will continue on a new veterans medical center near Denver, expected to serve 400,000 former military service members and their families. Ahead of Memorial Day, contractors had prepared to stop work on the project as approved funding dried up after repeated overruns and delays.

The Republican-led Congress approved the cash infusion this week before leaving Washington, D.C., for the holiday; President Obama on Saturday morning signed on the dotted line.

The fix is only a stop-gap measure: The $100 million funds just three more weeks of work.

"I am pleased that Congress has taken action to ensure that construction at the site of the Denver Replacement Medical Center will continue," VA Secretary Robert McDonald said in a statement. "I look forward to working with Congress in the coming weeks to determine a path forward to finishing the campus."

The costs to taxpayers for the project have already ballooned from an initial $328 million price tag in 2005 to $1.73 billion, with years more construction to go, according to government watchdog groups.

House Armed Services Committee chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., has called the agency's entire construction program "a disaster" and the Denver project its "biggest construction failure."

Congress had imposed an $880 million spending cap on the program, but the agency has repeatedly lobbied lawmakers to lift the cap and provide more funds.

VA Secretary Robert McDonald was hailed during his appointment last year as a fiscal hawk and seasoned manager, a former CEO of Proctor & Gamble, who would restore efficiency to the nation's largest federal agency.

But the Denver project, which was a boondoggle before he arrived at the agency, has remained an embarrassment. He has said the "mistakes" were "made years ago by VA officials" who preceded him.

Government watchdog Citizens Against Government Waste named McDonald "porker of the month" for his role in not resolving cost overruns and continuing to ask Congress for more funds.

A recent Government Accountability Office report cited several factors behind the ballooning price tag, including "changes to veterans' health care needs, site-acquisition issues, and a decision in Denver to change plans from a medical center shared with a local medical university to a standalone VA medical center."

The legislation signed Friday also alters the Veterans Choice Act, expanding availability of medical services to veterans.

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(NEW YORK) -- Earlier this month, former Arkansas Governor and declared his intent to run for president in 2016. As Huckabee gears up for his campaign, here's some more information about the GOP hopeful.

Name: Michael Dale "Mike" Huckabee

Party: Republican

Declared as a candidate: May 5, 2015 in Hope, Arkansas

What he does now: Huckabee, 59, was a talk show host on Fox News Channel until resigning in January to begin preparations for his presidential bid. He is also the author of several books with his latest, God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy, published in early 2015.

Early political life: Huckabee was governor of Arkansas from 1996-2007. He was promoted from lieutenant governor in July 1996 when Democratic Gov. Jim Guy Tucker resigned after a fraud conviction, and finished out Tucker's term. Huckabee then went on to serve two full four-year terms as governor.

What he used to do: A practicing Southern Baptist minister for 12 years, starting in college at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

What happened last time he ran: In 2008, he won the Iowa Republican caucuses but came in second in the New Hampshire primary behind the eventual GOP nominee -- Sen. John McCain. He lost South Carolina's primary to McCain by three percentage points. Huckabee won seven states by the end of the GOP primary.

In his own words: "I'm not a Republican because I grew up rich. I'm a Republican because I didn't want to spend the rest of my life poor, waiting for the government to rescue me." (2008 Republican National Convention Speech, St. Paul, Minnesota)

Potential baggage: Huckabee has been criticized by fiscal conservatives for raising taxes and increasing spending as governor of Arkansas. By the time he left office, the conservative Cato Institute slapped him with an "F" grade for failing to adhere to small-government principles. Not even a day into his second presidential race, the Club for Growth, a fiscally conservative political advocacy group, went on the air in Iowa and South Carolina with $100,000 in ads slamming him for raising taxes in Arkansas.

Family tree: Huckabee and his wife Janet were high school sweethearts at Hope High School. Their first date was at a truck stop where they chowed down on cheeseburgers after Janet's basketball game. They got married the following year -- on May 25, 1974 -- and have three children and four grandchildren.

The other guy from Hope: President Bill Clinton's conveniently-named birthplace played an iconic role in the president's 1992 campaign. Huckabee, who was born in the same Arkansas town nearly nine years after Clinton, kicked off his campaign from his hometown with plans to go "from Hope to higher ground" (which also happens to be the title of his 2007 book on leadership). But unlike Clinton, Huckabee actually grew up in Hope. (The 42nd president spent his formative years in Hot Springs, Arkansas).

Also known as: The man of the "moral majority." In 2008, Huckabee was the presidential choice for many voters in the influential religious bloc of the GOP. (Nearly six in 10 Iowa caucus-goers in 2012 identified themselves as evangelical Christians.) Given the size of the 2016 Republican field, Huckabee could have more competition in courting evangelical voters in the primary from the likes of Rick Santorum, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Why he has a beef with Beyonce: He took a shot at pop royalty in his most recent book when he called Beyonce's song lyrics "obnoxious and toxic mental poison," slammed rapper Jay-Z for "exploiting his wife as a sex object," and suggested Beyonce's dancing is "best left for the privacy of the bedroom." In an interview with ABC's Martha Raddatz on This Week, Huckabee stood by his criticism but pointed out that he also called Beyonce a "wonderful talent."

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Image Source Pink/Image Source/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) --In a major win for President Obama, the Senate voted Friday 62-37 to pass the so-called "fast track" Trade Promotion Authority.

The so-called “fast track” authority would ease the path for Obama's sweeping Trans-Pacific trade deal and empower the president to send his trade package to Congress for a strict up or down vote with no amendments or filibusters and make it subject to a simple majority.

The TPP deal would be the biggest free-trade pact in decades and is aggressively opposed by liberal Democrats, labor unions and others. 

Obama credited the bipartisan vote as “an important step toward ensuring the United States can negotiate and enforce strong, high-standards trade agreements.”

“If done right, these agreements are vital to expanding opportunities for the middle class, leveling the playing field for American workers, and establishing rules for the global economy that help our businesses grow and hire by selling goods Made in America to the rest of the world,” Obama wrote in a statement Friday.

Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden also cheered the vote.

“This to me is what we’re sent here to do,” Wyden, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said following the vote. “Tackle big issues in a bipartisan way.”

But many Democrats were staunchly opposed to the measure, despite intense lobbying from President Obama over the past several weeks.

The House is expected to vote on the measure as soon as next month, but it faces another tough vote in the lower chamber with most Democrats opposed to the legislation.

House Speaker John Boehner suggested supporting the measure is “a no brainer” but warned that its passage will depend on Democratic support as well. Republicans do not have enough votes to pass the measure on their own.

“The House will take up this measure, and Republicans will do our part, but ultimately success will require Democrats putting politics aside and doing what’s best for the country,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said. “Let’s seize this opportunity to open new doors for the things Americans make and the people who make them."

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Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In his weekly address, President Obama commemorated Memorial Day by paying tribute to the men and women in uniform who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

“Like generations of heroes before them, these Americans gave everything they had—not for glory, not even for gratitude, but for something greater than themselves,” Obama said. “We cannot bring them back.  Nor can we ease the pain of their families and friends who live with their loss.”

The president will spend the first Memorial Day since the end of the war in Afghanistan at Arlington Cemetery, remembering the more than 2,200 service members who gave their lives in that conflict, as well as all of the nation’s fallen soldiers.

“So what we can do—what we must do—is fulfill our sacred obligations to them, just like they fulfilled theirs to us.  We have to honor their memory,” he said.

Obama asked that all Americans spend Monday honoring the memory and sacrifice of the nation’s service members.

Read the full transcript of the president's address:
 
Hi, everybody.  This weekend is Memorial Day—a time to pay tribute to all our men and women in uniform who’ve ever given their lives so that we can live in freedom and security.  This year, the holiday is especially meaningful.  It’s the first Memorial Day since our war ended in Afghanistan.
 
On Monday, at Arlington Cemetery, I’ll join our Gold Star families, veterans, and their loved ones to remember all our fallen heroes, including the more than 2,200 American patriots who gave their lives in Afghanistan.  And I plan to share a few of their stories.
 
Growing up in Arizona, Wyatt Martin loved the outdoors.  To him, a great day was a day spent fishing.  After high school, he enlisted in the Army because he believed that the blessings he enjoyed as an American came with an obligation to give back to his country.
 
Ramon Morris was born in Jamaica, and as a teenager came to Queens.  Like so many proud immigrants, he felt a calling to serve his new country and joined the Army.  He fell in love, got engaged, and the thing he wanted most was to make the world safer for his three-year-old daughter.
 
In their lives, Specialist Wyatt Martin and Sergeant First Class Ramon Morris travelled different paths.  But in December, their paths intersected as the final two Americans to give their lives during our combat mission in Afghanistan.
 
This weekend also reminds us that, around the world, our men and women in uniform continue to serve and risk their lives.  In Afghanistan, our troops now have a new mission—training and advising Afghan forces.  John Dawson was one of them.  From Massachusetts, he loved the Bruins and the Pats.  In April, he gave his life as an Army combat medic—the first American to give his life in this new mission.  This Memorial Day, we’ll honor Corporal Dawson as well.
 
Like generations of heroes before them, these Americans gave everything they had—not for glory, not even for gratitude, but for something greater than themselves.  We cannot bring them back.  Nor can we ease the pain of their families and friends who live with their loss.
 
But we are the Americans they died to defend.  So what we can do—what we must do—is fulfill our sacred obligations to them, just like they fulfilled theirs to us.  We have to honor their memory.  We have to care for their families, and our veterans who served with them.  And as a nation, we have to remain worthy of their sacrifice—forever committed to the country they loved and the freedom they fought for and died for.
 
Thank you, have a wonderful weekend, and may God bless our fallen heroes and their families.

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US Congress(WASHINGTON) -- In this week’s Republican address, Rep. Mac Thornberry of Texas calls on President Obama to honor that nation’s troops by backing a defense authorization bill that provides them with the benefits they’ve earned, and the tools and resources they need to complete their missions.

“We carry a debt to those who have served, and especially to those who have fallen, to focus just on doing what’s right for the country and what’s right for our troops, and we honor them best by building on their sacrifice to pass along to the next generation a country even stronger, even more prosperous, and even freer than we’ve enjoyed,” Thornberry said.

The House Armed Services Committee Chairman contends the House has passed the defense authorization bill last week giving troops a raise an updating their benefits, but that President Obama wants additional money for domestic programs and has threatened to veto the defense bill unless he gets it.

“Look, we’re always going to have our differences, but it’s wrong for anyone to play politics with defense.  The world is too dangerous, and the men and women who serve are too precious for that,” he said.

Read the full transcript of the Republican address:

Hello, I’m Mac Thornberry.  I’m privileged to represent the people of the Panhandle and North Texas in Congress and to chair the House Armed Services Committee.

In my job I get to spend a lot of time around the men and women who serve our nation in the military.  I’m continually in awe of their character, their courage, and their dedication to our country.

Since the beginning, the United States has been blessed with outstanding individuals who cared about something bigger than themselves and have fought – and some even died – for American security and American freedom.

This Memorial Day, we continue to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.  The Greatest Generation took on one of the greatest evils the world has ever known, defeated it, and came home to build a nation.

But their achievement came at a heavy price.  On Memorial Day, all of us should take time to remember and to honor those who sacrificed their lives in answering the call of our country.

I think we have to do more than honor the fallen, however.  We have a duty to honor what they fought for, so that, in the words of Lincoln at Gettysburg, “we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.”

The world today is full of turmoil.  Freedom and decency are still under assault.  ISIS, for example, poses a grave and direct threat to our security and our way of life.

No one knows how to solve all the problems of the world.  But one thing we do know for sure – the world is a safer, better place when the United States is militarily strong.  And a weakened America invites greater danger.

The Constitution endows Congress with specific responsibilities to help “provide for the common defense.”   For 53 straight years, Congresses of both parties have passed and presidents of both parties have signed into law a defense authorization act, which has helped to build that military strength that we need.  The House passed this year’s bill last week.  It gives our troops a raise and updates their benefits.  It eases our warfighters’ transition to the VA and it makes sure we get the most value possible for the taxpayer dollars.  The Senate will take up their version soon.

The House bill authorized exactly the amount the president requested to keep America safe.  But he wants more money for domestic programs and has threatened to veto the defense bill unless he gets it.  

Look, we’re always going to have our differences, but it’s wrong for anyone to play politics with defense.  The world is too dangerous, and the men and women who serve are too precious for that.

We carry a debt to those who have served, and especially to those who have fallen, to focus just on doing what’s right for the country and what’s right for our troops, and we honor them best by building on their sacrifice to pass along to the next generation a country even stronger, even more prosperous, and even freer than we’ve enjoyed.

Of course, no one put it better than Ronald Reagan when he said, “and we owe them something…We owe them a promise to look at the world with a steady gaze and, perhaps, a resigned toughness, knowing that we have adversaries in the world and challenges and the only way to meet them and maintain the peace is by staying strong.”

When this Memorial Day’s passed, there will still be brave Americans stationed all over the world to protect us and our way of life.   

To everyone who wears America’s colors and to everyone who ever has, and to their families, thank you.

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Scott Olson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The State Department on Friday released 296 emails from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private e-mail account related to the September 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

The documents made public Friday were earlier provided to the House Select Committee on Benghazi several months ago in response to its request for more information about the incident that remains the most troubling moment in Clinton’s tenure at the State Department -- and a major vulnerability as she campaigns for the presidency.

“The emails we release today do not change the essential facts or our understanding of the events before, during, or after the attacks, which have been known since the independent Accountability Review Board report on the Benghazi attacks was released almost two and a half years ago,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement Friday.

The documents cover the period from January 2011 through Dec. 31, 2012.

“I have said repeatedly I want those emails out,” Clinton said during a campaign stop in Iowa earlier this week. "Nobody has a bigger interest in getting them released than I do. I respect the State Department. They have their process that they do for everybody and not just for me, but anything that they might do to expedite that process I heartily support."

Friday’s release is just the tip of the spear: Going forward, another 55,000 pages of former Secretary Clinton’s e-mails will be made publicly available on a rolling basis. The State Department has until next Tuesday to announce the roll-out plan for the much larger batch of e-mails.

The laborious task of sorting, reading, redacting and reviewing paper copies of what now amounts to hundreds of thousands of pages of documents falls to the State Department’s Office of Information Programs and Services and its lawyers, better known as the FOIA office -- which stands for Freedom of Information Act.

They’ve established a full-time staff, with one project manager, two case analysts, nine FOIA reviewers and a slew of additional information analysts who have been working since April. The larger trove of e-mails from Clinton’s private email account spans the period from 2009 to 2013.


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ABC/Ida Mae Astute(WASHINGTON) -- 19 Kids and Counting star Josh Duggar responded to allegations of child molestation Thursday by calling his actions "inexcusable."

Now, Mike Huckabee is standing up for him.

"Josh’s actions when he was an underage teen are as he described them himself, 'inexcusable,' but that doesn’t mean 'unforgivable.' He and his family dealt with it and were honest and open about it with the victims and the authorities," Huckabee wrote in a post on Facebook. "No purpose whatsoever is served by those who are now trying to discredit Josh or his family by sensationalizing the story. Good people make mistakes and do regrettable and even disgusting things."

According to a report from In Touch magazine, Duggar, 27, was investigated in 2006 for inappropriately touching minors when he was a teenager.

On Thursday evening, he released a statement that has since been obtained by ABC News in which he said he "would do anything to go back to those teen years and take different actions."

"I confessed this to my parents who took several steps to help me address the situation. We spoke with the authorities where I confessed my wrongdoing, and my parents arranged for me and those affected by my actions to receive counseling," he added. "I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life."

Huckabee and the Duggar family have long been close, and the former Arkansas governor has often praised the family for their Christian values. Photos of Duggar's parents, Jim Bob and Michelle, and their endorsements of Huckabee for president are prominently featured on his campaign website; they still appeared on the homepage Friday afternoon.

The Duggars endorsed and campaigned for Huckabee during his 2008 presidential campaign, as well.

Josh Duggar said last week he had met with Huckabee in Washington, tweeting a photo of himself with the candidate that Huckabee later shared with his own Twitter followers. "Great to visit w/ my friend @GovMikeHuckabee this morning in DC," Duggar wrote. "Thankful to have his voice on the #2016 stage!"

Huckabee, whose campaign declined further comment when asked by ABC News, added that by admitting and apologizing for his actions, Josh Duggar acted as a testament to his family's "authenticity" and "humility."

"It is such times as this, when real friends show up and stand up. Today, Janet and I want to show up and stand up for our friends," he concluded. "Let others run from them. We will run to them with our support."

A personal representative for the Duggars had no additional comment Friday, nor did a rep for TLC.

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BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama told a Jewish-American audience on Friday that he has a personal stake in making sure the Iran nuclear deal is a success.

“This deal will have my name on it, so nobody has a bigger personal stake in making sure that it delivers on its promise,” the president said, echoing the comments he made to The Atlantic earlier this week.

Seeking to reassure the Jewish community, the president reiterated that the U.S. and Israel share the same goal: “Iran must not, under any circumstances, be allowed to get a nuclear weapon,” he said.

“Now, there’s a debate about how to achieve that -- and that's a healthy debate,” he continued. “The deal that we already reached with Iran has already halted or rolled back parts of Iran’s nuclear program.  Now we’re seeking a comprehensive solution.  I will not accept a bad deal.”

Obama also reiterated that a deal is not yet done and that “all options are and will remain on the table.”

“I can’t stand here today and guarantee an agreement will be reached.  We’re hopeful.  We’re working hard.  But nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” he said.

The president, wearing a white yarmulke, spoke before the Congregation at Adas Israel at an event marking Jewish American Heritage Month.


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Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Presidential primary organizers have quite the dilemma on their hands. The Republican field has more candidates than in any recent primary, and debate organizers have been wrestling with one main question: How can we fit all the candidates on a stage?

The answer from Fox News and CNN, which are separately hosting the first two televised debates, is to invite the top 10 candidates as determined by a national polling average, and leave everyone else out.

Fox will average the last five polls that are conducted by “major, nationally recognized organizations that use standard methodological techniques.” That likely translates to non-partisan polls conducted by live interviewers.

So who’s likely to be left out?

Polling site FiveThirtyEight analyzes which candidates would make a debate held today. See the results here.

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Feng Li/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Hillary Clinton has set the date for her first big campaign rally: June 13.

While there’s no word on where the event will take place, we do know this — June 13 will officially mark the end of the "ramp up" phase of her campaign.

It’s possible that former President Bill Clinton could attend the rally as well. It would mark his first official appearance with Hillary on the campaign trail.

Meanwhile, Clinton will hold two events in New Hampshire Friday with more planned in South Carolina, Florida, Texas and Missouri in the coming weeks. Clinton is also adding Georgia, Rhode Island and even New Mexico into the mix. She's scheduled to swing through for fundraisers at some time in between.

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ABC/Donna Svennevik(NEW YORK) — It’s the Florida endorsement Marco Rubio may secretly be vying for — that of hugely popular Cuban rapper Pitbull.

In a BuzzFeed profile of Rubio, an unnamed aide, trying to tout the senator's cool factor, alluded to Rubio's hip hop fluency, and citing that he's on a first name basis with Pitbull.

Rubio has made mention of his favor for Pitbull, whose real is Armando Perez, in the past.

“Pitbull has become a friend and someone from Miami we’re very proud of,” Rubio said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe in April.

But Rubio may not have the market cornered on cool. Pitbull has said that his mother and grandmother told him that “politics and religion” are the two things you don’t speak about, according to The Hill.

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Jemal Countess/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — The Clinton Foundation has released a list of paid speeches by Hillary, Bill and Chelsea showing the payments that were donated to the foundation.

The amount of the payments, which were not disclosed before Thursday night, could total between $12 million and more than $25 million, according to the foundation, which provided only ranges rather than actual amounts.

Here is a breakdown of the donors:

BANKS


To any Democrats sensitive to Clinton’s perceived ties to the finance industry, this won’t look particularly good. Goldman, JP Morgan, Citi and Carlyle each donated between $250,000 and $500,000. Charles Schwab gave $100,000 to $250,000, as did Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
 
FOREIGN FRIENDS


Thailand’s ministry of energy paid a boatload, as did Qatar First Investment Bank, the Vancouver Board of Trade, and several other foreign companies. Chinese companies Alibaba, Beijing Huaduo Enterprise Consulting Company, China Real Estate Development Group, Xinjiang Hualing Industry & Trade Co. and Zhong Lu Corp also donated.
 
CASH FROM CHARITY


Between $50,000 and $100,00 was paid for a Clinton speech by Chicago House, a social-services group in Chicago that helps people “who are disenfranchised by HIV/AIDS, LGBTQ marginalization, poverty, homelessness, and/or gender nonconformity by providing housing, employment services, medical linkage and retention services, HIV prevention services, legal services and other supportive programs,” according to its website.
 
WHAT THE CLINTON FOUNDATION IS SAYING


“In addition to the more than 300,000 donors who are all listed on our website, posting these speeches is just another example of how our disclosure policies go above and beyond what's required of charities,” Craig Minassian, Chief Communications Officer of the Clinton Foundation said in a statement. “This funding allows the Foundation to effectively and efficiently use our resources to implement programs that are fighting HIV/AIDS and childhood obesity, increasing opportunity for women and girls, lifting people out of poverty and combating climate change."

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The White House says the president’s strategy against ISIS is working, despite the fact that ISIS is in control of much of Syria and has gained control of the capital city of Iraq’s largest province.

"We are in the degrade portion of this operation,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters in Thursday’s press briefing, pushing back against those who are calling for an overhaul of the current strategy and drawing a hard line against the consideration of a large-scale military deployment.

“The president is not going to be in a position where he's going to consider a large-scale U.S. military deployment,” Earnest added. “And for those who are calling on a change in strategy, I would encourage them to be specific.”

Instead of overhauling current strategy, Earnest told ABC News' Chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl that that President Obama and his national security team are looking for ways to apply strategies that have worked in other places -- using Kobani and Tikrit as examples of success -- to areas where the United States is experiencing setbacks.

“What's under consideration is how can we learn from those situations where we have had success and made progress and how can we apply those lessons to this area where we have experienced a setback,” Earnest told Karl.

Though Earnest said the White House is “deeply concerned” about the situation in Palmyra, the administration is not changing its current strategy in Syria.

“Until we're able to build up local forces on the ground in Syria who can take the fight to ISIL in their own country, you know, this is going to continue to be a difficult challenge, and one that is not going to be solved overnight, but rather, one that will require a long-term commitment,” he said.


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