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Infinite Menus, Copyright 2006, OpenCube Inc. All Rights Reserved. Wednesday, April 16, 2014
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Obama Counsels Students on Options to a Four-Year Degree


Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(PITTSBURGH) -- It would be a cultural shift, but the Obama administration is hoping to change the perception of two- and four-year universities and what is needed for success.

Through two new skills-training programs, utilizing grant money announced in 2010, the administration is encouraging a competition to foster courses developed by industry at the community college level and an apprentice job scholarship program.

President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden appeared at a community college in Pittsburgh Wednesday to announce $500 million in grant funding for community college job-training programs and $100 million in funding for apprenticeship grants.

Speaking in an auto bay where students at the Community College of Allegheny County learn “mechatronics” -- “It sounds like something Godzilla would be fighting,” Obama said -- the two elaborated on the need for middle-class opportunities and presented a view of a rebounding U.S. economy in which companies are ready to add jobs but are having trouble finding skilled workers to fill them.

“In today’s economy it has never been more important to make sure that our folks are trained for the jobs that are there and the jobs of the future,” he said. “Find out what are the jobs that need to be filled and make sure folks are being trained and matched to those good jobs. We have to move away from a train and pray approach. We train them and we pray that they get a job.

“The problem there is when they go to a community college, when they go to four-year university, they are taking on debt. They are straining their budgets. We have to make sure it pays off for them. So we need to take a job-driven approach.”

Before the event the president and VP received a tour of the school and met with mechatronics students enrolled in a 360-hour program, who showed them a motor-control system, which was set up to simulate a garage door opener.

Obama joked with the students, “We’re lawyers, we barely understand garage door openers.”

The administration cites that 87 percent of apprentices are employed after completing their programs with an average starting salary of $50,000.

The president has mentioned community colleges many times but has fallen short of his initial plans to add over $10 billion in funding to them through grants.

He launched an American Growth Initiative in 2009 that was to inject community colleges with sweeping new funds. Here’s Slate’s Christopher Beam on that push in July 2009:

“Community colleges don’t get a lot of respect. Except, as of this week, from President Obama. In a speech Tuesday in Warren, Mich., he proposed sinking nearly $12 billion into revamping the country’s community-college system. The plan would provide $9 billion in grant money to boost academic programs and raise graduation rates, plus another $2.5 billion to upgrade school facilities. It would also fund open-source online courses so that schools don’t have to build more classrooms to admit more students.”

The $500 million Obama announced Wednesday isn’t new, according to the American Association of Community Colleges (AAOC);  it’s the fourth installment of $2 billion in funding Congress passed in 2009, in lieu of Obama’s original proposal.

A congressional aide confirmed that, after the CBO scored Democrats’ 2009 student-loan bill less favorably on a second pass, education funding was less than what the president and Democrats had initially hoped. Community-college funding was one of the programs that felt the axe.

“It had a very bittersweet ending for us,” David Baime, vice president of government relations for AAOC, told ABC News. While the group was “very pleased” to get $2 billion in grant funding for community colleges, Baime said, “unofficially we were very upset.”

Obama, while not necessarily more supportive of community colleges than other presidents, has nonetheless put a valuable spotlight on them, Baime told ABC.

The vice president joined Obama for the tour, introducing the president as “a buddy of mine.”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Lawyers Who Cleared Christie Donated to RGA Before Report Released


ABC News (NEW YORK) -- The law firm that wrote the Chris Christie-sponsored report clearing the governor of any wrongdoing in the New Jersey bridge scandal made a sizable donation to the Republican Governors Association, which Christie heads, days before the report’s release.

The law firm of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher donated $10,000 to the RGA nine days before it released a report -- paid for by New Jersey taxpayers -- blaming September’s lane closures to the George Washington Bridge solely on aides and allies and pinning no responsibility on the governor, as reported Wednesday in The Record of North Jersey.

Gibson Dunn & Crutcher lawyers were paid $650 per hour for their work examining documents surrounding the lane closure that led to their report released March 24.  The law firm made its donation to the RGA March 18, according to tax records.

Christie spoke exclusively with ABC News’ Diane Sawyer the same day the report was released, telling her he was “relieved” to have the facts.

He rejected any suggestion that the outside law firm appointed by his office would “whitewash” its findings to protect him.

“These people have their own professional and personal reputations,” he said. “Six of them were former federal prosecutors. They’re not going to whitewash anything for me and put their reputations at stake.”

The Los Angeles-based law firm defended its actions.

“Gibson Dunn’s annual contributions to the Republican Governors Association long predate our retention by the Office of the Governor and even predate when the current Governor was first elected to office,” Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher spokeswoman Pearl Piatt said in a statement to ABC News Wednesday.

“The firm has donated to the RGA since 2009 at the behest of Bill Kilberg, a partner in the firm’s Washington, DC office who has served on the RGA’s Executive Roundtable since 2009.”

Christie’s office directed ABC News to Gibson, Dunn for comment.

The Record also reported: “The law firm made two donations to the Republican Governors Association in 2012 each for $10,000, one on Feb. 20 and the other on Dec. 31 of that year. The group donated $15,000 in 2011 and $10,000 in 2010 and 2009.”

It has not donated to the Democratic Governors Association this year, nor the previous two years.

The Republican Governors Association announced in early April that it had raised $23.5 million in the first quarter of 2014, doubling the amount raised at the same time in 2010.

Association officials have not responded to ABC News’ request for comment.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Michele Bachmann’s Five Pieces of Advice to Young Conservatives


Steve Pope/Getty Images(LYNCHBURG, Va.) -- Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., the conservative firebrand and former presidential candidate, gave the keynote address Wednesday at Liberty University’s weekly Convocation.

It was Bachmann’s third time speaking at Liberty, the world’s largest private Christian college and home to over 100,000 students. In her speech, the self-proclaimed “Constitutional Conservative,” who is retiring at the end of the year, urged her young listeners to focus on the “things that really matter” politically and personally.

Bachmann gave young conservatives a few key pieces of advice:

1) “When a madman speaks, listen!”

When it came to Iran, Bachmann didn’t mince words.

“Usually they let you know what their intentions are ahead of time”, she said, using Iran as an example of a “madman” that represents a threat to both Israel and the United States. “We’re called the great Satan, Israel the little Satan [...] their intention is to annihilate the Jewish state of Israel, they have also stated that they want to annihilate the United States.”

Bachmann named three factors that make Iran an especially dangerous opponent; their fissile material, their delivery system and the possibility of weaponization. She also listed Libya, Egypt and Lebanon as countries that pose a threat to the United States and Israel.

2) Always “stand with Israel”

“Never before has Israel been in this situation where literally all nations of the world have come against her,” Bachmann said, adding: “I never thought I would see our country be in a position where we, too, are lining up against Israel.”

Bachmann stressed that it was God’s choice to create the land Israel and claimed with reference to a biblical verse that “every nation that blesses that state of Israel will be blessed and every nation that curses Israel will be cursed.”

She concluded: “If Israel gives up that 40 percent of land [...] it will be nearly a suicide pact.”

3) Beware the “future enslavement of literally millions of people”


According to Bachmann, the United States still remains the pre-eminent economic and military powerhouse of the world: “It feels pretty good to be in that situation [...] what wouldn’t feel good would be for the United States to lose [its current status and come to the point where] the U.S. is no longer the big dog in the world. What will it be like if the new leader of the world would be Russia?” she asked, adding, “China also has a different sense and view of the world.”

If any of these countries took over the position as economic and military powerhouse of the world, “the future enslavement of literally millions of people into oppression” and “godless communism” would be the consequence, Bachmann said.

4) “Get ready to serve and get ready for suffering”


“I’m not running again,” Bachmann told her audience, but God “is opening doors for you, too [...]. Be ready for those doors of opportunity!”

Furthermore, Bachmann claimed that there is a generation of young people that isn't learning “essential truths”: “If you want to be a leader, as the scripture tells us, you need to be willing to be a suffering servant first.”

5) “Never despise small beginnings”


Bachmann also drew upon her personal background. After her parents split up “we literally lost everything overnight. We moved into a tiny apartment. We qualified for public assistance. We had nothing.”

But, she assured: “The crucibles of suffering will be the greatest blessing God will ever bring to your life.”

As an example, Bachmann told the story of how she had worked three years as an adolescent in order to be able to afford contact lenses. When she finally had saved enough money to buy contacts and wore them riding her bike, she lost one of them. Coming home devastated, her mom drove her back and found her lens.

Bachmann concluded: “I was able to get back what I thought I’d lost; never despise small beginnings [...]. That suffering and that work taught me the value of a dollar. I put myself through college, law school, postdoctoral program and working [...]. It taught me servanthood and love for people and a broken heart for people in a challenge.”

After nearly eight years in Congress, Bachmann will retire at the end of 2014. She ended her speech with the words: “When we come together, when we contend for what matters, when we walk through that door of opportunity: That’s how a nation changes [...]. I’m ready to hand off the baton, and the question is: Are you ready to take it?”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Joe Biden (and His Aviators) Now on Instagram


Instagram/@VP(WASHINGTON) -- Just a week after dusting off his old Twitter account, Vice President Joe Biden joined Instagram.

In his first post on the photo-sharing social network, Biden’s staff shared a photo of the vice president’s iconic Ray-Ban aviators, with a blurry Biden in the background.

The caption on the photo read, "Vice President Biden's getting ready to head to Pennsylvania with President Obama this afternoon, where he'll lay out steps we can take to train America's workers with the skills they need for good middle-class jobs."

A second photo of Biden departing a helicopter was posted around two hours later. The caption accompanying that photo read: "Wheels up for Pennsylvania: Vice President Biden is in Pittsburgh with President Obama to talk about the importance of expanding job-training programs so more Americans have the skills they need to find good middle-class jobs. Watch at 3:45pm ET on wh.gov/live."

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Washington's Cherry Blossom Trees: The Complicated Roots


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Washington’s cherry blossoms have become an iconic image of springtime in the nation’s capital. And while the trees can be appreciated solely for the ethereal beauty they cast on the shores of the Potomac River, the historical roots of the trees are more complicated.

Ann McClellan, a recognized expert on the trees who has written two books on Washington’s annual festival celebrating the blossoms, told the ABC News/Yahoo! News series Power Players that the first trees given to Washington from Japan in 1910 were a symbol of international friendship.

“When they gave the gift of trees they were really giving something of themselves, because they were grateful to the United States for brokering the treaty of Portsmouth, which ended the Russo-Japanese War,” McClellan said. “It was the first time Japan was treated as a bona fide member of the international community.”

The trees were given in honor of then-first lady Helen Taft, wife of the 27th president William Taft, who had developed an interest in the blossoming trees from her travels to Japan and was working to beautify the park area around today’s tidal basin, which was a swampland at the time.

“Mrs. Taft had seen the trees, not blooming but saw how they were planted and thought Washington, which was just under construction at that time, would be a great place for them, and boy was she right,” McClellan said.

Japan sent thousands of full-grown trees to Washington to beautify the park, but those trees would never be planted on the shores of the Potomac. After the Department of Agriculture inspected the trees, it was determined that the trees had to be destroyed.

“Of course, trees that have been in the ground have bugs, worms and all sorts of pests,” McClellan said. “So the Department of Agriculture inspected them, deemed them impossible, and forced them to be burned.”

The final decision to burn Japan’s gift was made by President Taft himself. But instead of causing a diplomatic crisis, Japan sent 3,000 more trees in 1912 that met the Department of Agriculture’s standards and were the start of the trees that still line the tidal basin today.

The trees, though planted successfully, were planted incorrectly.

“In 1912, when they planted the gift, the gift came with instructions; it was in Japanese, and nobody bothered to read it,” McClellan said. “Instead of planting the trees in groves and alleés as the instructions recommended, we instead planted them close together along the water’s edge of the tidal basin.”

The mistake meant that the growth of the trees was irreversibly stunted, McClellan said: “What that does is it creates this lovely cloudlike effect because the branches intersect but it means that they can't grow to their full height. ...We're all agog, so it's fine, but that is one of the reasons they tend to be a little smaller here.”

Since Mrs. Taft, first ladies have continued to play an instrumental role in maintaining the cherry blossoms.

“The first ladies have been very involved...especially Lady Bird Johnson was involved in them and the Japanese gave a gift of several thousand trees in her honor. Those are planted around the Washington Monument,” McClellan said.

For more about the trees, including McClellan’s cautions about the permanent damage that people cause to the trees by plucking their blossoms, check out this episode of Power Players.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Diplomatic Incident over Kim Jong-Un’s Haircut


Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Kim Jong-un’s distinctive haircut is no laughing matter for North Korea. A London hair salon that put up a promotional poster of the country’s leader, with the tag line “Bad Hair Day?” is at the center of a diplomatic dispute.

The North Korean embassy has asked the British government to take action against the hair salon, calling the poster a “provocation.”

A British spokesman tells ABC News that the government in London “will respond in due course.”

After putting the poster in the window to advertise a special deal, the hair salon got a visit from two men in black suits from the North Korean embassy earlier this week.

Barber Karim Nabbach tells BBC News that the men demanded to know the name of the person who put the poster up.

“I said you’re not having my name. If you want to take it any further, bring your lawyers in and we can take it from there,” Nabbach said.

Nabbach said they contacted Scotland Yard about the visit, and police found the poster “funny.”

“Everyone finds it funny except for the North Korean embassy,” he said.

The embassy was unavailable for comment.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Rep. Kyrsten Sinema Running Boston Marathon to Honor Victims and Survivors


US House of Representatives(WASHINGTON) -- “A marathon is a celebration of life and endurance and the human spirit,” Rep. Kyrsten Sinema says. “Runners are such a tight-knit community. Even if we don’t know each other, we treat each other like friends.”

Next week, Sinema, a freshman Democrat from Arizona, will be one of two members of Congress running in the 118th Boston Marathon, joining Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass.

“Boston is like the Holy Grail of running events,” she told ABC News. “I never thought I would ever find my toe at the starting line at Boston.”

Sinema, 37, is running in honor of Martin Richard, the eight-year-old boy killed by the first blast in last year’s twin bombing. She says she has raised $20,000 for Team MR8, a charity established in memory of Martin by his parents.

Of the 36,000 racing bibs available for the historic occasion, 5,500 slots are reserved for charity runners like Sinema, a self-described “endurance runner” who would not qualify based on speed. She said Martin’s parents chose her and a friend to run in honor of their son.

“I’m so privileged to be running in honor of Martin Richard and for the other victims and survivors,” she said. “That is a big responsibility to carry to that start line and to carry those 26.2 miles across that finish line, so I’m going to spend those four-plus hours with Martin and the other victims and survivors in my heart.”

While most members of Congress would probably struggle to run even one mile, Sinema says she has completed eight marathons as well as an Iron Man triathlon.

“This is going to be by far the most emotional marathon I’ve ever run,” she admitted.

Sinema calculates that she runs about 40 miles per week at a pace of about 10:30 per mile. Her best finish came this January in Phoenix when she completed the P.F. Chang's Rock N'Roll Marathon in 4 hours and 29 minutes.

“If I’m having a good day on Monday, I can smash that record, so that’s my intention,” she pledged. “It’s also the most exciting course in the world and it’s going to be a really, really emotional day so I have my fingers crossed that that will bring me across the finish line faster.”

Sinema is also holding several events this week in her district to continue raising money for others touched by the tragedy. In addition to Team MR8, she says she has raised nearly $10,000 for One Fund Boston, the foundation established by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick to support the victims and survivors, and $4,000 for the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Greater New England.

So after last year’s horrific bombings, is she concerned at all about the security surrounding the marathon?

“I have zero concerns about security,” she said. “The City of Boston has done an incredible job preparing for this marathon and I have 100 percent confidence that it’ll be a flawless event.”

 Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Highway Funds in Danger of Running Out


pictureimpressions/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Obama administration is telling Congress that it's either the president's way or funds for highway projects will soon run out.

That message is being delivered by Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, who is currently on a bus tour of eight states.

The Highway Trust Fund is due to be depleted by August. If that happens, states won't have the money for big projects or even much needed repairs and improvements. That situation will of course lead to layoffs at a time when the economy finally seems to be rebounding.

Congress has been faced with this problem time and time again and the usual course of action is a quick money infusion that usually lasts a couple of months until things turn into crisis mode again.

President Obama is looking a long-term fix that would provide over $300 billion for four years. Some of the money would come from closing corporate tax loopholes, which Republicans are adverse to doing.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Boehner Supports US Forces in Afghanistan Past 2014


Alex Wong/Getty Images(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- A top U.S. lawmaker is giving his support to keeping a residual U.S. force in Afghanistan after the planned withdrawal of most coalition forces by the end of 2014.

Meeting with U.S. and Afghan officials in Kabul, House Speaker John Boehner remarked that American troops "fought to bring peace and security to Afghanistan and to ensure it can never again be used as a safe haven for terrorists to attack the United States."

The Obama administration has been at loggerheads with Afghan President Hamid Karzai over signing a Bilateral Security Agreement that would leave an unspecified number of U.S. soldiers in the country in a training and advisory role past 2014.

Karzai, who wants various concessions from Washington, says he will leave it up to his successor to determine whether a post-war pact is right for Afghanistan.

A week-and-a-half ago, millions of Afghans went to the polls to select a new leader but the outcome may not be known for some time. Even then, a run-off is predicted between the two top candidates, which could further delay the signing of the BSA.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Romney Son Takes a Swipe at Harry Reid on Tax Day


Alex Wong/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Almost two years after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid repeated an unsubstantiated report that Mitt Romney did not pay taxes, one of the Romney sons fired back.

Josh Romney tweeted a photo of his father standing in line at the post office to mail his tax forms Tuesday evening.

 

Hey @SenatorReid here's a shot of @MittRomney paying taxes. Does it every year. It's how you get your paycheck. pic.twitter.com/DwSMXzYhuR

— Josh Romney (@joshromney) April 15, 2014

 

And then it suddenly felt like we were back in the political brawl of 2012 as Ben LaBolt, a former spokesman for President Obama’s campaign, weighed in.

 

Pic of the vault in Zurich? MT @joshromney Hey Sen Reid here's a shot of Mitt paying taxes. Does it every yr. It's how you get yr paycheck.

— Ben LaBolt (@BenLaBolt) April 15, 2014

 

In case you forgot about the Harry Reid-Mitt Romney tax spat, here’s a recap.

In the summer of 2012, Reid said someone who worked with Bain Capital, which Romney led, called his office to say that Romney “didn’t pay any taxes for 10 years.”

“He didn’t pay taxes for 10 years! Now, do I know that that’s true? Well, I’m not certain,” Reid told the Huffington Post in an interview. “But obviously he can’t release those tax returns. How would it look?”

Romney denied this, saying Reid needs to reveal his source.

“Harry Reid really has to put up or shut up,” Romney said.

The book Double Down: Game Change 2012 cited Jon Huntsman Sr., whose son Jon Huntsman Jr. ran for president in 2012, as the source of the tax rumor, an accusation Huntsman denied.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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No Executive Action on Immigration Overhaul


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama has no plans to enact unilateral immigration overhaul by executive action, faith leaders from across the country said Obama told them Tuesday.

“We did not discuss the need; we did not bring up the issue of the president doing unilateral action,” Luis Cortes, president of  Esperanza, a nonprofit law office serving immigrants, said at a news briefing after the Washington meeting.

“We felt it was more important that Congress take action at this time.”

Obama had asked the director of Homeland Security to look at ways to reduce the number of people deported for entering the United States without documentation. But White House press secretary Jay Carney says that is different from implementing immigration overhaul on his own.

The Department of Homeland Security is now performing a “review of practices and implantation of enforcement guidelines.” In other words, the administration is trying to obey the law and still rid the president of a title recently given him by Hispanic leaders, “Deporter in Chief.”

As for his changing immigration law, Carney said that is a nonstarter.

“I think the president believes that there is an opportunity that still exists for House Republicans to follow the lead of the Senate, including Republicans in the Senate, and take up and pass comprehensive immigration reform,” Carney said at Tuesday’s press briefing. “And today’s meeting that the president had with faith leaders demonstrates and reinforces the fact that there is a broad, unusually broad, coalition that supports that effort, that supports comprehensive immigration reform and all the benefits that making reform the law would provide to the country, to our security, to our economy, to our businesses.

“I think it highlights the isolation that House Republicans find themselves in when so many, not just politicians or advocacy leaders, but folks across the country support doing the right thing here and the irony, of course, is that there is a really strong conservative argument to be made on behalf of comprehensive immigration reform,” he said.

In a series of meetings in the past few months, Obama has met with immigration reform activists and leaders on the topic, hoping to gain their support to pressure House Republicans into action.

Tuesday’s meeting with religious leaders was in hopes of gaining their support and influence in pushing Republicans in the House to act.

“While the DACA action that was taken through executive order has been helpful, it was not the ultimate solution,” Noel Castellanos, CEO of the Christian Community Development Association, said of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. “We were here to talk about that ultimate solution…we need to have Congress work.”

DACA is executive action by the president that affects so-called Dreamers, children who arrive in the United States without documentation, and allows them to stay without fear of deportation.

The six faith leaders who met with the president emphasized the agreement on the issue of immigration overhaul.

“For the first time we have in this country the entire religious community, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Baha’i...all the major denominations and churches and religious bodies of this country believe that it is a moral imperative that we get immigration reform done,” Cortes said. “It is the first and only political issue in this country where we all agree.”

During Tuesday’s meeting, the president stressed, according to a statement from the White House, “the importance of taking action to pass common sense immigration reform.”

“While his Administration can take steps to better enforce and administer immigration laws, nothing can replace the certainty of legislative reform and this permanent solution can only be achieved by Congress,” Obama emphasized, according to the statement.

Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for the Southern Baptist Convention, said after the meeting, “I disagree with the president on many things, including life, marriage, religious liberty, HHS mandate; this is one of those issues that isn’t a red state, blue state divide.

“Most people agree, across the religious spectrum and across the political spectrum, that our immigration system is broken so we need to have a system that respects the rule of law, secures the border and finds a way forward for this country.”

It has been more than nine months since the Senate passed its comprehensive immigration overhaul bill, and in that time the House has done little. It did release a set of immigration principles in January, but those seemed to stop at their introduction.

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Vice President Biden Applauds Boston’s Courage


Jared Wickerham/Getty Images(BOSTON) -- On the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings that killed three people and injured more than 200 others, Vice President Joe Biden paid tribute Tuesday to the bravery and courage of survivors and first responders.

“In my career I’ve been part of or witnessed some incredible tributes, but I have to say…I’ve never, never, never witnessed a tribute like I’ve heard today,” he said. “You are truly, truly inspiring, I’ve never heard anything so beautiful as what all of you just said.”

“I know that no memorial, no words, no acts can fully provide the solace that your hearts and soul still yearn to acquire. But I hope it eases your grief a little bit,” he added.

Biden’s speech followed the stories and testimonies of several survivors of the attacks and people who responded to the injured, as well as musical numbers like Wicked’s “For Good” and Hercules’ “Go the Distance.”

“I want you to know you’re an inspiration, without knowing it, to people all across this country who suffered tragedies and are going through tragedy,” Biden said. “The fact that you’re here, I promise you, gives them hope that maybe, maybe they can overcome what they’re going through right now.”

“Even though I’m not a Boston fan, I love you guys, man,” he said. “And I know politicians aren’t supposed to say that, that you’re not a Red Sox fan. But where I come from, when I was in it, if you root for the Red Sox, you got the living hell kicked out of you. So there was a good reason not to be a Red Sox fan.”

Biden also heralded the courage of the first responders and victims, stating that Boston sent a message to the world about the bravery of the American people.

“You are Boston strong, but America is strong. They’re not unlike you all around America,” he said. “That’s what makes us so proud of this city and this state. That we have never, ever, ever yielded to fear. Ever.”

Biden said that despite the goals of the bombers to terrify the city and the country, the Americans involved in that week’s events showed that Americans never back down.

“They try to instill fear. That’s their objective, that’s what they tried to do in Boston. To make us afraid. Not just Boston afraid -- to make America afraid, so that maybe, maybe we begin to change our ways,” he said. “America will never, eve,r ever stand down. We are Boston. We are America. We respond. We endure. We overcome. And we own the finish line.”

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Mary Landrieu Draws Criticism for Re-Enacting Congressional Hearing in New Ad


US Senate(WASHINGTON) -- A new campaign ad from Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu is drawing criticism from some conservative groups for using re-enactments of statements that the senator made in an Energy Committee hearing last year.

But Landrieu’s campaign is defending the re-enactments as necessary to avoid breaking rules that forbid the use of footage shot by Senate cameras.

“It is against Senate ethics rules to use footage that was shot using Senate cameras in campaign ads,” Landrieu campaign manager Adam Sullivan told ABC News.

The $250,000 ad buy began hitting Louisiana airwaves Tuesday and casts Landrieu, now the chair of the Senate Energy Committee, as a defender of Louisiana’s oil and gas industry who has shown independence from President Obama.

“When we were cheated out of oil royalties,” a voiceover in the ad says, portraying Louisianans watching Landrieu on television, before cutting to a re-enacted clip of an actual statement (occurs at 2:32 in video) that Landrieu made in the Energy Committee last year.

“They have to sit here and listen to the federal government say, ‘We can’t share a penny with you,’” Landrieu says. “I will not rest until this injustice is fixed.”

“You think there are a bunch of fairy god mothers out there that just wave a magic wand?” Landrieu asks in another clip from the re-enacted Senate hearing.

Watch Landrieu’s ad:

The conservative opinion magazine The Weekly Standard first reported that “the video clip doesn’t come from C-SPAN or any other real TV,” and the Republican opposition research super-PAC, America Rising, posted a video that juxtaposes Landrieu’s re-enacted statement from the ad with the real statements from the hearing. The video used in America Rising’s clip was shot originally by Senate cameras, which according to a Senate Resolution 431, prohibits it from being used for campaign purposes.

But American Rising Executive Director Tim Miller said that doesn’t serve as justification for re-enacting the hearing.

“There is no rule that requires their campaign to manufacture a fake news show to cover a staged hearing,” Miller said. “The ad is misleading to voters who are made to think they are looking at real news footage. It is telling that Sen. Landrieu is so desperate for positive news to use in an ad that she needed to fabricate it.”

Watch America Rising’s video:

As she campaigns for a fourth term in the Senate, Landrieu is considered one of the Senate’s most vulnerable Democrats and has been weathering a storm of negative attack ads from conservative advocacy groups, such as the Koch Brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners. Landrieu, the only Democrat holding a statewide elected office in Louisiana, is facing off against Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy, as well as tea party candidate Rob Maness, in November’s election.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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New App Finds ‘Virtual’ Way to Fix Congress


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Every day it seems a new app hits the market seeking to solve the most benign problems facing the smartphone-wielding masses. But how about a much bigger problem -- like fixing Congress, an institution with an approval rating hovering around 13 percent?

“If you want to be able to hold Congress accountable, then you have to know what it is doing,” said Ted Henderson, the creator of Capitol Bells. “Living with the 21st century technology we have, you should be able to do that without turning on the TV.”

Henderson, 29, started Capitol Bells almost a year ago in a fit of nostalgia. He had been a staffer for former Rep. Dale Kildee, D-Mich., who retired in January 2013. Henderson found himself out of work and out of the loop on what was going on just miles away from his apartment.

“Being on the Hill, knowing when votes are starting is the thing that kind of drives what’s happening,” Henderson said. “So it kind of became, if I feel this disconnected…no wonder everyone else feels so disconnected.”

Henderson had grown up programming and coded a system that monitors the radio signals that control Congress’ buzzer system to alert lawmakers and their staffers when votes are happening. Users of the app are alerted via push notifications, which Henderson says makes for a “virtual Congress,” that people can follow along with in real time.

The app quickly gained traction in Washington. Henderson said more than half of the House of Representatives currently uses it along with a handful of Senate members and hundreds of staffers.

“I think it’s the one app that’s gone viral in Congress before it went anywhere else,” Henderson said.

That’s when Henderson took his idea and turned it toward constituents.

Now anyone with an iPhone, Android, or the ability to open a web page can put themselves on the floor of the virtual Congress and vote alongside lawmakers on pieces of legislation.

It then creates a private voting record, allowing voters to weigh themselves against their elected representatives by actual votes instead of party affiliation.

Now Henderson is setting his sights on the midterms in November, in a move he says could shift the political landscape if users decide to put the app’s results into practice.

“My big goal for the midterms is to choose three or four battleground districts, from a nonpartisan stance, do some viral marketing and get some of the candidates from the race onto the platform and create their own virtual voting records if they aren’t the incumbent,” Henderson said.

Henderson said it wouldn’t be his mission to unseat a particular lawmaker.

“So much of what happens that leaves people feeling disconnected from Congress is that most of what happens isn’t in front of the public as much as it should be,” Henderson said. “Capitol Bells is a tool that would let representatives know that people are actually starting to keep tabs on them.”

In order to expand his operation to where he expects it will begin to have some national influence, Henderson estimates he’d need to raise $300,000 to $750,000.

Henderson sees the three-or-four state midterm push as a potential means to that end, but he said his hopes are to fund it without having to force users to wade through advertisements.

“To me what really would define whether this works or not is whether you can make it politically relevant in an actual race,” Henderson said.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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POLL: Broad Public Approval for Feds on Boston Bombing Investigation


Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Two-thirds of Americans approve of the federal government’s handling of its investigation into the Boston Marathon bombing, and nearly six in 10 hold a favorable view more generally of the government’s efforts to try to prevent terrorist attacks in the United States.
 
Those results in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll mark unusual majority-positive ratings for government actions -- difficult scores to achieve in recent years, given anti-Washington sentiment generated, in large part, by the nation’s slow crawl to better economic health.

See a PDF with full results and charts here.

Notably, views on the federal response to the marathon bombing, a year ago Tuesday, cross partisan lines. Approval peaks at 74 percent of Democrats, but also includes 62 percent of Republicans and 65 percent of political independents. Similarly, 63 percent of conservatives and 68 percent of liberals approve, relatively rare agreement across ideological groups.
 
Thirty percent of Americans, moreover, “strongly” approve of the government’s handling of the marathon bombing investigation, almost twice as many as strongly disapprove in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates.

Views are somewhat less positive -- and political divisions are sharper -- in terms of the things the government is doing more generally to try to prevent terrorism in this country. Controversy surrounds some such efforts, including surveillance activities by the National Security Agency, the long-running U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and drone strikes on suspected terrorists.
 
Overall, 58 percent express a favorable opinion of federal anti-terrorism activities, ranging from 72 percent of Democrats to a sharply lower 49 percent of Republicans -- a 23-point gap, compared with a partisan gap half that wide, 12 percentage points, in views of the Boston bombing investigation.
 
Similarly, 60 percent of liberals have a favorable view of the things the government is doing to try to prevent attacks, vs. 49 percent of conservatives -- an 11-point gap, compared with a non-significant 5 points in their views of the handling of the marathon bombing investigation.
 
Notable, too, is that fact that positive views in both cases peak among moderates -- 72 percent in this group have a favorable view of federal anti-terrorism efforts in general, and 74 percent approve of the government’s investigation of the attack in Boston.
 
These ratings are far less overtly partisan than views of Barack Obama’s handling of the threat of terrorism, as opposed to the federal government’s. In an ABC/Post poll in January, 50 percent of Americans approved of Obama’s handling of terrorism, with a vast 52-point partisan gap.
 
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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