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Darren McCollester/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- When it comes to food, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is learning the art of self-control.

As he travels around the country weighing a run for the presidency in 2016, Bush has managed to adhere to the Paleo diet, learning how to navigate a campaign trail with tempting food around every corner.

On a recent trip to New Hampshire, Bush showed that discipline while eating dinner at the Hilton Garden Inn, dissecting his plate in what the New York Times described as the “Jeb Bush treatment.”

"Steak Tips Susanne, the $21 entree at the Hilton Garden Inn in Manchester, N.H., arrived as a carefully composed plate: strips of sirloin, sautéed peppers and caramelized onions atop a bed of linguine with a side of garlic bread," the New York Times reported. "Then the dish underwent the Jeb Bush treatment. The garlic bread was instantly banished to the plate of a nearby aide. The pasta was conspicuously pushed aside."

Bush reportedly turns to grilled chicken and salads for main courses and snacks on almonds. It may not be the most satisfying diet (Bush has described himself as “always hungry” and “starving”), but the Paleo regimen has reportedly produced results. The slimmed-down governor is said to have lost nearly 30 pounds.

But Bush does admit he deviates on the Paleo plan from time to time by indulging in wine in the evenings, and at a “Politics and Pie” event in New Hampshire last week, he blatantly broke the rules of his diet for all to see.

“This is a total violation,” Bush said as he gleefully shoveled fork after fork of blueberry pie into this mouth. “To hell with the diet. Where are the French fries?”

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The White House is looking at ways to better communicate with the families of American hostages held overseas, as part of its broader policy review in the wake of the killing of two innocent civilians by a U.S. drone strike.

“There is a premium on clear, direct, specific, regular, reliable communication with these families, and that can be difficult when you have a wide range of agencies that are involved in those conversations,” Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters at the daily briefing on Friday. “The effort is to try to streamline those communications, to make that a communication more effective and more sensitive to the needs of these families.”

As part of this effort, the White House is seeking input from the families of those who have been held hostage.

“Throughout this process the administration has been committed to incorporating the viewpoint of families that have been unfortunately involved in this process,” Earnest said. “We have, on the front end, solicited some input from families of those who have been held hostage.”

One option on the table is the creation of a “fusion cell” to coordinate responses and enable a “whole-of-government response” to overseas hostage situations.

Earnest suggested that this cell could be an alternative to the idea of a “hostage czar” that some, including the Weinstein’s congressman, have proposed.

 “I'm not in a position where I'm ruling out the creation of a hostage czar. I'm just pointing out that the proposal that's being discussed right now is one that's -- that is in pursuit of a similar goal, but with a different composition,” he said.

Earnest did not offer a timeline for this review, but said families would have an opportunity to offer feedback based on their own personal experiences.

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JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama on Friday reiterated his commitment to reviewing the American operation that killed two civilian hostages to prevent the future loss of innocent lives.

“We are going to review what happened. We are going to identity the lessons that can be learned and any improvements and changes that can be made,” the president told employees at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. “I know those of you who are here share our determination to continue doing everything we can to prevent the loss of innocent lives.”

Pausing for reflection, the president spoke briefly about the difficulty of these moments.

“I was asked by somebody how do you absorb news like that that we received the other day and I told the truth, ‘it’s hard,’” he said. “But the one thing I wanted everybody to know, because I know you, because I work with you, because I know the quality of this team, is that we all bleed when we lose an American life. We all grieve when any innocent life is taken.”

“We understand the solemn responsibilities that are given to us and our first job is to make sure that we protect the American people," he continued. "But there is not a person that I talk to that's involved in the intelligence community that also doesn’t understand that we  have to do so while upholding our values and our ideals and our laws and our constitutions and our commitment to democracy.”


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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — President Obama personally took responsibility Thursday for the death of an American and an Italian hostage killed in a U.S. counter-terrorism operation in January, but his words appear to be little comfort to the family of the American, who said the U.S. government as a whole has been "inconsistent and disappointing" for years in their time of need.

“I want to thank Congressman John Delaney, Senator Barbara Mikulski, and Senator Ben Cardin -- as well as specific officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation -- for their relentless efforts to free my husband,” Elaine Weinstein, wife to slain hostage Warren Weinstein, said in a statement shortly after the White House's grim announcement. “Unfortunately, the assistance we received from other elements of the U.S. Government was inconsistent and disappointing over the course of three and a half years. We hope that my husband’s death and the others who have faced similar tragedies in recent months will finally prompt the U.S. Government to take its responsibilities seriously and establish a coordinated and consistent approach to supporting hostages and their families.”

Elaine Weinstein also blasted the Pakistani government and military, for whom she said her husband's safe return "should have been a priority for them based on his contributions to their country."

"[B]ut they failed to take action earlier in his captivity when opportunity presented itself, instead treating Warren’s captivity as more of an annoyance than a priority. I hope the nature of our future relationship with Pakistan is reflective of how they prioritize situations such as these," she wrote.

On Friday the Pakistani government said it can "fully understand this tragic loss," having lost "thousands of innocent civilians in the war against terrorism."

The White House recently ordered a full review of how the U.S. deals with hostage situations, in the wake of the deaths of several Americans either in the clutches of al Qaeda or at the hands of the al Qaeda offshoot ISIS. U.S. officials told ABC News significant changes will be recommended in the coming weeks.

Weinstein was killed along with Italian aid worker Giovanni Lo Porto in a CIA drone strike in mid-January in Pakistan's tribal area, a U.S. official told ABC News Thursday.

"I want to express our grief and condolences for the families of two hostages," Obama said Thursday from the White House briefing room, noting that at the time, the U.S. believed no civilians were present at the site.

"Since 9/11, our counter-terrorism efforts have prevented terrorism attacks and saved innocent lives, both here in America and around the world, and that determination to protect innocent life only makes the loss of these two men especially painful for all of us," he added. "It is a cruel and bitter truth that in the fog of war generally and our fight against terrorists specifically, mistakes, sometimes deadly mistakes, can occur. But one of the things that sets America apart from many other nations, one of the things that makes us exceptional is our willingness to confront squarely our imperfections and to learn from our mistakes."

That strike and another just days later also took out two American members of al Qaeda, Ahmed Farouq and Adam Gadahn. Neither, officials said, were the intended targets of the strike.

Prior to Thursday's announcement, the U.S. government had acknowledged killing four Americans in drone strikes since 2009 -- only one of whom, al Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, was an intended target.

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Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — President Obama went straight into the progressive lions' den Thursday to sell the Pacific trade deal he’s trying to pass: his old campaign organization-turned-advocacy-group, Organizing for Action.

His goal was clear: convince the audience at the spring meeting that this is the best possible trade negotiation, with stringent labor and environment requirements built in.

Boiled down: it isn't the North American Free Trade Agreement.

"I've been listening to this debate, I've got some good friends who are opposed to this trade agreement but when I ask specifically what you oppose, they start talking about NAFTA," he said. "And I'm thinking, well I had just come out of law school when NAFTA was passed! That's not the trade agreement I'm passing!"

Labor unions and other progressives remain opposed to the Bill Clinton-brokered North American Free Trade Agreement because they say it stole U.S. jobs, furthered income inequality and widened the trade deficit with Mexico and Canada.

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ABC/Martin H. Simon(WASHINGTON) — House Speaker John Boehner expressed condolences to the families of the American and Italian hostages killed in a U.S. counter-terrorism operation in January.

Speaking Thursday on the deaths of Warren Weintein and Giovanni Lo Porto, Boehner, R-Ohio, emphasized that he believes the independent review that the president announced “is entirely appropriate."

"As President Obama indicated, this is not a time for excuses," he said. "We need all the facts, for the families and so that we can make sure that nothing like this ever happens again in our efforts to keep Americans safe."

Boehner said he has not spoken personally to President Obama about the killed hostages, although he said he was "notified prior to the public disclosure of this.”

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Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson(WASHINGTON) -- No president wants to be known as a big joke -- except on the night of the White House Correspondents' Dinner.

Each spring, the commander-in-chief sets aside his usual gravitas to tickle the funny bones of the White House press corps and their celebrity guests.

Obama is no stranger to the lighter side of the job. He's busted out his comedy chops time and again, including on BuzzFeed and Zach Galifianakis' "Between Two Ferns."

Saturday will mark his sixth correspondents' dinner, or "nerd prom" as it's affectionately called in Washington.

From cracks about his birth certificate to jabs at his veep, check out the video below for a roundup of some of the president's best White House Correspondents' Dinner jokes to date:

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ABC/IDA MAE ASTUTE(SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.) — Likely presidential candidate Rick Santorum and some of his top -- and most deep-pocketed -- supporters gathered in Scottsdale, Arizona Thursday for a luncheon and golf outing.

An aide to Santorum tells ABC News, “Over 25 major Republican and conservative donors from nearly a dozen states were in attendance, where they heard from Santorum, senior political advisors to the Senator, and Friess regarding the status of a potential 2016 run.”

The source added that political updates, strategy and finance were among the topics discussed at Thursday’s luncheon.

Following the luncheon, participants took part in a golf outing with Santorum and Friess.
 
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David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Skip Allen was new to being a White House usher for President Ronald Reagan when it fell to him to deliver a top-secret document to the commander in chief in the private residence.

While the document was designated "for the President's eyes only," Allen would end up seeing more than he bargained for that day in 1981: a naked president.

“I took it up, and I'm looking for him, and the steward comes out and says, ‘He's in there.’ So I went over and knocked on the door and he said, ‘Come in,’” Allen recalled Reagan saying in an interview with ABC News' Jonathan Karl. “And there he was getting out of the shower. And he was just having a sheet of water on. That's all they had.”

Allen shifted his gaze from the nude Reagan as he extended the document toward the president.

“He dried his hands off and he said, ‘Oh, yeah, I'm working through that,’” Allen remembers, Reagan seemingly unfazed by the encounter.

That wouldn’t be the last time Allen would see the president without his clothes on. Later that same day, Allen had another top secret delivery to bring the president. It was nighttime and the president was in his bedroom. First lady Nancy Reagan, who was already in bed, gave Allen permission to enter the room after knocking.

“So, I walked into the bedroom, and the president's just coming out of his dressing room in his underwear,” Allen said. “And Mrs. Reagan said, ‘Oh, Ronnie, you could put on a robe anyway.’ And he looked at her and said, ‘Oh, it's alright. He's already seen me naked once today. We're old friends.’"

Allen remembers a much less friendly rapport with the Clintons, calling their transition to the White House the most difficult of his time as usher from 1979 to 2004.

“They were a little on the indecisive side as to what they wanted and how they wanted it, and they had to switch around a couple of times before they got things the way they liked it,” Allen said.

He recalled one particular story, when then-first lady Hillary Clinton called to ask that the kitchen stop preparing a particular chicken dish that they were being served. After having the chicken removed from the menu, Allen got another call a couple weeks later. This one was from the president himself.

"’What ever happened to the chicken dish that was on the menu? We want it back again,’" Allen recalls President Bill Clinton telling him. “So I had to call the chef and tell him that the chicken was back being served on the second floor.”

Allen declined to provide any details on any tensions in the Clintons' private quarters during the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

“They have their public face and their private face, and when we were around, it was the public face. And what they did when we were gone, I don't know,” he said.

Allen’s stories, and those of many other White House residence staff, are revealed in detail in a new book, The Residence, by author Kate Andersen Brower.

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(NEW YORK) — Florida Senator Marco Rubio has moved to the front of the very crowded field of candidates and potential contenders for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.

That’s according to the latest Quinnipiac University poll, which showed that Rubio has 15 percent support of likely Republican voters.

While that’s hardly a ringing endorsement, it does show that the Florida lawmaker, whose parents were born in Cuba, is regarded as a viable candidate for the White House.

One of Rubio’s political mentors, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, received 13 percent of support followed by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who had 12 percent.

Those declared and undeclared candidates in single digits include Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is the runaway favorite, who also easily bested all potential GOP opponents in head-to-head match-ups. However, Clinton was only ahead of Rubio by 45 percent to 43 percent, another sign that he's force to be reckoned with in 2016.

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Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama welcomed the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots to the White House on Thursday, but didn't miss the chance for a bit of a punchline.

"I usually tell a bunch of jokes at these events," Obama said Thursday, "but with the Patriots in town I was worried that 11 out of 12 of them would fall flat." The joke was a reference to the controversial "Deflate-gate" scandal in which the Patriots were accused of deflating footballs during the playoffs.

Obama, a Chicago sports fan, congratulated the Patriots for "their leadership on and off the field."

"I just wish the city of Boston would share some of those titles you keep winning with Chicago," he remarked. Boston sports teams have won nine championships since 2002.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady did not attend Thursday's event.

In February, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest joked that while it had long been clear that he was no threat to Brady's job, the star quarterback's handling of the scandal proved "there's no risk of [Brady] taking my job either."


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Mark Cornelison/Lexington Herald-Leader/MCT via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Secret Service, which has been the target of many pointed questions in recent years, took more than a year to replace an alarm system at the home of former president George H.W. Bush, a report from the Department of Homeland Security's Office of the Inspector General, released Thursday, said.

The alarms in question were inoperable for at least 13 months, the OIG said in the report. During that period, Secret Service protective detail created a roving post to secure Bush's home, and no security breaches occurred. Still, the OIG says that it uncovered "problems with identifying, reporting, and tracking alarm system malfunctions, and with repairing and replacing alarm systems."

Inspector General John Roth said in a press release that the Secret Service "will take action to address both recommendations in our report, aimed at correcting the overall process for tracking maintenance problems and also improving any specific security equipment that is currently in disrepair or in need of improvement."

The recommendations made in the report included the evaluation of security equipment at all protectees' personal residence and improve, repair or replace the equipment, and additionally evaluate the process by which tracking maintenance requests is handled.

Bush tweeted about the report on Thursday, saying that he has and always has had confidence in the Secret Service.

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Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate confirmed Loretta Lynch as the next attorney general Thursday, 166 days after she was first nominated for the post.

The Senate approved Lynch’s nomination with a vote of 56 to 43.

The Senate took over five months to confirm Lynch after her nomination was mired in political fights.  President Obama nominated Lynch shortly after Republicans won control of the Senate in the mid-term elections in November, and in an gesture of goodwill, Democrats offered to wait to consider Lynch’s nomination until Republicans took control in January.

But Lynch quickly became embroiled in political fights between Democrats and Republicans in the Senate over issues like the president’s immigration executive actions and an anti-human trafficking bill.

Republicans insisted the human trafficking bill be passed before a vote on Lynch’s nomination. On Wednesday, the Senate unanimously passed the measure to help victims of human trafficking with a vote of 99 to 0 after Democrats and Republicans struck a deal on a controversial abortion funding restriction included in the measure.

Lynch, who currently serves as a U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, will be the first African American woman to serve as attorney general.

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AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The man who tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in 1981 appeared Thursday in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., for the second day of oral arguments on allowing him more freedom.

John Hinckley Jr. has been at least temporarily committed to St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington for insanity after he attempted to assassinate Reagan outside the Washington Hilton Hotel in 1981. And now those clinicians in charge of his care there are recommending he be allowed to live outside a mental hospital full-time.

For the past two years, Hinckley has spent 17 days of each month at his mother's home in Williamsburg, Virginia, and his remaining time at St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington, the result of a gradual increase in time granted outside of the hospital.

It's the hospital's recommendation that Hinckley make the full out-patient transition. The government isn’t contesting that, but wants added proposed conditions to the hospital's requested changes regarding Hinckley’s freedom, which the hospital says are unnecessarily restrictive.

Specific points of contention include rules about Hinckley's Internet use and accessibility. As it stands now, he may only access some websites. St. Elizabeth forensic clinician administrator Vern Hyde, who was speaking on behalf of the hospital and has treated Hinckley for about nine years, said the website restrictions had impeded Hinckley’s freedom.

For example, it has frustrated his job search because many opportunities in Williamsburg require applicants to apply online, Hyde said, adding that the hospital would have the ability to monitor his online activity and would utilize its power to do so.

Another key point at issue with the government recommendations is that Hinckley’s sole residence be with his mother. Hyde said it would stop Hinckley from forging an independent life. To the notion that should he be caught in a situation where he is marooned in Washington after seeking treatment and unable to make it back to Williamsburg, he should stay at St. Elizabeth's, Hyde said, "[The hospital] is not a hotel. We don't have the bed space."

Hinckley has two volunteer jobs in Williamsburg. He has taken up photography and has joined a social support group for members of the mentally ill community in hopes of making friends. Hyde said Hinckley has successfully made two friends in Williamsburg through the therapeutic group. But certain provisions to his part-time release, like the approval process for outings he is required to get, have hindered his ability to cultivate these relationships, Hyde argued.

But the government said it was concerned by two examples of Hinckley’s existing pre-approved plan changing without notifying his medical supervision team, and provided the basis for their argument to keep the approval network in place.

In one instance, Hinckley had plans with a friend to visit another friend who then became ill, so the two went to a different friend's house. Hinckley didn't inform Hyde of the change until the next day - which, contrary to the government's assessment, Hyde told the court was not a deceitful action, nor was it one to cause any real concern.

The second was a visit to a Barnes & Noble bookstore where Hinckley allegedly stood before a section with, among other books, some on presidential assassination and Ronald Reagan.

At a different point during the proceeding, Hyde noted that Hinckley expressed remorse at the passing of Reagan and his former White House Press Secretary James Brady, whom sustained multiple gunshot wounds at Hinckley's hand.

Hyde made special mention of the glowing feedback all those involved in Hinckley's care have said of him, particularly in his personal growth as a caring individual.

The court will resume Friday, hearing arguments from the clinicians who will be in charge of Hinckley's day-to-day mental care should the court decide to allow him to live outside a mental hospital full-time.

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Photo by Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The congressman who represents the family of slain American Dr. Warren Weinstein in the House of Representatives is crafting legislation to create a “hostage czar” who would be empowered to cut through bureaucracy in order to maximize the capabilities of the U.S. government to deal with hostage situations.

“There should be no tolerance for a bureaucracy when it comes to dealing with an American held overseas,” Rep. John Delaney, D-Maryland, told ABC News in an interview in his office Thursday.

“We have these other czars within our government who get empowered to do things. At a minimum we should have one of those for Americans who are held hostage and that person should really make sure they have the capabilities and the team that are needed," Delaney said.

Weinstein, an American held by al Qaeda since 2011, and Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian national who had been an al Qaeda hostage since 2012, were "accidentally" killed in a U.S. operation in January, the president acknowledged Thursday.

“There needs to be more effort focused on how do we coordinate the vast resources and capability of the U.S. to bring these hostages home, and it needs to be one of our absolute top priorities,” Delaney said.

The second-term congressman said he was “heartbroken” when he learned of the tragic developments once the family was briefed Wednesday.

“It's just so disappointing and heartbreaking because Warren's situation has been really tough for a long time,” he said. “We now know he spent the last several years and died probably in some cinder block room on a dirt floor, and it's just terrible. It's a terrible way to end what has been a terrible chapter for Warren and his family.”

Delaney not only urged investigators to examine how the building that housed the hostages was deemed a safe target, but also to analyze whether the government is “doing as good a job as we can to get these people home.”

“Are we doing enough to find these people? Because if we know where our hostages are, we have two things come from that: One, we can begin the process of trying to get them home...but secondly, we also know not to bomb in that area because we know they're there,” Delaney said.

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