Review Category : Poltics

Obama Says ‘No Excuse’ for Excessive Force by Police in Ferguson

ABC News(EDGARTOWN, Mass.) — Five days after the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old fatally shot by a local police officer, President Obama joined state and national leaders in calling for changes in how police are dealing with protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, amid continued street clashes.

“I know that emotions are raw right now in Ferguson,” Obama said at a news conference Thursday afternoon. “There is never excuse for violence against the police or for those who would use this tragedy as a cover for vandalism or looting. …There is also no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protests or to throw protesters in jail.”

Obama’s comments came as the FBI confirmed to ABC News that it issued a warning to police officers that a Black Panther leader was trying to incite violence against law enforcement in Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis.

Clashes between protesters and police continued Wednesday night, with reports of Molotov cocktails, tear gas and rubber bullets being used.

On Thursday, senior leaders began to call for what Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon dubbed, “a different tone.” Both Nixon and Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said the police need to change how they handle the protests.

Nixon spoke to a group in a church hinting that a larger announcement will come later Thursday about “operational shifts.”

“We also need to allow folks who want to express their energy in an appropriate way that absolute right to do that because we will not get the healing that we all need if the only response from the public is, ‘Y’all just be quiet,’” Nixon said. “There is a certain level of emotion that needs to be expressed in order for us to reach a higher plane.”

As Obama spoke Thursday, New Black Panther members held a march in the St. Louis suburb, and other protests appeared likely.

The FBI previously issued a warning about the presence in the area of Chawn Kweli, who it identified as the chief of staff of the New Black Panther Party, Cheryl Mimura, a spokeswoman for the St. Louis FBI field office, told ABC News. The FBI alert was not publicly released but was circulated among law enforcement groups as an officer safety warning.

Obama on Thursday also spoke out against the arrests of two reporters by St. Louis police Wednesday night while working in a local McDonald’s.

“Police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their jobs,” the president said.

Obama first addressed the issue on Tuesday when he released a statement saying that the Department of Justice was investigating Brown’s death alongside local officials.

“I know the events of the past few days have prompted strong passions, but as details unfold, I urge everyone in Ferguson, Missouri, and across the country, to remember this young man through reflection and understanding,” the president said Tuesday as he took time off from a vacation in Martha’s Vineyard.

“We should comfort each other and talk with one another in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds. Along with our prayers, that’s what Michael and his family, and our broader American community, deserve,” he continued.

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New Jersey Town Switches Building Name from Kennedy to Obama

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WILLINGBORO TOWNSHIP, N.J.) — President Obama is getting a building named after him in one New Jersey town.

The public building in Willingboro Township is currently called the Kennedy Center, after the late President John F. Kennedy. It houses the parks and recreation department, a senior center and other features.

However, since the building is undergoing a nearly $5 million renovation, supporters of the name change, including Deputy Mayor Jacqueline Jennings, believe it is fitting to pay tribute to Obama who helped spur voter registration in the town when he first ran for president.

The Willingboro Township Council this week voted in favor of renaming the building the President Barack Obama Center in spite of the objections of Mayor Eddie Campbell and the fact that it will still be located on John F. Kennedy Way.

Some local residents aren’t thrilled either. One wrote on the Burlington County Times Facebook page: “What’s next — naming malls after terrorists since he negotiates with them!! What a disgrace to America!!”

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Lawmakers Seek to Make Tattooing Pets Illegal

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Tattoo you? Okay, there are no laws against it. Tattoo your pet? It might not be so easy, if lawmakers have their way.

In New Jersey, three assemblymen are pushing a bill that says people are committing acts of animal cruelty by tattooing or piercing their dogs or cats.

Meanwhile in New York state, Governor Andrew Cuomo is ready to sign a measure that passed the Legislature making it illegal to tattoo a pet.

This fad, however, is likely to continue everywhere else in the U.S. as tattooing and piercing are still growing in popularity.

As it happens, the ASPCA doesn’t have a problem with pet owners branding their dogs or cats with small inking that indicates they’ve been spayed or neutered.

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Pentagon: Evacuation of Yazidis on Mt. Sinjar in Iraq ‘Far Less Likely’

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — An evacuation of thousands of refugees who were forced onto Mt. Sinjar in Iraq is “far less likely” after an assessment by United States Marines, Special Forces and the USAID disaster assistance relief team, the Pentagon said Wednesday.

Less than 20 personnel briefly landed on the mountain, where thousands of Yazidis are trapped and facing a humanitarian crisis.

“The team has assessed that there are far fewer Yazidis on Mt. Sinjar than previously feared, in part because of the success of humanitarian airdrops, airstrikes on ISIL targets, the efforts of the Peshmerga and the ability of thousands of Yazidis to evacuate from the mountain each night over the last several days,” Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement. “The Yazidis who remain are in better condition than previously believed and continue to have access to the food and water that we have dropped.”

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced on Tuesday that the United States sent a 130-member military assessment team to Erbil in the autonomous Iraqi province of Kurdistan to determine what further assistance the U.S. can provide to the Yazidis.

Thousands of members of the Yazidi minority group fled to the mountain in order to escape from ISIS in northern Iraq.

The Yazidis, a religious minority in Iraq, have been targeted by the Islamic army for being what they call “devil worshipers” and were threatened with execution if they didn’t agree to convert to Islam.

Addressing a group of Marines during a visit to Camp Pendleton in California, Hagel said the team had arrived in northern Iraq “to take a closer look and give a more in-depth assessment of where we can continue to help the Iraqis with what they’re doing and the threats that they are now dealing with.”

The new team is in addition to the 40 U.S. military personnel already in Erbil, who for several weeks have been manning a Joint Operations Center with Kurdish military forces.

Hagel said the team would soon provide an assessment to Centcom that would make its way to the Pentagon “very shortly.”

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Rep. Colleen Hanabusa Files Lawsuit to Delay Friday Voting in Hawaii Senate Election

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(HONOLULU) — The Democratic Senate primary in Hawaii is still too close to call, with the race hinging on two precincts that were unable to vote Saturday amid Tropical Storm Iselle. The election has been rescheduled for Friday, but Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who trails incumbent Sen. Brian Schatz by just more than 1,700 votes, filed a lawsuit Wednesday to delay Friday’s voting.

The affected precincts are on Hawaii’s Big Island, and Hanabusa’s campaign manager, John Salsbury, said people are still suffering from the clobbering the island got from recent storms.

“People are struggling to get water, to get power. There are limited ways to notify the public and, for the most part, people are still clearing out their homes and driveways and trying to get food, water, ice and generators, just basic necessities.” Salsbury told ABC News. “The last thing they care about right now is trying to get to the polls on Friday.”

The state has up to 21 days to delay an election, and they say that’s exactly what the Hanabusa camp wants, Salsbury said, concerned that without power some may not even know about the election being rescheduled for Friday.

“There are still a lot of votes left to be cast and there are still a lot of votes to be counted,” Salsbury said. “We are focused on that.…We need to slow down these elections to give people time to recover first.”

Salsbury said it’s possible the court could rule later Wednesday, and Hanabusa has been on the Big Island handing out supplies since Sunday.

Rex Quidilla, a spokesman for chief elections officer Scott Nago, said as far as officials are concerned, the election is set for Friday. He was not aware of the lawsuit being filed and said he could not comment on it.

There are 8,000 voters in the two districts, and about a fifth of them already cast votes via early voting or absentee balloting. The election is slated to be held at the Keonepoko Elementary School from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. local time. They expect the results to be released the same evening. That’s if it goes on as scheduled.

Unlike other states, Hawaii has no automatic recount or run-off trigger if the vote between Schatz and Hanabusa becomes even closer. Quidilla said a campaign could choose to file an appeal or contest the results with Hawaii’s State Supreme Court and a recount could be one of the remedies that are prescribed. But, it’s “not a guarantee.” They must “prove the results should have been different,” in order for the court to allow a recount.

Meaghan Smith, spokeswoman for the Schatz campaign, said the senator’s focus is helping people in the Puna area “recover” and the “campaign will be committed and respectful whenever the election is held.”

“The Office of Elections or the courts will determine the best way to move forward to maximize voter participation. Sen. Schatz believes that the voters in Puna and across Hawaii must be given fair access to voting,” Smith said. “The senator’s priority is to help the people of Puna get back on their feet.”

The race has been a bruising intra-party brawl. It all started in December 2012, when Sen. Daniel Inouye, who had represented Hawaii for 50 years, passed away. His dying wish was that Gov. Neil Abercrombie appoint his political protégé, Hanabusa, to his seat after he died. That didn’t happen. Instead, he appointed his own No. 2, Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz. Abercrombie maintained Inouye said it was ultimately his decision, but Inouye’s widow is backing Hanabusa. Hanabusa decided to challenge Schatz for the Senate and Abercrombie lost his job by a massive margin last Saturday. It was the first time an incumbent ever lost re-election in a primary in the Aloha State.

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Slain General Remembered at Pentagon Memorial Service

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Major General Harold J. Greene was remembered Tuesday at a somber Pentagon ceremony that focused on his leadership and love for his family. There as almost no mention of last week’s insider attack in Afghanistan that made Greene the highest-ranking officer to be killed in combat during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

An overflow crowd gathered at the Pentagon Auditorium for a poignant memorial service to hear from Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno and Greene’s co-workers.

At the foot of the stage a photo of Greene had been placed before a helmet, rifle and boots that formed the “battle cross” that is symbolic of a soldier slain in battle.

Greene was a career acquisitions officer and engineer for much of his 34-year career and was serving in Afghanistan as the deputy commander of Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, which is responsible for the training of Afghan security forces.

The attack by an Afghan soldier that took Greene’s life was barely mentioned in a ceremony that focused on his strong character and leadership.

Noting the crowd gathered for the ceremony, Odierno said, “My guess is, we probably could have done this in a 10,000-seat stadium and filled the stadium today because there are so many people that cared for Harry Greene.”

Odierno said he had recommended Greene for that job because “I knew Harry was the right man” and knew that in serving that post “he personally made an incredible difference in improving the Afghan institution.”

Odierno praised Greene as being “more than a soldier, he was a great man, caring father, a devoted husband and a loyal friend, he had a passion for his family.”

But Odierno said Greene would be most remembered for his leadership and the lives of those he touched as he served as “the epitome of what we hope and expect from our senior leaders.”

He added, “Harry Greene is a representative of the sacrifice of the men and women who have given so much and are not afraid to give their lives for this nation.”

Heidi Shyu, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology, described Greene as being “passionate about our responsibility to provide the soldiers with the best equipment in this world.”

She recalled a trip to Afghanistan earlier this year where she met with Greene and asked him how he was facing the challenges of his job.

To laughter, she quoted his response, “He told me in no uncertain terms, it got me out of the Pentagon!” She added, “And there’s no other place that he would rather be because he’s surrounded by soldiers. He truly loved what he was doing.”

Shyu recalled Greene’s jovial personality, noting that he lightened up any meeting with jokes while still being “a dedicated professional who put countless hours in.”

She noted it might be “tempting to think that this loss leaves behind an unfulfilled promise or an incomplete career. However, if he were here, I know that Harry would remind us that he lived his life to the fullest in service to his country in support of those he cared for.”

Greene will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery on Thursday afternoon.

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New York Mayor Joins with Big Donors in Bid for 2016 Convention

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — It may only be 2014, but big corporate money and politics are already at work in a bid to secure the 2016 Democratic convention for Brooklyn, with New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio literally rolling out a red carpet for DNC officials at New York’s Penn Station.

Republicans have already chosen Cleveland as their 2016 site, but Democratic party officials are still making the rounds of competing cities, spending two days this week being lavishly wined and dined in New York. Traffic slowed as DNC officials traveled through the city on dedicated lanes that will be in effect if the convention comes to Brooklyn. They were also treated to a barbecue at Gracie Mansion and a rooftop party at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Empire State Building was lit up in blue in honor of the visit, and banners on Brooklyn’s Barclays Center read “DNC 2016 NYC.”

A host committee of 70 prominent New Yorkers have pledged to raise $100 million to support the convention and parties that surround it, including JPMorgan Chase Chief Executive Jamie Dimon, Goldman Sachs Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein, and celebrities like Cynthia Nixon.

“We have a lot of people in this town who provide a lot of support for the Democratic Party, and the resources will be there,” de Blasio told reporters Wednesday.

The mayor’s office believes the city would surpass the $255 million Republicans brought in when they held their convention in Manhattan in 2004. De Blasio said that amount of money will be recouped “many times over” because of the financial impact of the convention.

“You are talking about people coming in from all over the country, all over the world…tens of thousands of people coming to the city, many for the first time,” de Blasio said.

Longtime Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf noted the “business” of the convention is not what gets done inside the hall, but “after hours at the parties and private meetings,” and with a four-day convention there will be plenty of party time and no lack of venues.

“It will be a terrific economic boost,” Sheinkopf said. But how much the city makes, he added, will need to be considered with “how much does it cost for additional security, traffic, additional city workers” and other costs related to events.

Sheila Krumholz, campaign finance watchdog and executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, said the real question for conventions is whether it is “money well spent.”

“Historically there have been a lot of resources invested and not a lot of money recouped,” Krumholz said. “Often those who make out best are the corporate and in kind sponsors who will have the gratitude of the party, but are less valuable to the public and more so to the corporations that have a chit to call in when they need a favor returned.”

The two-day wooing included lots of wining and dining at spots in both Brooklyn and Manhattan, as well as the business of the scouting trip, which included the DNC’s technical advisory committee visiting the Barclays Center to examine issues like hotel space and security.

Sheinkopf said with or without the convention New York City is a “power place no matter what,” but it will add “prestige to the mayor and adds to the city’s coffers,” as well as a likely political bump for de Blasio if all goes smoothly.

“He can run for re-election and say, ‘Look what I did for New York,’” Sheinkopf said, adding that the money it will bring in is something de Blasio can also run on, saying a successful convention, especially a financially successful one, could be an “overriding argument” for re-election.

New York is up against Birmingham, Alabama; Columbus, Ohio; Phoenix; and Philadelphia, where the 15-member DNC team led by DNC CEO Amy Dacey are scouting next. Philadelphia is thought to have an edge because it’s still viewed as a swing state, where conventions are traditionally held.

A decision from the Democratic National Committee is expected in late 2014 or early 2015.

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President Obama Declines Ice Bucket Challenge

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — Despite spending his vacation in the summer heat of Martha’s Vineyard, President Obama has declined an offer to partake in the Internet’s favorite charitable wet T-shirt contest.

Obama was nominated to take the challenge Sunday by Ethel Kennedy, the widow of former Sen. Bobby Kennedy. On Facebook, the 86-year-old challenged the president to join her in the #StrikeOutALS challenge by dumping a bucket of ice water on his head.

“Welcome to Cape Cod, President Obama. I nominate you,” Kennedy declared on the social media site.

The challenge has gone viral in recent weeks as Internet users have soaked themselves with ice water in support of the ALS Association, a charitable organization committed to eradicating Lou Gehrig’s Disease. An alternative to the challenge – make a donation in support of the ALS Association.

It looks like President Obama will be taking the high road this time around. In a statement Wednesday, White House spokesman Eric Schultz said, “The president appreciates Mrs. Kennedy thinking of him for the challenge – though his contribution to this effort will be monetary.”

Several other politicians, however, have been more than willing to join in.

On Wednesday, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal accepted the challenge, posting a video to YouTube. In the video, Jindal nominated Duck Dynasty‘s Willie Robertson.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was also more than willing to get drenched on the Internet. Nominating some pretty big names in his Facebook post, Christie called out Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Sen. Cory Booker, D-New Jersey.

Not to be outdone, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, posted a video of herself jumping into the frigid Alaskan waters in support of the ALS Association. Ditching the bucket altogether, Murkowski jumped into the 30-degree ocean from aboard a fishing boat. Her nomination? The entire United States Senate.

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White House Says Team Sent to Iraq Will Not Be in Combat Role

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The White House stressed on Wednesday that the 129-member military assessment team that has been sent to northern Iraq is “not going to be in a combat role.”

“They’re there on a temporary basis to make assessments about how to get the population off that mountain. This would be a humanitarian effort, again, to get them to a safe space,” Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes told reporters Wednesday. “There are a range of ways for doing that. We haven’t made decisions about how to carry out that vision because we want to get the readout from this assessment team first.”

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced on Tuesday that the team was being sent to Erbil to determine what further assistance the U.S. can provide in easing the humanitarian crisis of thousands of Yazidis trapped at Mount Sinjar.

Rhodes said there are a range of options, including creating a safe corridor for the refugees to get off the mountain.

“You look at corridors, you look at airlifts, you look at different ways to move people who are in a very dangerous place on that mountain to a safer position. And that’s exactly what our team is doing on the ground now in Iraq,” he told ABC News’ Jonathan Karl.

While President Obama has repeatedly ruled out sending U.S. ground troops to Iraq, Rhodes was adamant that “the role of U.S. forces is not one of re-entering combat on the ground. It’s how to provide humanitarian assistance to this affected population.”

Rhodes did, however, admit the danger in such a mission, saying “in any effort, there are always dangers involved.”

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Mary Landrieu Takes Heat for Spending Public Money on Private Flight

US Senate(WASHINGTON) — Republican Louisiana Senate hopeful Rep. Bill Cassidy is calling on Sen. Mary Landrieu to apologize and return all taxpayer money she has spent on charter flights after a media report revealed the Democratic incumbent violated federal law by using taxpayer dollars to charter a private flight to a campaign event.

“Senator Landrieu’s disregard and abuse of taxpayer money is unacceptable and, reportedly, illegal,” Rep. Cassidy said in a statement. “She should return all the taxpayer money she has spent on charter flights, open up her travel logs for further review to ensure there are not more violations, and apologize to American taxpayers immediately.”

Landrieu spent $3,200 on a round-trip flight from New Orleans to Lake Charles, Louisiana, where she attended a $40-per-person fundraiser with women supporters Nov. 8, the same day President Obama was in Landrieu’s hometown of New Orleans for another event, which she did not attend.

The flight should have been paid for by Landrieu’s campaign but was instead paid for by her Senate office. Landrieu campaign communications director Fabien Levy told ABC News it was a mistake that taxpayer dollars were used to pay for the flight and that the campaign has since corrected the error.

“We take our finances very seriously and are glad we caught the vendor’s mistake and were able to rectify the matter as soon as possible,” Levy said in a statement.

The campaign discovered the improperly billed flight on July 29, at which point Levy said the campaign “immediately contacted the vendor,” which Landrieu uses for both official Senate business and campaign flights, to correct the mistake. The Landrieu campaign cut a check on Aug. 4 for the corrected invoice from the charter company, and the Senate funds were reimbursed.

Though the Landrieu campaign has corrected the error, which it blamed on the charter company, Cassidy says the senator needs to take direct responsibility.

“Louisiana taxpayers entrusted Senator Landrieu with public dollars,” Cassidy said in a statement. “She has a responsibility to use those dollars legally and to uphold the public trust. …This is her budget and in the words of Harry Truman: ‘the buck stops here.’”

The Landrieu campaign counters that it’s Cassidy who needs to be more transparent with voters.

“If Congressman Cassidy was really concerned about this matter, he’d at least agree to one of the four debates Senator Landrieu has agreed to so they can discuss this in person,” Levy said in a statement to ABC News. “I’m sure voters would also like to hear about the numerous issues Congressman Cassidy has refused to give his opinion on, like the cost of education, taxes and whether Louisiana businesses have the resources they need to stay opened.”

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